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Capital Punishment -- the Death Penalty

Developments during the year 2000

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Year 2000 developments:

bullet2000-JAN-9: Amnesty International: AI has issued three reports as part of their "rights for all" program:
bullet"Killing with prejudice: Race and the death penalty in the USA." 1
bullet"Fatal flaws: Innocence and the death penalty," 2 and 
bullet"On the wrong side of history: Children and the death penalty in the USA," 4

bullet2000-JAN-10: VA Execution: Douglas Thomas was executed by the state of Virginia for a crime committed when he was a child.

bullet2000-JAN-15: International Death Penalty Abolition Day. MAR-1 has been set aside to promote the abolition of the death penalty, One web-site asks that people "send faxes, emails, letters and petitions to those responsible, and to make clear to them, that the senseless killing of human beings must come to an end." 3

bullet2000-JAN-31: IL temporary abolition: Governor G.H. Ryan of Illinois announced that he will create a moratorium on executions in that state until after an administration review of the death penalty. "Sam Jordan, Director of AIUSA's [Amnesty International USA] Program to Abolish the Death Penalty said, 'The death penalty cannot be repaired. As the rest of the world moves toward abolition of the death penalty, Illinois has an opportunity to consign the death penalty to the past. If the Commission finds that the death penalty is disproportionately imposed, Amnesty International urges Governor Ryan to permanently abolish the death penalty in Illinois.' "

"Adam Ortiz, Deputy Director of AIUSA's Midwest Regional Office, said, 'Amnesty International strongly commends Governor Ryan for this courageous decision. Illinois has already discovered 13 serious mistakes in death row sentencing, and the Commission is likely to find many others. A moratorium is a first step in the right direction, but only abolition of the death penalty can protect against the execution of the innocent.' " 4

bullet2000-FEB-10: Senate hearings requested: Five Democratic senators, Dick Durbin, Russell Feingold,  Edward Kennedy, Carl Levin and Robert Torricelli asked the Senate Judiciary Committee to hold hearings on the death penalty. Their statement referred to the findings of errors in Illinois, and said in part: "We fear the problems of fairness and accuracy associated with the death penalty - including inadequate representation, lack of access to DNA testing, police misconduct, racial bias and even simple errors - are not unique to Illinois."

bullet2000-FEB-29: Washington DC demonstration: According to Maranatha Daywatch: "Dozens of demonstrators were arrested in Washington Monday [FEB-28] calling for a new trial for death row inmate Mumia Abu-Jamal as well as the repeal of the death penalty. Protesters were arrested for a civil disobedience demonstration. They were appealing to authorities to reconsider the case of Mumia, a former Black Panthers member convicted in 1982 for the killing of Philadelphia policeman Daniel Faulkner."

bullet 2000-APR-7: Pat Robertson endorses moratorium: Pat  Robertson, is a Fundamentalist Christian and founder of the Christian Broadcasting Network and the Christian Coalition. He gave the keynote speech at a symposium at the College of William and Mary's law school. Replying to a question from the audience, he expressed support for a moratorium "I think a moratorium would indeed be very appropriate." He added that he generally supports the moratorium movement but isn't ready to "crusade" about it.

bullet2000-APR: Vietnam executes Canadian citizen: A cache of heroin was discovered in the luggage of a Canadian woman of Vietnamese origin who was returning from Vietnam to Canada. She was tried an found guilty of smuggling drugs. Canadian investigators were on their way to that country with evidence that the drugs were planted in her luggage by others without her knowledge. She was executed before they could plead her case. Canada has taken a number of steps to withdraw economic support and diplomatic recognition from Vietnam.

bullet2000-APR: Senate bill to suspend executions: According to the Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations Washington Office for Faith in Action, Senators Feingold (WI) and Levin (MI) "introduced S 2463, a bill which would immediately suspend executions in the United States while a national commission reviews the administration of the death penalty.  The moratorium would bar execution of individuals sentenced under either state or federal statutes.  Currently 38 states have death penalty statutes on the books."

bullet2000-MAY-8: New Hampshire votes to repeal the death penalty: The senate voted 14 to 10 to abolish capital punishment. In that state, capital crimes are restricted to the killing of a police officer in the line of duty; the killing of a rape victim; the killing of a kidnap victim and murder for hire. People convicted of other first-degree murders face life sentences. Governor Jeanne Shaheen has promised to veto the measure. She said: "I respect the deeply held beliefs of opponents of the death penalty. But it is my strong belief that there are some murders so heinous that the death penalty is an appropriate punishment, and accordingly, I will veto this legislation." New Hampshire has not executed an inmate since the 1930s. In 1998, New Hampshire had the lowest homicide rate in the U.S. Their death row is currently empty.

bullet2000-MAY-19: States working towards abolition of the death penalty: Brian Henninger, program coordinator for the Washington, DC-based National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty, (a project of the American Friends Service Committee), commented on the MAY-8 New Hampshire Senate vote. He said that their action was part of a broader national trend toward abolition. "The events we've seen unfold in Illinois has given a wake-up call to others. People around the country are asking 'what are we doing in executing people, do we want to go this fast?'  And 'is this what we want to be doing?' It's a healthy debate, one which the country should be having." Eleven other states, including Illinois, Kentucky, Maryland, Missouri, Oklahoma, Oregon, and Washington are considering abolition. The Governor of Illinois has imposed a moratorium on capital punishment in his state. Oregon may have an abolition question on the November ballot. Opponents in Kentucky hope to move an abolition measure through the House Judiciary Committee. Henninger sees a national change in attitude towards the death penalty. He attributes this to: 
bulletOpposition by Pope John Paul II and other religious leaders.
bulletPeople on death rows awaiting execution who have been proven not guilty as a result of DNA testing
bulletExecution of adults who were children at the time of their crime -- a practice that is almost uniquely American.
bulletExecution of mentally ill persons -- another practice that is almost uniquely American. 5

bullet2000-JUN-13: AMA considers request for moratorium: According to EWTN News, the American Medical Association's policy-making committee is considering a resolution which would ask for a moratorium on capital punishment until questions are resolved, including the availability of DNA testing. The resolution reads, in part, "The possibility exists that in several states innocent individuals may be executed because medical technology will not be made available in time to prevent their death." If accepted by the committee, the resolution will be considered at the annual meeting of the AMA later.

bullet2000-JUN-13: Senate debates capital punishment: According to DayWatch: Debate raged in the Senate...over the issue of capital punishment and whether DNA testing should be used to re-examine current death penalty cases and other serious criminal convictions. "While reasonable people can differ about capital punishment, it is indisputable that advanced DNA testing lends support and credibility to the accuracy and integrity of capital verdicts," said Judiciary Chairman Orrin Hatch, R-Utah.

bullet

2000-JUN-14: Conservative religious group supports death penalty: The Southern Baptist Convention has about 16 million members in the U.S.; it is the largest Protestant denomination in America. At their annual meeting, messengers (delegates) approved a resolution that said, in part, says "God authorized capital punishment for murder after the Noahic Flood, validating its legitimacy in human society...[the SBS supports] "the fair and equitable use of capital punishment by civil magistrates as a legitimate form of punishment for those guilty of murder or treasonous acts that result in death." [Actually, the Bible mandates the death penalty -- sometimes by stoning to death, other times by burning people alive -- for a great variety of crimes, including murder, males who are not circumcised, people consuming blood, sexual activity with a woman who is menstruating, teaching another religion, excessive drinking, etc. Only the death penalty for murder has been retained in the U.S.]

Hayes Wicker, chairman of the resolutions committee, commented on the court system: "We are saying that they may [impose the death penalty], not that they must." This is an apparent reference to the calls for moratoriums and studies on capital punishment by a number of other faith groups. Hayes Wicker, a pastor from Naples, FL said that the resolution states that the ultimate punishment should be only used when there is "clear and overwhelming evidence" of guilt. In an apparent reference to charges of racism in the justice system, and the refusal of some courts to order DNA testing, the SBC Resolution 5 states: "we call for vigilance, justice, and equity in the criminal justice system; and...urge that capital punishment be applied as justly and as fairly as possible without undue delay, without reference to the race, class, or status of the guilty..."

bullet2000-JUN-22: Texas: Graham executed; claims innocence: According to Maranatha Daywatch: "Texas prison authorities carried out a death sentence by lethal injection, on convicted killer Gary Graham at 8:49 PM local time Thursday amidst a rapidly rising tide of controversy surrounding the continued use of the death penalty in the USA. Graham reportedly claimed he was innocent right up to the end, his final statement being "they know I'm innocent, they won't acknowledge it."

bullet2000-JUN-30: USA: Presbyterian Church opposes death penalty: The Presbyterian Church (USA)'s General Assembly reaffirmed its opposition to the capital punishment. This reaffirms the stance that they have taken since their Assembly in 1959. They called for "an immediate moratorium on all executions in all jurisdictions that impose capital punishment."

bullet2000-JUL-7: USA: Execution postponed: President Clinton postponed what would have been the first execution by the federal government since 1963: that of Juan Raul Garza, a marijuana smuggler convicted of several drug-related murders. The President also ordered a review of the cases of all 25 Death Row prisoners under federal control. 

bullet2000-JUL-9: Nobel Prize: David Wastell, a reporter for The Washington Bureau of the London Telegraph reported that Sister Helen Prejean, 62, the nun who inspired the movie Dead Man Walking is emerging as a front runner for the Nobel Peace Prize.

bullet2000-NOV-13: Texas: Stay of execution requested: Human Rights Watch has recommended to Governor Bush of Texas that he stay the NOV-16 execution of Johnny Paul Penry. Penry has the mental capacity of a 7 year old, and an IQ of between 50 and 63, apparently caused by organic brain damage. HRW spokesperson Jamie Fellner said: "Executing the mentally retarded is senseless cruelty. Even strong death penalty supporters recognize that capital punishment is wrong for people with the mind of a child." HRW wrote that Penry "has grave difficulties in communication, learning, foresight, logic, attention, memory and understanding consequences. He is limited in his ability to learn from experience, to control his impulses, to understand causality. Penry's development was also dramatically affected by the vicious, relentless beatings and abuse he endured as a child at the hands of his mother, a woman who even made her son eat his own feces." [Penry has since received a stay of execution. The U.S. Supreme Court will hear his case. They will use it to clarify how much opportunity jurors in death-penalty cases must have to consider the defendant's mental capacity.]

bullet2000-NOV-13: Texas: Request for moratorium defeated: The city council of El Paso TX defeated a resolution which would have asked the Texas Legislature to impose a moratorium on the use of the death penalty. This follows similar actions by the city councils of Huntsville and Fort Worth, TX.

bullet2000-NOV-15: USA: Support for executions weakening: U.S. Roman Catholic bishops are meeting in Washington DC. In a statement, they indicated that they are pleased at signs that support for the death penalty are weakening in the country.

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References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. Amnesty International, "Killing with prejudice: Race and the death penalty in the USA," http://www.amnesty%2Dusa.org/
  2. Amnesty International, "Fatal flaws: Innocence and the death penalty," at: http://www.amnestyusa.org/ 
  3. A site promoting "International Death Penalty Abolition Day" is at: http://mitglied.tripod.de/
  4. "Amnesty International welcomes Illinois execution moratorium," at: http://www.amnestyusa.org/ 
  5. "New Hampshire Senate votes to abolish death penalty," CNSNews, at: http://www.mcjonline.com/

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Continue with information for the year 2001

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Copyright 1997 to 2014 incl. by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Extracted from our main death penalty essay on 2000-FEB-13
Hyperlinks checked: 2000-FEB-13

Last updated 2014-MAR-30
Author: B.A. Robinson
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