The death penalty
Developments from late 2012 to now:
- Scheduled for 2012-NOV: California: Proposition 34, a citizen initiative, was added to the ballot on election day in early 2012-NOV in an attempt to abolish the death penalty in the state. It is called the "Savings, Accountability, and Full Enforcement for California Act," (a.k.a. SAFE California Act). If it passes, the sentences of 725 inmates on death row will be commuted to life in prison with no possibility of parole.
A 2009 report by Judge Arthur Alarcon of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals and law professor Paula Mitchell concluded that abolishing the death penalty would save about $184 million annually by allowing to the layoff of prosecutors and defense attorneys who specialize in death penalty cases. The initiative would also direct $100 million of expected savings to be spread over three years to finance additional investigations into unsolved murders and rapes.
Jeanne Woodford, former warden of San Quentin prison supports the initiative, She said:
"Our system is broken, expensive and it always will carry the grave risk of a mistake."
Gil Garcetti, a former Los Angeles county district attorney, said:
"My conclusion is that he law is totally ineffective. ... Most inmates [on death row] are going to die of natural causes, not executions."
Former Sacramento U.S. Attorney McGregor Scott said that the real problem is not the death penalty. It is lawyers who file "frivolous appeals." He said:
"On behalf of crime victims and their loved ones who have suffered at the hands of California's most violent criminals, we are disappointed that the ACLU and their allies would seek to score political points in their continued efforts to override the will of the people and repeal the death penalty." 1
The proposition was narrowly defeated on 2012-NOV-06 by a vote of 47% in favor abolishing the death penalty 2and 53% against. Even though it did not succeed, the results showed a major reduction in support of the death penalty since the 70% vote in 1978 to reinstate the death penalty.
The campaign to abolish the death penalty in California was largely based on the cost savings that would result from abandoning executions and the costly appeals processes.
The Campaign to End the Death Penalty (CEDP) has criticized this approach. They noted that the Proposition would largely cut off appeals by prisoners. CEDP recommends that the ethics of a life sentence without parole be stressed in place of execution. 2
2013-MAR: Delaware Senate passes bill to abolish the death penalty:
Diann Rust-Tierney, the Executive Director of the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty (NCADP) said:
"On the heels of the historic victory in Maryland earlier this month, the Delaware Senate has voted to abolish the death penalty. Momentum for repeal is increasing in Delaware and across the country." 7
The vote was very narrow: 11 to 10 in favor.
2013-MAY-02: Maryland abolishes the death penalty:
Maryland became the 18th state to have abandoned the death penalty; the sixth state during the past six years. It is also the first state state south of the Mason-Dixon line to have abolished capital punishment.
Gov. Martin O'Malley (D) said:
I don't know exactly what the timing is, but over the longer arc of history I think you'll see more and more states repeal the death penalty. It's wasteful. It's ineffective. It doesn't work to reduce violent crime.
Ben Jealous, President and CEO of the NAACP, compared Governor O'Malley's potential bid for the Presidency in 2016 to Arkansas Governor Bill Clinton campaigning for the Presidency in 1992 :
"Our [Maryland] governor has also just redefined what it means to have a political future in this country. You know, it was just 20 years ago that a young governor with possibilities below the Mason-Dixon stopped during his presidential campaign" to oversee an execution."
Diane Rust-Tierney, executive director of the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty, said:
"It doesn't always happen overnight. The more people study it, the more people understand it. This was a seven-year effort here in Maryland."
Del. Neil Parrott (R) is considering launching a citizen initiative to have voters reinstate the death penalty through a referendum in 2014. He said:
"We are thinking about it."
State Sen. Jamie Raskin (D) is constitutional law professor opposing the death penalty. He said:
"The trend lines are clear. There's nobody who's adding the death penalty to their state laws. Everybody is taking it away."
The Death Penalty Information Center issued its annual report in 2012. It noted that three quarters of the executions occurred that year in only four states. Twenty-three states have death penalty laws on the books, but had not had an execution in a decade.
Year end review for 2013:
The death penalty has almost ended in Europe, has ended in Canada, and has been in decline in the U.S. for the past five years. However, it rising world wide.
Amnesty International states that 779 known executions occurred during 2013 in 22 countries. This total does not include China where the number of executions is a state secret and is estimated to number in the thousands annually. States that executed people during 2013 included: Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Botswana, China, India, Indonesia, Iraq, Iran, Japan, Kuwait, Malaysia, Nigeria, North Korea, Palestine Territories, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, Taiwan, United States, Vietnam, and Yemen. Amnesty International also estimates that 23,392 people have been sentenced to death across the world for crimes including treason, embezzlement, adultery, and same gender sexual behavior.
As noted above, Maryland abolished the death penalty, maintaining a decrease of one state per year In the U.S. for many years now. A total of 39 people were executed in the U.S. in 2013, typically for multiple murders.
Ten countries in the world have laws on the books that can lead to execution of persons who engage in same-gender sexual behavior. Almost all have Islam as their majority religion: Iraq, Iran, Mauritania, Nigeria, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan, United Arab Emirates, and Yemen. 5,6
2014-MAR-27: Delaware may be about to abolish the death penalty:
The bill to abolish the death penalty was passed by the Senate during 2014-MAR but has been stuck in the House Judiciary Committee since 2013-APR-30. 9
Abraham J. Bonowitz, the Delaware State Death Penalty Abolition Coordinator and a guest writer for Amnesty International wrote the following appeal for support:
"Delaware’s death penalty system is arbitrary and biased. It contributes to a cycle of violence and does not make the state any safer. The death penalty is unfair, expensive and tainted with human error.
Why am I so sure we need to act now? In the United States, 144 people have been exonerated from death row. That means that 144 people were arrested, wrongfully convicted, and sentenced to death. Others were executed before having a chance to prove their innocence. The truth is that humans make mistakes – and in the case of the death penalty, the stakes are too high to allow for any chance of error.
We can do this, but only with your help. This is our moment. Help end the death penalty in Delaware. Take action now! With such overwhelming support from across Delaware, it’s time Senate Bill 19 finally gets the vote it deserves. Don’t wait – this is the time to make your voice heard. Together, we can play a part in ending Delaware’s death penalty for good." 8
Other news sources of recent events:
Our web site has grown to over 6,000 essays. It is impossible for us to describe all of the events related to the death penalty. We will only mention major developments in the above list after 2010.
We recommend that you view the following sources for more detailed information:
- Inter Press Service News Agency (IPS) has a free monthly "Death Penalty and the Right to Life" newsletter covering news from around the world. You can sign up in a box near the top of the page at: http://www.ipsnews.net
- Death Penalty Information Center (DPIC) has an extensive web site that discusses the death penalty in the U.S. You can subscribe to their free newsletter by Emailing a request to: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Anti Death Penalty web site maintains a list of upcoming U.S. scheduled executions at: http://www.antideathpenalty.org/ They also have many essays on related topics, book lists, statistics, history, quotes, etc. They also maintain a list of other web sites opposed to the death penalty at: http://www.antideathpenalty.org/
The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above
essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.
- Paul Elias, "California Death Penalty Ban: Residents To Vote On Controversial Ban In November," Huffington Post, 2012-APR-23, at: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/
- Lily Hughes, "Why the SAFE Act failed," Socialist Worker, 2012-NOV-28, at: http://socialistworker.org
- Brian Wittle, "Governor signs repeal of death penalty in Md.," Associated Press, 2013-MAY-02, at: http://www.usatoday.com/
- "Grave punishment," The Economist, 2014-MAR-27, at: http://www.economist.com/
- Terri Rupar, "Here are the 10 countries where homosexuality may be punished by death," Washington Post, 2014-FEB-24, at: http://www.washingtonpost.com/
- Bonnie Berkowitz, Darla Cameron & Richard Johnson, "World of extremes on gay rights," Washington Post, 2013-JAN-14, at: http://www.washingtonpost.com/
- "Delaware Senate Votes to Pass Death Penalty Repeal Measure," NCADP, 2013-MAR-15, at: http://www.ncadp.org/
- Abraham J. Bonowitz, "ACT NOW: End the Death Penalty in Delaware," Amnesty International, 2014-MAR-27, at: http://blog.amnestyusa.org/us/act-now-end-the-death-penalty-in-delaware/
- "Death penalty repeal supporters mobilizing," Delaware NewsZap, 2014-FEB-18, at: http://delaware.newszap.com/
Copyright © 2012 to 2014 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
First posted: 2012-APR-24
Last updated: 2014-MAR-30
Author: B.A. Robinson