I don’t need to remind you, but I will, that this is the mentality of slave owners — the muscle memory of oppression that beats in American hearts still, in quiet and loud ways, and leads the systems of this nation to marginalize those who look different than the most privileged.
Two decades after her anti-death penalty work was transformed into an Oscar-winning movie, Dead Man Walking, Sister Helen Prejean’s campaign continues with the backing of Pope Francis. Prejean met with the pope on Jan. 21 to deliver a thank-you letter from Richard Glossip, whose execution in the U.S. was halted in September after intervention from the pontiff.
A judge on Nov. 10 issued the death penalty for the white supremacist convicted of shooting to death three people at two Jewish centers in Kansas last year.
Johnson County District Court Judge Thomas Kelly Ryan sentenced Frazier Glenn Cross, 74, to die by lethal injection.
A jury in early September convicted Cross, a former senior member of the Ku Klux Klan, of the murders and recommended that he be put to death. Cross also was convicted of three counts of attempted murder for shooting at three other people.
“The man who bludgeoned Van Treese to death, Justin Sneed, testified that Glossip hired him for the murder. But jurors weren't presented with evidence that Sneed gave contradictory accounts to police about what happened, wrote Sister Helen Prejean, who ministers to prisoners on death row.
Prejean also noted the lack of evidence linking Glossip to the crime.
Glossip's scheduled death will also be the first in Oklahoma since a bitterly divided Supreme Court allowed the use of the drug midazolam in June.
I forgive my dad for walking out on his only son
I forgive the people who think they get over
When they assume that I’m dumb
I forgive life for dealing me this hand
I forgive my inner boy for not becoming a man
I forgive the man who bumped me
Because he couldn’t see
I forgive ...
But I can’t forgive everything
Because I’ve yet to forgive me ...
Steven is an active member of the Free Minds Book Club.
Sister Helen Prejean, the Catholic nun and anti-death penalty activist whose story came to fame with the 1995 film Dead Man Walking, took the stand on May 11 in the penalty phase of convicted Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s trial. She said he is “genuinely sorry for what he did,” and told her how he felt about the suffering he caused to the bombing’s victims.
“He said it emphatically,” Prejean said.
“He said no one deserves to suffer like they did.”
1. Officers Charged in Freddie Gray's Death, Ruled a Homicide
“In an unexpected announcement Friday, Baltimore lead prosecutor Marilyn J. Mosby said there is “probable cause” to file criminal charges against police officers in the death of Freddie Gray ...”
2. How Biased Is Your Feed?
Via Future Journalism Project Media Lab: A new study indicates that news and information gets more biased as it passes through social networks. … And given that half of Facebook and Twitter users consume news via those networks, our consumption and digestion of such “news” could take on that bias.
3. Nepal Earthquake: Up to 15,000 May Have Died, According to Army Chief
Amid public anger at government response to the massive earthquake and threats of disease, the country’s army chief painted a grim estimate of between 10-15,000 likely deaths in the wake of the weekend’s quake.
4. Lawmaker Considers Blocking Baltimore Protesters’ Food Stamp Benefits
“‘That’s an idea, and that could be legislation,’ [Maryland state legislator Patrick McDonough] said in response to a caller who asked if benefits could be revoked from parents of protesters. ‘I think that you could make the case that there is a failure to do proper parenting, and allowing this stuff to happen—is there an opportunity for a month to take away your food stamps?’”
It is a great and terrible irony that our country’s correctional system does not often allow for or take much pride in perpetrators’ self-correction.
Yet to the degree that transformation within the system is possible, such appears to have happened for Kelly Gissendaner. The 46-year-old woman was sentenced to death for the 1998 murder of her then-husband, Doug. It is well-documented that her accomplice and then-boyfriend committed the act — he is sentenced to life, with a chance at parol.
Gissendaner faces excecution tonight at 7 p.m. EST.
If carried through, it will be the first time since 1976 that the state of Georgia will execute an individual who was not the person physically using violence in the crime.
Gissendaner’s case — that of a person guilty of murder whose profound internal transformation while in prison has led to a contemplative life of studying theology, mentoring at-risk youth, offering pastoral care to fellow inmates, and expressing full and sincere remorse for her actions — calls into stark question whether our criminal justice system, and specifically the state's use of the death penalty, honestly allows for the possibility for redemption.
Video courtesy of USA Today.
They’ve done this before.
Once again, John and Diane Foley appeared on national television Wednesday to speak in clear and deliberate voices about their son, conflict journalist James Foley — only this time, it wasn’t to plead for his release from captors but to hail him as a hero who wanted to help people and to thank the public for the outpouring of support that has flooded in since officials confirmed a videotaped beheading of their son was authentic.
Standing in front of the family home in Rochester, N.H., John Foley told reporters in the kind of voice of strength he and his wife have displayed over the years, “We’ve been through this before. Let ‘er rip.”
In years past, the Foleys have taken to television to draw attention to the cause of their son, who was abducted in November 2012 in Syria and also held captive for 44 days in 2011 after being captured in Libya.
Account after account describes the Foleys as determined, faithful Roman Catholics. After their son disappeared in 2012, they launched the FreeJamesFoley.org website to serve as a clearinghouse for information that might lead to his release. In October 2013, they joined Today’s Matt Lauer to wish their still-captive son a happy 40th birthday and to keep his cause alive. Even when interviewers noted that Foley’s career took him to many volatile places, his father was quick to defend him.
A U.S. District Court judge declared the death penalty "unconstitutionall" in the State of California.
In the ruling that was released today, U.S. District Court Judge Cormac Carney wrote that, an "inordinate and unpredictable delay has resulted in a death penalty system in which very few of the hundreds of individuals sentenced to death have been, or even will be, executed by the State."
NBC Bay Area first reported the ruling:
In his 29-page ruling on the Jones vs. Chappell case, Carney wrote that when an individual is condemned to death in California, the sentence carries with it the promise that it will actually be carried out.
That promise is made to citizens, jurors, victims and their loved ones and to the hundreds of individuals on death row, he wrote.
However, Carney argues, “for too long now, the promise has been an empty one.”
Read the full story here.
After an unusual six-week lapse in executions in the nation since a botched effort in Oklahoma on April 29, two men could face lethal-injection deaths in Georgia and Missouri Tuesday night or early Wednesday.
Wellons, 59, was sentenced to death for the 1989 rape and murder of 15-year-old India Roberts, whom he abducted as she was on her way to a school bus.
At 12:01 a.m. Wednesday, Missouri is preparing to execute John Winfield, who blinded the mother of his two children and killed two other women in a 1996 shooting spree. A judge on Thursday issued a stay of execution, but prosecutors are seeking to have it lifted in time for Winfield’s execution to proceed.
A third inmate, in Florida, is slated to be put to death Wednesday evening.
It’s 93 degrees in Texas today. And Rev. Jeff Hood is walking 200 miles across the state. What would compel somebody to do that? He wants to end the death penalty … and he is not alone.
Rev. Jeff Hood is a Southern Baptist pastor, deeply troubled by his denomination’s stance on capital punishment. And he is troubled because he lives in the most lethal state in the U.S. Texas has had 515 executions since the reinstatement of the death penalty in 1976 – the next state in line is Oklahoma with 111. That means Texas is responsible for 37 percent of the executions in the U.S. Jeff has been a longtime organizer and board member for the Texas Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty, a movement that is gaining some serious momentum these days.
A growing number of Texans — and Americans in general — are questioning the death penalty. A recent ABC poll shows we are over the tipping point, with more than half of Americans being against the death penalty and in favor of life in prison, putting death penalty support at a new low. For some it is the racial bias – in Texas it is not uncommon for an African American to be found guilty by an all-white jury. In fact, in considering “future dangerousness,” a criteria necessary for execution in Texas, state “experts” have argued that race is a contributing factor, essentially that someone is more likely to be violent because they are black – prompting articles like the headline story in the New York Times about Duane Buck: “Condemned to Die Because He is Black.”
In 2009, after moving to Southern California, a neighbor, Tom Rotert, who is an attorney, asked about my reporting on wrongful convictions and wrongful executions while I was at the Chicago Tribune.
I explained that along with my fellow reporter Steve Mills, we had documented numerous wrongful convictions in Illinois and the executions of two innocent men in Texas — Carlos DeLuna and Cameron Todd Willingham.
“You know who the ultimate wrongful execution is, don’t you?” Rotert asked. “It was Jesus Christ. They killed the son of God.”
The crucifixion of Jesus Christ doesn’t come up very often in discussions about wrongful convictions in America, but as California voters prepare to go to the polls to vote on Proposition 34 which would ban the death penalty in this state, two lawyers — one from Chicago and one from Minneapolis — are doing exactly that.
Despite protests not only from jurors who conivicted him but also from his victim’s family, Warren Hill, a 52-year-old mentally disabled man convicted of murder, is scheduled to be executed by lethal injection on July 23 in Jackson, Ga.
In 1991, a jury found Hill guilty in the bludgeoning to death a fellow inmate, Joseph Handspike, and sentenced him to death. Hill had been serving a life sentence for the 1986 killing of his girlfriend at the time of Handspike's death.
Hill has an I.Q. of about 70, leading a state judge to find him "mentally retarded" by a “preponderance of the evidence.”
While Georgia — as the rest of the United States — has banned the execution of mentally retarded inmates, the state has a stricter standard that requires proving mental retardation “beyond a reasonable doubt.” By that standard, the Georgia Supreme Court overruled the judge's finding of mental retardation, reversed the decision, and reinstated Hill’s death sentence, which originally had been set for today.
Tony Rackauckas, Orange County District Attorney, held a press conference to announce his intent to seek the death penalty for Scott Dekraai, who killed his ex-wife and seven others at Salon Meritage in Seal Beach on Oct. 12.
“There are some cases that are so depraved, so callous, so malignant that there is only one punishment that might have any chance of fitting the crime," said Rackauckas. “When a person, in a case like this, goes on a rampage and kills innocent people in an indiscriminate bloody massacre, I will of course seek the death penalty.”
He added, “This is the only way our society can get anything approaching justice for the victims, their families, the town of Seal Beach, and the larger community.”
If justice means putting Dekraai on a gurney and executing him, the victims, their families and everyone else hoping for that outcome should face the cold hard fact that they are in for a long wait.
I prayerfully hope that this is not and will not be the case with the story of Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani, the Iranian Christian leader who has been sentenced to death for refusing to recant his religious beliefs and convert to Islam.
Arrested in 2009 on a charge of apostasy, he has spent two years in jail, with his wife also being jailed on similar charges last year.
By the time someone figured out what happened, the deadline to appeal the denial of his post-conviction appeal had passed. So far, the state of Alabama has successfully argued that despite the mail room debacle, Maples should have been aware -- through his local counsel -- that the clock was ticking and that he just blew it.
Courts have struggled for years over the question of who should bear the penalty for a lawyer's mistakes or incompetence and the Maples case represents an extreme example of the problem of imputing the mistakes of a lawyer to the client.