Monday, July 31, 2006

'Read my lips: I don't do them'

On Sunday the St. Louis Post-Dispatch published a front-page, above-the-fold expose in which the newspaper revealed that a doctor who has overseen more than 50 executions in Missouri had numerous legal and ethical problems, including being sued for malpractice more than 20 times, being disciplined by a state medical board, having his treatment privileges suspended at several local hospitals and failing to report his lawsuits and ethics violations when required.

The doctor oversaw executions in that he would set up the IV lines, prepare the chemicals, etc. He did everything except press the buttons that caused the chemicals to flow into the inmates.

When asked about his role in executions, he replied, "Read my lips: I don't do them."

Reuters picked up the story yesterday; it ran on page A-2 of today's Washington Post. I am appending their shortened version below. You can see the full St. Louis Post-Dispatch story by going here.

Mo. Execution Doctor Had History of Errors

Monday, July 31, 2006; A02
KANSAS CITY, Mo., July 30 -- A doctor who oversaw dozens of Missouri executions until his questionable practices led a judge to suspend executions in the state has been sued for malpractice more than 20 times and has a history of making medical mistakes, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported Sunday.

Alan R. Doerhoff, 62, also has been banned from at least two Missouri hospitals and was publicly reprimanded by the state's Board of Healing Arts in 2003 because he was trying to conceal malpractice claims from hospitals where he was working, the newspaper reported.

The state attorney general's office was aware of the reprimand, but the state Department of Corrections continued to employ Doerhoff to handle lethal injections, the Post-Dispatch said.
Doerhoff, who had already supervised 48 executions, supervised six more after the reprimand, the newspaper reported. The inmate who would have been the seventh -- Michael A. Taylor, who raped and murdered a teenager in Kansas City in 1989 -- appealed earlier this year.

The state tried to keep Doerhoff's identity a secret in the appeal by Taylor, who said the heart-stopping drug given in lethal injections can cause excruciating pain if the inmate is not first given proper levels of anesthesia.

Lawyers reviewing execution logs found that the anesthesia Doerhoff had prepared for Taylor's execution before it was stayed in February was only half the amount it should have been, and records of previous executions indicated similar improperly prepared doses.

The doctor then admitted that he was dyslexic and sometimes transposed numbers.
Last month, U.S. District Judge Fernando Gaitan suspended executions until the state hires a board-certified anesthesiologist to ensure that the drugs in lethal injections are properly prepared.

The Post-Dispatch said that when a reporter approached Doerhoff at his home Thursday and asked about his role in executions, he replied, "Read my lips: I don't do them."

Then, the newspaper reported, Doerhoff shut the door.

Friday, July 28, 2006

Doug Berman's Questions

Saw this over at Steve Hall's Stand Down Texas blog and decided to, er, appropriate it:

Doug Berman's Questions

Doug Berman at Sentencing Law and Policy has a post on lethal injection challenges and renews his notion that the attention given to capital litigation distracts from the issues affecting tens or hundreds of thousands of people in the criminal justice system. In this post he specifically references the recent NPR series on conditions at supermax prisons and the emotional costs of such confinement. LINK

These discussions, along with the just noted NPR series on solitary confinement, gets me revved up again about the harmful and distracting obsession everyone has with the death penalty. There is now nationwide constitutional litigation disrupting the imposition of lawful capital punishments because there is a chance that a few murders might suffer pain right before being executed. Meanwhile, more than 25,000 prisoners are subject to the extreme mental and physical suffering that is known to accompany confinement in Supermax or control-unit prisons. And yet, there is little or no litigation or even attention paid to this issue.

Why don't persons who claim to be so concerned about human dignity focus more on the tens of thousands of humans suffering every day from extreme prison confinement rather than on the few humans who might suffer pain on the way to being executed?

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Meet Sammy Flippen

Sammy Flippen is scheduled to be executed by the state of North Carolina on Aug. 18. This should never have been a death penalty case. A group of Sammy's friends has launched a blog to publicize his case. Here's the intro:

Hello, my name is Jill Wilkes and welcome to my site about Samuel Flippen. Sammy is a close and dear friend of mine. I have known Sammy since we were kids because we went to the same high school and church for many years together. I can remember us sitting and talking together on church youth outings and I remember what a joyful, funny person he was in high school. Everybody loved Sammy!

Yes, that was a long time ago, but Sammy is still that same person. I know because I have been visiting him in prison for the last 10 years. I am hosting this blog because I want to share with people what an amazing person it takes to not let 12 years of prison change him into a cold and bitter person. He is still a peaceful, funny, NORMAL guy. He IS NOT a danger to society and he DOES NOT have a violent personality which he has demonstrated by years of good behavior in prison. SAMMY DOES NOT DESERVE TO BE PUT TO DEATH!!!

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Please visit our sister blog

Please check out the Journey of Hope...From Violence to Healing blog. They are blogging on a series called "Tuesday's Focus," which details the stories of people who have lost loved ones to murder and nonetheless oppose the death penalty, as well as people who have lost loved ones to execution, and innocent people who have been sentenced to death.

Monday, July 24, 2006

From the lighter side

Scott from Ohio Death Penalty Information sent this my way:

Dog survives lethal injection, is nearly burned alive
The Associated Press

Salt Lake Tribune
OGDEN - A dog thought to be dead from a lethal injection started to wake up after being put into the crematorium at the Ogden Animal Shelter. Shelter officials immediately removed it from the oven and administered another injection to euthanize the animal, Animal Services Manager Bob Geier said.

Geier said the dog had received a euthanasia shot, and, in keeping with
standard procedure, staff members checked its reflexes before putting it into the crematorium last week. The dog had appeared dead.
Animals react differently to the euthanasia and sedation drugs, Geier said.

''I feel we did our due diligence,'' he said. Every shelter employee who euthanizes animals goes through an extensive training program, he said.

Geier said the animal was euthanized because it had a history of biting
people and had failed a temperament test. John Paul Fox, chief
investigator for the Humane Society of Utah, said some animals, especially ones that are very old or young, or have survived major injuries, can survive standard doses.

He said it is not common for animals to survive euthanasia, but it does
happen from time to time. Some animals can stop showing signs
of life for some time before coming back from deep unconsciousness.
Fox said animal handlers need to check a variety of life signs
to be sure the animal is dead, which is why there is so much training involved in the practice.

Fox said employees at the shelter plan to invite a doctor to conduct more training on euthanasia procedures.

The scary thing, of course, is that those persons responsible for euthanizing dogs and cats have more experience than those persons responsible for administering lethal injections to human beings.

Friday, July 21, 2006

Strange machinery of death

By way of Ohio Death Penalty Information Center, we learn of this editorial which appeared in the Denver Post:

Strange machinery of death

It's one thing for life to imitate art. But now the debate over the death penalty in America is starting to look like a parody of comedian Steven Wright's macabre question about whether they sterilize the needles used to execute criminals by lethal injection.

The state of Missouri last week told a federal judge that it cannot meet his demand to hire a board-certified anesthesiologist to assist in executing prisoners by lethal injection because it cannot find one willing to do so. It seems the doctors take seriously the line in the Hippocratic Oath, which commands: "First, do no harm."

U.S. District Judge Fernando Gaitan Jr. last month halted executions in Missouri until the state made sweeping changes in how it executes death-row inmates to ensure the there was no risk of unnecessary pain and suffering.

Last week, Missouri Attorney General Jay Nixon told the judge the state could not meet the weekend deadline for such changes. Nixon said letters were sent to 298 anesthesiologists in Missouri and southern Illinois requesting their services at executions, but none volunteered. Missouri has executed 66 prisoners by lethal injection since 1989.

Failing to find a willing anesthesiologist, Missouri officials plan to substitute other medical personnel to administer the three-drug execution procedure. "To enforce \[the judge's demand\] may effectively bar implementation of the death penalty in Missouri," Nixon wrote. "Surely that is not what the court intended."

We're not so sure about that. Judges from the U.S. Supreme Court on down display a deep ambivalence about legal executions. The high court recently issued a bizarre ruling upholding a Kansas law requiring the death penalty when jurors find mitigating and aggravating factors in a case to be exactly balanced - a situation the law calls "equipoise."

That ruling was in stark contradiction to a 1991 finding by the Colorado Supreme Court that held aggravating factors must outweigh mitigating factors to justify execution. The federal ruling won't change Colorado law. But it underscores again the apparently irresolvable contradictions surrounding the death penalty.

It is a maxim in the U.S. justice system that the burden of proof never rests on the defense. But now the U.S. Supreme Court has seemingly sanctioned a situation where a jury can tell a defendant, "Sir, we can't make up our mind about what to do with you, so we guess you have to die."

If, that is, the court can find a qualified professional willing to insert the needle.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Forgiveness is hard, but it can be done

Hat tip to Kansas Death Penalty Focus for finding this interesting piece:

Mother whose son was murdered says death penalty isn’t answer

Murder leaves a multitude of emotions and pain is the worst. A pain so deep, high and wide, no words are big enough to describe it. You can’t get around or through it.

And then there is an anger, anger at everything, wanting revenge, the knowledge everything is beyond your control and a feeling of total helplessness.

How do I know this — my son was murdered in 1982. I wanted to hurt the person who murdered my son like he had hurt me, I wanted to poke his eyes out, among other things, but I never wanted him dead. I wanted him to wake up every day knowing he was in prison because of decisions he had made.

I resented my taxes paying for his room and board. Strange as it seems, I learned it is cheaper to keep someone in prison for life than it is to put them to death. The cost of the legal procedures including the last-minute appeals to prevent capital punishment far exceed paying for their room and board.

However, there is a cost greater than money for family members and friends of the victim. And that is waiting for the legal procedures to be finished.

It is hard to work at healing as long as there are court dates to cope with. Each date is like pouring salt in a wound. Once more you are forced to listen to all the legal words.

Once more things you might have started to resolve are torn apart. I have heard victims express disappointment after the offender was put to death. They expected to feel better, but they didn’t.

I am grateful there was not a death penalty when my son was killed. I didn’t have to deal with going court appearances. I could put the offender out of my mind, start to work at healing and go on with my life without more legal interruptions.

It’s very hard to do, but it can be done.

— Wilma Loganbill,

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Interview with a nurse

Recently the PBS program "Now" broadcast a quite comprehensive report on the debate over whether medical practitioners should participate in executions. The whole thing can be found here.

One section I found interesting, and at times chilling, was this interview with a nurse. She prepares people for execution in Georgia by inserting the IV:

"Nurse Karen"
Senior Correspondent Maria Hinojosa spoke with "Karen," a nurse, about her participation in 14 executions at a prison in Jackson, Georgia. Karen, who did not want her identity disclosed for fear of retribution, has worked as a nurse for 26 years.

HINOJOSA: What is it like in an execution chamber?

KAREN: It almost feels like an operating room because it kind of has a chill in the air. It's just a simple gurney in there, and there's a Plexiglas window where witnesses are on the other side of the window and benches that look like church pews. That's where the witnesses sit and can
actually look through the window and see the inmate on a gurney.

HINOJOSA: What exactly is your role in the execution?

KAREN: Once the inmate is actually brought in and strapped on a gurney then we go in and, just like you would do with any patient in the hospital, you treat them just like a patient. We've always addressed them and talked to them and told them exactly what we're going to do. You put the tourniquet on. You use your alcohol to help cleanse the area and insert the IV catheter
into the site ... tape it down and then hook up just regular IV fluids into the site. Then we leave them hooked up to regular IV fluids and then leave the area.

HINOJOSA: And in that moment when you're finding the vein, what are you

KAREN: At that time, I'm just looking at it as an IV that needs to be started. We normally carry on a conversion with the inmate. And they have always been very nice. A lot of times some of them would even make a comment 'that didn't hurt like I thought it was going to.' So they're just like regular patients laying there. Even if you're putting somebody to death, you want it to go as quickly and as painlessly as possible because you're trying to show respect for that person still.

HINOJOSA: And where do you go at that point?

Even if you're putting somebody to death, you want it to go as quickly and as painlessly as possible...

KAREN: Just back behind the curtain. After, they get everything else set up, read the death order and bring in any witnesses. Then they start the injections ... and everybody from you prison officials, your state officials that are around, your officers that are there, everybody is very quiet throughout everything ... Death comes so quickly. You're talking about from the start of the injection until the end, six, eight minutes at most ... And then you just kind of leave and it's over ... You don't do a lot of thinking about it.

HINOJOSA: What are the conversations like among the medical personnel who are in the room before the injection and after?

KAREN: During the time when we're waiting we're actually talking about anything and everything else. You're not focusing on what's going to happen. You know, we may talk about what we just had for supper. Or you talk about what was going on at the job you just left, talk about your family. You just have normal conversations.

HINOJOSA: What about nurses or doctors who say the Hippocratic Oath says that medical professionals should never do any harm to any patient. And by participating in an execution of somebody who, perhaps, doesn't want to be killed, then you're doing harm to that person. You're not caring for the patient.

KAREN: I look at them at an execution as [going through] a terminal illness. At the time that they were sentenced, they were diagnosed with a terminal illness. When they go through all of their appeals and everything, that's just like going on any kind of chemotherapy, radiation, whatever. And if all their appeals fail, then basically it's their terminal illness coming to an
end. And therefore, I think it's with any patient, they need to have the dignity up until the very end. And I think that dignity is by having actual trained people to help them.

HINOJOSA: So would you have an issue if you didn't just have to insert the IV but if you had to push the button to get the poisons into their system? Would that be a problem for you?

KAREN: I would not want to actually do the injections.


KAREN: I guess it's very strange because I don't know what the real big difference is ... I don't mind actually inserting the lines because that is something that I have been trained to do. But as far as administering an overdose, I just wouldn't want to do that.

HINOJOSA: So for you, there are some ethical issues? far as administering an overdose, I just wouldn't want to do that.


HINOJOSA: And how, when you're thinking about this, when you're alone and you're contemplating this, how do you figure it out in your mind.

KAREN: I believe in the death penalty and I do believe that by the time it comes time for somebody to actually have the injection, you know, they have been through all their appeals. But I think that that's something that should actually be done by someone in the prison system.

HINOJOSA: Because giving someone an overdose for you, as a nurse, means what?

KAREN: That's just not something you're supposed to knowingly do.

HINOJOSA: When people say to you, you know what, Karen, as a nurse, you have simply become an agent of the state. And the state is using your skills for the purpose of the state which is to kill someone. You say?

KAREN: Basically, I don't feel that way. And I'm a nurse in so many other ways. And even though, maybe, a couple of times a year I do work for the state and help them to carry out executions I don't feel that makes me any less a nurse or any less a person. I mean, somebody's got to do it. And I just believe that it's something that I'm almost called to do because I do
have the skills.

HINOJOSA: I know it's a difficult question, but do you consider yourself an executioner?

KAREN: No, I don't. I don't know that I consider anybody an executioner. Even the people that I know who push the drugs I don't consider them an executioner either. I look at it as the state is the executioner. We're just carrying out procedures.

HINOJOSA: Tell me about the one execution that was, in fact, difficult for you.

KAREN: There was one particular inmate who actually, after his crime, had been converted to Christianity and was very vocal about it. But, at the time of his execution, when he gave his last words, all of his last words were of compliments to the prison, to the officers who had been with him through the years and had treated him as a person. He went on to say that even though he
had been saved and he knew he was going to heaven that he did know that God expected him to take his punishment for the crime that he had done ... and that man's punishment for the murders that he committed was for him to be put to death. So he was willingly taking it. There were tears in everybody's eyes, even all the officers. You know, these big guys that you thought probably never would even think about crying and especially about an inmate. There wasn't a dry eye ... you felt good about it because he was so willing to accept his punishment ... it was just one that you'll always remember.

HINOJOSA: Have you been harassed because you've taken part in executions?

KAREN: My personal harassment has been minimal compared to other people that I actually worked with in the executions ... Some of the doctors actually had notes put on their cars, calls made to their office all different kind of calls calling them murderers. Most of it just went as far as phone calls and notes but you still don't know if people will go to that extent, what all else they will do.

HINOJOSA: We spoke to five of your former colleagues, doctors who took part in executions. None of them were willing to speak to us even if we gave them anonymity. Does that surprise you?

KAREN: Not really because of the harassment that some of them have gotten I can understand that they would be afraid that it would hurt their private practice. I think, more than anything, they are afraid of how some of their patients would respond to it. Not knowing how everybody feels that they would be afraid that some of their patients would be offended because of
some of the publicity that has been out there.

HINOJOSA: What is the thing that you ultimately would fear the most if you were talk about this publicly and show your face?

KAREN: That the people that I work with now as far as patients and patients' families and things like that, that there would be someone that would look on it that I was a killer. "How can you care for my family member and, you know, this is what you do." In the area that I live, the majority of people are very supportive but for that reason I just prefer not to be known to
people that really don't know me.

Friday, July 14, 2006

The Trials of Darryl Hunt: Two Perspectives

A group of NCADP interns recently viewed a special showing of The Trials of Darryl Hunt, which details the story of an innocent person who was convicted and sentenced to life in prison in North Carolina. Interns Y. Eugina Huang (who we call "Yuji") and Rachel Lawler (who we call "Rachel") shared their views afterwards.

Yuji writes:

Innocent until proven guilty?
Unfortunately, if you are a poor black man in a Southern state accused of raping and killing a “white rose,” it’s the other way around. The system needs a scapegoat, and one black man’s freedom means as much as the next one’s. This is the land of sweet tea and generous hospitality, but it is also the land of trees that once bore “strange fruit,” of de facto segregation and the Klan.

This is the subject of The Trials of Darryl Hunt, a powerful documentary about race, class, and how twenty years of a man’s life were stolen from him by a jury of his (white) peers. In 1984, a young white woman was killed in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. This was an era before reliable DNA testing, but positive identifications from a drug addict, a Klansman, and a convicted criminal led to the arrest of Darryl Hunt, a young black man. An all-white jury found him guilty, and he was sentenced to life in prison.

Well, at least he didn’t get the death penalty, right?

What’s the difference? In our moral system, we hold freedom as a paramount value. In other words, it’s all the way up there with life and the pursuit of happiness and all that jazz. To take away a man’s freedom is tantamount to taking his life, especially if this is wrongfully done in the name of justice for all.

How many other Darryl Hunts are out there, not just in the South but throughout the nation? We cannot ignore the fact that there are men and women wrongfully convicted, serving sentences they do not deserve. And this is not limited to those on death row—what about those serving life sentences, or even those unjustifiably serving lesser sentences? No matter how few, these human beings are a significant minimum.

Innocent until proven guilty. Right.

And Rachel writes:
On Tuesday evening several of us from NCADP viewed an advanced screening of the documentary “The Trials of Daryl Hunt”.

I think that a more apropos (and admittedly a bit lengthier) name for the film is: “The Indelible Spirit of an Amazingly Courageous and Inspirational Man Named Daryl Hunt”.

This film did a fantastic job of chronicling how a completely innocent man was twice convicted and sentenced to life. His case was riddled with prosecutorial misconduct, police misconduct, blatant racism within the community. Sounds like a real pick-me-up, right? But it was. This man never once faltered in his claim of innocence, even to the detriment of his freedom when he refused a plea bargain that would have set him free (on time served) if he plead to 2nd-degree manslaughter. He then went to trial and was found guilty for the 2nd time. Throughout the film the humanity, love, faith, and spirit within this man persevered and were what helped him to carry on when all odds were against him.

Afterwards, a panel discussion was held featuring Daryl, one of his lawyers, and a representative from Open Society Policy Center.

See this documentary!!!

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Remembering Carol Byars

Carol Byars, a member of the Journey of Hope family, passed away this week. She was a leaders in the victims' movement to abolish the death penalty and a powerful voice for the healing power of forgiveness.

Here is Carol's story:

When I met Jimmy, little did I know how knowing him would change my life. He was the love of my life. Although I was barely more than a child, I also knew I would marry him someday. And I did, at the age of eighteen. We had our first child less than a year after. At twenty-one I was pregnant with my second child. Even at so young of an age, I knew this kind of relationship was rare.

It was the Labor Day of that year when everything so drastically changed. Since I was pregnant and not up to the usual BBQ and such, I went to my mom's to rest and Jimmy went to his mom's to watch the game. Sometime during that day there was an argument with his mother's neighbors. I have had some conflicting stories through the years so there are details that I still don't know. But this is what happened as I know it.

When the altercation started, there was the usual anger and name calling. It was said, "Wait till John Earl gets home, and he will take care of this." When he arrived home, the argument started again. He got his gun and first shot Jimmy's ten year old brother Sonny. He then shot Jimmy's sixteen year old brother Bryan. I think there was a scuffle with his other brother Pete and he was beat with the butt of the shotgun. All of this happened very quickly. The gun had just been turned on Jimmy's mother when he ran and opened the front door and yelled to stop.

That's when John Earl turned and shot Jimmy. He was shot from twenty feet with a twelve gauge pump shotgun through a screen door. So he not only had all of the scatter from the shot gun, he also had a lot of screen from the door.They didn't think Jimmy would make it past the first night but he lived almost a year. He was awake and alert in ICU for most of that time, so he felt every pain and disappointment in his attempted recovery. But he was an amazing man.

During all those months in the hospital, he came to the realization that he had to let go of all of the anger he felt towards this man. Even with the knowledge that he would never see his daughters grow up, he let go. I know he did this for my benefit as well. It also gave me permission to let go, heal, and move on with my life, though it took me a little longer than it did Jimmy.

Now I have forgiven and moved on. For me it means trying to stop that circle of violence. That includes state executions. Healing will never happen by holding onto the pain of the past. That is where an execution holds us, focused on the pain of the past. I think it's time to find a new way of dealing with our crime problem. There has been enough pain to go around.

Carol was a member of the Journey of Hope...from Violence to Healing, Murder Victims Families for Reconciliation, Murder Victims Families for Human Rights, Citizens United for Alternatives to the Death penalty, Texas Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty, and the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty. She will be greatly missed. We love you Carol.

Carol Byars Quotes:
"It is past time for being silent about the death penalty. In Texas, we’re executing record numbers each year. Things have gotten so bad because people have all been silent and let things get bad. We are told many times that we are not supposed to forgive – that when people do horrible things to us we should do something just as bad in retribution. Those of us who know better – those of us who know the power of forgiveness – need to speak up. Every chance we get, we need to challenge the mentality that compassion is a weakness. Compassion is the toughest thing of all, but it’s the only thing that works to restore peace in our live."

"When my husband was killed a piece of me died with him, but in time I discovered the only way to heal was to let go of the pain and anger. I chose to honor his memory through compassion and forgiveness, not by creating more victims."

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

at the intersection of homicide and suicide...

did you know that there are over 30,000 suicides each year in the united states???

well, the amnesty international program to abolish the death penalty blog reported last week that 3 "volunteers" were scheduled for execution this week...fortunately one, bobby wilcher in mississippi, was stayed ...

but this question about "volunteering" for execution has had interesting light shed on it by professor john blume in his article killing the willing: "volunteers," suicide and competency ...

the lil' jesuit dude down in tennessee blogged about this phenomena yesterday with eloquence and you should check it out...

and then comment back here - this deserves your input in a conversation...

peace out - <3

Monday, July 10, 2006

uh, have you seen my backbone anywhere???

if you're in florida...or texas... you may think that your governor is pretty bad on the death penalty and for the most part you'd be pretty right on...

but consider that tennessee had just it's second execution in 46 years ~ 2 weeks ago - in a case where dna testing was fought by the state and sedley alley was executed with uncertainty clouding the circus to the very end...

governor bredesen issued a 15 day reprieve on may 16th stopping the execution over the dna testing issue - but he did not order the testing, he gave the attorneys one last shot to get the courts to order the evidence released for testing ...

even jeb bush and his lil' brother (while governor of texas) took that wimpy lil' step ...

in spite of the best efforts of barry scheck and the innocence project no testing was ever done...

you can read our governor's thoughts on his role by clicking here ... but i warn you, if you have trouble with spinelessness tread carefully!!!

Sunday, July 09, 2006

go on ahead and throw some seeds of your own...

Into a dancer you have grown
From a seed somebody else has thrown
Go on ahead and throw some seeds of your own
And somewhere between the time you arrive
And the time you go
May lie the reason you were alive
But you'll never know...
-Jackson Browne, 1974-

ever wonder if the work to educate people about the failure's of the death penalty system is bearing fruit??? the answer is yes - consider this note i received a couple of days after the june 28th execution in tennessee and my thanks to the writer for sharing it with me and permitting me to share it with you...

peace out...

" opinions about the death penalty have changed so much since meeting you. I was really never on one side or the other. But I feel completely against the death penalty now after talking to you ... and being able to see a different side to the situation.

I was watching the news last Tuesday night and my kids were with me. They asked me about what an execution was and how it happened. I explained it to them in very basic terms since they are 7 & 10. Wednesday morning ______ woke up and crawled into bed with me and said, "Mom, did they execute the man last night?", I said "yes" and he said he was thinking about it and was sad.

So, see how what you've shared with me has now affected a new generation. I just thought you should hear that story."

Friday, July 07, 2006


The blog will be silent for a few days. Back next week!

Monday, July 03, 2006

Next-to-last Fast and Vigil Update

(Almost) last but certainly not least, we now hear from NCADP intern and abolitionist Y. Eugina Huang. Eugina is a second-year student at Washington and Lee University in Lexington, Virginia, where she is a W&L Scholar. In the fall, she intends to declare a double-major in Politics and Philosophy, with dual concentrations in the Shepherd Poverty Program and the University Scholars Program. She enjoys music, Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, and people.

When my friends ask what I did for my birthday this year, I tell them, “I spent the day outside the Supreme Court at the 13th Annual Fast & Vigil to Abolish the Death Penalty.” Their usual response is, “Oh, so you didn’t get to celebrate your birthday?” Quite the contrary!

Upon arriving at the Fast & Vigil, I was able to interview David Plecenik, a soon-to-be college freshman from Pennsylvania. Raised Catholic, he tells me that he has always believed in the ethic of life and has just recently become involved in the movement. When asked how he has been faring with only water since Wednesday night, his response is simple—“It’s well worth it.”

The rally started then, with the camera rolling, the sun reflecting off the white marble of the Supreme Court steps, and the American flag flying high above us. And there, between the Supreme Court and the Capitol, everyone heard the voices of the movement—powerful voices, voices of the exonerated, beautiful voices, voices of murder victims’ family members, voices in song, voices of the crowd.

But from all of the voices we heard, one stands out in my mind. I found Luke, a fifth grader from Canada, sitting on the ground holding a sign. I asked him to tell me one interesting thing that he learned during the Fast & Vigil. His response?

“Umm… how to stop the death penalty. Yeah, that’s pretty much it.”

Still updating: Fast & Vigil to Abolish the Death Penalty

The Annual Fast & Vigil to Abolish the Death Penalty is over, but we still have a few more updates to bring you. This installment comes from NCADP intern Matthew Rankin, who is a student at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. Matthew, one of the latest additions to NCADP’s collection of abolitionist interns, is president of his campus fraternity, Gamma Lambda Chapter Phi Kappa Sigma.

In the abolitionist movement it can be easy to forget exactly what we are fighting for. Events like Starvin’ for Justice ‘06 put that into perspective for me. It reminded me exactly what we are fighting for: individuals. Our movement is not just a broad fight based on ideology but also a fight that if won will touch the lives of individual people across the country.

When I arrived at the steps of the U.S. Supreme Court to join the crowd of abolitionists, I was immediately welcomed by those who had enough energy to greet me. It was a very warm place and not just because of the sun; the hearts that stood at the vigil were filled with love.

As I walked around the event I could not stop myself from thinking, “this is why I am fighting the death penalty.” I also realized something else that day; that our fight is much bigger than just me or the organization that I work for. People like Bill Pelke, “Paul the Peace Walker,” Christine Lawson and many others helped me remember that our fight is not centered at the NCADP. Millions of people across the globe want to abolish the death penalty and if the NCADP is successful we will give a voice to those people.

As I began distributing literature to passers-by, I was reminded that not everyone wants to abolish capital punishment, which I can accept. What I can not accept is those who are not educated on the subject. People in our country cannot continue to support the death penalty without knowing the facts. Support for the death penalty, unfortunately, all too often is rooted in ignorance. It is this ignorance that we must fight.

Starvin’ for Justice ‘06 was a powerful experience for me and I was only out there a couple of hours. I have nothing but respect and love for the people who gathered below the steps of the Supreme Court to make their voices heard.

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Day Four from the Fast & Vigil

This update comes from NCADP intern Rachel Lawler, who has now fasted for just about 84 hours as part of the ongoing Fast & Vigil to abolish the Death Penalty on the sidewalk in front of the U.S. Supreme Court. Arlene I will be heading out there shortly to join the folks for the annual rally:

Good morning all you abolitionists out there. Today marks the 30th anniversary of the Gregg decision -- a decision that promised to remedy a broken death penalty system that had been identified four years prior, in Furman. It promised to get rid of the imbued racism and arbitrariness. But I think we can all agree that the promises were not fulfilled. And it's time for all of us to speak to that point.

The third day of the Fast and Vigil to Abolish the Death Penalty was just as amazing as the first and second days. Aside from getting a funny looking tanline of the outline of my sunglasses (which was an added and unexpected bonus), I also got the chance to hear some amazing speakers. In the past three days I have been completely inspired and awed by the speakers who shared with us their amazing stories of hope, activism, and healing.

The first death penalty speaker I ever saw was a member of Murder Victims' Families for Reconciliation, Rev. Walter Everett. In this man I saw such capacity for forgiveness, such amazing spirit... it just blew me away. Hearing stories from Bill Pelke, Christina Lawson, George White, and so many others has been truly inspiring. No one should have to endure what they've been through, but to hear the strength in their voices as they help us understand (to the extent that we can) what it's like, has been an irreplacable, unforgettable experience. I hope to join them for part of their Journey of Hope in Virginia this fall. Everyone should hear their stories!

Mmm food... I'm excited to break the fast tonight. So. Very. Excited. Food..........