Archive for the 'death penalty' Category

ACTION ALERT: Supreme Court rejects Troy Davis’ appeal; urgent action needed to save Troy’s life

UPDATE: Check below for info on the Oct 23 rally in NYC.

After granting Troy Anthony Davis a stay of execution on September 23 in order to decide whether or not to consider his case, the U.S. Supreme Court rejected his appeal last Tuesday. Georgia has scheduled Davis’ execution for 7pm on October 27, 2008 – next Monday, one week from today.

(Click here to skip to ways to take action over the coming week to save Davis’ life.)

I’ve been meaning to blog about this news since hearing it last Tuesday, but I think I’ve been avoiding writing about it until today. Troy Davis’ case has really gotten to me; over the past week it’s been difficult to think, talk, or try to write about his situation with beginning to cry. I know it’s important to stay hopeful and keep fighting, but it’s been difficult to muster much hope. This case has only decreased my already minimal faith in getting any true justice out of the American system. It defies logic that so many judicial bodies, right up through the U.S. Supreme Court, have failed to step in and assert that even just a shadow of a doubt should be enough to prevent an ultimate and immutable sentence of death from being carried out. In this case, with seven out of nine non-police witnesses recanting their testimony, far more than a shadow of doubt has been cast – and yet all of these authorities that have had the opportunity to intercede seem content to let this man die.

In trying to understand what twisted logic or legal technicality the U.S. Supreme Court followed in denying review of Davis’ case, I turned to SCOTUS Blog for further details and analysis. Unfortunately, they reported that “in denying review on Tuesday, the Supreme Court gave no explanation, as is its custom with such denials.” SCOTUS Blog also supplied this rather disturbing information:

In appealing to the Supreme Court, Davis’ lawyers urged the Court to issue a definitive ruling — something it had only assumed previously — that the Eighth Amendment creates a right of an innocent person not to be executed.

In this country that claims such civility and advanced morality, it hasn’t even been officially established that one has the right to not be executed if they are innocent. It boggles the mind.

But despite the daunting odds against Troy Davis, despite how utterly Davis and his supporters have been let down by just about every institution that purports to deliver justice in this nation, we can’t just let ourselves be sickened to the point that we give up hope and thereby give up the fight. Troy Davis is only one person, only one life out of the many lives on the brink on death row, but his life is essential, his life is precious, and his life demands a continued struggle. The disgust and disbelief and frustration that we feel at what’s happened in Davis’ case so far must be channeled intensely over the next week so that we might save his life and pave the way to saving many more lives in the future.


Remember: this isn’t only about saving Troy Davis’ life; this is also about making sure that no one else ever finds themselves in the situation that he’s in. If you have time to take action in any or all of these ways this week, please do.

Cross-posted at Feministe

Update: U.S. Supreme Court stays the execution of Troy Anthony Davis

After scanning the news over and over again all day hoping for good news but fearing it wouldn’t come, late this afternoon I was relieved to read that the U.S. Supreme Court had granted Troy Anthony Davis a stay of execution. The stay came only hours before he was scheduled to be killed by the state of Georgia.

However, it’s not time to rejoice just yet. This is only a temporary stay until Monday, when the Court will decide whether to hear the case. If they decide not to – as they usually have in cases like these – then the stay is immediately terminated, meaning that Davis could be executed as early as next week.

I don’t know what action can be taken to try to convince the Supreme Court to do what is rational and right and at least agree to hear the case and the new evidence that casts more than a shadow of a doubt on Davis’ conviction, but if Amnesty International or Davis’ family and supporters put out any calls to action, I’ll be sure to post them here.

ACTION ALERT: Amnesty International’s call to support Troy Davis

As I wrote last week, Troy Davis was denied clemency last week by the Georgia Board of Pardons and Parole and is scheduled to be executed on September 23, next Tuesday, despite the tremendous amount of doubt that surrounds his conviction. Besides the Board of Pardons and Parole, the only entity that can stop the execution is the US Supreme Court. However, Amnesty International sent out an action alert today that states that the Board of Pardons and Parole can still reconsider its decision:

The Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles gave no reason for its denial of Troy Davis’ clemency petition, yet Board members do have the authority to reconsider their decision. On July 16, 2007, the Board did stay Troy Davis’ execution, stating that it would “not allow an execution to proceed in this State unless and until its members are convinced that there is no doubt as to the guilt of the accused” (emphasis added).

The failure of courts to hear the compelling evidence of innocence in this case means that massive doubts about Troy Davis’ guilt will remain unresolved.

Amnesty International is asking that people send emails and letters to the Georgia Board of Pardons and Parole urging that they reconsider their decision in the face of the considerable doubt cast upon Troy Davis’ guilt. Please take a few moments to do this; this may be one of the last chances that Troy Davis has to escape being murdered unjustly by the state.

Update: Troy Davis denied clemency, faces execution on Sept 23

UPDATE: I am shocked, angered, disgusted and saddened to say that the Georgia Board of Pardons and Parole has denied Troy Davis clemency or commutation of his death sentence. (see here and here for articles). This, despite the fact that there was no physical evidence implicating him and seven of the nine witnesses who testified against him have recanted their testimony. This is horrifying. It is also crystal clear evidence for why the death penalty is an immoral and inhumane system that shouldn’t be allowed to continue. How could anyone argue that an ultimate, immutable punishment should ever be applied when you have such an abundance of reasonable doubt and such a dearth of credible evidence? And while this is an extraordinarily wrong case, we have to assume that there are many, many other instances of people being convicted, sentenced, and executed under similarly dubious, uncertain circumstances. It is unacceptable.

At this point, Davis’ only hope is that the U.S. Supreme Court intervenes. With our current Supreme Court, I worry for the chances of that happening; to make matters worse, the Court is currently recessed and may not even get around to hearing the case before Davis’ execution date, which is set for September 23 at 7pm. (end update)

Last July, I wrote asking people to call and demand clemency for Troy Davis, a man sentenced to death in Georgia. He was convicted in 1991 of murdering an off-duty police officer, but as I wrote last year, “the case against him was comprised entirely of witness testimony, which even at the time of the trial contained inconsistencies. Since the trial, seven out of nine of the non-police prosecution witnesses have recanted their testimony.” (See my previous post for more details on the case.)

Davis was granted a stay of execution last July less than 24 hours before he was to be killed. However, as reports, “the Georgia Supreme Court and US Supreme Court have refused to hear new evidence in the case — ensuring that doubts about his guilt will always remain.” put out this call to action via email today:

The State Board of Pardons and Paroles is meeting today to decide Troy Davis’ fate. Can you call them right now and ask them to spare his life? Call (404) 651-6599 and tell them you are for clemency or commutation for Troy Davis because you don’t want Georgia to make the mistake of executing an innocent man.

Once you’ve called, please let us know by sending an email to Then, please pass this on to your friends and family–Troy Davis needs all the help he can get.

I made my call a little while ago; it takes only one or two minutes to tell them that you’re calling to ask for clemency or commutation of Davis’ sentence. Please try to spare a few minutes today to help save Davis from an unjust, inhumane death.

The execution of Jose Ernesto Medellin: another American middle finger raised at international law

Recently I decided to read the work of Noam Chomsky for the first time, beginning with Hegemony or Survival. I’m a few chapters in now, and one of the points that Chomsky makes is that the United States continues to show blatant disregard and even contempt for international law and institutions such as the United Nations. Chomsky focuses on the start of the war in Iraq in defiance of the Security Council and the UN in general as one of the United States’ most stark dismissals of international law, but also details similar dismissals with regards to other military engagements. He asserts that this is part and parcel of larger project of the United States, which reserves “the right to resort to force to eliminate any perceived challenge to US global hegemony, which is to be permanent.”

For people paying attention, the US’ disregard for international law – as shown through its preemptive strikes, its dismissals of the Geneva Conventions with regards to torture, its secret renditions, and its snubbing of a litany of treaties and agreements – has been worrisome for a long time. As Chomsky asserts, “when the UN fails to serve as ‘an instrument of American unilateralism’ … it is dismissed.” Essentially, the government of the United States believes that it can do whatever the hell it wants, with a big middle finger raised towards any other nation or international organization that calls it on its murderous, imperialistic bullshit. Or, as John Bolton, our illustrious former UN ambassador, put it: “There is no such thing as the United Nations. There is only the international community, which can only be led by the only remaining superpower, which is the United States.”

So when I read this morning about the Texas execution of a Mexican citizen convicted of murder, the story fit right into the larger pattern of the United States’ perception of itself as supreme. Jose Ernesto Medellin, convicted of the 1993 rape and murder of two teenage girls, was executed Tuesday night despite an order from the International Court of Justice at the Hague to halt the executions of Mexican citizens on Texas’ death row. From the LA Times article:

The International Court of Justice in The Hague sided in 2004 with the Mexican government’s argument that the United States had violated the 1963 Vienna Convention on Consular Relations by failing to inform the arrested Mexican nationals of their right to seek help from the Mexican Consulate.

Mexico has asked that all 51 convictions be reviewed, creating the possibility for new trials or outright dismissals. The Hague court had ordered the United States not to execute any of five men on death row in Texas while the court reviewed their cases.

But the court, a branch of the United Nations, has no power to enforce its rulings. A spokesman for Texas Gov. Rick Perry, a Republican, has said that “the world court has no standing in Texas.”

Emphasis added, because the statement so clearly crystallizes not only the attitude of the state of Texas, but of the United States as a whole. Surprisingly enough, the Bush administration attempted to intervene and halt the executions: “Mr Bush wrote a two-paragraph memorandum to the Department of Justice saying Texas courts must obey the ICJ ruling and review Mr Medellín’s conviction and sentence to determine whether his rights were violated because he was not allowed to contact his consulate.” However, as the LA Times reports, “the U.S. Supreme Court rejected the administration’s arguments, ruling 6-3 that under the Constitution, the president did not have the ‘unilateral authority’ to compel state officials to comply with an international treaty.”

Interesting. So the President seems to have unilateral authority to do all sorts of awful things, but not when it comes to enforcing international law? I suppose this makes sense, though; after all, why should individual states not follow the example of the larger nation in its utter disregard for the rule of international law? In these executions, Texas is only applying the precedent that the US government has demonstrated time and time again: the United States can do what it wants, and fuck the rest of the world if they complain.

The LA Times reports that “Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International contend that executing foreign citizens in opposition to the court order could put U.S. citizens abroad at risk of being convicted and even executed for crimes without having access to U.S. consulates or embassies.” Jeffrey Davidow, former U.S. Ambassador to Mexico, expands upon that:

So we now find ourselves on the brink of an irrevocable violation of the most important treaty governing consular assistance for our citizens detained in other countries. A failure to comply with this most basic of treaty commitments would significantly impair the ability of our diplomats and leaders to protect the interests — individual and collective — of Americans abroad. Were the tables turned — American citizens arrested abroad and denied consular access, with an ICJ judgment requiring review of those cases for prejudice, and another nation refusing to comply — our leaders would rightly demand that compliance be forthcoming.

Unfortunately, as the United States continues to flout international law, other nations might not be so interested in extending favor to us that they do not get from us. And why should they? Why should other nations not be allowed to exercise their sovereignty just as the United States does? Oh, that’s right: it’s because the people in power in this nation believe in the Rule of Might over the Rule of Law, and the United States just happens to have the biggest guns.

Jersey pride, well-founded.

I may be in Brooklyn now, but I’m not from Brooklyn – I’m from New Jersey and proud of it. Even prouder today, after NJ became the first state since 1976 to ban the death penalty. Of course, New Jersey also hasn’t executed anyone since 1963, so this may not be the most momentous of moves within the state itself. However, New Jersey is setting an important precedent and we can only hope other states (New York? Pennsylvania? Hope beyond hope, Texas?) will follow suit. So hurrah, New Jersey! I’m going to wear one of my Jersey pride t-shirts today in celebration.

ACTION ALERT: Call for last-minute clemency for a Georgia man unjustly sentenced to death

Somehow, I managed to miss Troy Davis’ story until this morning, when I was listening to today’s podcast of Democracy Now. I’m a steadfast opponent of the death penalty in any case. But Davis’ story is one of the most enraging and saddening examples of how deeply flawed the judicial system can be.

Troy Davis is on death row in Georgia, where he was convicted in 1991 for the murder of a Savannah police officer. His execution is scheduled for tomorrow (Tuesday) night at 7pm, despite an abundance of evidence of his innocence. The case against him was comprised entirely of witness testimony, which even at the time of the trial contained inconsistencies. Since the trial, seven out of nine of the non-police prosecution witnesses have recanted their testimony. Some of the witness have even stated that they were coerced into giving testimony against Davis. Jared Feuer, Southern Regional Directory of Amnesty International, said this in his interview on Democracy Now!:

You know, what we have to talk about when we discuss the witnesses is that in some cases they were sixteen years old. They had a number of children. Some of them did have prior records. And they were told that if you do not tell us what we want to hear, you will be going away to jail, or we will actually be fingering you. And the witnesses were scared out of their minds. I mean, they had a number of police who would, you know, arrive at their house and tell them, “You sign this, or you’re going to go to jail.” One of the witnesses was given a signed statement, and he can’t even read.

Only two of the non-police witnesses have not recanted: a witness who said they could not identify the shooter, only the clothing they wore; and Sylvester Coles, the original suspect in the shooting, whose testimony swung the police’s case against Davis.

So, from the get go, Davis’ situation looked grim. As Feuer says, “there was an officer who was down, and the police really wanted to make sure that they got their suspect.” Such tales are as old as american racism itself: a white person is killed, especially a white cop, and “justice” must be had, even if it comes at the expense of an innocent young Black man. Amy Goodman gives this related statistic from the American Bar Association: “Among all homicides with known suspects, those suspected of killing whites are 4.56 times as likely to be sentenced to death as those who are suspected of killing blacks.”

Davis wound up being convicted and sentenced to death; the appeals process up to the state level was unsuccessful, at times because of “procedural defaults” that prevented the defense from introducing new witness statements. One of Davis’ final avenues – turning to the federal appeals court – was closed off to him in 1996 with the signing of the Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act. This law, passed by the Republican-controlled Congress and signed by President Clinton not long after the Oklahoma City bombings, severely limits the ability of federal appeals courts to consider cases like these.
Earlier, in 1995, Congress voted to eliminate federal funding for legal organizations which provide legal assistance to death row prisoners, hobbling these organizations to help those inmates with the fewest resources.

Indeed, it looks like the government has been doing more and more to ensure that “justice” be served by executing people as quickly as possible, wrongful convictions be damned. As Feuer put it, “we have a death penalty system in this country that favors expediency over getting it right.” Read that over a few times. Let the awful truth of that sink in. Because this is the ultimate punishment; get something wrong here, and the mistake is irreversible.

Troy Davis’ lawyers appeared before the U.S. Supreme Court in late June to try, one last time, to convince a court to stay the order of execution and reopen the case. The Supreme Court declined. Now, Davis’ only recourse is the Georgia Board of Clemency, which can exonerate him, grant a stay of execution (and possibly a new trial), or allow the execution to take place. Davis’ clemency hearings began at 9am this morning; the clemency board has until 3pm tomorrow (just four hours before the time set for his execution) to make their decision. I encourage everyone to take a few moments to visit the Amnesty International page and send a fax to the clemency board demanding that they make the only right decision — to save an innocent man’s life.

UPDATE: The clemency board granted Troy Davis a 90-day stay of execution, within which the defense will have one last opportunity to present the case for his innocence. While this in itself is an important and heartening victory, the case can still go either way, so I encourage people to continue to send in faxes, make calls, spread the word and take action. And let’s hope that this case can do much to bring attention and an eventual end to the deeply-flawed and inherently unjust system of capital punishment in this country.

(cross-posted at AngryBrownButch)

The death penalty – on request?

For years, I’ve been a staunch opponent of the death penalty. To me it seems both barbaric and unjust. In a fallible and inequitable criminal justice system, one can never be sure that the death penalty is applied evenly and without bias. And with the spate of false convictions that have been uncovered in the past few decades, it’s clear that even completely innocent people are sentenced to death.

So, I was more than a bit surprised when I read this article from the BBC News: hundreds of Italian prisoners who are serving life sentences are actually requesting that the death penalty be reinstated (it’s been banned since after World War II.)

The letter they sent to President Napolitano came from a convicted mobster, Carmelo Musumeci, a 52-year-old who has been in prison for 17 years.

It was co-signed by 310 of his fellow lifers.

Musumeci said he was tired of dying a little bit every day.

We want to die just once, he said, and “we are asking for our life sentence to be changed to a death sentence”.

I’ve always thought about death penalty as the most cruel and unjust form of punishment, but how much less cruel is life imprisonment, really? Unlike a death sentence, it’s reversible; if someone is found to have been wrongly convicted, they can be released; if they appeal and evidence is unearthed that proves them guilty of only a lesser crime, their sentence can be shortened. But the prospect of living the rest of one’s life behind bars is a horrifying one indeed, as evidenced by these prisoners’ plea for death.

Being a prison abolitionist, I’m looking forward to a time when prisons fade into obsolescence and are no longer how society deals with its problems. However, that’s probably a long way off. So in the meantime, the questions I’m pondering are these – should prisoners be allowed to request the death penalty instead of a life sentence? Should that be allowed even if the death penalty is abolished as an involuntarily imposed sentence? Does this amount to something akin to voluntary euthanasia (physician-assisted suicide), which I do not oppose? Is this a devaluation of the lives of prisoners? That last question sounds eerily like something a “sanctity of life” anti-choicer might say, but I’m coming from a different angle. People in prison are already so undervalued, even when they’re released; does something like this only reinforce that devaluation – saying that life in prison is worse than no life at all? And finally, does anyone but prisoners actually serving life sentences have the right or even the ability to answer any of these questions?

The Catholic Church: doing something right, for a change.

I’m an ex-Catholic. Catholicism was a big part of my life for a long time. I went to Catholic schools for 12 years. As a kid, I used to love to read the Bible – not for the rules and regs, but for the stories, the imagery. I was obsessed with the Vatican. For a while when I was in elementary school, I went on a kick of lecturing my heathen cousins (who all went to public school and – gasp – didn’t even go to CCD!) about how wonderful Jesus was. God, was I obnoxious.

Anyhow, my zealous Catholicism all started crumbling down during high school, when I started realizing that I was not only a leftist, but a big ol’ queer. I think the real turning point was when I went the big anti-abortion march in DC during my Junior year. Ironically, the primary reasons for going to the march were to a) get out of school for a day and b) more importantly, spend a lot of time with the uber-Catholic girl who I had an incredibly huge crush on. I got there and was totally horrified by most everything I saw, from the huge placards with the gross and utterly misleading images of fetuses, to the gay anti-choice activists protesting from the sidelines because they weren’t allowed to march, to the creepy fervent droning chanting of the Rosary that was going on around me. Luckily, I was able to convince my crush to escape with me and go hang out in some random government building for much of the afternoon.

Since parting ways with Catholicism, I’ve had many opportunities to cringe, sigh, and scream over the activities of my former church. The large majority of what gets the Catholic church into the news is very cringe-worthy stuff, from the rampant child abuse by priests and subsequent cover-ups, to the Church’s continuing persecution of queer folks, to the total disregard for women’s rights perpetuated by the anti-choice movement.

But, every once in a while, there’s a news story that shows that, sometimes, the Catholic establishment can do something right. My friend Dex sent me one such article today: an op-ed piece from the New York Times lauding Cardinal Roger Mahony, head of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, for taking a stand against the appalling anti-immigration legislation that’s being pushed through Congress right now.

I didn’t actually know much about this legislation, H.R. 4437, until a few weeks ago, and I was both horrified at its contents and at the fact that I didn’t even know about it. I try to stay relatively abreast of stuff like this, and was shocked that I hadn’t heard more uproar about it. The uproar is there, I’m sure, but I just wasn’t hearing it for some reason.

Anyhow – in case you’re in the same boat, here’s a good summary from the Immigration Legal Resource Center of this awful piece of legislation. There’s some really horrendous stuff in there, including the creation of a whole new federal crime of “unlawful presence,” the transformation of minor offenses into aggravated felonies when involving undocumented immigrants, and the expansion of “alien smuggling” to include merely assisting undocumented immigrants, making such assistance a federal crime. That’s right – individuals and social service organizations who merely help undocumented immigrants survive could be charged with fucking crime. And it’s already passed the House, and is currently in the Senate.

It’s absolutely disgusting, frightening and enraging. And Cardinal Mahony thinks so, too. From the NY Times article:

If current efforts in Congress make it a felony to shield or offer support to illegal immigrants, Cardinal Mahony said, he will instruct his priests — and faithful lay Catholics — to defy the law.

… Cardinal Mahony’s defiance adds a moral dimension to what has largely been a debate about politics and economics. “As his disciples, we are called to attend to the last, littlest, lowest and least in society and in the church,” he said.

It’s refreshing to see the Catholic Church, or at least one member of the Church establishment, rallying people and using their political clout around the good parts of Catholic doctrine – that people should care for and help one another, that charity and justice are important, and that Catholics have a duty to help those who are most abused and neglected by our society. It’s a nice change from the usual stories about Catholic political pressure, like when the bishops decided to start denying communion to Catholic politicians who were not anti-choice.

One can only hope that those Catholics who are all too willing to use church doctrine as an excuse for their rabid homophobia, sexism and anti-choice attitudes are equally willing to heed this call to defend the human rights of immigrants. Of course, Catholics tend to let me down with their hypocrisy all the time, especially those who are virulently anti-choice but are either silent about or supportive of the death penalty. So I guess my hope is kind of slim. I’m prepared to sigh, cringe and scream as usual.

“Deserving” the death penalty

When I was sitting in the airport on Tuesday, waiting for my delayed flight to Atlanta to board, there was a piece on CNN about the delayed execution of Michael Morales, a man in California convicted of the murder of high school student Terri Winchell in 1981. The execution was delayed because of questions over the ethicality of the method of execution, legal injection. Because of concerns about the possibility that the combination of the three drugs administered in the execution could cause undue pain and suffering, a federal district judge in San Jose ruled that medical professionals must be present to ensure a painless death. The two anesthesiologists hired to do so refused to participate because participating in the non-consensual death of another person is in violation of the core ethics of the medical profession. The execution is now delayed indefinitely.

The CNN piece that I watched consisted of the CNN anchor (I forget her name) interviewing a legal expert on the specifics of the situation. The anchor kept talking about how horrible it must be for the victim’s family, to see such consideration being given to the man convicted of their loved one’s murder when no such consideration was given to her when she was so horribly killed. The anchor also kept saying, over and over, that no one was disputing that he did it, that he in fact deserved to die.

However, at the bottom of the screen, the little news ticker kept reading that the judge who originally sentenced Morales to death was requesting clemency due to doubts about the validity of the evidence used in the case. This continued to run across the screen as the anchor continued to assert that no one questioned that Morales deserved to die. Had she not heard about this apparently crucial doubt shed on whether he deserved to die by the very man who had sentenced him to death in the first place? Or was it just deemed unimportant to highlight that piece of information?

Apparently, most of the mainstream media shares that anchor’s attitude, since the vast majority of the media coverage of this case has neglected to mention Ventura County Superior Court Judge Charles R. McGrath’s request for clemency for Morales, since he believes that the sentence was based on false testimony provided by an informant. From the L.A. Times article (emphasis added):

Bruce Samuelson testified that Morales had callously boasted during a jailhouse conversation that he had planned to rape and kill the teenager. The confession supposedly took place in a crowded cellblock that Morales knew was full of informants.

Samuelson explained away Morales’ willingness to talk by saying the two men spoke in Spanish. A later investigation by the state attorney general, however, showed that Morales, a fourth-generation Californian, doesn’t speak Spanish, McGrath said.

The false testimony not only persuaded judge and jury that the killing was egregious, but effectively canceled out Morales’ claim that he felt deep remorse for the crime, McGrath said.

… Samuelson’s claim of Morales’ “confession was the only evidence to support the single special circumstance — lying in wait — that made Mr. Morales eligible for the death penalty,” the judge added.

It’s true that no one – neither Morales, his lawyers, or other supporters – is arguing that Morales didn’t commit a horrible crime. However, it seems like many people, especially in the media, are losing sight of the fact that, even though a crime may be horrible, that doesn’t mean that the law proscribes the death penalty for that crime. I, personally, don’t believe in the death penalty at all in any case. But the law itself, even when it allows for the death penalty, has a very strict and specific set of criteria that must be met before the death penalty is even an option. And in this case, that criteria was only met because of false testimony, proven false by the state attorney general and obtained in yet another dubious deal between the prosecution and a jailhouse informant.

So, in fact, in the eyes of the state, Michael Morales does not deserve to die. Yet Governor Schwarzenegger has decided to ignore that fact and deny clemency. It seems that this man has been condemned in the eyes of the governor, the mainstream media, and much of society, and it doesn’t matter that, no, according to those very laws that allow the death penalty in the first place, he should not be condemned.

To me, this points to one of the major problems in the public discourse about the death penalty – it’s an emotional conversation, filled with the desire for revenge and retribution instead of the desire for justice and restitution. What this man did was a horrific thing, and therefore, people want him to die. Some people even want him to die a painful, horrible death, himself. Screw the law, screw the false circumstances under which he was convicted and sentenced, screw remorse, screw the seemingly careful consideration that went into establishing guidelines for when to apply this most absolute and terrible of punishments – just kill him.

In writing this entry, I found an editorial by Joan Ryan in the San Francisco Chronicle – “It’s about the killing, not the pain.” In it, she points out the strange contradiction of worrying so much about whether the method of death is ethical while not looking about the serious ethical implications of the act of killing itself. She focuses specifically on the fact that doctors refuse to be involved in executions because they deem them to be against medical ethics, and asks the questions: “What’s so different about the rest of society? Why is killing a fellow human being not beyond the bounds of our own ethical behavior?” Important questions to ask, especially in this newest context for the ongoing death penalty debate.