Thursday, January 26, 2012

OH Continues to Tinker with Death

Ohio officials have agreed to an order issued by U.S. District Judge Gregory L. Frost to postpone the February 22nd execution of Michael Webb. Webb is accused of setting the fire that killed his 3 ½ year old son Mikey. Webb continues to assert his innocence and says someone else started the fire.

Webb’s attorneys claim the fire chief on the scene used methods that 20 years of arson science have deemed invalid, according to arson-expert Gerald Hurst. They also contend that police failed to follow up on a lead that pointed to the boyfriend of one of Webb’s daughters.

In an eerily similar Texas case, Todd Willingham was executed for setting a fire that killed his three daughters. After the fact, additional arson experts, hired by the forensic commission concluded that the fire was most likely accidental. Hurst had authored a report that challenged the conclusion made by the Texas State Fire Marshal’s office. The execution went forward despite Hurst’s analysis.

Ohio’s postponement of Webb’s execution is only the most recent one as the state continues to tweak its lethal injection process, which Judge Frost calls “haphazard.”

Poll Regarding the Case of Robert Gattis recently posted a poll regarding the case of Robert Gattis and whether the clemency granting by DE Governor Jack Markell makes a statement about the death penalty.

To vote in the poll, visit:

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Governor Grants Clemency to Robert Gattis

Today DE Governor Jack Markell granted clemency to Robert Gattis. Mr. Gattis suffered horrible abuse as a child and from many different people -- people that he should have been able to trust. This is an historic moment in Delaware's history.  The Board of Pardons recommended clemency, the Governor granted it, and Delaware's largest newspaper published an editorial in support of clemency.

That decision is both fair and just.  Mr. Gattis will now spend the rest of his life in prison.  He will be afforded the opportunity to provide guidance to his sons as he continues to remind them to conduct themselves appropriately and to take responsibility for their actions.

Many faith leaders spoke out in favor of clemency.  Gattis' former jailers said that execution was not the appropriate punishment for him.  A forensic psychologist said the abuse suffered by Mr. Gattis was among the worst that he had ever seen.  Former judges and prosecutors agreed. Delaware citizens spoke out and joined in the requests for clemency.  People from other places, some far away, were moved to action when they learned that the state of Delaware planned to execute a man for whom the death penalty was a disproportionate punishment, especially given that neither the judge nor the jury had heard the evidence of his childhood abuse and that the jury had not voted unanimously to sentence him to death.

Governor Markell deserves our thanks and respect for what he described as one of the most difficult decisions he has ever faced in his career.  Please join me in sending him messages of gratitude and commending him for making the right decision.

On twitter, he's @GovernorMarkell and I'm sure he would appreciate a show of public support as he is surely going to face criticism for his decision. You can also comment on the story here:   He needs to hear from us now.

Take a moment to savor this victory.  There will be more to come as long as we keep the pressure on our elected officials.

With gratitude for all of the work that you do for justice,


Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Capital Punishment vs Pro Life and Our Candidates' Positions

“I dream of a world where we can commit our social resources to the development of human life and not to its destruction.” This quote by Benazir Bhutto was said in a pro-life speech, but it is important to note that it can also relate just as much to ending capital punishment. True, the abortion abolitionists have almost coined the term pro-life to the extent that their cause is the first, and in most cases the only thought that comes to people’s minds when they hear this phrase, but it is important to think critically about everything that being “pro-life” encompasses.

It is difficult to imagine justifying that one is pro-life, yet is in favor of the death penalty; this goes against the very definition of the term. Arguments are raised comparing the innocence of the unborn to the guilt of the inmates on death row, but we must keep in mind that the prisoners would still face grave repercussions for their unlawful actions, without the actual taking of their lives. In no way are they acquitted or pardoned of their crimes; their punishment will simply take a different, more humane route. It is also important to note the very real possibility of the inmate on death row being innocent. Since 1973, 139 people who were on death row have been found innocent and were exonerated. In addition to that, there are several instances of people who have already been killed through capital punishment who now have strong evidence to prove their innocence. It is for these reasons, that when we claim our staunch stance of being pro-life we should not pick and choose the situations for when we hold true to this statement, but rather embrace all of the cases for which it can be applied.

With the presidential race quickly approaching and the primaries on our doorsteps, we should take a minute to review what the candidates believe regarding capital punishment being pro-life, at least in the more well-known connotation of the term. The general Republican consensus is “pro-life”, so much so that a handful of the population votes Republican solely for this reason alone. Out of the candidates running for the Republican nomination, it is important to note that Fred Karger is against government interference on the matter, and Mitt Romney recently changed to the pro-life stance, but the rest have all always sided for pro-life.

Regarding their feelings on the death penalty, only Ron Paul is staunchly against it based on the possible innocence factor, and Rick Santorum avoids the subject, but seems divided. In fact, Rick Perry has proudly issued the “ultimate justice” as he says to 234 Texans during his term as governor and says he has no qualms about whether or not they were innocent. It is astounding how a party can be known for being “pro-life”, yet the majority of the candidates support and, in some cases, even push laws through in favor of capital punishment. Furthermore, as the world saw with the infamous Troy Davis travesty, President Barack Obama tries to avoid the issue of capital punishment altogether, and as witnessed by the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, his health care reform bill, he is clearly not pro-life either.

Whoever ends up winning the Republican nomination, or even the presidency, an important thing to know is that upholding or abolishing the death penalty is the decision of the individual states. It is for this reason that in order to get this irreversible punishment abolished, we must write to our own state representative and express our opinions, thoughts, and criticisms on the subject. To find your own Pennsylvanian representative to write to, you can visit this website and see who represents your county.