States Actively Consider Alternatives to the Death Penalty
This week, we round up legislative action in Kansas, Kentucky, Nebraska, New Hampshire, South Dakota, Maryland, Oklahoma and Alaska.
Kansas Repeal Bill Heads to Senate for Floor Debate
Last issue, we were excited to report that the Kansas’ Senate Judiciary Committee passed a bill to repeal the death penalty by a bipartisan 7-4 vote. Five of the panel’s nine GOP members joined the two Dems on the committee in voting to move the bill forward. NCADP staff have been working closely with our Affiliate, the Kansas Coalition Against the Death Penalty to move this bill forward.
It’s expected that the full Kansas Senate will debate and consider the bill this week, and the Arkansas City Traveler editorialized that they should pass the bill immediately.
Details on the committee’s action at the end of the January can be viewed in the Kansas City Star, the Wichita Eagle and the Topeka Capital-Journal. An account of how a broad coalition in Kansas is organizing in support of the bill can be read in the Lawrence Journal-World & News.
The repeal effort received a boost last week when eight Kansas bishops wrote and submitted a joint letter to the state’s legislature, and the Kansas City Kansan has more on that story. And an op-ed article in the Pittsburg Morning Sun serves to remind those following the Kansas legislative debate that wrongful convictions and executions is one of capital punishment’s major flaws.
Additional information on how some of the Kansas legislators feel about the bill can be found in an interview with State Senator Carolyn McGinn in The Kansan and in the newspaper’s feature article, "Kansas death penalty repeal tests senators." Additionally, a Kansas newspaper has posted an opinion poll.
Kentucky Legislative Hearing on Proposed Lethal Injection Protocol Changes
Many of your submitted comments about proposed changes in the Kentucky’s lethal injection protocol before last Monday’s deadline. Just before the deadline, an agency hearing was held regarding the revisions. The Louisville Courier-Journal and the Associated Press have more. The Kentucky Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty has information on their home page as well.
Leading Connecticut politician promises to end death penalty
Ned Lamont, a businessman who became a national figure when he defeated U.S. Sen. Joe Lieberman in the Democratic Primary four years ago, pledged if elected Governor to repeal the death penalty. Polls indicate Lamont is the front-runner. Connecticut’s legislature passed abolition last year, but the bill was vetoed by Gov. Jodi Rell, who is not running for re-election. The Connecticut Network to Abolish the Death Penalty is continuing their efforts.
Nebraska Death Penalty Costs Bill Introduced in Legislature
A measure to compare how much capital punishment costs the state of Nebraska with non-death penalty sentences resulting from first degree murder convictions was introduced in the state’s legislature last week and referred to its Senate Judiciary Committee. To read the bill in its entirety, click here. The Nebraskans Against the Death Penalty is leading the way.
New Hampshire Death Penalty Study Commission Hears Testimony from exonerated former death row inmate
New Hampshire’s state-appointed study commission, charged with reviewing the state’s death penalty law, recently heard from several witnesses who oppose capital punishment. Covering the commission hearing were The Concord Monitor and The Union Leader. An excerpt from testimony from an exonerated former death row inmate is featured in The Keene Sentinel. The New Hampshire Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty is working hard to ensure Commissioners hear all the facts.
South Dakota House Committee Holds Hearing on Repeal Bill
The South Dakota House State Affairs Committee yesterday discussed HB 1245, a bill to repeal the state’s death penalty, and replace it with life without parole sentences for people convicted of Class A felonies. See the article in Public News Service for more on the story.
A few leaders try to buck the trend against the death penalty
A committee in Oklahoma passed a death penalty expansion bill that was seen by observers as "clearly unconstitutional" and "a waste of time and money." And a bill to implement capital punishment in Alaska for the first time in that state’s history was re-introduced by the House Speaker, but he immediately conceded it was not going to become law. NCADP Affiliate AADP has been working actively for many years to prevent the return of the death penalty in the 49th State. In addition, a few Maryland elected officials are trying to expand the reach of the recently narrowed death penalty statute, but are unlikely to succeed. NCADP Affiliate MDCASE is leading the charge.
Texas Forensic Science Commission Meets; Willingham Case Missing from Agenda
Meeting for the first time since Texas Governor Rick Perry removed and replaced several Commissioners, the Forensic Science Commission convened Friday, January 26, in Harlingen, Texas, an out-of-the-way town close to the Texas-Mexican border. But that didn’t stop the news media from highlighting the fact that the Commissioners did not include the Cameron Todd Willingham case (featured in NCADP’s "Shouting From the Rooftops" campaign) on their meeting agenda.
The Commissioners were to discuss fire scientist Craig Beyler’s report on the fire that destroyed Willingham’s home and killed his children in 1991 only days before Perry removed and replaced the Commissioners, and the new Commission Chair canceled the panel’s hearing on the report. Although Willingham was convicted and executed for arson in connection with the fire, Beyler found that the fire could not be proved to be caused by arson. The January 26 Commission meeting was covered by The Monitor, the Dallas Morning News – in an article about a documentary film crew initially barred from the meeting – the Houston Chronicle, and the New York Times/Associated Press. The latter notes that the next scheduled Commission meeting, during which the Willingham case will finally be discussed, is April 23 – after the spring elections in Texas.
Missouri NAACP Supporting Clemency for Reggie Clemons
The Missouri NAACP has announced its supporting clemency for death row prisoner Reggie Clemons, convicted for murders for which the evidence was questionable. Clemons’ attorneys say that Clemons was intimidated by police, who beat him into "confessing" to the crimes. For more on the case and actions suggested by the Missouri NAACP to support the clemency movement, click here.
More NCADP Conference-Related News Coverage
The Record, the newspaper of Louisville, Kentucky’s Catholic Archdiocese, published an article about Vicki Schieber of Murder Victims’ Families for Human Rights, who spoke in area Catholic schools regarding why many murder victims’ families oppose capital punishment. Look to the Stars, a website focusing on charitable giving by celebrities, noted singer-songwriter Steve Earle’s being named NCADP’s 2010 "Shining Star of Abolition" at NCADP’s Awards Dinner, the conference’s crowning event. And in The Florida Catholic, Dale Recinella, who coordinates death row prison ministries in the state, describes a workshop he led in which he discussed how to counter Old Testament arguments favoring capital punishment.
Patriot-News Editorial Page Editor Says Pennsylvania Could Save Money by Ending Death Penalty
Pennsylvania’s Governor Ed Rendell will soon introduce the budget bill for the state, and Jeanette Krebs, Editorial Page Editor for the Harrisburg newspaper The Patriot News suggests that abolishing capital punishment would be a major cost savings. Krebs notes that Pennsylvania is among many states forced to make tough economic decisions in the current national recession, that other states are considering abolition and less expensive alternative punishments to replace the death penalty, and that the American Law Institute has dropped the death penalty from its Model Penal Code after concluding that there is no way to make it fair and unbiased. See Jeanette Krebs’ editorial here.
Death Penalty Attorney Featured On National Public Radio Program
David Dow has spent 20 years defending condemned prisoners. National Public Radio’s "Fresh Air" program recently interviewed Dow, who talked about how he felt about his clients, why he feels the death penalty must end, and his new book. To listen to the interview, click here.
Upcoming Conferences and Conventions of Interest
Virginia State Senate Hears Three Death Penalty Bills Virginians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty (VADP) urges all who oppose capital punishment to attend the February 15 Senate Courts of Justice Committee hearing on three bills which if passed would expand the death penalty. The hearing is set for either 8 a.m. or 9 a.m. in Senate Room A of the Virginia General Assembly. For more information contact VADP Executive Director Beth Panilaitis at (434) 960-7779, and check VADP’s web site at http://www.vadp.org.
Georgians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty (GADP) Lobby Day, February 16, 2010, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Georgia State Capitol. Click here for details.
Texas Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty Annual Conference Seizing the Momentum: Building Capacity, Community, and Coalition ~ February 20, 2010, 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Highland Park United Methodist Church, 3300 Mockingbird Lane, Dallas, Texas ~ Co-Sponsored by the Southern Methodist University Human Rights Education Program
Fourth World Congress Against the Death Penalty, February 24 -26, 2010, International Conference Center, Geneva, Switzerland
Sister Helen Prejean, author of the book "Dead Man Walking," will speak at the University of Houston-Downtown, March 3, 2010, 6 p.m., Academic Building, third floor, Robertson Auditorium. The event is free and open to the public.
Do you have an upcoming event in your state? Please send your events to firstname.lastname@example.org for inclusion in future issues of Abolition Times.
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