This e-mail contains commentary and OpEds from:
Atlanta Journal-Constitution - End the DP?
AJC - Carter: Show death penalty the door
AJC - Sharp: Enforcing penalty saves lives
NH Union Leader - Keshen: NH could do more for victims of
April 26, 2012
End the death penalty?
by AJC Opinion | Moderated by Rick Badie
The United States is one of the few industrialized nations that uses capital
punishment to deter crime. Georgia, one of 34 death-penalty states, uses
lethal injection to execute.
Today, former President Jimmy Carter writes it's time to end the practice
for reasons that include a change in public opinion, prosecutorial costs,
and socioeconomic and racial bias. A death penalty proponent argues that an
executed murderer never murders again.
What do you think?
And here is more information on the death penalty
In 1972, the U.S. Supreme Court voided 40 death penalty statutes and
suspended the death penalty.
Four years later, capital punishment was reinstated and a 10-year moratorium
on executions ended with the execution of Gary Gilmore by a firing squad in
Since reinstatement, nearly 1,300 executions have been carried out.
Georgia's current death row population sits at 99 and includes one woman.
Its method of execution is lethal injection.
Georgia's most recent high-profile execution was that of Troy Anthony Davis,
on Sept. 21, 2011, for the 1989 killing of Savannah police officer Mark
On Tuesday, a federal prosecutor called for the execution of Brian
Richardson for the 2007 killing of his cell mate, Steven Obara, in the U.S.
Penitentiary in Atlanta. The defendant is already serving a life term for
Besides Georgia, there are 33 death penalty states: Alabama, Arizona,
Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Idaho,
Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, Missouri,
Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma,
Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah,
Virginia, Washington and Wyoming.
Illinois became the most recent state to abolish the death penalty when it
did so last year.
Other non-death penalty states are Alaska, Hawaii, Iowa, Maine,
Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North
Dakota, Rhode Island, Vermont, West Virginia, Wisconsin and the District of
Since reinstatement of the death penalty, 56 percent of the defendants
executed are white; 34 percent are black and 8 percent are Hispanic.
More than 75 percent of murder victims were white in cases that ended with
In 2005, the U.S. Supreme Court voted 5-4 to outlaw the death penalty for
juveniles under the age of 18 at the time crimes were committed. The high
court called the execution of children unconstitutionally cruel.
Wrote Justice Anthony Kennedy: "Retribution is not proportional if the law's
most severe penalty is imposed on one whose culpability or blameworthiness
is diminished, to a substantial degree, by reason of youth and immaturity."
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Apr 26, 2012
Show death penalty the door
By Jimmy Carter
For many reasons, it is time for Georgia and other states to abolish the
death penalty. A recent poll showed that 61 percent of Americans would
choose a punishment other than the death penalty for murder.
Also, just 1 percent of police chiefs think that expanding the death penalty
would reduce violent crime. This change in public opinion is steadily
restricting capital punishment, both in state legislatures and in the
As Georgia's chief executive, I competed with other governors to reduce our
prison populations. We classified all new inmates to prepare them for a
productive time in prison, followed by carefully monitored early-release and
work-release programs. We recruited volunteers from service clubs who acted
as probation officers and "adopted" one prospective parolee for whom they
found a job when parole was granted. At that time, in the 1970s, only one in
1,000 Americans was in prison.
Our nation's focus is now on punishment, not rehabilitation. Although
violent crimes have not increased, the United States has the highest
incarceration rate in the world, with more than 7.43 per 1,000 adults
imprisoned at the end of 2010. Our country is almost alone in our
fascination with the death penalty. Ninety percent of all executions are
carried out in China, Iran, Saudi Arabia and the United States.
One argument for the death penalty is that it is a strong deterrent to
murder and other violent crimes. In fact, evidence shows just the opposite.
The homicide rate is at least five times greater in the United States than
in any Western European country, all without the death penalty.
Southern states carry out more than 80 percent of the executions but have a
higher murder rate than any other region. Texas has by far the most
executions, but its homicide rate is twice that of Wisconsin, the first
state to abolish the death penalty. Look at similar adjacent states: There
are more capital crimes in South Dakota, Connecticut and Virginia (with
death sentences) than neighboring North Dakota, Massachusetts and West
Virginia (without death penalties). Furthermore, there has never been any
evidence that the death penalty reduces capital crimes or that crimes
increased when executions stopped. Tragic mistakes are prevalent. DNA
testing and other factors have caused 138 death sentences to be reversed
since I left the governor's office.
The cost for prosecuting executed criminals is astronomical. Since 1973,
California has spent roughly $4 billion in capital cases leading to only 13
executions, amounting to about $307 million each.
Some devout Christians are among the most fervent advocates of the death
penalty, contradicting Jesus Christ and misinterpreting Holy Scriptures and
numerous examples of mercy. We remember God's forgiveness of Cain, who
killed Abel, and the adulterer King David, who had Bathsheba's husband
killed. Jesus forgave an adulterous woman sentenced to be stoned to death
and explained away the "eye for an eye" scripture.
There is a stark difference between Protestant and Catholic believers. Many
Protestant leaders are in the forefront of demanding ultimate punishment.
Official Catholic policy condemns the death penalty. Perhaps the strongest
argument against the death penalty is extreme bias against the poor,
minorities or those with diminished mental capacity. Although homicide
victims are six times more likely to be black rather than white, 77 percent
of death penalty cases involve white victims. Also, it is hard to imagine a
rich white person going to the death chamber after being defended by
expensive lawyers. This demonstrates a higher value placed on the lives of
It is clear that there are overwhelming ethical, financial, and religious
reasons to abolish the death penalty.
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Jimmy Carter was the 39th president and is founder of The Carter Center in
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Apr 26, 2012
Enforcing penalty saves lives
By Dudley Sharp
Eighty-one percent supported and 16 percent opposed Oklahoma City bomber
Timothy McVeigh's execution for the murder of 168 people, 19 of whom were
Moreover, 80 percent supported Saddam Hussein's execution. Western European
nations, save one, also showed majority support.
Polling has consistently found that 80 percent of Americans support the
death penalty for some crimes, with only 15 percent opposing the death
penalty for all crimes.
Eighty-five percent of those in Connecticut, our most liberal state,
supported the execution of serial rapist-murderer Michael Ross.
Justice, the foundation of support for all criminal sanctions.
Theologian John Murray said, "Nothing shows the moral bankruptcy of a people
or of a generation more than disregard for the sanctity of human life... .
It is this same atrophy of moral fiber that appears in the plea for the
abolition of the death penalty."
Death penalty support is based upon the sanctity of life, just as
incarceration is based upon a reverence for freedom.
Sanctions are sanctions only because we treasure that which is taken away.
All sanctions protect innocent lives, as with the death penalty, which is a
better protector of innocent lives than a life sentence.
Living murderers harm and murder again, in prison, after escape, after early
release and after we have failed to incarcerate them.
Executed murderers never harm again.
Based upon recidivism studies, just since 1973, we have allowed an
additional 14,000 people to be murdered by those we know to have murdered
The death penalty has greater due process than other sanctions. Therefore,
innocents are more likely to die as an innocent in prison, than they are
likely to be executed.
There is no reliable claim of an innocent person being executed in the
United States, at least since the 1930s.
There is a continuous fraud relating to those who are "exonerated" from
death row. The current false number is 140.
Extensive, separate and well-publicized reviews find the real numbers are in
the 25 to 40 range of the truly innocent being discovered and released from
death row. That reflects a 99.6 percent accuracy rate in findings of guilt.
Some claim 67 percent of death sentences are overturned on appeal. Actually,
it's 38 percent.
We do know, under almost all circumstances, we would chose life over death,
just as many potential murderers also fear death more than life. Whether
crime rates are high or low, rising or falling, criminal sanctions deter
some in all jurisdictions.
What we fear the most deters the most.
Yet justice must remain primary. C.S. Lewis wrote: "What can be more immoral
than to inflict suffering on me for the sake of deterring others if I do not
The recent trend with states abolishing the death penalty occurs in those
states with a majority of anti-death penalty Democratic legislators.
I side with the overwhelming moral voice of the American people:
Justice finds that some murderers have sacrificed their right to live, just
as other criminals have sacrificed their right to freedom.
By enforcing the death penalty, we save additional innocent lives that
deserve to be saved.
As Pope Pius XII stated:
"When it is a question of the execution of a man condemned to death it is
then reserved to the public power to deprive the condemned of the benefit of
life, in expiation of his fault, when already, by his fault, he has
dispossessed himself of the right to live."
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Dudley Sharp, a former opponent of capital punishment, is a published author
and victims' rights activist who lives in Texas.
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Apr 26, 2012
Another View: New Hampshire could do more for victims of crime
By BARBARA KESHEN | Special to the Union Leader
This week is National Crime Victim Rights Week. It is appropriate to ask how
we in New Hampshire are doing when it comes to trying to make amends to
victims of crime. I am ashamed to say that we could and should be doing a
lot more for victims of crime here in New Hampshire.
Although we have recently raised the cap on the amount of compensation that
a victim of a crime can receive, the amount that we provide to victims is
not so much modest as it is niggardly. The maximum recovery for the family
of a murder victim is $25,000. That sum is obscenely dwarfed by the amount
of money that we pay to prosecute and incarcerate offenders.
Compare New Hampshire to Taiwan. Lin Hsinyi, executive director of the
Taiwan Alliance to End the Death Penalty, was quoted in the newsletter of
Murder Victim Families for Human Rights saying that in Taiwan the family of
a murder victim can receive up to $62,500 and that they are trying to
increase that amount. That puts us to shame.
For the first time in decades, New Hampshire has a resident on death row.
The time, energy and taxpayer dollars that went into obtaining this one
conviction is staggering. Ironically, during the same time period that our
state was spending millions of dollars to obtain this one death penalty
conviction, victims of crime who called the victims assistance commission
got this message:
"You have reached the victim's assistance commission at the Attorney
General's office. If you would like an application or brochure mailed to
you, please leave your name, address and telephone number. For all other
calls, please leave a message with your name, telephone number and the
reason for your call. As this unit is currently short staffed this line is
not being answered, but it is checked often for messages. You will need to
leave a message. Someone will return your call as soon as possible. Thank
you for calling."
The message on the answering machine has since been changed, but the unit
still has too few staff members. Victims of crime are still getting the
short stick. At the very least, when a crime victim calls the victims
assistance commission, he or she should be able to talk to a trained and
A couple of years ago New Hampshire unveiled a new cold case unit. The unit
was funded with a $1.2 million federal grant. There are 117 unsolved murders
in New Hampshire. Murder victim family members have testified that the pain
of not knowing what happened to their loved ones is unbearable. The federal
grant has ended and the Legislature did not fund the cold case unit,
although the unit continues to limp along with depleted resources. What does
it say about us if we spend millions of dollars to obtain a single death
penalty conviction when we could devote those resources to bringing some
semblance of relief and justice to victim family members?
So how is New Hampshire doing when it comes to compensating victims? Not so
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Barbara Keshen is staff attorney at the New Hampshire Civil Liberties Union.
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