Death penalty USA – News
April 7, 2012 3 Comments
Interesting developments from the USA in the campaign to abolish the death penalty.
Sunshine in Connecticut?
Yesterday on Thursday 5th April Connecticut state Senate voted to repeal the death penalty throughout the state, a welcome development in the continuing campaign against capital punishment in the USA, although the proposed repeal must still be passed by the democrat controlled state House of Representatives who are widely expected to approve. Interestingly and the only questionable issue with Connecticut’s actions here is the decision to retain the death penalty for 11 inmates on death row in the state rendering abolition non retrospective and for future cases only. This is questionable as it sidesteps the reasons for abolishing the penalty in the first place. None the less, Connecticut has taken a positive and widely publicised step forward.
As such should the Connecticut House of Representatives approve abolition, this will to 17 the number of states (plus the District of Columbia) that will have repealed capital punishment, a grouping which includes Alaska (1957), Hawaii (1957), Illinois (2011), Iowa (1965), Maine (1887), Massachusetts (1984), Michigan (1846), Minnesota (1911), New Jersey (2007), New Mexico (2009), New York (2007), North Dakota (1973), Rhode Island (1984), Vermont (1964), West Virginia (1965) & Wisconsin (1853) (Although new Mexico holds the dubious distinction of maintaining a death row despite having abolished the death penalty due to not having made abolition retrospective).
This is however tempered by the fact that 33 states currently retain capital punishment and an associated death row including Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon (Note that Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber has admirably issued a moratorium on executions in Oregon, but this is only to the extent of his office and has not yet been legally repealed), Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah, Virginia, Washington, Wyoming, and out of order, last but certainly not least, the main capital offender Texas
Serial offender Texas remains however the jewel in the crown of abolitionist ambition, the staunchest capital state, the one least likely to budge on executing, and possibly one of the states with more scandal in the name of capital punishment than any other, including the tragic case of Cameron Todd Willingham, executed in 2004 for allegedly killing his three children by arson, but for whom this conviction has been found since to be highly unsafe due to the fact that evidence of arson used was flawed and not suggestive of arson at all. This is bad enough in itself however there is evidence to suggest that an enquiry set up in Texas to investigate the possibility of a miscarriage of justice was derailed on purpose by the state Governor Rick Perry (Famously failed homophobic presidential candidate).
Of course the worst aspect of the Willingham case is that he is no longer alive to argue his own case, and no amount of debate, discussion, hiding of facts, curtailing of investigations etc can ever bring him back highlighting one of the fundamental flaws in the capital punishment system, among the many flaws it carries.
Other states currently debating repeal of capital punishment include Kentucky, Kansas and California. It can only be hoped that the movement for abolition can gain positive momentum through these states.
The ongoing case of Linda Carty is continuing to attract attention. You may remember from my earlier post in November last year or if you watched the Channel 4 documentary last year ‘The British Woman on death Row‘ that Linda is British Grandmother with dual British / US citizenship currently on Texas’ death row following a highly questioned murder trial which can be read about in great detail on the Reprieve website here the upshot of which is that the conviction of Linda appears highly flawed due to a lack of proper representation, numerous glaring evidential errors, and the reliance on a highly questionable witness, one of the actual killers who in order to avoid the death penalty themselves gave unreliable testimony against Linda in court. Death penalty aside, on the face of such facts bringing the conviction into disrepute, a retrial at the very least is due in Linda’s case.
That is not to be the case however, and it is now being reported that Linda has lost a final appeal against sentence and that a date for execution by lethal injection could now be set at any time. This is a highly unacceptable situation, even more so in light of the Cameron Todd Willingham case mentioned above, which proves that not only is execution an unacceptable form of punishment, it is also one from which there can be no comeback should it emerge later that the conviction was unsafe as may well be the case here.
A number of things can be done should you wish to take action to assist in the campaign to stop the execution of Linda, all as published on the Reprieve website here, you can sign the petition for clemency, write a letter through Reprieve to the authorities in charge, write directly to Linda offering support, and follow numerous social media sites on the case.
I urge you to do so if you have not, and also to continue to support the many other organisations campaigning for the repeal of capital punishment in the USA and worldwide, a number of which can be found on the LawBlogone facebook page, and for which I provide a few links below, there are of course many others.
Mike Farrell-Deveau, April 2012