Despite NH Loss, Support Growing for Death Penalty Repeal

A majority of lawmakers in New Hampshire voted on Thursday in support of abolishing the death penalty, but fell two votes shy of overriding Governor Chris Sununu’s veto of a repeal bill. Despite the outcome, observers and abolitionists say support for the cause is at a new high in the state, and continues to gain traction around the country.

A majority of lawmakers in New Hampshire voted on Thursday in support of abolishing the death penalty, but fell two votes shy of overriding Governor Chris Sununu’s veto of a repeal bill. Despite the outcome, observers and abolitionists say support for the cause is at a new high in the state, and continues to gain traction around the country.

New Hampshire’s death penalty repeal bill passed through two Republican-controlled chambers; the state Senate voting 14-10 in support of repealing on Thursday, but 16 votes are required to override a gubernatorial veto.

“That shows real momentum and the bill will certainly be back next year,” said the National Manager of Conservatives Concerned About the Death Penalty. The state’s last execution was in 1939.

Thirty-one states still have death penalty laws still on the books, and 12 of those states have an official moratorium on executions. Earlier this year, CCADP told The Crime Report the group was hopeful about repeal efforts in New Hampshire, Washington State, and Utah. While none have yet succeeded, observers still note a trend favoring abolition.

While none of these bills passed this year, “what’s notable is that the efforts to repeal the death penalty have become increasingly bipartisan,” Robert Dunham, Executive Director of the Death Penalty Information Center (DPIC) told The Crime Report.

“Since the efforts to abolish the death penalty are incremental, even the efforts that do not succeed in a given year are an indicator of what the long term trends are,” said Robert Dunham, Executive Director of the Death Penalty Information Center (DPIC).

A Washington repeal bill, hailed as a way to reduce criminal justice expenses, gained more support this year than similar efforts in the past 5 years, passing the Senate in a strong bipartisan vote; but did not move for a House vote before the session ended. “The prospects for repeal in Washington state look favorable, but that may depend on the outcome of the November elections,” Dunham told The Crime Report.

This summer, abolitionists found a new ally in conservative commentator and author Michelle Malkin, who tweeted that “After having my eyes opened to systemic corruption of our criminal (in)justice system at the hands of bad detectives, incompetent PD crime labs & out-of-control prosecutors, I no longer support the death penalty.”

In August, Pope Francis spoke out unequivocally against the death penalty, declaring it to be wrong in all cases. “A number of the legislatures in which the votes are close have Catholic legislators who are on the fence about the death penalty or who had been supportive of it,” said Dunham. For those who are uncommitted, “This is something that can empower them to vote their conscience.”

“Even in red states not yet examining repeal, we have seen good momentum from leadership on this issue,” CCADP’s Hannah Cox told The Crime Report, noting Ohio Governor John Kasich’s recent grants of clemency to death row inmates William Montgomery and Raymond Tibbetts, and a death penalty study produced by Pennsylvania that calls for change.

“All of these developments show real progress and a growing consensus on the right that the death penalty is another wasteful government program that does not deter crime, risks innocent lives, and costs too much,” said Cox.

Victoria Mckenzie is Deputy Editor-Investigations of The Crime Report. Readers’ comments are welcome.

from https://thecrimereport.org

Criminal Justice and the Supreme Court: What’s Ahead?

As President Trump prepares to announce Monday his nominee to fill retiring Justice Kennedy’s Supreme Court seat, The Crime Report asks legal scholars around the country for their views on the criminal justice challenges the next Court will face.

President Donald Trump is expected to announce his nominee to fill retiring Justice Anthony Kennedy’s seat on the Supreme Court at 9 pm (Eastern) Monday.

The new justice will have the opportunity to influence a host of criminal justice issues that have been at the center of national debate for decades—as well as some emerging ones. The Crime Report spoke with legal experts and scholars around the country to get their assessments.

Gun Rights

The Court has taken up relatively few gun cases, but judging from its rulings so far, a conservative-leaning nominee is likely to shift the majority towards a broad reading of the Second Amendment.

A nominee who is a “a very strong proponent of vigorous gun rights” makes it likelier that the Court will hear more cases that address the scope of permissible gun control, said Randy Barnett, the Carmack Waterhouse Professor of Legal Theory at Georgetown University Law School.

Three current justices—Clarence Thomas, Neil Gorsuch and Samuel Alito—have unsuccessfully sought to rule on more Second Amendment cases in the past. But with an amenable Trump nominee on the bench, the group would satisfy the “rule of four,” which permits four of the nine justices to grant a writ of certiorari, and would be able to add gun control cases to the docket.

One issue that the Court has left open is whether the right to bear arms extends outside the home. Barnett and Adam Winkler, a law professor at UCLA, had little doubt that the nominee would vote against gun control measures in such cases.

“It’s safe to say that whoever is replacing Justice Kennedy is going to be very supportive of the individual right to keep and bear arms,” Barnett said.

Winkler said that the Court will soon be asked to rule on discretionary permits for concealed carry, which limit who may carry a concealed weapon in public, and on the lawfulness of bans on military-style rifles.

He predicted that the Trump nominee would vote against both measures.

If discretionary permitting were struck down, it would have a significant impact on large cities such as New York and Los Angeles, where concealed carry is under stringent restrictions.

“It would mean that a city like Los Angeles would go from about 500 people with permits to carry guns to 300,000 people with permits to carry guns,” Winkler said.

Whether a majority of justices would favor such a ruling is unclear.

“We don’t really know what Chief Justice [John] Roberts thinks about many of these issues,” said Winkler. “But Roberts has been a reliable vote in favor of a broad reading of the Second Amendment that grants an individual right in previous cases.”

The Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act (CCRA), which is currently awaiting a vote in the Senate and would force states to honor the concealed-carry permits, or lack of permitting, of any other state, will lend deeper insight into the Trump nominee’s jurisprudence if it is voted into law and taken to the Court.

“I think the CCRA would put a Trump nominee somewhat in the crosshairs,” said Winkler. “On the one hand, it’s someone who’s probably a strong proponent of gun rights. On the other hand, it’s someone who’s likely to be an opponent of expansive federal power.”

“It’s just not certain how a Supreme Court justice would vote.”

See also: Will a Shifting Supreme Court Change the Consensus on ‘Common Sense’ Gun Laws?

Searches and Seizures

Tracey Maclin, a law professor at Boston University School of Law, expressed concern that the confirmation of Trump’s nominee might put in peril the exclusionary rule, which makes all evidence obtained by searches and seizures that violate the Fourth Amendment inadmissible in court.

Though Kennedy himself was no supporter of Mapp v. Ohio (1961), the case which applied the exclusionary rule to the states, Maclin worried that the political leanings of the new nominee, whom he was confident would oppose the exclusionary rule, might signal to prosecutors that Mapp is prime to be overturned.

“It wouldn’t surprise me if prosecutors start making arguments that Mapp should be reconsidered or Mapp should be overruled,” he said. “This would be a momentous issue. And I think there are already five votes.”

Maclin said that overruling Mapp would give law enforcement officers implicit permission to violate the Constitution in order to collect evidence.

“If you look at prior to Mapp, prior to 1961, sure, the Constitution applied to state police officers, but they were like, ‘Who cares? The evidence is coming in anyway, so we’ll do what we want to do,’” he said.

“Do we want the Court to announce rules that will incentivize police to follow the Constitution, or don’t we care about the Fourth Amendment? That’s something that could be very much on the horizon, and if it does arise, it’s going to be a big deal.”

On questions of surveillance, the new justice’s stance is more difficult to predict, according to Daniel Epps, associate professor of law at Washington University Law School.

“It’s possible that the new justice could look more like the late Justice Antonin Scalia, who was very deferential to government interests in the criminal sphere almost across the board,” he said. “If it’s someone like that, then unquestionably the justice will be more tolerant of government surveillance and things like that than Justice Kennedy was.”

A stauncher originalist in the mold of Justice Gorsuch, however, would be more likely to curtail surveillance in the name of privacy.

Sentencing and the Death Penalty

Trump’s nominee will likely be less receptive to Eighth Amendment challenges to harsh sentencing and the death penalty than Kennedy was.

According to Brandon Garrett, the L. Neil Williams, Jr. Professor of Law at Duke University School of Law, Kennedy’s retirement represents a missed opportunity in terms of limiting acceptable forms of punishment.

During his tenure, Kennedy spoke out in favor of dignitary concerns—specifically, redefining rights to protect the “dignity” of persons or groups— on multiple occasions. He concurred in multiple rulings limiting the scope of the death penalty, as well as a case that granted sentencing reductions after federal sentencing guidelines changed.

“On those issues involving mass incarceration, life without parole, solitary, Kennedy was a really important voice, and there is no comparable voice on the court right now,” Garrett said.

“It’s a safe assumption that no new appointee is going to come before Congress in the confirmation hearing and say, ‘Yes, I agree with Justice Kennedy that the death penalty stands on shaky ground today in this country,’” he said.

“I just can’t imagine a Trump appointee saying that.”

The new justice will have opportunity to rule on an Eighth Amendment question in Timbs v. Indiana, an upcoming case that will resolve whether the clause of the Eighth Amendment banning excessive fines governs the states as well as the federal government.

Prison Reform

According to Washington University’s Daniel Epps, with the appointment of a Trump nominee, the Supreme Court would more frequently strike down court-mandated prison reform.

Garrett, however, had less confidence in the nominee’s potential to help or harm that cause.

“I think most of what is happening in prison reform and happening in criminal justice reform is happening at the state and local levels,” he said. “The Supreme Court has not been that relevant to many of the changes that have occurred in our criminal justice system.”

“The people who are changing the ways that prisons are run are at the local and state level, and if the Supreme Court doesn’t take the lead on some of these important criminal justice issues, then others will, and have.”

Going Forward

A number of upcoming cases will provide greater clarity about the new justice’s legal philosophy.

In Gamble v. United States, the Supreme Court will choose whether to overturn a long-standing doctrine permitting the federal government and state governments to each try a defendant for the same offense without violating the double-jeopardy clause of the Fifth Amendment.

“It could be really interesting to see how the new justice approaches that question,” Epps said.

Epps also expected to see challenges to qualified immunity, which governs when plaintiffs can sue police officers and other officials for violating their constitutional rights, in the near future.

“The Court has been very aggressive in limiting the ability to sue there, and there’s some good arguments that the Court has gone well beyond the original understanding of the Constitution,” he said.

“That could be very interesting and important, and a chance to see if this justice someone who is just voting reflexively in favor of law enforcement interests, or someone who has a more originalist approach that might cut in a different direction.”

All five sources were confident that the nominee would be confirmed in advance of November’s midterm elections, claiming that the perfect unity among Democrats and two Republican defections necessary to stall the confirmation hearing were unlikely.

Still, Barnett cautioned against ascribing undue influence to the likely new justice, noting that the Court’s swing vote has merely shifted from Kennedy to Roberts.

“The Supreme Court isn’t going to go any further right than Justice Roberts would have us go, and we all know that Justice Roberts is not the most conservative member of the Court,” he said.

“The court is not necessarily going to reflect the new justice’s views, because it will reflect John Roberts’ views.”

Elena Schwartz is a news intern with The Crime Report. Readers’ views are welcome.

from https://thecrimereport.org

Criminal Justice and the Supreme Court: What’s Ahead?

As President Trump prepares to announce Monday his nominee to fill retiring Justice Kennedy’s Supreme Court seat, The Crime Report asks legal scholars around the country for their views on the criminal justice challenges the next Court will face.

President Donald Trump is expected to announce his nominee to fill retiring Justice Anthony Kennedy’s seat on the Supreme Court at 9 pm (Eastern) Monday.

The new justice will have the opportunity to influence a host of criminal justice issues that have been at the center of national debate for decades—as well as some emerging ones. The Crime Report spoke with legal experts and scholars around the country to get their assessments.

Gun Rights

The Court has taken up relatively few gun cases, but judging from its rulings so far, a conservative-leaning nominee is likely to shift the majority towards a broad reading of the Second Amendment.

A nominee who is a “a very strong proponent of vigorous gun rights” makes it likelier that the Court will hear more cases that address the scope of permissible gun control, said Randy Barnett, the Carmack Waterhouse Professor of Legal Theory at Georgetown University Law School.

Three current justices—Clarence Thomas, Neil Gorsuch and Samuel Alito—have unsuccessfully sought to rule on more Second Amendment cases in the past. But with an amenable Trump nominee on the bench, the group would satisfy the “rule of four,” which permits four of the nine justices to grant a writ of certiorari, and would be able to add gun control cases to the docket.

One issue that the Court has left open is whether the right to bear arms extends outside the home. Barnett and Adam Winkler, a law professor at UCLA, had little doubt that the nominee would vote against gun control measures in such cases.

“It’s safe to say that whoever is replacing Justice Kennedy is going to be very supportive of the individual right to keep and bear arms,” Barnett said.

Winkler said that the Court will soon be asked to rule on discretionary permits for concealed carry, which limit who may carry a concealed weapon in public, and on the lawfulness of bans on military-style rifles.

He predicted that the Trump nominee would vote against both measures.

If discretionary permitting were struck down, it would have a significant impact on large cities such as New York and Los Angeles, where concealed carry is under stringent restrictions.

“It would mean that a city like Los Angeles would go from about 500 people with permits to carry guns to 300,000 people with permits to carry guns,” Winkler said.

Whether a majority of justices would favor such a ruling is unclear.

“We don’t really know what Chief Justice [John] Roberts thinks about many of these issues,” said Winkler. “But Roberts has been a reliable vote in favor of a broad reading of the Second Amendment that grants an individual right in previous cases.”

The Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act (CCRA), which is currently awaiting a vote in the Senate and would force states to honor the concealed-carry permits, or lack of permitting, of any other state, will lend deeper insight into the Trump nominee’s jurisprudence if it is voted into law and taken to the Court.

“I think the CCRA would put a Trump nominee somewhat in the crosshairs,” said Winkler. “On the one hand, it’s someone who’s probably a strong proponent of gun rights. On the other hand, it’s someone who’s likely to be an opponent of expansive federal power.”

“It’s just not certain how a Supreme Court justice would vote.”

See also: Will a Shifting Supreme Court Change the Consensus on ‘Common Sense’ Gun Laws?

Searches and Seizures

Tracey Maclin, a law professor at Boston University School of Law, expressed concern that the confirmation of Trump’s nominee might put in peril the exclusionary rule, which makes all evidence obtained by searches and seizures that violate the Fourth Amendment inadmissible in court.

Though Kennedy himself was no supporter of Mapp v. Ohio (1961), the case which applied the exclusionary rule to the states, Maclin worried that the political leanings of the new nominee, whom he was confident would oppose the exclusionary rule, might signal to prosecutors that Mapp is prime to be overturned.

“It wouldn’t surprise me if prosecutors start making arguments that Mapp should be reconsidered or Mapp should be overruled,” he said. “This would be a momentous issue. And I think there are already five votes.”

Maclin said that overruling Mapp would give law enforcement officers implicit permission to violate the Constitution in order to collect evidence.

“If you look at prior to Mapp, prior to 1961, sure, the Constitution applied to state police officers, but they were like, ‘Who cares? The evidence is coming in anyway, so we’ll do what we want to do,’” he said.

“Do we want the Court to announce rules that will incentivize police to follow the Constitution, or don’t we care about the Fourth Amendment? That’s something that could be very much on the horizon, and if it does arise, it’s going to be a big deal.”

On questions of surveillance, the new justice’s stance is more difficult to predict, according to Daniel Epps, associate professor of law at Washington University Law School.

“It’s possible that the new justice could look more like the late Justice Antonin Scalia, who was very deferential to government interests in the criminal sphere almost across the board,” he said. “If it’s someone like that, then unquestionably the justice will be more tolerant of government surveillance and things like that than Justice Kennedy was.”

A stauncher originalist in the mold of Justice Gorsuch, however, would be more likely to curtail surveillance in the name of privacy.

Sentencing and the Death Penalty

Trump’s nominee will likely be less receptive to Eighth Amendment challenges to harsh sentencing and the death penalty than Kennedy was.

According to Brandon Garrett, the L. Neil Williams, Jr. Professor of Law at Duke University School of Law, Kennedy’s retirement represents a missed opportunity in terms of limiting acceptable forms of punishment.

During his tenure, Kennedy spoke out in favor of dignitary concerns—specifically, redefining rights to protect the “dignity” of persons or groups— on multiple occasions. He concurred in multiple rulings limiting the scope of the death penalty, as well as a case that granted sentencing reductions after federal sentencing guidelines changed.

“On those issues involving mass incarceration, life without parole, solitary, Kennedy was a really important voice, and there is no comparable voice on the court right now,” Garrett said.

“It’s a safe assumption that no new appointee is going to come before Congress in the confirmation hearing and say, ‘Yes, I agree with Justice Kennedy that the death penalty stands on shaky ground today in this country,’” he said.

“I just can’t imagine a Trump appointee saying that.”

The new justice will have opportunity to rule on an Eighth Amendment question in Timbs v. Indiana, an upcoming case that will resolve whether the clause of the Eighth Amendment banning excessive fines governs the states as well as the federal government.

Prison Reform

According to Washington University’s Daniel Epps, with the appointment of a Trump nominee, the Supreme Court would more frequently strike down court-mandated prison reform.

Garrett, however, had less confidence in the nominee’s potential to help or harm that cause.

“I think most of what is happening in prison reform and happening in criminal justice reform is happening at the state and local levels,” he said. “The Supreme Court has not been that relevant to many of the changes that have occurred in our criminal justice system.”

“The people who are changing the ways that prisons are run are at the local and state level, and if the Supreme Court doesn’t take the lead on some of these important criminal justice issues, then others will, and have.”

Going Forward

A number of upcoming cases will provide greater clarity about the new justice’s legal philosophy.

In Gamble v. United States, the Supreme Court will choose whether to overturn a long-standing doctrine permitting the federal government and state governments to each try a defendant for the same offense without violating the double-jeopardy clause of the Fifth Amendment.

“It could be really interesting to see how the new justice approaches that question,” Epps said.

Epps also expected to see challenges to qualified immunity, which governs when plaintiffs can sue police officers and other officials for violating their constitutional rights, in the near future.

“The Court has been very aggressive in limiting the ability to sue there, and there’s some good arguments that the Court has gone well beyond the original understanding of the Constitution,” he said.

“That could be very interesting and important, and a chance to see if this justice someone who is just voting reflexively in favor of law enforcement interests, or someone who has a more originalist approach that might cut in a different direction.”

All five sources were confident that the nominee would be confirmed in advance of November’s midterm elections, claiming that the perfect unity among Democrats and two Republican defections necessary to stall the confirmation hearing were unlikely.

Still, Barnett cautioned against ascribing undue influence to the likely new justice, noting that the Court’s swing vote has merely shifted from Kennedy to Roberts.

“The Supreme Court isn’t going to go any further right than Justice Roberts would have us go, and we all know that Justice Roberts is not the most conservative member of the Court,” he said.

“The court is not necessarily going to reflect the new justice’s views, because it will reflect John Roberts’ views.”

Elena Schwartz is a news intern with The Crime Report. Readers’ views are welcome.

from https://thecrimereport.org

Death Penalty Support Rising Among Americans: Pew Study

After declining considerably in recent years, support for the death penalty in the US increased this year, fueled by an uptick in political independents backing the practice, according to a Pew Research Center survey.

After declining considerably in recent years, support for the death penalty in the US increased this year, fueled by an uptick in political independents backing the practice, according to a Pew Research Center survey.

A poll released Monday found that 54 percent of Americans favor capital punishment for people convicted of murder, up from the 49 percent the same survey found two years ago. Support is far below modern highs registered in the mid-1990s, when four out of five Americans backed the death penalty amid surging violent crime rates nationwide. Since then, capital punishment has grown far less popular and has been used much less frequently, with states imposing and carrying out fewer death sentences.

FULL methodology for the study is available here.

See also: For Some Conservatives the Death Penalty is Another Example of Big Government Failure

The increase in support for the death penalty that Pew is reporting comes as other polls have shown public backing for capital punishment dropping to modern lows, reports the Washington Post.A Pew survey in 2016 found that support for the death penalty had fallen below 50 percent for the first time since 1971.

Gallup reported last fall that its own poll registered 55 percent support, the lowest it had seen since 1972. A Gallup poll conducted last month found that 62 percent of Americans said the death penalty is morally acceptable, which is up from the 58 percent who felt that way last year.

Pew’s polls have found less support overall for the death penalty than some other public surveys, so the shift this year brings Pew’s findings more in line with Gallup’s. Nineteen states have abandoned capital punishment, and seven of them have done so since 2007, says the Death Penalty Information Center.

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf announced a moratorium in 2015, citing the number of people sentenced to death who were later exonerated.

See also: For Some Conservatives the Death Penalty is Another Example of Big Government Failure

from https://thecrimereport.org

Top Gun Arizona Lawyer Dead at 68

Richard D. Gierloff  1950-2018
Gilbert, Arizona—It’s with great sadness that I must report on the death of Phoenix, Uber-Lawyer, Richard D. Gierloff this past Monday (04-09-18).

Richard was my personal lawyer, mentor and friend for well over three decades.  He handled criminal cases exclusively, including many death penalty matters.  He took on each case as a matter of life and death for his clients.  He never undertook his duties in a lighthearted manner.  Richard was a very meticulous winner.

Richard began his working life as a drug abuse counselor; soon he entered the University of Arizona Law School.  He went on to become one of Arizona’s greatest lawyers.  I was really pleased to work as his investigator on so many high profile cases.  Together we had many great victories.   

Richard was stricken with throat cancer last year and waged a courageous battle.  He was forced to shut down his law practice and withdraw his State Bar Admission.  He knew things were very serious.

Soon a special lady that was a longtime girlfriend, Christine Berry suddenly became Richard’s caretaker.  Christine lovingly took care of Richard’s needs as he was in the biggest challenge of his life.

I was able to visit Richard and Christine last month.  Richard was still confidant and fighting.  He was however, so frail and thin.  Considering this was a man that always ate right and did daily gym workouts this was so grossly unfair.  

Richard surprised me by telling me I was invited to finally see something that should have happened years ago.  Richard and Christine were to be married on April 21st.  Instead of a wedding, I’ll be attending his final sendoff. If I know Richard, he will be vigorously advocating for people waiting at Saint Peter’s Gate. 

As for the rest of us, we lost a giant of a man.  He has saved and changed many lives.  Richard Gierloff is a real hero that will never be forgotten.  

Richard is survived by his true love, Christine and his adult daughter, Nora Gierloff.    

There are over 3500 stories on this blog
go to the main page at www.crimefilenews.com

Richard D. Gierloff  1950-2018
Gilbert, Arizona—It’s with great sadness that I must report on the death of Phoenix, Uber-Lawyer, Richard D. Gierloff this past Monday (04-09-18).

Richard was my personal lawyer, mentor and friend for well over three decades.  He handled criminal cases exclusively, including many death penalty matters.  He took on each case as a matter of life and death for his clients.  He never undertook his duties in a lighthearted manner.  Richard was a very meticulous winner.

Richard began his working life as a drug abuse counselor; soon he entered the University of Arizona Law School.  He went on to become one of Arizona’s greatest lawyers.  I was really pleased to work as his investigator on so many high profile cases.  Together we had many great victories.   

Richard was stricken with throat cancer last year and waged a courageous battle.  He was forced to shut down his law practice and withdraw his State Bar Admission.  He knew things were very serious.

Soon a special lady that was a longtime girlfriend, Christine Berry suddenly became Richard’s caretaker.  Christine lovingly took care of Richard’s needs as he was in the biggest challenge of his life.

I was able to visit Richard and Christine last month.  Richard was still confidant and fighting.  He was however, so frail and thin.  Considering this was a man that always ate right and did daily gym workouts this was so grossly unfair.  

Richard surprised me by telling me I was invited to finally see something that should have happened years ago.  Richard and Christine were to be married on April 21st.  Instead of a wedding, I’ll be attending his final sendoff. If I know Richard, he will be vigorously advocating for people waiting at Saint Peter’s Gate. 

As for the rest of us, we lost a giant of a man.  He has saved and changed many lives.  Richard Gierloff is a real hero that will never be forgotten.  

Richard is survived by his true love, Christine and his adult daughter, Nora Gierloff.    


from http://www.crimefilenews.com/

For Some Conservatives, the Death Penalty is Another Big-Government Failure

Heather Beaudoin, leader of a conservative group fighting to end capital punishment, found new support for her cause at this month’s annual CPAC gathering of Republican activists. In a conversation with TCR, she reports a growing willingness among conservatives to embrace justice reform.

Heather Beaudoin is a Michigan native who has spent the last decade working with conservative and evangelical communities to repeal state death penalty laws. She is now the National Director of Conservatives Concerned About the Death Penalty (CCATDP), a project of the Brooklyn-based organization Equal Justice USA, which grew out of her work with the Montana Abolition Coalition—a group that also included advocates from the American Civil Liberties Union, the Montana Human Rights Network, the Montana Association of Christians, and the Montana Catholic Conference.

Since 2013, the CCATDP has established a presence at the annual Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), where it was joined this year by former Nebraska State Sen. Colby Coash, and Dale Brumfield of Virginians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty. In a chat with TCR Deputy Editor Victoria Mckenzie as the 2018 CPAC drew to a close, Beaudoin revealed that one of the most persuasive anti-death penalty arguments for conservatives is that the government can’t be trusted to operate a fair and efficient system of capital punishment. She also discussed why—even in the aftermath of outrage over the Florida school shootings—she’s found reason to hope that anti-death penalty forces will secure victories in some GOP-led states.

The Crime Report: The death penalty is an issue that deeply concerns the left, but perhaps for different reasons. Did you find that liberals tend to be a liability in terms of partnership when you are trying to engage conservative communities?

Beaudoin: No, not at all. Equal Justice USA is our parent organization, which is nonpartisan and does a lot with the progressive community as well. When I started doing this work in Montana, I was working on the ground trying to pass the anti-death penalty bill there. And I noticed that we did have a lot of conservatives, current and former legislators, lobbyists and GOP state party officials who were against the death penalty— but they didn’t come to the [Montana Abolition Coalition] table for the same reasons as the ACLU. They felt a little bit like outsiders.

Heather Beaudoin

Heather Beaudoin. Photo from Bold.com

The ACLU was talking about human rights and things like that, and of course really sympathizing with the person who was on death row and the death row family members– and that’s not the same reason that conservatives come to it. Conservatives wanted to talk about limited government, and cost, and their pro-life views.

Obviously, a lot of times the ACLU and the Republican Party do not work together well. So we felt like, let’s create a space where we can talk about the reasons we as conservatives care about this issue. Let’s find a way to work together, but sort of have our own voice.

TCR: Can you talk about the conversations you had with Montana law enforcement?

Beaudoin: [Conservatives and law enforcement] were groups that I had a little bit of experience with, and groups that were traditionally in favor of the death penalty. In terms of law enforcement…I would literally sit down with anyone who was willing to talk with me. I would travel all over the state of Montana and have coffee with chiefs of police, county sheriffs, and county attorneys and do a lot of listening, to hear—when I talk to legislators I often hear “well we have to have the death penalty because it’s a priority for law enforcement,” (or) “we have to have it because it keeps the public safe.”

So I would ask them, where does it fall on your list of priorities, especially given the drastic cost of the death penalty? Is it worth it to you, the amount of money that we’re spending when we’re seeing counties that are bankrupted by a single death penalty case?

And they would say, no—we would rather have more officers on the street, or we would rather have more training for our officers, or better equipment. It was really fascinating that even when they supported the death penalty, they really acknowledged it’s not an effective public safety tool, it’s not a deterrent. And many of them were willing to speak out. I spoke to a lot of folks who worked at the prison, and talked about the effect that carrying out a death penalty had on the [staff], which is something that I never considered. I learned so much, and then was able to bring some of those voices to the table at legislative hearings so that legislators could consider that not all law enforcement feel the same— certainly there are law enforcement folks who believe we should have the death penalty, but not all of them.

TCR: Do you continue to focus on law enforcement?

Beaudoin: Not as much. Most of my focus is on conservatives and evangelicals. We have a group called Equal Justice USA Evangelical Network… I just spoke at the National Association of Evangelicals’ Christian Student Leadership Conference, [and] we do a lot with the Christian Community Development Association. So we’re kind of all over the place— we’ve had events at Wheaton College, we’ve had an event at Calvin College. That’s my favorite part of the work.

TCR: I caught the tail end of a panel via livestream which concluded with Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts’ comments on the importance of upholding the death penalty in the interest of public safety.

Beaudoin: Nebraska is a really interesting case, and Gov. Pete Ricketts in particular, because that was a state where they voted to repeal the death penalty, and there was a Republican-led effort by [former Senator] Colby Coash, who was with us at CPAC this time. The legislature there passed it with overwhelming Republican support. Governor Pete Ricketts vetoed it, and then [the legislature] had enough votes to override the veto.

Then, he and his father funded an effort to get the death penalty back on the ballot in Nebraska and send it to the general public, and they were able to do that. That’s how strongly he feels about the death penalty. And then of course it was reinstated. We lost, and now there is the death penalty on the books in Nebraska, although they don’t have a way to carry it out.

TCR: Let’s talk about Ohio and Pennsylvania, which are northern “outliers” when it comes to the death penalty.

Beaudoin: Ohio is of course a state that has a lot of upcoming executions, and we’re hopeful that Gov. John Kasich will be watching and listening and paying attention, and realizing that there are conservative and evangelical voices who do not support these executions being carried out.

I do work with the Equal Justice USA Evangelical Network…. there are plenty of groups doing really good work on the ground in Ohio and have been for a long time. There’s a group called OTSE, Ohioans to Stop Executions. What we’re doing is trying to raise up conservative and evangelical voices. We’re going to be having an event [either at an evangelical college, or at Ohio State], just to try to show Gov. Kasich that this is not an issue that just liberals are speaking out against—but that people who think like him, and are of the same mind, are also standing up to say “We don’t agree with this.” To say it’s the right thing to do to call off these executions— they should not go forward.

 Pennsylvania [is] another place that carries a lot of baggage. I was at a couple of events at CPAC with folks from Pennsylvania who also understand and care about the cost of the death penalty—and certainly they should get it, because they’ve really poured so much money into their capital punishment system, and now are not executing anyone.

TCR: One of Pennsylvania’s gubernatorial candidates, Scott Wagner, has recently stated he wants the death penalty for school shooters.

Beaudoin: It’s always hard when we hear politicians who maybe haven’t taken a real deep dive [into] the way the system works, kind of painting themselves into a corner— because there’s so much to learn. Like we saw in Nebraska, legislators, when they were given the opportunity to learn more and find out the facts, voted against the death penalty. Of course the general public doesn’t have that luxury, to be an expert on every issue. And so we didn’t win there

The thing that I tell people at CPAC, the biggest thing we talk about is [that] it’s one thing to support the death penalty philosophically or in theory—or even feel like morally, it’s OK. That morally, if you take a life, your life should be taken. We have plenty of supporters who feel that way. But when they look at the way the system is carried out… they look at the cost, they look at the fact that innocent people are sentenced to death— basically, it’s not worth it, and it’s time to let it go.

TCR: Have you ever gotten close enough to Gov. Ricketts to understand why he’s so committed to executions?

Beaudoin: That’s a good question. I do know that he lost a loved one to murder, and so that’s something that a lot of us have thought about— is this something that is pretty personal to him because he’s experienced that loss? I don’t know, and I don’t want to speak for him, but that’s possible.

We’ve worked with victims’ family members on both sides of this issue, and the thing that I take away, and certainly when I’m standing at a table at CPAC one of the things I hear in favor of the death penalty is that we do it for victims’ family members— especially in the wake of the Parkland shooting, right? When you’re dealing with all these family members who have lost loved ones.

Something that I found that was really mind-blowing to me when I started this work is that the death penalty often harms victims’ family members. It gives them this false promise that the death penalty is going to be carried out. And most likely it’s not— the sentence will be overturned, or the person will die of natural causes in prison, because the process takes so long. And we want it to take a long time, because we don’t want innocent people to be executed.

TCR: Have you taken on any issues you feel are “adjacent” to executions, for example the conditions for prisoners on death row?

Beaudoin: We haven’t… something that we’ve certainly put out statements on is botched executions, which we just saw in Alabama. We again see that as a failure of government to carry out executions well, and so many of these execution protocols are shrouded in secrecy. We don’t know where they’re getting the drugs, sometimes the drug combinations they’re using are untested, we don’t know the credentials of the staff who are carrying out the execution process.

So that, to us as conservatives, is despicable— there’s not transparency in government at all.

TCR: Is there a prevailing reason that drives people to your table at CPAC?

Beaudoin: I would say it’s probably a tie. Number one is that we don’t trust the government to deliver our mail, why on earth would we trust them to handle a system that takes the lives of its own citizens? That’s what I hear most frequently at CPAC. “I believe in limited government, I don’t trust the government to get this right.”

And then I hear about the cost. I’m always happy to see that more and more people understand that the death penalty is more expensive, because when I started doing this work back in 2008, that was something that folks just flat out wouldn’t believe.

Now people realize that it’s true, it does cost so much more. Of course folks at CPAC, all of them are fiscal conservatives and so to them this is another big bloated government program that is very costly— and what’s the return that we receive?

I would say probably limited government is the number one that I hear, and cost is the next one. Innocence is probably a third.

TCR: Where are you focusing your efforts this year?

Beaudoin: There are three states right now that have death penalty repeal bills that feel very possible and that we’re hopeful about, and all three are led by Republican legislators. There’s Washington, New Hampshire, and Utah. So we’re sort of sitting on the edge of our seats and doing what we can to push those over the edge, and of course those are the work of the state groups that have been pushing it for years. We’ll know within the next month or two whether those will go or not go…but they’ve certainly made progress.

TCR: What was interest like at the conference compared to previous years?

Beaudoin: I really do feel like this year felt different in terms of criminal justice reform. I felt a lot more hopeful this year than I have in the past— not just in terms of the death penalty, but in terms of all of the criminal justice topics that were discussed. It just felt like there was real momentum and a different sort of hope. I went to two different panels that were on criminal justice, and Right on Crime had a reception. And those were well attended.

TCR: Which panels were you able to catch?

Beaudoin: There was one about overzealous prosecutors that I loved. Of course there are great prosecutors in our country, and then there are prosecutors to whom it doesn’t matter if you’re guilty or innocent: if they decide that they’re going to convict you, it’s going to happen. And that’s exactly why you can’t support the death penalty. It was encouraging for me to hear folks in the conservative realm talking about problems like that within our justice system.

And then there was a panel on women being in chains during labor, who are inmates. Because I’m so death-penalty focused, there were a lot of things they were talking about that I didn’t know. There were women from Kentucky, and I understand Kentucky is doing a lot around criminal justice reform generally. We’ve always felt that it is a state where we should be able to pass anti-death penalty legislation. We’ve had lots of interest from Republicans there, but have just never been able to quite push it over the edge.

TCR: Did you see your own efforts reflected in either of the panels you attended?

Beaudoin: The one about prosecutors, absolutely— it could have been an anti-death penalty panel because of everything they were saying. There were people there who had direct experience with being railroaded by the criminal justice system. And that’s something that I’m realizing, is that sometimes it takes folks having a personal run-in with the criminal justice system for them to finally wake up and realize—whoa, this is a little scary. I think until you know someone that’s been touched by the justice system or until you yourself have been, it’s easy to say— we have a great system. Which we do, but it’s not perfect.

And there are very flawed individuals who have a lot of power in the system. So, people were telling personal stories… and when people were coming up to the table, they were telling us stories too about terrible things that had happened to them.

And the one on women’s rights in prison too, certainly—talking about human dignity of people behind bars, and how we should treat them with respect because they’re created in the image of God, and because we believe in redemption.

I heard that over and over again at CPAC this time about criminal justice reform, that no one is beyond redemption. And that’s why I do this work, that’s why I feel personally passionate about it. I believe with my whole heart, that no one is beyond redemption. So certainly I saw a lot of our messaging, even when they weren’t talking about the death penalty.

TCR: Can you help me understand what the resistance is to repealing the death penalty, among conservatives who still support it?

Beaudoin: So, it always goes this way: that there are just some people who deserve to die. That’s almost always what I hear. And the Parkland shooting came up a lot this weekend at CPAC, because people are feeling it in their gut, that this is horrific—and it is. So I think that often, people feel like the only way we can respond to this, the only answer we have, is to take away that person’s life. That’s the only thing that will suffice.

And so we say, we understand that. If you ever listen to floor debates on bills like this, like in Nebraska, you’ll hear our opposition bring up horrible case after horrible case, and tell all of the gruesome details of how people were tortured and killed. We get that— we realize there are people in the world [who] commit really terrible crimes. But we cannot legislate based on that. We can have that gut-level reaction as humans, we can feel that this is wrong and this person deserves to be held accountable, absolutely. But we cannot only get folks who have committed really terrible crimes and are guilty, and not get folks like Randy Steidl, the death row exoneree from Illinois, and 160 others like him who’ve been convicted and sentenced to death wrongfully.

And so that’s what we try to say—take a step back, and let’s not have the conversation about what people deserve. Let’s have the conversation about “can we get it right, and do we get it right?” And if we’re able to get people to that place, where they can say “I’m willing to be rational for a minute”—that’s when we can say, let’s look at this logically, let’s look at the facts, let’s look at what is a good public policy around this—instead of what we feel people deserve after something horrible.

Victoria Mckenzie is Deputy Editor of The Crime Report. She welcomes readers’ comments.

from https://thecrimereport.org

Death Chamber Idle as OK Mulls Execution Protocols

Executions in Oklahoma have been on hold for two years after a series of botched lethal injections. While 47 people wait on Death Row, the state is still trying to sort out its execution protocols.

Oklahoma, a state with one of the busiest death chambers in the country in recent decades, will enter its third year without an execution in 2018 while prison officials and state attorneys fine tune its procedure for putting condemned inmates to death, reports the Associated Press. Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter said he will meet soon with top prison officials and that he expected more clarity on the state’s new lethal injection protocols. “We need to feel some urgency, but we also need to get it done right,” Hunter said. “I’d say both of those things are equally important.” State officials acknowledged the challenge of acquiring the lethal drugs.

Of the 2,817 death row inmates awaiting execution in 32 states, 47 of them are in Oklahoma, according to the Death Penalty Information Center. Like many death penalty states, Oklahoma has struggled in the past decade to obtain the lethal drugs used in executions as manufacturers, including many in Europe, have said they don’t want their products used to kill people. Oklahoma put all executions on hold two years ago after several mishaps, including a botched lethal injection in 2014 and drug mix-ups in 2015 that led to one inmate being executed with the wrong drug and another inmate just moments away from being led to the death chamber before prison officials realized the same wrong drug had been delivered for his execution. Several top officials connected to the bungled executions have resigned and the state’s multicounty grand jury delivered a scathing report on Oklahoma’s lethal injection process that accused a number of individuals involved in the process of sloppy and careless work.

from https://thecrimereport.org

Death Penalty Decline Signals ‘Long-Term Change’ in Capital Punishment

With executions and death sentences at near-historic low levels so far this year, the U.S. is witnessing a “long-term change in capital punishment,” according to a report released Thursday by the Death Penalty Information Center (DPIC).

With executions and death sentences at near-historic low levels so far this year, the U.S. is witnessing a “long-term change in capital punishment,” according to a report released Thursday by the Death Penalty Information Center (DPIC), a Washington, DC-based advocacy group.

The report, entitled ‘The Death Penalty in 2017,” notes that the 23 executions in 2017 were the second fewest since 1991, and the number of total imposed or projected death sentences (39) this year is the second lowest since 1972, the report said.

table

Table courtesy DPIC

“The new death sentences imposed in 2017 highlight the increasing geographic isolation and arbitrary nature of the death penalty,” said DPIC Director Robert Dunham in a press release accompanying the report.

Just three countries—Riverside, CA; Clark, NV; and Maricopa, AZ—were responsible for more than 30 percent of the death sentences levied around the country.

Nearly 75 percent of executions took place in four states: (Texas (7); Arkansas (4); Florida (3); and Alabama (3).

The report notes that Harris County, Tx., which once led the nation in the number of executions, and did not execute any prisoner or impose any death sentence this year, is symbolic of the decline.

Dunham said the declining numbers coincide with a sharp drop in public support for the death penalty across the U.S., now at 55 percent—a 45-year low.

See also: Texas  Death Row Population Down Again

Download the full report here.

Readers’ comments are welcome.

from https://thecrimereport.org

Death Penalty Decline Signals ‘Long-Term Change’ in Capital Punishment

With executions and death sentences at near-historic low levels so far this year, the U.S. is witnessing a “long-term change in capital punishment,” according to a report released Thursday by the Death Penalty Information Center (DPIC).

With executions and death sentences at near-historic low levels so far this year, the U.S. is witnessing a “long-term change in capital punishment,” according to a report released Thursday by the Death Penalty Information Center (DPIC), a Washington, DC-based advocacy group.

The report, entitled ‘The Death Penalty in 2017,” notes that the 23 executions in 2017 were the second fewest since 1991, and the number of total imposed or projected death sentences (39) this year is the second lowest since 1972, the report said.

table

Table courtesy DPIC

“The new death sentences imposed in 2017 highlight the increasing geographic isolation and arbitrary nature of the death penalty,” said DPIC Director Robert Dunham in a press release accompanying the report.

Just three countries—Riverside, CA; Clark, NV; and Maricopa, AZ—were responsible for more than 30 percent of the death sentences levied around the country.

Nearly 75 percent of executions took place in four states: (Texas (7); Arkansas (4); Florida (3); and Alabama (3).

The report notes that Harris County, Tx., which once led the nation in the number of executions, and did not execute any prisoner or impose any death sentence this year, is symbolic of the decline.

Dunham said the declining numbers coincide with a sharp drop in public support for the death penalty across the U.S., now at 55 percent—a 45-year low.

See also: Texas  Death Row Population Down Again

Download the full report here.

Readers’ comments are welcome.

from https://thecrimereport.org

The Skewed Politics of the Death Penalty

A Texas man condemned to death for a crime he didn’t commit was freed only after his attorney discovered a concealed phone record that proved his innocence. The attorney, Brian Stolarz, who wrote a book about the case, tells TCR that it’s an example of how capital punishment in the U.S. is hostage to a system that depends on whether you have enough money to pay for good legal help.

Alfred Dewayne Brown was condemned to death in 2005 after his conviction for killing a Houston police officer and a store clerk in a botched robbery in Texas. He spent a decade trying to prove his innocence, but it was only when an attorney named Brian Stolarz took his case and helped uncover the records of a phone call that proved he wasn’t anywhere near the scene of the crime—records that had been concealed from the grand jury—that Brown was finally exonerated and released in 2015.

Stolarz’ book about the case, Grace and Justice on Death Row (Skyhorse Publishing), arrives at a time when the movement for abolishing the death penalty continues to be stymied at the federal level—even as it has won more support in the states.

In a conversation with TCR’s Julia Pagnamenta, Stolarz discusses the outlook for the abolition of capital punishment in the U.S., how the politics of electing judges makes death sentences more likely, and how his Catholic faith influenced his own approach to the issue.

The Crime Report: Why write this book now?

Brian Stolarz: The death penalty debate in this country is trending towards abolition. In a new Gallup poll, approval is the lowest it’s been since the 70’s. A Pew research poll had [the approval rate] below 50 percent. It is my belief that it will be abolished one day. And I hope that cases like Dewayne’s shine a light on why.

TCR: And yet in the current political climate, it doesn’t seem like the death penalty will be abolished on the federal level. 

Brian Stolarz: I think the best way to attack the death penalty right now is through the states. Nebraska was a good example of a traditionally red state having that important debate. I think the federal death penalty will stay in large part because of the make-up of the Supreme Court. Now, with [Neil] Gorsuch taking Justice Antonin Scalia’s seat, I think it will be a number of years, if not decades, before the court shifts to a 5-4 for unconstitutionality of the death penalty.

So the way to attack that is on the state level and to identify what is called the “outlier counties.” There are only certain counties in this country that use it, and if there’s pressure even in those states to narrow it, and get rid of it, then maybe we can chip away at this brick by brick. If Nebraska is doing it, then other states can too, and if we get it so that it’s done only in a couple of states, then it becomes even more unconstitutional, and you may even have a federal challenge to it.

TCR: Let’s talk a little about Dewayne’s case: the prosecutor coerced Dewayne’s girlfriend, Ericka Dockery, into giving false testimony, and then hid the phone record that would have exonerated him. How did this happen?

Brian Stolarz: This case was in our view a rush to judgment. You have a high- profile case in which a black defendant is being charged in the murder of a white police officer, and there is a sense that they want to get quick justice. And so because there was never any science that connected Dewayne to the case, (and) never will be, this case was based largely on the testimony of his girlfriend Ericka Dockery.

Dewayne’s alibi was incredibly straightforward: He was at Ericka’s apartment at the time of the murders, and made a phone call to where she worked. Ericka testified that way in the grand jury.

The DA, and the grand jurors in particular, were badgering her, and in our view threatening her, and they kept pressing on her. I’ve never seen anything like the transcript in this case. But she held firm to Dewayne’s alibi. And the DA—and this is the moment where the case changed—decided that on his own, he would charge her with perjury, and ask for a very high bail, and then she sat in jail for four months. Her life fell apart. She lost her job, her kids…and so she said “fine, I’ll say whatever you want.”

Alfred Dewayne Brown

Alfred Dewayne Brown is released from prison after his exoneration. Photo courtesy Death Penalty Information Center.

But then we uncovered through our investigation that she testified about the phone call occurring on the caller ID box. The DA, Dan Rizzo, subpoenaed the phone company the day after she testified in the grand jury. The documents were sent by the phone company to the police, and it showed that Dewayne paid (for) that phone call, but they never turned the record over.

And that is still astonishing to me. The reason we got it was because the DA who was in charge of the writ of appeal emailed us in May of 2013, and said that the cop in charge of the investigation had recently spring-cleaned his garage, and found a box of documents. He sent it to us, and in the middle of the box was the phone record we had been looking for (over) eight long years.

TCR: You write about the lack of money and resources for public defenders, especially compared to the funding and political backing prosecutors receive. Please explain.

Brian Stolarz: Sadly, it’s easier to be rich and guilty than poor and innocent in this country, and it’s always more popular to pay the prosecutor than to pay a public defender. I hope that is going to change, because the Constitution is only upheld and preserved and maintained if the process is fair for everybody. In this case, Dewayne had a court-appointed lawyer, and the DA had all the resources to investigate. I see that in cases I work on all the time, and it’s bothersome to me because if Dewayne had the law firm I worked at, K & L Gates, that could have thrown a lot of resources at it, it might have been a different result for him, and he might not have spent 12 years and 62 days in jail for something he didn’t do.

Further Reading: “Legal Aid for Capital Punishment Cases Depends on Where you Live” (TCR Nov 7, 2017)

TCR: You worked pro bono nature on Dewayne’s case. Is this a common practice for private law firms?

Brian Stolarz: A strong public defender is always the first line of defense and that should be where our resources go. You can’t depend on large law firms to pick up the slack on everything because there are only a few law firms that will put the kind of resources that our firm put towards it.

TCR: How important to the capital punishment issue is the fact that judges administering these cases are elected?

Brian Stolarz: There’s a part in the book where I write that the Alabama judicial system had a jury override function, that the jury could recommend life, but then the judge could override that and give death. Well, in election years, the judges would override the jury verdicts more. It’s transparent to me to why they did that: to get elected. To me, that’s not justice, that’s political gain; I think all judges across the country should be appointed by their respective governors, or whatever bodies can do it. I think that when you politicize law, you are making it such that certain things are valued over other things, whether it’s these tough-on-crime sentences, or whether it’s a judicial override, so that a person can say at a rally, I put ten people to death. Well that’s not what I want my judge to be up there saying.

TCR: Your Catholic faith guided you through Dewayne’s case, and informs your opposition to the death penalty. And yet, in the book you recall how a religious group outside of Dewayne’s prison refused to serve you any food after you told them you were defending a person on death row. How did that affect you?

There is a certain level of hypocrisy that I see when I speak in churches. When I talked to this group, where they were all too happy to give a fish platter to the guard but they wouldn’t give one to me because I was defending someone in there. They were all happy to advocate for this man’s death. It just didn’t seem like the Christian way. Growing up Catholic, I was told that life was life, beginning and end, no matter what you’ve done, and it’s not the state’s role to kill anybody. Pope Francis has put a finer point on that now, and I hope that that combined with the advocacy work of Sister Helen, we can finally show that the Christian stance is that the death penalty should not happen.

TCR: Justice Scalia, also a practicing Catholic, supported the death penalty.

Brian Stolarz: Justice Scalia and I differed on our application of it even if we both had a strong Catholic faith.

TCR: Well, maybe in his case it wasn’t a Catholic interpretation, but a Constitutional reading of the death penalty?

brian stolarz

Brian Stolarz

Brian Stolarz: Yeah, it had to be. That’s what I read into it, but my faith has told me it’s not the right thing to do. If I were a judge I guess I would have to think about it differently, but from where I sit right now, it’s not the right thing to do. The state shouldn’t do this, and I hope Pope Francis’s message carries some weight.

TCR: There is currently an art exhibit, “Windows on Death Row” at Columbia Law School. People on death row made the art, and Columbia hosted several events this fall around the topic. At the first event, a Swiss representative who introduced the discussion said a central tenet of Switzerland’s foreign policy was a universal abolition of the death penalty. It’s also a European Union foreign policy objective. Why is it that the United States is one of the only countries in the Western world that still uses the death penalty?

Brian Stolarz: I spend a lot of time talking to folks in the European Union (EU). I’ve been to a few conferences and people are still shocked that we have it. We’re on a list with countries like Iraq and Iran and China, countries we don’t normally want to be on a list with as far as human rights. You can’t be a member of the EU if you have the death penalty. EU companies are not allowing drugs to be shipped here for this reason. Their advocacy is really important, and I think with more pressure like that, it may begin to change how we all think.

The American frontier spirit, and the Old Testament “eye-for-an-eye” approach has carried the narrative for us up to now. But I think that’s changing given the recent public opinion polls.

Julia Pagnamenta is a news intern for The Crime Report. She welcomes comments from readers.

from https://thecrimereport.org