There were 200 capital offenses in pre-Revolution France. People were under the heavy oppression of a ruling and indifferent elite; poverty, class distinction, and other forms of human frustration were common, and crime abounded.
Public executions by guillotine were a national disgrace and a common entertainment of the impoverished and frustrated.
Since large crowds of distracted people are easy pickings, while pickpockets were being beheaded the cheering crowd was having its pockets picked.
The death penalty was no deterrent then and is no deterrent now; it is all too often used as nothing more than a political ploy to appease frustrated people with no other form of satisfaction in their embittered lives, or as an expedient way to dispose of people who are guilty of nothing more than being an embarrassment or an inconvenience to the "system."
The only possible use of the death penalty - and there is no way to evaluate this objectively - is for the victims' families who need closure.
It is my belief, however, that the best closure is
Not too popular: easy to say - hard to do.
People killing people was emphatically prohibited to an awakening culture over 4,000 years ago with a resounding, "Thou shalt not!"
Early one Sunday morning a few years ago I watched three self-righteous religious "leaders" explain the difference between killing and murder.
Their little mutual admiration society, dressed up to preen on TV, made it clear that God had said, "Thou shalt not kill" to establish social order, rather than moral guidance.
For those of us too dense to understand the distinction, or too confused to have a personal conscience, the power brokers explained it this way:
And then they all agreed that:
Murder is the taking of a human life without the permission or approval of the current consensus. The "permissions" discussed included war (Praise the Lord and pass the ammunition) and capital punishment.
When a murderer is executed it is by permission and approval, therefore it is killing, but not murder.
I feel better, don't you?
But to continue with that circular logic, if an execution takes place, it is not with my permission so to me the killers are murderers.
Neither was my permission given to murder 125,000 school-age children in Baghdad during Desert Storm.
Sooo, by the killer's standards they have committed murder and that is punishable by death.
Except, since they have given themselves permission . . .
Here are a few random facts about the death penalty in America:
He has signed a law - in March of 2000 - that will allow DNA tests to 15 men on death row, and another 358 people serving life.
Irony Department: Coming full circle.
Texas voted for the death penalty in 1982 and the count - if I'm up-to-date - is 209. That is not a number, those are real people strapped down and injected with a drug to calm their terror, followed quickly by the poison. Under a doctor's care, of course.
As of this writing there have been 122 executions in Texas since Bush became Governor in 1995 - nine in this year of 2000.
Two executions have been women, the first since 1863. Betty Lou Beets, 62, great-grandmother, alleged battered woman, was executed on February 24, 2000. Texas passed a law in 1991 that allows exceptions to abused people. Betty Lou Beets did not qualify.
France has been heard from to condemn Bush as a "serial killer." According to the three above-mentioned "preachers" the Texas governor is not a "murderer" though; Bush is enforcing the law.
End of circular irony.
FYI: The Crime Bill passed in this current administration lists 60 capital offenses - we are gaining on merry olde France - and among these deeds is the death of a child that is not wearing a seat belt.
URLs Death Penalty
Start an Amnesty Group at Your School
Amnesty Groups Local and Student by State - with Links
Kansas Amnesty Groups
Show me the money.
Some folks may argue that it is cheaper to do away and be done with a criminal rather than to house and feed them for the rest of their natural lives.
Not so: The general statistic is that the death penalty is three times more expensive than life imprisonment.
Here are some specifics from Washington State, which has a very careful and involved system for capital punishment.
State vs. Gonzalez, murder of a police officer: Costs were at $481,576 when it was determined that the defendant was incapable of premeditated intent and the death penalty was dropped. This allowed a simpler, quicker trial of one month. Final cost has not been tallied.
State vs. Rupe, death penalty sought: Costs have exceeded one million dollars, and there is still a possibility of appeal and more cost.
Four aggravated murder trials with death penalty lasted an average of 40.25 months, with an average cost of $433,262.
Nine aggravated murder cases with death penalty lasted an average of 23.5 months, with an average cost of $195,538.
There are cases with the low cost of $60,000, but the median was about $350,000 for trials involving the death penalty.
Here are some URLs to pages that are active with issues of prisoners and the death penalty.
Native Voices Justice for Eddie Hatcher
The story of Leonard Peltier is the most amazing travesty of justice you may ever hear of. He has been imprisoned for 24 years, since the shootout at Wounded Knee.
Among those who have called for the release of Leonard Peltier are: Mother Theresa, Desmond Tutu, the Dalai Lama, Amnesty International, The European Parliament, the Italian Parliament, the Belgium Parliament, the Green Party, 50 members of the U.S. Congress, Robert Redford, The National Congress of American Indians, and Jesse Jackson.
From an email:
Leonard Peltier is an American Indian humanitarian, world renowned artist and is well known for his non-violent style of defending Indian rights. Peltier has been called the Nelson Mandela of the America Indian people.
Peltier is serving two life sentences for crimes that FBI agents and other government entities have admitted could not have been done by Peltier. He is considered by Amnesty International and many other humanitarian organizations to be a political prisoner.
Prison Writings: My Life Is My Sun Dance by Leonard Peltier
Let us forgive the worst among us
because the worst is in ourselves
the worst lives in each of us,
along with the best.
Let us forgive the worst
in each of us
and all of us
so that the best
in each of us
and all of us
may be free.
Doing time creates a
demented darkness of my
Doing time does this thing
to you. But, of course, you
don't do time.
You do without it Or
rather, time does you.
Time is a cannibal that
devours the flesh of your years
day by day, bite by bite
April 4, 1977 - A warrior is sentenced to life in prison for a crime he didn't commit by a country that knows it and doesn't care. And so begins Leonard's solitary Sun Dance.
Here is a Tribute Wiwanyanka Wacipi
Free Leonard Peltier
IN REBUTTAL TO THE FBI:
All input by hand...not scanned:
Myrtle Poor Bear affidavits
Memo: Co-defendant dismissed so "full prosecutive
weight of the Federal Government" could be
directed against Leonard Peltier.
This is quoted directly from About.com - Fair Use.
For more information on this subject, see:
Justice on Trial: Racial Disparities in the American
Criminal Justice System
Download a full copy of the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights report.
The Constitution Project at Georgetown University Law Center in Washington, DC., has launched the National Committee to Prevent Wrongful Executions.
It is interesting that so many menbers have the
On her death bed, by using head signals, Elizabeth Edwards declared that her boyfriend, Samuel Miller, had attacked her on the night of July 8, 1996.
Miller was arrested and charged with first degree murder, and his alibi did not hold up. He was released four months later, after DNA proved his innocence.
Edward's former husband was arrested in May of 1998 and convicted in June of 1999. DNA convicted him.
Philippines Executions put on hold:
President Estrada's announcement today that no one will be executed for the rest of the year is a breakthrough for human rights in the Philippines, Amnesty International said today welcoming the moratorium.
The announcement came within hours of a joint press conference in Manila by the Coalition against the Death Penalty, attended by representatives of Amnesty International, members of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP), local parliamentarians and other human rights activists.
The Head of the CBCP, Bishop Teodoro Bacani, is also reported to have made a personal request to the President to suspend all executions out of respect for the 2,000th anniversary of the birth of Christ.
"Today 108 countries around the world, encompassing widely different societies, cultures and religions, have abolished the death penalty in law or practice. The Philippines now has the chance to reflect on the right to life and the futility of the death penalty in fighting crime," Amnesty International said.
Amnesty International expressed hope that the moratorium will lead to abolition of the death penalty, in line with the recommendation of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights.
Seven people have been executed by lethal injection since February 1999. Despite the worldwide trend towards abolition, the Philippines reimposed the death penalty in late 1993, despite having abolished it in 1986.
Since 1994 the number of prisoners under sentence of death has swelled to well over 1,200, one of the highest death row populations in the world.
Research has shown that convictions in capital cases have been made on the basis of coerced confessions and many of those on death row - often the poorest and most disadvantaged members of society - have not received fair trials, heightening the risk of executing the innocent.
Source: Amnesty International, International Secretariat, 1 Easton Street, WC1X 8DJ, London, United Kingdom.
Please go here - bookmark - get involved: Amnesty-USA_News