Dan Walters: California’s death penalty dying of old age

Posting this for archiving purposes.

Reblogged from: Sacramento Bee:

Dan Walters: California’s death penalty dying of old age
By Dan Walters
Published: Tuesday, Jul. 22, 2014

During the last four decades, no California political issue has burned more intensely than capital punishment, but it may have ended with a whimper, rather than with a bang, last week.

Federal Judge Cormac Carney ruled that the death penalty is unconstitutional because it’s rarely used – thanks largely to ceaseless legal challenges from its opponents, one should note.

Another irony is that Jerry Brown – a lifelong foe of capital punishment – was governor when it dominated the Capitol in the 1970s, and he’s governor again as Carney’s ruling more than likely ends it.

Read more here: http://www.sacbee.com/2014/07/22/6574992/dan-walters-californias-death.html#storylink=cpy

The World condemns U.S. prisons, prison terms, human rights abuses inside prisons, and the death penalty

America Criticized For Human Rights Abuses

Source: This Can’t be Happening

Created 12/08/2010 – 09:16
by Linn Washington Jr.

Given the sensationalism in mainstream US news media coverage of alleged sexual impropriety charges filed against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange in Sweden, it’s no surprise that other significant news about America involving that Scandinavian nation is being left uncovered.

In early November, Sweden called on the US to end the death penalty and to improve conditions in maximum security prisons, as the United States went through its first-ever Universal Periodic Review by the United Nation’s Human Rights Council.

US condemned for its continued use of capital punishment

Sweden joined nearly two dozen countries in calling upon the US to end its pariah-like status as the only western industrialized nation to engage in executions. The US has over 3,200 people facing death sentences, a sharp rise from 1968, when America’s death row population numbered just 517, according to statistics compiled by the Death Penalty Information Center.

Other countries critical of the US posture on the death penalty – practiced by the federal government and 35 states – included Australia (the birthplace of Assange), France, Germany, the United Kingdom and the Vatican.

The caustic onslaught in the U.S. against Assange for leaking sensitive documents, where attackers include members of Congress – some even calling for Assange’s death, either extrajudicially or after a trial–is ironic, coming so close to December 10th, the annual international observance of Human Rights Day.

That observance commemorates the UN’s 1948 adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

One clause in that Declaration provides people worldwide with the right to receive and impart information “through any media and regardless of frontiers.”

The American assaults on Assange extend beyond the White House and Capitol Hill. Amazon, under pressure from Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT), removed WikiLeaks from its computer servers, while MasterCard, PayPal and Visa have halted payments to WikiLeaks from donors supportive of work of that entity, almost certainly after receiving pressure from the US government.

While US officials attending that human rights review held in Switzerland proudly pointed to such continuing rights progress in America as the election of a black President and his selection of a Hispanic female US Supreme Court Justice, fifty-six countries including staunch US allies offered 228 recommendations for improving human rights in the nation that touts itself as the world’s leader in protecting the rights of all.

Those recommendations involved a wide range of issues, ranging from attacking poverty among Native Americans to addressing abuses impacting immigrants and closing the infamous Guantanamo prison. However, most of the recommendations presented at that human rights review centered on concerns about deprivations and disparities in the U.S. criminal justice system.

Belgium and Switzerland, for example, called on America to stop sentencing teens to life in prison. Pennsylvania leads the nation in the number of life-sentenced teens, with over 300 currently languishing in the state’s prisons.

Haiti called for ending the discriminatory impact of mandatory minimum sentences and Thailand called for addressing sexual violence inside U.S. prisons, where homosexual rapes far exceed heterosexual rapes outside prison walls.

France urged the U.S. to study the racial disparities evident in the application of the death penalty. African-Americans comprise 41.43 percent of the people on death rows across America – a figure more than twice the percentage of America’s black population.

The United Kingdom expressed concerns about damning evidence that the death penalty could sometimes be administered in a discriminatory manner.

Respected Harvard Law School Professor Alan Dershowitz recently wrote a commentary expressing his concerns about Kevin Cooper, a black California death row inmate facing execution for slaughtering four members of a white family in 1983, despite the troubling reality that the lone survivor told police the murders were white.

Facts now establish that police destroyed blood-stained clothing evidence supplied by the girlfriend of one (white) man police never investigated, and that the prosecution’s forensic witnesses falsified evidence against Cooper.

Dershowitz stated that the facts “do not add up” in the murder conviction of Cooper. He has asked outgoing California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger to grant Cooper clemency. America’s largest death row is in California, which has 697 persons facing execution.

U.S. representatives responding to their international critics stated that despite legitimate debate on the propriety of the death penalty, as a matter of law at the federal level and in 35 states, “that punishment is permitted,” according to the draft report issued by the UN Human Rights Council.

While the America’s governmental scheme makes it structurally difficult for the federal government to outright ban states from conducting executions, the federal government could end its own use of the death penalty for federal crimes. The U.S. government death row holds nearly 70 persons.

One U.S. death-row inmate – Pennsylvania’s ‘Death Row Journalist’ Mumia Abu-Jamal – received mention by name in one recommendation. Abu-Jamal, perhaps the most well-known of 25,000-plus under death sentence worldwide, observes the macabre anniversary of spending 29-years inside a death-row prison cell on December 9th.

Cuba called on the U.S. to “end the unjust incarceration of political prisoners including Leonard Peltier and Mumia Abu-Jamal.” Ample evidence supports international claims that Native American leader Peltier, repeatedly denied parole, and ex-Black Panther Abu-Jamal, are unjustly incarcerated for deaths involving law enforcement officers.

The issue of political prisoners in the US is a subject generating interest internationally, yet it is an issue largely ignored by Americans, said Efia Nwangaza, a lawyer who attended that UN human rights review session held in Geneva, Switzerland.
“There are over 75 political prisoners in the US, most of them former Black Panther or Black Liberation Army people,” said Nwangaza, a Philadelphia native now living in South Carolina, who helped prepare documentation on US political prisoners for that UN review.

“We’ve made progress through an admission by omission, with the US not denying it has political prisoners.”

In addition to criticisms about death penalty policies in the U.S., nations around the world raised concerns about racial profiling practices in America against blacks, Latinos and persons perceived as Muslim, inclusive of U.S. citizens, immigrants and visitors.

U.S. representatives, responding to criticisms about racial profiling, “assured delegations” that America condemns racial and ethnic profiling in all forms,” according to the Human Rights Council’s report.

Ironically, even as U.S. representatives offered their assurances, the ACLU of Pennsylvania filed a class-action lawsuit against the Philadelphia Police Department for racial profiling in that city where the U.S. Constitution was drafted and approved.

That lawsuit involves the police practice called ‘stop-&-frisk’ – where police detain and search persons. This practice in Philadelphia impacted 253,333 persons in 2009 – a 148-percent increase over 2005 – with 72.2 percent of those subjected being blacks, who comprise 44 percent of that city’s population, according to the lawsuit.

This dragnet-style policing only produced arrests in 8.4 percent of the ‘stops,’ with the majority of those arrests being for “interactions following the initial stop” like disorderly conduct and resisting arrest – i.e. alleged crimes that most likely resulted from legitimate objections to being stopped without cause.

One of the plaintiffs in that lawsuit is State Representative Jewell Williams, a veteran of 20-years in law enforcement work, who was roughed up by Philadelphia police in March 2009 while inquiring about a police stop of two 65-year-old black men during an encounter around the corner from Williams’ house.

Exposing a paradox in America’s race-based policing, Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter and the city’s Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey (named in the ACLU lawsuit) are both black, but they back their Stop-&-Frisk policy, downplaying its demonstrable racially-disproportionate impact.

“Mayor Nutter repeatedly promised that this policy [Stop-&-Frisk] would be carried out in a way that respected the Constitution,” said Mary Catherine Roper, an ACLU-Pa staff attorney. “But instead of stopping people suspected of criminal activity, the police appear to be stopping people because of race.”

Former Philadelphia Mayor John Street told ThisCantBeHappening! recently that the excessive Stop-&-Frisk practices are actually counter-productive to effective crime fighting because the practices alienate citizens that police need to assist them in crime fighting.

Source URL: http://www.thiscantbehappening.net/node/334

Voices of Death Row Inmates International Protests April 30th

The Voices of Death Row Inmates will hold a peaceful protest in London, Australia, Ohio and Texas against the death penalty on Friday, April 30th. In order for our Innocence Team to be successful in our struggles against wrongful convictions, we need to build collaborations, coalitions, and working relationships with other similarly focused groups. Just as they need our support for their events, we will need theirs. In this particular instance, the relationship between the death penalty and wrongful convictions is obvious: the death penalty risks the execution of innocent people. If you can help their event, either by helping to spread the word about it, or even with your attendance, please do so.

Pastor Thom Miller will be holding a peaceful protest outside the gates of Ohio death row on the same day as the London, Australia and Texas protest. He will be joined by many other men and woman who oppose the death penalty.

Pastor Thom has been a spiritual advisor to the men at Ohio’s death row for many years now. He has accompanied many men on the final leg of their journeys, witnessing firsthand the brutal way these men are legally murdered. Pastor Thom will be visible by the men on death row.
If you would like more information on the event, please contact
Pastor Thom Miller at
PO BOX 7015
Mansfield OH 44903
419-989-4819
The event will be at:
Ohio State Penitentiary
878 Coitsville-hubbard Road
Youngstown Ohio.

To learn more about Pastor Thom Miller, please visit his website at:

http://Thom Miller.org

The event in Austin Texas will be at the Texas State Capitol Building and will be held by the Kids against the Death Penalty along with their mother Terri Been and many others. The event is scheduled for 5:30-7:30 at:
Texas State Capitol Building
Congress Avenue
Austin Texas

Terri Been’s brother Jeff Wood has been sentenced to death under the Law of Parties in 1996.She advocates for his case and sentencing. To learn more on this event, you can contact Terri via email at: mystrus@hotmail.com

To learn more about Kids against the Death Penalty, please visit their website at:

KADP

Or their Facebook page of the event at:

http://www.facebook.com/#!/event.php?eid=111037702266053&ref=mf

“At the London event we will have several guest speakers and hopefully an exonerated former death row inmate. We are proud and honored to announce that Gilles Denizot has confirmed that he will be there to speak about his life working to end the death penalty. We are holding this event to show that the world has not forgotten the inmates which sit awaiting their state sanctioned murder. We urge the U.S to abolish the death penalty. They need to be heard and we are their voice. So make the 30th April available in your diary and get yourself down to London, we all fight for the same thing and so join us in solidarity. This WILL be a day of success and will be the first of many events held by ”VOICES FOR DEATH ROW INMATES”

The London event will be held from 12:00pm – 5:00pm at:
U.S Embassy
Grosvenor Square
London, United Kingdom
michaela.simms@hotmail.co.uk

The Australia event will be held from approximately 5:00 -8:00 pm at:
The US Embassy
Martin Place
Sydney Australia .

Kelly Ryan is the organizer, a long time advocate against the death penalty. She can be reached via phone at: 0416721372 or at her Facebook page at:

Kelly Ryan Facebook

Please sign the petition against the death penalty at:

Voices for Death Row Inmates Petition

The link to the Facebook cause is:

http://www.causes.com/causes/337384

Please share this cause and petition on your Facebook pages to bring awareness to these events.

The link to the promotion by Reprieve can be viewed at:

http://www.reprieve.org.uk/voicesfordeathrowinmates

Best,
Jeffrey Deskovic