[Deathpenalty]death penalty news----ALA., MICH., N.C.
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Sat Apr 2 11:20:00 CST 2005
Death penalty debate----More in state join execution opposition
Right or wrong? Just or cruel? Biblical?
Death penalty opponents and supporters are finding much in recent weeks to
Gov. Bob Riley met this week with three Alabamians whose agenda included a
moratorium on the death penalty. One of them, Esther Brown of Lanett, said
afterward that she does not foresee any change in the state's extensive
use of the penalty.
In Florida, the Citrus County sheriff called for the death penalty for a
man who confessed to raping and killing 9-year-old Jessica Marie Lunsford.
In Atlanta, Brian Nichols could face the death penalty for allegedly
murdering 4 people.
An inmate on Alabama's death row, Mario Centobie, is scheduled for
execution April 28. Prayer vigils are set at the prison in Atmore and in
Birmingham, Montgomery and Mobile. A brief prayer will be at John Carroll
Catholic High School in Birmingham.
On March 1 the United States Supreme Court abolished the death penalty for
convicted killers who committed their crimes before age 18.
During Holy Week, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops announced a new
campaign against the death penalty, stepping up lobbying and educational
work. "Christ died as a criminal, brutally executed," said Cardinal
Theodore McCarrick, archbishop of Washington.
Such developments show anew how people in the United States aren't of one
mind on the death penalty. That is true in Alabama, where more people are
on death row per capita than in any other state.
Opposition from religious groups in Alabama is growing, said the Rev. Jack
Zylman of Birmingham, state death penalty coordinator for Amnesty
Zylman, a retired Unitarian minister, doesn't understand why any Christian
would support the death penalty. He said the faith is about finding and
rescuing the lost, not killing them.
Call for moratorium
Meanwhile, about 60 organizations, many of them religious, are asking for
a moratorium on the penalty in Alabama, said Brown. She is executive
secretary-treasurer of Project Hope to Abolish the Death Penalty, an
organization founded and mostly run by death row inmates.
The North Alabama Conference of the United Methodist Church, the Episcopal
Diocese of Alabama and Pax Christi of Huntsville joined the call for a
moratorium until the issue is investigated for disparities. Congregations,
ministerial groups and others have also recently adopted the moratorium
resolution. But in a state dominated by Baptists, there is a noticeable
absence of them on the list.
Brown said that the North Courtland City Council is among county
commissions and city councils - almost all with majority black membership
- who signed on.
"I am surprised how in love Alabama is with the death penalty, because it
is racist and against the poor," said Brown. A state like Alabama with its
terrible, terrible history should be bending over backwards to see that
there is justice for all."
46 % of Alabama's death row inmates are black although the black
population in the state is only 26 p%, Brown said.
She described many who oppose her as "Old Testamentarians."
"What happens is that people take one part of the Bible that fits their
hatred and go with that," Brown said.
No longer eye for eye?
Alabamians on both sides quote the Bible and church teachings.
A Decatur attorney who is a United Methodist believes the death penalty is
contrary to Christian principles. Brian White quoted Jesus' words in
Matthew: "You have heard that it was said, 'An eye for an eye and a tooth
for a tooth.' But I say to you, Do not resist one who is evil. But if any
one strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also."
"No reasoned interpretation of that passage could set up vengeance as a
proper motive of a follower of Christ," he said.
White said that Christ's message of love supersedes Old Testament codes
that death penalty supporters cite. Carrying out a death penalty ends a
life that could be redeemed and reconciled to God, he added.
Not a fair system
Further, the death penalty is capriciously handed out, he believes. Mostly
minorities and the poor populate death row. Sometimes, judges are not
fair, prosecutors are not honest and defense lawyers are not competent, he
said. White said that people once on death row "who were verifiable,
factually innocent" have been acquitted.
Alabama can put away murderers with its laws about life sentence without
possibility of parole; in this state it means they will never get out, he
"We can protect the law-abiding people from dangerous people without
killing them and thereby debasing our society by making the state a
killer," he said.
The United Methodist Church officially opposes the death penalty. In 1980
its General Conference also called for its abolishment. Likewise, the
General Assembly of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) adopted a
resolution opposing the penalty in 1985. "Holy Scriptures clearly mandate
that we are not to kill, we are not to render evil for evil, and that we
are not to seek retribution with vengeance for the evil done to us ..." it
People of Faith Against the Death Penalty, based in Carrboro, N.C., gives
many church positions on its Web site and publishes resources for
But many religious people in Alabama don't think the death penalty should
be abandoned. For instance, the Southern Baptist Convention - which has
more churches and members in the state than any other denomination -
adopted a resolution in 2000 affirming the use of capital punishment by
courts "as a legitimate form of punishment for those guilty of murder of
treasonous acts that result in death."
The Baptist resolution uses Genesis 9 and Romans 13 in its rationale. It
also called on Baptists to pray for and to share the gospel with
perpetrators and victims of crimes.
The statement called for use of the penalty only when there is clear an
overwhelming evidence of guilt and for "vigilance, justice and equity" in
the criminal justice system when applying capital punishment.
The executive director of the SBC's Ethics and Religious Liberty
Commission, Richard Land, reinforced that statement a few years later. He
called capital punishment a deterrent. He cited Emory University
researchers' finding in a 2001 study that for every person executed, 18
potential murder victims are spared.
However, the day before Land's statement, the Southern Baptist Texas
Christian Life Commission called for a moratorium on executions, in part,
because its researchers concluded that the death penalty does not deter
(source: The Decatur Daily)
Death penalty talk by Sister Helen slated in Adrian
Sister Helen Prejean, author of the best-selling book Dead Man Walking,
will discuss the death penalty in a lecture at 8 p.m. tomorrow in Lumen
Ecclesiae Chapel, 1247 East Siena Heights Dr., Adrian.
The talk will be followed by a question-and-answer session.
Sister Helen, whose most recent book is The Death of Innocents: An
Eyewitness Account of Wrongful Executions, joined the Sisters of St.
Joseph of Medaille in 1957 and began her prison ministry in 1981.
Her experience as a spiritual adviser to Patrick Sonnier, a death row
inmate at Louisiana's Angola State Prison, inspired her to write Dead Man
Walking, which was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize, spent 31 weeks atop the
New York Times best-seller list, and was turned into a Hollywood movie in
(source: Toledo Blade)
Cops: Keep death penalty
The way District Attorney Dewey Hudson sees it, there's no reason at all
for state lawmakers to impose a 2-year moratorium on death penalty cases
in North Carolina.
The issue, he said Friday, needs no further study at all in this state.
"There is no credible evidence that any innocent person has been
executed," said Hudson at a press conference in the Onslow County superior
courthouse. He scheduled the press conference to express his opposition to
a bill introduced to the N.C. General Assembly in early March.
Onslow County Sheriff Ed Brown and Jacksonville Police Chief Michael
Yaniero joined Hudson at the courthouse to speak out against the
"I, along with Sheriff Ed Brown and Chief Michael Yaniero, oppose a
moratorium as being an unnecessary delay in the administration of justice
for these individuals that have been fairly tried and sentenced to death
by the juries of this state," Hudson said.
The moratorium would suspend executions for 2 years. Capital cases could
still be tried and appeals could still take place. During the moratorium,
studies would be done to determine whether the state's capital punishment
system is fair and efficient.
While the state Senate approved a moratorium last year, the state House
never voted on it. Organizations supporting the bill argue that innocent
people have been sentenced to death.
In 2004, two people, who spent years on death row, were released from
prison after it was determined they didn't commit the crimes. Alan Gell,
who was convicted for the murder of Allen Ray Jenkins, spent 9 years on
death row. Darryl Hunt of Winston-Salem was convicted of killing newspaper
copy editor Deborah Sykes and spent 18 years on death row.
Hudson, whose prosecutorial district includes Onslow, Jones, Duplin and
Sampson counties, contends that the fact both men were released is proof
that the judicial system works.
"The judge gave new trials. The safety nets are already in place," Hudson
Even if all levels of court appeals are exhausted, Hudson said, he doesn't
believe an innocent person would be executed.
"The governor of North Carolina will not allow anyone from North Carolina
to be executed if there is any chance he is innocent," Hudson said. "I
feel very strongly about that."
Gov. Mike Easley has done so in one recent Onslow County case. In October
2001, Gov. Easley commuted Robert Bacon's death sentence to life
imprisonment. Bacon, who was convicted of the 1987 murder of Marine Corps
Staff Sgt. Glennie Clark, spent 14 years on death row.
"Safeguards are in place to ensure that individuals receive fair and just
trials and appeals," Hudson said. "Every capital defendant is appointed 2
attorneys and may request experts to assist in his or her defense."
The system requires that the jury must first unanimously agree that a
person is guilty of first-degree murder. Then there is a separate
sentencing hearing, and the jury, once again, must all agree.
"If the jury is not unanimous on a death recommendation, then the
defendant must receive life without parole," Hudson said.
The last Onslow County resident executed was Edward lee Mattocks in May
1939. There are currently three people from Onslow County sitting on death
row, including Johnny Wayne Hyde, Marcus Douglas Jones and Clifford Ray
Brown said no one from Onslow County has been executed in his lifetime,
and it could be as many 20 years before those sitting on death row will
actually be executed. Brown doesn't see the point of a moratorium.
"The moratorium is not about a moratorium," Brown said. "2 years isn't
relevant when they have 10 to 15 years before they are executed. It's not
about the moratorium. It's got to be about something else."
Hudson said it's a move to do away with the death penalty in North
Yaniero said the death penalty is an essential part of the criminal
justice system, and he doesn't see anything gained from a 2-year
"The death penalty has been studied for years and years," Yaniero said. "I
don't know what kind of information they will glean from a 2-year study
that doesn't already exist."
State Rep. George Cleveland, R-Onslow, doesn't have a problem with the
capital punishment system being studied, but he has no plans of supporting
a moratorium so one can be done.
"With all the checks and balances built into the process, the moratorium
is meaningless," Cleveland said. "I won't vote in favor of a moratorium."
Rep. Russell Tucker, D-Duplin, said he favors the death penalty, however,
he is considering voting in favor of a moratorium that would suspend
executions for a limited time so that it could be studied.
Since 1984, 35 people have been executed in North Carolina. There are
currently 182 people sitting on death row. Since 1984, 11 people from the
4th Prosecutorial District have been removed from death row, including six
people from Onslow County, four from Duplin County and one from Sampson
(source: Jacksonville Daily News)
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