Volume X, No. 3 March, 2014
Washington Governor Gives us a Boost: Gov. Jay Inslee joins Oregon Gov. Kitzhaber in imposing a moratorium on executions.
Successful Ecumenical Dinner Format Expands: Dinners featuring religious leaders scheduled this month in Salem and Bend.
Innocence Network Conference Coming to Oregon: Exonerations are accelerating nationally; Barry Scheck and Richard Stack to speak; OADP will table at this national conference April 11-12.
Lethal Injection Protocol Under Fire: New Ohio protocol results in slow, painful death; controversy causes states to delay executions.
Upcoming OADP Events and Activities: Six scheduled in April, early May.
Two Years Later: "We Are Still Troy Davis": Portland event to mark second anniversary of execution of likely innocent man.
New Members and Supporters: Causa Oregon and Nancy Hill join OADP.
Interest from Abroad in Oregon Repeal Efforts: British MP visited in February.
OADP’s Frank Thompson Speaking in Tennessee: Board member and former OSP Superintendent continues to speak nationally.
Other News from the Death Penalty Information Center: Poll shows continuing decline in support for death penalty; NH legislature moves toward repeal.
Washington Governor Gives us a Boost
On Tuesday, Feb. 11th, Washington’s governor Jay Inslee boosted the conversation level about the death penalty in his state, in Oregon and around the country. After what he referred to as a “careful review” of the status of the death penalty in Washington, Governor Inslee stated “Following this review, and in accordance with state law, I have decided to impose a moratorium on executions while I’m Governor of the state of Washington.”
By doing so, Washington joins Oregon and Colorado as states that will not have executions during their current governors’ terms of office. When Gov. Kitzhaber declared the Oregon moratorium, he called for a full discussion about the death penalty. OADP has been staging as many events, school visits, media opportunities and speaking engagements as possible to fulfill the request of the Governor.
In Gov. Inslee’s statement, he pointed out the many flaws in the administration of the death penalty. He pointed out the inequity in death sentencing by stating “Equal justice under the law is the state’s primary responsibility. And, in death penalty cases, I’m not convinced equal justice is being served.”
He went on to say, “Let me acknowledge that there are many good protections built into Washington State’s death penalty law. But there have been too many doubts raised about capital punishment. There are too many flaws in the system. And when the ultimate decision is death there is too much at stake to accept an imperfect system.”
Unlike Oregon, where a vote of the people is needed to change the death penalty laws, Washington's legislature can repeal its death penalty. Washington's counterpart to OADP is the Washington Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty (http://www.abolishdeathpenalty.org/). Coincidental to the Governor’s announcement, WCADP had a Lobby Day in the state capitol scheduled for the very next day. The intensity of conversation was turned up dramatically, as volunteers flooded the offices of their legislators to drive home the important points in the governor’s announcement.
While Oregon has 36 people on its death row, Washington has only nine. Some of Washington's death-sentenced inmates were close to having execution dates set, which may have had a lot to do with the timing of Gov. Inslee’s announcement.
Footnote: On Sunday, February 16, the Seattle Times newspaper ran an editorial with this leading statement: “The Times editorial board previously supported the death penalty. In recent years, it has considered changing that position, and Inslee’s announcement renewed that reassessment. Washington should become the 19th state to abolish capital punishment.” Read the full editorial here.
And another footnote from the Death Penalty Information Center:
In an op-ed in the Seattle Times, two former Washington state corrections officials voiced their support of Gov. Jay Inslee's decision to put executions on hold. Dick Morgan, a former Director of Prisons, and Eldon Vail, former Secretary of the Washington Department of Corrections, wrote about their participation in the state's 5 executions, saying, "We have witnessed visibly shaken staff carry out a questionable law that condones killing inmates who have been captured, locked behind bars and long since ceased being a threat to the public." They agreed with the governor that the death penalty is too costly and applied unfairly, and added, "Ultimately, the death penalty is not about whether a given person deserves to live or die — it's about whether government should be making that call."
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Successful Ecumenical Dinner Format Moving to Salem and Bend
Based on the success of the “People of Faith Against the Death Penalty” fund-raising event in Portland, on October 16th of last year, OADP has set plans in place to replicate the event in both Salem and Bend in March. The reactions were very positive from those in attendance, from all of the religious leaders who spoke that evening, and from our co-sponsor, Ecumenical Ministries of Oregon (EMO).
EMO Executive Director David Leslie stated, “The Portland dinner was very successful and meaningful in helping to inform, energize and mobilize the faithful. We are very pleased to move forward with similar events around the state.”
Thursday, March 13, is the date set for the Salem event, which will take place at St. Mark Lutheran Church, in downtown Salem. A line-up of thirteen religious leaders has been established and the program host will be Rev. Karen Wood, Willamette University Chaplain.
A “simple soup supper” will be served starting at 6PM. Tickets are a modest $20, which should allow for a good-sized crowd and for OADP to raise some funds for the important work being done across the state. The program will begin at 7PM with speakers present from the faith communities of Baptist, Buddhist, Catholic, Episcopal, ELCA Lutheran, Jewish, Mennonite, Presbyterian, Sikh, Society of Friends (Quakers), United Church of Christ, United Methodist and Unitarian Universalist faiths. Each will make a brief statement of their faith’s teachings and position on the death penalty.
Ticket can be purchased by going to the Donate page of OADP's website, www.oadp.org, or by calling (503) 990-7060. Tables of eight can be reserved as well.
A similar event and format is planned for Bend, on Thursday March 27th. The line-up for Bend has not been completed, but those committed to speak that night include the bishops of both the Catholic and Episcopal churches of Eastern Oregon, along with a number of other faith leaders.
Tickets for this event are available in the same manner as stated above for the Salem event. In Bend, the dinner will be held at the First United Methodist Church. Ticket prices are $20 and church groups are encouraged to reserve tables of eight.
Plans are underway for similar events in McMinnville, Corvallis, Eugene, Medford and Ashland later in the year. If any OADP supporters would like to assist in setting up such an event in your town or helping to stage the events now being planned, please call (503) 990-7060.
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Innocence Network Conference Coming to Oregon
The 2014 Innocence Network Conference will be held in Portland April 11-12. The Innocence Network is an affiliation of organizations dedicated to providing pro bono legal and investigative services to individuals seeking to prove innocence of crimes for which they have been convicted and working to redress the causes of wrongful convictions.
The original Innocence Project was founded in 1992 by Barry Scheck and Peter Neufeld and is affiliated with the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law, at Yeshiva University in New York. To date, the work of the Innocence Project has led to the freeing of 312 wrongfully convicted people, including 18 who spent time on death row.
Affiliate members from around the country will converge on Portland for two days of conference activities along with additional events and trainings, conducted by the National Criminal Defense Lawyers Association.
Innocence Project co-founder, Barry Scheck, is scheduled to speak in Salem at Willamette University on Wednesday, April 9th, preceding the conference. His talk will be at Willamette University School of Law, 245 Winter St. SE, in Salem. Admission will be free and doors will open at 8AM. OADP will be tabling at both events, providing information on our repeal efforts and signing up new supporters.
Coincidental to conference announcement, a new study has just been released on exonerations across the country. As reported by LAW BLOG, the number of falsely- convicted people who were exonerated in 2013 was the highest in decades, according to the National Registry of Exonerations, a joint project of the University of Michigan Law School and the Center on Wrongful Convictions at Northwestern University School of Law. The Registry has been tracking known exonerations since 1989. The number of cases in which DNA evidence was central to establishing innocence declined in 2013. The overall increase was fueled by non-DNA exonerations, which rose from 59 in 2012 to 69 in 2013.
Cook County, Illinois (Chicago), was the county with the most exonerations (7), and Texas led all states with 13. Most of the cases of wrongfully convicted have been for homicide and sexual assault. Perjury and false accusations were the most common causes of false convictions and exonerations, playing a role in nearly two-thirds of all cases.
Commenting on the report, Samuel Gross, University of Michigan law professor, stated that he sees "a greater willingness on the part of law enforcement to second-guess themselves and to dig up old case files.” Gross went on to say, “there is more public awareness of the fallibility of prosecutors and investigators and attention fueled by the efforts of innocence projects.”
In another study at American University, scholars concluded that wrongful convictions are usually not a single factor, rather a combination of factors….sometimes as many as four or five factors. “Our conclusion is that erroneous convictions are more about a system failure than individual causes,” the study says.
American University Prof. Richard Stack will be in Oregon in May, making a tour of selected Oregon universities and book stores, speaking about his new book, Grave Injustice: Unearthing Wrongful Executions. In the book Prof. Stack profiles seventeen cases with compelling evidence of fatal mistakes. The OADP newsletter for May will have full details on Prof. Stack’s visit and appearance schedule.
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Lethal Injection Protocol Under Fire
The means that states use to execute death row inmates is much in question following yet another lethal injection that went badly. On January 16, 2014, confessed killer Dennis McGuire was executed at a Lucasville, Ohio, prison using a previously untested combination of drugs. Reports from eyewitnesses, including McGuire’s children, stated that the executed man was in visible pain, gasping for breath and heaving in his restraints for over 15 minutes. The execution appeared anything but humane.
Until a few years ago, almost all death penalty states used the same three-drug protocol to conduct executions. During the middle of the last decade, however, medical testimony began to suggest that that protocol might be masking excruciating pain for some condemned inmates. For several years, a number of state and federal courts enjoined or limited its use until the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that it did not violate the prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment. Nevertheless, pharmaceutical companies and medical practitioners have protested the use in executions of drugs intended for healing, causing shortages or outright unavailability to death penalty states of some of the drugs. Some states have turned to "compounding pharmacies," which are not regulated by the FDA, for replacement or substitute drugs. Given the uncertainty as to how these replacement or substitute drugs will work, some states and courts are again delaying executions until further investigation can take place.
As part of the fallout from the “botched” execution and based on his personal experience overseeing the executions of 33 men, Terry Collins, a retired director of the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections, has urged the State of Ohio to abandon the death penalty in favor of life without possibility of parole. Referring in an op-ed in the Columbus Dispatch to Ohio Supreme Court Justice Paul Pfeifer, who had drafted the Ohio death penalty statute as a legislator and now favors its repeal, Collins stated:
"Ohioans, whether they support or oppose the death penalty, should take notice that one of the greatest critics of capital punishment is the same man who once supported it and worked to make it law. The reasonable course of action for state officials is to begin to have serious and thoughtful conversations about whether Ohio's death penalty remains necessary, fair and effective. My experience tells me that our justice system can be even more effective and fair without Death Rows and the death penalty.”
A few days later Ohio Governor John Kasich ordered an 8-month stay of execution for Gregory Lott so the state can complete a review of its new lethal injection procedure, first used in the McGuire execution.
Questions about the appropriateness of new lethal injection methods have also stayed executions in Louisiana; caused the Florida Supreme Court to order a hearing prior to the next execution there; resulted in Arkansas in a prohibition on executions until the legislature passes a more detailed protocol for carrying out lethal injections; and influenced a federal judge in Oklahoma to issue a temporary restraining order forbidding a compounding pharmacy (The Apothecary Shoppe) from distributing a lethal injection drug to Missouri. Days after that decision, The Apothecary Shoppe announced that they would no longer participate in the practice.
Additionally, SumOfUs.org, an on-line organization with over 3 million subscribers, has launched a petition asking the American Pharmacist Association (APhA) to ban its members from being involved in executions. Recent reports indicate that over 35,000 people have signed the petition. If readers wish to do likewise, click here.
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Upcoming OADP Events and Activities
March 11, 7PM: “Tough Issues Forum,” St. Andrew’s Lutheran Church, 12405 SW Butner Rd., Beaverton. No charge. Discussion on the death penalty. All are welcome to participate.
March 13, 6PM: Salem Ecumenical Banquet, speakers from many faith communities. St. Mark’s Lutheran Church, 790 Marion St., Sale. Tickets $20, available on the OADP website or call (503) 990-7060. Tables for eight are being reserved by various churches. Co-sponsored by Ecumenical Ministries of Oregon (EMO).
March 27, 6PM: Bend Ecumenical Banquet, speakers from many faith communities. First United Methodist Church, 680 Bond St., Bend. Tickets $20, available on the OADP website or call (503) 990-7060. Tables for eight are being reserved by various churches. Co-sponsored by Ecumenical Ministries of Oregon (EMO).
April 9, doors open at 8AM: Innocence Project’s Barry Scheck speaks at Willamette University School of Law, 245 Winter St., Salem. Admission is free.
April 10, 7:30PM: “I AM TROY”, with author Jean Marlowe and Kim Davis, sister of Troy Davis, who was executed in 2011. First United Methodist Church, 1838 SW Jefferson St, Portland. Amnesty International is the lead sponsor and OADP will be a supporting sponsor. Terrie Rodello coordinating. All are welcome. See additional information in Troy Davis article below.
April 11-12: OADP will table at the Innocence Network Conference, at the Hilton Portland & Executive Tower, 921 SW 6th Ave, Portland. Click here for information on the conference and registration. To assist in our tabling, we need 4 volunteers for 2-hour shifts. Call (503) 990-7060.
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Two Years Later: We Are Still Troy Davis
After three stays of execution and a final appeal to the Supreme Court, Troy Anthony Davis, who was found guilty of the 1989 murder of a police officer in Savannah, was executed by the state of Georgia in 2011. Many prominent human rights advocates, 51 members of Congress and civil rights and peace and justice organizations, including Amnesty International, NAACP, and National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty joined his family in an unsuccessful 20-year fight to uncover new evidence and prove his innocence.
On Thursday, April 10 at 7:30 p.m in the First United Methodist Church Fireside Room, 1838 SW Jefferson St, Portland, Seattle-based human rights activist, writer, and filmmaker Jen Marlowe will talk about the story of Troy Davis, his family and of the legal battle detailed in her book I Am Troy Davis, co-authored with his sister Martina Davis-Correia. Kimberly Davis, another sister of Troy Davis, will join her. Dr. Audrey Terrell, president of the NAACP Portland Chapter will introduce them.
When he was facing execution in 2008, Troy wrote in a letter: "….No matter what happens in the days, weeks to come, this Movement to end the death penalty, to seek true justice, to expose a system that fails to protect the innocent must be accelerated. There are so many more Troy Davis across our nation. This fight to end the death penalty is not won or lost through me but through our strength to move forward and save every innocent person in captivity around the globe.”
The legacy of Troy Davis lives on as the movement to end the death penalty in Oregon grows. Join us on April 10th.
Books will be available for purchase at the event and Jen Marlowe will be available for signatures.
This event is co-sponsored by Amnesty International Portland Group 48, Oregonians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty (OADP), and Kol Shalom Community for Humanistic Judaism. It is free and open to the public. For more information contact Terrie Rodello at email@example.com.
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New Members and Supporters:
Causa Oregon joins with OADP as a “supporting organization.” Causa is Oregon’s statewide Latino immigrant rights organization. Causa works to defend and advance immigrant rights by coordinating with local, state, and national coalitions and allies. It is the largest Latino civil and human rights organization in the Pacific Northwest.
The mission of Causa is to foster a society that recognizes the contributions of immigrants and upholds the values of democracy, equality and respect.
The number of OADP “supporting organizations” continues to grow. Having groups like Causa, and the scores of secular and faith communities aligned with our efforts, helps to spread our messages to all Oregonians. The addition of Causa Oregon also furthers our efforts to become as diverse as possible in our coalition of supporters. Welcome Causa of Oregon.
Nancy Hill, an accomplished writer and videographer from Portland, has joined the OADP Advisory Council. Advisory Council members assist our efforts toward repeal in many ways. Nancy has immediately jumped in and helped with tabling, assisting with the newsletter and preparing to shoot video of members ready to make a comment for their FaceBook page about the death penalty. Welcome Nancy.
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Interest from Abroad in Oregon Repeal Efforts
Mark Pritchard (MP), member of the British Parliament for The
|Meeting to discuss death penalty repeal in Oregon and globally, (left to right) OADP Board Chair Ron Steiner, Mr. Mark Pritchard (MP), Advisory Council member Prof. Gil Carrasco and OADP board member Aba Gayle
Wrekin, was in Oregon on Feb. 18th and 19th making inquiry into abolition efforts here. Oregon is of particular interest to Mr. Pritchard for several reasons, one being Governor Kitzhaber’s moratorium on executions.
On his quick U.S. tour he met with abolitionist groups in only three states, including Oregon. His visit and interest may have great impact globally, since in addition to his position in the Britain’s House of Commons, Mr. Pritchard serves on the board of directors of Parliamentarians for Global Action (PGA), a non-profit, non-partisan international network of over 1,000 legislators in approximately 130 elected parliaments around the globe, which aims to promote, among other things, peace, democracy, rule of law and the abolition of the death penalty.
Mr. Pritchard is instrumental in preparations for the creation of a global parliamentary platform for the abolition of the death penalty. Prior to his trip to Oregon, he participated in a regional conference in Sierra Leone as a major presenter.
While in Salem, he met with stakeholders including board and advisory council members of OADP. Accompanied by Tony Jenks, the Public Affairs Officer for the British Consulate-General in San Francisco, they spent a second day in Portland gathering more information from additional stakeholders.
In addition to seeking information on abolition efforts, Mr. Pritchard expressed praise for the efforts that OADP and other organizations are expending toward our common goal of abolition of the death penalty.
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OADP’s Frank Thompson Speaking in Tennessee
Frank Thompson, OADP board member and former superintendent of the Oregon State Penitentiary, will be the keynote speaker at the 8th Annual Tennessee State University Student Conference on the Death Penalty.
The conference will take place April 22. It will attract college and high school students as well as teachers and professors from several area schools and universities. The conference is sponsored by the Tennessee State University’s Department of Criminal Justice and supported by Tennesseans for Alternatives to the Death Penalty.
Mr. Thompson recently addressed the legislature in Maryland before its vote to successfully repeal their death penalty. He also spoke to the Colorado Legislature before Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper granted a temporary reprieve to the longest-serving inmate on Colorado’s death row.
The unique experience of being the penitentiary superintendent and supervising the only two Oregon executions in the past 50 years provides profound messages for Mr. Thompson to share with students, legislators, and governors alike. OADP is proud of our esteemed colleague as he becomes an “an ambassador for repeal” on behalf of Oregonians.
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Other News from the Death Penalty Information Center
Pew Poll Shows Sharp Drop in Death Penalty Support
Support for the death penalty has fallen sharply by 23 percentage points since 1996, reaching its lowest level in almost two decades, according to a recent poll by the Pew Research Center. The 2013 poll also found a 10 point drop in just the last 2 years in respondents who say they “strongly favor” the death penalty, from 28% to 18%. The percentage of Americans who say they oppose the death penalty has risen to 37%. In 2011, Pew asked respondents about the reasons behind their views on the death penalty, finding that the top two reasons for opposition to capital punishment were the imperfect nature of the justice system and a belief that the death penalty is immoral.
Key New Hampshire Legislators Vote for Death Penalty Repeal
As a key New Hampshire committee voted overwhelmingly (14-3) to repeal the death penalty, a number of legislators explained why they had changed their minds on this issue. Criminal Justice Committee Chair Laura Pantelakos said racial inequities in the system led her to change her vote, citing different outcomes in recent cases for a black and a white defendant. Pantelakos, who has a grandson about to become a police officer, asked, “Why is a police officer’s life more valuable than an engineer’s?”
Rep. Dennis Fields said he was swayed by the families of murder victims who testified they did not want another life taken in their names. He added, “I do not want to take another life; I’m not God.”
House Majority Leader Stephen Shurtleff, a 30-year veteran in law enforcement, also changed his mind, saying, “I would like to think with age comes wisdom. So today I will be voting for repeal.” He added after the vote, “It really is a barbaric practice and the time is now to put it aside, and I think to give somebody life imprisonment so they can think every day about what they’ve done is more of a punishment than ending their life.”
Republican representative Robbie Parsons, who voted to expand the death penalty in the past, ultimately found the inequities in the system unacceptable and also voted for repeal. Rep. Renny Cushing, the sponsor of the bill, said, “I view them now as the voice of experience, and how our thinking has changed in New Hampshire and the rest of the country.” The bill will move to the House, where it is given a good chance of passage.
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