It's just really tragic that after all the horrors of the last 1,000 years, we can't leave behind something as primitive as government sponsored execution.
OADP Update Newsletter
Volume XIII, No. 1
In this issue...
Death row chaplain and author Dale Recinella speaks on his vast expertise on what the Bible scriptures say about the death penalty.
A murder victim family member's plea for support.
A poem from the brother of a murder victim.
Oregon Abolitionist Events in March and April.
Is a majority on the Supreme Court possible in favor of total abolition?
Kirk Bloodsworth, the first death row DNA exoneree to visit Oregon this spring.
THE BIBLICAL TRUTH ABOUT
Florida author Dale Recinella will visit Oregon for a four-day speaking tour sharing his experience as a death row chaplain and his vast expertise on what the Bible scriptures say about the death penalty. His OADP-sponsored tour begins in Portland on Monday March 14th.
Many who support the death penalty hang onto the "eye for an eye" quote or the so-called "Rule of Blood" from Genesis 9:6, "Whoever shed the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed..." Chaplain Recinella, in his book THE BIBLICAL TRUTH ABOUT THE AMERICAN DEATH PENALTY, dispels much of that thinking and literal interpretation of scripture, by stating with great authority "There are some major problems with that mistaken attempt". He goes on with great authority to find a more reasonable interpretation.
Our guest in Oregon, who speaks nationally on this topic, will begin his visit on Monday March 14th with an early morning class at Portland's Central Catholic High School and ends the day with a public appearance, beginning at 7:15PM in Franz Hall on the campus of the University of Portland. This is a free, public event where a large crowd is anticipated. The event is co-sponsored with OADP by the University of Portland's Garaventa Center for Catholic Intellectual Life and American Culture.
Mid-day on Monday Recinella will have interviews with Oregon media people eager to learn more about his work and travels throughout the United States.
The second day of the speaking tour will include a "Brown Bag Luncheon" with a large group of clergy from Eugene and Springfield. This visit and luncheon is by invitation and sponsored by the Interfaith Ministers United organization.
Later on that Tuesday, there will be a public discussion at Roseburg's Faith Lutheran Church, 820 West Kenwood St, starting at 6PM. Again, this is a free, public event and all are welcome.
On Wednesday, March 16th, Chaplain Recinella will lead a community and campus discussion at Western Oregon University in Monmouth. The event is co-sponsored along with OADP by the WOU Communications Studies Department, Communications Club, The Criminal Justice Department of WOU, and Western Compass. The event will begin at 5PM in the Columbia Room of Werner University Center.
The final day of the speaking tour will include a "Pastors' Breakfast at the Keizer Civic Center. This event is by invitation to all clergy in and around the Keizer and Salem areas.
Following the breakfast the final stop will take place starting at 11:30AM in Cone Chapel on the campus of Willamette University in Salem. It is another free, public event for both the campus community and the general public. In all of these events there will be question and answer segments when attendees can share their on comments as well as ask questions.
In pre-visit discussions, Chaplain Recinella states, "Be prepared for arguments such as ‘the Old Testament supports the use of the death penalty'". He goes on to say, "Yes, Hebrew Scriptures tended to favor capital punishment for many crimes in addition to taking of human live, including adultery, kidnapping, even swearing or striking one's parents. The existence of capital punishment in the Old Testament does not of itself justify it for today. New historical circumstances open the possibilities for more appropriate punishment." Much more wisdom is heading our way March 14 – 17 when Dale Recinella speaks several times from Portland to Roseburg.
A LETTER FROM BECKY
A murder victim family member's plea for support
This coming April is an important time for my family. April will acknowledge the 10th anniversary of the deaths of my beloved Mother, Timmie O'Neil, and Step-Father, Craig Stumpf, at the hands of my youngest brother, Joseph O'Neil.
What a painful, challenging decade of growth and healing for Timmie's and Craig's survivors. My brothers James, Andrew, Joshua and I have come a long way in creating meaningful lives after such a devastating family tragedy.
We had much to overcome in grief and trauma, and our journeys of hope continue. Losing our Mom and Step-Dad to violence was exceedingly painful. So was losing our baby brother to mental illness.
I attended daily mass for six years just to keep breathing. It took my brother, Andy, and me eight years to even talk about our shared experience of entering that house in Charbonneau with our dead Mom and Step-Dad there. It took my brothers and I several years to finally look through Mom's boxes of photos from our childhood. And it took me nearly nine years to publicly share my story as a murder victim family member, talk about the Myth of Closure and PTSD, and to speak out against our broken death penalty system.
Over time, we have all experienced some healing.
My brother, Joe, is serving Life without the possibility of parole at the Oregon State Penitentiary, in Salem, the result of a plea agreement, and by far the best judicial resolution for our family. But in 2006 and 2007 we were threatened – or tempted, I'm not sure which – with the death penalty by Clackamas County prosecutors. In a Judge's chambers with two Assistant District Attorneys, I implored: "Please don't kill my brother. Please don't try to kill him. Our family has had enough death."
This past fall I joined the Board of Directors of Oregonians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty (OADP), and I am also a member of Murder Victims Families for Reconciliation (MVFR). On behalf of both organizations, I have travelled around the Northwest giving speeches, meeting with legislators and journalists, and making radio appearances this past year. Some highlights include Gonzaga University in Spokane and an address to the Oregon Criminal Defense Lawyers Association in Sunriver.
I oppose capital punishment for so many reasons. But as a murder victim family member, and the sister of one who has murdered – I have deep, personal objections.
Some reasons many murder victim family members oppose the death penalty:
MVFR points out that the Death Penalty actually causes additional harm:
Today, as we approach the 10th anniversary of the murders that broke our hearts and rattled our souls in 2006, I am writing to ask for your support as I campaign tirelessly to end the death penalty. I'll be delivering my first speech in Portland, and I'd not only appreciate if you attended, but I'd like to ask you to be a sponsor.
As I prepare for the Portland speaking event, I'm reaching out to for early support. This is a critical time in the abolitionist movement and momentum is on our side. OADP Board members are working very hard to raise the money we need to keep moving forward.
Will you please consider making a donation to OADP in support of me, or in honor of my Mom? Will you also please consider being a sponsor of my Portland event in April? Any amount is appreciated, yet $25-$250 will go a long way in helping us to reach our goal.
I am asking supporters to make a donation to OADP by April 1st. Please send your check payable to OADP to P.O. Box Salem, OR 97308. On your check write my name on the "For" line. If you prefer to donate online, please visit www.oadp.org.
Sister Helen Prejean, the Catholic nun who wrote Dead Man Walking, reminds us of something that I believe about my brother, Joe, and that I believe about all of us. Sister Helen says, "We are worth more than the worst thing we have ever done in our lives."
Thank you for taking the time to read this article. Together, let's end our broken death penalty system here in Oregon. Let's promote a more just and merciful approach to addressing homicide and mental illness, and the real needs of murder victim family members and their communities.
Peace and gratitude,
AN EXECUTION CANNOT ATONE
I understand the feelings of those who support the death penalty for murders. My brother was the victim of a senseless act of violence. He was stabbed and killed years ago. His assailant made a choice that cost Clint his life and forever changed the lives of those who loved him. Those wounds can never be fully healed.
Anger and the desire for retribution often follow in the wake of such violence and loss. This was the case for me. At one time I longed for vengeance. Over the years, however, my thoughts have changed regarding vengeance and justice. I have come to believe that vengeance and retribution only perpetuate a cycle of violence and that there can be no true justice for heinous crimes.
When asked in a 2014 Gallup poll "Why do you favor the death penalty for persons convicted of murder?" those who support of the death penalty stated "an eye for an eye", "they took a life", or "it fits the crime" as the primary reason for their position. While I can understand these sentiments, I believe there is nothing that can atone for the killing of a loved one. An execution would not bring back my brother.
Don't speak to me of justice
Don't ask me to find solace
Just stand by me with empathy
Reid Noel, Salem Oregon
CALENDAR OF OADP EVENTS
Oregon Abolitionist Events in March and April
Sunday March 13, 3PM
Monday March 14, 7:15PM
Tuesday March 15, 6PM
Wednesday March 16, 5PM
Thursday March 17, 11:30AM
Thursday April 7, 7PM
Is a Supreme Court majority possible in favor of total abolition?
by Jeff Ellis
In 1972, the United States Supreme Court struck down the death penalty nationwide in a case called Furman v. Georgia. But, in 1976, the Court reversed course by allowing states to continue this dreadful experiment with state sponsored murder.
Someday, there will be another Furman.
Justice Antonin Scalia’s death may hasten that result.
For nearly 30 years, Justice Scalia was a staunch supporter of the death penalty. His belief that states should be allowed to execute juveniles and the intellectually disabled stemmed from his refusal to admit that the Eighth Amendment was governed by the evolving standards of decency of a maturing society. He did not see what he called a need to “update” the Eighth Amendment. As a result of his (and other similarly minded justices) resistance, it was not until 2002 when the Court ended the execution of the intellectually disabled. And, we had to wait until 2005 for a ruling preventing states from killing children in our names.
Perhaps Justice Scalia’s biggest flaw was his willful ignorance of the fallibility of the death penalty, both in theory and in practice. Scalia wrote that, in the modern judicial system, there has not been "a single case—not one—in which it is clear that a person was executed for a crime he did not commit. If such an event had occurred in recent years, we would not have to hunt for it; the innocent’s name would be shouted from the rooftops." He was wrong—hundreds of times over. We have been shouting those names for years.
Some scholars argue that there is already a majority on the Supreme Court in favor of total abolition of the death penalty in the United States—that they are just waiting for the right time and right case. If those scholars are correct, we will soon have six votes. If they are wrong and there are only currently four votes for abolition, Justice Scalia’s death removed the last impediment to evolution.
The time for Furman II is long overdue. But, it is finally in our sight.
Jeff Ellis is head of Oregon Capital Resource Center, top death penalty defense attorney and member of the OADP Board of Directors.
“IF IT COULD HAPPEN TO ME,
It's been more than 30 years since the knock on the door came that thrust Kirk Bloodsworth into the public eye. In 1984, he was arrested for the rape and murder of nine-year-old Dawn Hamilton in Rosedale, Maryland. His arrest followed a call to police from a former neighbor who thought a sketch of the suspect she'd seen on TV resembled him. Bloodsworth was convicted despite there being no physical evidence connecting him to the crime.
Kirk Bloodsworth was just 22 when he was sentenced to death. He spent two years on death row, before his conviction was overturned on appeal and he was retried and sentenced to two life terms.
In the early 1990s, he learned about the potential of DNA testing to exonerate the innocent. After the testing of samples from the crime scene showed his DNA did not match that of the killer, he was released from prison in June 1993 and pardoned later that year.
The real perpetrator, Kimberly Shay Ruffner, was identified some ten years later and he pleaded guilty to the crime in 2004.
Since his release from prison, Kirk Bloodsworth has not chosen to fade back into obscurity, living a quiet life after the traumatic events he had experienced. Instead, he has dedicated his life as a passionate advocate for the wrongfully convicted. Today, he crisscrosses the nation, working to end the death penalty. Bloodsworth was part of the successful effort to repeal the death penalty in his home state of Maryland in 2013.
This spring, Kirk Bloodsworth will visit Portland to support Oregon Innocence Project (OIP). OIP is a program of Oregon Justice Resource Center and works to exonerate the wrongfully convicted, train law students, and promote legal reforms designed to prevent wrongful convictions.
While in Portland, Bloodsworth will present a screening of a new documentary about his life (Bloodsworth: An Innocent Man) on May 11th as well as speaking at a fundraiser for OIP on May 12th. More information on these events is at: