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Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Amnesty USA - Make Some Noise!

I am fortunate to be attending the Amnesty International USA annual meeting in Portland, Oregon this coming weekend. It will be a chance to get together with hundreds of American human rights activists - to learn, to celebrate and as with most activists... to get active. In addition to what you might expect at an AGM, there will be a demonstration against torture and a Make Some Noise concert for Darfur (with Incubus, Suzanne Vega, Collective Soul, The Nightwatchman (Tom Morelo) and more. I'll post a report - and if any of you will be there - let's find each other...

A major review of the death penalty around the world was recently released by Amnesty. The US is still up there with the likes of China, Iran and Saudi Arabia - these four countries account for 94% of executions worldwide. Government sponsored punitive killing is unjust and ineffective; is a cruel and unusual form of retribution and evidence has shown it doesn't have a substantial deterrent effect. Oh yeah, 121 death row inmates in the United States have been found innocent since 1973. The Supreme Court did determine that executing juvenile offenders was unconstitutional, ending the status of being the world leaders in that department. It's a step...

"Oh well, it makes us feel better!" I suppose that and religious or political justifications are at the core of capital punishment.

new addy
We finally decided that executing the retarded was wrong as well. Now D/A's all over the country are working to make sure the retarded can test at least once one point above the dividing line.
Excellent! I do hope something can get accomplished.

Your photo reminds me of something we say in Italy about our men: "The only reason they would put a woman on a pedestal is so they could look up her skirt!"
Sounds like you are going to be doing a good thing and as a plus, having a good time. Wish I could go too :)
ps, Yes I did take the photo that I posted today. :)
Thanks for your visit!
Looks like the weather is going to be awesome in Portland this weekend. Make sure you hit Kells Irish Pub (112 SW Second Avenue, Portland, OR )always a good time.

Hi Gary
Trust you’re invigorated by your involvement with such a worthy cause among all those seasoned campaigners. In fact one day I would like to join you ……but for the time being I’m with you in that Amnesty spirit.

Best wishes
it's indefensible in a modern 'civilised' society.
The sooner we abolish the capital punishment, the better from the whole globe.In no terms it can be justified in a civilized world...Just to quote Dostyavsky "God gives life and only God can take it" from Crime & Punishment.
I always wonder if the same people who fight so strongly in favor of capital punishment are the same people who fight so strongly against abortion. Hmmmm....

In both cases, I always encourage people to imagine how they would feel if they were faced with either one. What if it was your child on death row? What if it was your pregnant teenage daughter? I wonder if you would feel the same way...
its funny reading this so recently after meeting Sister Helen (author of Dead Man Walking), and yes I bought her book(s), like I ever turn down a chance for an autographed book. but we didn't talk about the death penality while she signed, we quoted a favourite poet back a forth, Mary Oliver.

Anyway, I am always stunned by the ease at which a person can turn away from another in need, or someone in pain (no matter where on this earth they are), or commit the ulimate - decide if that person is to live or die. I do not pocess the power to do any of these.

I signed the amnesty international petition, and the anti-death penality one as well. sorry I can't get to portland - I wish you well.
I have to admit that I have conflicting thoughts about the death penalty. I think that I have watched too many crime shows and have been so appalled with the heinous crimes committed by serial killers that I have thought that the only retribution would be to gas those criminals. But the article here by Amnesty International makes me think in another light. It certainly has given me much to ponder. Thank you for sharing this.
It is interesting, too, that we in the United States would be appalled that someone would be executed by a firing squad, but can't see that the same principle is being followed in the U.S. We would call it "barbaric" and "inhumane". I'm not sure if countries still use that form of execution, but can you imagine the great pumping of fists and gnashing of teeth that would result if the self-righteous U.S. found out?!

Like Nova, I'm conflicted about the death penalty. I believe that most people can be rehabilitated, they just need to be treated with respect (which is understandably difficult to give to an inmate), humanity (see note above) and sympathy. Many serial murderers, rapists, etc. come from struggle and difficult beginnings. At some point, they weren't taught or refused to learn the basic principles of humanity and morality. With time and patience, perhaps they could.

And as Cassandra pointed out, many of our Republican friends (W. included, didn't he set a record for capital punishment) are pro-deathy penalty and anti-abortion. Sanctity of life what?
An interesting stat for you:

Q: What percentage of those executed in the US could not afford legal support?

A: 95%

So it's about race, money and class more than about justice - and as pointed out, we know that innocent people have been executed.

If it were a deterrent, why does America have a murder rate 10 times that of Canada (with no death penalty)? As far as the WWJD crowd, I'm pretty sure Jesus (if he existed and dropped in today) would be forgiving more than injecting or electrocuting...

Rehabilitation is possible sometimes (as Lauren points out), but even if someone is imprisoned for life, it's better than executions.
I stood behind thick glass filled with chicken wire and watched while Texas murdered my grandson and I held my daughter tightly with both arms wrapped around her to prevent her from trying to claw through the glass to get to her first born son lying on the guerney.

The day before they killed him we were allowed to visit him (no contact, ofcourse) and on the execution day he was allowed to phone us at the sanctuary for families. After over a decade on death row he had matured into a strapping young man and was no longer the brash youngster he had been. And he still professed love for his wife, who had gone off with another man right after his arrest, and asked us to give her his love message. Families never believe that their loved one is guilty but I strongly suspect that his wife was the guilty party and he covered for her, because he spent the entire weekend at my home during the time the crime was committed. But authorities always think families are lying so us providing an alibi was discounted, especially after he accepted the guilt.

As he lay strapped to the gurney he was allowed some last words. He expressed his love for all of us and ended his statement with "tell her I love her and I forgive her ." Forgive her? For what? He never bore her any animosity for taking a lover so soon after the tragedy. He had said, "she's young, it's only natural and right for her to go on with her life, because I'll never be free." His death bed declaration of forgiveness made us even more suspicious of her guilt, but if he was covering for her he took it to his grave.
Years later she visited us and was babbling on, started saying something and sudddenly caught herself, looked around like a deer caught in headlights, stammered and said, "I mean..." and quickly ended her visit. Her incomplete statement indicated guilty knowledge of some sort. We will never know if Texas executed the wrong person or not.
PS: you're right about poor legal ounsel. $50,000.00 retainer, for starters. No way we could afford that. The court appointed lawyer had never defended a capital case before and during summation stammered, fumbled wildly through a sheaf of papers in his hand, ran back to the table and pawed through more papers, all the while babbling and stammering like a crazed thing. He was a nice and earnest young man but was unqualified and inexperienced and everyone was embarrassed for him, even my grandson; even though it was his life on the line he felt sorry for the attorney!!
I have to say that all the death row guards that knew him during the decade-plus time he was there liked him and told us he didn't belong there, he was not a killer. And those guards are very savvy about the criminals they interact with every day. They are not easily fooled.
Anonymous - thanks for sharing such a sad and compelling story. I'm truly sorry for your loss and admire the dignity of your grandson.

It sounds like he may well have been innocent, but this awful system will never discover that. This is a heartbreaking story that any grandparent or parent would grieve to hear.

May your memories be of the good times and the fine courage.

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