Last week, Florida State’s Attorney Aramis Ayala announced that she will not seek any death sentences during her tenure as the prosecutor in the 9th district (serving Orange and Osceola Counties). This is welcome news given that Orange County has historically been one of the leading death penalty counties in America.
There are good reasons to eschew capital punishment. It costs millions more than its alternatives, doesn’t protect society, and can harm murder victims’ families. Most importantly, it risks innocent lives because the criminal justice system is dangerously fallible.
Consider the recent report from the University of California Irvine, where researchers found that more people were exonerated of various crimes in 2016 than in any other year – a total of at least 166 people from only the 25 states that were studied. The same fallibility that led to these wrongful convictions also affects capital cases, and as such, Ayala should be commended for her decision to avoid death sentences during her term.
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At a time when the world – and the country, especially – is so polarized, many are looking for leaders that can build bridges and cross the divide. EJUSA has been building these bridges for over 20 years, among law enforcement, crime survivors, Evangelicals, conservatives, and more.
This month’s Harper’s Magazine takes an in-depth look at some of that work, sharing the story of EJUSA’s project, Conservatives Concerned About the Death Penalty. In profiling several staff and highlighting our values of finding and forging common ground, the story gives hope that we can make progress when we build relationships and work together on the issues we care about.
Yesterday, Florida State Attorney Aramis Ayala announced that she will not be seeking the death penalty in any cases while she remains in office.
Ayala’s office covers Orange County, which has historically been an outlier in Florida and in the country with regards to its death penalty usage. It is among just four of Florida’s 67 counties that have produced more than five executions since 1976.
Check out our storify to see how the story has unfolded in the last 36 hours.
Reimagining Justice This Month is a monthly digest that highlights communities that are organizing for effective responses to violence – responses that disrupt cycles of violence, heal trauma, and address structural racism.
“Georgia police chief to apologize for department’s role in 1940 lynching,” CBS News
One of the recommendations to come out of EJUSA’s Police/Community Initiative in Newark, NJ is for the police department to publicly recognize its historical involvement in the oppression of communities of color. This type of accountability for historical trauma is a necessary step toward healing and building safer communities that can prevent violence. Here’s a video of a Police Chief who is accepting that accountability.
“The Walking One Stop: Door to Door Victim Services,” HealingWorks
This amazing group in Miami is taking to extreme the idea of “finding people where they are” – and it’s working! Once every couple of weeks, they take to the streets to provide healing services in the most marginalized areas of their community, addressing unmet needs, specifically in in neighborhoods of color. EJUSA’s Latrina Kelly-James and Christine Henderson are working with The Walking One Stop to amplify voices of those calling for change and supporting this important local work. Continue Reading →
That’s what Darlene Farah said when she walked out of the courtroom this morning, more than 3 1/2 years after her daughter, Shelby, was murdered.
James Rhodes pleaded guilty to killing Shelby after reaching an agreement with the new State’s Attorney, Melissa Nelson, that would take the death penalty off the table and forgo a trial. Nelson’s predecessor, Angela Corey, had refused to consider such an agreement with Rhodes and his attorneys. Corey even vilified Darlene for her desire to have the charges end in a plea deal.
State capitals are buzzing as lawmakers return for this year’s state legislative sessions. It’s no surprise that the death penalty is on the agenda in so many places, given the growing movement away from executions.
There has long been strong support for death penalty repeal in Kansas, but due to many circumstances, repeal bills haven’t received committee hearings in recent years. This year, a diverse range of Kansans – murder victims’ family members, faith leaders, those with law enforcement experience, and legal experts – were able to express their support for repeal in front of a House committee. The hearing room was standing room only with supporters of the bill, and those testifying in favor of repeal outnumbered opponents 9 to 1.
Over 500 pastors recently released a letter calling for a new trial for Texas death row inmate Chris Young. The letter urges Texas officials to award Young a new trial because of the exclusion of a potential juror in his original death penalty case.
Young and his attorneys argue that the prospective juror was improperly struck from the jury because of her religious affiliation and her involvement in her church. They argue that striking a potential juror for that reason is a violation of the Free Exercise Clause of the Constitution.
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