Georgia Conservatives Concerned About the Death Penalty, a network of conservatives questioning the alignment of capital punishment with their conservative principles, officially launched last week with a news conference at the Georgia State Capitol.
“Georgia may have led the nation in executions in 2016, but our state is actually moving away from the death penalty,” said Marc Hyden, EJUSA’s National Coordinator for Conservatives Concerned About the Death Penalty and a longtime Georgia resident. “Georgia conservatives stand for life, fiscal responsibility, and limited government, but the death penalty violates these core conservative tenets.”
Marc was joined on stage by a current state legislator, a former congressional district chairperson for the GOP, the COO and Chairperson of two local conservative think tanks, the former president of a local pro-life organizations, and the past chair of a local college Republicans group.
The death penalty remains in steep decline across the United States, and a recently released report (PDF) illustrates how capital punishment is falling out of favor even in Texas. According to the Texas Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty, this year the Lone Star State sentenced the fewest number of people to die since 1976. Furthermore, Texas has executed seven people in 2016, which represents a 20-year low. This is incredibly encouraging and demonstrates the hard work of many people in Texas. It also underscores what we’ve known for years: the death penalty is dying.
Florida’s death penalty has remained in the national spotlight as of late. In January, the Sunshine State’s capital sentencing scheme was ruled unconstitutional because it gave judges, rather than jurors, too much power in the death penalty sentencing process. As a result, Florida’s legislature passed a bill requiring at least a 10-2 jury vote in order to sentence someone to die, but this statute was quickly deemed unconstitutional by a Miami-Dade judge.
However, the courts didn’t settle the matter until recently when the decision was appealed to the state’s Supreme Court, which agreed that Florida’s sentencing statute was a constitutional violation. Until the legislature addresses this issue, Florida is effectively without a death penalty, which should be a welcome hiatus given the state’s poor record with capital punishment.
#DeathPenaltyFail is a new campaign using films to raise the conversation about the death penalty in the United States. EJUSA is a leading partner in the campaign, working to mobilize #DeathPenaltyFail film viewers to get involved in the movement to end the death penalty
Here’s a trailer of our favorite one, “A Conservative Concern.”
The latest sign that the death penalty is falling out of favor comes from Delaware, where earlier this month, the State Supreme Court struck down Delaware’s capital punishment statute as unconstitutional. The Court found that judges rather than juries wielded far too much power in determining who received a death sentence. The Delaware Attorney General has announced that his office will not appeal the ruling, which makes Delaware the latest in a growing number of states to scrap capital punishment.
Support for the death penalty is also shrinking across the United States. Two recently released polls show how unpopular capital punishment is becoming. According to the surveys, around 72% of Kentuckians and 53% of Oklahomans prefer alternatives to the death penalty.
“Recommended this week” features highlights from the past week in news about the death penalty, crime survivors, and trauma-informed responses to crime.
Evangelical Leaders Call for Halt to Texas Execution Demand New Sentencing Hearing for Jeff Wood, The Gospel Herald
Evangelical Leaders Call for Halt to Texas Execution, Evangelicals for Social Action
Evangelicals urge halt to Texas execution, Baptist News Global
Evangelical leaders: Texas has ‘moral obligation’ to stop execution of death row prisoner, Christian Today
Several stories about the almost 50 Evangelical pastors who called on Texas Governor Greg Abbot and the Board of Paroles and Pardons to commute the death sentence of Jeffrey Wood. Wood is scheduled to be executed on August 23, even though he never killed anyone, had no previous criminal history, and suffers from borderline intellectual functioning and mental illness. Although Wood was involved in a robbery, he didn’t plan to kill anyone and wasn’t even inside the gas station when the victim, Kris Keeran, was shot. He was sitting in a truck outside.
Even violent crime victims say our prisons are making crime worse, The Washington Post
According to a new report from the Alliance for Safety & Justice,“A majority of crime victims prefer investments in treatment & prevention over prison spending.” The report, “Crime Survivors Speak,” includes the first national survey of crime victims’ views on safety and justice policy. It reveals their preference for prevention, health, and rehabilitation over more spending on prisons and jails. Continue Reading →
More than 4,000 people are expected to attend the 7th annual Western Conservative Summit, said to be the largest gathering of conservatives outside of the annual CPAC conference in Washington, DC. Also known as “Rally in the Rockies,” the 3-day event takes place this weekend in Denver.
EJUSA’s Marc Hyden will be attending the conference to talk to participants about Conservatives Concerned About the Death Penalty.
“One year ago, the conservative state of Nebraska repealed the death penalty, and earlier this year the Senate in another conservative state, Utah, voted to repeal the death penalty,” said Marc. “It’s clear that the death penalty’s support is waning, and fewer conservatives want anything to do with a broken government program that risks innocent life, hemorrhages taxpayer money, and fails to serve society or murder victims’ families.”
Stacy Anderson of Colorado’s anti-death penalty group, Better Priorities Initiative, will be joining Marc for the weekend. Motivated by her evangelical faith, Anderson led Nebraskans for Alternatives to the Death Penalty during last year’s successful repeal campaign in the Cornhusker State.
If you’re attending the conference, you can find Marc and Stacy in the exhibit area at Booth 516.
In college, Senator Colby Coash celebrated at a tailgate party outside of a prison during an execution. Now he’s part of the growing conservative movement to end the death penalty in the United States – a movement that EJUSA’s Conservatives Concerned About the Death Penalty has helped spawn. Read The Washington Post’s in-depth article about this trend and EJUSA’s impact, featuring interviews with EJUSA staff members Heather Beaudoin and Marc Hyden, who lead Conservatives Concerned.
Conservatives Concerned about the Death Penalty was featured in the Sunday edition of the Washington Post. The article’s author, Marin Cogan, interviewed CCATDP’s Heather Beaudoin and myself, and Cogan highlighted why conservatives are increasingly changing their views on the death penalty. She wrote,
Beaudoin reaches out to evangelical and other faith-based leaders and gets them talking about policy; her colleague Marc Hyden, the group’s national advocacy coordinator, works with movement conservatives, college Republicans, tea party activists and libertarians.
Last week, I was a guest on Tipping Point with Liz Wheeler to discuss Oklahoma’s damning grand jury report on their lethal injection scandal and Florida’s unconstitutional death penalty. You can watch the segment below:
Conservatives Concerned About the Death Penalty (CCATDP), a project of Equal Justice USA, is a network of political and social conservatives who question the alignment of capital punishment with conservative principles and values. For news and updates from CCATDP, join their email list.