Black lawmakers call for repeal of death penalty

NBCSL ConferenceAfrican American State Legislators Cite Disproportionate Sentencing

The National Black Caucus of State Legislators (NBCSL) has passed its first-ever resolution supporting repeal of the death penalty in the United States. The historic vote took place during the NBCSL 40th Annual Legislative Conference in New Orleans, LA. It is an escalation of the organization’s previous call for a moratorium in 2002.

“As a Nebraska state senator, I proudly voted to strike the death penalty from our state statutes in 2015. I was just as proud to sponsor the recent NBCSL resolution that calls for an end to the death penalty across the country,” said Nebraska State Senator Tanya Cook. “This sentence is not a deterrent to violent crime. Period. That fact has been scientifically-demonstrated over and over again in this country and around the globe.”

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EJUSA helps lead Cities for Life event in St Augustine, FL

Cities For Life candle lightingCommunity members joined murder victims’ family members, religious leaders, families of of death row inmates, and a death row exoneree for a “Cities For Life” event in St. Augustine last week, hosted by EJUSA and the Diocese of St. Augustine. EJUSA’s National Organizer Christine Henderson emceed the evening, which featured the lighting of 386 candles, one for every person awaiting execution on Florida’s death row.

Cities for Life began 15 years ago by the Italy-based Sant’ Egidio Community. More than 2,000 cities worldwide have participated, declaring themselves “Cities for Life” and committing to ending the death penalty throughout the world. It is the largest international mobilization effort to end the death penalty.

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Share a vision for justice that heals

Last week, voters in three states chose to keep the death penalty, even in the face of progress on other criminal justice reforms. Though these losses pale in comparison to the longstanding and continuing momentum away from the death penalty in the U.S., they reveal just how much our nation struggles with how to respond to violence.

EJUSA’s Executive Director Shari Silberstein presents a path forward with a vision for justice in a column, “What the death penalty taught me about trauma, healing and justice,” published on Virgin.com.

“EJUSA’s campaign to end the death penalty has given us a unique experience changing the narrative around how we respond to the most extreme acts of violence. We’ve learned that the justice system will fail everyone unless it serves everyone.”

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last night

Last night was emotional and surprising.

Many in America are mourning today; some are deeply afraid for their lives or their loved ones. Others are feeling heard in their suffering for the first time.

Finding common ground across those kinds of differences isn’t easy, but it has fundamentally transformed me personally, and EJUSA’s work, over the last decade. On our largest and oldest campaign, this bridge-building approach has put the end of the death penalty within our sights.

Still, last night, voters in Nebraska, California, and Oklahoma all passed referenda in favor of the death penalty. Those losses hit us hard. Those states have chosen a failed, broken policy when they had the chance to move towards a new dawn.

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Florida death penalty ruled unconstitutional…again

Florida faith leaders against the death penaltyLast month, the Florida Supreme Court ruled that death row inmate Timothy Hurst is entitled to a new sentencing hearing because the jury in his case was not unanimous in recommending a death sentence. The Court held that both the Florida and U.S. Constitutions require a unanimous jury recommendation of death to be able to sentence someone to death.

This decision leaves Florida without a valid death penalty statute. After the U.S. Supreme Court struck down Florida’s death penalty statute in January 2016, the Florida Legislature passed a new statute requiring a 10-2 jury recommendation of death to impose a death sentence. Florida’s current statute fails to meet the constitutional requirement of jury unanimity outlined by the Florida Supreme Court in Hurst.

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Recommended this week

“Recommended this week” features highlights from the past week in news about the death penalty, crime survivors, and trauma-informed responses to crime.

Better by halfThe Marshall Project
An interesting story from The Marshall Project about New York City: “New York City’s example shows that when the community and government work together, it is possible to have both half as much incarceration and twice as much safety.”

Killing Dylann Roof Wouldn’t Help Racial InjusticeTime
Next week, jury selection begins in Dylann Roof’s federal trial. Executing Roof will not rid us of the racism that fueled him and will not make the death penalty less racially biased.

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Voters in three states face death penalty questions at the ballot box

Infographic: how to vote on death penalty ballot measuresA Pew poll released last month found support for the death penalty dropped by seven points just in the last year and is at its lowest point since 1972. Executions have reached their lowest level in 25 years, with even Texas seeing record lows. Only a few counties continue to sentence people to death with any regularity.

And now, voters in three states will determine the future of the death penalty when they go to the polls next week. Here is a rundown of the ballot measures and how you (and/or your friends) should vote to continue the momentum toward ending the death penalty throughout the country.

Share this graphic from our partners at the DeathPenaltyFail campaign to help spread the word about how to vote in these three states.

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Recommended this week

“Recommended this week” features highlights from the past week in news about the death penalty, crime survivors, and trauma-informed responses to crime.

Three States to Watch if You Care About the Death PenaltyThe Marshall Project
Voters in Oklahoma, Nebraska, and California will face death penalty questions at the polls. The Marshall Project looks at what’s on the ballot in each of the states and what is at stake.

Baltimore Is Attacking the Roots of Violence with Public Health Measures—and Saving LivesScientific America
Violence is contagious and can spread from person to person, just like a disease. The Baltimore City Health Department is bringing down violence in some of Baltimore’s highest violence neighborhoods using a public health approach.

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Faith Leaders call for suspension of death penalty in Florida ‘outlier’ counties

Hillsborough and Pinellas Counties religious leader press conference with Christine speakingThis morning, religious leaders from Hillsborough and Pinellas counties in Florida held a press conference to react to a report from Harvard’s Fair Punishment Project, branding the counties as “outliers” due to their overuse of the death penalty.

Press conference participants released a letter to the State Attorney’s Office signed by more than 75 local religious leaders demanding a halt to death penalty prosecutions in both counties. EJUSA’s Florida-based organizer, Christine Henderson (pictured at the podium), helped organize the sign-on letter and was on hand to speak about the national implications of the ‘outlier’ report.

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Report: America’s outlier death penalty counties

Outlier Counties report graphic

Harvard’s Fair Punishment Project released the second installment of a report showing the dysfunction in the use of the death penalty in the only 16 counties that continue to use it with any regularity. “Too Broken to Fix: An In-depth Look at America’s Outlier Death Penalty Counties,” looks at the 16 “outlier counties” – of 3,143 counties nationwide – that imposed five or more death sentences between 2010 and 2015.

The report looks at that last 10 years of  court opinions and records from these 16 “outlier counties” and analyzes all of the new death sentences handed down in these counties since 2010. Continue Reading →