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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Late last month, after serving several years on Delaware’s death row, Isaiah McCoy was released and acquitted of the murder for which he was originally convicted. There was no physical evidence linking him to the crime, and the testimonies that were used against him were inconsistent. Despite this, McCoy was sentenced to die, but after receiving a new trial, he was acquitted of murder. Upon hearing the news, McCoy wept and said that he plans on spending the coming days with his daughters. McCoy is the 157th person to be released from death row due to a wrongful conviction.
Last year, Georgia led the nation in executions with nine, which was the most in the Peach State’s history. While executions are at record levels, no one has been sentenced to die in Georgia in nearly three years, which suggests that its death penalty is slowly dying. However, there are many in Georgia who wish to hasten its demise. Just last week, a group of conservatives and libertarians came together to launch the Georgia Conservatives Concerned about the Death Penalty (GA CCATDP) group and call on the state legislature to reexamine capital punishment. The press event was attended by a conservative state representative, former Republican Party official, think tank leader, and activists from across the state who described in detail why capital punishment is inconsistent with their values.
Republican State Representative and press conference participant, Brett Harrell, said, “I like to make sure that government is as efficient, effective, and small as possible,” but when speaking about the death penalty, “the government has failed to provide an efficient, effective, accurate system.”
If you missed the press conference, you can watch it here.
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.
Troy Davis was executed 5 years ago today, and, unfortunately, the struggle did not end with him. We must continue to support repeal until the death penalty is gone for good.
Nevada just became the ninth death penalty state to go a decade or more without an execution. Add those nine to the 19 states without capital punishment, and you have 28 states that have abandoned executions in either law or practice.
And in the remaining states? The death penalty is in complete chaos.
Florida’s death penalty law has already been thrown out twice in 2016. The first ruling came from the U.S. Supreme Court in January. The Florida legislature then passed a “fix” to the law, and last month a Miami judge threw it out again. Alabama’s death penalty law is similar to Florida’s, and the Supreme Court sent a death sentence back for review for the third time this week because of those similarities.
Thank you so much for your letter last week to the Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles. Thanks to people like you, we generated over 650 letters to stop an execution tainted by racial bias and a sleeping lawyer.
Georgia refused to listen. Kenneth Fults was executed last night for the 1997 killing of Cathy Bounds.
This is a stark reminder that the death penalty is broken beyond repair.
In its next look at the death penalty, the Supreme Court is faced with the case of Timothy Tyrone Foster, to be argued on November 2. Foster is a black man who was convicted and sentenced to death by an all-white jury for the murder of a white woman. The jury was composed entirely of white Georgia residents after the prosecution excused all four qualified black prospective jurors using its peremptory challenges (challenges for which no reason need be given). The question before the Court is whether those challenges were legal or not, based on precedent set by the 1986 caseBatson v. Kentucky,1 which prohibits peremptory challenges based on the race of potential jurors.
Update 10/1/15, 9:42pm: Alfredo Pieto was executed in Virginia tonight at 9:17pm. His lawyers had just filed an application for a stay with the U.S. Supreme Court when news of his execution was announced.
Update 10/1/15, 7:36pm: After a change of venue, a Federal Court in Virginia heard arguments about the lethal injections drugs to be used in tonight’s execution in Virginia. In his ruling following the hearing, the judge lifted an injunction, clearing the way for the execution to go forward.
Update 10/1/15, 7:29pm: The Attorney General in Oklahoma has asked for an indefinite suspension in executions, including that of Richard Glossip as well as two others that were scheduled for next week. In a request to the highest court in Oklahoma, the A.G. indicated it “needs time to evaluate the events that transpired” leading up to Glossip’s scheduled – and ultimately stayed – execution on Tuesday.
Update 10/1/15, 9:33am: Though a hearing originally scheduled for this afternoon has been canceled, an injunction still stands, staying today’s scheduled execution of Alfred Prieto in Virginia. Lawyers for Prieto are seeking a more information about the drugs the State plans to use for the execution, which were acquired from Texas prison officials. Continue Reading →