157 – an update from CCATDP

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.

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Montanans: Help end the death penalty!

The Montana legislature is now in session, and a bill to repeal will be debated in the House Judiciary Committee on MONDAY morning!

Now is the time to contact your legislators and tell them to say YES to repeal.

CONTACT YOUR LEGISLATORS

Many lawmakers in Montana are rethinking the death penalty, frustrated by its errors, delays, and high costs. As they consider death penalty legislation, it is critical that you let them know how important repeal is to you.

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Engaging event at Florida’s largest evangelical congregation

This past Wednesday, EJUSA co-sponsored a discussion on the death penalty at Northland Church in Longwood, Florida. We were thrilled to be able to help bring this conversation to Northland – one of the largest Evangelical churches in the nation. Pastor Joel Hunter moderated, and EJUSA Organizer Christine Henderson made the trip from Jacksonville, FL, to share our vision of a criminal justice system that heals and restores lives. The panel consisted of two people who have come face to face with the death penalty in their personal lives and two people who discussed the theological implications of the death penalty.

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Georgia Conservatives Concerned about the Death Penalty – An update from CCATDP

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.

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Kansans: Help end the death penalty!

The Kansas legislature is now in session, and a bill to repeal the death penalty will soon be introduced. Many lawmakers in Kansas are rethinking the death penalty, frustrated by its errors, delays, and high costs. As they consider death penalty legislation, it is critical that you let them know how important repeal is to you.

Now is the time to contact your legislators and tell them to say YES to repeal.

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Recommended: New State’s Attorney in Florida wants to start CIU

Florida prosecutors have played a major role in creating an unjust criminal justice system with their ability to decide who to prosecute and what charges to file.

Several prosecutors in the state had a history of extreme overzealousness and seemed to forget the community they were elected to represent. They charged children as young as twelve as adults, sentencing them to long prison terms. They helped fill Florida’s death row with people with severe mental impairments and mental illness. And they supported a system that has allowed people of color to be treated more harshly than white people.

Newly-elected prosecutor Melissa Nelson seems to have a different plan coming into office. Nelson represents the 5th district, which includes 5 counties in the Northeast area of the state. According to a recent interview with Reason magazine, she is looking at new ways of encouraging prosecutors to seek justice, rather than just convictions. And she’s even exploring the idea of creating a Conviction Integrity Unit.

Read the full interview in Reason here.

Year-end report of 2016 shows continued decline

DPIC 2016 reportThe death penalty continued its historic decline in 2016, according to the year-end report put out by the Death Penalty Information Center. The report found:

  • The number of death sentenced imposed by American juries was lower than in any other year since the reinstatement of the death penalty in 1972. The 30 death sentences from 2016 represent a 39% decline from 2015’s already 40-year low of 49.
  • Executions declined by more than 25% from 2015, and, together, Georgia and Texas executed 80% of the 20 men executed in 2016.
  • Public opinion polls in 2016 reported historic lows in support for the death penalty.
  • State Courts in Delaware and Florida ruled that the death penalty laws in their states are unconstitutional.
  • Prosecutors in four of the 16 counties that impose the most death sentences in the U.S. were defeated by candidates who expressed personal opposition to the death penalty or pledged to reform their county’s death penalty practices.

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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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