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Anti Death Penalty


"The death penalty is not an act - it is a process.
It dehumanizes, brutalizes both physically and
psychologically and culminates in liquidation.
The death penalty is torture."
Rick Halperin

"When you give a lesson in meanness to a critter or person,
don't be surprised if they learn their lesson."
From 'Cowboy Wisdom'

Never doubt
that a small group of thoughtful,
committed people can change the world--
it's the only thing that ever has.
Margaret Mead

"There will be no lasting peace either in the heart of individuals or in social customs until death is outlawed."
Albert Camus / Reflections on the Guillotine

An execution is not simply death. It is just as different from the privation of life as a concentration camp is from prison. It adds to death a rule, a public premeditation known to the future victim, an organization which is itself a source of moral sufferings more terrible than death. Capital punishment is the most premeditated of murders, to which no criminal's deed, however calculated can be compared. For there to be an equivalency, the death penalty would have to punish a criminal who had warned his victim of the date at which he would inflict a horrible death on him and who, from that moment onward, had confined him at his mercy for months. Such a monster is not encountered in private life.
Albert Camus

"We must realize that we cannot escape the common lot of pain and our only justification is to speak on behalf of those who cannot."
Albert Camus

Capital punishment is a good way of making miscarriages of justice irrevocable while reducing murder rates not at all.
C.D. Hare

There is an old folk saying here that you like people because but you love people in spite of.

The degree of civilization in a society can be seen when
you enter their prisons.

He deserves death.
Deserves it! I dare say he does. Many that live deserve death. And some that
die deserve life. Can you give it to them? Then do not be too eager to deal
out death in judgment. For even the very wise cannot see all ends.
 The Lord of the Rings

"An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind."

"We begin to die the moment we stop believing in something."
Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Our scientific power has outrun our spiritual power. We have guided missiles and misguided men.
 Martin Luther King, Jr.

Like an unchecked cancer, hate corrodes the personality and eats away its vital unity. Hate destroys a man's sense of values and his objectivity. It causes him to describe the beautiful as ugly and the ugly as beautiful, and to confuse the true with the false and the false with the true.
 Martin Luther King Jr.

The mood and temper of the public in regard to the treatment of crime and criminals is one of the most unfailing tests of the civilization of any country.
Winston Churchill Capital punishment is society's final assertion that it will not forgive.
Martin Luther King, Jr.

"Peace cannot be achieved through violence, it can only be attained through understanding."
Ralph Waldo Emerson

"The real security for human life is to be found in a reverence for it. If the law regarded it as inviolable, then the people would begin also so to regard it. A deep reverence for human life is worth more than a thousand executions in the prevention of murder; and is, in fact, the great security for human life. The law of capital punishment while pretending to support this reverence, does in fact tend to destroy it."
English Friend John Bright, 1868

Robert Badinter said when he obtained the abolition of the death penalty in France in 1981: Nothing can justify "a justice that kills."

A jury consists of twelve persons chosen to decide who has the better lawyer
Robert Frost

Human beings, who are almost unique in having the ability to learn from the experience of others, are also remarkable for their apparent disinclination to do so.
 Douglas Adams

The worst sin toward our fellow creatures is not to hate them, but to be indifferent to them: that's the essence of inhumanity.
 George Bernard Shaw

"Murder and capital punishment are not opposites that cancel one another, but similars that breed their kind.
 George Bernard Shaw

"Neither a man nor a crowd nor a nation can be trusted to act humanely or to think sanely under the influence of a great fear."
Bertrand Russell, Unpopular Essays 1950

"When we live at each other's mercy, we had better learn to be merciful."
William Sloane Coffin

We are the prisoners of the prisoners we have taken
J. Clegg

"We must not be frightened nor cajoled into accepting
evil as deliverance from evil" 
Robert Hayden

"Our witness to respect for life shines most brightly when we demand respect for each and every human life"

"It's kind of ironic that the man who signed a law speeding up death penalty cases and undermining habeas corpus goes lecturing anyone on human rights. This former professor of constitutional law has signed into law more violations of human rights than any recent president.
Leonard Weinglass, attorney on death penalty cases, commenting on Clintons visit to China

In New York, 70% of the legislators polled thought their constituents would prefer the death penalty over a variety of alternatives. In fact, over 70% of the people would choose the alternative of life without parole plus restitution.

"Building more prisons to address crime is like building more graveyards to address a fatal disease."
Robert Gangi, Executive Director, Correctional Association of New York

Until the infallibility of human judgment shall have been proved to me, I shall persist in demanding the abolition of the death penalty
Marquis de Lafayette (1830)

Capital punishment: Them without the capital get the punishment.
John Spenkelink's last word at his electrocution, May 25 1979

Murder Victims Families for reconciliation

"Before my daughter Julie Marie was killed in the Murrah Building [in Oklahoma City], April 19, 1995, I was like most people; I didn't give the death penalty too much thought. But I can tell you that it is a very important issue to me now ... Vengeance is a strong, and natural human emotion. But it has no place in our justice system ... I ask each of you to reconsider your position. If you really care about victims and their families, then please tell the public the truth about the death penalty and invest your time and energy in alternatives that might truly reduce violence."
Bud Welch, in a letter to the California gubernatorial candidates (1998), 

"As one whose husband and mother-in-law have died the victims of murder assassination, I stand firmly and unequivocally opposed to the death penalty for those convicted of capital offenses. An evil deed is not redeemed by an evil deed of retaliation. Justice is never advanced in the tacking of a human life. Morality is never upheld by a legalized murder."
Corretta Scott King

As one victim, as a colleague, I stand before you to ask that you vote to abolish the death penalty, not so much because I want murderers to live but because if the state kills them, that forever forecloses the possibility that those of us who are victims might be able to figure out how to forgive. We've lost enough already. Don't take that option for healing away, please.
New Hampshire State Rep. Robert Renny Cushing in a speach at Representatives Hall on March 12, 1998. Cushings father was murdered in 1988.

In my case, my own daughter was such a gift of joy and sweetness and beauty, that to kill someone in her name would have been to violate and profane the goodness of her life; the idea is offensive and repulsive to me.
Marietta Jaeger, whos seven year old daughter, Susie, was kidnapped and murdered

When the prosecutors in Houston, TX., promised to give the murderer the death penalty I was extremely gratified  at first. In fact, I went to the trial every day because I thought that hearing the judge pronounce the sentence of death would bring me some relief.
Instead of healing, I found myself focusing on my anger and hatred, which only seemed to increase the pain I felt over the loss of my mother. Eventually I came to realize that capital punishment was not the answer because wishing for another human being to die wasn't helping me heal.
Celeste Dixon whose mother was murdered in 1986

"Capital punishment is not going to do anything for murder victims.  If there's anything I've learned from my daughter's murder, that's it." 
--Dorris Mote, mother of a 14-year-old rape/murder victim 


"No matter how careful courts are the possibility of perjured testimony, mistaken honest testimony and human error remain all too real We have no way of judging how many innocent persons have been executed but we can be certain that there were some."
Furman v. Georgia 408 U.S. 238, 36768 (1972) (Marshall, J., concurring)

"From this day forward, I no longer shall tinker with the machinery of death. For more than 20 years I have endeavored  indeed, I have struggled  along with a majority of this Court, to develop procedural and substantive rules that would lend more than the mere appearance of fairness to the death penalty endeavor. Rather than continue to coddle the Court's delusion that the desired level of fairness has been achieved and the need for regulation eviscerated,  I feel morally and intellectually obligated simply to concede that the death penalty experiment has failed. It is virtually self-evident to me now that no combination of procedural rules or substantive regulations ever can save the death penalty from its inherent constitutional deficiencies."
 Justice Harry Blackmun, Dissenting Opinion in Callins v. Collins

Twenty years have passed since this Court declared that the death penalty must be imposed fairly, and with reasonable consistency, or not at all, and, despite the effort of the states and courts to devise legal formulas and procedural rules to meet this daunting challenge, the death penalty remains fraught with arbitrariness, discrimination, caprice, and mistake.
Justice Harry A. Blackmun, US Supr. Court, Feb 22 1994

"The calculated killing of a human being by the state involves, by its very nature, an absolute denial of the executed person's humanity. The most vile murder does not, in my view, release the state from constitutional restraint on the destruction of human dignity"
Former Supreme Court Justice William Brennan

One area of law more than any other besmirches the constitutional vision of human dignity. . . . The barbaric death penalty violates our Constitution. Even the most vile murderer does not release the state from its obligation to respect dignity, for the state does not honor the victim by emulating his murderer. Capital punishment's fatal flaw is that it treats people as objects to be toyed with and discarded. . . . One day the Court will outlaw the death penalty. Permanently.
William J. Brennan, Jr., retired Supreme Court Justice, 1996

It is abundantly clear that the Texas clemency procedure is extremely poor and certainly minimal. A flip of the coin would be more merciful than these votes.
U.S. District Judge Sam Sparks, about the secretive clemency process in The Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles

"It is simply unjust for the United States not to respect international agreements. This is barbaric and unworthy of a state based on the rule of law."
German Minister of Justice Herta DaeublerGmelin, commenting Arizonas' execution of the LaGrand brothers

I think that the only purpose for the death penalty, as I see it, is vengeance  pure and simple vengeance. But I think vengeance is a very personal feeling and I don't think it is something that civilized government should engage in . . . .
Janet Reno, Attorney General of the United States, at National Press Club, July 1 1993

"To support the death penalty as sound social policy strikes me as grossly misguided. Not only does the death penalty not deter murder, it fosters a culture of brutality, risks international condemnation, and transforms our country into a brutal pariah."
Judge Rudolph J. Gerber, AZ State Court of Appeals, 1998

The majority of the appeal courts of the USA will not look at the simple question of whether a death row inmate is innocent of the crime for which he or she was sentenced to die. Their main concern seems to be whether the legal procedures and the constitution were followed.
Piers Bannister, Amnesty International

Virtually every major program designed to address the underlying causes of violence and to support the poor, vulnerable, powerless victims of crime is being cut even further to the bone.... In this context, the proposition that the death penalty is a needed addition to our arsenal of weapons lacks credibility
Scott Harshbarger, Attorney General of Mass.

I am not convinced that capital punishment, in and of itself, is a deterrent to crime because most people do not think about the death penalty before they commit a violent or capital crime.
Willie L. Williams, Police Chief, Los Angeles, CA

The cop paused and stared at the two of them, the black man in his white T-shirt and shabby jeans, the little white man with the thick glasses and the ballooning belly. "One of you two is gonna hang for this," said the cop. Then he turned to Brandley. "Since you're the nigger, you're elected."
Nick Davies in "White Lies", quoting testimony leading to Clarence Brandley's release

The death penalty is the privilege of the poor.
Clinton Duffy, Former Warden of San Quentin

I an poll 68% of Ohioans reported that the likelihood of an innocent person being wrongly convicted and executed was either somewhat likely or very likely.

"The death penalty does little to prevent crime. It's the fear of apprehension and the likely prospect of swift and certain punishment that provides the largest deterrent to crime."
Frank Friel, Former Head of Organized Crime Homicide Task Force, Philadelphia

"The State was guilty of suppressing evidence favorable to the accused, deceiving the trial court during the applicant's trial, and knowingly using perjured testimony."
Quote from the court decision overturning Randall Dale Adams' conviction

" The great deterrent to crime is not severity of punishment but certainty
of conviction." 
Lord Parker, (The Lord Chief Justice of Britain 1966)


"Thou shalt not kill"
Fifth Commandment

..When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, "Let anyone among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her."
(John 8:7 NRSV)

"I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse. Choose life."
(Deuteronomy 30:19).

"Vengeance is mine, says the Lord. I will repay."
(Romans 12:19).

"You have heard that it was said, 'An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.' But I say to you, Do not resist an evildoer. But if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also; and if anyone wants to sue you and take your coat, give your cloak as well; and if anyone forces you to go one mile, go also the second mile."
Matthew 5:3841 (Oxford Annotated Bible, NSRV)

"You have heard that it was said, 'You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you..."
Matthew 5:4344

A nation that destroys its young, abandons its elderly, and relies on vengeance is in serious moral trouble.
  Cardinal Roger Mahony, / Archbishop of Los Angeles

"The antidote to violence is love, not more violence."
(both from the US Catholic Bishops 1998 statement "Living the Gospel of Life: A Challenge to American Catholics")

"We cannot overcome crime by simply executing criminals...The death penalty offers the tragic illusion that we can defend life by taking life."
(US Catholic Conference, A Good Friday Appeal to End the Death Penalty, 1999)

Pope John Paul II, from his statement on his visit to the US: "The dignity of human life must never be taken away, even in the case of someone who has done great evil."

"Both victims and offenders are children of God....We seek justice, not vengeance."
(US Catholic Bishops 2000 statement, Responbiility, Rehabilitation and Restoration)

  "God has no other hands than ours."
  Dorothee Solle

Pro Death Penalty

"You're not going to find 12 people back-to-back on the same jury that are going to kill somebody when the alternative is throwing away the key."
Former Houston District Attorney John Holmes

Electrocution is probably the most humane way to terminate someone's life.
Dr. James Downs, Alabama's chief medical examiner

Governor Ridge does not view executions as a deterrent. He believes that executions are justice and a means to help families of victims move on.
Ridge spokesman Tim Reeves, Pennsylvania

We have an obligation to provide the victim's family with every opportunity to gain closure to their horrible ordeal.
(R) Sen. Norman Robertson, NJ, arguing for the right of victims relatives to watch executions

"You always lose some soldiers in any war."
Sen. David Jaye, RWashington Township, commenting on the risk of executing an innocent.

The Constitution says everyone's entitled to the attorney of their choice. The Constitution doesn't say the lawyer has to be awake.
Judge Doug Shaver, presiding over the trial of McFarland, who is now on TX Death Row after a trial where his attorney fell asleep several times

This is not a perfect system. Yes, you are going to have mistakes. But with any system that's possible, and (the execution of an innocent person) is an acceptable risk.
Former Georgia Attorney General Michael Bowers, who run for governor

"If we execute murderers and there is in fact no deterrent effect, we have killed a bunch of murderers. If we fail to execute murderers, and doing so would in fact have deterred other murders, we have allowed the killing of a bunch of innocent victims. I would much rather risk the former. This, to me, is not a tough call."
John McAdams - Marquette University/Department of Political Science, on deterrence

The death penalty is a warning, just like a lighthouse throwing its beams out to sea. We hear about shipwrecks, but we do not hear about the ships the lighthouse guides safely on their way. We do not have proof of the number of ships it saves, but we do not tear the lighthouse down.  
poet Hyman Barshay

"If we are to abolish the death penalty, I should like to see the first step taken by my friends the murderers."
Alphonse Karr (1808-1890)

"If we design a legal system that will be so generous to the suspect that there is absolutely no possibility of unjustly convicting that one out of ten thousand defendants who, in spite of overwhelming evidence, is really innocent, then we have also designed a legal system that is utterly incapable of convicting the other 9999 about whose guilt there is no mistake." 
G. Edward Griffin in The Great Prison Break

"Indeed, the decision that capital punishment may be the appropriate sanction in extreme cases is an expression of the community's belief that certain crimes are themselves so grievous an affront to humanity that the only adequate response may be the penalty of death." 
Supreme Court of the United States

It is often said that murderers are the criminals least likely to repeat their crimes.  
Does that statistic matter if you become the victim of one who bucks the trend?

"Most of us continue to believe that those who show utter contempt for human life by committing remorseless, premeditated murder justly forfeit the right to their own life."  
Alex Kozinski, U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals

Does fining a criminal show want of respect for property, or imprisoning him, for personal freedom? Just as unreasonable is it to think that to take the life of a man who has taken that of another is to show want of regard for human life. We show, on the contrary, most emphatically our regard for it, by the adoption of a rule that he who violates that right in another forfeits it for himself, and that while no other crime that he can commit deprives him of his right to live, this shall.
John Stuart Mill, 19th century philosopher

"That the death penalty, for murder in the commission of armed robbery, each year saves the lives of scores, if not hundreds of victims of such crimes cannot reasonably be doubted by any judge who has had substantial experience at the trial court level with the handling of such persons." 

"Evidence of innocence is irrelevant." 
--Mary Sue Terry,  Attorney General of Virginia, 1986-94 (replying to an appeal to introduce new evidence from a prisoner sentenced to death) 

"This is Virginia and, quite candidly, I'm Roman Catholic, and I couldn't care less if the Pope thinks we shouldn't kill (Joseph) O'Dell."
--Sen. Kenneth Stolle (R-8th District, Virginia Beach) responding to a reporter's question with regard to the Pope's request for clemency in the case of Joseph O'Dell. (Daily Press, March 19, 2000)

"While some [death penalty] abolitionists try to face down the results of their disastrous experiment and still argue to the contrary, the...[data] concludes that a substantial deterrent effect has been observed...In six months, more Americans are murdered than have killed by execution in this entire century...Until we begin to fight crime in earnest [by using the death penalty], every person who dies at a criminal's hands is a victim of our inaction."
Researcher Karl Spence of Texas A&M University

"That the ever present potentiality in California of the death penalty, for murder in the commission of armed robbery, each year saves the lives of scores, if not hundreds of victims of such crimes, I cannot think, reasonably be doubted by any judge who has had substantial experience at the trial court level with the handling of such persons. I know that during my own trial court experience...included some four to five years (1930-1934) in a department of the superior court exclusively engaged in handling felony cases, I repeatedly heard from the lips of robbers...substantially the same story: 'I used a toy gun [or a simulated gun or a gun in which the firing pin or hammer had been extracted or damaged] because I didn't want my neck stretched.' (The penalty, at the time referred to, was hanging.)"
Honorable B. Rey Shauer, Justice of the Supreme Court of California

"Had the death penalty been a real possibility in the minds of...murderers, they might well have stayed their hand. They might have shown moral awareness before their victims died...Consider the tragic death of Rosa Velez, who happened to be home when a man named Luis Vera burglarized her apartment in Brooklyn. "Yeah, I shot her," Vera admitted. "...and I knew I wouldn't go to the chair."   Edward Koch, former mayor of New York City

"The idea that "violence doesn't solve anything" is a historically untrue and immoral doctrine. Violence, naked force, has settled more issues in history than has any other factor, and the contrary opinion is wishful thinking at its worst. People that forget this basic truth have always paid for it with their lives and freedoms."
Robert A. Heinlien's Starship Troopers

When I think of all the sweet, innocent people who suffer extreme pain and who die every day in this country, then the outpouring of sympathy for cold-blooded killers enrages me. Where is your (expletive deleted) sympathy for the good, the kind and the innocent? This fixation on murderers is a sickness, a putrefaction of the soul. It's the equivalent of someone spending all day mooning and cooing over a handful of human feces. Sick and abnormal.
Syndicated columnist Charley Reese

"If and when discrimination occurs it should be corrected. Not, however, by letting the guilty blacks escape the death penalty because guilty whites do, but by making sure that the guilty white offenders suffer it as the guilty blacks do. Discrimination must be abolished by abolishing discrimination - not by abolishing penalties. However, even if...this cannot be done, I do not see any good reason to let any guilty murderer escape his penalty. It does happen in the administration of criminal justice that one person gets away with murder and another is executed. Yet the fact that one gets away with it is no reason to let another one escape."
Ernest van den Haag

"I don't find evidence that the justice system is treating blacks and whites differently."

"I don't find evidence that the justice system is treating blacks and whites differently."
Patrick A. Lanagan, senior statistician at the Dept. of Justice Bureau of Justice Statistics

"Whatever the arguments may be against capital punishment, both on moral grounds and on grounds and in terms of accomplishing the purposes of punishment.... the death penalty has been employed throughout our history, and in a day when it is still widely accepted, it cannot be said to violate the conceptional concept of cruelty".
Trop v. Dulles, Chief Justice Earl Warren

"The punishment of death is not cruel, within the meaning of that wordas used in the Constitution. It implies there is something more inhuman and barbarous, than the mere extinguishment of life."
Supreme Court

It is my opinion that the death penalty is constitutional, as determined...in innumerable cases. therefore, since it is the duty of the Legislature of the electorate, and not the judiciary, to decide whether it is sound public policy to empower the imposing of the death penalty, it is my opinion that if a change is to be made, it should be effected through the legislative process of by the people through the initiative process.
Former Justice Marshall McComb of the California Supreme Court, 1972
No fewer than three of the Justices with whom I have served (Justices Brennan, Marshall, and Blackmun) have maintained that the death penalty is unconstitutional, even though its use is explicitly contemplated in the Constitution. The Due Process Clause of the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments says that no person shall be deprived of life without due process of law; and the Grand Jury Clause of the Fifth Amendment says that no person shall be held to answer for a capital crime without grand-jury indictment."
US Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia

All that can be expected of...[human authorities] is that they take every reasonable precaution against the danger of error... If errors are...made, this is the necessary price that must be paid within a society which is made up of human beings.
US Senate report

I favor a fair trial, one quick appeal and prompt execution. I don't think murderers ought to live much beyond 12 months from the day their victim is buried...[and] As for not being able to correct a mistake, so what? Virtually all accidental deaths are deaths by mistake. Why impose a standard of perfection only on the criminal justice system? There are no perfect human institutions. Our system is, more than any other, designed to protect the rights of the defendant. The chance of a truly innocent person being executed is exceedingly slim. But if it happens, it happens just as things happen to people every day.
Syndicated columnist Charley Reese

"When I think of the thousands of inhabitants of Death Rows in the hundreds of prisons in this country...My reaction is: What's taking us so long? Let's get that electrical current flowing. Drop those pellets [of poison gas] now! Whenever I argue this with friends who have opposite views, they say that I don't have enough regard for the most marvelous of miracles - human life. Just the opposite: It's because I have so much regard for human life that I favor capital punishment. Murder is the most terrible crime there is. Anything less than the death penalty is an insult to the victim and society. It says..that we don't value the victim's life enough to punish the killer fully."
Award-winning Chicago journalist Mike Royko

"Punishment is the way in which society expresses its denunciation of wrong doing; and, in order to maintain respect for the law, it is essential that the punishment inflicted for grave crimes should adequately reflect the revulsion felt by the great majority of citizens for them. It is a mistake to consider the objects of punishments as being a deterrent or reformative or preventive and nothing else... The truth is that some crimes are so outrageous that society insists on adequate punishment, because the wrong doer deserves it, irrespective of whether it is a deterrent or not."
Lord Justice Denning, Master of the Rolls of the Court of Appeals in England

"Capital punishment ought not to be abolished solely because it is...repulsive, if infinitely less repulsive than the acts which invoke it...If we are to preserve a humane society we will have to retain sufficient strength of character and will to do the unpleasant in order that tranquillity and civility may rule comprehensively. It seems very likely that capital punishment is a...necessary, if limited, factor in that maintenance of social tranquillity and ought to be retained on this ground. To do otherwise is to indulge in the luxury of permitting a sense of false delicacy to reign over the necessity of social survival."
Atwell Zoll, Professor of Political Science at Arizona State University

The simple truth is that there is no excuse for taking the ultimate gift from someone else, and a person that does so, does not deserve a chance to rehabilitate themselves or even a chance to "find" Jesus Christ. They deserve to die. And it doesn't matter how old they are. Even though it may actually cost more to put someone to death, than to house them for a life-term in prison; having them alive and watching cable TV in an air-conditioned jail cell, simply isn't right -- that is inhumane.
Josh Gerben, Managing Editor of "The Spoke"


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