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death penalty news----MO., NEB., ID., ARIZ., CALIF., USA
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Rick Halperin
2017-06-23 12:59:56 UTC
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June 23



MISSOURI:

Haley Owens' accused killer wants death penalty off the table


The Springfield man charged with kidnapping, raping and killing10-year-old
Hailey Owens wants the death penalty taken off the table.

Craig Wood's lawyers filed the paperwork with the Greene County Circuit Court
this week. The defense lays out its case to remove the death penalty in almost
50 pages of documents.

Wood is charged with kidnapping, raping, and killing Owens in Springfield in
February 2014. He's been in jail ever since, only going back and forth to court
appearances..

In court, prosecutors have pushed for the death penalty.

However, the families of Wood and Owens have both said they don't want him to
see him executed if he's convicted.

Hailey's mother said if Wood gets life in prison instead, it would avoid him
and the family having to go through the pain of a trial.

In the documents just filed, Woods argues that the death penalty should be
excluded from the case because of concerns about how the jury will be selected
when the case goes to trial later this year.

KSPR News reached out to Wood's defense attorney but he would not comment on
the filing.

The judge will have the final say on the issue. Another hearing in the case is
scheduled for next week.

(source: KSPR news)






NEBRASKA:

Lawyers contest constitutionality of Nebraska death penalty


Attorneys for an inmate accused of strangling his cellmate have asked a judge
to declare Nebraska's death penalty unconstitutional.

Concerns over the recently reinstated capital punishment that was repealed in
2015 are among the 11 arguments in a motion filed Monday by Todd Lancaster and
Sarah Newell, attorneys for Patrick Schroeder.

The move prompted a delay in Schroeder's arraignment that was set for Tuesday.
Instead, District Judge Vicky Johnson scheduled a July 28 hearing on
Schroeder's motion.

"Our society can no longer kill to show that killing is wrong," the motion
stated.

Schroeder has been serving a life sentence for murder but now also faces a
potential death sentence for allegedly choking cellmate Terry Berry Jr. to
death in April at the Tecumseh State Prison.

Lancaster said the state's death penalty is racially and geographically
discriminatory. He alleged that of the 9 men sent to death row in Nebraska
since 2002, only one was white. The rest were black or Hispanic.

Nebraska's capital punishment law was repealed in 2015 but recently reinstated
by voters. In an effort to create a viable death penalty procedure in the wake
of that vote, the Nebraska Department of Correctional Services changed the
lethal injection protocol earlier this year.

Under the former protocol, inmates on death row were given lethal injections of
3 substances in a specific order. The new protocol gives the prisons director
more authority in deciding the types and quantities of drugs to be used.

Lancaster said the decision to seek the death penalty is arbitrary because it's
left to individual county attorneys.

"The decision to file aggravating circumstances can be affected by the legal
experience of the prosecutor, the size and resources of the particular county,
any prejudice or bias of the prosecutor, the political ambition of the
prosecutor or other political circumstances," the motion stated.

(source: Associated Press)






IDAHO:

When I witnessed death by appointment


TV kliegs lit up live shots in one corner of the parking lot, where protesters
prayed, preached and crowded onto the scene. Midnight, January 5, 1994, was
coming fast.

I rushed to clear the first gate and head down the empty, well-lit walkway past
B Block, a close supervision wing at the Idaho State Penitentiary. Prisoners
screamed and banged on the steel security panels over their windows, and 1
voice howled. "You're going to see him die every night the rest of your life!"

Inside, I lined up with other reporters in the press pool to cover the
execution of Keith Wells. The 31-year-old had beaten barmaid Brandi Rains and
her friend John Justad to death with a baseball bat in 1990 while robbing the
Rose Bar in Boise. Wells pleaded innocent at trial, was convicted and, a month
before the execution, called a newspaper to confess. He ordered his attorneys
to stop fighting the execution, and the state granted his wish to die. America
continues to grapple with the death penalty, most recently the controversy over
Arkansas' trying to rush the executions of eight prisoners because the state's
supply of a lethal injection drug was expiring.

As someone who has served as an official witness to an execution, the death
penalty is no abstraction, but it's also no horror. My response, or lack
thereof, makes me suspect we lack the moral acumen to carry out the death
penalty.

The witness lottery

There is no smaller talk than the mumblings of reporters waiting to be picked
to witness an execution. We shuffle around on the buffed linoleum floor of the
family visitation room where a few plastic chairs are unstacked for us.

But when the predator has already struck, what is gained by methodical state
extermination?

Our guide, a Department of Correction staffer, reviews the rules: Four
reporters will join the families, lawyers and state officials in the death
chamber. When Wells is dead, the lottery winners will come back to the
cafeteria to conduct a press conference before filing their own stories.

Idaho hadn't executed anyone in 36 years, so the process and protocol are new
to everyone there.

The first name is drawn.

"Yessss!" anchorman Bob Holland pumps his fist. Big ratings for KTVB, the local
NBC affiliate, tonight. But as I'm sneering at his unseemly display, I am
leaning forward, listening intently to see if the next name is mine.

On choosing to bear witness

I'm here to watch because I can, not because my editor insisted. I told myself
I volunteered because I think attorneys and trial courts are fallible, while
death is permanent. Also, it seemed, and still does, that if the state is going
to kill killers, the public has an obligation to test its commitment to the law
by personally observing and absorbing the moral impact: Do we like the reality
as much as we like the theory?

It ought to be televised, I've said, playing devil's advocate with
true-believer friends. Shut off all other programs and make everyone watch, I
argued.

This drama of ethics, orchestrated by Wells and celebrated by hardline crime
fighters, had begun to confirm my most comfortable prejudice: that we all lack
the seriousness to make defensible life-and-death decisions in noncombat
situations. It's one thing to see a threat and save a life by taking the life
of an attacker. That's instinctual. But when the predator has already struck,
what is gained by methodical state extermination?

In the industrialized world, only the United States, Japan, Singapore and
Taiwan still execute criminals. The rest of the First World is retreating from
it, according to data compiled by Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch.

I also told myself I was there to bear witness just like Nellie Bly, who
secretly took notes while guards abused women in the insane asylum where she
went undercover in the 1880s as a patient. I'll be no different than Eddie
Adams, I thought, who got the photo by not grabbing Gen. Nguyen Ng?c Loan's gun
arm as he shot an un-tried Viet Cong prisoner, Nguyen Van Lem, in the streets
of Saigon in 1968.

My job is to help voters test their commitment to the death penalty by
witnessing Idaho's 1st execution in several decades. I can only do that if I
watch and write about this execution.

"Bill Scott" the prison staffer reads from a lottery slip. Scott is a serious
journalist. He covered the Kent State shootings by National Guardsmen and is a
fixture around the Statehouse. Without a word or even a change of expression,
the bespectacled radio man unslings his portable tape recorder and joins AP
correspondent Bob Fick, who has an automatic seat by virtue of The Associated
Press' service to newsrooms worldwide.

Fick, whose name we say is just a typo of his favorite word, isn't smiling,
either. The chain-smoking Missouri Mule is not a fashionable cynic, but the
real thing: a disappointed idealist.

I could withdraw with full confidence in the seriousness and competence of the
press witnesses. But I don't.

Elsewhere in the prison, Keith Wells eats his last meal, we're told. Another
tic on the to-do list death house staff have developed.

"Dean Miller."

I the witness

Learning from Holland's too-honest fist-pump, I play it cool and try not to
show the thrill. This is big. This will set me apart as one of a tiny handful
of reporters who knew the moment someone was to die and set about to watch it
happen. So, the first thing I witness is that even a self-righteous snob like
me can lose clarity about the seriousness of an execution. I'm not thinking
about morality or the first draft of history, the rule of law or justice for
the victims or punishment of the killer. I'm thinking about my career.

Our guide reviews the ground rules and leads us out.

Behind the prison, we crunch across the gravel prison yard under searchlights
to the kind of cheap trailer often parked around overcrowded schools. Plastic
chairs are arranged in two rows in front of a picture window in the wall that
bisects the trailer. Bright fluorescent light leaks through the cracks in the
vertical shades. A deputy Idaho attorney general waits by a phone in case of a
last-minute pardon.

No bleeding heart, County Prosecutor Greg Bower chomps his gum like a coach at
the tip-off. The coroner, a funeral director named Erwin Sonnenburg, is
red-faced and sweaty in the front row. He'll have to touch the guy when it's
over.

He's dressed well for this big moment, as am I, in a blue shirt and red tie,
the uniform TV producers tell us to wear for the best on-camera look.

One of Wells' lawyers, whom the murderer ordered not to file appeals, stands
around, just in case. This loss won't go on his record, but it's all over his
face, which is gray with something that looks like fear.

When it's over, I'll tell my colleagues what time everything happened. What it
looked like. I won't say what strikes me most: that it is as sterile as
closed-circuit TV. And just as unreal, except Wells isn't acting and we're
doing more than just watching. We're participants.

At 12:40 a.m. a shadow moves, and then the vertical blinds snap open. It's like
a large-screen TV has been turned on, showing a doughy young man strapped down
to a gurney in jeans and a short-sleeve chambray shirt, feet to the witnesses'
left, head to the right. He had lain there for more than a half hour while the
9th US Circuit Court of Appeals and US Supreme Court rejected last-minute
appeals filed by death penalty opponents.

Now Wells turns his head toward the window and smiles, appearing to make eye
contact with Amil Myshin and Gus Cahill, the attorneys he ordered to drop
appeals. He attempts a thumbs-up gesture with his left hand. The IV tubes run
from his arm to a screen, behind which 3 anonymous workers wait to push the
buttons. There are always more volunteers than are needed, we have learned.

The mechanism will randomly select which of their buttons deliver the lethal
combination. It's a device designed by a non-doctor, who is not bound by the
Hippocratic Oath.

Bower's gum is still cracking. At the time, I thought he could see himself in
the big time among prosecutors. Not many have sat in the death house, and he
seemed to be making sure he remembered it all. It's the kind of story that
needs to be told well.

Maximum Security Warden Arvon Arave stands at the foot of the injection table
and reads the death warrant. His voice, coming to us via a low-fidelity
intercom in the death chamber, sounds distant and scratchy, though he stands
less than 10 feet away.

Wells stares at the ceiling and declines to say anything when asked if he has
any last words.

About then, the spare liturgy of my Congregationalist childhood comes to me.
"He promises to all who trust him forgiveness of sins and fullness of grace,
courage in the struggle for justice and peace..." How is it that I sit there as
indifferent as I would be while waiting for the state senate to tally votes on
the turn signal exemption for wheat combines?

"Thou shalt not kill," tolls in my head. What was I thinking all those years
when I solemnly assented to the Ten Commandments, or sang "We shall live in
peace..." with the easy virtue of a safe church pew? Did I think I'd never be
tested when I raised my right hand to swear that as a Boy Scout I would
"...help other people at all times ... keep myself morally straight."

They're killing a man right in front of me, and all I'm going to do is watch,
and on purpose? I know the law of self-defense protects those who kill to
rescue others from harm. Doesn't that mean there's a concomitant obligation to
defend those in harm's way? I sit there, taking notes instead of taking action.

Someone tells us the dose has been administered.

And I don't observe in humans the moral muscle or judicial skill to appreciate
the seriousness of the act of killing. Wells' eyes blink three times and then
close. His chest rises once, as if he were taking a deep breath. The hand and
spiderweb-tattooed arm closest to us seems to clench and relax. Then, nothing.

It's like he fell asleep.

No jerks, twitches or shouts. It's hard for me to tell if he has stopped
breathing. The window into the death chamber is like a frozen TV picture, with
the frame focusing attention on the last image.

I had braced for worse. Sometimes the drugs don't work correctly, and the
spasms and death throes give rise to the cruelty argument against lethal
injection. But that didn't happen, and I feel less emotion than I do at the
death of a favorite character in a novel.

The coroner gets up and, by doing so, kind of changes the channel, waking us
up. He is let in the door through the wall, goes to Wells and peels back an
eyelid to check the pupil. Then he uses a stethoscope to listen for a pulse. He
declares the time of death, signs the death certificate and stands by as a
witness signs. It had taken 9 minutes to kill Wells. It had taken hours for his
bludgeoned victims to die.

All of which I scribble into a notebook. We, the journalists, shuffle out,
raising our eyebrows at people we know, searching the eyes of the prosecutor,
attorney general and defense attorney for doubt or any sign of impact. Nothing.
People grieve harder when Boise State's football teams loses.

We are marched back through the labyrinth to the room usually reserved for
prisoners hugging their wives and children. The TV lights click on, we
straighten our ties and conduct a news conference, an odd reversal of our
typical roles, taking turns reading from our notes, making observations and
answering the pack's questions.

'Most people don't have to watch'

It was my 33rd birthday, so a reporter friend took me out for breakfast at a
truck stop on the way home from the state penitentiary. Over bacon and eggs, we
talked about my experience watching an execution, but there was no cathartic
release at the end of it. And that struck me as wrong.

Driving home, I thought that one day the execution of Keith Wells might come
up, and one of my as-yet unborn children would be surprised to learn that I
volunteered to watch. What, I wondered, would they think of me?

Today, my daughter is 20, my son 16, and while we've talked about the Wells
execution, they seem to see it as just one of those things a journalist does,
like friends of ours who cover war and revolution overseas.

But when I look back on that night, what I find most disturbing of all is that
those prisoners, who cursed at us as we filed in to witness and report on the
execution, were wrong. I have never dreamed of Wells' death, even as I've been
writing and revising this piece.

And I don't observe in humans the moral muscle or judicial skill to appreciate
the seriousness of the act of killing. Perhaps that is why there has not been
the political will to bring the United States into line with the rest of the
First World, where the death penalty has been all but eliminated: Most people
don't have to watch, and even those who do are often unmoved -- like me.

Do we hold life sacred? I don't think so.

(source: Dean Miller is a career journalist, former director of the Stony Brook
University Center for News Literacy and currently at work on several
manuscripts, including a citizen's guide to finding reliable news. The views
expressed in this commentary are his own---CNN)






ARIZONA:

Judge Accepts Sweeping Reforms of Arizona Death Penalty Protocols


A U.S. judge accepted on Thursday major revisions to Arizona's death penalty
procedures, such as eliminating paralytic drugs in lethal injections and giving
witnesses more access to watch prisoners inside the death chamber, a lawyer for
the death row inmates said.

The changes were part of a settlement reached in a 2014 lawsuit brought by
seven death row inmates who argued Arizona's lethal injection practices were
experimental, secretive and caused inmates prolonged suffering.

On Thursday, U.S. District Judge Neil Wake in Phoenix signed an order that in
effect authorized a deal reached between the state and the lawyers for death
row inmates, according to Dale Baich, a lawyer for the death row litigants.

The agreement was announced last week in federal court in Phoenix.

The deal marked the 1st time a state had agreed to such major changes in its
drug protocol and execution procedures because of prisoners' complaints, Baich
said.

Representatives for Arizona's attorney general and Department of Corrections
did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Lawyers for the inmates called on the state to drop the use of paralytic agents
used to halt breathing, arguing the chemicals hid signs of consciousness and
suffering during executions.

The state also agreed to limit the authority of the director of the department
of corrections to change execution drugs, and allow a prisoner time to
challenge any drug changes, Baich said.

States have been scrambling to find chemicals for lethal injection mixes after
U.S. and European pharmaceutical makers placed a sales ban in recent years on
drugs for executions because of ethical concerns.

In December, Arizona also agreed in the same case to stop using the valium-like
sedative midazolam, or related products.

Midazolam has been used in troubled executions in Arizona, Alabama, Ohio and
Oklahoma. In some instances, witnesses said convicted murderers twisted on
gurneys before dying.

It also was used along with a narcotic in Arizona's last execution - that of
murderer Joseph Wood in 2014. Wood was seen gasping for air during a nearly
two-hour procedure in which he received 15 rounds of drug injections. Lethal
injections typically result in death in a matter of minutes.

Arizona also agreed under the settlement to allow greater transparency by
letting witnesses view more of the execution process, including the moment the
executioner administers the drugs intravenously, Baich said.

(source: Reuters)






CALIFORNIA:

Civilized, Constitution-loving Californians will continue capital punishment
fight


The biggest lie about Proposition ("Prop") 66, California's poorly drafted new
death penalty law - only missing another "6" in numbering to be properly
identified as the devil???s spawn - is speed.

Pro-death penalty zealots, special interest groups, and prosecutors hell-bent
on political gain - including a prosecutor accused of lying under oath during a
murder prosecution, another profiled by the BBC because of his infatuation with
the death penalty, and of course, Mark Peterson, the Contra Costa district
attorney forced to resign this month after pleading no contest to felony
perjury - promised voters that under Prop 66, death row inmates would have just
5 years to appeal their convictions.

"Hogwash," I wrote, and still maintain; "Prop 66 won't fool Californians."
Because, as many of our regretful, "woke" citizens are realizing post-election,
unlike carpenter James Wilson Marshall's historic discovery of gold at the base
of the Sierra Nevada Mountains in 1848, Prop 66's promised turbo-charging of
California's machinery of death is 24 carat "fool's gold."

But this is not strictly an "I told you so" column despite the fact that
several judges on California's highest court recently indicated that they too
believe Prop 66 usurps the judiciary's authority to decide the complex, life
and death issues at stake in death penalty litigation. And there's no need to
rehash the indisputable truth that: there are not enough willing and qualified
death penalty lawyers in California - and they don't grow on trees; Prop 66,
and the death penalty generally, exact a horribly inhumane and unjust toll on
the children of the condemned; Prop 66's death penalty deterrence argument is
pure shibboleth; unacceptable racial bias persists in capital punishment as
illustrated by the environmental disaster in Flint, Michigan; Prop 62, the
opposing ballot initiative that would have ended capital punishment forever in
our state, appeals to the better nature of our angels and could have marked the
progress of a maturing society for conscientious Californians; or, finally,
that California could have tipped the balance in the national debate on the
death penalty.

Instead, this column affirms that despite last fall's bamboozled vote approving
Prop 66 by the barest margin, on human rights, California is still better than
Japan, Thailand, Taiwan, Singapore, and Texas! We understand executions are
hardly an exact science. That's a major reason they've been stalled so long in
the Golden State. And it's also why, in addition to the substantive legal
challenges jeopardizing Prop 66, they're not slated to start again anytime
soon.

Californians simply aren't quick to torture citizens to death and cover it up -
like in North Korea or in other parts of the United States even. Yup, that's
right, I'm talking about you Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Arizona, and you
abominable others too (as alluded to above, when it comes to the death penalty,
as with mostly everything else, "don't mess with Texas!").

Civilized, peaceful, fiscally savvy, state and federal constitution-loving
Californians know we can't afford 18 executions all at once, which is, at a
minimum, the number of inmates out of appeals and immediately eligible to be
put to death. Californians don't want our courts paralyzed and rendered
completely dysfunctional due to Prop 66 and the emotionally draining, morally
bankrupt, money-sucking demands necessitated by the death penalty. Rather, we
need every scarce resource available to fund the entirety of California's
justice system - civil, criminal, administrative, etcetera - not to mention our
state government, our health care system, our school system, and many other
things affecting large swaths of the population.

In fact, here in California, we need every penny of the millions of dollars we
routinely chuck out chasing lethal vengeance. We need that money, manpower, and
precious moral credibility that is lost through state-sanctioned murder. We
need it to invest in our children, our fragile economy, and our threatened
environment.

It's long past time we ended capital punishment in California. We should have
done it on November 8, but we can't give up the fight. For as the incomparable
civil rights leader, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., counseled, "the time is
always right to do what is right."

(source: Los Angeles Post-Examiner)






USA:

It's time to put death penalty to rest in U.S.----1 innocent executed is 1 too
many - and that's just 1 reason to abolish capital punishment.


Now that the Florida Supreme Court has ruled that juries must vote unanimously
for the death penalty in order to validate a sentence, we can anticipate many
new appeals and/or commutations of sentences for over 200 death row inmates to
whom this will apply. Such appeals, or new trials, would be an extreme cost to
the taxpayer.

Thus, we re-examine the death penalty once more. As a 30-year career cop and
former Miami-Dade homicide detective, I've seen the worst of criminal behavior.
I'm no bleeding heart.

I propose 10 valid reasons why capital punishment should be abolished, not only
in Florida, but throughout the entire nation.

Too many risks of executing the innocent: In Brevard County, we've been witness
to at least three life terms in which human beings have wrongfully served 27
years, 22 years and 4 years as innocent men. Had they been given a death
sentence, two would probably be dead by now at the hands of an imperfect
justice system.

A recent Newsweek study has determined that 4 percent of death row inmates are
most probably innocent. Since 1973, 144 convicts nationwide have been
exonerated as innocent. One innocent executed is one too many.

Costs: Numerous studies have been conducted which clearly show that maintaining
the death penalty consumes at least double, or triple, the cost of imposing
life sentences.

No deterrent: Many more studies have determined that the death penalty does not
deter violent crime.

Violates the Eighth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution: Death row inmates in
Florida are confined to solitary confinement in a concrete and steel cell, 24
hours a day, with no A/C and no social interaction. Of the 13 executed in the
U.S. thus far in 2017, 8 rotted on death row for more than 20 years and then
were executed. Gary Alvord, age 66, died of natural causes on death row, where
he spent almost 40 years. It's serving a life sentence plus a death sentence.

Economic inequities: Some court-appointed attorneys have been known to be over
the hill, less than enthusiastic and/or do not have the resources
(investigations) to present a 1st-class defense. In contrast, consider a
defendant like O.J. Simpson, or others steeped in wealth, who can hire the
Dream Team. It's simply unfair.

Barbarism: The U.S. is seventh-highest in executions in the world, among such
company as Iran, China, Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Pakistan. All countries in the
Americas have banned executions, except Guyana, Barbados and Trinidad.
Worldwide, 141 countries have abandoned capital punishment. Among nations that
extol human rights, we have the worst record in executing people.

18 states have banned the death penalty: Of 32 states still on the books, only
5 have been active in carrying out executions, including Florida. California
has the largest death row population with 750 condemned inmates, but haven't
carried out an execution since 2006.

Execution by injection is not punishment: The real punishment is suffering
death row for 10 to 40 years. Eternal sleep is hardly punishment. That's how we
carry out "humane" acts for sick pets.

It can be argued that perpetuating capital punishment basically endorses state
sponsored murder: Regardless of jury verdicts which are occasionally wrong, we
cannot and should not be killing other human beings. Why? Because killing is
fundamentally wrong.

People change: Often, we are not executing the same person who committed the
crime. Consider the word of Napoleon Beazley, a 17-year-old Texas boy who
joined up with 2 hoods to rob and shoot a man for his car in 1994. At his
execution in May of 2002, Beazley was given an opportunity to speak his final
thoughts:

"The act I committed to put me here was not just heinous, it was senseless," he
said. "But the person that committed that act is no longer here - I am."

It's time.

(source: Commentary; Marshall Frank is a retired Miami-Dade police detective
and frequent contributor to FLORIDA TODAY)

************************

Evangelical leaders push for criminal justice reform


Evangelical Christian leaders are spearheading a campaign for criminal justice
reform, calling for equitable punishment, alternatives to incarceration and a
different take on the "tough on crime" language of the Trump administration.

"Our country's overreliance on incarceration fails to make us safer or to
restore people and communities who have been harmed," said James Ackerman, CEO
of Prison Fellowship Ministries, at a Tuesday (June 20) news conference at the
National Press Club.

Joined by black, white and Hispanic officials of evangelical organizations, he
introduced the "Justice Declaration" that has been signed by close to 100
religious leaders from a wide range of Christian denominations.

"The Church has both the unique ability and unparalleled capacity to confront
the staggering crisis of crime and incarceration in America," the declaration
reads, "and to respond with restorative solutions for communities, victims, and
individuals responsible for crime."

The leaders later presented their declaration to Republican leaders, such as
House Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley,
in hopes of gaining bipartisan support for changes in federal law.

In a May memorandum to federal prosecutors, Attorney General Jeff Sessions
established a stricter policy on charges and sentencing, saying they "should
charge and pursue the most serious readily provable offense," and consider
using mandatory minimum sentences.

Ackerman said Prison Fellowship supports sentencing guidelines but thinks
mandatory sentences are "a big mistake."

He was joined at the news conference by leaders with testimonies of how
churches helped formerly incarcerated people rehabilitate themselves and become
productive citizens.

Dimas Salaberrios, president of the Concerts of Prayer Greater New York, told
of how church members once vouched to a judge about his transformation after he
escaped from authorities when he was a drug dealer. The judge pardoned him.

"I'm living proof that when you grab somebody out of the pits of hell and you
turn their life around that they can be great contributors to society," he
said.

National Association of Evangelicals President Leith Anderson challenged
churches to do more than sign the declaration but also take action steps to
address racial inequities and work for alternatives such as drug courts and
mental health courts to keep people out of prison.

13 % of Americans are African-American but close to 40 % of U.S. prisoners are
black.

"What if all of our churches were to adopt one incarcerated person?" he asked.
"What if all of our churches would service one family where a family member is
incarcerated? What if all of our churches would care for one victim?"

The declaration, and a related 11-page paper on how the church can respond to
crime and incarceration, were spearheaded by evangelical organizations: Prison
Fellowship, the NAE, the Southern Baptist Convention's Ethics and Religious
Liberty Commission and the Colson Center for Christian Worldview.

But signatories on the declaration include a wider range of Christian leaders,
such as Episcopal Church Presiding Bishop Michael Curry, Bread for the World
President David Beckmann and Bishop Frank Dewane, who chairs the U.S.
Conference of Catholic Bishops' Committee on Domestic Justice and Human
Development.

Despite the unified voices, a new Barna Group poll commissioned by Prison
Fellowship found that 53 % of practicing Christians - Christians who have
attended a church service at least once in the past month and describe their
faith as very important - agree with the statement: "It's important to make an
example out of someone for certain crimes, even if it means giving them a more
severe punishment than their crime deserves."

Restorative justice proponents said the finding indicates they have more work
to do.

"We as a church are not recognizing that disproportional punishment - that is,
giving someone more than they deserve - is not consistent with our values and
certainly will not help us advance the hope of a restorative justice system we
all seek," said Ackerman.

(source: Religion News Service)

*************************

Our view: For Rodriguez, death is fitting


"An eye for an eye will make the whole world blind."

That quote is attributed to Mahatma Ghandi, an advocate of peace and human
rights. Ghandi, of course, led a movement that eventually helped his native
country of India gain independence from British rule.

So how would Ghandi feel about the saga of Alfonso Rodriguez, who continually
fights for his life in a federal prison? We suppose Ghandi would plead for
Rodriguez to live.

We believe Rodriguez should die, as determined by a federal judge following his
2006 trial for the death of UND student Dru Sjodin.

Sjodin was abducted at Columbia Mall in November 2003; her body was found near
Crookston the following spring. She died a tragic, horrifying death. According
to authorities, she was raped, stabbed and asphyxiated.

Evidence against Rodriguez was strong. He also had a history of violence, and
had been recently released from prison for crimes including rape and attempted
kidnapping. He showed no remorse.

Neither Minnesota nor North Dakota has the death penalty, but Rodriguez was
eligible for federal capital punishment because he took Sjodin across state
lines. He still awaits execution, but - like so many on death row - he is
temporarily spared via appeals. At present, a lawyer for Rodriguez is arguing
in court that evidence presented at his 2006 trial inappropriately influenced
the jury and led to the death sentence.

Each time his name surfaces, it spurs discussion about the death penalty.

We agree with the death penalty for those convicted of the most heinous and
dastardly crimes, although we know it comes with controversy.

The United States is among a shrinking number of countries with capital
punishment. Countries politically and socially close to the U.S. - Canada and
Great Britain, for instance - have abolished the death penalty, perhaps because
many see the practice as uncivilized. The American Civil Liberties Union calls
it a "brutal institution" and says it is applied in an "unfair and unjust
manner against people largely dependent on much money they have, the skill of
their attorneys, the race of the victim and where the crime took place."

But what about the terrible cases? What about Rodriguez, who brutally murdered
that young girl and who had a past of violent crime? Meanwhile, his
incarceration - complete with full health care and repeated appeals - is costly
to taxpayers.

What about maintenance of moral order?

And what about the Sjodin family?

Maybe the death sentence will someday be banned in the U.S., but for now, it's
a legal alternative for degenerates like Rodriguez. It should continue, but
only for those who most deserve it and in cases that absolutely are proven.

That's the case with Rodriguez. A long prison sentence paid by taxpayers
doesn't do justice for what he did.

With deference to Ghandi, we ask: What good comes from keeping Rodriguez alive?

(source: Editorial, Grand Forks Herald)

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