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Cruel and Unusual: The Supreme Court and Capital Punishment Michael Meltsner--The nine-year struggle by a band of lawyers to abolish the death penalty in the US in the early 1960s. This is their history,: cases, arguments before courts, death row inmates, victims, judges and politicians from the inside.

Mr. Death: The Rise and Fall of Fred A. Leuchter, Jr. Director Errol Morris has never shied away from difficult subjects: The film begins as Fred Leuchter talks about his career as a designer of execution equipment. The son of a prison guard, Leuchter found himself in the execution game when, as an electrical engineer, he offered his services to help fix the electric chair used in North Carolina. His motivation? Humanitarian; previously the device in place would torture the prisoner before killing him.

Dead Man Walking: An Eyewitness Account of the Death Penalty in the United States --Sister Helen Prejean's encounter with the death penalty in America. When she first writes to Patrick Sonnier, condemned killer of 2 teenagers. This Roman Catholic nun grows to know Sonnier. The terrified repentant killer living in inhumane conditions with anguish during the countdown to execution. She sees the struggles of public officials: governor, wardens, and guards - who carry out the killings.





Justice & Injustice


Mental Illness


Murder Victims Families for Reconciliation -- Break the cycle of violence. To those who say a life for a life, we say: "not in our name." - Marie Deans, founder of Murder Victims Families for Reconciliation.

Wrongfully convicted of murder, they spent years on death row;

  • DNA evidence freed Ray Krone after 10 years in prison, (four on Arizona's death row).
  • Without any physical evidence, Gary Gauger was sentenced to death.
  • Ronald Keine, was 10 days away from the New Mexico death chamber when another man's confession got him a new trial.
  • Dennis Williams lived on death row 25 feet away from the electric chair. If not for DNA testing he would be dead.
  • Kirk Bloodsworth was released from death row after being wrongfully accused, convicted and sentenced to death.
  • In 1993, Gary Gauger who lived on the family farm and worked for his father, found his father in a pool of blood. He became a double homicide suspect .when police discovered his mother's body,
  • After 14 years on Florida's death row, Frank Lee Smith was cleared of the rape and murder of 8-year-old Shandra Whitehead, a result of DNA technology unavailable when he was convicted. He died of cancer in prison ten months before his conviction was overturned,
  • Kevin Cooper, 46, a convicted killer on California's death row for over 20 years, won a stay of execution, hours before he was to be executed. The 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals granted a request for an 11-judge panel to rehear Cooper's case.
  • Caryl Chessman, 27, Folsom Prison parolee, spent most his adult life in prison. In January 1948, arrested as the Red-Light Bandit. who approached parked victims in isolated areas, flashed a police light, rob and sexually assault victims. An innocent man was murdered in California's gas chamber. Caryl Chessman was expunged from history.

In 1972, the US Supreme Court ruled state executions unconstitutional. Legislators lifted the moratorium on capital punishment in 1976. The US has the distinction of joining China, Iraq, Iran, and Saudi Arabia as nations that execute their citizens. Michigan, Wisconsin, Maine, Minnesota, North Dakota, Hawaii, Alaska, Iowa, West Virginia, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Vermont and the District of Columbia prohibit executions. In the US, most executions are in the south, usually Texas. Since 2000, death sentences have declined 60% in the US and executions have too. Yet more than 3,300 people, live on death row but only two percent will be executed. DPIC

The Innocence Project founded in 1992 by Barry C. Scheck and Peter J. Neufeld to assist prisoners who could be proven innocent through DNA testing. To date, 280 people in the US have been exonerated by DNA testing They served an average of 13 years before exoneration and release.

138 people on death row have been exonerated since 1973 DPIC

We are not able to guarantee that no innocent person will be executed!

Innocent people executed in America--Some police and prosecutors suppress evidence; public defenders are often incompetent and overworked and the appeals process is increasingly difficult.

Introduction to the Death Penalty -- The Death Penalty Information Center provides analysis and information on capital punishment.

History of the Death Penalty -- The first recorded death sentence was in 16th Century BC Egypt. A member of nobility, was accused of magic, and ordered to take his own life. Non nobility were usually killed with an ax. In18th century BC, the Code of King Hammurabi of Babylon allowed the death penalty for 25 crimes, but not murder. Legal executions came to America in 1776 when British soldiers hung Nathan Hale for spying during the Revolutionary War.August 6, 1890, an ax murderer, William Kemmler of New York became the first person to die in the electric chair.

In the last decade, more than 30 countries abolished the death penalty in law or practice. Fifty-eight countries retain the death penalty for ordinary crimes but fewer than half carried out executions in 2010. Amnesty International.

Death Penalty Facts:

The death penalty is not a crime deterrent: A recent study in the Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology reported 88% of the top criminologists do not believe the death penalty is a deterrent to homicide and (87%) felt abolition would have no significant effect on murder rates. Fifty-seven percent (57%) of police chiefs believe perpetrators rarely consider consequences when engaged in violence. Countries and States without death penalties have lower crime rates and fewer murders than those that use it. States Without the Death Penalty Have Lower Murder Rates --Death and Deterrence Redux: Science, Law and Causal Reasoning on Capital Punishment

The death penalty is arbitrarily carried out: Due to geography (region, state or country),juror bias, race, gender, legal representation, and socioeconomic standing of the victim and defendant. Capital punishment is applied to a higher percentage of minorities than whites. Nationally, 50% of murder victims are white, in cases resulting in an execution more than 75% of the victims were white. Approximately 2% of known murderers receive the death penalty. Thurgood Marshall said it was racist, unfair to poor and the mentally retarded and often ends in the state sanctioned murder of innocents. Texas has continued to send mentally retarded criminals to death row. Will a Mexican immigrant's case correct this injustice? Who Will Die?: A computer program predicts with 92% accuracy which death row inmates will be executed. Education level is a greater factor than race or crime severity.

Supreme Court Bans Juvenile Death Penalty (Requires Free Registration to Psychiatric Times)

Mentally Retarded Defendants executed in the US since death penalty reinstated in 1976. The Executioner's I.Q. -- In ruling it unconstitutional to execute the retarded, the Supreme Court added an arbitrariness to the system.

The death penalty is not cost effective: The death penalty comes at a great cost. Californians and federal taxpayers pay more than $250 million per execution. In California, the cost of confining one death row inmate is $90,000 per year more than in a maximum-security prison. Maryland spent $186 million on five executions over 27 years. In Maryland, 106 death penalty cases cost the state $71 million. Florida spends $51 million per year on the death penalty or $24 million for each execution.New York and New Jersey spent over $100 million on death penalty cases without one execution. Georgia death penalty case defense costs are over $2 million. The average defense cost for a federal capital case is $620,932; 8 times that of a non-capital murder case. In Kansas, the trial costs for death cases were16 times greater than for non-death cases ($508,000 for death case; $32,000 for non-death case). New Mexico abolished the death penalty in 2009 due to costs. Between 1973 - 1995, 68% of the death penalty convictions were reversed. DPIC States spending millions on the death penalty suffer a lack of funds for safety and justice. Courts are cutting hours, trials are delayed, and police are furloughed. Philadelphia is leaving 200 police positions unfilled. Police in Atlanta had a 10% pay cut through a furlough as they experienced a crime increase. In New Hampshire, criminal and civil jury trials were suspended for a month, in one county, 77 criminal trials were delayed for up to six months. In 2010, executions dropped by 12% compared with 2009, and more than 50% since 1999.  New death sentences was about the same as in 2009, the lowest number in 34 years.DPIC Smart on Crime: Reconsidering the Death Penalty in a Time of Economic Crisis National Poll of Police Chiefs Puts Capital Punishment at Bottom of Law Enforcement Priorities
Death Penalty Information Center

The Execution Tapes -- An hour-long public radio special by Ray Suarez featuring recordings made in Georgia's death house during electrocutions. In addition to the1984 execution of Ivon Ray Stanley, is an execution that was "reinitiated" -- the inmate is still alive after being electrocuted for two minutes, requiring electrocuted again. Death Trip: The American Way of Execution -- Michael Radelet, an authority on capital punishment, has compiled a list of thirty-two botched executions since 1982.

The Psychology of Suicide-Murder and the Death Penalty -- Profiles 22 US murderers who kill in hopes of being executed. The Yates case was a misuse of the death penalty: prosecutors used the death penalty to advance their own careers instead of sending to her to a mental institution where she belonged..See Crime and Mental Illness

Inmates' final statements.

Angel On Death Row -- An examination of the death penalty debate with a profile of the work of Sister Helen Prejean.

Opinion Polls on the Death Penalty

Why does a state insist on maintaining a capital punishment statute it refuses to enforce?

The Execution traces the life, crimes and execution of self-confessed death row murderer, Clifford Boggess, that led up to his Texas execution in 1998.

The 1960 execution of Caryl Chessman. Known as the Red Light Bandit, Chessman allegedly stalked lovers' lanes in Los Angeles. Convicted of rape and kidnapping, he was sentenced to death in 1948. In prison he gained notoriety as a writer, beginning with his autobiographical Cell 2455 Death Row (1954). Chessman presented himself as an innocent man -- rehabilitated from his prior life of crime. Chessman convinced thousands of Californians to Support him, but Governor Edmund G. (Pat) Brown, who opposed the death penalty, allowed the execution to go forward.

. The Controversial Case of Stanley Tookie Williams cofounder of the Crips.

Dead Man Walking-- Sister Helen Prejean, a little-known Roman Catholic nun from Louisiana , challenged the way we look at the death penalty in America.

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Olympia, WA 98507

Copyright Kari Sable 1994-2011

Of Prison, Perversions and Executions: BEHIND THE WIRE: An Inside Look at the prison system from one who lived it by Richard K. Minard --Gives a behind the scene look at the workings of a maximum security prison. Executions are carried out flawlessly, most of the time. Brutal inmate rape happens even on Christmas. Families cry out for justice during executions only to be shocked that it just wasn't enough.

The Ethics of Capital Punishment (At Issue Series) by Nick Fisanick

The Hanging of Ephraim Wheeler: A Story of Rape, Incest, and Justice in Early America by Irene Quenzler Brown, Richard D. Brown -- In 1806 an anxious crowd of thousands descended upon Lenox, Massachusetts, for the public hanging of Ephraim Wheeler, condemned for the rape of his daughter, Betsy, 13. No one had been executed for rape in Massachusetts in more than a quarter century.

Death Row Women --Approximately 3,000 men are waiting to die in prisons across America. But 50 women were too. They talk of their crimes, life in prison, and sorrow over not being able to see their children.Velma Barfield.is one of the few women put to death..

Beyond Repair?: America's Death Penalty by Stephen P. Garvey
Can the death penalty be administered without executing the innocent, without regard to race, and without arbitrariness?

Machinery of Death: The Reality of America's Death Penalty Regime
by David Dow, Mark Dow, Christopher Hitchens
No one, no matter how much they're paid, likes to be involved with death itself. Death penalty lawyer David R. Dow and writer Mark Dow bring together diverse views from lawyers, wardens, victims' families, executioners and inmates to show how America's death penalty system work.


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