Thursday, 20 October 2011

Memorial March for Troy Davis - Edinburgh - Friday 21st Oct

Hello friends. I apologise again for my recent lack of activity. Bear with me. I recently started university and, as you can imagine, it's made a significant impact on my life.

I just got wind that Edinburgh University's Amnesty International Society is holding a memorial march for Troy Davis this Friday (October 21st). They are meeting at West Parliament Square (opposite St. Giles Cathedral) at 4 pm. I plan to be there, and if anyone's in the area, I'm sure you'd be more than welcome to attend.
If I can, I'll get some pictures.

Thursday, 22 September 2011

Texas Executes Lawrence Brewer

Lawrence Russell Brewer, 44, was executed last night in Texas for the hate crime murder of James Byrd Jr., in 1998.

Brewer, a white supremacist gang member, chained Byrd, a black man, to the back of a pickup truck and pulled him along a bumpy asphalt road to his death. 

When asked if he had any final words, Brewer replied: "No. I have no final statement." He was pronounced dead at 6:21pm. 

Alongside Brewer, John William King was also sent to death row. His conviction and death sentence are still under appeal. Shawn Berry was also convicted for the crime, and was sentenced to life in prison.

Georgia Executes Troy Davis

Last night, Troy Davis, 42, was executed in Georgia by lethal injection for the murder of a Savannah police officer 22 years ago.

Davis' execution was delayed by several hours when the Supreme Court reviewed but then declined to act on a petition for a stay of execution from his lawyers.

Davis, who has always claimed his innocence, was led into the death chamber shortly before 11pm. He was pronounced dead at 11:08. In his final statement, Davis told the family of the victim that they had the wrong man, saying:
"I did not kill your son, father, brother. All I can ask is that you look deeper into this case so you really can finally see the truth."
He also told his supporters and family to "keep the faith" and asked God to bless, and have mercy on, the souls of the prison personnel.

Wednesday, 21 September 2011

Troy Davis scheduled for execution tonight - take action!

Troy Davis, who is potentially innocent (see earlier posts for details) is scheduled to be executed in Georgia tonight. I wish I'd done more campaigning about this earlier but it's my first week at university and I'm a little overwhelmed. For what it's worth - every little helps, after all - you can sign a petition here asking for the execution to be stopped. You can sign it even if you're outside the US like me (click 'not in USA' in the 'state' section).

Fingers crossed. My prayers are with Davis tonight.

p.s. If you want to comment, please do so respectfully. This is a human life we're talking about, no matter what value you put on that. I'm sick of disrespectful comments. If you have something bad to say, say it somewhere else. 

- SM 

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

TX: Hank Skinner's Execution Scheduled for the 4th time

A new execution date of November 9th has been set for Texas death row inmate Henry 'Hank' Skinner. This is the 4th time that Skinner has been scheduled for execution, but still some DNA tests (which he claims will prove his innocence) have not been carried out.

Skinner was sentenced to death for the 1993 murders of his girlfriend Twila Busby and her two sons. He maintains that he could not have committed the crimes because he was unconscious during the murders after taking alcohol and drugs (toxicology tests indicated this). For over ten years, prosecutors and state courts have refused to allow blood, fingernail scrapings, and hair found at the crime scene to be tested. However, a new state law that allows increased access to post-conviction DNA testing could help Skinner to have the evidence finally tested. The execution date will make this more difficult. Furthermore, a federal court ruling on whether prosecutors must turn over DNA evidence for testing is still being awaited, and Skinner's lawyers believe that the setting of an execution date is a tactic designed to make it tougher for the court to adequately weigh the matter. 

At Skinner's trial, the prosecution presented DNA evidence showing Skinner's blood at the scene. An ex-girlfriend also told jurors that he confessed to her (she later recanted her testimony by the way). However, other available DNA evidence, including a rape kit, biological material from under Twila Busby's fingernails, sweat from a man's jacket resembling one that another potential suspect often wore, a bloody towel, and knives, have never even been tested. 

I don't know if Skinner is innocent. But to even consider carrying out such an irreversible punishment as execution before all the evidence has been tested is unthinkable. Surely, if the state is so certain that Skinner is guilty, it won't hurt to double-check. All this shying away from untested evidence suggests to me that they're worried what the results might be. So, like in the Todd Willingham case, is this another instance of Texas sweeping the ugly truths about the death penalty under the rug - that capital punishment is so precious that anything which might show death row inmates to be innocent must be ignored?

If Skinner is guilty, the untested DNA evidence should only further prove this. But there is chance that they might prove Skinner to be innocent, and until we know which one it is, executing the man is another example of the death penalty gambling with innocent lives.

Sunday, 14 August 2011

TX Gov. Rick Perry to run for President

I'll say before I write this, because people will no doubt point it out, I am not a US citizen. I live in the UK. I don't know everything about US politics. Just thought I'd get that out of the way before I start.

Okay. So Texas's governor, Rick Perry, is running for president. Perry, a republican, said it was 'time to get America working again'. This coming from a man who has allowed the executions of 234 people during his term - a man who, when faced with the very strong possibility of having executed an innocent man (Todd Willingham), did not search for truth and justice, but instead abused his power by impeding the Texas Forensic Science Commission's investigation into the case. Is that the kind of man who should be president?
Maybe before he gets America working, he should get Texas working. Abolishing the death penalty would be a good start. As if he would. In the meantime, he could at least find out the truth about the Willingham case rather than sweeping it under the rug.

Also, if you're interested in the Todd Willingham case, you can sign a petition asking Perry to acknowledge that Willingham was wrongfully executed by clicking here and filling out the bit. I unfortunately can't sign it because I don't live in America.

Friday, 5 August 2011

The Death Penalty and the UK: Why we REALLY don't need to reinstate capital punishment.

As you may know, I live in Scotland in the United Kingdom, and as someone who very recently turned 18 and so must worry about adult-things, I'm aware that things in the UK aren't all that great at the moment, with regards to the economy and such. It seems only natural that, in a time when things aren't going too well, people decide to make it worse. Hence, it's time for the campaign to reinstate the death penalty in the UK to gain steam.

I always say that people are entitled to their opinions on this matter (a privilege death penalty supporters don't often like to allow me...) and so I'm not saying that people are bad for trying to reinstate it. However, in my experience, most arguments in support of the death penalty - especially those held by a lot of people in the UK, where we haven't used the death penalty for so long that people have forgotten why we got rid of it in the first place - are ill-informed and badly thought through. In my experience from classroom debates, I've found it astonishingly easy to win debates on the subject (whether the opposition admits it or not) because their arguments are rooted in vengeance and hate which, in my experience, are never very good reasons for doing anything, much less the taking of another human being's life.

In this post, I will briefly discuss the current campaign for the death penalty's reinstatement in the UK, and will state my reasons for thinking it it a terrible idea.

So, in a nutshell, the UK government, in a bid to win back the public's love and affection, which isn't going to happen (assuming it had it in the first place), has decided to make the public feel like they have more power over their government than they actually do. We are now able to petition parliament over the internet about subjects of our choice. As if they'd actually listen to what grubby little commoners like us have to say, but that's another matter entirely. If the subject of a petition gets over 100,000 supporters then it has to be considered by the House of Commons for debate. So of course, the age-old debate about the death penalty has been dragged out of it's supposedly nailed-down coffin and is back in the public eye.

History lesson: the death penalty was abolished for all crimes in the UK in 1998. The last execution took place in 1964. One of the main reasons for the abolition of the death penalty in the UK was growing concern over the possibility that innocent people could be executed, after a number of miscarriages of justice, including the case of Timothy Evans. Evans was executed in 1950 for the murders of his wife and daughter, which were committed by his neighbour, John Christie, who was later discovered to be a serial killer. Evans was pardoned in 1966, only 15 years too late.

The problem is, people have forgotten why we abolished the death penalty in the first place. They say time heals all wounds - the terrible consequences which can come hand in hand with the death penalty have left people's minds, and now all that remains is a rose-tinted memory of the 'good old days' when murderers ended up dangling from Albert Pierrepoint's rope.

Now, I'm not saying that the current justice system in the UK is perfect (far from it, in fact). But is going back to a system which we rejected for being dangerously flawed really the best way to fix the problem? That's like using a piece of faulty equipment which yesterday sliced your hand off because you haven't got any betters ideas on how to do the job without it. We abolished the death penalty for a reason, a good reason. So while our justice system is in need of a little reform, bringing back a system which clearly didn't work is a huge leap in the entirely wrong direction.

Luckily, as I've already mentioned, I doubt very much that the e-petition will be very successful when presented to the House of Commons (I've no doubt, however, that it will get it's 100,000 signatures). The trouble is, though, that this is just the beginning. When you lop one head off a Hydra, two more grow to replace it. This debate is no more over than the UK's other problems.

In the meantime, if you are a UK resident like me, you can sign an e-petition urging the UK not to reinstate the death penalty at:

Here is what the campaign has to say for itself, and I agree with every word:

A petition to call on the government to retain its position regards the abolition of the Death Penalty for all offences. That the British people note that only 58 nations currently use capital punishment, as opposed to 95 which have abolished it, further notes the un-retractable nature of such a sentence in incidents of miscarriages of Justice, further notes the death penalty does not reduce crime or act as a deterrent and in US states which practice capital punishment incidents of homicide are higher than US states which do not, further notes the higher cost of capital punishment compared to life imprisonment, believes that British Justice should not be in the same league as China, Iran, North Korea, Yemen, Saudi Arabia, Libya and Syria which do practice capital punishment on a routine basis and that the death penalty is the ultimate denial of human rights and an affront to the values of British Justice.