Presentation - The Death Penalty in Virginia & Catholic Teaching

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A presentation given at Marymount University's Catholic campus ministry program

A presentation given at Marymount University's Catholic campus ministry program

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  • 1. The Death Penalty in Virginia andCatholic Social Teaching February 18, 2013 Marymount University Arlington
  • 2. Historical Background on Virginia & the Death Penalty In 1892, after a white girl said she had been accosted by a black man wearing rubber boots, a mob grabbed the first black man they found with rubber boots on and hanged him near Wasena Bridge. The next year, Roanokes mayor called in the state militia to stop another mob from lynching a black man accused of assault. Eight died in the ensuing gunfire. The clashes continued until police handed Thomas Smith over to the rabble. Smith was proved innocent after his death.Horrors repeated in 1904, when a white woman and her daughter were brutallyattacked in their home by a black stranger. Whites believed black residents wereharboring the killer and went on rampages based on rumors, in one instance tyingan innocent black man to a telephone pole and lashing the screaming victim withelectric wires. The vitriol didnt subside until Henry Williams was arrested, convictedand executed by hanging in the Roanoke jail yard.
  • 3. Historical Background onVirginia & the Death Penalty Roanokes racial climate was typical in the South. "During this era, both lynchings and executions typically drew large crowds of spectators," said Ted DeLaney, associate professor of history at Washington and Lee University. "There were executions and lynchings in other parts of the South that drew crowds as large as 3,000. Sometimes public schools would close so children could be present." "Roanokes last public execution," Roanoke Times (June 14, 2007)
  • 4. Death Penalty States 33Alabama Louisiana Pennsylvania Arizona Maryland South CarolinaArkansas Mississippi South DakotaCalifornia Missouri TennesseeColorado Montana TexasDelaware Nebraska Utah Florida Nevada Virginia Georgia New Hampshire Washington Idaho North Carolina Wyoming Indiana Ohio Kansas Oklahoma U.S. GovernmentKentucky Oregon U.S. Military SOURCE: Death Penalty Information Center Fact Sheet [October 16, 2012]
  • 5. Death Penalty States (blue)
  • 6. Executions by State Since 1976 As of October 16, 2012Texas 487 Mississippi 21 Montana 3Virginia 109 Indiana 20 U.S. Government 3Oklahoma 100 Delaware 16 Idaho 3Florida 73 California 13 Oregon 2Missouri 68 Illinois 12 South Dakota 2Alabama 55 Nevada 12 New Mexico 1Georgia 52 Utah 7 Colorado 1Ohio 48 Tennessee 6 Wyoming 1North Carolina 43 Maryland 5 Connecticut 1South Carolina 43 Washington 5Arizona 33 Nebraska 3 TOTAL 1,309Louisiana 28 Pennsylvania 3Arkansas 27 Kentucky 3 SOURCE: Death Penalty Information Center Fact Sheet [October 16, 2012]
  • 7. States With Most Executions (red)
  • 8. Death Row Prisoners by State As of April 1, 2012California 724 South Carolina 56 Utah 9Florida 407 Mississippi 53 Washington 9Texas 308 Missouri 47 U.S. Military 6Pennsylvania 204 Arkansas 40 Maryland 5Alabama 200 Oregon 37 South Dakota 5N. Carolina 165 Kentucky 35 Colorado 4Ohio 150 Delaware 18 Montana 2Arizona 132 Idaho 14 New Mexico 2Georgia 100 Indiana 14 Wyoming 1Louisiana 90 Virginia 12 New Hampshire 1Tennessee 88 Nebraska 11Nevada 80 Connecticut 11 TOTAL 3,170U.S. Government 60 Kansas 10 SOURCE: Death Penalty Information Center Fact Sheet [October 16, 2012] using data from the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, Death Row USA (April 1, 2012).
  • 9. Complexity of the Death Penalty• U.S. Supreme Court outlawed capital punishment in 1972 (Furman v. Georgia) – Inconsistent application of the DP – Racial disparities in the DP• Revised state laws approved by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1976 (Gregg v. Georgia) – Implemented two stage trail process – Aggravating & mitigating factors
  • 10. Procedural Safeguards in DP Cases
  • 11. The Hebrew ScriptureWhoever takes the life of any human being shall be put to death;whoever takes the life of an animal shall make restitution of another animal. A life for a life! Anyone who inflicts an injury on his neighbor shall receive the same in return.Limb for limb, eye for eye, tooth for tooth! The same injury that a man gives another shall be inflicted on him in return. – Leviticus 24: 17-19
  • 12. The Hebrew ScriptureDespite the Law’s insistence on “blood for blood,” God allowed Cain to live after killing Abel and chose two killers to play prominent roles in salvation history: – Moses (Exodus 2:12) – David (2 Samuel 11: 14-15)
  • 13. The New TestamentThen the scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery and made her stand in the middle.They said to him, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the very act of committing adultery. Now in the law, Moses commanded us to stone such women. So what do you say?”They said this to test him, so that they could have some charge to bring against him. Jesus bent down and began to write on the ground with his finger.But when they continued asking him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let the one among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” – John 8: 3-9
  • 14. The New Testament When they came to the place called the Skull, they crucified him and the criminals there, one on his right, the other on his left. Then Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, they know not what they do.” –Luke 23: 33-34
  • 15. The New TestamentDespite Saul’s murderous persecution against the early Christians, God chose him to become the greatest evangelist in church history, St. Paul: – Acts 22: 20 – Acts 26: 9-11 – Acts 9: 1-19
  • 16. Church Teaching• 1972: Catholic Bishops of Florida express their opposition to the death penalty• 1976 : U.S. Catholic Conference declares its opposition to capital punishment• 1976: Pontifical Commission for Justice and Peace opposes the death penalty• 1980: U.S. Bishops adopt a Statement on Capital Punishment
  • 17. Pope John Paul II, Evangelium Vitae (1995)Where life is involved, the service of charity must be profoundly consistent. It cannot tolerate bias and discrimination, for human life is sacred and inviolable at every stage and in every situation; it is an indivisible good.We need then to “show care” for all life and for the life of everyone.
  • 18. Pope John Paul II, Evangelium Vitae (1995)It is clear that, for these purposes to be achieved, the nature and extent of the punishment must be carefully evaluated and decided upon, and ought not go to the extreme of executing the offender except in cases of absolute necessity: in other words, when it would not be possible otherwise to defend society.Today however, as a result of steady improvements in the organization of the penal system, such cases are very rare, if not practically non-existent.
  • 19. Catechism of the Catholic Church Assuming that the guilty partys identity and responsibility have been fully determined, the traditional teaching of the Church does not exclude recourse to the death penalty, if this is the only possible way of effectively defending human lives against the unjust aggressor. If, however, non-lethal means are sufficient to defend and protect peoples safety from the aggressor, authority will limit itself to such means, as these are more in keeping with the concrete conditions of the common good and more in conformity with the dignity of the human person.
  • 20. Problems with the death penalty DETERRENCE• According to a survey of the former and present presidents of the country’s top academic criminological societies, 88% of these experts rejected the notion that the death penalty acts as a deterrent to murder. (Radelet & Lacock, 2009)• A report by the National Research Council, titled Deterrence and the Death Penalty, stated that studies claiming that the death penalty has a deterrent effect on murder rates are “fundamentally flawed” and should not be used when making policy decisions (2012).• Consistent with previous years, the 2010 FBI Uniform Crime Report showed that the South had the highest murder rate. The South accounts for over 80% of executions. The Northeast, which has less than 1% of all executions, tied with the West for the lowest murder rate. SOURCE: Death Penalty Information Center Fact Sheet [October 16, 2012]
  • 21. Problems with the death penalty COST A study revealed that the cost of the death penalty in California has been over $4 billion since 1978. Study considered pre-trial and trial costs, costs of automatic appeals and state habeas corpus petitions, costs of federal habeas corpus appeals, and costs of incarceration on death row. (Alarcon & Mitchell, 2011).• In Maryland, an average death penalty case resulting in a death sentence costs approximately $3 million. The eventual costs to Maryland taxpayers for cases pursued 1978-1999 will be $186 million. Five executions have resulted. (Urban Institute, 2008).• In Kansas, the costs of capital cases are 70% more expensive than comparable non- capital cases, including the costs of incarceration. (Kansas Performance Audit Report, December 2003).• Enforcing the death penalty costs Florida $51 million a year above what it would cost to punish all first-degree murderers with life in prison without parole. Based on the 44 executions Florida had carried out since 1976, that amounts to a cost of $24 million for each execution. (Palm Beach Post, January 4, 2000). SOURCE: Death Penalty Information Center Fact Sheet [October 16, 2012]
  • 22. Problems with the death penalty GEOGRAPHIC DISPARITIES1200 1,0711000 800 South 600 596 Midwest 400 West Northeast 200 153 TX & VA 81 0 4 SOURCE: Death Penalty Information Center Fact Sheet [October 16, 2012]
  • 23. Problems with the death penalty: INNOCENCE • Since 1973, 141 people have been released from death row with evidence of their innocence. • These innocents spent an average of 9.8 years on death row, for a total of 1,382 years.
  • 24. Problems with the death penalty KILLERS AS STARS• Capital cases put the focus on killers instead of the friends & family members of their victims• The mandatory appeals keep the killer’s photo and story in front of the public for many years.• The many appeals force family members of victims to relive the trauma over & over again.
  • 25. Daughter of a slain state trooper speaks Having spent my entire life without my dad, I was angry and had wanted his killers executed. But over time, after I saw how the death penalty system actually works, my feelings on the issue changed.What I’ve discovered is a legal process that no murder victim’s family should have to endure. We already have been through enough. We deserve better than a system that forces us to go through long trials and endless appeals. The death penalty focuses an incredible amount of attention on the killers, which makes victims’ families relive the painful details of a murder over and over.At one time I believed that the death penalty would benefit people like my mother and me, but in reality nothing could be further from the truth.
  • 26. Problems with the death penalty Collateral DamageFew people consider the impact of capital punishment on a wide range of people who are part of the system: – Prosecutors – Defense attorneys – Judges and jurors – Family members of death row inmates – Wardens and corrections officers – Executioners (like Jerry Givens in the photo above)
  • 27. Former Georgia death row guard reflectsI tried to be professional, but some officers didnt do that or didnt care. …The coldness stuck with me throughout the years. The state had a psychologist talk to the inmates, but the staff didnt have anyone to talk to. They didnt think it was an issue and I still hold a grudge against them for that.[Death row inmate Roosevelt] Green stuck his hand through the jail bars, shook my hand and apologized for any problems he’d caused during his time at the prison. He looked right in my eyes.Later, I saw the hearse go by and it was a strange feeling. I never got used to it ... taking the men to the holding cell, then seeing the hearse pass by after that. In many ways, we were the only friends these men had in the end. ...I will say this: I don’t believe that when we execute a person that it’s the same person who committed that crime. I do believe people can change.
  • 28. Six Former Executioners Speak OutWhile most of the prisoners whose executions we participated in accepted responsibility for the crimes for which they were punished, some of us have also executed prisoners who maintained their innocence until the end. It is those cases that are most haunting to an executioner.Living with the nightmares is something that we know from experience. No one has the right to ask a public servant to take on a lifelong sentence of nagging doubt, and for some of us, shame and guilt.Should our justice system be causing so much harm to so many people when there is an alternative? Allen Ault – Retired Warden, Georgia Diagnostic & Classifications Prison Terry Collins – Retired Director, Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction Ron McAndrew – Retired Warden, Florida State Prison Dennis O’Neill - Retired Warden, Florida State Prison Reginald Wilkinson – Retired Director, Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction Jeanne Woodford – Retired Warden, San Quentin State Prison
  • 29. But the tide isturning against the death penalty.
  • 30. Five States in Five Years Abolished the Death Penalty
  • 31. More States Considering DP Abolition
  • 32. Number of Executions Since 1976 Total of 1,309 SOURCE: Death Penalty Information Center Fact Sheet [October 16, 2012]
  • 33. Number of Death Sentences By Year SOURCE: Death Penalty Information Center Fact Sheet [October 16, 2012] based on data from the Bureau of Justice Statistics: Capital Punishment, 2010”plus DPIC research.
  • 34. Public Opinion on the Death Penalty A 2010 poll by Lake Research Partners found that a clear majority of voters (61%) would choose a punishment other than the death penalty for murder. Life without parole plus restitution Death penalty Life without parole Life with parole No opinion SOURCE: Death Penalty Information Center Fact Sheet [October 16, 2012]
  • 35. Virginia Catholic Conference http://www.vacatholic.org/ With Virginia’s life-without-parole sentence and modern incarceration system, that protection is provided. The life-sentence alternative is unique in its ability to protect state residents while upholding the dignity of every person, even the one convicted of a brutal crime.Accordingly, we are convinced that – in our time and place – thedeath penalty is unnecessary and inappropriate, and that deathsentences should no longer be imposed or carried out in Virginia. Virginia Catholic Bishops (2007)
  • 36. Virginians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty http://www.vadp.org/ Ending the Death Penalty through Education, Organiz ing & AdvocacyVADP leaders work closely with the Virginia Catholic Conference