Today the five Eisendrath Legislative Assistants say goodbye after an amazing year representing the Union for Reform Judaism in Washington, D.C. We have worked on nearly 70 different legislative issues, represented the RAC in countless coalitions, seen some bills signed into law and others tragically defeated, said goodbye to one Congress and welcomed the next. All in all it has been an incredible year.
In 2011, there were 14,612 homicides in the United States. 43 people were executed in 13 states. This year, there have already been 18 executions, including Texas’ 500th since 1982. Dismal statistics like these consume my days working at the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty.
On a more positive note, six states in the last six years have abolished the death penalty, bringing the total to 18 states. Sure, those states are all blue as can be (Obama won NY, NJ, NM, IL, CT, and MD in 2008 and 2012), but the next abolition victories will likely be in some purple and red states– including Kansas, Nebraska, Colorado, and New Hampshire.
At 6:17 pm on June 26, lethal injections entered the body of 52 year old Texan Kimberly McCarthy. At 6:37 pm, she was pronounced dead and officially became the 500th Texas inmate executed since capital punishment was reinstated in 1976. She was put to death for the robbery, beating and fatal stabbing of her 71-year-old neighbor, Dorothy Booth, in 1997.
While this crime is obviously heinous, the correlation of race and execution is crucial to fully understand the case. We cannot fully examine this case without understanding that McCarthy was black and Booth was white. This scenario of a white victim and black defendant has resulted in an execution 13 times more often than it has for a white defendant accused of murdering a black victim. In fact, death rows all over the country are disproportionately filled with minorities. Psychological research shows that even when controlling for the charges filed and the evidence entered, this disproportionate sentencing is consistent.
Maryland is set to become the 18th state, in addition to the District of Columbia, to abolish the death penalty. With an 82-56 vote in the Maryland House of Delegates on Friday, the bill, which previously passed the Maryland Senate by a 27-20 vote, is now heading to Governor Martin O’Malley’s desk for his signature. The Governor, who was instrumental in pushing the bill through the legislature, is sure to sign it into law. Read more…
With the presidential election fast approaching, California is gearing up for another landmark vote; on November 6th citizens of the Golden State will cast their ballot on Proposition 34. Known as the SAFE California Act, the proposition aims to abolish the state’s death penalty and replace it with a life-sentence without the chance of parole. What makes Proposition 34 so important is that it will not only influence California’s own policy, it will also set an example for the nation.
There are a lot of holidays to think about this time of year: Rosh Hashana, Yom Kippur, Sukkot, International Hobbit Day (no, but really, happy birthday Bilbo and Frodo). It would be a mistake, however, to let the calendar’s crowdedness overshadow the celebration today of the United Nations’ 30th annual International Day of Peace.
It is with solemness that we mark the first anniversary of Troy Davis’s execution. Davis was convicted for the murder of Savannah, GA police officer Mark MacPhail, and his execution was the subject of much controversy a year ago. Of the nine witnesses who originally testified for the prosecution, seven recanted their testimony, with other witnesses claiming to have seen a man other than Davis shoot at and kill Officer MacPhail. Last year, the RAC, along with many other organizations including the ACLU, spoke out against Davis’s execution. Despite calls for clemency from former President Jimmy Carter and one time FBI Director William Sessions, Davis’s plea was unsuccessful.
On Wednesday, the State of Ohio is set to execute Abdul Hamin Awkal, despite ample concerns about his mental health. Awekal was convicted of shooting his estranged wife and her brother at a Cleveland area courthouse in 1992.
Though there is no dispute over Awkal’s conviction, his punishment—in particular, his ability, or lack thereof, to understand the reason for it—have been called into question several times as his date of execution has neared. Cleveland-area CBS affiliate WOIO notes that Awkal “suffers schizoaffective disorder and has a well-formed delusional system,” pointing out that:
Due to his mental illness, Mr. Awkal sincerely believes that he has orchestrated the U.S. military’s efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan from death row, and that he has been in direct communication with the CIA and Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama. In Mr. Awkal’s mind, he is not being executed for the crimes he committed in 1992, but rather because the CIA wants him dead.