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.
A year ago I was sitting in my apartment at college, hogging the TV from my roommates who just wanted to watch the newest episode of The Bachelor, as I anxiously awaited President Obama’s press conference. Twitter had indicated 15 minutes earlier that Osama bin Laden had been killed at the hands of Navy SEALS, but it didn’t seem real until I heard the President say: “The United States has conducted an operation that killed Osama bin Laden, the leader of al Qaeda, and a terrorist who’s responsible for the murder of thousands of innocent men, women, and children.”
But after I listened to this statement, I felt inexplicably empty. How was I supposed to feel? Joyous? Safe? Relieved? Sad? Should I join members of my campus who had wrapped themselves in American flags and were parading around the library? Was I supposed to say the Mourner’s Kaddish for bin Laden, as I might for a family member or friend? I wanted to immediately identify a nuanced reaction to the news, but wasn’t I allowed to just embrace my gut instincts? And what were those, anyway?
In California last week, a ballot measure to end the death penalty qualified for the November elections. If passed into law, life imprisonment without possibility of parole would replace the death penalty as the sternest penalty in the state’s criminal code. Additionally, more than 700 current death row inmates would see their sentences commuted to life imprisonment without possibility of parole. The measure, if passed, would make California the 18th state without the death penalty (Connecticut is one signature away from becoming the 17th state).
As Franklin Zimring, a professor at the UC Berkeley School of Law, noted in a San Francisco Chronicle op-ed, the death penalty in California, has been “a dismal failure: expensive, slow, arbitrary, complicated, and inconclusive.” Zimring continued:
After 34 years, California now has – by far – the largest Death Row of any state in American history and the most expensive death penalty litigation process in world history. With more than 720 condemned prisoners on Death Row, the state has executed only 13 since 1978, when Proposition 7 reinstated the death penalty.
Update: Last night, the Connecticut House of Representatives approved the bill banning the death penalty in Connecticut. The bill now heads to Governor Dan Malloy’s desk, where he is expected to sign it into law.
Last week, the state of Connecticut took a major step forward on the road to becoming the fifth state in the last five years to abolish the death penalty: The State Senate, in the wee hours of last Thursday, passed a bill banning capital punishment. As the Hartford Courant explained:
The bill would replace the death penalty with life in prison without the possibility of release. It stipulates that the 11 men currently onConnecticut’s death row would still face execution; capital punishment would only be abolished for those convicted of capital offenses in the future.