Tag Archives: Death Penalty
Why are you one of 90 million who think the death penalty is wrong?

Reform Movement on the Launch ofthe 90 Million Strong Campaign to Abolish the Death Penalty

Earlier today at a press conference at the National Press Club, the 90 Million Strong Campaign to Abolish the Death Penalty was launched. Barbara Weinstein, Director of the Commission on Social Action of Reform Judaism spoke on behalf of the Reform Movement, which has long advocated for the abolition of the death penalty and reform of the criminal justice system. Here is Barbara’s statement from this morning: Read more…

RAC Submits Testimony for Senate Judiciary Subcommittee Hearing

Tomorrow, Senator Durbin is holding a final hearing for the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Human Rights. The Senator’s goal for the hearing is to assess what has been accomplished in recent years and what still needs to be done on key civil and human rights issues. The RAC has submitted written testimony to show the strength of our community’s interest in the topics the subcommittee works on. Our testimony covers a number of the important issues including voting rights, criminal justice and sentencing reform, the death penalty, hate crimes, and more. Read more…

Death Penalty

Nevada Audit Shows Death Penalty Is Not Cost Effective

According to a state audit, murder cases in Nevada in which prosecutors seek the death penalty can cost nearly twice as much as those that seek a lesser punishment. The Nevada Legislature just released a 105 page audit focusing on the cost of death penalty and non-death penalty murder cases in two counties between 2000-2012. The audit was conducted as part of the Legislature’s oversight responsibility for public programs in order to improve state government. The audit took 18 months to conduct and looked at the price of trials, appeals and jail time for 28 Nevada cases. Read more…

Sign Repeal Death Penalty

Getting Rid of the Green Mile

Leading up to my first day at the RAC, I couldn’t stop thinking about all of the issues I wanted to work on. When our issue selection day finally came, I was thrilled to have the civil rights issue area in my portfolio. I had written my senior thesis about voting rights and been struggling with the criminal justice system ever since my binge-watching of The Wire. However, I never expected to spend so much time and energy engaging with the question of the death penalty. That same day, two half-brothers with mental disabilities in North Carolina, one of whom was on death row and the other of whom was serving a life sentence, were exonerated after over 30 years in prison. I was shocked and outraged. I could not even begin to imagine what it must be like to spend more than three decades in prison, waiting to be executed for a crime you did not commit. I soon found that this story is not uncommon. In fact, since 1973, over 140 people have been exonerated and freed from death row, and even more people have been executed despite serious doubts that they are innocent. The Center on Wrongful Convictions at Northwestern Law School studied 86 exonerations and found that the most common reason behind wrongful convictions were eyewitness error and government misconduct by both the police and the prosecution.

Read more…

Choosing Life over the Death Penalty  

Growing up as a Reform Jew in a liberal, socially active environment in Southern California, I always felt that capital punishment and the death penalty were morally wrong and never the right response to crime. Then, as a Reform Jew in the liberal, socially active environment of Boston University, I was faced with a moral dilemma.

Read more…

Cruel and Unusual Punishment? Not on Our Watch

By Rabbi Yair Robinson

Clayton Lockett went to his death knowing it was inevitable, an act of vengeance for the brutal murder of Stephanie Neiman in 1999.He had no final words before they filled his bloodstream with poison. Nothing to say about how they shot and buried Stephanie alive, nothing to say to her family, or his, or the media.

But he did speak. To alert the officials that he wasn’t unconscious. To writhe and groan in pain as the poison, rather than sending him off to a relatively painless death, one theoretically free of unnecessary cruelty. To cause the prison officials to lower the blinds from the viewing gallery so they couldn’t see his final moments. Read more…

Oklahoma Botches Execution: What’s Going On?

Last night, the state of Oklahoma effectively tortured one of its prisoners to death, after weeks of legal back-and-forth between the state’s courts about the legality of the execution. Clayton Lockett’s execution was halted after it was clear that the lethal injection procedure was botched, but he suffered significantly and ultimately died as a result of the botched procedure.

Read more…

New Hampshire Debates Death Penalty Repeal

Will New Hampshire be the next state to repeal the death penalty? Last Wednesday, the New Hampshire House of Representatives voted to repeal the death penalty by an overwhelming 225-104 vote.

The repeal bill now heads to the state Senate, where passage is somewhat less certain, and then to Governor Maggie Hassan, who has pledged to sign it. Still, its passage out of the state House is significant. The New Hampshire House, with 400 members, is the largest state legislative chamber in the country and is famously unruly. This crucial bill nonetheless passed with a strong bipartisan majority. Rep. Renny Cushing (D-Hampton), whose father was murdered in 1988, spearheaded passage of the bill, powerfully stating, “If we let those who kill turn us into killers, then evil triumphs.”

Should the bill pass the state Senate, New Hampshire would become the 19th state to abolish the death penalty, and the seventh to do so in the last several years. Much of this momentum comes from an increasing awareness across the ideological spectrum of the problems with the death penalty. Advocates have long pushed for repeal in the Granite State, whose famous motto, “Live Free or Die,” might not appropriately frame this particular debate. Still, given the important political status of New Hampshire, this debate has the potential to reverberate far beyond this corner of New England. While the debate over the death penalty is primarily a state matter, we should all be concerned about how this debate plays out in each state.

Reform Jews are staunch opponents of the death penalty. The rabbis of the Talmud established a series of legal requirements surrounding the death penalty so intentionally complex and difficult to satisfy as to make carrying out this ultimate punishment virtually impossible. Reform Jews have more formally opposed capital punishment since 1959, “believing that, there is no crime for which the taking of human life by society is justified, and that it is the obligation of society to evolve other methods in dealing with crime… in the spirit of the Jewish tradition of tshuva (repentance).”

Repeal of the death penalty is a crucial social justice issue—and we hope that our friends in New Hampshire continue to advocate for a less vengeful and more just society.

<