injusticebusters logo

August 2, 2018: Pope Francis declares "the death penalty is inadmissible because it is an attack on the inviolability and dignity of the person".

Even Saint Pope John-Paul II [1978-2005] appealed to abolish the death penalty calling it "cruel and unnecessary".

July 1, 2019: Sri Lanka reinstates the death penalty

March 25, 2021: Virginia Governor Northam signed a bill to abolish the death penalty. Said the repeal would stop a "machinery of death". Virginia has executed more people than any other state except Texas since capital punishment was upheld by the Supreme Court in 1976.

Death Penalty

Live and Let Die

"Mere factual innocence is no reason not to carry out a death sentence properly reached." -- U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia -- Herrera v. Collins 506 US 390 1993 Editorial: This is about the most stupid thing ever said. Coming from a devout Catholic and the highest judge in the land makes it that more stupid. God have mercy on his soul and thank You for taking him to You.

Someone who had heard about the Supreme Court's last two decisions about the death penalty might think we had a new Supreme Court.

Public Hanging

Public Hanging

A few weeks ago, they said we can't execute mentally retarded people, and then that jury had to decide whether someone should be executed, not a judge. At least the first one should just be common sense, but some states and the federal government had said before this that it's perfectly fine to execute someone who probably didn't have it together enough to really know what they were doing at the time.

It should have been plain old common sense. But three Extreme Court 'justices' disagreed with the decision. If you've been paying attention, I don't need to name the three. (If you haven't been paying attention, it was Antonin Scalia, Thomas, and William Rehnquist. Don't these guys like anything that doesn't hurt somebody else?).

We like killing people so much, European countries look at us as barbaric--they believe that a society's approach to killing people is an indicator of how civilized they are. In the last couple of decades, we've built more prisons than schools, worked overtime to fill those prisons, made more crimes punishable by death, and passed laws to limit the amount of time someone convicted has to go through the appeals process, in the name of "law and order" and being "tough on crime".

In the rush to halt the "breakdown of civil society", we went overboard to show how intolerant we are of people stepping over the line. The assault on the Constitution didn't begin with Ashcroft and the rest of Bush, Inc. We took a big step in that direction under Reagan, if not sooner, when we started to buy the idea that we are "coddling criminals" and being soft on crime when we paid attention to the Constitutional protections of the accused.

Someone whose case is dismissed or overturned on legal grounds got off on a "technicality" or had a "slick lawyer."

Regular people and politicians get impatient when we don't just rustle up a posse and string 'em from the highest tree.

Death row appeals were taking forever, and people weren't being executed until decades after their trials. People say it's too hard getting a criminal executed. But it's supposed to be hard. Our justice system was set up to make absolutely certain that we have the right person when we give them the ultimate "time out". We can go back and fix problems with the process that was used, but we can't give someone their life back. We're supposed to do everything we can to get it right the first time. There are no "do overs" when we execute the wrong person.

It's obvious now--we're not always convicting the right people. We rarely used to hear about innocent people on death row being cleared, but lately it's as common as Geedubya Bu$h saying "tax cuts". Even some conservative judges are starting to have doubts about the way we execute our convicted citizens. For decades, some argued against the death penalty, saying that we're killing more minority members of society than their numbers say there should be, but all that happened was a giant sucking sound of officials yawning--who cares if we're killing minorities? If we keep killing enough of them, they'll stay in the minority.

It's different now that we're talking about innocent people being executed. All of a sudden, now we can ask if the death penalty is cruel and usual punishment. We also need to talk about how so many innocent people end up on death row. I'm not going to go over things like mistaken eyewitnesses, racism, or false testimony from jailhouse snitches for more lenient sentences. There are plenty of places on the Internet that do more justice to that than I can here. An excellent book about problems with the death penalty is Actual Innocence: When Justice Goes Wrong and How to Make it Right by Barry Scheck, Peter Neufeld, and Jim Dwyer.

We're starting to look around and wonder if killing innocent people maybe is "cruel and unusual punishment" after all.

The problem is, we can't fix the problem without looking at the whole criminal "justice" system.

It works kind of like this: Ambitious law students pass the bar, and some join the staffs of state prosecutors, or the attorney general's office, which are political as much as legal. Typically, the heads of these offices are elected, and that's where the fun begins.

When someone is on trial, the case is filed as "The People vs. Joe Blow." 'The people' means all the citizens in that in that state--against one individual. 'The people' have all the financial resources of that state or the federal government, and the prosecutor's staff and resources.

Joe Blow has whatever is in his bank account, and probably a court appointed defense attorney--a public defender making minimum wage..

The state can take all the time it needs to build or fabricate a case against Joe Blow--it can take months or years. Public defenders have to juggle dozens of cases at once, and often don't even actually meet and talk to Joe Blow until just before the trial. Often they aren't the best of attorneys, at least judging by the number of reports of them sleeping through the trial, or showing up drunk. Think of the reports out of Bush's Texas a little while ago about inept defense attorneys representing people who had gone on to be convicted while they were actually innocent.

Prosecutors make points by getting convictions. When they run for higher offices, the number of convictions they won is their report card. A prosecutor without convictions is considered to be somebody who couldn't get the job done, so the meaner the better. Some attorney generals even can get reputations outside of their own state, like Jim Mattox of Texas. In Texas, where everything is bigger, Mattox got a reputation as a real bastard that was known outside of Texas.

And we want prosecutors to be real bastards, especially in high profile cases. The media covers the real serious crimes 24-7, prosecutors hold press conferences, the public wants blood, and the only thing that will do is to bring somebody in. Problem is, we don't always get the right person, but we don't ask at the time whether we did. There's too much pressure for someone to fry. Sometimes prosecutors suppress evidence, police lie or plant evidence, witnesses get confused, you name it, and it goes wrong. Now it's not just a legal matter, but a political one, and people will play politics with other people's lives.

Lots of prosecutors go on to run for Congress. Lawyers are probably the most represented profession in Congress, and mostly prosecutors. And they bring that prosecutorial attitude with them. Remember those warm, fuzzy, members of the House Judiciary Committee that brought the case for impeaching Clinton to the Senate? Remember what a fun bunch those guys were? They were all prosecutors before they were elected to Congress, and they all have the attitude I'm talking about. (I don't think it's necessary to be an attorney to be on the Judiciary Committee. Mary Bono was on it too, with her giant intellect and a degree in art history). All 13 of the House "managers" volunteered to take the case to the Senate.

We hear all the time that we have the best justice system in the world, and that may be so, but why should we settle for what we have if we can do better? There's lots of holes in the system we have, there's still a lot that's wrong.

For example, it's illegal to be poor in this country. If you don't think so, try being poor and being on the wrong end of a criminal accusation, especially one that earns the death penalty. We still have a system where justice is for sale, and lots of people who can't pay for a great attorney up front pay through the nose eventually. How many Kennedys or Rockefellers (or Bushes or Cheneys or Lays) are in prison, let alone on death row?

For all the noise we make about how much we value life and liberty, and truth, and justice, we're all talk. Go back and read the quote from Scalia. What he said is that even if someone can prove that he or she is innocent after they've been convicted, well, that's just hard cheese. When Bush was still playing governor of Texas, he said he was satisfied that everybody on death row was guilty--that they'd had full access to the courts. Never mind that lots of those people had attorneys who were drunk in court or had slept through the trials, or let the prosecution pull all kinds of garbage without raising objections; the accused had his day in court, so tough noogies. When did process get to be more important than making sure we are doing the right thing?

We live in scary times, and we can't afford to be innocent and naive any more. In the last 20-odd years, as I said earlier, we've built more prisons than schools. We've made more and more crimes federal crimes punishable by the death penalty. We've cut down on the length of time people who are convicted have to appeal. We've made it easier rush people to their final reward. And it's gotten even worse after September 11, 2001. Now we're saying it's just peachy if we give up more and more rights so we can be secure. Things were at least usually done in the light of day before; now, we say it's cool if it happens behind closed doors, if that's what it takes. I personally haven't heard one justification that convinces me that we really are more secure.

"Innocent until proven guilty" went the way of lime green polyester leisure suits these last couple of decades. If this is the land of the free, why do we have a legal system that stacks the deck against a suspect from the very beginning? We make it as hard as possible for a suspect to prove his/her innocence--we don't fund their defense to any large degree, we put all our energy into keeping them locked up and hamstrung, and some of those people are innocent. If freedom and justice really are our ideals, we would be giving everyone accused every chance to prove their innocence.

The death penalty issue has been argued for a long, long time, and by people a lot brighter than I am. But I do believe that any examination of the process needs to look at how political the process is.

To me, the best thing we could do is get better at the "shoe on the other foot" test. How many of us who are really down on crime want someone they are related to or care about executed as soon as possible for convenience? How many of us would want that if we were on death row ourselves? If you wouldn't want that for yourself, why should it be different for me?

Lots of people in George W. Bush and John Ashcroft's America may get their chance to find out how they really feel about the death penalty, when they get to look at it up close and personal.

June 17: Stan Faulder is dignified but dead
Time ran out for Stan Faulder

Bush is the new U.S. President. Boycott Texas!

Stan Faulder

HUNTSVILLE, TX - A U.S. federal court in Texas has rejected a lawsuit intended to halt this week's execution of Stan Faulder. The lawsuit argued the two decades the Alberta man has spent on death row is a breach of international law.

Faulder has already bid goodbye to his family as both time and legal options appear to be running out for him. The 61-year-old Alberta man is scheduled to be executed in Texas on Thursday.

Faulder met with his daughter and sister on the weekend and told them not to get their hopes up.

Even though two appeals were rejected last week, Faulder's lawyer isn't giving up.

Sandra Babcock still has several motions and petitions before the courts trying to save Faulder from execution. The Texas Board of Parole and Pardons is to vote this week on Faulder's plea to commute his sentence to life in prison.

Faulder has been through this before: over the years, he has won nine reprieves. Last December, the Supreme Court granted a last-minute stay.

Faulder's life on death row began more than 20 years ago, after he was convicted and sentenced to be executed for murdering Inez Phillips, 75, during a robbery at her home.

The Execution of Michael Moore

Dear friends,

This Wednesday, March 28, the state of Texas is planning to take the life of a man whose name is Michael Moore.

I am asking you to join me in one final plea to the governor of Texas, Rick Perry, to spare his life. All appeals have been exhausted and the only hope now is for the governor to intervene.

I abhor the death penalty. It is the ultimate act of evil. Not simply because it is the premeditated taking of a human life, but because it is an act of the State, a cold and calculated, sanctioned act done in your name and mine. It reduces all of us to the gutter level of the low-life scum who commit murder for revenge, greed, or fun. Actually, we're worse. Because we, and our elected government, are supposed to be acting with a sense of moral purpose, to seek solutions to conflicts with a rational head, to be an example to our children and the rest of the world that there is a higher purpose to our lives.

Instead, because we detest killing, we kill. Because we think it is wrong to take another's life, we take another's life. We are clueless to the fact that we are the laughing stock of the rest of the civilized world (over 110 countries have outlawed the death penalty since we brought it back 20+ years ago). Yes, we have a right -- a duty -- to protect ourselves from those who would do us harm. That's called locking them up, and in some cases, throwing away the key. If it's punishment we are seeking, then, in addition to life sentences, have them perform functions in prison that benefit the society.

But if we simply want blood, well, I'm sorry, not on my dime and not on my hands. Feeding revenge can only create more sickness in our society. Isn't it enough we have a quarter-billion guns in our homes to prove to the world the level of our unstable behavior?

I come from a state, Michigan, that in 1841 became the first English-speaking government in the world to abolish the death penalty. We are one of only ten states in America that refuse to participate in state-sanctioned murder. All attempts to introduce the death penalty in Michigan have been beaten down by overwhelming margins. Even the right-wingnut governor is anti-death penalty.

Earlier this year, the New York Times did a survey and found that the states that don't have the death penalty have a LOWER murder rate than the states that have capital punishment. That's right -- in 8 of the 10 non-death-penalty states, not only are fewer people killed every year than in places like Texas (which executes its citizens with what seems to be a certain glee), but the murder rates in all 10 of these states have dropped significantly in the last 10 years. Those who say that the death penalty is a "deterrent" should ask why it is that in the kill-happy 40 states you have the greatest chance of losing your life to a murderer on the streets or in the home.

On top of all of this, it is chilling to think of how many innocent people we have put to death. The recent revelations across the country of death row inmates who were falsely convicted -- 11 out of 22 in Illinois alone -- should be reason enough for even those of you who are pro-death-penalty to stop these executions. Who wants to take the chance that even ONE innocent individual is put to death? Who can absolutely guarantee that every single one of the 3000+ people awaiting execution currently in the U.S. is absolutely guilty of his or her crime? If you can't, then you must join with me in calling for a moratorium on the death penalty across the nation. There is no other way.

When I received an email from Michael's relatives asking for my help, it was a bit weird and shocking to see a subject heading that read, "MICHAEL MOORE TO BE EXECUTED MARCH 28." They asked that I help them stop his execution. I said I would. I do not care about Michael's guilt or innocence as I write this. For all I know he's guilty as guilty can be. But that is not the point. The point is that WE must not be the guilty ones in condoning the taking of HIS life. I realize this is a very long shot, stopping his execution. This new governor of Texas is cut from the same bloody cloth as his predecessor. It brought no solace in the campaign last year to see Bush's opponent, Mr. Gore, enthusiastically endorse not only the death penalty, but Bush's mass executions during his 6 years as governor. And we all remember an eager Bill Clinton who interrupted his 1992 campaign for president to rush back to Arkansas to preside over the execution of a retarded man.

No, I don't have much hope. And it's not just the politicians from the two sides of our one-party system. It's the American people. Whereas on virtually every other issue -- the environment, the need for labor unions, a woman's right to choose, etcetera -- every poll shows the majority of the American public taking the liberal/progressive position, it is on this one issue of the death penalty where the majority of Americans still sides with the right wing. But that support has dropped from 70% to 57% in the last two years. People are wising up to the randomness and injustice of this heinous act. Perhaps there's some hope.

In the meantime, would you take a second and send a letter to Governor Perry on Michael Moore's behalf. You can do so by clicking one of the URLs below, or by going to The Nation's website, where they have a letter already prepared.

No human being should be killed in our name -- or, in this case, with my name.


This evil that TEXAS does

On January 9, 2002, Texas executed Michael Moore, the 257th execution since the death penalty was resumed in the state in 1982. This execution was carried out despite the fact that Moore was the recipient of poor legal assistance during both his original trial and his first state habeas appeals. His original habeas attorney admitted to such in writing.

But I am not writing this essay to just comment on the poor legal help that Mr. Moore received at the hands of the Texas "injustice" system. I want to comment on the evil that Texas does. Yes, there is no other accurate way to describe the Texas execution machinery. While it is necessary for society to protect itself, it is unnecessary for it to execute someone to do so. Long-term incarceration is a viable option for punishing a criminal and protecting society. Therefore, when a society continues to carry out unnecessary executions, this can only be described as evil borne of vengeance.

Another evil aspect of the Texas death penalty process is that it is premeditated, cold-blooded murder of the highest order. Very few prisoners on death row have committed premeditated murder. Frequently the murders occurred in a moment of anger or fear. Often the perpetrator was high on drugs or alcohol. Many perpetrators are mentally ill, retarded or brain-damaged. However, when the state kills, it is methodically done with a very clear mind. It is reminiscent of Nazi Germany. It is, clearly, evil.

Furthermore, the execution of prisoners in Texas is evil because it has been clearly demonstrated that the criminal justice system is fraught with economic and racial biases and has many other problems. The fact that there are no wealthy folks on death row is no accident. You get what you pay for in our legal system. Recent improvements in the crimial justice system to improve legal defense for the poor will not help those already on death row, the great majority of whom were poor and had ineffective legal counsel. To continue with executions, when this is well-known, can only be described as evil.

In 1997, the Catholic Bishops of Texas stated that the state was usurping the sovereign domininion of God by carrying out death penalty. Usurping the sovereign dominion of God can only be described as evil.

Unfortunately, since Texas is carrying out these executions in the name of all its citizens, we are all participating in this evil practice.

Texas has about 450 people on its death row. It is time to end the evil.

David Atwood