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Death Penalty Abolition

(see also Capital Punishment, Incarceration, Prison Reform, Mumia Abu-Jamal & Restorative Justice)

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Most countries have abolished capital punishment as a violation of emerging international human rights standards, & of the teachings of most world religions. Since 1990, 85-90% of all judicial executions worldwide have taken place in China, the US, Iran, Saudi Arabia & the Congo Democratic Republic. Fourteen US states & the District of Colombia have abolished or never allowed the death penalty; but in 1976 it was reinstated by the US Supreme Court as a legitimate form of punishment. Since then some 900 people have been put to death in this country; & about 3000 await execution on death rows. Most states employ executions sparingly; Texas, Florida, Virginia & a few others perpetrate them with few apparent reservations. California, whose recent governors have defended executions, maintains some 600 death row prisoners at enormous cost to taxpayers. Yet capital punishment has had no demonstrable effect in deterring violent crime.

Prosecutors seek the death penalty in about 1% of eligible cases. Those sentenced are disproportionately poor and/or mentally retarded people of color who have received inadequate counsel. At least 23 innocent Americans were executed in the 20th c.; & over 100 wrongfully convicted death row prisoners have been released since 1973, after serving long terms. A nationwide movement now demands the abolition of this practice, or at least a moratorium on executions until means can be found to administer the system fairly.

On the Web: Articles

Pull the Plug. Bob Herbert, Naples Daily News (4/25/03).

The Only Way to "Fix" Death Penalty System is to End It. Charles Carney, National Catholic Reporter (1/24/03).

Federal Death Penalty Abolition Act of 2001 (S.B. 191). Introduced by Sen. Russ Feingold (1/01), read twice & referred to Committee on Judiciary.

Calculating the Risk. William Saletan, Mother Jones (7-8/00). Does death penalty protect innocent life, or endanger it? As fatal errors escalate, voters may reconsider capital punishment.

Benetton Says "Ciao" to Toscani. Craig Offman, Salon (5/20/00).

Live from Death Row. Craig Offman, Salon (4/17/00).

On the Web: Specialized Sites

Abolitionist Action Committee.

American Bar Association. In 1986, urged key reforms in administration of capital punishment. In 1998, seeing that these had not been implemented, began calling for moratorium until they are.

American Civil Liberties Union.

American Friends Service Committee.

Amnesty International.

Armband Protest Against the Death Penalty.

Californians for a Moratorium on Executions.

Campaign to End the Death Penalty.

Canadian Coalition Against the Death Penalty.

Catholics Against Capital Punishment.

Citizens United for Alternatives to the Death Penalty.

Coalition for Truth & Justice.

Death Penalty Focus.

Death Penalty Information Center.

Death Penalty News & Updates.

Death Row Speaks.

Derechos/Human Rights.

Equal Justice USA.

European Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty.

Free Stanley Howard.

Hands Off Cain.

Human Rights Watch.

International Justice Project.

Moratorium Campaign.

Moratorium 2000.

Murder Victims' Families for Reconciliation.

NAACP Legal Defense & Educational Fund.

National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers.

National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty.

National Conference of Catholic Bishops.

Links Toward Abolition.

National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty.

Other Side of the Wall.

Religious Organizing Against the Death Penalty.

Sant'Egidio Community.

Southern Christian Leadership Conference.

Texas Death Penalty Abolition Movement.

UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.

Vatican City State.

In the Library: Articles

Baldus, David C.; Charles Pulaski Jr., & George Woodworth. "Arbitrariness & discrimination in the administration of the death penalty: a challenge to state supreme courts," Stetson Law Review 15 (1986):113-261.

Camus, Albert. "Reflections on the guillotine," in his Resistance, Rebellion & Death (NY: Modern Library, 1960).

Farrell, Mike. "Death penalty politics," Nation (7/24/00):6-7.

Fine, Toni M. "Moratorium 2000: an international dialogue toward a ban on capital punishment," Columbia Human Rights Law Review 30 (1999):430-.

Gross, Marion. "Thou shalt not kill," Nation (1/8/01):28.

Hodgkinson, Peter. "Europe -- a death penalty free zone: commentary & critique of abolitionist strategies," Ohio Northern University Law Review (2000).

Lutton, Linda. "The end of executions? The anti-death penalty movement is gathering force," In These Times (10/30/01):26-29.

Mantel, Hilary. "The right to life," NY Review (5/12/05):4-8. Review essay on Prejean, The Death of Innocents, expressing vigorously a European view of America's obsession with retributive punishment, & the shameful record of Texas governor George W. Bush in this regard.

Schabas, william A. "International law & the abolition of the death penalty," Washington & Lee Law Review 55 (sum 98).

Stuever, Hank. "Benetton takes on the death penalty," Washington Post (1/25/00).

Turnbull, Colin. "Death by decree," Natural History 87 (1978):51-66.

In the Library: Non-Fiction Books

Bedau, Hugo Adam (ed.) The Death Penalty in America [1964, 1976] (3rd rev. ed.; NY: Oxford, 1982).

__________. The Case Against the Death Penalty (NY: ACLU, 1984).

__________. Death is Different: Studies in the Morality, Law & Politics of Capital Punishment (Boston: Northeastern U., 1987).

__________ & Paul Cassell. Debating the Death Penalty: Should America Have Capital Punishment? The Experts from Both Sides Make Their Case (NY: Oxford, 2004).

Bosco, Antoinette. Choosing Mercy: A Mother of Murder Victims Please to End the Death Penalty (Maryknoll NY: Orbis, 2003)

Bowers, William J. with Glenn L. Pierce & John F. McDevitt. Legal Homicide: Death as Punishment in America, 1864-1982 (Boston: Northeastern U., 1984).

Calvert, E. Roy. Capital Punishment in the 20th C. (5th ed.; London: Putnam's, 1936).

Díaz, Joseph D. The Execution of a Serial Killer (Morrison CO: Poncha, 2003).

Dicks, Shirley (ed.) Death Row: Interviews with Inmates, their Families, & Opponents of Capital Punishment (Jefferson NC: McFarland, 1990).

__________. Congregation of the Condemned: Voices Against the Death Penalty (NY: Prometheus, 1991).

Duffy, Clinton T. 88 Men & Two Women (NY: Doubleday, 1962).

Foley, Michael A. Arbitrary & Capricious: The Supreme Court, the Constitution & the Death Penalty (Westport CT: Praeger, 2003).

Fuhrman, Mark. Death & Justice: An Exposé of Oklahoma's Death Row Machine (NY: Morrow, 2003).

Gowers, Sir Ernest. A Life for a Life? (London: Chatto & Windus, 1956).

Gray, Ian & Moira Stanley. A Punishment in Search of a Crime. Americans Speak Out Against the Death Penalty (NY: Avon, 1989). Excellent anthology of eloquent writings from a great variety of experiences & viewpoints. Basic tool for organizers.

Haas, Kenneth C. & James A. Inciardi (eds.) Challenging Capital Punishment: Legal & Social Science Approaches (Newbury Park CA: Sage, 1988).

Haines, Herbert. Against Capital Punishment. The Anti-Death Penalty Movement in America (NY: Oxford, 1996).

Hood, R.; S. Kovalev, E. Prokosch, P. Toussaint, P. Hodgkinson & R. Wohlwend. The Death Penalty: Abolition in Europe (Strasbourg: Council of Europe, 1999).

Horne, Jed. Desire Street: A True Story of Death & Deliverance in New Orleans (NY: Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2005).

King, Rachel. Don't Kill in Our Names: Families of Murder Victims Speak Out Against the Death Penalty (New Brunswick NJ: Rutgers U., 2003).

Koestler, Arthur. Reflections on Hanging (NY: Macmillan, 1957).

Kurtis, Bill. The Death Penalty on Trial: Crisis in American Justice (NY: Public Affairs, 2004).

Lifton, Robert Jay & Greg Mitchell. Who Owns Death? Capital Punishment, the American Conscience, & the End of Executions (NY: Morrow, 2000).

Mackey, Philip English (ed.) Voices Against Death: American Opposition to Capital Punishment, 1787-1975 (NY: Burt Franklin, 1975).

Mello, Michael. Dead Wrong. A Death Row Lawyer Speaks Out Against Capital Punishment (Madison: U. of Wisconsin, 1997).

Nathanson, Stephen. An Eye for an Eye? The Immorality of Punishment by Death (Lanham MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 1987). Elegant engagement of principal pro-death penalty arguments.

Nixon, Edna. Voltaire & the Calas Case (London: Gollancz, 1961). Starting-point for history of death penalty abolitionist movement.

Prejean, Helen. Dead Man Walking: An Eyewitness Account of the Death Penalty in the United States (NY: Random House, 1993).

__________. The Death of Innocents: An Eyewitness Account of Wrongful Executions (NY: Random House, 2004).

Radelet, Michael L. (ed.) Facing the Death Penalty: Essays on a Cruel & Unusual Punishment (Philadelphia: Temple, 1989).

Sarat, Austin. When the State Kills: Capital Punishment & the American Condition (Princeton NJ: Princeton, 2001).

Schabas, William A. The Abolition of the Death Penalty in International Law (NY: Cambridge, 1997).

Simon, Paul. P.S.: The Autobiography of Paul Simon (Chicago: Bonus, 1999). See pp. 73-74 for the Senator's conversion to abolitionism.

Turow, Scott. Ultimate Punishment: A Lawyer's Reflections on Dealing with the Death Penalty (NY: Picador, 2003).

Zimring, Franklin E. & Gordon Hawkins. Capital Punishment & the American Agenda (NY: Cambridge, 1986).

__________. The Contradictions of American Capital Punishment (NY: Oxford, 2003).

In the Library: Fiction

Hugo, Victor. The Last Days of a Condemned Man (NY: Helmscott Society, 1896).

In the Library: For Young Readers

In the Library: Poetry

In the Library: Drama

Dead Man Walking (premier of new play by Tim Robbins).

In the Library: Photography

CD & Audio

Bill Madden.

Film & Video

"Deadline" [2004], dir. Katy Chevigny & Kirsten Johnson, ?m. On Illinois Gov. Ryan's decision to impose moratorium on executions in face of evidence that there were innocent prisoners on Death Row.

"Sacco & Vanzetti" [1971], dir. Giulio Montaldo, 120m.

Monterey Bay Educators Against War
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