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Memory Javier Medina

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Henry Dunn_memory






"And so

 to the end

of history,

murder shall

breed murder,

always in

the name of

right and honour,

and peace,

until the Gods

 are tired

of blood

and create

 a race

that can



(George Bernard Shaw)







"All men tremble

at punishment.

All men fear death.

Likening others 

to oneself,

one should neither

nor cause

to slay."


the Buddhist 









The death penalty is still spread over several countries in the world, in democracies likewise as in dictatorships. Countries such as Iran, Iraq; Saudi Arabia, China and the Philippines use the death penalty, today. But also in democracies like the United States, it is still legal jurisdiction.
But the death penalty is always an Instrument of political repression, too!

The International declaration for Human Rights which is signed by the United States of America forbids any kind of cruel, inhuman or degrading punishment.
The U.S.-Law guarantees fair trials for the accused and prohibits sentencing people to cruel and unusual punishment. But the reality looks different.
Ill-treatments of the incarcerated are as common as sexual abuse and rape from other inmates and prison wardens in U.S. prisons. Compulsive treatment and deficient health care are part of all- day life in American prisons.
Around 60% of the incarcerated in the USA (ca.1,7 million people) belong to ethnic or race minorities, more than 50% are Afro- American. Since 1980, the rate of female death row inmates has tripled, (women make up around 2% of American death row-inmates). To get sentenced to death doesn't depend on the crime, but on the financial situation of the accused person and her/his juridical defence . To be sentenced to death is pre-programmed to the poor, of which the described groups make up a very high percentage. Those who can't afford a capable attorney are mostly lost. The death penalty is like a giant lottery. The only difference is someone dies. Of approximately 20,000 murders committed in the US every year, less than 1% result in the death penalty. They die not because their crimes are the most horrendous, but because they do not have the money and power to fight for their lives.
* "The constitution says everyone's entitled to the attorney of their choice. The Constitution doesn't say the lawyer has to be awake." Judge Doug Shaver, presiding over the trail of McFarland, who is now on Texas Death Row, after a trial where his attorney fell asleep several times. "The Sleeping Lawyer Syndrome."

The death penalty in the USA has considerable racist tendencies. Still the executive authority is mostly occupied by white males. But basic human rights, independent of the person or her or his act are due to everyone,
especially the right to live.

A short view on some figures and information:

* Around 3700 people are currently on death row in the U.S.A.
Since 1977, around 700 people were executed.

* In 1989, the U.S. Supreme Court judged, that the execution of the mentally retarded is no offence against the American Constitution. More than 30 mentally retarded people have been executed since.

* The execution of juvenile offenders is not unconstitutional, too. Since 1977, 17 people under the age of 18 (on the day of their deeds), have been executed. International law standards prohibit the death penalty for juveniles.

* Around 70 of American death-row inmates today are "foreigners". The USA doesn't feel obliged to international Declarations of Human Rights there. Even if they declared to follow the Declarations of the International supreme court, they reservated the right to decide exceptionally from this principle. The Federal States don't have to follow the Washington conclusions if they settled their own rules by their own competent District Attorneys or Governors. So the practice of death sentencing stays in the hands of federal states law and can't be even hindered by supreme U.S.-authorities.

* No law system is immune to misjudgement.
How many people have been wrongfully executed will never be known, but since 1973, 92 people were freed from death row by new evidence of their innocence.

* On February 5, 1999 death-row inmate Anthony Porter (Illinois) was freed after 16 years of incarceration. He was sentenced to death for murdering a young couple in August, 1982. In February 1999, new evidence showed up his innocence. Some students of North Western University investigated his case, supported by a private detective and their Professor and found new discharging evidence for his innocence. The Illinois state law demands a comprehension of death row- inmates for their sentence, before they're executed. In 1998 was founded, that his IQ was 51. He was the most mentally remained since resuming the death penalty in 1977.

The risk of killing those wrongfully convicted people "by mistake" is a basic reason for those who argue against the death penalty.

According to all of this, one has to consider that the stay or even the (in some States "recently" anticipated) reintroduction of capital punishment is based on election returns for the most, so it is suitable to today's American idea of justice within a modern democracy.
Gallup polls revealed that 66% of the U.S.-population support the death penalty!

In many southern  conservative  states, but also in California which is known as a progressive state, candidates who oppose capital punishment have no chance to be elected to state governors. Candidates who publish their "Pro-Death opinion" gain a high rate of returns in their communities. What are the reasons therefor?

Statistics and long-term investigations reveal, that the application of capital punishment has not deterred violent crime more effectively than other forms of punishment. Even though most of the Americans think that the death penalty is an adequate deterrent against violent crime. Further many American citizens, district attorneys and politicians argue, that a killing implicates the loss of any human rights, especially the right to live for the offenders. Society is taking a strange kind of revenge which is not allowed for "private people" like relatives of murder-victims. The history of American death penalty shows that it was introduced by government during the 1920ķes to get lynch-justice under control. There are several arguments alike, many American Christians believe in the "an eye for an eye", "a tooth for a tooth"-principle the old testament proves. Especially the relatives of violent crime victims often demand the death penalty, even though they sympathise for the murderer's families.
The death penalty doesn't avenge the victims of crime, but turns out new victims!

Death-row inmates are often defenceless extradited to physical and psychical force and arbitrariness by prison-personell. They get no adequate medical or psychical care. Especially women incarcerated in the U.S.A. who are neither social privileged nor having a lobby have to expect the worst treatment. U.S.-justice endeavours equally treatment of genders also in the practice of death sentencing and executing. While they disliked to execute women in former times, today a special hardness is to be demonstrated.
Also geographic location takes a role: The southern States of America aren't called the "death belt" for nothing. In the early 90ies, Louisiana, Georgia, Texas and Florida carried out two thirds of all U.S.-executions.

In the cases of Wanda Jean Allen who was executed in January 2001 in the State of Oklahoma and Stanley D. Lingar who was executed in February 2001 in Missouri, serious assumptions came up that their condemnation was particulary based on their homosexuality.

To summarise: heritage (geographic location), gender, poverty, sexual orientation and complexion determine who gets the death penalty in the U.S.


Beatrix Trogand,
ECADP Germany January 2001



ECADP * Petra E. Richter * Postfach 13 26 * 46363 Bocholt * Germany
www.ecadp.org * www.todesstrafe-usa.de





"Capital punishment: Them without the capital get the punishment".

John Spenkelink's last word at his electrocution, May 25 1979