Saturday, December 26, 2015

The death penalty's use is dwindling

The Death Penalty Information Center’s annual report was released this morning, and to nobody’s surprise, they found that the death penalty is in a steep decline. In 2015, America witnessed the fewest number of death sentences in 40 years and the fewest number of executions since 1991. However, only 6 states accounted for these executions as the United States is increasingly abandoning capital punishment. While the death penalty’s usage is dwindling, the risks are unfortunately still prevalent. In 2015 alone, it was discovered that 6 men were wrongly sentenced to die, and they spent an average of 19 years in prison.

Support for the death penalty also continues to erode in states that actively execute inmates. In the past month, a poll was conducted in one of the most conservative states in America – Oklahoma. According to the survey, a majority of Oklahomans and a plurality of Republicans in the Sooner State support repealing and replacing the death penalty.

In nearby Nebraska, the capital punishment debate continues, but the Cornhusker State’s governor announced that he was at least temporarily admitting defeat. Stymied by federal law, he conceded that he cannot obtain the necessary drugs to resume executions, and therefore, he will not attempt to revive the program until after the state’s death penalty referendum in 2016. However, Nebraska may not be able to recoup the $54,000 that the state spent in an attempt to illegally acquire lethal injection drugs.

Conservatives Concerned in the media
I'm sure you saw some of our media hits this month, but if you didn’t, here are few that you shouldn’t miss:

• CCATDP’s Ben Jones explained the conservative case against the death penalty in the Harvard Law Record, and CCATDP's Heather Beaudoin described why evangelical Christians are increasingly opposing capital punishment in Evangelical Focus.
• I returned as a guest to the Scott Adams’ Radio Show to discuss the growing conservative support for repeal, and the Hillsdale Collegian covered my recent speaking engagement at Hillsdale College, a noted bastion of conservative intellectual thought.
• The Reading Eagle also interviewed me for a piece describing why the death penalty is fading away.

Conservatives Concerned in the field
Late last month, I traveled to Tampa, Florida, where I spoke at the University of South Florida’s Voter’s Forum, which was hosted by the school’s Young Americans for Liberty chapter. The event was well attended and filled with conservatives and libertarians persuaded by the case for ending the death penalty.

Upcoming

It’s not too early to start thinking about CPAC 2016. We will be returning to where it all started for us. This will be our fourth CPAC in a row, and it looks to be one of our most successful. You can get tickets here, and we hope to see you there!

From the Conservatives Concerned about the Death Penalty family, I would like to wish you and your loved ones a safe and very merry Christmas!

Exonerate Kenneth Clair: DNA Evidence Points to Someone Else. 

On November 15, 1984, 5-year-old Jerrod Hessling witnessed the beating, rape, and stabbing death of his babysitter. When asked to describe the killer, he said, without hesitation, that it was a white male. Another child present during the murder saw a white man’s tattooed arm reach inside the house to open a sliding glass door.
Yet somehow, the lawyers in the case determined that Kenneth Clair, a dark-skinned African American homeless man who had been squatting next door, was the killer. When Jerrod saw him on the witness stand and insisted they had the wrong man, the prosecution chalked it up to youth and trauma, and pursued the death penalty for Kenneth Clair. To this day, 31 years later, Mr. Clair sits on San Quentin’s death row, awaiting his execution date.
But that’s not the biggest bombshell in this case -- in 2008, forensic testing revealed that DNA found on the murder victim did not match Clair’s. DNA taken from a glove found at the scene also did not match. It matches another individual, but the Orange County District Attorney insists that “confidentiality is required” concerning this evidence, and for 7 years now, the identity of the person whose DNA does match the swab has remained a secret.
In the interest of justice, we must call on the Orange County DA and California state lawmakers to demand that the DNA evidence be turned over to Kenneth Clair’s defense.
Since his conviction, Clair has struggled with ineffective counsel. He wanted his lawyers to work at investigating the crime, rather than simply trying to free him from death row, but they never did. His plea for substitute counsel even made it to the U.S. Supreme Court in 2012, and he did eventually receive a switch of counsel. Finally, he is being represented by people who are dedicated to his exoneration.
But their hands are tied without this crucial DNA evidence, and more of Clair’s precious life is wasting away in prison as they fight to obtain it.
LETTER TO
Orange County Supervisor 3rd District Todd Spitzer (Orange County Supervisor 3rd District)
California Governor
District Attorney of Orange County Tony Rackauckas
and 6 others
Representative Loretta Sanchez
Loretta Lynch
Attorney General Kamala Harris
President Barack Obama
Senator DIane Feinstein
Secretary of State Alex Padilla
Exonerate Kenneth Clair: No Clair DNA, but dirty DA's withholds DNA results of the Killer