Sunday, May 22, 2016

Updates Regarding the Death Penalty!

Former Death Row Prisoner Moreese Bickham Dies at 98: He Served 37 Years for Killing Klansmen Cops

We spend the hour with Dave Isay, the founder of StoryCorps, the award-winning national oral history project. In a 1989 radio documentary, "Tossing Away the Keys," he chronicled the case of Moreese Bickham, a former death row prisoner who recently died at the age of 98. In 1958, Bickham, an African American, was sentenced to death for shooting and killing two police officers in Mandeville, Louisiana, even though Bickham said the officers were Klansmen who had come to kill him and shot him on the front porch of his own home. Many other people in the community also said the officers worked with the Ku Klux Klan, which was a common practice in small Southern towns. Moreese Bickham served 37 years at Angola State Penitentiary, in solitary confinement for 23 hours a day. 

He won seven stays of execution, but Louisiana’s governors repeatedly denied him clemency until, under enormous pressure, he was finally released in 1996. Days after he was released, he traveled to New York, where he was interviewed on WBAI’s "Wake-Up Call" by Amy Goodman, Bernard White and others. "Wake-Up Call" had closely followed Bickham’s case and helped give it national attention. We play an excerpt from the interview for Isay and discuss Bickham’s life and legacy.
BLOOMBERG: RICHARD BRANSON AND SON TAKE ON THE DEATH PENALTY. On Thursday, he spoke out against the death penalty in Los Angeles.
BRANSON: I would like to call on you to help the Justice That Works Act succeed at the ballot in November. Your voicer and your resources count. You can make the death penalty history -- in California and beyond.
Sir Richard Branson is with us and we hope you are, too. We can't do this without you. Please, pitch in today to help us build a winning campaign. DONATE >>
Pfizer Blocks the Use of Its Drugs in Executions. This is a big moral victory for our movement, but the path toward progress is rarely smooth, and Pfizer's decision just raised the stakes for the battle we're waging in California. Here's why:

When pharmaceutical companies prevent access to their drugs for lethal injection, executing states look for other ways to kill.

In fact, without access to F.D.A.-approved drugs for lethal injection, executing states must now choose between going underground and creating their own lethal injections or going with another method. According to the New York Times, some states plan to move forward with other extreme methods, like firing squads or the electric chair.

 In California, where we're waging our campaign to end the death penalty, corrections agencies could concoct their own lethal injections, risking botched executions, or even choose the gas chamber.

We want to be very clear: Pfizer made the right call. In a statement released on Friday, the company said it "makes its products to enhance and save the lives" of patients and "strongly objects to the use of its products as lethal injections for capital punishment."

Pfizer leadership reached this decision because the death penalty does not reflect their company's values.

Come November, voters in California must decide whether or not this flawed system reflects the values of our country.

We're fighting every day for the Justice That Works Act, which will remove any question over the means to the death penalty in California, and end it once and for all.

But this race is getting tough, and we can't win without you. Please chip in $3 or whatever you can right now to help us organize in California.

I don't want to wake up on November 9 in a country that will kill people by any means necessary. If you don't either, I need you to pitch in today.

Last January, Florida’s death penalty law was ruled unconstitutional because judges were given too much authority in determining who received a death sentence. In response, the Florida legislature attempted to “fix” the law by mandating that at least 10 of 12 jurors must agree that an execution is the appropriate punishment.
Last week, a Miami-Dade judge, Milton Hirsch, declared that the “fix” is also unconstitutional because it fails to require a unanimous jury, which is standard in most death penalty states. Judge Hirsch wrote, “A decedent cannot be more or less dead. An expectant mother cannot be more or less pregnant, and a jury cannot be more or less unanimous. Every verdict in every criminal case in Florida requires the concurrence, not of some, not of most, but of all jurors — every single one of them.” With Florida’s newest death penalty debacle, Sunshine State executions could remain on hold for quite some time.
In other news, the pharmaceutical company, Pfizer, announced that it will no longer permit its drugs to be used in executions. Pfizer’s decision closes many states’ last remaining legitimate source of lethal injection drugs, which seriously complicates their ability to carry out executions.
Conservatives Concerned in the media
Over the past month, CCATDP continued sharing our message in the media that the death penalty is simply inconsistent with our core principles. Here are a few of the mentions:
• I returned as a guest to Liberty Talk Radio to discuss conservatives’ increased involvement in efforts to repeal capital punishment.
• We were also featured in a Louisiana article that highlighted how conservatives are rethinking the death penalty. The piece was published in Best of New Orleans and Ripple.
Conservatives Concerned in the field
From April 22-24, CCATDP’s Ben Jones exhibited and led two workshops at the Life/Peace/Justice Conference. His breakout sessions focused on the conservative case for ending the death penalty and the current campaigns for repeal around the country. At each workshop, many attendees had questions and exhibited their interest in getting involved in their states’ repeal efforts.
May 6-8, I attended the North Carolina GOP convention for the third year in a row, working alongside North Carolina Conservatives Concerned about the Death Penalty. We enjoyed a successful convention and met many new conservatives, law enforcement officers, and military veterans who view capital punishment as an unnecessary government power.
On May 13, I spoke at a conference in Atlanta, GA that was focused on habeas corpus issues, and it was attended by attorneys from across the United States. I discussed the growing conservative movement to end capital punishment and how conservatives are increasingly becoming outspoken objectors to the injustices inextricably linked to the death penalty.
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