"The death penalty is not an act -
it is a process.
It dehumanizes, brutalizes both physically and
psychologically and culminates in liquidation.
The death penalty is torture."
"When you give a lesson in meanness
to a critter or person,
don't be surprised if they learn their lesson."
From 'Cowboy Wisdom'
that a small group of thoughtful,
committed people can change the world--
it's the only thing that ever has.
"There will be no lasting peace
either in the heart of individuals or in social customs until death is
Albert Camus / Reflections on the Guillotine
An execution is not simply death. It is
just as different from the privation of life as a concentration camp is
from prison. It adds to death a rule, a public premeditation known to the
future victim, an organization which is itself a source of moral
sufferings more terrible than death. Capital punishment is the most
premeditated of murders, to which no criminal's deed, however calculated
can be compared. For there to be an equivalency, the death penalty would
have to punish a criminal who had warned his victim of the date at which
he would inflict a horrible death on him and who, from that moment onward,
had confined him at his mercy for months. Such a monster is not
encountered in private life.
"We must realize that we cannot
escape the common lot of pain and our only justification is to speak on
behalf of those who cannot."
Capital punishment is a good way of
making miscarriages of justice irrevocable while reducing murder rates not
There is an old folk saying here that you like people
because but you love people in spite of.
The degree of civilization in a society can be seen when
you enter their prisons.
He deserves death.
Deserves it! I dare say he does. Many that live deserve death. And some
die deserve life. Can you give it to them? Then do not be too eager to
out death in judgment. For even the very wise cannot see all ends.
The Lord of the Rings
"An eye for an eye makes the whole world
"We begin to die the moment we stop believing in
Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Our scientific power has outrun our spiritual power. We have guided
missiles and misguided men.
Martin Luther King, Jr.
Like an unchecked cancer, hate corrodes the personality
and eats away its vital unity. Hate destroys a man's sense of values and
his objectivity. It causes him to describe the beautiful as ugly and the
ugly as beautiful, and to confuse the true with the false and the false
with the true.
Martin Luther King Jr.
The mood and temper of the public in regard to the
treatment of crime and criminals is one of the most unfailing tests of the
civilization of any country.
Winston Churchill Capital punishment is society's final assertion that it
will not forgive.
Martin Luther King, Jr.
"Peace cannot be achieved through violence, it can only be attained
Ralph Waldo Emerson
"The real security for human life is to be found in
a reverence for it. If the law regarded it as inviolable, then the people
would begin also so to regard it. A deep reverence for human life is worth
more than a thousand executions in the prevention of murder; and is, in
fact, the great security for human life. The law of capital punishment
while pretending to support this reverence, does in fact tend to destroy
English Friend John Bright, 1868
Robert Badinter said when he obtained the
abolition of the death penalty in France in 1981: Nothing can justify
"a justice that kills."
A jury consists of twelve persons chosen to decide who has the better
Human beings, who are almost unique in having the
ability to learn from the experience of others, are also remarkable for
their apparent disinclination to do so.
The worst sin toward our fellow creatures is not to hate
them, but to be indifferent to them: that's the essence of inhumanity.
George Bernard Shaw
"Murder and capital punishment are not opposites
that cancel one another, but similars that breed their kind.
George Bernard Shaw
"Neither a man nor a crowd nor a nation can be
trusted to act humanely or to think sanely under the influence of a great
Bertrand Russell, Unpopular Essays 1950
"When we live at each other's mercy, we had better
learn to be merciful."
William Sloane Coffin
We are the prisoners of the prisoners we have taken
"We must not be frightened nor cajoled into
evil as deliverance from evil"
"Our witness to respect for life shines most brightly when we
demand respect for each and every human life"
"It's kind of ironic that the man who signed a law
speeding up death penalty cases and undermining habeas corpus goes
lecturing anyone on human rights. This former professor of constitutional
law has signed into law more violations of human rights than any recent
Leonard Weinglass, attorney on death penalty cases, commenting on
Clintons visit to China
In New York, 70% of the legislators polled thought their constituents
would prefer the death penalty over a variety of alternatives. In fact,
over 70% of the people would choose the alternative of life without parole
"Building more prisons to address crime is like
building more graveyards to address a fatal disease."
Robert Gangi, Executive Director, Correctional Association of New York
Until the infallibility of human judgment shall have been
proved to me, I shall persist in demanding the abolition of the death
Marquis de Lafayette (1830)
Capital punishment: Them without the capital get the
John Spenkelink's last word at his electrocution, May 25 1979
Murder Victims Families for
"Before my daughter Julie Marie was killed in the
Murrah Building [in Oklahoma City], April 19, 1995, I was like most
people; I didn't give the death penalty too much thought. But I can tell
you that it is a very important issue to me now ... Vengeance is a
strong, and natural human emotion. But it has no place in our justice
system ... I ask each of you to reconsider your position. If you really
care about victims and their families, then please tell the public the
truth about the death penalty and invest your time and energy in
alternatives that might truly reduce violence."
Bud Welch, in a letter to the California gubernatorial candidates (1998),
"As one whose husband and mother-in-law have died
the victims of murder assassination, I stand firmly and unequivocally
opposed to the death penalty for those convicted of capital offenses. An
evil deed is not redeemed by an evil deed of retaliation. Justice is never
advanced in the tacking of a human life. Morality is never upheld by a
Corretta Scott King
As one victim, as a colleague, I stand before you to ask
that you vote to abolish the death penalty, not so much because I want
murderers to live but because if the state kills them, that forever
forecloses the possibility that those of us who are victims might be able
to figure out how to forgive. We've lost enough already. Don't take that
option for healing away, please.
New Hampshire State Rep. Robert Renny Cushing in a speach at
Representatives Hall on March 12, 1998. Cushings father was murdered in
In my case, my own daughter was such a gift of joy and sweetness and
beauty, that to kill someone in her name would have been to violate and
profane the goodness of her life; the idea is offensive and repulsive to
Marietta Jaeger, whos seven year old daughter, Susie, was kidnapped and
When the prosecutors in Houston, TX., promised to give the murderer the
death penalty I was extremely gratified at first. In fact, I went to
the trial every day because I thought that hearing the judge pronounce the
sentence of death would bring me some relief.
Instead of healing, I found myself focusing on my anger and hatred, which
only seemed to increase the pain I felt over the loss of my mother.
Eventually I came to realize that capital punishment was not the answer
because wishing for another human being to die wasn't helping me heal.
Celeste Dixon whose mother was murdered in 1986
"Capital punishment is not going to do anything for
murder victims. If there's anything I've learned from my daughter's
murder, that's it."
--Dorris Mote, mother of a 14-year-old rape/murder victim
"No matter how careful courts are
the possibility of perjured testimony, mistaken honest testimony and human
error remain all too real We have no way of judging how many innocent
persons have been executed but we can be certain that there were
Furman v. Georgia 408 U.S. 238, 36768 (1972) (Marshall, J., concurring)
"From this day forward, I no longer shall tinker with the machinery
of death. For more than 20 years I have endeavored indeed, I have
struggled along with a majority of this Court, to develop procedural
and substantive rules that would lend more than the mere appearance of
fairness to the death penalty endeavor. Rather than continue to coddle the
Court's delusion that the desired level of fairness has been achieved and
the need for regulation eviscerated, I feel morally and
intellectually obligated simply to concede that the death penalty
experiment has failed. It is virtually self-evident to me now that no
combination of procedural rules or substantive regulations ever can save
the death penalty from its inherent constitutional deficiencies."
Justice Harry Blackmun, Dissenting Opinion in Callins v. Collins
Twenty years have passed since this Court declared that the death penalty
must be imposed fairly, and with reasonable consistency, or not at all,
and, despite the effort of the states and courts to devise legal formulas
and procedural rules to meet this daunting challenge, the death penalty
remains fraught with arbitrariness, discrimination, caprice, and mistake.
Justice Harry A. Blackmun, US Supr. Court, Feb 22 1994
"The calculated killing of a human being by the
state involves, by its very nature, an absolute denial of the executed
person's humanity. The most vile murder does not, in my view, release the
state from constitutional restraint on the destruction of human
Former Supreme Court Justice William Brennan
One area of law more than any other besmirches the constitutional vision
of human dignity. . . . The barbaric death penalty violates our
Constitution. Even the most vile murderer does not release the state from
its obligation to respect dignity, for the state does not honor the victim
by emulating his murderer. Capital punishment's fatal flaw is that it
treats people as objects to be toyed with and discarded. . . . One day the
Court will outlaw the death penalty. Permanently.
William J. Brennan, Jr., retired Supreme Court Justice, 1996
It is abundantly clear that the Texas
clemency procedure is extremely poor and certainly minimal. A flip of the
coin would be more merciful than these votes.
U.S. District Judge Sam Sparks, about the secretive clemency process in
The Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles
"It is simply unjust for the United States not to respect
international agreements. This is barbaric and unworthy of a state based
on the rule of law."
German Minister of Justice Herta DaeublerGmelin, commenting Arizonas'
execution of the LaGrand brothers
I think that the only purpose for the
death penalty, as I see it, is vengeance pure and simple vengeance.
But I think vengeance is a very personal feeling and I don't think it is
something that civilized government should engage in . . . .
Janet Reno, Attorney General of the United States, at National Press
Club, July 1 1993
"To support the death penalty as
sound social policy strikes me as grossly misguided. Not only does the
death penalty not deter murder, it fosters a culture of brutality, risks
international condemnation, and transforms our country into a brutal
Judge Rudolph J. Gerber, AZ State Court of Appeals, 1998
The majority of the appeal courts of the
USA will not look at the simple question of whether a death row inmate is
innocent of the crime for which he or she was sentenced to die. Their main
concern seems to be whether the legal procedures and the constitution were
Piers Bannister, Amnesty International
Virtually every major program designed to
address the underlying causes of violence and to support the poor,
vulnerable, powerless victims of crime is being cut even further to the
bone.... In this context, the proposition that the death penalty is a
needed addition to our arsenal of weapons lacks credibility
Scott Harshbarger, Attorney General of Mass.
I am not convinced that capital
punishment, in and of itself, is a deterrent to crime because most people
do not think about the death penalty before they commit a violent or
Willie L. Williams, Police Chief, Los Angeles, CA
The cop paused and stared at the two of
them, the black man in his white T-shirt and shabby jeans, the little
white man with the thick glasses and the ballooning belly. "One of
you two is gonna hang for this," said the cop. Then he turned to
Brandley. "Since you're the nigger, you're elected."
Nick Davies in "White Lies", quoting testimony leading to
Clarence Brandley's release
The death penalty is the privilege of the poor.
Clinton Duffy, Former Warden of San Quentin
I an poll 68% of Ohioans reported that the likelihood of an innocent
person being wrongly convicted and executed was either somewhat likely or
"The death penalty does little to prevent crime. It's the fear of
apprehension and the likely prospect of swift and certain punishment that
provides the largest deterrent to crime."
Frank Friel, Former Head of Organized Crime Homicide Task Force,
"The State was guilty of suppressing evidence favorable to the
accused, deceiving the trial court during the applicant's trial, and
knowingly using perjured testimony."
Quote from the court decision overturning Randall Dale Adams'
" The great deterrent to crime is not severity of
punishment but certainty
Lord Parker, (The Lord Chief Justice of Britain 1966)
"Thou shalt not kill"
..When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up
and said to them, "Let anyone among you who is without sin be the
first to throw a stone at her."
(John 8:7 NRSV)
"I have set before you life and death, the blessing
and the curse. Choose life."
"Vengeance is mine, says the Lord. I will
"You have heard that it was said, 'An eye for an
eye and a tooth for a tooth.' But I say to you, Do not resist an evildoer.
But if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also; and if
anyone wants to sue you and take your coat, give your cloak as well; and
if anyone forces you to go one mile, go also the second mile."
Matthew 5:3841 (Oxford Annotated Bible, NSRV)
"You have heard that it was said, 'You shall love your neighbor and
hate your enemy.' But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those
who persecute you..."
A nation that destroys its young, abandons its elderly,
and relies on vengeance is in serious moral trouble.
Cardinal Roger Mahony, / Archbishop of Los Angeles
"The antidote to violence is love,
not more violence."
(both from the US Catholic Bishops 1998 statement "Living the
Gospel of Life: A Challenge to American Catholics")
"We cannot overcome crime by simply executing criminals...The death
penalty offers the tragic illusion that we can defend life by taking
(US Catholic Conference, A Good Friday Appeal to End the Death Penalty,
Pope John Paul II, from his statement on his visit to the US:
"The dignity of human life must never be taken away, even in the case
of someone who has done great evil."
"Both victims and offenders are children of God....We seek justice,
(US Catholic Bishops 2000 statement, Responbiility, Rehabilitation and
"God has no other hands than
"You're not going to find 12 people
back-to-back on the same jury that are going to kill somebody when the
alternative is throwing away the key."
Former Houston District Attorney John Holmes
Electrocution is probably the most humane
way to terminate someone's life.
Dr. James Downs, Alabama's chief medical examiner
Governor Ridge does not view executions
as a deterrent. He believes that executions are justice and a means to
help families of victims move on.
Ridge spokesman Tim Reeves, Pennsylvania
We have an obligation to provide the
victim's family with every opportunity to gain closure to their horrible
(R) Sen. Norman Robertson, NJ, arguing for the right of victims
relatives to watch executions
"You always lose some soldiers in
Sen. David Jaye, RWashington Township, commenting on the risk of
executing an innocent.
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 trial of McFarland, who is now on
TX Death Row after a trial where his attorney fell asleep several times
This is not a perfect system. Yes, you
are going to have mistakes. But with any system that's possible, and (the
execution of an innocent person) is an acceptable risk.
Former Georgia Attorney General Michael Bowers, who run for governor
"If we execute murderers and there
is in fact no deterrent effect, we have killed a bunch of murderers. If we
fail to execute murderers, and doing so would in fact have deterred other
murders, we have allowed the killing of a bunch of innocent victims. I
would much rather risk the former. This, to me, is not a tough call."
John McAdams - Marquette University/Department of Political Science, on
The death penalty is a warning, just like
a lighthouse throwing its beams out to sea. We hear about shipwrecks, but
we do not hear about the ships the lighthouse guides safely on their way.
We do not have proof of the number of ships it saves, but we do not tear
the lighthouse down.
poet Hyman Barshay
"If we are to abolish the death
penalty, I should like to see the first step taken by my friends the
Alphonse Karr (1808-1890)
"If we design a
legal system that will be so generous to the suspect that there is
absolutely no possibility of unjustly convicting that one out of ten
thousand defendants who, in spite of overwhelming evidence, is really
innocent, then we have also designed a legal system that is utterly
incapable of convicting the other 9999 about whose guilt there is no
G. Edward Griffin in The Great Prison Break
"Indeed, the decision that capital
punishment may be the appropriate sanction in extreme cases is an
expression of the community's belief that certain crimes are themselves so
grievous an affront to humanity that the only adequate response may be the
penalty of death."
Supreme Court of the United States
It is often said that murderers are the
criminals least likely to repeat their crimes.
Does that statistic matter if you become the victim of one who bucks the
"Most of us continue to believe that
those who show utter contempt for human life by committing remorseless,
premeditated murder justly forfeit the right to their own life."
Alex Kozinski, U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals
Does fining a criminal show want of
respect for property, or imprisoning him, for personal freedom? Just as
unreasonable is it to think that to take the life of a man who has taken
that of another is to show want of regard for human life. We show, on the
contrary, most emphatically our regard for it, by the adoption of a rule
that he who violates that right in another forfeits it for himself, and
that while no other crime that he can commit deprives him of his right to
live, this shall.”
John Stuart Mill, 19th century philosopher
"That the death penalty, for murder
in the commission of armed robbery, each year saves the lives of scores,
if not hundreds of victims of such crimes cannot reasonably be doubted by
any judge who has had substantial experience at the trial court level with
the handling of such persons."
"Evidence of innocence is
--Mary Sue Terry, Attorney General of Virginia, 1986-94 (replying
to an appeal to introduce new evidence from a prisoner sentenced to death)
"This is Virginia and, quite
candidly, I'm Roman Catholic, and I couldn't care less if the Pope thinks
we shouldn't kill (Joseph) O'Dell."
--Sen. Kenneth Stolle (R-8th District, Virginia Beach) responding to a
reporter's question with regard to the Pope's request for clemency in the
case of Joseph O'Dell. (Daily Press, March 19, 2000)
"While some [death penalty]
abolitionists try to face down the results of their disastrous experiment
and still argue to the contrary, the...[data] concludes that a substantial
deterrent effect has been observed...In six months, more Americans are
murdered than have killed by execution in this entire century...Until we
begin to fight crime in earnest [by using the death penalty], every person
who dies at a criminal's hands is a victim of our inaction."
Researcher Karl Spence of Texas A&M University
"That the ever present potentiality in California
of the death penalty, for murder in the commission of armed robbery, each
year saves the lives of scores, if not hundreds of victims of such crimes,
I cannot think, reasonably be doubted by any judge who has had substantial
experience at the trial court level with the handling of such persons. I
know that during my own trial court experience...included some four to
five years (1930-1934) in a department of the superior court exclusively
engaged in handling felony cases, I repeatedly heard from the lips of
robbers...substantially the same story: 'I used a toy gun [or a simulated
gun or a gun in which the firing pin or hammer had been extracted or
damaged] because I didn't want my neck stretched.' (The penalty, at the
time referred to, was hanging.)"
Honorable B. Rey Shauer, Justice of the Supreme Court of California
"Had the death penalty been a real
possibility in the minds of...murderers, they might well have stayed their
hand. They might have shown moral awareness before their victims
died...Consider the tragic death of Rosa Velez, who happened to be home
when a man named Luis Vera burglarized her apartment in Brooklyn.
"Yeah, I shot her," Vera admitted. "...and I knew I
wouldn't go to the chair." Edward Koch, former mayor
of New York City
"The idea that "violence
doesn't solve anything" is a historically untrue and immoral
doctrine. Violence, naked force, has settled more issues in history than
has any other factor, and the contrary opinion is wishful thinking at its
worst. People that forget this basic truth have always paid for it with
their lives and freedoms."
Robert A. Heinlien's Starship Troopers
When I think of all the sweet, innocent people who suffer extreme pain and
who die every day in this country, then the outpouring of sympathy for
cold-blooded killers enrages me. Where is your (expletive deleted)
sympathy for the good, the kind and the innocent? This fixation on
murderers is a sickness, a putrefaction of the soul. It's the equivalent
of someone spending all day mooning and cooing over a handful of human
feces. Sick and abnormal.
Syndicated columnist Charley Reese
"If and when discrimination occurs
it should be corrected. Not, however, by letting the guilty blacks escape
the death penalty because guilty whites do, but by making sure that the
guilty white offenders suffer it as the guilty blacks do. Discrimination
must be abolished by abolishing discrimination - not by abolishing
penalties. However, even if...this cannot be done, I do not see any good
reason to let any guilty murderer escape his penalty. It does happen in
the administration of criminal justice that one person gets away with
murder and another is executed. Yet the fact that one gets away with it is
no reason to let another one escape."
Ernest van den Haag
"I don't find evidence that the
justice system is treating blacks and whites differently."
"I don't find evidence that the justice system is treating blacks and
Patrick A. Lanagan, senior statistician at the Dept. of Justice Bureau of
"Whatever the arguments may be
against capital punishment, both on moral grounds and on grounds and in
terms of accomplishing the purposes of punishment.... the death penalty
has been employed throughout our history, and in a day when it is still
widely accepted, it cannot be said to violate the conceptional concept of
Trop v. Dulles, Chief Justice Earl Warren
"The punishment of death is not
cruel, within the meaning of that wordas used in the Constitution. It
implies there is something more inhuman and barbarous, than the mere
extinguishment of life."
It is my opinion that the death penalty
is constitutional, as determined...in innumerable cases. therefore, since
it is the duty of the Legislature of the electorate, and not the
judiciary, to decide whether it is sound public policy to empower the
imposing of the death penalty, it is my opinion that if a change is to be
made, it should be effected through the legislative process of by the
people through the initiative process.
Former Justice Marshall McComb of the California Supreme Court, 1972
No fewer than three of the Justices with whom I have served (Justices
Brennan, Marshall, and Blackmun) have maintained that the death penalty is
unconstitutional, even though its use is explicitly contemplated in the
Constitution. The Due Process Clause of the Fifth and Fourteenth
Amendments says that no person shall be deprived of life without due
process of law; and the Grand Jury Clause of the Fifth Amendment says that
no person shall be held to answer for a capital crime without grand-jury
US Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia
All that can be expected of...[human authorities] is that they take every
reasonable precaution against the danger of error... If errors are...made,
this is the necessary price that must be paid within a society which is
made up of human beings.
US Senate report
I favor a fair trial, one quick appeal
and prompt execution. I don't think murderers ought to live much beyond 12
months from the day their victim is buried...[and] As for not being able
to correct a mistake, so what? Virtually all accidental deaths are deaths
by mistake. Why impose a standard of perfection only on the criminal
justice system? There are no perfect human institutions. Our system is,
more than any other, designed to protect the rights of the defendant. The
chance of a truly innocent person being executed is exceedingly slim. But
if it happens, it happens just as things happen to people every day.
Syndicated columnist Charley Reese
"When I think of the thousands of
inhabitants of Death Rows in the hundreds of prisons in this country...My
reaction is: What's taking us so long? Let's get that electrical current
flowing. Drop those pellets [of poison gas] now! Whenever I argue this
with friends who have opposite views, they say that I don't have enough
regard for the most marvelous of miracles - human life. Just the opposite:
It's because I have so much regard for human life that I favor capital
punishment. Murder is the most terrible crime there is. Anything less than
the death penalty is an insult to the victim and society. It says..that we
don't value the victim's life enough to punish the killer fully."
Award-winning Chicago journalist Mike Royko
"Punishment is the way in which society expresses its denunciation of
wrong doing; and, in order to maintain respect for the law, it is
essential that the punishment inflicted for grave crimes should adequately
reflect the revulsion felt by the great majority of citizens for them. It
is a mistake to consider the objects of punishments as being a deterrent
or reformative or preventive and nothing else... The truth is that some
crimes are so outrageous that society insists on adequate punishment,
because the wrong doer deserves it, irrespective of whether it is a
deterrent or not."
Lord Justice Denning, Master of the Rolls of the Court of Appeals in
"Capital punishment ought not to be
abolished solely because it is...repulsive, if infinitely less repulsive
than the acts which invoke it...If we are to preserve a humane society we
will have to retain sufficient strength of character and will to do the
unpleasant in order that tranquillity and civility may rule
comprehensively. It seems very likely that capital punishment is
a...necessary, if limited, factor in that maintenance of social
tranquillity and ought to be retained on this ground. To do otherwise is
to indulge in the luxury of permitting a sense of false delicacy to reign
over the necessity of social survival."
Atwell Zoll, Professor of Political Science at Arizona State University
The simple truth is that there is no excuse for taking the ultimate gift
from someone else, and a person that does so, does not deserve a chance to
rehabilitate themselves or even a chance to "find" Jesus Christ.
They deserve to die. And it doesn't matter how old they are. Even though
it may actually cost more to put someone to death, than to house them for
a life-term in prison; having them alive and watching cable TV in an
air-conditioned jail cell, simply isn't right -- that is inhumane.
Josh Gerben, Managing Editor of "The Spoke"