Death Penalty

Mission Statement:

We, as the Marianist Family, because of our belief in the sanctity of all human life and in the dignity of all persons, pledge ourselves to prayer, education, reflection, and action to abolish the death penalty. This practice is unjust, inhumane and inconsistent with the Gospel message. By our witness we seek to change hearts and minds concerning this injustice.

Issue Statement:

We, as the Marianist Family, endorse legislation for a moratorium on executions in order to study the inequities in the application of the death penalty.

Issue Team Chair: Lauren Olson (

MSJC Death Penalty Team photo 2012

MSJC Death Penalty Team at their recent meeting in San Antonio
- (left to right) Lauren Olson (chair), Fr. John Manahan, Sr. Grace Walle, Bro. Jerry Sullivan,
Jim Vogt (MSJC Director), Bro. Brian Halderman, Bob Stoughton.

Important Death Penalty Issue Team News (below):

  • ACT NOW to stop impending exicutions (visit for more info)
  • Ohio Execution Reignites Debate over Lethal Injection
  • 2013: Executions Decline and New Death Sentences Remain Close to Historic Low
  • Murder Victim's Mother Finds Strength
  • "The Supreme Court Blinked"
  • Delbert Tibbs, Exoneree and Peacemaker
  • World Day of "Cities for Life / Cities Against the Death Penalty"
  • SCOTUS Will Revisit Mental Disability and the Death Penalty
  • An Eloquent Tribute to a Prison Warden
  • What Every Catholic Should Know About the Death Penalty
  • The 2% Death Penalty
  • Use of Execution Drug Threatens Anesthesia Supply
  • Another (Conservative) Voice Against the Death Penalty
  • Death Row Population Continues to Decline
  • Sadness Upon Sadness ...
  • Repeal is Part of an Unconditional Pro-Life Policy
  • Pace of Executions Continues to Decline
  • Pope Francis Repeats Call to Abolish the Death Penalty
  • Starvin' for Justice 2013
  • North Carolina Repeals Racial Justice Act
  • SCOTUS Decision May Affect Claims of Ineffective Counsel
  • Maryland: One Step Forward, One Step Back?
  • The Clustering of the Death Penalty
  • Serving on a Jury and Opposing the Death Penalty?
  • Public Pushback Against the Death Penalty
  • Repeal is Making Legislative News in Five States
  • Focus on Maryland
  • Issue Team Discusses Restorative Justice -- and More -- at Annual Meeting
  • America's Retreat from the Death Penalty
  • Maryland Governor Puts Repeal on Agenda
  • Will Maryland be the Next State to Repeal?
  • Where Justice and Mercy Meet

Lethal Injection Drugs Stir Controversy

(February 17, 2014) Missouri (one of the states targeted by the Issue Team) joins other states in facing increased controversy as they seek substitutes for sodium thiopental to use in lethal injections, reports Thomas C. Fox in The National Catholic Reporter. Sodium thiopental had been the drug of choice until recently when the sole U.S. manufacturer ceased production in the face of increased objections to its use in capital punishment. On February 12 a U.S. federal judge issued a temporary restraining order blocking a compounding pharmacy in Oklahoma from selling a replacement drug to Missouri in preparation for an execution scheduled for February 26. Similarly, on February 3 a U.S. District Judge had ordered a stay for a Louisiana execution over similar concerns about the drugs. Noting these events, and more, The National Catholic Reporter recently editorialized that the tide is turning on the death penalty: “Our hope is that this is the beginning of the last skirmish to finally abolish the death penalty.”

Governor of Washington Suspends Death Penalty

(February 17, 2014) “In death penalty cases, I’m not convinced equal justice is being served. The use of the death penalty in this state is unequally applied, sometimes dependent on the budget of the county where the crime occurred,” said Washington Governor Jay Inslee on February 11 when he issued reprieves for the nine people on his state’s death row. “There have been too many doubts raised about capital punishment. There are too many flaws in the system. And when the ultimate decision is death there is too much at stake to accept an imperfect system.” Writing on the New York Times Editorial Page Editor’s Blog, Jesse Wegman hailed the announcement, adding that the death penalty “should be done away with nationwide.”


ACT NOW to stop impending executions

For a current list of impending executions visit


Ohio Execution Reignites Debate over Lethal Injectiono:p>

(January 20, 2014)  On January 16 the state of Ohio (one of the states targeted by the Issue Team) executed Dennis McGuire for the 1989 rape and murder of Joy Stewart, who was pregnant at the time.  The execution reportedly took about twenty-five minutes.  As reported in The New York Times, “Eyewitness accounts differ slightly on how much Mr. McGuire, 53, struggled and gasped in those final minutes. But because the execution took unusually long and because Ohio was using a new, untested cocktail of drugs in the procedure, the episode has reignited debate over lethal injection.”  McGuire’s family will be filing a federal lawsuit claiming that the suffocation execution constitutes “cruel and unusual punishment.”

Ohioans to Stop Executions issued the following statement:  "An immediate moratorium on executions is the only solution, short of repeal, to address these continuing issues with executions. The suffocation execution of Dennis McGuire shines the spotlight on the unworkable nature of the problems Ohio has in the death house. The experiment has failed and that is plainly obvious.  For millions of Ohioans, it’s not about how we kill our prisoners; it’s that we kill them at all. The Ohio Supreme Court’s Joint Task Force to Review the Administration of Ohio’s Death Penalty refused to make recommendations on execution procedures and now we know why. This system is not working and it should stop."  Ohio residents are asked to urge Governor John Kasich to issue an immediate moratorium on all executions.

2013: Executions Decline and New Death Sentences

Remain Close to Historic Low


 (January 20, 2014)  “Twenty years ago, use of the death penalty was increasing. Now it is declining by almost every measure,” said Richard Dieter, Executive Director of the Death Penalty Information Center (DPIC) and the author of DPIC’s 2013 Year-End Report. “The recurrent problems of the death penalty have made its application rare, isolated, and often delayed for decades. More states will likely reconsider the wisdom of retaining this expensive and ineffectual practice.”  Texas (one of the states targeted by the Issue Team) led the country with 16 executions, 41% of the nation’s total; California (another state targeted by the Issue Team) had about 30% of the country’s death sentences, though the state has not carried out an execution in seven years. “The dishonor and shame of capital punishment …,” wrote The New York Times in an editorial about the report, are highlighted by “the fact that when it comes to the death penalty, the United States is virtually alone in the Western world.”   

Murder Victim’s Mother Finds Strength

(January 20, 2014)  In 1994 Mary Winnecke’s daughter, Natalie, was murdered by Eric Wrinkles.  In a recent, wide-ranging interview, she discusses her pain and anger, the comfort she gets from God and her family … and her opposition to the death penalty.

“The Supreme Court Blinked”

(December 18, 2013)  “The Supreme Court 40 years ago blinked on capital punishment—blinked because of the public outcry at the very notion of eliminating the death penalty by court order rather than by the political process.  And in blinking, in their zeal to cobble together a majority that would permit executions, the justices who gave us our modern capital jurisprudence failed to adequately articulate a legal theory that supports the death penalty in the context of the Eighth Amendment's protections against ‘cruel and unusual’ punishment. Supporting a practice that embodies the most irreversible act our government can do in our name, this is a baffling vacuum in constitutional law. And yet it persists, 40 years after the Court was supposed to have ‘fixed’ the nation's capital laws.”  So writes Andrew Cohen about Evan Mandery's new book, A Wild Justice: The Death and Resurrection of Capital Punishment in America.  In an interview with Mandery, and in a related article, Cohen summarizes the political forces shaping the Supreme Court and the evolution of the thinking of some key Justices, both because of and in spite of those forces.

Delbert Tibbs, Exoneree and Peacemaker

(December 18, 2013)  “Delbert Tibbs was many things. He was a sage, a poet, a leader and the nicest person you could ever meet, with an intellect, a spirit and a commitment that inspired all of us. It was an honor to know this peacemaker, and to learn from him,” wrote David Love, Executive Director of Witness to Innocence, in a tribute to the death row exoneree who died on November 23 at the age of 74.  Almost 40 years ago he was charged with a crime he did not commit, prosecuted with false testimony from another prisoner seeking to benefit by lying, and sentenced to death.  As this information and more came to light, his conviction was thrown out and the charges ultimately dropped. He became a tireless and well-respected advocate for abolition as a staff member for Witness to Innocence, the national organization of death row survivors and their loved ones. Read another tribute to him here.       


World Day of “Cities for Life / Cities Against the Death Penalty”

(November 14, 2013)  November 30th is the anniversary of the first abolition of the death penalty by one European state, the Grand Duchy of Tuscany, in the year 1786. In 2002 the Community of Sant'Egidio began the World Day of Cities for Life/Cities Against the Death Penalty initiative to commemorate this event and to mobilize the worldwide abolition of the death penalty. Participants are asked to light a candle – or to illuminate a significant public monument – in a show of support. As of Nov. 14, there were 1,655 cities in 89 countries signed up – two more countries than last year and an increase of 160 cities.  The 2013 list of cities includes 24 in the United States, 20 of which are in states targeted by the Issue Team!

SCOTUS Will Revisit Mental Disability and the Death Penalty

(November 17, 2013)  In 2002 the U.S. Supreme Court, in Atkins v. Virginia, ruled that mentally disabled people should not be executed … but left it to the states to define what that meant.  The resulting confusion may soon be resolved because the Justices recently agreed to hear the case of a Florida inmate, Freddy Lee Hall. As Andrew Cohen wrote in The Atlantic, “Before Atkins, the Florida courts acknowledged that Hall was retarded—that he had been retarded his whole life—but state judges ordered him executed anyway because there was no constitutional rule precluding it. Then, after Atkins, when there was a constitutional rule precluding the execution of the mentally retarded, Florida ginned up a way to conclude that Hall wasn't mentally retarded after all—or at least not mentally retarded enough to spare him from execution.”

An Eloquent Tribute to a Prison Warden

(November 17, 2013)  Diann Rust-Tierney, Executive Director of the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty, has written an eloquent tribute to a man who was “not the usual ally” for people opposed to the death penalty.  Donald Cabana, who died in October at the age of 67, worked in prisons and corrections for more than 25 years in Massachusetts, Florida, Missouri and Mississippi. “Donald Cabana will be remembered for his evolved opposition to capital punishment. He spoke eloquently about the risk of executing the innocent and the dehumanizing nature of the practice. However, his equally important critique of the death penalty -- the devastating impact it has on the people who work in our prisons -- does not get the attention it deserves.”




What Every Catholic Should Know about the Death Penalty


(October 17, 2013)  This fact sheet from the Catholic Mobilizing Network has been updated and makes a great bulletin insert, offering a thorough explanation of Catholic teaching on the death penalty: ”Catholic teaching offers a unique perspective on crime and punishment. It begins with the recognition that the dignity of the human person applies to both victims and offenders. It affirms our commitment to comfort and support victims and their families, while acknowledging the God-given dignity of every human life, even those who do great harm.”


The 2% Death Penalty


States Targeted by the Issue Team

Include Some of the Most Active Counties in the Country


(October 14, 2013)  Contrary to the assumption that the death penalty is widely used in the U.S., only a few jurisdictions employ capital punishment extensively, according to a new report released earlier this month by the Death Penalty Information Center (DPIC).   Only two percent of the counties in the U.S. have been responsible for the majority of cases leading to executions since 1976.   Likewise, only two percent of the counties are responsible for the majority of today’s death row population and recent death sentences. 


“The relatively few prosecutors who drive the death penalty create enormous burdens for those outside their district. The rest of the country is paying a high tariff on behalf of the small percentage of the counties that are actually using the death penalty,” said Richard Dieter, DPIC’s Executive Director and author of the report.


According to the report, “if this cost (the cost of obtaining 8,300 death sentences between 1973 and 2011) is divided by the number of executions during that time, the result is that taxpayers are doling out almost $20 million per execution.  Instead of one execution, states could pay the salaries of over 250 more police officers or teachers for a year at $75,000 each.”


Six of the top ten counties responsible for the nation’s death row population are in states targeted by the Issue Team, while eight of the top ten counties responsible for executions since 1976 are in targeted states.


Use of Execution Drug Threatens Anesthesia Supply


(October 14, 2013)  On October 11 Missouri (one of the states targeted by the Issue Team) announced that Governor Jay Nixon had halted an execution scheduled for October 23 citing concerns about the use of the drug officials were planning to employ.  Two days earlier the state’s Department of Corrections had said it would be returning a shipment of propofol to a Louisiana distributor “nearly a year after the drug distributor's urgent request for it to be sent back.”  The Department would have retained a supply obtained from a different source.  The Louisiana company said the shipment to Missouri was a mistake due to a “system failure.”  Propofol is the leading anesthetic used in America's hospitals and clinics. The European Union has threatened to limit the export of propofol if it was used in a U.S. execution.  Nearly 90 percent of the nation's propofol comes from Europe.  For updates visit the Web site of Missourians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty.



Another (Conservative) Voice Against the Death Penalty


(Sept. 13, 2013) “I am all in favor of taking a tough approach to crime. I believe people who commit murder should die in prison. I also believe we should use crime-fighting tools that are efficient and have proven results. The death penalty does not meet either of those standards… [I]n tough economic times, law enforcement budgets are on the chopping block while our state continues to spend millions every year on the death penalty, the very epitome of a wasteful government program.” This line of thinking is familiar to opponents of the death penalty, but the source may be surprising.  Those are the words of North Carolina Republican Steve Monks, a self-described “staunch conservative,” from his op-ed in the News & Observer challenging his colleagues.     




Death Row Population Continues to Decline



(Sept. 13, 2013) Some good news was recently announced by the Death Penalty Information Center: “The latest edition of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund's Death Row, USA shows a continuation of the downward trend in the overall death row population, though California (731 inmates) – the state with the largest death row – recorded an increase. The next leading states were Florida (412), Texas (298), Pennsylvania (198), and Alabama (197), all of which registered decreases on death row. The total population of 3,108 inmates as of April 1, 2013, represents a 12% decline from the same date 10 years ago, when there were 3,525 inmates on death row. Since the last report was released in January, death row populations in 11 states and the federal system have decreased. The report also contains racial breakdowns of death row, executions, and victims in cases that resulted in executions. The states with highest percentage of minorities on death row were Delaware (78%) and Texas (71%), among those with at least 10 inmates on death row.”  California and Texas are two of the states targeted by the Issue Team.


Sadness Upon Sadness …

(August 11, 2013) On Sunday morning, August 4, Billy Slagle was found dead in his Ohio prison cell.  He had hung himself.  Scheduled to be executed three days later, he had no idea that over the weekend his lawyers, working with the prosecutor from the county where he was convicted, were laying the groundwork for a stay of his execution … and possibly a commutation.  Weeks earlier Governor John Kasich had accepted the Parole Board’s narrow (6-4) recommendation to uphold the execution, a recommendation made despite the fact that the county prosecutor had “argued at Slagle’s clemency hearing that he be given life without the possibility of parole, reasoning that the crime, under today’s law, would not be considered punishable by death.” As Ohio criminal defense lawyer Jeff Gamso observed, “One wonders where the irony ends and the tragedy begins. 


Repeal is Part of an Unconditional Pro-Life Policy

(August 11, 2013) Catherine Jarboe is director of Catholic state networks and organizations for Catholic Mobilizing Network (CMN) to End the Death Penalty. In a recent interview she spoke about the tension between the Church’s current catechesis regarding the death penalty and the support for the death penalty that many Catholics still maintain “because they don't understand it. The death penalty that people believe that they are for is not the death penalty that we actually have. They are laboring under the misconception that the system is fair, efficient, seeks the truth above all, and is mistake-proof. And they think it brings justice to victims, that we somehow "owe it to the families" to kill their loved one's killer.”  She added: 

Our church's position on this sometimes-controversial question of the death penalty is a vital piece of our pro-life teaching. Lots of pro-life Catholics and Christians are only pro-innocent-life…that's not what our church is calling us to. Our church teaches that all life must be respected and protected from conception to natural death, not simply from conception to natural birth. (emphases added)  


Pace of Executions Continues to Decline


(July 15, 2013) The Death Penalty Information Center reports that “In the first half of 2013, six states carried out 18 executions. In the same period last year, there were 23 executions in 8 states. The annual number of executions has declined significantly from its peak in 1999, when 98 people were put to death. There were 43 executions in 2011 and 2012.”  All but two of this year’s executions have been in the South, with Texas – one of the states targeted by the Team – leading with eight.  In addition, “Seventy-three percent (73%) of the victims in cases resulting in executions this year were white, even though generally whites are victims of murder in less than 50% of the cases.”   


Pope Francis Repeats Call to Abolish the Death Penalty


(July 15, 2013) During the Fifth World Congress Against the Death Penalty, held in Madrid from June 12 to 15, participants received a message from Pope Francis reaffirming the Vatican’s support for efforts to abolish the death penalty.  There are currently 57 countries in which the death penalty is legal.  According to the Catholic Mobilizing Network to End the Use of the Death Penalty, “Among those who spoke at the congress were Joaquin Jose Martinez, a Spanish national who was sentenced to death for murder in 1997 in the United States but was released in 2001 after new evidence proved his innocence, and the family members of Pablo Ibar, the only Spanish national who is currently on death row in the United States.” 

Starvin' for Justice 2013

(June 17, 2013) Once again, the MSJC Anti-Death Penalty Issue Team is an endorser of Starvin’ for Justice. The 20th annual four-day Fast & Vigil takes place on the sidewalk in front of the U.S. Supreme Court from June 28th - July 2nd, 2013. For these four days, death penalty abolitionists from around the country will gather to call for an end to capital punishment in the United States. It is an energizing grassroots week of training, advocacy, action, community and education. Tens of thousands of tourists and locals, from all over the U.S. and throughout the world, pass by the vigil and table, so the opportunity for dialogue and discussion at a real grass-roots level is invaluable to the movement.  Additionally, each evening they hear stories from murder victims’ family members, death row exonerees, death row families and leaders in the national abolition movement.

North Carolina Repeals Racial Justice Act

(June 10, 2013) That race plays a role in the death penalty system in the United States has been well-documented.  In 2009 North Carolina became the first state to allow death row inmates to have their sentences changed if they could prove that race was a factor in their cases, partly based on research showing “striking patterns of racial discrimination in the state's capital case charging, sentencing, and juror selection decisions.”  Since then, four people had their death sentences changed to life without parole because of this law, the Racial Justice Act.  Sadly, on June 5 the state legislature repealed the Act; the governor’s signature is expected.  In lamenting the repeal, the New York Times went further: “The persistence of racial bias in death penalty prosecutions makes abolishing capital punishment even more urgent.”


SCOTUS Decisions May Affect Claims of Ineffective Counsel


(June 10, 2013) On June 3 the U.S. Supreme court ordered that six death row cases from Texas be reviewed by a lower court because the lawyers who represented them during earlier appeals may have provided inadequate representation.  About a week earlier the Justices had sent back another Texas case for a similar reason. Although the right to effective counsel is Constitutionally guaranteed, it can be procedurally difficult for a defendant to make such a claim.  According to Ty Alper, Clinical Professor of Law at the University of California at Berkeley, these rulings could represent a “sea change … If...the Court eventually adopts a rule that actually ensures states provide counsel to investigate and raise ineffectiveness claims (as opposed to merely creating tentative incentives for them to do so), capital defendants will benefit from the increased ability to establish cause for procedural default in federal court.”


Maryland: One Step Forward, One Step Back?

(May 11, 2013) "Maryland has effectively eliminated a policy that is proven not to work," Governor Martin O'Malley said in conjunction with his signing the bill repealing his state’s death penalty on May 2.  As John Dear, S.J. wrote for the National Catholic Reporter, “This is cause for great rejoicing and gratitude. Maryland becomes the 18th state to abolish the death penalty. Six states have done so in the last six years. That leaves 32 states.”  Dear’s article includes a gripping summary of the case of Kirk Bloodsworth, a Maryland native who became the first person freed from death row because of DNA evidence.  Bloodsworth is now a tireless advocate for repeal. 

But according to the Baltimore Sun, Bloodsworth’s work in Maryland may not be over:  “One day after Gov. Martin O'Malley signed legislation to abolish capital punishment in Maryland, death penalty supporters said Friday they will launch a petition drive to give voters the opportunity to overturn the new law.  The effort raises the prospect of another hard-fought referendum campaign (in 2014) after Maryland voters had the final say on several ballot questions in 2012.”


The Clustering of the Death Penalty


(May 11, 2013) The Death Penalty Information Center (DPIC) has made available a new set of data illustrating the geographic arbitrariness of the death penalty, and demonstrating that capital punishment is actually carried out in only a small percentage of U.S. jurisdictions. DPIC analyzed the counties within states that are responsible for the most executions, the most death row inmates, and the most recent death sentences. For example, one map shows that less than 1% of counties in death penalty states accounted for 30% of the executions in the U.S. since 1976. Similarly, less than 1% of the counties were responsible for 27% of current death row inmates and 35% of recent death sentences. For more information on each of these areas and on the geographic arbitrariness of the death penalty, visit this new section of DPIC’s Web site.


Serving on a Jury and Opposing the Death Penalty?

(April 15, 2013) “For many Americans, their beliefs about the death penalty are rooted in their religious convictions or their concerns about flaws in the system,” writes the “I Want to Serve” project.  “To serve on a jury in which the prosecutor is seeking the death penalty, the law requires you to consider imposing both a life sentence and the death penalty. If you are unwilling to consider voting for capital punishment, you are disqualified from service. The process of excluding jurors who cannot give the death penalty or would only give the death penalty is called ‘death-qualification.’  Death-qualification is an issue of civic importance for several reasons, and should be understood by all those interested in performing jury duty.”


“I Want to Serve” began in Louisiana as a joint project of the Louisiana Coalition for Alternative to the Death Penalty and the Louisiana Interchurch Conference. It has since grown into a national project sponsored by the Catholic Mobilizing Network and Harvard University’s Charles Hamilton Houston Institute for Race and Justice.  Visit their Web site to learn how to support their efforts to “put an end to the silencing of people who oppose executions on juries.”


Public Pushback Against the Death Penalty

(April 15, 2013) In early April Arapahoe County District Attorney George Brauchler announced he would seek the death penalty for James Holmes, the suspect in the Aurora, Colorado theater shooting.  “To give you a sense of how far the public debate over capital punishment has moved toward rationality over the past few decades,” writes Andrew Cohen in The Atlantic, “you need only read (the) editorial in The Denver Post” about the prosecutor’s decision.  “In the surest sign yet of the rise of the practical argument against the death penalty” the Post wrote “we think the decision was a mistake.” 


As Cohen summarizes the editorial, “Save the money it would take to sentence him to death. Deny him the notoriety he might claim by litigating his capital case through the courts for 15 years. And all the while spare the survivors and family members of the victims the psychic trauma of reliving that awful night over and over again in court.”



Repeal is Making Legislative News in Five States

(Updated March 21, 2013): Legislatures in five states are taking – or getting ready to take – action to repeal the death penalty.  In Maryland – one of the states targeted by the Issue Team – the repeal bill has been passed by both the Senate and the House; the bill has been sent to Governor O’Malley who has already said he will sign it.  Repeal bills have also been introduced in Nebraska, Delaware and Kansas and one is being prepared in Colorado  


Focus on Maryland

“Maryland would be the first state to repeal its death penalty and redirect some of the savings to survivors’ of homicide victims. This is groundbreaking legislation that we can all be proud of,” writes the Catholic Mobilizing Network as national attention focuses on Maryland’s attempt to abolish capital punishment.  Recent events have included a Faith Leaders Lobby Day and some passionate public testimony by Kirk Bloodsworth who, “twenty years ago, … walked out of a Maryland prison, the first inmate in the nation to be sentenced to death and then exonerated by DNA.”  To stay informed and to find out how to help, visit the Web site of Maryland Citizens Against State Executions.



Issue Team Discusses Restorative Justice – and More – at Annual Meeting

How would you react in the event that one of your own family members were murdered?  It is impossible, for most of us anyway, to answer that question with certainty.  Houstonian John Sage is someone who can answer that question because he has. 

In 1998, five years after his sister was murdered, he founded Bridges To Life, designed to “connect communities to prisons in an effort to reduce the recidivism rate (particularly that resulting from violent crimes), reduce the number of crime victims, and enhance public safety.  The spiritual mission of Bridges To Life is to minister to victims and offenders in an effort to show them the transforming power of God’s love and forgiveness.”  "After experiencing the gut-wrenching aftermath of my sister’s murder, I have great empathy for victims of crime. Crime plunges innocent victims into a dark side of society that they do not ask for or deserve. Victims of crime are the very heart and soul of Bridges To Life,” shares John on the program’s Web site.  Bridges To Life, which sends trained volunteers and crime victims into prisons to work directly with offenders, is a concrete example of a growing movement called Restorative Justice (RJ). 

The Issue Team, during its recent annual meeting in San Antonio on Feb. 1 – 3, 2013, spent a good part of its time discussing RJ and its application to the death penalty.  Joining the Team for this conversation were Kimberly Gibbs from Bridges To Life and Jessie Sprague from the Center for Legal and Social Justice.  The Team also attended a Death Penalty Workshop sponsored by Team member Bro. Brian Halderman, S.M. and his colleagues from the San Antonio Institute for Social Justice, “The Exonerated and Wrongfully Convicted.”  The afternoon included a documentary about an exoneree, Juan Melendez, reflections by retired Bexar County (TX) District Attorney Sam Millsap and by Roger Barnes, U. of Incarnate Word Sociology Professor, and robust questions, answers, and discussion among the attendees.  (Millsap secured a large number of death penalty sentences while in office but is now an outspoken opponent of capital punishment based largely on the fact that one of the people he prosecuted, Ruben Cantu, was very likely innocent based on evidence developed many years after his execution.) A prayer service used by the Team is posted under "Death Penalty Files" for others to use as a resource. 


America’s Retreat from the Death Penalty


2013 began with a January 2 editorial in the New York Times which concluded “that under evolving standards capital punishment is cruel and unusual and should be abolished.”  The Times pointed out that “When the Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty in 1976, it said there were two social purposes for imposing capital punishment for the most egregious crimes: deterrence and retribution. In recent months, these justifications for a cruel and uncivilized punishment have been seriously undermined by a growing group of judges, prosecutors, scholars and others involved in criminal justice, conservatives and liberals alike.”  The editorial, citing additional criticism of the death penalty system as arbitrary, discriminatory, and unfair, points out that a national consensus is emerging and calls on the Supreme Court to abolish capital punishment. 

Maryland Governor Puts Repeal on Agenda

On January 15 Governor Martin O’Malley formally announced that his administration would be sponsoring legislation to repeal the death penalty in Maryland, one of the states targeted by the Issue Team. According to the Baltimore Sun, “By putting death penalty repeal on his legislative agenda for the first time since 2009 — when he had to settle for a compromise that left capital punishment on the books — O'Malley signaled not just a willingness to push for its passage but also a confidence that he has lined up enough votes to win.”  His announcement quickly drew national editorial support. Readers interested in legislative advocacy will find some new resources from the Catholic Mobilizing Network quite useful:  here is a set of current talking points specific to Maryland and here is a set of talking points on Catholic teaching.    


Will Maryland be the Next State to Repeal?

“There is no good and sufficient reason to have the death penalty and plenty of reasons against it,” said former U.S. Attorney General Benjamin R. Civiletti, Chair of the Maryland Commission on Capital Punishment, when the Commission recommended repeal four years ago.  Civiletti was being quoted in The Calvert Recorder (Prince Frederick, MD) in a recent editorial advocating repeal of the death penalty in Maryland – one of the states targeted by the Issue Team.  Days later, on December 13, Governor Martin O'Malley reaffirmed his support for repeal in a meeting with NAACP President and CEO Benjamin Todd Jealous and Maryland NAACP State Conference President Gerald Stansbury.  The Team stands with Maryland Citizens Against State Executions and with the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty in urging people to take action no matter where they live by calling Governor O'Malley at 410-974-3901 or 800-811-8336. Thank him for his leadership on this issue, urge him to sponsor the death penalty repeal bill and to work with the state legislature to end the death penalty in 2013. 


Where Justice and Mercy Meet

Where Justice and Mercy Meet: Catholic Opposition to the Death Penalty, being published in early 2013, “comprehensively explores the Catholic stance against capital punishment in new and important ways,” says the Catholic Mobilizing Network to End the Use of the Death Penalty. According to the CMN “The foundation for the church’s position on the death penalty is illuminated by discussion of the life and death of Jesus, Scripture, the Mass, the Catechism of the Catholic Church, and the teachings of Pope John Paul II. Written for concerned Catholics and other interested readers, the book contains contemporary stories and examples, as well as discussion questions to engage groups in exploring complex issues. The book can be pre-ordered at a discount using links available here.




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  NCADP's official blog
  Backgrounder on Death Penalty
  National Coalition Against the Death Penalty
  Moratorium Resources
  Death Penalty Classroom resources
  A Letter to Missourians
  A Letter to Missourians