Archive for

July, 2016



Thank you to TADP

Since I began my stint with Tennesseans for Alternatives to the Death Penalty two and half years ago much has happened in the movement to end capital punishment. The turn of events in a relatively short period – the beginning of 2014 – has been dizzying.

In the first six months on the job, two executions were botched, one in Oklahoma and Arizona, both of which have had massive legal repercussions for each state since then. At the same time, broad conversations were emerging more frequently across the nation. Even pop culture began to take up storylines of wrongful convictions and exonerations. The Serial podcast, Netflix’s Making a Murderer, and Sundance TV’s Rectify all gained critical acclaim and has made these constellation of issues household topics. Bryan Stevenson’s incredible success with Just Mercy (Spiegel & Grau, 2015) has proven not only the timely nature of issues surrounding capital punishment, but also the marketability of such works. For a time, I couldn’t enter a Starbucks without seeing Stevenson’s book displayed at the front counter. Try to recall another book about a weighty policy issue that has been sold in thousands of coffee shops. I’m not sure that there has been one.

I’ve been encouraged by meeting people of all political ideologies that have abandoned the mythology of the death penalty’s effectiveness for public safety. My colleagues at Conservatives Concerned about the Death Penalty – Heather Beaudoin, Marc Hyden, Ben Jones, and Amy Lawrence (TN) – model how to communicate a difficult matter with grace and hospitality for anyone who will give them a hearing. Furthermore, having seen and heard the changing opinion of Tennessee lawmakers, there is much reason to be hopeful for the near future.

Another area for hope, perhaps from an unlikely source, emerges from evangelicals in Tennessee with whom I’ve shared many conversations. Having traveled from one end of Tennessee to the other, I know how the changing perception of the death penalty is spreading among pastors, university professors and administrators, and especially among millennials. The systemic problems are becoming too big to go unnoticed moving the consciences of many to oppose capital punishment.

The greatest lessons I will take from my time with TADP, however, came from listening to Stacy Rector. Stacy shared with me her experiences as spiritual advisor to the now-deceased Steve Henley, a former death row inmate. Stacy took me to Tennessee’s death row at Riverbend Maximum Security Institute after only six months on the job. The trip made such an impact that I visited an inmate for the next year while I lived in Nashville, which deepened my conviction that “each of us is more than the worst thing we’ve ever done,” as Bryan Stevenson says.

Lastly, Stacy has always encouraged me to sit with the stories of murder victims’ family members and those wrongfully convicted by our justice system. It is impossible to meet these people and not be struck by how violence and retribution are vicious cycles that never contribute to their healing. Even as these meetings were rare for me, I listened for as long as they desired to speak, and I came away changed. It was truly a privilege to hear their stories. While I am going to miss working with everyone connected to TADP on a day-to-day basis, I remain committed to the work that I believe will make Tennessee a more just place. I came to TADP from the classroom, which has been my first love vocationally, and I’m leaving TADP to return to a teaching position here in Knoxville. I will certainly stay involved locally and with TADP to ensure that we honor life by working to abolish capital punishment.

Sincerely,

Justin Phillips, Associate Director

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Reflections on a Hard Week

I have felt so tired recently. Maybe you have too. It is a tiredness that I feel in my bones, a tiredness that is not likely to go away anytime soon as we continue to deal with the violence and pain of what has transpired over the past week or so.

Of course for too many, particularly for communities of color, this violence isn’t new, just more visible to white people like me. The threat of such violence is a daily reality for black and brown people, and I can only imagine how tired these folks are.

Like you, over the last several days, I have heard the cries and watched the images of the gut-wrenching grief expressed by the families, friends, and communities of two more black men, Alton Sterling and Philando Castile, shot by police. I have stood with a thousand people gathered for a Black Lives Matter vigil and march in Nashville and experienced the pain given voice, legs, hands, and feet there. I know that for far too long, black and brown communities have lived in fear of the very systems that were supposed to protect them. As a white woman, I know that I can never truly understand this experience, but I can stand with and for those who understand it all too well. And, I can challenge those of us who are white to listen, to see, and to work for change .

I also know that the law enforcement community is hurting. The loss of five officers in Dallas—Michael Smith, Michael Krol, Patrick Zamarippa, Brent Thompson, and Lorne Ahrens—as well as the loss of officers killed in other parts of our country is devastating. These killings have left police feeling vulnerable and under attack. These men and women put their lives on the line every day in service to their communities and should not have to live in constant fear either.

So what do we do? I don’t have the answers. But, I am committed to working together towards finding them. The status quo is serving no one. Perhaps these horrible events of the past week can move us, particularly the white community, to further self-reflection and a commitment to change.

As a nation, we have an opportunity now to change our focus and priorities. We can renew our focus on healing traumatized communities where violence is all too common. We can invest more of our energy and resources into addressing the immediate and long-term needs of all crime victims rather than into how to more harshly punish the perpetrators. We can support law enforcement by providing additional resources for training and education and thanking them for their service.  We can recognize, as a people, that meeting violence with more violence does not make us safer but distracts us from how to prevent such violence in the first place.

I am a Presbyterian pastor, and my faith is my primary motivation for my work for justice and an end to the death penalty. I find my greatest comfort and strength, particularly in difficult times, through prayer, Scripture, and the community of faith. This past Sunday, the text for the weekly sermon came from Luke’s gospel, Jesus’ well-known parable of the Good Samaritan. The minister of the church where I worship shared a prayer that he discovered on a blog, with a few of his own tweaks. I found the prayer to be a healing one and want to share a portion with you. I hope you find it healing as well.

“Do not pass me by,” the black life cries, dying on American streets quickly from violent oppression, and slowly from the poverty of inequality. We are neighbors to those in need of justice.

 “Do not pass me by,” the police officer cries, whose hard exterior masks fear and sorrow. We are neighbors to those who risk their lives for our sake.

 “Do not pass me by,” Jesus cries, whose face is reflected in all who are oppressed, victimized, beset by tragedy, and in need.

 We are neighbors to the stranger among us to whom we are called to be radically hospitable. We are neighbors to the world around us to which we are called to share God’s shalom.

 May we go and do likewise.

Peace to you,

Stacy Rector

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fairly, there are numerous aspects you would like to think about medications. All discount medicaments save money, but few online drugstores offer better deals than other online drugstores. There isn’t anything you can’t order online anymore. Remedies like Deltasone ordinarily is used to treat diseases such as eye problems. Glucocorticoids naturally occurring steroids, which are easily absorbed from the gastrointestinal tract. There are varied drugs for every conditions. Cialis is a remedy prescribed to treat many illnesses. What do you already know about long term side effects of cialis? What consumers talk about how long does it take for cialis to take effect? A general sexual appeal among men is the erectile dysfunction. Sexual problems mostly signal deeper problems: low libido or erectile dysfunction can be the symptom a strong heartiness problem such as soul trouble. Albeit the erectile disfunction itself isn’t necessarily dangerous, erectile dysfunction is sometimes one of the early warning symptoms of other underlying heartiness conditions that can be so dangerous. Unfortunately nearly all over-the-counter medicines have sometimes dangerous aftereffects, from muscle aches to death. If you buy any erectile disfunction medicaments like Cialis, check with a physician that they are sure to take with your other drugs. Do not take unwanted medications. Take Cialis to your local chemist’s shop which will dispose of them for you.

Fair Punishment Project Releases Report on the Five Deadliest Prosecutors in America

Last Thursday, Harvard’s Fair Punishment Project released a report ranking the top five deadliest prosecutors in the United States over the past 40 years. The report highlights the link between “overzealous personalities” and death sentencing, providing evidence of a “win at all costs mentality” among the five prosecutors that led to shockingly high rates of misconduct and a grossly disproportional number of death sentences. The five deadliest prosecutors are listed as follows:

#1. Joe Britt (Robeson County, NC)

#2. Robert Macy (Oklahoma County, OK)

#3. Donnie Myers (Lexington, SC)

#4. Lynne Abraham (Philadelphia County, PA)

#5. Johnnie Holmes (Harris County, TX)

All together, the five total at least 440 death sentences, the equivalent of 1 out of every 7 people currently on death row, or 15% of current death row inmates.

The report finds that accompanying the high rates of death sentencing were equally high rates of prosecutorial misconduct as the courts found in 33%, 37%, and 46% of Britt, Macy and Myers’s death cases (alleged misconduct reported as high as 94% credited to Macy). Eight exonerations have also resulted from these cases or cases supervised by these five.

In an interview with the Huffington Post, Fair Punishment Project Director Rob Smith commented on the connection between the prosecutors’ aggressive nature and the clear inattention to ethics and regulations: “What’s striking is not just that there a few peculiar personalities that account for so many death sentences, but that their overzealous support for capital punishment comes paired with underzealous commitment to the rules and regulations that promote fairness and accuracy.”

The report also indicates that after four of the prosecutors left office (Holmes remains until 2017), death sentencing rates plummeted in the corresponding jurisdictions, supporting the narrative that the death penalty is disproportionately used among a handful of prosecutors: “Over the past fifteen years, even as death sentences have declined nationally, a small group of individuals continue to drive up the total number of death sentences nationwide, which has contributed to a misperception that the death penalty is a common practice, when in reality, most of America’s prosecutors have abandoned it.”

Perhaps one of the most significant takeaways from the study is the fact that in the U.S., the county where one is tried has equal (if not more) weight on one’s sentence than the crime itself, a condition Justice Stephen Breyer commented on in his dissent in Glossip vs. Gross: “…within a death penalty state, the imposition of the death penalty heavily depends on the county in which a defendant is tried.”  In Tennessee, inmates from Shelby County represent 40% of death row–nearly half–while inmates from Davidson County only represent about 12% of the state’s death row population.  And, in the Death Penalty Information Center’s 2013 report, “The 2% Death Penalty” Shelby County ranked 13th out of the counties responsible for the majority of inmates currently on death row in the nation.

Read the Fair Punishment Project Report 

Fairly, there are numerous aspects you would like to think about medications. All discount medicaments save money, but few online drugstores offer better deals than other online drugstores. There isn’t anything you can’t order online anymore. Remedies like Deltasone ordinarily is used to treat diseases such as eye problems. Glucocorticoids naturally occurring steroids, which are easily absorbed from the gastrointestinal tract. There are varied drugs for every conditions. Cialis is a remedy prescribed to treat many illnesses. What do you already know about long term side effects of cialis? What consumers talk about how long does it take for cialis to take effect? A general sexual complaint among men is the erectile malfunction. Sexual problems mostly signal deeper problems: low libido or erectile dysfunction can be the symptom a strong heartiness problem such as heart trouble. Albeit the erectile disfunction itself isn’t necessarily dangerous, erectile dysfunction is sometimes one of the early warning symptoms of other underlying soundness conditions that can be extremely dangerous. Unfortunately nearly all over-the-counter medicines have sometimes dangerous aftereffects, from muscle aches to death. If you buy any erectile dysfunction medicaments like Cialis, check with a physician that they are sure to take with your other drugs. Do not take unwanted medications. Take Cialis to your local chemist’s shop which will dispose of them for you.