Reflections On a Successful Year and Plans for a Great 2012

As we reflect on the past year, TADP is proud of the continued success of the abolition movement across the nation. The repeal of the death penalty in Illinois marked perhaps the greatest achievement of 2011 with folks from all over the country, including Tennessee, traveling to Illinois to work on the effort. Other states like Maryland, Connecticut, and California are hard at work educating and organizing citizens, moving those states even closer to repeal.

Other victories include Oregon’s governor issuing a moratorium on executions and North Carolina’s governor preserving the Racial Justice Act, allowing death row inmates to appeal their sentences based on statistical proof of racial bias.

Last month the Pennsylvania Senate passed a resolution to establish a comprehensive analysis of capital punishment, and in Ohio, a legislative committee held a hearing on the state’s death penalty repeal bill. The hearing’s lead witness was Ohio Supreme Court Justice Paul Pfieffer, who, as a legislator, was the author of Ohio’s death penalty statute. He joined more than a dozen other prominent voices to effectively call for repeal at last month’s hearing.

Another big moment occurred when Pope Benedict XVI made one of the strongest statements yet against the death penalty at his weekly audience at the Vatican in November.

Here in Tennessee, Governor Bredesen granted clemency to E.J. Harbison in January 2011 after TADP spent years raising awareness about the problems in his case. We had record turnout at our annual Student Conference on the Death Penalty with nearly 200 in attendance, a successful Justice Day on the Hill event, our first Circle of Hope event for murder victims’ families, and our biggest Generations Against the Death Penalty benefit concert yet!  In case you missed the coverage of the recent concert, we were featured by County Music Television and The Huffington Post.

In March, David Kaczynski spoke to students at Belmont University on behalf of the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) and was featured on the Channel 5 Plus show Morning Line in Nashville, educating Tennesseans about mental illness and the death penalty. In April, TADP brought Amnesty International’s Death Penalty Abolition Campaign Director Laura Moye to Belmont University where she spoke to students about the Troy Davis case.

A 2011 Gallup poll shows that support for the death penalty in the United States is at its lowest level since 1972, and death sentences and executions have reached their lowest levels since the reinstatement of the death penalty in 1977. Even states like Texas and Virginia, who have the highest rates of death sentences and executions in the nation, have seen a decline in the use of the death penalty. More and more Americans are realizing the many problems with maintaining a death penalty system including the high costs, racial and class bias of its application, and the risk of executing the innocent.

As we head into 2012, TADP and our partners across the country will continue raising awareness and empowering people to get involved. With the overwhelming reaction to the execution of Troy Davis in Georgia, people across this country are becoming increasingly moved to act to end this broken system, and TADP will continue to provide opportunities for citizens to make their voices heard.

Happy New Year!

Photo by Wolf Blitzkrieg

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