There is so much happening. We’ve been so busy here in Tennessee working to Free Paul House, that we haven’t had a chance to talk about all the incredible work that is happening around the country, and all the amazing progress that has happened as we struggle for abolition.
It started last week, when the Death Penalty Information Center released their end of the year report on the use of the death penalty in the Untied States. What did it show? The number of executions across the country are down, the number of death sentences are down, and there are fewer people on death row. Perhaps more importantly, a national poll now reveals that the majority of Americans prefer LWOP to a death sentence. Even as our policy-makers are slow to pick up on the fact that the death penalty doesn’t work, juries and people around the country are deciding that we’d prefer an alternative to death and vengeance. Now a Houston prosecutor on NPR told reporters that this doesn’t demonstrate any change of heart on the death penalty, but we know that our message is getting out (it really helps that our message is the truth).
Then last week in Florida, we saw another horrendous spectacle in our nation’s killing machine. As the state of Florida killed Angel Diaz, the execution took 34 minutes and an extra dose of the lethal chemicals. The result? Another barbarous demonstration that no matter how much we try to sanitize the death penalty, it will always be cruel and unusual. But the upside of this tragedy is that Governor Jeb Bus (a big death penalty supporter, by the way) has put a hold on all executions in his state until a commission reports on the lethal injection procedure and what went wrong. So California and Florida now have stopped execution temporarily. Read more here.
So a lot has happened and the New Year looks brighter than the old one. We hope to put a halt to executions in Tennessee next year, and who knows how many other states will follow suit. Executions, death sentences, and the death row population will continue to drop and public opinion will continue to swing our way as we learn about innocence cases like Paul House and the arbitrary and racist practice of the death penalty. So even as we struggle here in Tennessee, remember that around the country we are winning.
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