Wednesday, March 30, 2005

April events in PA

Friday, April 1: Anti-death penalty vigil in Erie
12pm, Second & State Streets, Rendell's Erie office

Tuesday, April 5: Ray Krone at Allegheny College, Meadville
Wednesday, April 6: Ray Krone at Clarion University
7pm, Hart Chapel
Ray Krone is a York County native who spent 10 years in an Arizona prison, including three on death row, for a murder he did not commit. DNA evidence cleared him in 2002, and he has been speaking publicly against the death penalty since his release
More information?

Monday, April 11: "After Innocence" in Harrisburg
Whitaker Center for Science & the Arts, 222 Market Street
5pm: Cocktail reception, featuring Ray Krone and Vincent Moto, PA's first inmate cleared by DNA evidence
6:15pm: film screening at the Select Medical IMAX Theatre
"After Innocence" is a documentary that follows the post-prison lives of six inmates released as a result of DNA evidence. One of the six is Nicholas Yarris of Philadelphia, who spent a stunning 21 years on PA's death row for a crime he did not commit. For more information on the film, visit
RSVPs required:
Thursday, April 14 & Saturday, April 16: "After Innocence" in Philadelphia
Philadelphia Film Festival
International House, 3707 Chestnut Street
More information? Visit

Thursday, April 21: Anti-death penalty vigil in Harrisburg
12pm, 3rd and Walnut Streets, Harrisburg

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

CPADP press release: March 30

March 30, 2005


March, 2005: A month to remember for anti-death penalty movement

HARRISBURG- As March closes, activists in the anti-death penalty movement in Pennsylvania reflected today on significant shifts in the battle against capital punishment in the last 30 days. The end of executions for child offenders, a new campaign against the death penalty by the Catholic church, and reconsideration of the issue by one of Pennsylvania’s U.S. Senators were all a part of an eventful month.

“How appropriate that the same day that we recognize Abolition Day, March 1, the Supreme Court decided that killing those who commit crimes as children is cruel and unusual punishment,” said Andy Hoover, president of Central Pennsylvanians to Abolish the Death Penalty. “Despite the shrill cries from extremist opinion peddlers on talkradio and in the nation’s newspapers, this was a decision clearly supported by the American people.”

An ABC News poll in December, 2003, showed that only 21 percent of Americans support the execution of child criminals.

March 1 is celebrated annually by anti-death penalty activists as Abolition Day, the day that Michigan became the first English-speaking territory to abolish capital punishment in 1847.

Meanwhile, 20 days after the Supreme Court decision, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops announced a new campaign to end capital punishment. The Catholic Campaign to End the Use of the Death Penalty was announced on March 21. The new pitch by the bishops comes with the backdrop of a new poll showing support for capital punishment amongst Catholics dropping quickly. A Zogby International poll taken in November and this month found that Catholics are now evenly split on the death penalty.

“Over the years, we’ve had a lot of great Catholic laypersons and clergy involved with our movement as individuals,” Hoover said. “To now have the church fully behind the issue as an institution will give our fight a boost.

“We welcome the bishops’ new campaign and look forward to working with them in the coming months.”

Just a day later, on March 22 in an interview with the Pittsburgh Post Gazette, U.S. Senator Rick Santorum (R-PA) expressed newfound concern about how the death penalty is operating in America.

Santorum told the Post Gazette that he is “very troubled” about the continuing discovery of innocents on death row. “I never thought about it that much when I was really a supporter of the death penalty. I still see it as potentially valuable, but I would be one to urge more caution than I would have in the past,” he said.

“It’s very telling when Senator Santorum says, ‘when I was really a supporter of the death penalty,’” Hoover commented. “Of course, this means he is no longer ‘really a supporter of the death penalty.’

“Of course, Senator Santorum may simply be trying to smooth off some of his rough edges in light of a difficult re-election campaign in 2006, but the message to Pennsylvania Republicans is clear: It’s OK to question yourself on the death penalty and to do so publicly. Senator Santorum has given his fellow Republicans political cover on this issue.”

Santorum will face State Treasurer Bob Casey, Jr., one of Pennsylvania’s most popular Democrats, in the 2006 senatorial race. In the 2002 gubernatorial primary, Casey expressed support for the death penalty.

“If someone had told me that one of the two senatorial candidates would express doubts about capital punishment, I would have assumed that it was Casey,” Hoover said. “His father was no fan of it and many in his party are also opposed to it.

“It is a pleasant surprise to hear these doubts from Senator Santorum.”


Friday, March 25, 2005

The Juvenile DP: Another brick falls off the wall

Welcome to the 20th century, America! For years, the United States lagged far behind the civilized world as it continued to condone the execution of those who commit crimes as children. On March 1, the U.S. Supreme Court finally brought us into line with every other democracy in the world by banning this cruel torture. We finally leave the company of Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, China, Congo, Iran, and Nigeria, which are the only other countries that have executed child offenders in the last 15 years.

The court’s 5-4 decision is one that has been lauded around the country and around the world. Most of America’s mainstream newspapers recognized the wisdom in the decision.

It will certainly be a decision that is appreciated by an overwhelming majority of Americans. In a December, 2003 ABC News poll, only 21% of Americans polled supported execution of those who commit crimes as children. A study released in 2004
by Columbia University researchers indicated that death sentences for juveniles had dropped significantly since 1999.

Even George W. Bush, otherwise known as the Texecutioner amongst death penalty opponents, is not a strong supporter of the juvenile death penalty. “Federal law prohibits execution of those under 18 when the offense was committed, and I see no reason to change that statute," President Bush said in a forum hosted by the New Voters Project in October (as quoted by the Death Penalty Information Center).

And in perhaps the most telling moment of all, in December 2003, a Virginia jury sentenced teenager Lee Malvo to life without the possibility of parole for his role in the D.C. sniper murders. For weeks, Malvo and his accomplice, John Muhammad, terrorized the Washington area. Certainly, Malvo was the poster boy for the juvenile death penalty. In fact, then-Attorney General John Ashcroft ordered that Malvo’s first trial take place in Virginia because it had a death penalty for children while Maryland did not. Yet the jury sentenced him to life in a state that is just one of three that have executed child offenders in the last seven years.

Clearly, the American people have matured to the point of setting aside this barbaric practice.

And, yet, an examination of some opinion pieces, talkradio commentaries, and talking head cable shows might lead one to believe that the country is narrowly split over this issue. Those decrying the court’s decision included the Wall Street Journal editorial board; Cal Thomas, a Fox News commentator and syndicated columnist; George Will of the Washington Post and ABC News; and, of course, the four Supreme Court Injustices who voted against the decision- Injustice Thomas, Injustice O’Connor, Chief Injustice Rehnquist, and would-be Chief Injustice Scalia.

Maybe Scalia’s bishop should consider denying him communion.

In contrast to the public’s obvious disdain for the practice, the vehement support of the child death penalty by some in positions of influence in the media and the judiciary leads us to a chilling conclusion: There are extremists with their fingers on the buttons of power in this country.

Thomas, Will, and the Journal have created a Straw Man, which can be easily knocked down whenever a decision occurs with which they disagree. “Legislating from the bench.” “Judicial activism.” “Activist judges with lifetime appointments.” We’ve heard the old, tired arguments so many times that their columns practically write themselves.

What scares these opinion peddlers the most is that their precious system of capital punishment is crumbling at the foundations. There truly is an evolving standard of decency in this country, and it is a standard that is evolving toward the rejection of capital punishment. The end of juvenile executions, the end of the execution of the mentally retarded, moratoria in Illinois and Maryland, the continuing release of innocents from death rows around the country, and discussions on abolition in New York, Kansas, and New Mexico indicate clearly that the death penalty is heading toward its demise. Capital punishment, our odd institution, is walking the longest walk. We’re headed toward a time when our children and our children’s children will learn about capital punishment in our museums and not in our daily news.

Anthony Kennedy, David Souter, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, and John Paul Stevens deserve credit for doing what is right and voting against the execution of children. They deserve the title of “Justice”.

Santorum rethinks death penalty stance

Pittsburgh Post Gazette:­/05081/475366.stm (AP):­ITICS/03/23/santorum.deathpena­lty.ap/

It's nice to see the junior Senator finally acknowledge what many of us have known for some time: There's a problem with the death penalty. Ask Ray Krone.

Talk is just the first step. His actions from this point forward will determine if this is a true revelation or if it is a mere political ploy to placate moderates who are concerned about the death penalty and who might vote for Bob Casey on other issues. (Casey is brutal on the death penalty. And he's Catholic, too.)