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Will the U.S. Finally End the Death Penalty?

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In the past, abolition efforts have faced a backlash—but Gavin Newsom’s moratorium may be different.
The American death penalty is extraordinarily fragile, with death sentences and executions on the decline. Public support for the death penalty has diminished. The practice is increasingly marginalized around the world. California, with its disproportionately large share of American death-row inmates, announces an end to the death penalty. The year? 1972. That’s when the California Supreme Court declared the death penalty inconsistent with the state’s constitutional prohibition of cruel or unusual punishments—only to have the death penalty restored a year later through popular initiative and legislation.
On Wednesday, again, California walked back its commitment to the death penalty. Though not full-fledged abolition, Governor Gavin Newsom declared a moratorium on capital punishment lasting as long as his tenure in office, insisting that the California death penalty has been an “abject…

Alabama: James Callahan executed

James Harvey Callahan was executed at 6:24 p.m. today [Jan. 15, 2009] at Holman Correctional Facility for the 1982 kidnapping, rape and murder of a Jacksonville woman. He had been on Alabama's death row almost 26 years.

Callahan's attorneys had sought a stay today from the U.S. Supreme Court. It was rejected. Almost a year ago, the high court granted a reprieve only an hour before his scheduled execution. State prosecutors had said Callahan's appeals were exhausted. Gov. Bob Riley's office agreed, saying the governor had no plans to intervene. "Tonight, justice will finally be served," his statement said.

Callahan was twice convicted for the Feb. 3, 1982, slaying of Rebecca Suzanne Howell, a 26-year-old Jacksonville State University student abducted from a coin-operated laundry.

The victim's sister, Donna Wood released a statement that said, "This ordeal has never been anything but sad and difficult for everyone involved. She said it was unfortunate that her father, who died 3 years ago, did not live long enough to see the execution, "but we know that he is here with us in spirit." She said her slain sister was "truly a kind and loving person, one that we all still miss each and every day."

In his last moments, Callahan stared at his son, Kevin, told him that he loved him and asked Kevin to take care of his children and grandchildren. "I have a lot of remorse that I can't be here for you," he said.

Then Chaplain Chris Summers knelt beside him and prayed as Callahan closed his eyes, thrust several times against the staps, yawned, coughed twice and grew still.

Callahan never acknowledged any guilt and spoke only to his son, not to Rebecca Suzanne Howell's mother and sister.

Callahan had spent the day visiting with family and spiritual supporters. Department of Corrections spokesman Brian Corbett said Callahan prayed earlier with adviser Donald Barker, as well as with family members, and was to receive communion at 4:30 p.m.

Callahan's will bequeaths to his son $36.42 from his prison account, a black and white Radio Shack TV, 2 watches, a Walkman, some headphones, a leather belt, 2 pairs of boots, 1 pair of Nike tennis shoes, food items and legal papers.

Callahan becomes the 1st condemned inmate to be put to death this year in Alabama and the 39th overall since the state resumed capital punishment in 1883. The state has 4 more scheduled executions in the next 4 months.

Callahan becomes the 2nd condemned inmate to be put to death this year in the USA and the 1138th overall since the nation resumed executions on January 17, 1977.

The execution marks the second execution of 2009 & the last execution in the States during the Presidency of George W. Bush.

Sources: Birmingham News, Rick Halperin, Capital Defense Weekly, January 16, 2009

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