Pope Declares Death Penalty Inadmissible in All Cases

ROME — Pope Francis has declared the death penalty inadmissible in all cases because it is “an attack” on the “dignity of the person,” the Vatican announced on Thursday, in a definitive shift in Roman Catholic teaching that could put enormous pressure on lawmakers and politicians around the world.
Francis, who has spoken out against capital punishment before — including in 2015 in an address to Congress — added the change to the Catechism, the collection of beliefs for the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics.
The revision says the church would work “with determination” for the abolition of capital punishment worldwide.
“I think this will be a big deal for the future of the death penalty in the world,” said John Thavis, a Vatican expert and author. “People who work with prisoners on death row will be thrilled, and I think this will become a banner social justice issue for the church,” he added.
Sergio D’Elia, the secretary of Hands Off Cain, an association that works to abolish capital puni…

Ohio: Clemency appropriately applied by the governor

Raymond Tibbetts
Ross Geiger took the extraordinary step of writing to the governor last week. On Thursday, John Kasich responded in a considered and appropriate way. The governor issued a temporary reprieve for Raymond Tibbetts, who was scheduled for execution by lethal injection next Tuesday. Now the Ohio Parole Board will revisit the Tibbetts case.

In his 4-page letter, Geiger offered a unique viewpoint. He served on the jury that convicted Tibbetts for 2 killings and sentenced him to death 2 decades ago. Geiger explained to the governor that the jurors had no doubt about Tibbetts' guilt. He and another juror did have concerns about a death sentence, yet they eventually joined their colleagues in the required unanimity.

What spurred him to write was his look at the documentation accompanying the most recent clemency hearing. Geiger told the governor that he learned things for the 1st time, so much that he concluded: "Based on what I know today I would not have recommended the death penalty. ..."

A trial involving the death penalty has 2 phases, the first deciding whether the defendant is guilty, and the 2nd, if needed, to weigh whether a death sentence fits according to the law. A defendant has the opportunity to present mitigating evidence. What Geiger discovered is how little of the available mitigating evidence reached the jury.

Tibbetts didn't just have a tough childhood. It was filled with trauma almost from the start, including repeated abandonment, abuse that continued in foster homes, drug and alcohol addiction. Yet his trial attorneys brought just 1 witness, a psychiatrist, before jurors to discuss these circumstances. Geiger told the governor he was shocked to learn that Tibbetts' sister was available to testify, but she wasn't called to the witness stand.

That left 2 impressions: No one cared enough about Tibbetts to prevent his execution and that prosecutors must be right, the Tibbetts siblings, in contrast, leading normal lives. Now Geiger knows differently, the siblings with their own troubled lives.

The point Geiger makes about these and other failings in the trial process isn't to excuse somehow the awful crime committed by Tibbetts. Rather, his concern goes to whether Ohio should execute Tibbetts. He reasonably asks the governor: "... if we are going to have a legal process that can send criminals to death that includes a special phase for mitigation shouldn't we get it right?"

One of the virtues of giving the governor the power of clemency is that it provides a backstop for justice, in particular, when information emerges after a conviction and avenues to the courthouse essentially are closed. The governor ends up as the one authority in position to assess all that is known.

In this instance, John Kasich has exercised that power just as it should be done. Now the parole board must do its part, giving the Ross Geiger letter the weight it deserves, Ray Tibbetts spared execution for life without parole.

Source: ohio.com, Beacon Journal/Ohio.com editorial board, February 9, 2018

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"One is absolutely sickened, not by the crimes that the wicked have committed,
but by the punishments that the good have inflicted." -- Oscar Wilde

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