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In the Bible Belt, Christmas Isn’t Coming to Death Row

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When it comes to the death penalty, guilt or innocence shouldn’t really matter to Christians.  

NASHVILLE — Until August, Tennessee had not put a prisoner to death in nearly a decade. Last Thursday, it performed its third execution in four months.
This was not a surprising turn of events. In each case, recourse to the courts had been exhausted. In each case Gov. Bill Haslam, a Republican, declined to intervene, though there were many reasons to justify intervening. Billy Ray Irick suffered from psychotic breaks that raised profound doubts about his ability to distinguish right from wrong. Edmund Zagorksi’s behavior in prison was so exemplary that even the warden pleaded for his life. David Earl Miller also suffered from mental illness and was a survivor of child abuse so horrific that he tried to kill himself when he was 6 years old.
Questions about the humanity of Tennessee’s lethal-injection protocol were so pervasive following the execution of Mr. Irick that both Mr. Zagorski and M…

Arkansas judge seen at anti-execution rally faces sanction

Pulaski County Circuit Judge Wendell Griffen
A judicial disciplinary panel charged an Arkansas judge on Friday with ethics violations for lying down on a cot during an anti-death penalty demonstration the same day he blocked the state from using an execution drug, a move that could result in his suspension or removal from office.

A 3-member panel of the Arkansas Judicial Discipline and Disability Commission filed the formal charges against Pulaski County Circuit Judge Wendell Griffen, who was photographed on a cot outside the governor's mansion last year wearing an anti-death penalty button and surrounded by people holding signs opposing executions. Earlier that day, Griffen blocked the state from using a lethal injection drug over claims the company had been misled by the state.

Though the image appeared to mimic a condemned inmate awaiting lethal injection, Griffen, who is also a Baptist pastor, has said he was portraying Jesus and participating in a prayer vigil. The panel cited his participation in the demonstration, as well as comments he had made online and on social media against the death penalty.

"Judge Griffen holds a right to free speech, but once Judge Griffen asserted his free speech in unequivocal opposition to the death penalty, he had an obligation to disqualify himself in every case effecting the death penalty," the panel said in its statement of allegations.

Days after the demonstration last year, the state Supreme Court removed Griffen from the drug case and prohibited him from handling any execution-related cases. Griffen in April re-enacted his demonstration outside the governor's mansion during a vigil to mark the 1-year anniversary of the 4 executions Arkansas carried out last year.

Griffen has 30 days to respond to the charges and will have a hearing before the full, nine-member commission. The commission can recommend the state Supreme Court suspend or remove Griffen if it finds he violated judicial rules of conduct. The panel could also issue a public admonishment, reprimand or censure the judge.

An attorney for Griffen criticized the panel's decision to charge Griffen.

"We are disappointed by today's announcement, but not surprised," Mike Laux, an attorney for Griffen, said in an email. "We question the thoroughness of the investigation, as well as the impartiality of the ad hoc JDDC panel assembled to review the matter. We will elaborate on this on Monday."

Griffen has claimed the disqualification violated his constitutional rights. The state's 7 Supreme Court justices are appealing a federal judge's ruling that allows Griffen's lawsuit against them over the disqualification to proceed.

Source: The Associated Press, June 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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