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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…

Texas: Death penalty inappropriate for a convicted murderer who ate his own eye

One of the oldest concepts of punishment can be found in the Bible - an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth.

Andre Thomas loved memorizing Bible verses when he was in Sunday school at Harmony Baptist Church, according to a Texas Monthly profile. But after he was arrested for murder, Thomas took the concept further - gouging out his own right eye while awaiting trial. After a jury sentenced him to death, Thomas pulled out his remaining eye and ate it.

Despite a long history of severe mental illness that includes those and other episodes of self-mutilation, Texas continues to seek to execute Thomas. It is another instance of the death penalty run amok - a cruel and increasingly unusual practice that should be put to an end.

On June 5, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit will hear oral argument in the case of Thomas, who suffers from "schizophrenia characterized by psychotic delusions and hyper-religious preoccupations." His lawyers claim he was "actively psychotic" at the time he murdered and mutilated his ex-wife, his own son and his former wife's daughter by another man, according to his attorneys and medical experts.

Incredibly, Thomas' 2 original defense attorneys never introduced evidence in his trial about Thomas' long history of mental illness, suicide attempts and visits to doctors seeking help immediately before the crime.

His appellate attorneys subsequently have raised important questions both about his competence, and about whether members of the all-white jury that sentenced him to die were biased against him on racial grounds. Thomas is African-American. His former wife was white and both children were biracial. Yet four jurors allowed to serve in his case expressed opposition to interracial marriage. One said it wasn't what God intended. Another said, "We should stay with our bloodline."

At this point, Thomas is not even seeking relief - he's just asking for a "Certificate of Appealability," a step required before the court would actually consider his case and whether to offer relief. The state is opposing that effort.

Texas should drop its appeal and agree that Thomas' sentence should be commuted to life. He should be allowed to spend the rest of his days in a jail cell where the demons of his mental illness and the pangs of his own conscience will alternately torment him [Does a person suffering from mental illness deserve to be "tormented?" A regrettable assertion in an otherwise commendable editorial. Wouldn't it be more appropriate to suggest that this inmate should spend the rest of his days in a psychiatric institution where his mental sufferings can be, if not cured, at least alleviated? - DPN]. The rest of us should contemplate what another Bible verse says about taking an eye for an eye - Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord.

Source: Houston Chronicle, Editorial, June 4, 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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Will the U.S. Finally End the Death Penalty?