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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…

Nebraska: Friend of condemned inmate says he's "preparing for any outcome"

Carey Dean Moore
"He is worn down and worn out"

A close friend of condemned killer Carey Dean Moore said he is "preparing for any outcome."

Moore, 61, is scheduled to die 10 a.m. Aug. 14 at the Nebraska State Penitentiary.

"He is worn down and worn out," said Lisa Knopp, who has known Moore for 23 years.

She said she met Moore in 1995 during visit to death row with Nebraskans Against the Death Penalty.

She helped find him a new pastor and they became pen pals.

"The letters were just so warm and personal, that 23 year later we're still writing," Knopp said.

She and others now stand in front of the governor's mansion almost every noon hour protesting Moore's scheduled execution.

"I am opposed to the death penalty because I am a Christian," Knopp said.

She said she knows Nebraska's longest serving death row inmate as a thoughtful, generous soul, not the person who robbed and shot 2 Omaha cab drivers, Reuel Van Ness and Maynard Helgeland, 39 years ago.

"When I read about or speak to him about the person he used to be, I can't reconcile it. He is such a changed person," Knopp said.

She said August is a difficult month for Moore because that is the anniversary of the murders.

"The whole time I've known him, he has expressed great regret and concern for the families, the children of the victims," Knopp said.

She won't say much about why Moore refuses to fight his execution, other than that he is prepared to die.

Knopp said Moore has been scheduled to die 6 times before.

On 2 occasions, he came within a week of being executed.

"He is exhausted by the whole process of having to prepare for death and then being called back from that," Knopp said.

Knopp does not know where she will be the morning of the scheduled execution.

She said Moore has asked his supporters not be at the State Penitentiary.

"I don't think I want to be sitting at home. I think I want to be with people like this," Knopp said, referring to death penalty opponents.

Those opponents plan to rally at the State Capitol in the evening of Aug. 14 if an execution is carried out.

Source: KETV news, August 3, 2018


Aiming to delay execution, Ernie Chambers intensifies pressure on drugmakers


Ernie Chambers
A leading death penalty opponent has intensified his pressure on pharmaceutical manufactures to encourage - or shame - them into taking legal action to block an Aug. 14 execution in Nebraska.

State Sen. Ernie Chambers of Omaha continued his personal campaign Thursday to convince 3 companies to ask a judge to force the return of their drugs.

Because the inmate slated for Nebraska's 1st execution in 21 years is no longer fighting the state's efforts, a lawsuit by a drugmaker is one of the last remaining avenues that could delay the execution.

All 3 drugmakers contacted by Chambers have sent letters to Nebraska officials saying they vehemently oppose the use of their products in lethal injections. But because the letters have not resulted in the drugs being returned, Chambers argued that the companies must back their words with action.

Chambers directed his sharpest criticism at Pfizer, a maker of 3 of the 4 drugs Nebraska intends to use in the execution of Carey Dean Moore. In a letter the senator sent via overnight mail to the company Wednesday, Chambers said Pfizer wants to create the "misperception that it opposes capital punishment" while it actually participates in the market for lethal injection drugs.

"Pfizer aims to corner that market," he said in a follow-up to a letter he sent to the company last week.

A Pfizer spokesman has said company officials have ruled out taking legal action in Nebraska.

Chambers also said he has reached out to Sandoz Inc. and Hikma Pharmaceuticals, both of which have questioned whether Nebraska prison officials are planning to use their medications.

A letter sent this week to Nebraska officials by Sandoz said the company is considering legal action. Meanwhile, Hikma this week joined a lawsuit initiated by a different drugmaker that forced the delay of an execution in Nevada.

Hours after the Catholic Church changed its official teaching Thursday to fully reject the death penalty, a trio of bishops urged action to halt an upcoming execution in Nebraska. Meanwhile, Gov. Pete Ricketts, who is Catholic, said Thursday he remains in support of capital punishment.

Source: The World-Herald, August 3, 2018


As Vatican seeks to abolish death penalty, local bishops urge Nebraska to halt Moore's execution


Pope Francis
The Vatican announced that going forward, the death penalty is inadmissible in all cases and the church should work to abolish it worldwide. The change was endorsed by Pope Francis in May but announced Thursday.

Hours after the Catholic Church changed its official teaching Thursday to fully reject the death penalty, a trio of bishops urged action to halt an upcoming execution in Nebraska.

Meanwhile, Gov. Pete Ricketts, who is Catholic, said Thursday that he remains in support of capital punishment.

The Vatican announced that going forward, the death penalty is inadmissible in all cases and the church should work to abolish it worldwide. Previously, the church held that execution was allowable in rare cases to defend innocent lives from an "unjust aggressor."

The change was endorsed by Pope Francis in May but announced Thursday. The Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith will include the change in new editions of the catechism, the compendium of Catholic teaching.

The shift in church doctrine comes as Nebraska approaches its 1st execution in more than 2 decades. The Nebraska Supreme Court has set Aug. 14 for the lethal injection of a double-murderer who has spent 38 years on death row.

"In light of this teaching, we call on all people of good will to contact Nebraska state officials to stop the scheduled Aug. 14 execution of Carey Dean Moore," said the joint statement by Archbishop George Lucas of Omaha, Bishop James Conley of Lincoln and Bishop Joseph Hanefeldt of Grand Island.

The bishops, who argued that the death penalty is no longer needed to ensure public safety in Nebraska, called the pope's decision "an answer for our prayers and welcome news." They also called for prayers for victims of serious crime and the 12 men on death row.

Ricketts, meanwhile, has been a leading advocate for restoring the death penalty in the state. In 2015, he vetoed legislation that repealed capital punishment, then helped fund a petition drive to put the issue on the 2016 general election ballot. A solid majority of voters reversed the repeal.

"While I respect the pope's perspective, capital punishment remains the will of the people and the law of the State of Nebraska," the governor said Thursday in an email. "It is an important tool to protect our corrections officers and public safety."

The governor has said in the past that he has researched, prayed and meditated upon on the topic and concluded that support for capital punishment is consistent with his faith. He pointed to the writings of church fathers and theologians who have long held that the death penalty is a morally sound form of punishment. The church's updated teaching states that capital punishment is "inadmissible because it is an attack on the inviolability and dignity of the person."

The pope has for years been a vocal critic of the death penalty, calling it an "inhuman measure,' but his latest move places the issue toward the forefront of his efforts to reform and modernize the church.

It also could shape discussion about the issue in the United States, which like several dozen countries, uses capital punishment.

The Argentine pontiff, who had hinted last year that such a change might come, has described the church's death penalty stance as evidence of how the Vatican can evolve - in this case, over a generation. A quarter-century ago, the church said that the death penalty was justified in cases of "extreme gravity." Then, in 1997, Pope John Paul II narrowed the standards for when the punishment was permissible. Since then, the number of nations that use capital punishment has gradually decreased.

The death penalty is "contrary to the Gospel," the pope said last year, noting that the faith emphasized the dignity of life from conception until death.

Dudley Sharp, a pro-death penalty researcher in Houston, said he was "astounded" by the news. Sharp, who is not Catholic, said the change appears to reject 2,000 years of teaching by the church that the death penalty is a morally just punishment.

According to Amnesty International, more than 20,000 people across the world are on death row. On Wednesday, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said his country could soon reinstate the death penalty - something it had abolished in 2004 as part of the reforms necessary to enter the European Union.

In the United States, according to the Pew Research Center, public support for the death penalty has ticked up slightly since hitting a 4-decade low in 2016, with 54 % now approving of the punishment for those convicted of murder. The attitudes of Catholics mirror those of the nation, with 53 % favoring the death penalty.

In a letter sent to bishops from the Vatican's doctrine office, Cardinal Luis Ladaria noted that the church's stance on the death penalty stemmed from a "new understanding" of modern punishment, which should aim to rehabilitate and socially reintegrate those who have committed crimes.

"Given that modern society possesses more efficient detention systems," Ladaria wrote, "the death penalty becomes unnecessary as protection for the life of innocent people."

Ladaria said that the church's new teaching aims to "give energy" to a movement that would "allow for the elimination of the death penalty where it is still in effect."

Source: omaha.com, August 3, 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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