At Georgians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty (GFADP), we're pleased to see opposition to the death penalty increasing around the world. A resolution favoring a moratorium on executions passed by the United Nations continues to gain supporters. In our own country, voices of opposition to the death penalty are growing stronger, joined most recently by former U.S. Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens, who publicly has labeled the capital punishment system flawed and unconstitutional. This is not news to us. As Bob Herbert put it in the New York Times recently, "The death penalty in the United States has never been anything but an abomination — a grotesque, uncivilized, overwhelmingly racist affront to the very idea of justice."
Here in Georgia, we know that people become skeptical about state killings when they learn about the cruelty of the punishment for the families of those on death row, the arbitrary manner in which the death penalty is imposed, the exorbitant cost, as well as the real potential for executing the innocent. But we also have our work cut out for us in Georgia. We continue to fight expansion of the death penalty while other states recognize an obligation to abolish it.
Your support for Georgians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty (GFADP) allows us to continue our campaign for public awareness of this inhumane punishment, prevent expansion of the death penalty, and to move people to fight for abolition. Please make a tax-deductible year-end contribution!
The Board of Directors of GFADP has put in place a strategic plan for building support for death penalty abolition throughout the state; we are poised to move forward in 2011 to gain introduction of a death penalty repeal bill. Our diverse coalition of human rights activists, murder victims’ family members, law enforcement professionals, members of the clergy and legislators have the enthusiasm and experience to keep this movement alive. In addition, we gain expertise and resources from our coalition partners, including the Southern Center for Human Rights, Amnesty International, and the NAACP. But we also need your generous financial support in order to achieve our goals.
In the past year, GFADP has risen to a variety of challenges. Our members and supporters continue to advocate tirelessly for Troy Davis, whose innocence case brings the capital punishment system's flaws into focus for many Georgia citizens. GFADP maintained a strong presence inside and outside of the courtroom during Davis’ unprecedented evidentiary hearing on his innocence in Savannah last summer. The federal judge who presided over the hearing stated that the case "may not be ironclad." Yet he ruled against Davis, whose conviction has been undermined by recantations and new evidence that another suspect may have committed the crime, leaving him open to the possibility of a new execution date in 2011. We must continue to ask what would be gained by moving forward with an execution in a case marked by doubt.
In the past year, GFADP has held vigils statewide for Melbert “Ray” Ford and Brandon Rhode during their executions. While we oppose all executions, the killing of 31 year old Brandon Rhode, who suffered brain impairment as a result of fetal alcohol spectrum disorder brought on by his mother's abuse of alcohol and was only eighteen years old at the time of the crime, should particularly give us pause. Rhode received two stays of execution after he attempted suicide with a razor blade provided by a prison guard and had to be hospitalized. In the execution chamber, medical professionals tried for nearly 30 minutes to find a vein to inject the three-drug concoction and then 14 minutes were needed for the lethal drugs to kill him. Our state saved the man's life in order to kill him. Your generous contribution supports our clemency campaigns that allow us to tell the stories of those affected by the death penalty’s injustices, including Troy Davis and Brandon Rhode.
It has been a hard year for families of men on death row in Jackson. In an across the board crackdown, the Department of Corrections rescinded contact visits for all on death row, including family, friends, clergy and paralegals. GFADP took action, conducting a letter writing campaign, Mother’s Day card action, and meeting with officials from the Georgia Department of Corrections. Thanks to your generous support, GFADP scored a tremendous victory in getting clergy contact visits restored as well as limited family contact visits.
On the legislative front we were able to keep House Bill 32, a bill designed to allow juries to impose death sentences without unanimous agreement, from being reintroduced. Senate Bill 42, which threatened to gut the Public Defenders Standards Council and weaken Georgia’s ability to provide legal defense for all those accused of crimes was also kept at bay. Thanks to your support, we had a record number of participants at our annual Lobby Day tell their legislators they oppose the death penalty being carried out in their names.
We can live without a death penalty in Georgia.
Capital punishment in the twenty-first century is an embarrassment to our state, puts us at risk of taking the lives of innocent individuals, and diverts millions of dollars each year from more worthwhile budget items, such as law enforcement, victim’s services, and solving cold cases. Help us send our message to the State Capitol by supporting GFADP!
Please consider providing support at the highest level you can to help GFADP move into a new phase of activism against the death penalty. With your help we can bring an end to capital punishment in Georgia.
Kathryn Hamoudah, Chair
GFADP Board of Directors
P.S. Your generous contribution will allow us to continue to fight the expansion of the death penalty in Georgia, demand fully-funded indigent defense and educate and raise awareness about capital punishment in our state!