Support Georgians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty (GFADP)!

posted Dec 7, 2015, 10:08 AM by Kathryn Hamoudah

Dear Friends, 

While there is a palatable movement away from the death penalty in the United States, Georgia is in a crisis moment.  We are anticipating eight executions to be scheduled in the next several months. 

On Thursday, November 19th, Georgia executed Marcus Ray Johnson. Marcus consistently maintained his innocence and was convicted on the basis of unreliable eyewitness testimony from people who did not see Mr. Johnson commit any crime. We know our criminal justice system is not devoid of error: 155 individuals have been released from death rows across the United States, most often due to mistaken witness identification, since 1976.

In 2015 to date, Georgia has executed four people: Kelly Gissendaner, Warren Hill, Andrew Brannan, and Marcus Ray Johnson. In each case, Georgians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty (GFADP) provided a voice of reason, urging our state to move away from perpetuating violence. As we approach 2016, we have steeled our resolve to continue to raise our voices and publicly take a stand against a futile, brutalizing exercise that makes us neither safer nor more whole. Your financial support is critical to lifting our voices as high as possible. 

These cases exemplify much of what is wrong with the death penalty and why our work to end the practice is so critical.

Non-Trigger Person and Redemption

Kelly Gissendaner was executed on September 30, 2015, despite the fact that she did not physically carry out the crime. Her co-defendant who did will be eligible for parole in seven years. This is the first time in the modern death penalty era that Georgia has executed an individual who did not kill the victim and was not there when the victim was killed.

There was much attention given to Kelly’s story of transformation and redemption - even Pope Francis pleaded for her life. The outgrowth of her journey is seen vividly in the care and support she offered other women with whom she was incarcerated. Many of them shared that Kelly was their only support during their darkest days in prison. Some who were contemplating suicide credit Kelly with saving their lives. Resoundingly, all say that Kelly challenged them to change their lives while they were in prison, offering encouragement, guidance, and love when they needed it most.

Intellectual Disability

Warren Hill was executed on January 27, 2015 because Georgia requires a defendant to prove intellectual disability “beyond a reasonable doubt.” This is the heaviest burden of proof in the law, and Georgia is the only state that requires it. As a result of our coalition building, we will introduce a bill in the 2016 Legislative Session to change Georgia’s extreme “beyond a reasonable doubt” law to ensure that people with intellectual disability are protected from execution in our state. 

Mental Illness

Andrew Brannan, executed on January 13, 2015, was a decorated Vietnam combat veteran who was sentenced to death for the 1998 murder of Laurens County Deputy Sheriff Kyle Dinkheller during a traffic stop. 

Andrew had no prior criminal history and long before the crime had been declared 100% disabled by the Veterans Administration (VA), due to diagnoses of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and Bipolar Disorder. The traffic stop between Brannan and Deputy Dinkheller escalated into a gun fight after Brannan erratically pulled a rifle from his car. Deputy Dinkheller died at the scene.

 

Andrew was sentenced to death by a jury who never heard a firsthand account of the details of his meritorious service in Vietnam – earning him two Army Commendation Medals and a Bronze Star, one of the nation’s highest awards for meritorious service in combat. The jury never heard about his debilitating, disabling PTSD or about his Bipolar Disorder diagnosis. With your support, we can continue to educate lawmakers about the impact of mental illness and the death penalty.

We will continue to face some dark days in Georgia, but as recent news including Nebraska’s abolition victory demonstrates, the thirst for death is declining across the country. While we are in a moment of crisis in Georgia, we are also in a moment of tremendous possibility. We are in a moment when we can see a near future in which the death penalty no longer exists in this country.  But, it is going to take hard work, new strategies, and resources. For Kelly, for Warren, for Andrew, for Marcus, we are committed to struggle for the end of the death penalty.

We are grateful for your continued support and generosity. We wouldn’t be here without you, and for that, we’re so thankful.  

With hope, 

Kathryn Hamoudah, Chair

GFADP Board of Directors

 

 

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