Capital Punishment and Death Row in USA
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Updated January 24
Death penalty and executions in USA and on death row in Texas and death row inmates
Death Row in Texas and Death Penalty in USA - Capital Punishment
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Texas Death Row and death penalty and executions in USA's capital punishment.

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This website is dedicated to the abolition of the death penalty in the USA. It is not run by an organization, just by me, and I hope that you will find it useful and that it will provide you some food for thought, even if you are a proponent for the death penalty or you oppose it like I do. Anyway: Welcome and enjoy the stay here.
Niels Graverholt

How would you react if somebody raped and murdered your child?
I have often been asked this question by supporters of the death penalty, and my answer is: My first reaction would probably be a strong wish to cut the balls off the bastard, to tear him apart and kill him.
But my next reaction would hopefully be gratitude for living in a constitutional state where the principle of personal revenge has been replaced by societies obligation to administer an appropriate punishment and give me the necessary support to get a decent life in spite of my loss.

Another frequent question: Why don't you care about the victims and their relatives?.  There are four answers to that:
1.   The victims are dead, and no execution will make them alive.
2.   I've heard many relatives say that they could hardly wait to gain closure by the execution of the murderer - but I have never heard any of them say years later that they really found this closure.
3.   If the dp-proponents really care so much about these relatives, I do not understand why the funding for psychological support for them is so embarrassing low or missing.
4.   How about the relatives of the person being executed? Why don't anybody care about them? Is it civilized to regard them as outcasts too?

Q : How can you feel sympathy for those monsters on death row?
Answer: I don't feel any special sympathy for murderers or rapists, but although I am not a Christian as many dp proponents claim to be I believe that all human beings deserve forgiveness, even if they have committed terrible crimes, otherwise the christian term forgiveness does not make any sense. And although it is not at all an excuse, a majority of the death row inhabitants had a terrible childhood - and as it seems that society did nothing to support them at that time, one could consider at least to treat them like human beings now.

Q : What would you do if the streets were as unsafe in your country as they are in many parts of the US?
It is understandable that many Americans feel that something drastic has to be done by the violence. But the dp is definitely not the answer.
If all the money that is being spent on the dp were used instead for better child care, education etc, this would provide more safe streets than prisons and the needle do.
But we are talking about a vicious circle, which could eventually lead to the incarceration of the majority of Americans.
How about starting to fight the (reasons for) the crime instead of fighting the criminals.

Q : What right do you have to interfere in the way we solve our problems in America?
Human rights and dignity is not merely a national issue. The dp is an obvious violation of international law and treaties, most of which have also been signed by the US. How can we persuade third world countries to respect human rights as long as 'The Worlds Policeman' violates them? Besides, the US has on several occasions violently gained control over sovereign nations with the alleged aim to guarantee human rights there, so the argument seems rather hypocritical.

Luckily, it seems that an increasing number of American citizens realize that the principle of revenge and the legal killing of human beings is not consistent with a modern civilized society.
But unfortunately they are being betrayed by unscrupulous politicians who care more about their personal career and power than about the safety of their constituents and therefore make themselves popular by providing populistic 'solutions' to the problems - like stronger penalties, more death penalties, faster executions etc. - initiatives which are not only ineffective, but cost a lot of the tax-payers money.

By doing so they neglect the numerous surveys showing that the death penalty does not have a greater deterrent effect than for instance the LWOP (Life sentence without the possibility of parole).

And apparently they also ignore their own police chiefs whos belief in the effect of the death penalty is rather limited.

Death Penalty in USA and Texas Death Row

Being 'tough-on-crime' has become one of the favourite ways for the American politicians to demonstrate that they are energetic and resolute, and in case their voters should realize the lack of deterrence of the death penalty many of the politicians pretend that it is necessary to provide closure for the families and relatives of the victims, quite an astonishing interpretation of the bible which indicates that these politicians have heard only about the Old Testament.

execution I think it is embarrassing to watch how cynical politicians abuse the fear among their fellow citizens by using the death penalty in their campaigns and thereby sacrificing human lives in their struggle to gain political power, like when governor Bill Clinton during his primaries campaign in New Hampshire in 1992 announced that he had to go back home to Arkansas to be there at the execution of Rickey Ray Rector, a black inmate who was so retarded that he asked the staff on death row to put the dessert from his last meal aside so that he could have it after his execution. And Rector is only one of many mentally retarded who have been sentenced to death.
Not to speak of the mentally ill. Emile Duhamel, a severely mentally ill death row inmate, died in the beginning of July 1998 on Texas death row. Duhamel could not understand where he was or what it meant to be executed.
An inmates whos mentally illnes makes it unconstitutional to kill them, are being medicated by force so that their mind can be clear long enough for them to understand what the hangman is doing to them.

Death Penalty and Racism in USA and Capital Punishment in America

One thing is that American politicians - in spite of all international laws and treaties and critics from the U.N. - claim the right to kill their fellow citizens.
It is also done without much effort to guarantee a fair trial for the defendant. Unless you are an O.J. Simpson and have the money to hire a dream-team you are in deep trouble if you are being charged with a capital crime as your risk of having an ineffective defense counsel is quite considerable.
And with new rules for review of death penalty cases the politicians have minimized your chances to have your sentence overthrown, even if you are able to provide new evidence demonstrating your innocence.

Death Penalty in USA and Capital Punishment But not only money beats justice in the American court rooms. The colour of skin also does, both the colour of the defendant and the skin of the victim. Talking about racism in the judicial system is no exaggeration, and polls also show that about 49% of the Americans believe that blacks are more likely than whites to receive the dp for the same crime.
The same seems to be the case for homosexuals.

And if insufficient funding and racism is not enough to ensure a death penalty verdict there are other ways. There are numerous examples of miscarriage of justice, where police and prosecutors produce false evidence, suppress evidence in favor of the defendant and provide perjured testimony, not to mention "purchase" of evidence from so-called expert witnesses.

Of course this special kind of "justice" has sent a considerable number of persons to death row in spite of their innocence, and since 1976 75 inmates have been released from death row after it was shown that they had been wrongfully convicted. Proponents of the death penalty claim that this only demonstrates that the systems works. But the truth is that many of these releases are not due to the efficiency of the judicial system, but to the intervention of law students, journalists and others who care more than those who are supposed to defend the rights of the inmates.

And the rest of the 4.000 inmates on death row do not have big chances to leave it alive. In recent years more and more has been done to deprive the inmates of their constitutional right to a fair appeal or review of their case, and in some states not even new evidence of innocence is enough to cancel their appointment with the executioner.

Capital Punishment and Death Penalty in USA For those inmates who are not so lucky to get off the death row the time until their execution is a life like human garbage where they are deprived of the most fundamental human rights and being subject to brutal treatment, no matter how humane it seems on paper.

And to fulfill this degradation of human life many states invite the relatives of the victim - whom many politicians and prosecutors try to convey the delusion that the execution will bring them closure - to come and witness and celebrate the execution, a perversion which the USA shares only with countries like China and a few Arabic nations.

As mentioned above it seems like the politicians find that promising people more killings and tougher penalties is the best way of earning votes.
But if the problem is the violence in society and murders one would think that finding solutions to these problems would be better for a political campaign.
"But you cannot be elected for anything in the USA if you do not support the death penalty", is a common statement.

Maybe this is right, but the fact is that polls show that there is a majority against the death penalty among the American population if they get the option of LWOP instead.

Racism in Capital Punishment and Death Penalty in USA

It is a small majority, but it is there, and apparently it is growing. But many right wing politicians do what they can to prevent the introduction of the LWOP in different states, probably because if would deprive them of one of their favourite tools in their campaigns.

You're not going to find 12 people back-to-back
on the same jury that are going to kill somebody
when the alternative is throwing away the key.

Former Harris County District Attorney John Holmes

But if there should still be a few decent individuals among the American politicians they ought to have a fair chance to start fighting the problems instead of making a living of the national fear for violence.
For a start, they could suggest a reduction of the completely insane number of private owned firing arm, which is an important factor in the numerous number of homicides.

For the next step they could listen to people like Wayne Scott, head of the correctional system in Texas:
Texas and Capital Punishment and Death Penalty in USA If you want to address the crime problem in the long term, it gets around to looking at at-risk children and identifying those individuals very early on and trying to influence them in a positive direction....  I think you have to look at pre-kindergarten, kindergarten, first grade. You really have to put a lot of emphasis on children. Those are the formative years.... You have to catch them before they hit that point and try to resurrect their lives.

If the politicians should prefer to deal with the causes instead of the symptoms they could consider if there is a connexion between the high crime rates in the USA and the dramatic lack of sufficient health care, social security, after school programs, support for single parents, cultural offers for the indigent, psychiatric help etc. etc.

Niels Graverholt

You are very welcome to leave your public comments which will be published here - see top of this page  
click here for private mail to me

I am not convinced that capital punishment, in and of itself, is a deterrent to crime because most people do not think about the death penalty before they commit a violent or capital crime.
Willie L. Williams, Police Chief, Los Angeles, CA

The Constitution says everyone's entitled to the attorney of their choice. The Constitution doesn't say the lawyer has to be awake.
Judge Doug Shaver, presiding over the trial of McFarland, who is now on Tx Death Row after a trial where his attorney fell asleep several times

"You always lose some soldiers in any war."
Sen. David Jaye, R-Washington Township, commenting on the risk of executing an innocent.

In February 2003 a Scripps Howard Poll of 1,000 Texans showed that 76 % support the death penalty, even though 69 % believe the system has executed an innocent persons.

    The needle is not better. Who made up this myth?
Itís peaceful for the exterminators, but not for their victim.

Richard Halperin
Southern Methodist University in Dallas

Executions in USA, statistics etc.

Death Row inmates looking for pen-pals

USA Death Row addresses

Articles, books and film reviews

Comments from visitors

International condemnation
of the American death penalty

Living conditions on Death Row

      Links to other DP related websites

The death assembly line:
Texas Dept. of Criminal Justice

The Anti-DP Movement Has Failed
Strategies in the anti-dp work


Homepage for

Martin A. Draughon
inmate on Texas Death Row
Updated August 25

Martin's getting off Death Row
Inmates on Death Row in USA
One of those who are subject to USA's outdated method of 'solving' crime problems is Martin A. Draughon who has been on death row in Texas since July 31 1987, convicted for murder.
It is absolutely not my intention to apologize for what Martin has done. According to the sentence he committed a heinous crime and no matter how bad his background might be there is no excuse for that, but he is still a human being and deserves to be treated as such.
I have been corresponding with Martin since autumn 1995 and offered to create a homepage for him, where his writings can be published and he can communicate with people from the outside.

   If the death penalty really is such a deterrent, then why not use it much more effectively?

Click here to see how

Recent articles and news

Snitches' testimony undermines justice

Record numbers in prison and on parole

Democrats no longer back death penalty

Conditions on Death Row

Many Denied Right to Counsel

Executing the mentally ill:
Compassion in the Great Republic of Texas

Dr. Death is ded

Nun tells of her mission against death penalty

Texas authorities putting US citizens at risk

Money matters in death penalty defense

'Expert witnesses' are wrong 95% of the time

Kerry a firm foe of death penalty

Utah eliminates firing squad executions

More Than 2/3 of Americans Continue to
Support the Death Penalty

Torturing people to death

Why suspects offer false confessions

Bringing grieving families together

Journalist professor saving people from death row

The death penalty inhibits the war on terrorism

Pity defender of Texas justice

Abusing inmates with gas

Hate is a useless emotion
Forgiveness can have the power to heal

Number of executions dropping in US
Juries increasingly looking at other sentencing options

US has the highest percentage of citizens behind bars

Federal judge states that 1'st amendment
applies also for death row inmates

Why an innocent person will confess

Tx Senate insist on killing

Executing the innocent is OK
with Supreme Court justice Scalia

Shock and awe
Execution of the mental ill

Partisan judicial elections are hurting Texas

We fill our juvenile and death row cells with lost childhoods

Executions in Texas about politics not justice

Texas 'Prison Show' links familiar voices worlds away

Deadly decisions
About problems with juries

The life of T.J. Jones was
over long before his execution (August 14)

Texas: Sleeping defense attorneys are OK

   When we kill somebody legally what we are saying is that God cannot change a person's life. And I don't believe in that. God can do what God wants to do. And even the worst person in the world doesn't deserve to be executed.

Rev. Jacqueline Means, director of prison ministries for the Episcopal Church.

I'm not only saddened, but disappointed that a system that is supposed to protect and uphold what is just and right can be so much like me when I made the same shameful mistake.

Napoleon Beazley, murdered by the people of texas on May 28, 2002, sentenced to death by an all white jury for a murder that he committed as a juvenile.

   My personal belief is that there's no hope for morality in the state of Illinois as long as we have the death penalty. It's morally wrong. Despite the courts' efforts to fashion a death penalty scheme that is just, fair and reliable, the system is not working. Innocent people are being sentenced to death.

Moses Harrison II, Chief Justice of the Illinois Supreme Court, on his last day on the bench

What happened can be better understood if heís alive and lives out his life on this earth. But to put him to death is to diminish us and to diminish our own ability to be human which is to have empathy and compassion for other human beings.
Richard Burr, defense attorney for McVeigh
In 1993, the US Supreme Court held that the Constitution does not protect prisoners from execution even if there is new evidence of innocence.
Chief Justice Rehnquist wrote the opinion, which rejected federal protections because of "the very disruptive effect that entertaining claims of actual innocence would have on the need for finality in capital cases."

"I really don't have a problem seeing it. It's more like watching an animal die"
Kimberly Runnels, waiting to wittness the execution of her fathers murderer.

   It's a weak nation that finds it appropriate to execute its own citizens to uphold moral.
Lars von Trier, Danish film director

Executions do not have to cost that much.
We could hang them and re-use the rope. No cost!
Or we could use firing squads and ask for volunteer firing squad members who would provide their own guns and ammunition. Again, no cost.
Chris Clem, Tennessee House Representative (R)

In my own experience, I know of four persons convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to death, who were later found to be innocent . . . long after the appellate process had been exhausted
Harry Fogle, Chief Judge of VI Judicial Circuit, Florida

    I have yet to see a death case among the dozens coming to the Supreme Court on eve-of-execution stay applications in which the defendant was well represented at trial
Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg

3 of 4 Texans support the death penalty. 65% believe the state has executed innocent people
(Scripps Howard Texas Poll, Jan-Febr 2001)

"Please,don't kill me"
George W. Bush, his lips pursed in mock desperation, openly mocking Karla Faye Tucker's pleas for clemency, in an interview with Talk magazine.

I think it is nothing short of unbelievable that the governor of a major state running for president thought it was acceptable to mock a woman he decided to put to death
Republican Candidate Gary Bauer about Bush.

He's the world champion executioner. He is a horrible symbol of your mania for the death penalty.
Former French justice minister Robert Badinter

What we know about the new president, is just two things. He is the son of President Bush, and he has sent 150 people to their death in Texas, including the mentally ill.
Claudia Roth, German member of Parliament
Evidence of innocence is irrelevant.
Mary Sue Terry, Att. General Virginia, 1986-94 (replying to an appeal to introduce new evidence from a prisoner sentenced to death)

If jurors had to draw straws to see who was going to pull the switch or start the lethal injection, there wouldn't be as many executions
Jim Willett, warden at The Walls prison, Huntsville

There's no question, in my mind, that someone has slipped through the cracks and that an innocent person has been executed.
Former Harris County criminal court judge Jay Burnett

You can find Labradors that are wiser than some of the inmates who have been executed in Texas
Molly Ivins, Fort Worth Star Telegram
"The system is not working....Innocent people are being sentenced to death."
Illinois Supreme Court Justice Moses Harrison II
  Death penalty and capital punishment

We have an obligation to provide the victim's family with every opportunity to gain closure to their horrible ordeal.
(R) Sen. Norman Robertson, NJ, arguing for the right of victims relatives to watch executions.
  The desire to achieve a capital murder conviction at any cost frequently results in proceedings where a reliable determination of guilt or innocence is not likely
Bryan Stevenson, Director of Equal Justice Initiative of Alabama, Awarded the Olof Palme Prize 2000

   With an execution, everyone is a victim. I never believed that crap about closure.

Larry Fitzgerald, spokesman for Texas Department of Criminal Justice, to the Dallas Observer, July 29, 2000

It is abundantly clear that the Texas clemency procedure is extremely poor and certainly minimal.
A flip of the coin would be more merciful than these votes.
U.S. District Judge Sam Sparks, about the secretive clemency process in The Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles

The cop paused and stared at the two of them, the black man in his white T-shirt and shabby jeans, the little white man with the thick glasses and the ballooning belly. "One of you two is gonna hang for this," said the cop. Then he turned to Brandley. "Since you're the nigger, you're elected."
Nick Davies in "White Lies", quoting testimony leading to Clarence Brandley's release

   Death Penalty Racism in USA

Capital Punishment and Death Penalty in USA