Tag Archive: Death Penalty

2 Men Awarded $750,000 for Wrongful Convictions in 1983 Murder

From The New York Times

DURHAM, N.C. — One year to the day after a North Carolina judge threw out their wrongful murder convictions, a state commission awarded $750,000 each as compensation to two half-brothers who spent three decades in prison, much of it on death row.

Patrick M. Megaro, the recently hired lawyer for the men, Henry Lee McCollum, 51, and Leon Brown, 47, announced the settlement. Mr. Megaro also filed a federal lawsuit against government and law enforcement officials of Robeson County, N.C., for obtaining their convictions through “fraud, perjury, coercion, the willful failure or refusal to investigate exculpatory evidence.”

A pardon by Gov. Pat McCrory of North Carolina in June made each man eligible for $50,000 a year in compensation from the state, up to $750,000 each. (Without a cap, the compensation for their full 31 years in prison would be more than double that amount.) The maximum was granted to each man on Wednesday by the North Carolina Industrial Commission, which oversees workers’ compensation and tort claims. (more…)

The Death Penalty Is Cruel. But So Is Life Without Parole.

From The New Republic / By Stephen Lurie

Prison cells don’t attract many spectators, but executions have always drawn crowds. Paradoxically, the names and identities of death row inmates only come to matter when their execution had been scheduled: from impending death we take a sudden interest in life.

Despite the incongruity, this isn’t all that surprising. Twenty-first century America is still susceptible to the time-honored spectacle of state-sanctioned death, even if much of the attention now scrutinizes, rather than cheers, the practice. Recently, there have been many stories typical of the current fascination with American capital punishment, most notably Ben Crair’s piece in this magazine and Jeffrey Stern’s in The Atlantic. Like other recent examinations of the death penalty, both accounts focus specifically on the act of execution by lethal injection; each covers botched executions and the question of cruel and unusual punishment in the death chamber itself. Stern’s story centers on the act and ramifications of Oklahoma inmate Clayton Lockett’s execution: A paramedic—and later, a physician—fail to find a vein in a dozen stabs into Lockett’s flesh so the execution can proceed. (Which it does, equally gruesomely.) Crair’s investigation deals with the national execution drug shortage—including Lockett’s experience along with many others—and highlights Ohio prisoner Joseph Wood’s story; his execution was so mishandled that he “gasped and snorted for one hour and 57 minutes… the longest execution in modern history.”

For Stern and Crair, as well as many human rights-minded activists and advocates, the death chamber is a potent and useful example of inhumanity. Other, newer abolitionists—like the legislators in Nebraska that voted to abolish the death penalty there last month—focus on the act of execution as well. While the death chamber is itself horrific, abolitionists would be remiss to ignore the more common punishment: the immense cruelty of a prisoner’s long wait for execution. The “death row phenomenon” and associated prison conditions cause significant psychological and physical harm; a so-called “death before dying” is both internationally condemned and domestically pervasive. If the end to capital punishment in the U.S. is based on concern for human beings—whether in a religious or moral sense—the reform movement must be concerned with the prison conditions left when death is not on the table. (more…)

The Final Straw: Hunger Strike at OSP Youngstown nears 30th day

Pirate_radio_station_5417.jpgFrom Asheville FM

Streaming at AshevilleFM from 3am EST on April 13th through April 19th, 2015, then podcasting at radio4all.net. Also airing this week on KOWA-LPFM in Olympia, WA, KWTF in Bodega Bay, CA, KXCF in Marshall, CA, and WCRS-LP Columbus Community Radio 98.3 and 102.1 FM. The show will later be archived at TheFinalStrawRadio.NoBlogs.Org. Drop us a line at thefinalstrawradio(aT)riseup(dooot)net for suggestions or comments.

This week we’re joined by Imam Siddique Abdullah Hasan, one of 6 prisoners who are almost a month into a solidarity hunger strike at Ohio State Prison in Youngstown to press the Warden about current conditions at the prison. Among the issues the hunger strike is protesting include the inability of all new/incoming prisoners to OSP and those currently on the highest level of security (5B) to attend congregational religious activities, also poor quality of food presented by Aramark (the company contracted to provide meals at OSP, and who’s food services sparked the hunger strike in January of 2014 at Westville Correctional Facility in Indiana) a lack of access to outside recreation for the prisoners and more. You may recall Hasan from a prior interview we did with him on the anniversary of the 1993 Lucasville Prisoner uprising which began because of some of the same issues and for which Hasan is facing the death penalty as an organizer of the beginning of the protest sparking the uprising as well as helping to organize the end of that uprising. The 1993 uprising resulted in the deaths of 9 prisoners (accused of being snitches) and one prison guard. To hear our interview with Hasan from October of 2013, click here.

Also, Sean Swain speaks about the hunger strike at OSP, where he was formerly incarcerated, and the harsh realities of lack of access to human interaction, direct sunlight and the out doors. (more…)

Prison Architecture and the Question of Ethics

A death-row jail cell in Huntsville, Tex. The design of such quarters has raised questions.

A death-row jail cell in Huntsville, Tex. The design of such quarters has raised questions.

From The New York Times

SAN FRANCISCO — Faced with lawsuits and a growing mountain of damning research, New York City officials decided last month to ban solitary confinement for prison inmates 21 and younger. Just a few weeks earlier, the American Institute of Architects rejected a petition to censure members who design solitary-confinement cells and death chambers.

“It’s just not something we want to determine as a collective,” Helene Combs Dreiling, the institute’s former president, told me. She said she put together a special panel that reviewed the plea. “Members with deeply embedded beliefs will avoid designing those building types and leave it to their colleagues,” Ms. Dreiling elaborated. “Architects self-select, depending on where they feel they can contribute best.”

What are the ethical boundaries for architecture? Architecture is one of the learned professions, like medicine or law. It requires a license, giving architects a monopoly over their practices, in return for a minimal promise that buildings won’t fall down. Raphael Sperry, the Bay Area architect who spearheaded the petition to the institute, thinks the public deserves more in return for that monopoly. (more…)