WASHINGTON -- November 30 -- Three executions are scheduled within a three-day period Wednesday, Dec. 1, through Friday, Dec. 3, even as reasonable doubts continue to surface surrounding the accuracy and fairness of the death penalty in the United States. Even as a number of states prepare to debate moratoria and other death-penalty reforms in 2005, executions are scheduled this week in Texas, Pennsylvania and North Carolina. Two of the people scheduled for executions have innocence claims; a third is severely mentally ill and thinks he has been granted a reprieve by God.|
It does not make sense to proceed with these executions particularly with the facts presented at a time when the American public is expressing deep ambivalence about the fairness of the death penalty, said Diann Rust-Tierney, executive director of the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty. Death sentences are sharply on the decline, death row populations are dropping and the number of executions recorded in 2004 is at its lowest point since 1996. Yet these states plan to proceed with the execution of two possibly innocent people and a third person who medical experts have found to be severely mentally ill. There is a real disconnect happening in this country between what the American people are saying about the death penalty and the death penalty machinery.
This weeks scheduled executions include:
Frances Newton, Texas, Wednesday, Dec. 1. Newton, an African American woman convicted in Harris County, was convicted largely on the basis of ballistics testing conducted by the Houston Police Departments now-discredited crime lab. She has a strong innocence claim and her attorneys are asking that a 120-day stay be granted so that additional testing and other investigation may be conducted.
George Banks, Pennsylvania, Thursday, Dec. 2. Banks, who would be the first man executed in Pennsylvania in more than five years, was convicted of shooting 13 people. He is seriously mentally ill and one psychiatrist who interviewed him called him terminally paranoid, saying he had lost touch with reality on a great many things. Another psychiatrist who interviewed him said executing Banks would constitute a violation of Ford v. Wainwright, the U.S. Supreme Court case addressing the practice of executing people with severe mental illness. This psychiatrist said Banks believes he has been granted a reprieve from execution by God.
Charles Walker, North Carolina, Friday, Dec. 3. Walker has maintained his innocence and was convicted on the basis of five witnesses who were either prosecuted or otherwise implicated in the murder. One witness actually admitted to shooting the victim; he served only six years in prison. One of North Carolinas leading newspapers, the Charlotte Observer, called the execution an outrageous injustice and added that, It is difficult to imagine a more pointed example of whats wrong with the way the death penalty is applied in North Carolina.
The National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty was founded in 1976 and is the only fully-staffed national organization devoted specifically to abolishing the death penalty. NCADP is comprised of more than 100 local, state, national and international affiliates.