MULTIMEDIA: NPR Documentary Features Historical Coverage from Mississippi Execution

  On Friday, May 7, NPR's Radio Diaries will feature a half-hour documentary entitled, "Willie McGee and the Traveling Electric Chair." The documentary focuses on the life of Willie McGee who was executed in Mississippi during the Jim Crow era after being convicted by an all-white jury of raping a white woman. During that time in Mississippi, the state used a portable electric chair, which the state transported from county to county. According to NPR, it was not just the portable electric chair that made McGee's execution unusual, but the unprecedented live radio coverage that accompanied it. The documentary includes excerpts of the live coverage from McGee's execution, broadcast from outside the courthouse where the execution took place.

Oklahoma City Bombing Victim's Father Says Executions are Not Part of the Healing Process


Bud Welch, father of Julie Welch who was killed in the Oklahoma City Bombing, recently appeared on The Rachel Maddow Show, just a few days before the 15th anniversary of the bombing in Oklahoma.  Welch, who is the president of Murder Victims' Familes for Human Rights, has been a long-time opponent of the death penalty and has said that executions are more often "staged political events" instead of a part of the healing process for victims.  When asked how he came to oppose the death pealty for Timothy McVeigh, Welch told Maddow, "I reached that point probably about a year after the bombing - close to a year.  All my life, I had always opposed the death penalty.  I just thought it was something that society should not be doing.  And after Julie‘s death, I was so full of revenge and hate that I had to get retribution in some way.  So I was for the death penalty probably for the first year.  And after recognizing that killing Tim McVeigh was not part of my healing process, then I was able to move forward."   Read the full transcript of the interview here.

NEW RESOURCES: Slide Presentation of Police Chiefs' Views on the Death Penalty

The results of a poll of police chiefs recently featured in DPIC's report "Smart on Crime: Reconsidering the Death Penalty in a Time of Economic Crisis" is now available in the form of a slide presentation on the Web, suitable for use in workshops or discussion groups. The poll, commissioned by DPIC and conducted by R.T. Strategies of Washington, DC, surveyed a national sample of 500 randomly selected U.S. police chiefs on questions regarding the death penalty and reducing violent crime. Although the police chiefs did not oppose the death penalty philosophically, they found it to be an ineffective crime fighting tool.  Among those surveyed, only 1% of the chiefs listed greater use of the death penalty as the best way to reduce violence. The poll also showed police chiefs ranking the death penalty as the least efficient use of taxpayers' money among programs to fight crime.  Most of the police chiefs did not believe the death penalty acts as a deterrent to murder.

Access the slide presentation here; read DPIC's "Smart on Crime" report.

Death Penalty to be Put on Trial in London

Amicus, an organization based in the United Kingdom that assists in the legal representation of those awaiting capital trials in the United States, will be hosting a mock trial at the Emmanuel Centre (pictured) in Westminster, London on Tuesday, March 2, beginning at 6:30 PM.  The question is whether the death penalty in the U.S. perverts the course of justice.  The trial will be presided over by Lord Woolf, Geoffrey Robertson, QC, and Sir Louis Blom-Cooper, QC, and will feature prominent death penalty experts including Prof. Paul Cassell (former federal prosecutor and former law clerk to Justice Antonin Scalia), Prof. Robert Blecker (NY Law School) and Kent Scheidegger (Criminal Justice Legal Fdn.) defending the death penalty, and Prof. Julian Killingley (Birmingham City Univ.), Rev. Cathy Harrington (Murder Victims' Families for Reconciliation), and Nick Trenticosta (Center for Equal Justice) prosecuting the death penalty.  The program hopes to raise awareness of issues surrounding the application of the death penalty in the United States.  Click here for more details about his event.

DPIC's Report on Costs and Police Views Subject of Bob Edwards Interview

The Bob Edwards on Sirius XM Radio recently explored the high costs of the death penalty and the views of the country's police chiefs as discussed in DPIC's latest report, "Smart on Crime: Reconsidering the Death Penalty in a Time of Economic Crisis."  Edwards is the former host of National Public Radio's "Morning Edition."  He interviewed DPIC's Executive Director Richard Dieter on October 20.  An excerpt of the conversation focusing on the national poll of police chiefs and their opinions about the failure of the death penalty as a crime fighting tool is available here.
(The full interview is available from the Bob Edwards Show, Oct. 20, 2009).  See Costs and Multimedia.

Radio Host Bob Edwards Explores the Troy Davis Case

On September 9, The Bob Edwards Show on Sirius XM Radio interviewed Stephen Bright and Nina Morrison regarding the case of Troy Anthony Davis.  Edwards is the award-winning former host of National Public Radio's "Morning Edition."  The show offered this introduction: "Last month, the U.S. Supreme Court did something it hadn’t done in 50 years – it ordered a stay of execution and court hearing for an inmate to attempt to prove his innocence.  Since 1991, Troy Davis has been on death row in Georgia, convicted of shooting an off-duty cop.  Even though seven of the nine eyewitnesses who testified against him have come forward to say they either were mistaken or deliberately lied, no court has let them testify with this information.  Nina Morrison of the Innocence Project joins Stephen Bright of the Southern Center for Human Rights to talk about the case and what it portends for other wrongful convictions throughout the country."

NEW VOICES: Former Death Row Warden Discusses the Impact of Executions on Correctional Officers

Dr. Allen Ault was the warden at the maximum security prison in Georgia where executions were carried out.  He also served as Commissioner of Corrections during a lifetime career in the field.  He is currently the Dean of the College of Justice & Safety at Eastern Kentucky University.  In the video accompanying this note, Dean Ault discusses the tremendous drain that carrying out executions had, and continues to have, on his life.  He added, "I know I'm not the only one who has administered executions that felt the way I do.  They all have shed a lot of tears."  He questions the value of the death penalty, and recognizes the difficulty that many politicians have in challenging this punishment, despite its obvious flaws.  With respect to deterrence, he said, "I have a hard time believing that using pre-meditated murder and violence (executions), is a way to model behavior that would deter somebody else from doing it."  The video was made at the end of a six-week course on the death penalty at EKU and contains answers to questions that the students raised.  To view the video (21 minutes), click here.

NEW RESOURCES: Documentary tells story of innocent man who spent 18 years on death row

In 1984, Juan Melendez was sent to Florida's death row for the murder of Delbert Baker even though no physical evidence linked him to the crime. In 2002, he was released with all charges vacated after it was found that prosecutors had withheld critical evidence in the case. He became the 99th person exonerated in the United States since 1976, and the 20th from Florida. As of today, 135 people have been exonerated. Juan Melendez - 6446 is a documentary released as part of the HBO-sponsored 10th Annual New York International Latino Film Festival. Director Luis Rosario Albert tells Melendez' story through his own words and the words of his family, friends and lawyers - the story of a migrant Puerto Rican farm worker sent to death row for a crime he didn't commit. It also brings into play legal issues between the United States and Puerto Rico in application of the death penalty. More information, including the film's trailer, can be found here. The film will be screened on July 31st at  2 pm at the Clearview Cinemas Chelsea, Screen 8, W 23rd St. & 8th Ave. in New York City.