Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Comments on California's procedures, part 2

More MVFHR members' comments on California's revised execution procedures:

From Vicki Schieber's comments:

The newly revised lethal injection procedures do not address the concerns I have as the mother of a murder victim, as a former member the Maryland Commission on Capital Punishment, and as Chair of the Board of Directors of the national organization Murder Victims’ Families for Human Rights.

From these multiple perspectives, I have learned that it is essential to understand exactly what is involved in the application of the death penalty in order to make informed decisions about it. I remain concerned that the proposed regulations unduly limit media access to the execution process and make it impossible for the full story to be reported. For example, the proposed regulations still state that the public address system is to be turned off after the inmate makes a final statement. What might this prevent us from hearing? Shutting off the public address system places an undue burden on the media’s and the public’s First Amendment right to witness, by sight and sound, what is happening in the lethal injection chamber. What if the inmate cries out in pain? What if a member of the execution team says something about the procedure? The public address system should remain on throughout the execution. Likewise, the execution log should be released to the media, and the inmate’s attorney should have the opportunity to speak to members of the press in the media center. Other states, notably Arkansas’s Execution Protocol, include these provisions.

I am also concerned that the regulations still create an unfair distinction between state-employed chaplains and non-state employed spiritual advisors. I don’t consider it acceptable that a state employed chaplain may perform religious ceremonies for the person to be executed at his or her cell front for five days prior to the execution, while non-state employed spiritual advisors are prohibited from performing cell front religious rituals until six hours prior to the execution. This is an unfair burden on the religious rights of the person to be executed, a right that matters tremendously to me for all citizens. Similarly, I am disturbed that the regulations say the non-state employed spiritual advisor must be “approved by the Warden” but do not specify what standards apply or state that the Warden cannot discriminate between faiths. This creates a substantial risk that the religious freedom and rights of the person to be executed will be violated.

From my experience as a Commission member, as Chair of the Board of a national victims’ group, and as the mother of a young woman whose murder forever changed my life, I object to implementing the regulations as currently written.

And from Renny Cushing's comments:

I am quite concerned to learn that the newly revised lethal injection procedures do not address the issue of adequate protection for the rights of inmates with mental disabilities, which I raised in my comments last June.

As I described previously, I am the son of a murder victim, a New Hampshire State Representative, and the Executive Director of Murder Victims’ Families for Human Rights (MVFHR), an organization of survivors throughout the United States (with several members in California) who have lost loved ones to homicide or execution.

Last July, at the annual convention of the National Alliance on Mental Illness in San Francisco, my colleagues and I released a report titled Double Tragedies: Victims Speak Out Against the Death Penalty for People with Severe Mental Illness. We received an outpouring of support and corroborating testimony from mental health consumers and advocates at the convention and subsequently. Concern about sentencing people with severe mental illness to death is on the rise in the U.S., and we have seen that inmates clearly suffering from severely disabling symptoms of mental illness have been executed, despite the violation that this represents of human rights norms and, potentially, of our own U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Ford v. Wainwright. I am deeply disturbed that the proposed lethal injection regulations do not provide an inmate’s attorneys with any opportunity to contest a sanity finding that may be made just prior to the pending execution. Counsel for the person about to be executed should have the opportunity to challenge the sanity finding of the psychiatrist provided by the prison warden, if counsel believes that such a challenge is warranted.

Speaking from my own personal tragedy and on behalf of the personal tragedy that each member of Murder Victims’ Families for Human Rights has suffered, I oppose the implementation of the proposed regulations on lethal injection.

No comments: