Sunday, June 14, 2009

Let Justice Roll!

"Let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever flowing stream."

Tonight at Nazareth First Baptist Church, there was a service held to promote a moratorium on the death penalty here in North Carolina. This was sponsored by Chrisitans for a United Community and Murder Victim’s Families for Reconciliation.

One of the main speakers was Mr. Frank Goldsmith, who was an attorney for Mr. Edward Chapman. Mr. Goldsmith talked about the trial that convicted Edward Chapman to death, and about the evidence presented and NOT presented at Chapman’s original trial that sentenced him to death for the murder of two women in Hickory back in the 1990’s. Mr. Goldsmith worked for five years (2002 to 2008) to established Mr. Chapman’s innocence in these murders and obtain his release from prison.

Mr. Chapman moved to Asheville upon his release and has lived here since then He said that he had a certain lifestyle that lead to him being accused of the murders and that he decided in prison that he wanted to be something better. He wanted to contribute something to the world. He had spent 15 years of his life on death row before he was found innocent. If there was a faster process to executing the death penalty, then this wonderful man would no longer be with us today.

He pointed out that no one benefits from the death penalty in North Carolina. No one.

The service tonight included some wonderful gospel singing and a short speech by Representative Susan Fisher, who is pictured above. She is a co-sponsor in the NC House of Representatives of a bill that would put a moratorium on the death penalty in this state.

Another speaker was Noel Nickle, who is a local organizer of this effort. She presented some ideas on calls to action. Her suggestions included writing letters to NC legislators, asking Governor Purdue to give a ‘pardon of innocence’ to Mr. Chapman so that he can receive some compensation for the 15 years he spent on death row, and donations to help stop death penalty sentences in NC. This can be directed to The North Carolina Coalition for a Moratorium. Some reasons they give for a moratorium:

An innocent person may be executed

One in six death row inmates had an attorney disciplined by the State Bar

Racial bias taints our capital punishment system

A broad cross-section of North Carolinians supports a moratorium

The death penalty as it is currently administered is arbitrary

Another organization working on these issues is People of Faith Against the Death Penalty. This is an interfaith organization whose mission is to educate and mobilize faith communities to act to abolish the death penalty.

One thing that I did not hear mentioned is that a sentence of life without parole would cost the taxpayers less than a death penalty sentence. I believe this is true, but have no readily available facts to back up the claim. If we abolish the death penalty we will no longer kill innocent people, and we will also join all the other developed countries of the world in this regard.

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