By Jennifer Kirby, Coalition Director - Abolition Coalition
We were ecstatic earlier this month when District Judge Jeffrey Sherlock ruled that the State’s execution protocol did not meet state statute. Montana law stipulates that one of the drugs in its lethal injection mix must be an "ultra fast-acting barbiturate" and the current drug intended to play that role, pentobarbital, does not meet that criteria. This ruling effectively put Montana into a death penalty moratorium. For the foreseeable future, the state is not executing anyone.
But Montana is not alone.
Governors in Oregon, Washington, and Colorado have all declared an official death penalty moratorium.
Legal challenges in California, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Louisiana and Arkansas have put all executions on hold in their states.
Ohio is putting off executions until at least 2017 as the Department of Corrections struggles to obtain supplies of lethal injection drugs. Ohio has run out of supplies of its previous drugs and has unsuccessfully sought new amounts, including so-far failed attempts to import chemicals from overseas. Execution dates set for 2016 and early 2017 have been moved to 2019. Lack of supply of execution drugs means Ohio is delaying capital punishment in their state for a full two years.
The Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals imposed an indefinite stay on all executions as investigations proceed into how a horrible drug mix up occurred. It was discovered earlier this month, in advance of the execution of Richard Glossip, that the state had ordered potassium acetate instead of potassium chloride. Autopsy results from the January execution of Charles Warner showed Potassium Acetate was used instead of potassium chloride. This puts all executions in Oklahoma on hold indefinitely.
And there hasn’t been a single (not ONE!) new death sentence handed down in the state of Texas this year. For a state that leads the nation by a wide margin in death sentences and executions, this is astounding.
But beyond the states, we’re hearing more and more voices calling for the end of the death penalty.
During his recent visit to the United States, Pope Francis told Congress to Abolish the death penalty; saying “My brother bishops here in the United States renewed their call for the abolition of the death penalty. Not only do I support them, but I also offer encouragement to all those who are convinced that a just and necessary punishment must never exclude the dimension of hope and the goal of rehabilitation.”
And the National Association of Evangelicals announced their new position on the death penalty. A resolution, passed by the NAE Board of Directors, outlines serious concerns with the death penalty and acknowledges growing opposition and differing views on the issue among Evangelicals. The resolution represents a significant shift for the organization, which had a position in staunch support of the death penalty for the last four decades.
This all bodes well for our campaign to end the death penalty in Montana. However, the fight is not won yet. What we do know for sure is that we need your help moving forward. Our work to abolish the death penalty is more than one case in District Court. We must work diligently in the legislature to advocate for justice and the end of capital punishment. Please add your name to the growing list of Montanans who want the death penalty officially abolished in Montana. Join the Montana Abolition Coalition today at www.mtabolitionco.org and get involved.
The world is changing and the death penalty is a thing of the past. Soon it will be history.