Thursday, June 14, 2007


TOTI is coming to town—and he’s not Italian

The weekend of June 29th through July 1st will be a very special one for TCASK as we will be holding our first ever training institute—the TCASK Organizer Training Institute. The weekend will be focused on the keystones of organizing as we spread the skills and messages to folks ready to take action in their individual communities. As an organizer the instances that I have felt the most empowered is when I empower others to take action. To see passionate individuals realize that they have the ability within themselves to effectively recruit new volunteers, sustain those volunteers, take action through planning events, and then build power through coalition building is truly an amazing sight. TOTI will give our citizen action takers those skills as we spread the message to the West, the East, and Middle Tennessee giving us more power and access in our state office in Nashville.

TOTI will focus on the three main themes of organizing: recruitment and sustainability, taking action, and coalitions. We will touch on a plethora of topics such as: what an organizer is, volunteer recruitment, power building, planning a campaign, coalition building, event planning, meeting facilitation, and more. The weekend will involve guest facilitators (despite the handsomeness of Alex and I we would like to provide others to look at), films, fun and games, outdoor activities, and food prepared by us!

For anyone out there interested in attending please apply to Alex at Whether you consider yourself a seasoned organizer or a newbie, it is the interest in ending the death penalty that binds us together. Therefore, TOTI will give individuals the skills to channel their passion into effective campaigns. I highly encourage people to apply—an added bonus is that we are holding it at one of our most awesome supporter’s farm in Cookeville. I’ve been told it is a truly beautiful place, fitting as we hope to make this world a little bit more beautiful by ridding it of the ugliness that is the death penalty.

Comments :
The "ugliness that is the death penalty" . . . .

Gosh, it must be nice to be so enlightened . . . . .

You know, I have a question, how come you guys never talk about the ugliness of murders by people who kill, are released from prison, and then kill again. Surely, we can all agree that a such a situation is far worse than executing a killer. Right? Yet, I don't hear the bleats of outrage when that happens . . . .

I'll ask you guys a question: what's more of an outrage, the execution of a murderer or the release from prison after a scant 19 years of Mohamed Hammadi from a German prison? Hammadi was the guy who murdered Petty Officer Stethem in a hijacking of a plane after torturing him. From your actions, it is quite plain to you that executions are more of an outrage . . . . well, guys, which is it?
Obviously that is also an ugly situation and no one is arguing that it isn't. But that still doesn't mean that it isn't ugly for the state to execute people. What is even more of an outrage is the execution of innocent people, which is an all to real reality. It has been proven that the death penalty has not been able to prevent that. So on top of everything else, it's very bad public policy. You can argue all you want for the death penalty, but it is a broken system and there is vast evidence to prove that. TCASK has made it very clear that it sympathizes with victims and understands the ugliness of murder, but that does not give the state the right to turn around and murder someone else. I don't agree that we can say that is a far better situation.
I’d like to begin by addressing your initial inquiry of why we do not talk about those who kill, are released, and kill again. In the state of Tennessee those convicted of 1st degree murder have three possible sentences: the death penalty, life in prison without parole, and a 51 year sentence. Everyone, including us, is outraged about murder and violence--hence our motto is “honoring life by abolishing the death penalty.” We should be working together to preserve lives rather than end them, in any shape or form.

I’m not sure as to what situations in Tennessee you are referring to but individuals who murder here are kept in prison, where they most certainly belong. You then state that we put forth no “bleats of outrage” when one of these atrocious acts occur and give an example of this from Germany. International examples have very little relevance to the state of Tennessee’s justice system. These facts have very little significance when speaking to folks around the state of Tennessee about the issue, which is our focus.

The false dichotomy that proponents pound us abolitionists with is trite. Murder and the death penalty are not inextricably linked. Murder is an act that occurs out of the scope of our control while the death penalty is a state funded act. You and I both fund the death penalty by paying taxes in the state of Tennessee so each and every person executed by the state is done under our names.
Ike, your organization talks about other states too.

And if you want to see an example of killing again, take a look at the Okla. prisoner getting executed at the end of the month. He killed, got out and killed again. That, putting innocence issues to one side, is far far more of an outrage than the 1080 executions that we've had since 1976. Or do you disagree.

Funny how you guys cannot answer simple questions.
How many people executed were innocent? How much of an outrage is that?
I think they can answer simple questions actually, and that he answered that question-he disagrees with you. It's not more of an outrage. Then he backed it up with some very good reasoning.
Well, his answer was pretty weak. The "false dichotomy" argument doesn't really get the job done--releasing killers is every bit as much state action as an execution.

As for how many innocent executed, since 1976, none. I do agree, however, that when the justice system ignores innocence, it is an outrage, as are incidents like Tulia, Lenell Geter et alia.

I will ask the question again-- What is more of an outrage froma moral standpoint: (a) the release of Mohamed Hamadi (terrorist killer of Robert Dean Stethem) or (b) the execution of Michael Lambert.

It's funny, anon, that you equate the execution of a killer and a murder.
Death penalty proponents are always taking this tactic: if we don't kill these people they'll get out on the streets and kill again! Subtext: be afraid. But in Tennessee, as I think Isaac made very clear, that's simply not the case. We have sentencing options that guarantee situations like the Hamadi release will not happen here. Your problem isn't with the death penalty, it's with sentencing reform issues.

The official cause of death for a person who has been executed is homicide, so it's certainly legitimate to equate them. And we need to remember that releasing someone certainly doesn't guarantee that death will follow, while an execution does. In fact, the vast amjority of people released from prison after serving sentences for killing a person do not kill again (and remember that, if convicted of capital murder, you're not likely to be released at all).

But all killing is a moral outrage.

Finally, a number of innocent people have been executed since 1976, and 124 innocent people have been sentenced to death for crimes they didn't commit and only later exonerated. For the stories of four such cases check out this website:
Wow. You guys cannot answer a simple question. What is worse, executing a killer or releasing Hamadi?

As for the 124 "innocent", I urge you to read up on the case of Timothy Hennis. Guys, people get away with murder--and some of them have abolitionists willing to call them innocent.
All killing is a moral outrage--even self-defense or defense of others?
I'll answer your question right here: neither is worse because they are both awful.

By your logic, perhaps you should be asking us to decide what is worse between a state execution and genocide. As abolitionists it would only be logical, in your eyes, to think that we perceive state executions as worse than the travesty of Darfur.

They both have their negative issues, quite obviously what is going on in Darfur is awful, but by your logic we'd have to solve that issue before we could ever decide to abolish the death penalty, otherwise, we are completely ignorant. The world is much more complex than black and white—grey is a color!

You are obviously into absolutes, so we’ll again finish with one. Releasing an individual makes no guarantee that someone will die. Executions guarantee death.
I think the point is you are harping on details that don't really pertain to the important point here. Yes, you can pick out a special situation or exception in almost all situations, such as killing in self-defense, etc. Obviously cases need to be considered individually, but there is a blanket problem with the capital punishment system, with innocent people being executed or imprisoned, and the way it is carried out. Your "simple question" doesn't really capture the point, because someone like Hamadi wouldn't be released. I don't see the point of trying to boil the situation down to a simple question like that. Trying to cite one case out of 124 also doesn't mean that we shouldn't stop innocent people from being sentenced. Sentencing reform is needed, yes, as is the end of capital punishment.
well, Ike, you've answered the question. I disagree with you, and I think you have an interesting set of moral priorities. But that's where you're coming from and that's ok.

My point in asking the question is not to deal in absolutes or anything like that, but rather to see what your moral code is. I personally think that it is less of a moral outrage (if you are anti-DP) to execute someone than to release a terrorist murderer. My rationale for that is that the risk to innocent people is something less tolerable than the taking of a guilty person's life.

My point about the "124" is that some of those guys got away with murder. Which means that you guys are engaging in sophistry of the highest order.

Innocence is an issue that the criminal justice system needs to be sensitive to. You and I are completely in agreement with that point.
Which is worse, genocide or slavery? What do you think that TCASK can do to oppose the release of Hamadi, convicted and sentenced in a different country? Is your point that, since there may be worse moral outrages than the death penalty, we shouldn't try to stop the death penalty?

As for the 124, that number does not include a number of people who have been released from death row due to innocence issues. You have to meet a strict set of criteria to be placed on the list of exonerees. And of course that number doesn't include Ruben Cantu, who was executed in Texas for a crime that he didn't commit, or Paul House who is still sitting on Tennessee's death row. Of course, I think the larger point here is that, if we're even debating how many innocent people we have sentenced to death, rather than if we've sentenced any innocents, than it is pretty clear that we have a problem.
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