Sunday, July 29, 2007

Lonnie Earl Johnson - Texas

The State of Texas executed Lonnie Earl Johnson on July 24, 2007. Johnson was 44 years old at the time of his death.

Johnson never denied killing the two teenagers for whose murders he was executed (Sean Schulz (16) and Leroy McCaffry (17)). However, Johnson did claim that the two victims made racist threats against him (they were white, he was black) and pulled a gun on him. Prison officials say that Johnson believed until shortly before his death that his appeals would be successful and he would not die.

Whether or not Schulz's and McCaffry's deaths were the result of self-defense or were murder, their deaths are tragic. My heart certainly goes out to their parents and families. Yet, even if Johnson murdered those boys without provocation, I still believe it was wrong to execute him.

There is more to the story of Johnson's execution - separate, yet forever related. Lonnie Johnson was the 100th person convicted and sentenced out of Harris County, Texas to be executed since the death penalty was re-instated in Texas. In 25 years, Texas has executed 100 people from one single county. That is an average of 4 every year and its total is more than the total in any other STATE (aside from Texas). Moreover, Harris County, dear readers, is no ordinary county. Harris County has been the subject of great controversy over the last few years as the result of investigations that have shown its forensics lab to have been highly unreliable (no allegations that it currently is as far as I know). I wonder how many of those 100 individuals were convicted, sentenced and executed based on questionable forensics?

For more on the execution of Lonnie Johnson please see this article in the Houston Chronicle.

For more commentary on the Harris County 100-execution "milestone" please see the following blog posts:

Amnesty International - Counting to One Hundred

Texas Moratorium Network - Harris County: One County 100 Executions

Capital Defense Weekly - Lonnie Johnson: "Geography Means Everything"

Friday, July 27, 2007

Many thanks to David at NCADP and Karl at Capital Defense Weekly for welcoming me back to the fold! I look forward to participating in the movement again.

Now, go read their stuff!

Hiding Behind a Hood

Sue Carlton published a column in the St. Petersburg Times today regarding Florida's policy to have individuals performing executions wear hoods and hide their identities. I found her column well worth reading.

Facts of note on Florida executioners - the executioner need only be 18, is appointed by a warden, and makes $150 per execution. Ah, the selectee must also "get training." What does that mean? There are horror stories in Florida (and other states) about botched executions, about men's heads on fire or failed IVs or improper drug application that caused an execution to take significantly too long. Just how much training is required? Do they get pyschological training to assure they know exactly what they are doing?

It makes me ill to think of an 18 year old taking the life of another human being for the mere sum of $150. OK, well, I admit, it makes me sick to think of an 18 year old taking a human life at all, but that "service" to the State is only worth $150?

Carlton indicates in her column that, every time an execution looms or the death penalty is in the news, the Florida Department of Corrections receives at least a dozen requests by email to become an executioner. I have to wonder - where does this overwhelming desire to kill someone stem from? Do the volunteers have some sort of sick fantasy to let go of that the legality of the State proceeding allows them to do without consequence? I suppose if he performed more than one, it might qualify him (or her) as a serial killer. Does that make someone feel more important? More "god" like? Shouldn't the executioner have to look his victim in the eye before he kills him?

I understand the State's concern about protecting the executioner from retaliation, but if the person is willing to perform the act and believes that it is moral and proper to do so, then that person should be willing to identify his or herself - at the very least, to the life he or she is ending.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007


According to

1. affected with, characterized by, or causing a depressing feeling of being alone; lonesome.
2. destitute of sympathetic or friendly companionship, intercourse, support, etc.: a lonely exile.
3. lone; solitary; without company; companionless.
4. remote from places of human habitation; desolate; unfrequented; bleak: a lonely road.
5. standing apart; isolated: a lonely tower.

1. (esp. prior to the Civil War) a person who advocated or supported the abolition of slavery in the U.S.
2. a person who favors the abolition of any law or practice deemed harmful to society....

Many have asked my why the name of this blog is "The Lonely Abolitionist." They write to let me know that they are with me and that I am not alone - that I am not a "lonely" abolitionist. This is SO true! I am not alone in my quest for abolition of the death penalty. I am not alone in my strong feelings about its effect on our society or our criminal justice system. Sometimes, when the executions are many and the news is bleak, it may feel like we are alone in this fight, but we are not!

When I first chose it, the title "The Lonely Abolitionist" was meant to be profound. I wanted something profound, something meaningful that would spark a reader's interest. It couldn't be that I would name my blog something horribly descriptive and boring - not me! When I started this blog, I was the only person out there I could find that was blogging exclusively on news and issues relating to abolishing the death penalty. So, as to the blogosphere, I was in fact the "lonely" abolitionist. Shortly thereafter, however, more blogs came along (props to David E. and the NCADP!).

I am not a "lonely" person, and I am not "lonely" in my abolition opinions or actions. I am no longer "lonely" in the blogosphere. Yet, I keep the name. The name reminds me of the time when I was "lone." It reminds me to stand up and "stand apart." It reminds me that one single person can play a part in resolving a big problem. This blog does not have many readers. It doesn't need many (or even any)! The Lonely Abolitionist makes a difference to me every time I post, and it makes a difference every once in awhile to a reader who finds something new that he or she would not have found had I not wandered by and mused on it.

At some point, I may blog on more than the death penalty. Unfortunately, there are many other laws and practices in our world that I favor abolishing. I imagine, however, that if I took the time to blog about every newsworthy item related to every notable abolition topic within my interest, that I would never finish any of my for-pay work!

In the meantime, this little blog will try to keep chugging along. I will try to keep doing my part. I hope that you will keep doing your part and make sure that I am never again truly "lonely." Thanks for stopping by.


Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Troy Davis - Stay Granted

The Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles has granted Troy Davis a 90 day stay of execution (Troy Davis was scheduled to be executed today). Several witnesses spoke before the Board yesterday in an effort to see Troy's execution date stayed (or commuted all together). The Board decided it wanted to hear more about Troy's case and the evidence that he may have been wrongfully convicted. Troy now has 90 days to continue to press his case.

As you can imagine, Troy's family and legal team are ecstatic. This stay will hopefully give them enough time to prepare (90 days is not that much) an all out attack on Troy's original conviction and convince the powers that be at the Georgia Paroles Board (or elsewhere) to commute Troy's sentence.

For more information, please see this article in the Washington Post.

Monday, July 16, 2007

TalkLeft on Troy Davis

As of right now, the State of Georgia is still scheduled to execute Troy Davis tomorrow. I don't have a lot of time to post today, but please take a look at this blog entry on TalkLeft, it contains a lot of good information on Troy's case.

Hat tip to the folks at TalkLeft.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Elijah Page - South Dakota

The State of South Dakota executed Elijah Page on Wednesday night. Page had waived all appeals in a letter to the governor of South Dakota and had asked to be executed. An account of his execution is described here in an AP article in the Sioux City Journal. Page was 25 years old when he died.

Originally from East Texas, Elijah Page was sentenced to die in South Dakota for the brutal torture and killing of Chester Allan Poage, who was 19. Page's family claims that his requests for his own death were based on his inability to deal with his guilt and the memories of his own brutality. Such an attitude is actually one of the (many) reasons I disagree with State-assisted suicide (other assisted suicide is a different story). It may sound strange coming from me, but I don't think that those who have committed such abhorrent crimes should be able to get out of their guilt that easily. Query: how does it serve justice to put someone who cannot stand his own brutality out of his misery? How does it serve justice to give him what he desires? In some cases, death is an easy way out. (Yet, see below on my queries and opinions regarding the State's hypocrisy in suicide situations).

Page's execution was the first execution in South Dakota in over 60 years. It was also the first execution utilizing the State's lethal injection procedure. For more information on this execution and concerns with the death penalty and methods of execution in South Dakota, please see this article in the New York Times. And, for more information on Elijah Page, his crimes and his victim, Chester Poage, please see this article in the Argus Leader.

Thursday, July 12, 2007


David Elliot of National Coalition Against the Death Penalty posted this op-ed from the Houston Chronicle this morning. It provides an excellent historical perspective on President Bush's commutation of I. Lewis Libby, comparing Bush's consideration of the commutation and its constitutionality to that of Bush's approach to clemency of Texas Death Row inmates during his tenure as Governor. It is well worth reading. And while you're there...check out the rest of the information NCADP regularly provides its blog readers...

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Troy Anthony Davis

The family of and attorneys for Troy Davis of Georgia are pumping up their efforts to save his life and potentially clear his name. Troy Davis is scheduled to be executed by the State of Georgia next week.

Davis was convicted of killing a Savannah police officer in 1991. His trial was based almost exclusively on witness testimony, and of the nine individuals who testified against him, seven have now recanted claiming they were "intimidated" by the investigating officers. There is no physical evidence. One of the two remaining witnesses is himself a suspect and has been implicated in the murder by numerous others.

Davis has attempted habeas corpus petitions and state appeals. His first habeas petition was handled by underfunded defense attorneys without capability to properly investigate and his follow up was dismissed for [alleged] procedural insufficiency.

The last quote from the article linked below is the one that scares me the most:

"The execution of an innocent man is not unconstitutional," said Jason Ewart, Davis' attorney, "so we face an uphill battle."

(Information gathered from the LA Times.)

Folks, Troy Davis may very well be innocent. At the very least, he was sentenced to death on the word of several clearly unreliable witnesses without additional corroboration (no murder weapon or DNA, etc.). If you can, please contact the Georgia State Board of Pardons and Paroles, the Governor's office, etc. to voice your objections. For those of you in Georgia, your voice will mean even more.

Elijah Page

The governor of South Dakota has now said that only Elijah Page himself can stop his execution. Page, who is only 25 years old, has halted all of his appeals and asked to be executed. His execution is schedule for 10 pm CDT tonight. If he does not stop his own execution by resuming his appeals, he will be the first person executed in South Dakota in 60 years.

The South Dakota governor initially stayed Page's execution in 2006 over concerns with the combination of drugs used in the lethal injection process. South Dakota has since changed the drug combination and the governor is now comfortable allowing the execution to proceed.

For more information, please see the AP story published here in the Houston Chronicle.

As those of you who have previously following this blog know, I sincerely object to the death penalty in all cases. I also believe that the execution of an inmate who is choosing to go to his own execution before completing his appeals is no less abhorrent than a State-scheduled execution.

Typically, before an inmate is executed, he or she is held in a solitary cell for 23 hours a day for years. Death row inmates are usually kept on a strict suicide watch. These suicide watches are part of the reason why I am convinced the State does not want "justice" through an execution but rather desires revenge or retribution. A State will put an inmate on suicide watch so that the inmate does not take his or her own life, but the instant the appeals are over, the State will be more than happy to do the job itself. In fact, during the last few days of a condemned individual's life, the suicide watches are increased so that the condemned cannot jump the gun and ruin the State's show. That says to me that the State wants to make sure people watch the inmate suffer and die; that the State wants to make sure the public knows that it is the decider, and it gets to decide fate.

I do not encourage suicide. I'm not sure who does; but if the State's goal is the death of the convicted, why not let them end their own suffering? And, query: if an individual is not afraid of death, does execution have any power over him? Maybe, maybe not. Of course, these are just questions for contemplation. I despise the idea of a condemned individual losing all hope and wanting to die, but at the same time, I can understand why they might want to. Perhaps it is wrong of me to think, but death does not scare me as it does some people. It is part of the cycle of life. I just don't think our deaths should be chosen for us - in any circumstances.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

New Domain and Email

You can now reach the Lonely Abolitionist at (the blogspot address will reroute here so no need to update bookmarks). Also, my new email address is Changes everywhere!

Site Feed

Since I intend to actually start posting again (new job! more time!), I've enabled the site feed for the blog. Feel free to subscribe! I may also purchase a direct domain name at some point. I'll update the blog when I get that so that people can point their bookmarks there. Who knows, if I get crazy, I just might start blogging about more than one subject... IF I get crazy that is...

Maryland Moratorium Update

As some of you may recall (although it was not posted here), 6 months ago Maryland's highest court ordered a halt to executions in Maryland based on its opinion that the lethal injection process was not being properly adopted. Since then, the Governor of Maryland, Martin O'Malley, has refused to reinstate them. Now, according to the Washington Post, O'Malley's office has stated that it may not issue new regulations until the Maryland legislature reconvenes in January.

O'Malley unsuccessfully tried to get the legislature to repeal the death penalty earlier this year. He opposes the death penalty and would like to give the legislature a second change to repeal the law. This has angered prosecutors and other prominent individuals in Maryland.

I strongly encourage those of you in Maryland who support abolition to contact your representatives (repeatedly if necessary) to encourage them to support a repeal of the death penalty laws in Maryland. Better yet, tell your friends to join you. The more constituents who express their support for this repeal, the more likely a representatives opinion may sway. Go get 'em!