By Paul Bullis, Chair of Desert Southwest Conference Prison Reform Ministry
WE NEED TO HALT ARIZONA’S DEATH MARCH TO EXECUTING PRISONERS
The State of Arizona is poised to resume executing its death row prisoners. We must act now to halt Arizona’s death march to executions.
ARIZONA IS READY TO EXECUTE PRISONERS
There are 116 men and women on Arizona’s death row, 21 of whom have exhausted all of their appeals to the courts. That means those 21 men and women are now ready for execution.
Arizona has been unable to execute any prisoners for the past six years because of a lawsuit involving the lethal injection procedure, and then difficulty in obtaining a lethal drug. However, the state government has recently found both a supplier of a lethal drug and a pharmacist willing to prepare the drug for lethal injection and is now ready to resume executions. Attorney General Mark Brnovich is urging Governor Doug Ducey to take steps to carry out executions “expeditiously” so that “justice” may be done.
THE DEATH PENALTY SHOULD NOT BE USED
The United Methodist Church strongly opposes the death penalty. We believe the death penalty denies the power of Christ to redeem, restore, and transform all human beings. (The Book of Discipline 2016 ¶ 164.G) The United Methodist Church is deeply concerned about crime throughout the world and the value of any life taken by a murder or homicide. We believe all human life is sacred and created by God and therefore, we must see all human life as significant and valuable. When an individual is executed, that life is devalued and all possibility of change in that person’s life ends.
In addition, there is a great possibility that innocent persons may be executed. In Arizona alone in the last 50 years, nine death row inmates have been exonerated and released. Nationally, more than 170 people have been released from death row with evidence of their innocence during that period of time. We should have no confidence in a system that results in so many fatal errors.
Although some argue that executing inmates results in justice being done for the victims of the crime, it is hard to say that justice is being served. Certainly, the crime is not canceled out, rather, the violence and death are only increased. An execution can often be seen as an act of revenge, not relieving bloodlust but instead adding to it. Forgiveness is the only true cure for this kind of grief.
In the end, grieving families continue to grieve. Justice would be better served helping the families face their grief so they can move on.
The death penalty also does not act as a deterrent to crime. There is no credible evidence that the death penalty deters crime more effectively than long term imprisonment. States that have death penalty laws do not have lower crime rates or murder rates than states without such laws. And states that have abolished capital punishment show no significant changes in either crime or murder rates. In fact, nations that abolish the death penalty tend to see their murder rates decline.
Finally, we must remember that the death penalty does not mean that we will be executing monsters. We will be executing men and women. We will be executing any opportunity at redemption. And, in some instances, we will be executing innocent people.
WHAT TO DO: CONTACT THE GOVERNOR, ATTORNEY GENERAL, ETC.
What you can do now is to make your views known to the Governor, Attorney General, and other leaders, and demand that they put a halt to this death march to executions.
Here are sample letters that you can use, or that can help you create a letter of your own. Feel free to keep the parts that work for you, delete anything you aren’t comfortable with, and edit however you like. Or just write a letter in your own words. Do whatever works for you.
- Letter sent by Bishop Bob Hoshibata to Governor Ducey on this issue.
- Sample Brnovich Letter
- Sample Duecy Letter
United Methodist Church pronouncements
- The United Methodist Book of Discipline 2016, Social Principles164.G (The Political Community: The Death Penalty).
- The Book of Resolutions of The Desert Southwest Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church (2019 ed.), 1992.13: Capital Punishment.
- Statement of the General Board of Church and Society of the United Methodist Church on the death penalty.
- Faith and Facts Card on the death penalty by the General Board of Church and Society of the United Methodist Church.
Arizona’s Death Penalty
- Op-ed piece by Attorney General Brnovich, Jan. 6, 2021.
- Letters from Attorney General Brnovich to Governor Ducey dated July 26, 2019; August 20, 2020, and October 27, 2020.
- Article regarding Gov. Ducey’s concerns about resuming executions, Sept. 4, 2020.
- Death Penalty Information Center’s (deathpenaltyinfo.org) 2020 Year-End Report.
- Death Penalty Information Center’s (deathpenaltyinfo.org) report on the Arizona death penalty.
- Death Penalty Information Center’s (deathpenaltyinfo.org) Death Penalty Fact Sheet.