My name is Alan Williams, and I am a Staff Attorney here at the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty. I am a recent graduate of Michigan State University College of Law, and a member of the Illinois Bar. Among other things, my role at the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty is to both monitor legal and policy developments, and provide legal support to advance the Coalition’s mission of ending the death penalty. It’s work that I take very seriously, and though always challenging, it’s work that I constantly enjoy.
Over the past few months we have seen a historic number of efforts to repeal unjust and draconian death penalty laws across the country. In fact, as of this week efforts are underway in almost 20 states to repeal, replace, or hold the line on the death penalty.
In Utah, for instance, the Republican-dominated Legislature recently moved forward with a proposal to abolish the death penalty—this coming just a year after lawmakers voted to reinstate the use of firing squads in executions when lethal drugs are unavailable. This effort represented significant progress in Utah, even with the legislature’s having adjourned without taking a final vote on the repeal measure.
Next, a bipartisan Delaware bill that would have abolished the death penalty in the state was put on hold recently amid a flurry of question about the constitutionality of the current scheme in light of the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent decision in Hurst v. Florida. In that case, the Court voted 8-1 against Florida’s death penalty scheme that made judges, not juries, ultimately responsible for the decision to sentence someone to death. Now, many believe that similar laws currently in place in Delaware and Alabama are unconstitutional as well. A few weeks ago, an Alabama judge found the state’s death penalty scheme unconstitutional in light of Hurst.
Finally, Kansas State Representatives Steven Becker (R-Hutchinson), John Bradford (R-Lansing), and Dennis “Boog” Highberger (D-Lawrence) have taken the fight against the death penalty to the state capitol. The group has put forth a bipartisan bill to abolish the death penalty in the state that has received major support, with Representative Bradford telling the Topeka Capital-Journal, “This isn’t partisan, it’s a moral issue.” Clearly, the fight against the death penalty rages on in Kansas.
That’s all for now, Folks. The road to the abolition of the death penalty in America is long and hard indeed, with both victories and losses looming ahead. However—if we work together—we will reach our destination in the end.