As Richard Cooey Faces Execution, Does “State Sanctioned Killing In Our Names Diminish All Of Us”?

In September 1986, nineteen year old Richard Cooey and his seventeen year old friend, Clinton Dickens, brutally raped and murdered two University of Akron sorority sisters, Wendy Offredo and Dawn McCreery.  This DDN article gives the details.

Cooey, now 41, is scheduled to be executed for his crime tomorrow at 10 AM, the first Ohio inmate to be put to death since May 2007.

Capital punishment is an important issue, in our democracy, that deserves to be debated.  Our policy of executing criminals is in stark contrast to the policy of European democracies that prohibits executions.  Reports of executions in 2007 : China: 470+, Iran: 317+, Saudi Arabia: 143+, Pakistan: 135+, US: 42, Iraq: 33+, Vietnam: 25+, Yemen: 15+, Afghanistan: 15, Libya: 9+

The Death Penalty Information Center gives evidence that the use of capital punishment in the US is unjust, including studies of how Location, Race, Representation, and Gender impact execution rates:

Location: A just system ought not to have death sentences concentrated in only one region. However, whether a person receives the death penalty depends heavily on where the crime was committed.  For example, about one-quarter of Ohio’s death row inmates come from Hamilton County (Cincinnati), but only 9% of the state’s murders occur there. (R. Willing and G. Fields, Geography of the Death Penalty, USA Today, Dec. 20, 1999).

Race: A sophisticated statistical study in Philadelphia by David Baldus found that for similar crimes committed by similar defendants, blacks received the death penalty at a 38% higher rate than all others. (Richard C. Dieter, The Death Penalty in Black & White – Death Penalty Information Center, 1998).  A report released by the New Jersey Supreme Court found that, “There is unsettling statistical evidence indicating that cases involving killers of white victims are more likely to progress to a penalty phase than cases involving killers of African-American victims.” (Asbury Park Press, Aug. 13, 2001).

Representation:  Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg writing in 2001 said, “People who are well represented at trial do not get the death penalty. . . . I have yet to see a death case among the dozens coming to the Supreme Court on eve-of-execution stay applications in which the defendant was well represented at trial.” For example, (one of many examples): In Washington state, one-fifth of the 84 people who have faced execution in the past 20 years were represented by lawyers who had been, or were later, disbarred, suspended or arrested. (Overall, the state’s disbarment rate for attorneys is less than 1%.) (Seattle Post-Intelligencer, Aug. 6-8, 2001).  And, for example:  In North Carolina, at least 16 death row inmates, including 3 who were executed, were represented by lawyers who have been disbarred or disciplined for unethical or criminal conduct. (Charlotte Observer, Sept. 9, 2000).

Gender: Death sentences and actual executions for female offenders are rare in comparison to such events for male offenders. In fact, women are more likely to be dropped out of the system the further the capital punishment system progresses.

  • women account for about 1 in 10 (10%) murder arrests;
  • women account for only 1 in 50 (2.0%) death sentences imposed at the trial level;
  • women account for only 1 in 71 (1.4%) persons presently on death row;
  • women account for only 1 in 92 (1.1%) persons actually executed in the modern era.

The Catholic Church stands opposed to capital punishment, the U.S. Bishops saying, “We cannot teach that killing is wrong by killing….This cycle of violence diminishes all of us—especially our children,” and, “Our nation should forgo the use of the death penalty because the sanction of death violates respect for human life and dignity. State-sanctioned killing in our names diminishes all of us.”

These are strong words that reaffirms the Church’s stand concerning the sanctity of life and makes its opposition to capital punishment consistent with its absolute opposition to abortion and euthanasia. The U.S. Catholic Bishops say, “The abolition of capital punishment is a manifestation of our belief in the unique worth and dignity of each person from the moment of conception, a creature made in the image and likeness of God  This belief, rooted in Scripture and consistently expressed in the social teachings of the Church, applies to all people, including those who have taken life.”

The Bishops say,  “We believe that abolition of the death penalty is most consonant with the example of Jesus.”

The UK Guardian in “World Is Moving Towards Banning Death Penalty,” says:

  • Five nations were responsible for almost all the state executions carried out in the past year. A total of 137 countries have abolished the death penalty in law or practice, while 60 countries retain its use, usually for people convicted of murder.  There were at least 1,252 known executions in 24 countries during 2007. Of all the executions in 2007, 88% took place in China, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and the US.
  • By the end of 2007, 91 countries had abolished the death penalty for all crimes and three more (Albania, the Cook Islands and Rwanda) have since joined them, according to Reprieve, which represents death row prisoners around the world.  In Europe, only Belarus retains capital punishment. Countries with the death penalty cannot join the EU.
  • The number of executions carried out by China last year makes them the world’s number one executioner. This year we have seen a noticeable increase in the use of the death penalty in Japan. Executions in that country are typically shrouded in secrecy. And in Pakistan there are approximately 7,500 people, including children, on death row …y.”
  • In some areas with a long tradition of executions, such as central Asia, there is a clear move towards abolition. Recently, Kyrgyzstan abolished the death penalty for ordinary crimes, Kazakhstan has had a moratorium on executions since 2003 and Tajikistan has had moratoriums on executions and death sentences since 2004.
  • In Africa, only six countries carried out executions in 2006. Last year the high court in Malawi declared the mandatory death penalty unconstitutional and Rwanda abolished it. Burundi, Gabon and Mali are taking steps towards abolition.
  • In seven countries the death penalty is applied for consensual sexual acts between adults of the same sex: Iran, Mauritania, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, the United Arab Emirates, Yemen and parts of Nigeria. Iran retains the death penalty for a large number of offenses, among them “cursing the Prophet,” certain drug offenses, murder, adultery, incest, rape, drinking alcohol and sodomy. Last year Iran executed at least 317 people, including eight juvenile offenders.
  • In 2007, Saudi Arabia executed at least 143 people, including children and three women. This year’s has already reached 58.
  • Pakistan retains the death penalty for 26 offenses including murder, blasphemy, arms trading, drug trafficking, armed robbery, stripping a woman of her clothes in public, extramarital sex and rape. Yemen retains it for a variety of offenses, among them endangering transport and communications, apostasy, robbery, prostitution and adultery.

Countries whose laws do not provide for the death penalty for any crime

Countries whose laws provide for the death penalty only for exceptional crimes such as crimes under military law or crimes committed in exceptional circumstances

Countries which retain the death penalty for ordinary crimes such as murder but can be considered abolitionist in practice in that they have not executed anyone during the past 10 years and are believed to have a policy or established practice of not carrying out executions. The list also includes countries which have made an international commitment not to use the death penalty

Countries which retain the death penalty for ordinary crimes

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3 Responses to As Richard Cooey Faces Execution, Does “State Sanctioned Killing In Our Names Diminish All Of Us”?

  1. Brian says:

    “its opposition to capital punishment consistent with its absolute opposition to abortion and euthanasia” – What do you mean by “is consistent with?’ The murder of an innocent life and putting a rapist and murderer in the ground are not consistent or the same things. The last time I checked the Bible advocated “an eye for an eye,” and it makes perfect sense to eradicate those who have no respect for the lives of others.

  2. Mike Bock says:

    Brian, thanks for your response. I quote the council of Catholic Bishops as saying, “We believe that abolition of the death penalty is most consonant with the example of Jesus.”

    Yes, The Old Testament does advocate, “an eye for an eye,” but what is interesting is that in the New Testament, Jesus, the founder of Christianity, specifically refutes that specific Old Testament teaching. I looked it up: Matthew 5:38-39. Jesus brought a new light, a new understanding: “Those who dwell in darkness have seen a great light.”

    The sanctity of life is a central teaching of The Catholic Church and I admire the consistency of thoughtful religious leaders who not only oppose abortion and euthanasia, a popular stand for serious Christians, but also oppose the execution of criminals, a very unpopular stand with much of the Christian community. I’ve not heard a good argument, based on religious principles, that would hold that a Christian should oppose abortions, while at the same time should support executions. The “eye for an eye” formulation doesn’t work as a rationale, because Jesus, himself, specifically rejected that rationale.

    The idea expressed by the Catholic Bishops that executions conducted by the State, particularly since the State derives its power from our democracy, “diminishes us all,” is a pretty profound thought that deserves to be contemplated. This argument against capital punishment, that emphasizes the sanctity of life, is powerful and brings religion into the discussion. Another powerful argument against capital punishment is purely secular: the fact that our legal system gives preferential treatment to those with money and influence, and that because of the inherent corruption in the system, the State should not be given the power to inflict the ultimate penalty.

  3. Brian says:

    Well, I’m not going to debate translations of the Bible, although many people do not take “love your enemies” to mean take it easy on murderers and rapists. Killing them is probably more “loving” than keeping them in prison. Many Christians believe very staunchly in capital punishment, and I’m not keen on siding with the ones who take men of the cloth from one part of the country and stick them in another part of the country when they molest little boys (yeah, child molestation is a crime). The Catholic Church stating “This cycle of violence diminishes all of us—especially our children” is beyond ironic.

    The selective stats on locations and demographics of executions are sketchy as well and don’t mean a whole lot. The most important stats, such as whether or not the perp is 100% guilty and not retarded, are not listed. I don’t think it’s realistic to have a “fairness doctrine” as to who gets executed for their crimes, although I’m sure Obama could request Pelosi & co. to draft us a good law for that.

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