World Day Against the Death Penalty

Report on Amnesty Death penalty discussion

On 10 October 2020, the 18th World Day Against the Death Penalty, Amnesty hosted a discussion with three people who are closely connected with the campaign to end the practice.  They were Kim Manning Cooper; Dr Bharat Malkani and Chiara Sangiorgio.  It was chaired by Paul Bridges.  It was a fascinating talk in which they discussed different aspects of how the death penalty works in the USA.  Amnesty has maintained a consistent policy of condemning the use of the death penalty in all circumstances.  It is fundamentally about human dignity.

Amnesty is also opposed to life sentences without the chance of parole.


Much of the discussion focused on the miscarriages of justice in the USA.  The death penalty does not do what its proponents claim it does.  It does not deter violent crime.  States who do not use the penalty have some of the lowest murder rates in the Union.  It is expensive, with 724 people on death row in California alone, which has cost the state $4bn since 1978.  Mistakes are common and of course cannot be put right.  Since 1973, 170 prisoners on death row have been exonerated, a quite staggering level of error.  The One for Ten movement was referred to, which notes that for every ten people executed in the US, one has been exonerated and released, having spent, on average, ten years on death row.

Dr Malkani’s talk explored the effects on innocent people.  Following arrest for a crime they did not commit, there is a feeling of a sheer sense of disbelief.  Their first concern is for their loved ones.  How would they cope without them and if they have children, how will they handle school when everyone will know that their parent has been arrested for murder?  He mentioned the ‘ripple effect’ which results in trauma being felt among a wide community of individuals, not just the immediate family.

There follows a sense of hopelessness, realising that the might of the State is trying to kill you.  Next comes anger when you know you are innocent.  (No reference was made to the fact that that the US does not have the equivalent of PACE,  which requires evidence indicating innocence to be disclosed to the defence.  This evidence is often not disclosed with the aim of a securing a conviction.)


Dr Malkani went on to discuss the effects on people released after a long period of captivity.  Understandably, they want to return to their previous life, but they find this impossible as so much has changed both in society and in their families.  Their children have grown up without knowing them.  It is also difficult to achieve a personal identity having spent the many years in captivity as just a number.  Now free, they are always described as someone who was on death row.

Because they were on death row, they received no training or attempts at rehabilitation since they were destined for execution.  The pace of modern technology meant the world was a completely different place.  There were no support systems in place.  There was also relationship breakdown after such long periods of separation.  Sadly, many die quite soon after their release.

Troy Davis

Kim Manning-Cooper spoke of the infamous Troy Davis case.  An off-duty policeman was murdered and a witness came forward claiming that Troy was the killer.  It now appears possible that the witness himself may have been the culprit.  There are too many irregularities to list but include witnesses who were threatened with being charged themselves, police statements signed by people who could not read or write, some witnesses were threatened by the police, no forensic or DNA evidence was submitted, and no gun was ever found.  An evidentiary hearing was held by the Supreme Court but, despite the multiple failings in the prosecution case and some misgivings, the appeal failed and Davis was executed in September 2011.  His sister had campaigned tirelessly in his support.  Amnesty International campaigned for justice in the Davis case, a cause the Salisbury group took part in.

Kim said people often say ‘the system is failing black men but in reality, the failure is in the way the system was designed’.

‘the system is failing black men but in reality, the failure is in the way the system was designed’


This theme was developed by Dr Malkani.  The issue of race was built into the legal system in the USA he said.  It

Screenshot: Dr Bharat Malkani

dates back to the 13th amendment of the US Constitution which abolished slavery ‘except as a punishment for a crime’.  When lynching ended in the 1920’s, executions skyrocketed, as evidenced by the Death Penalty Information Center.  The bias extended to the prosecution process, with district attorneys unwilling to prosecute a black person murdered by a white but all too willing to prosecute the other way around.   Some members of juries in the state of Georgia are quoted as saying ‘black people have no souls’.  Many murders of black people remain unsolved.  Only 21 white people have been executed for killing a black person but 296 black people for killing a white person.

Finally, he said the effects on wardens and prison guards can also be profound as was shown in the award winning film Clemency.

Forensic evidence

The question was posed ‘could the justice system ever be error proof?’  This was related to things like the use of DNA.  The answer was that no system could be error proof, DNA was not infallible and was not a silver bullet, although sometimes evidence is found years later.  The justice system could not be used to solve issues of bad housing, drug addiction and social problems generally.  We needed to advocate for prison reform as well as ending the death penalty and life sentences without the prospect of parole.


In addition to Amnesty International’s Death Penalty Urgent Actions, the work of Reprieve was highlighted, and writing to people on death row organised by Lifelines.


This was a most interesting discussion.  There is a slow decline in the number of executions and Americans themselves are increasingly wanting the practice ended.  The role of Black Lives Matter is likely to have an effect.  There are other countries in the world with far worse records –  Saudi Arabia, and Iran – but especially China.  The numbers executed in China run into thousands but details are a state secret.

For American readers: PACE – the Police and Criminal Evidence Act provides a range of protections to people arrested in the UK one of which is the defense must see all the evidence collected by the police, not just that which indicates possible guilt. 

Death penalty report: Nov – Dec

We are pleased to attach our latest monthly death penalty report compiled by group member Lesley.  In addition to matters around the world, we mention worries about the Conservative government, if, as expected, they assume power on Friday after the election.  The present Home Secretary, Priti Patel is committed to toughening sentencing and has said she wishes to see the reintroduction of the penalty in the UK.  She denies that this is the case.  We quote survey statistics to show that it is still a desired outcome for many people, especially for those who voted leave in the EU Referendum.

Note as ever that China is the world’s largest executioner of its citizens but the data is a state secret.

November – December Report (Word)

Urgent Action: USA

Execution set after 34 years on death row

It seems hardly credible that someone who has spent 34 years on death row should now be at risk of execution but that is the case with John Wayne Conner in Georgia.  The details are below and if you are able to write we would be grateful.  This is URGENT however.

Urgent Action details

Amnesty is opposed to the death penalty.  China remains the country which executes more than any other country.  See our monthly report.


Kenneth Fults executed

WE are sad to report that on 12th April, Kenneth Fults was executed by lethal injection in Georgia texas executionUSA.  The United States is the only country in the Americas which still has the death penalty.  The case revealed the usual catalogue of dubious legal practice that is so common in these cases: a black defendant poorly represented by lawyers one of whom was allegedly asleep during part of the proceedings; a plea bargain and a juror who made derogatory racial remarks about Fults.  Other factors are set out in a previous blog.

Amnesty International’s senior death penalty campaigner Jason Clark said:

Those troubling factors are typical of Georgia’s use of the death penalty.

Virtually every execution that’s happened in Georgia has been emblematic of problems with the death penalty.

He noted that the 28 executions in the U.S. last year were carried out by just six states.

In states like Georgia that are still carrying on a lot of executions, it’s because they’re not implementing issues of fairness.

Amnesty is opposed to the death penalty in all cases.

A sad day…

No to the death penalty


Nineteen years on death row in Georgia USA

Has now been executed (12th)

Neglect, racial prejudice and a sleeping lawyer leaves a man on death row.  Execution imminent
Kenneth Fults and son

In May 1997, Kenneth Fults pleaded guilty to the murder of Cathy Bounds – shot at her home on 30 January 1996. After a three-day sentencing hearing, the jury voted to sentence Kenneth to death.

Eight years later, one of the jurors from the sentencing signed a sworn statement admitting that he voted for the death penalty out of racial prejudice:

I don’t know if he ever killed anybody, but that n***** got just what should have happened. Once he pled guilty, I knew I would vote for the death penalty because that’s what the n***** deserved.

When evidence of racist motivation among the jury was raised at an appeal hearing, the state argued that it was too late to review the issue and Kenneth’s death sentence should stand.  After 19 excruciating years on death row, Kenneth’s execution is now imminent. He is due to be executed on 12 April 2016.

Lawyer asleep during court

Former jurors on the case have since signed affidavits saying that Kenneth’s trial lawyer made little effort to save his client from the death penalty, and shockingly was seen to be asleep during the proceedings.

Mr Fults’s lawyer… was uninterested in what was happening, and it seemed like something was wrong with him. I saw him fall asleep repeatedly during the trial, and he would wake up, startled, when it was his turn to examine witnesses. I saw him sleeping off and on throughout the whole trial.   Former juror on Kenneth Fult’s case

A childhood of neglect

The jury heard some mitigating evidence – that Kenneth was a man with a very low IQ who suffered from depression and an inability to always understand the consequences of his actions – but not they did not get the full story.  His lawyer, Mr Mostiler, failed to give any background on Kenneth’s childhood of neglect and abandonment – born to a 16-year-old mother who later became addicted to crack cocaine.

I don’t believe he had a fair trial. Mr Fults’s current lawyers have told me about how Mr Fults was neglected and abandoned as a child and that he is mentally retarded. Mostiler didn’t bring this up at trial and he should have, so that we would have known more about Mr Fults before we talked about whether to give him the death penalty.

Another former juror on Kenneth Fult’s case In 2006 – a clinical psychologist assessed Kenneth as having an intellectual disability – with a low IQ.  International law bans use of the death penalty on people with mental or intellectual disabilities.

What we’re calling for

We are completely opposed to the death penalty – in all cases, with no exception. The death penalty violates the right to life and is the ultimate cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment.  We’re asking the State of Georgia authorities to stop the execution of Kenneth Fults and for his death sentence to be commuted.

Send your own appeal

If you would like to write your own appeal, please send via fax or email to ensure it reaches the Chairman of the Board of Pardons and Paroles by 12 April 2016.

Contact details:

Terry Barnard
Chairman, Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles
Fax: +1 404-651-6670
Salutation: Dear Chairman Barnard

And please send copies to:

Governor Nathan Deal
Office of the Governor
Fax: +1 404-657-7332
Email: Complete the form at or

Execution in the USA

Last year saw a dramatic rise in executions globally, with the highest number recorded in more than 25 few years.  However, the Americas is becoming a virtually death penalty-free region.

The USA is the only country in the region to still execute – and consistently one of the world’s top five executioners, behind only Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Iran and China.

Last year 28 people were executed in the USA and almost 3,000 people remained on death row.

Racial inequality

In June 2015, US Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer noted that multiple studies have concluded that ‘individuals accused of murdering white victims, as opposed to black or other minority victims, are more likely to receive the death penalty’ in the USA.

African-American defendants receive the death penalty at three times the rate of white defendants in cases where the victims are white, according to a 2007 study in Connecticut conducted by Yale University School of Law.

From initial charging decisions to plea bargaining to jury sentencing, African-Americans are treated more harshly when they are defendants, and their lives are accorded less value when they are victims.

An irrevocable punishment

It may be an obvious point, but once somebody has been executed – there is no going back. And the risk of ending the life of an innocent person can never be overcome.  Over the last 46 years, 150 prisoners sent to death row in the USA have later been exonerated due to evidence of wrongful convictions.  The key factors leading to wrongful conviction include inadequate legal representation, police misconduct, racial prejudice and suppression of mitigating evidence.

China executes more people than all countries put together but the figures are a state secret.

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