Tuesday, April 29, 2014

My Speech on The Death Penalty

My most recent speech last week was on the #death penalty and why it is #unethical.  Here is the short version of my speech:

 Let's start by defining the word ethic.  According to Mirriam-Webster Dictionary ethic means rules of behavior based on ideas about what is morally good and bad.  The majority of society lives by an ethical code with morals and values.  Values are what are right or wrong.

According to the #American Bar Association in Missouri, virtually all murder cases qualify for the death penalty.  Please keep this in mind throughout my entire speech.  According to #Fox News in #Missouri there have been 5 executions within the last 5 months.  One of these executions was of #Joseph Paul Franklin, a self proclaimed racist who attempted murder on #Larry Flynt, the publisher of Hustler Magazine, and #Vernon Jordan, a civil rights activist.  He successfully murdered my cousin #Gerry Gordon in cold blood in front of his three young daughters and wife.  Joseph Paul Franklin was executed in November 2013 for the murder of my cousin.  My family was glad the ordeal was over.  Some were pleased he received the death penalty and others were indifferent.  A statement that Joseph Paul Franklin made while incarcerated was, “if you let me out I will kill again.”  Did he deserve the death penalty?

1980, a young man by the name of #Quinton Moss was murdered on the corner of Sarah and Olive in the City of St. Louis.  The man accused and convicted of the murder was #Larry Griffin who received the death penalty and was executed 10 years after his conviction.  

2001, a man named #Kent Heitholt was murdered in front of his place of employment in #Columbia Missouri.  The young men accused and convicted of the murder were #Charles Erickson and #Ryan Ferguson.  Charles Erickson ultimately received a 25 year sentence behind bars and Ryan Ferguson got 40. 
Larry Griffin and Ryan Ferguson were tried under the same legal system as Joseph Paul Franklin, all were convicted of murder, two got the death penalty and two were executed.  Only 1 was guilty!

Larry Griffin’s innocence was proven by the NAACP (National Association of Advancement For Colored People) and proved his case was built on circumstantial evidence.  Ryan Ferguson proved his case was built on circumstantial evidence and his innocence.  Ryan has since been freed from prison while Charles Erickson is still serving his sentence while trying to prove his innocence.  Remember that virtually any murder case in Missouri qualifies for the death penalty.  Ryan’s case could have gone in the same direction as Larry Griffin’s.  

In both Larry Griffin’s and Ryan Ferguson’s case it has been proven that there was misconduct by law enforcement.  When a lie is told from the beginning it carries over to trial like a domino effect.  The jury only knows what law enforcement and in some cases the prosecution wants them to know.  How can a person who takes an oath to uphold the law and protect society knowingly lie about a crime and live with it? 
The #Innocence Project, innocenceproject.org, claims to have proven 316 people innocent through DNA and 18 of those served time on death row.   How can we impose the death penalty on someone who may be innocent?  In order to get it right we would have to make the legal system error proof and while human error is always possible in any case we would have to abolish human error.  Humans are not perfect and we will always make mistakes.  

To conclude I would like to quote Jennifer Joyce, St. Louis Circuit Attorney, who said, “Every prosecutor conceptually has the notion that someone innocent can be convicted.  I’ve seen it firsthand.”  Although some may deserve death as a consequence for taking someone else’s life namely someone like Joseph Paul Franklin we must abolish the death penalty to avoid the innocent from being put to death.  There is proof, combined evidence and reasoning, that from the very beginning of an accusation of a crime committed human error begins whether it is intentional or not and it carries all the way to trial.

Remember Ryan Ferguson and Larry Griffin’s cases were built and tried on circumstantial evidence.  Neither of them was at the scene of the crime when the crime was committed nor did either have anything to do with the crimes.  There was no DNA, no fingerprint and no viable witnesses.  There were witnesses that were not allowed to speak and facts about each case that went ignored by the justice system we are supposed to believe has our back and have been put in place to protect us.  If this could happen to them it could happen to you or someone you love. Death is final.

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