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CURRENT ISSUE:  December 12, 2005VOL. 43, NO. 21Oakland, CA

State’s bishops seek end of death penalty

The president of the California Catholic Conference of Bishops, in a statement opposing executions in the state, has urged Californians “to ask themselves what good comes of state-sanctioned killing.”

“We recognize the profound pain of those who have lost loved ones to violence and offer them our prayers and our consolation,” said Bishop Stephen Blaire of Stockton in a Nov. 30 press statement.

“However, nothing can undo what was done – even taking the life of the convicted killer. The infliction of the death penalty does not make for a more just society.”

Bishop Blaire’s statement came as the state prepares to execute condemned inmate Stanley “Tookie” Williams. Williams, who helped start the infamous Crips gang in Los Angeles, and was convicted in 1981 of four shotgun murders. He is scheduled to be executed on Dec. 13. Two other executions are scheduled in January and February.

As The Voice went to press on Dec. 7, Williams’ petition for clemency was pending before Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. The governor had scheduled a closed clemency hearing for Williams Dec. 8 to meet privately with Williams’ defense counsel and the Los Angeles district attorney.

The California Supreme Court on Nov. 30 turned down a motion by Williams’ lawyers to permit retesting of some evidence used in convicting him and allow them access to other evidence.

Speakers from religious organizations and civil rights groups held rallies across California Nov. 30 to protest Williams’ pending execution and to address the moral debate on capital punishment.

In his statement, Bishop Blaire said the state’s Catholic bishops strongly support an end to the death penalty and affirm the November statement of the U.S. Catholic bishops calling on society to abolish capital punishment.

“We recognize that human beings can and do commit grievous crimes, but we reject the use of the death penalty – especially when we can protect society with an alternate penalty of life imprisonment,” Bishop Blaire said.

“In addition, of particular concern to us is the fact that the application of the death penalty is deeply flawed – with those who are poor or from racial minorities most often its subjects. The three pending executions are illustrative of these facts.”

Bishop Blaire said a moratorium is needed to evaluate whether the death penalty serves the common good and safeguards the dignity of human life. “We are convinced that it does not,” he said.

Members of St. Joseph Parish, Fremont, hold a demonstration at Mission San Jose marking the 1,000th execution since the reinstatement of the death penalty by the United States Supreme Court in 1977.

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