What Dean Smith Did on the Death Penalty: Everything We Asked of Him PDF Print E-mail

Thank You, Coach Smith, for Answering the Call

He always answered our calls.

People of Faith Against the Death Penalty joins millions of people across the country in mourning the loss of our friend, former UNC Men's Basketball Coach Dean Smith, who passed away Saturday, Feburary 7, 2015.

In 1998 Coach Smith joined a PFADP delegation of clergy in a clemency hearing for John Noland, whom Coach Smith had befriended years earlier when he brought his players on the UNC Men's Basketball team to visit the men on death row. Subsequent to that clemency hearing a family who had lost a member to murder volunteered and created a 24-foot banner for PFADP quoting what Coach Smith told Gov. Jim Hunt. Before the meeting Coach Smith offered to lead off the discussion. He did not tell us what he planned to say.

"You're a murderer!" he told the governor, pointing his finger at him.

"And you're a murderer! And you're a murderer! And I'm a murderer!" he said, pointing at PFADP's executive director and the gathered pastors, ending with his finger pointed at himself.

"The death penalty makes us all murderers."

In the mid-1990s, at the height of death sentencing rates in North Carolina, Coach Smith was the first to sign Rev. Robert Seymour and PFADP's letter signed by prominent North Carolinians for abolition of the death penalty. He wrote personal notes to accompany letters we drafted for his signature to dozens of state senators and representatives encouraging their support for a moratorium on executions.

He recorded a message for PFADP in support of a moratorium on executions that played on telephones in 10,000 North Carolina homes. (He changed the scripted message to begin with, "This is Coach Dean Smith. I'm sorry to bother you....") He was the first to sign our letter for a moratorium on executions also signed by basketball coaches Bill Guthridge (UNC), Skip Prosser (Wake Forest) and Herb Sendek (NC State).

He supported PFADP. He donated autographed items for us to auction and raise money. He served on our Board of Advisors. In 2009, Coach Smith's daughter, Kristen, joined PFADP on staff.

Indeed, Dean Smith always answered our calls. Grounded in his Christian faith and the community of Binkley Baptist Church, he answered the call we all feel to work for abolition. He was always so humble and kind towards us.

He was a fellow activist for abolition.

Our organization will do our best to honor Dean Smith's witness.

When North Carolina and the rest of the United States abolish the death penalty it will be another victory in which this exemplary human being can share.
A Message from Our Executive Director - December 30, 2014 PDF Print E-mail

Thanks to You!

Dear friend,

Last month in a banquet hall full of People of Faith Against the Death Penalty's supporters we celebrated our 20th year of witness and organizing for unbinding our country from the death penalty. Sr. Helen Prejean, legislative and community leaders, faith leaders from several states, death row exonerees, long-time advocates, and actress Susan Sarandon via video joined us in celebrating PFADP being able to make a difference towards abolition.

This is a time of great hope for abolishing the death penalty. We fully expect that in another 20 years the death penalty will be a memory, a cautionary tale.

Thanks to you.

To help get us there we are continuing to till the soil for abolition, to organize, advocate, train, and expand our circle of abolitionists.

To do that we need you to continue your support. Please give a generous year-end, tax-deductible donation right now here: http://bit.ly/Z6ai3

Please consider making a monthly, recurring, tax-deductible donation to PFADP to sustain our work. You can also mail checks to the address below.

Thank you. May the year ahead for you and all of us bring us closer to a world where the strength of love and compassion binds us for our journey together.


Steve Dear

Executive Director

P.S. Got a question? Got an idea or suggestion? Let's talk! Call us at (919) 933-7567 or email me at sdear (at) pfadp.org

NC Repeal Campaign Update PDF Print E-mail

Town of Winfall, NC Becomes First

Town in Eastern North Carolina 
to Call for

Repeal of Death Penalty

Below is the text of PFADP's press release released May 14, 2014.

May 12, 2014 — The Town of Winfall, NC is now the first local government in Eastern North Carolina to call on the state to repeal the death penalty.

On Monday night the Winfall Town Council voted to endorse a resolution calling on North Carolina to repeal the death penalty and use some of the money the state would save to create a new program to help murder victims' family members.

Winfall is now the sixth local government in the state to call for ending the death penalty. The others are Boone, Carrboro, Chapel Hill, Durham, and Orange County.

The nonprofit group People of Faith Against the Death Penalty asked Winfall's Town

In Light of Oklahoma, a Call to Prayer and Action PDF Print E-mail

Statement of People of Faith Against the Death Penalty 

on the Execution of Clayton Lockett in Oklahoma

APRIL 30, 2014 – This past week the National Academy of Sciences released a study showing that one out of every 25 people sentenced to death in America is innocent. Yesterday the state of Oklahoma used a undisclosed combination of drugs in an execution that witnesses described as "torture" and that left the prisoner, Clayton Lockett, "writhing and shaking uncontrollably" on the gurney. Mr. Lockett died of a heart attack 43 minutes after the first injection.

Most of the world has now abandoned the death penalty. Courts across the country have stayed executions because execution protocols lead to what amounts to cruel and unusual punishment. The deep-rooted legacy of racial bias continues to infect capital trials and jury decisions. As an interfaith organization, People of Faith Against the Death Penalty views America's death penalty as remaining morally, ethically, and theologically wrong in the first place. Despite efforts to reform it, our country's death penalty continues to be an expensive, error-prone, haphazard maze of unfair practices with no internal consistency that strays far beyond standards of justice and decency upheld by virtually all faith traditions in the United States and the world. We know that states and countries without the death penalty have lower murder rates. We know that the death penalty eliminates the possibility of many prisoners to achieve redemption and repentance.

Our country now has an ever-growing movement for abolition. Death sentencing rates have plummeted and every year another state repeals the death penalty. For six decades most of America's largest religious communities have been calling for repeal of the death penalty based on moral and theological grounds. More and more, communities of faith are taking leadership roles in state campaigns for repeal.

Those of us opposed to the death penalty have many reasons for hope – and for prayer and action.

Based on a shared ethic of restorative justice and an appreciation for the preciousness of human life, People of Faith Against the Death Penalty encourages communities of faith and lay and pastoral leaders to pray over, discern, and act to unbind our country from the death penalty. We join with religious leaders across the country in encouraging faith communities to contribute their voices and their resources to all state and national campaigns for repeal.

We pray for Stephanie Nieman, brutally murdered by Mr. Lockett, and her family. We pray for Ladonna Hollins, Clayton Lockett's mother, and her family. We pray for healing for the community, and for our country.

How many more innocents will be condemned in our names before we end the death penalty? How many more people will be tortured to death during executions? How long will we allow our prisons to perpetuate the cycles of violence in our communities?
Be a Part of This Kairos Moment PDF Print E-mail

Keep the Momemtum Going, Volunteer with PFADP

This really is a Kairos moment, when momentum is building towards abolishing the death penalty. To keep this momentum going, we'd like you to take this short survey about volunteering with PFADP: https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/LY2HXM9

In the past few days we have learned that one in every 25 people sentenced to die in America in the modern era has been innocent. Millions reeled at reports of the torture of Clayton Lockett in Oklahoma’s death chamber. President Obama has ordered a federal review of the practice of the death penalty. We celebrate the ongoing efforts that are bringing us closer to repeal in more and more states every year. We are approaching a milestone accomplishment in our work for repeal in North Carolina, with nearly 1,000 resolutions for repeal passed by towns, businesses, and congregations.

As PFADP marks our 20th year there is much to celebrate. We have made so much progress thanks to the hard work of thousands of supporters and volunteers over the past two decades. Yet, despite all that has been achieved, there remains much to do. We must keep working until the death penalty is only a terrible memory in our past.  

We at PFADP have high hopes for offering resources and programs to faith communities, clergy and lay leaders, and repeal campaigns across the country at this kairos moment.

But we need your help. We need your time. We need your talent. Yeah, we definitely need some of your treasure, too. (Click here to help with that.)

We can’t go forward without you!

We are hoping you will volunteer for PFADP from where you live. Here are some areas where we need you:

Got tech skills? Help with the design and maintenance of our website and publications.

Got something to say?
Write articles for our website or a commentary in your local paper.

Got fingers? Enter data for our database from your home or dorm room.

Know a pastor or two? 
Ask them and their congregation leadership to pass a repeal resolution or sign a clergy letter.

Want to take your volunteering to a higher level? Offer to serve as a liaison between PFADP and your state’s repeal campaign.

Want to help lead PFADP? Nominate yourself or someone you admire to serve on our board of directors.

Got another idea to help? Please let us know.

Let’s get started. Please take a few minutes to complete this short survey and we’ll be in touch.

This is a Kairos moment.  Come and be a part of it!  

Thank you!

- All of us at PFADP

P.S. On this Mother's Day we are mindful of all of the mothers who have lost loved ones to murder on our streets, in our homes -- and in our country's execution chambers. Let's pray and act to make our country less violent.
Condemning and Executing the Innocent PDF Print E-mail

April 29, 2014 

1 in 25

For every 25 people condemned to death in the United States one of them is innocent. Most of those innocent people had their death sentences commuted to life imprisonment and their cases no longer receive the scrutiny death penalty cases receive.

So says a new study published by the National Academy of Sciences.

"If all death-sentenced defendants remained under sentence of death indefinitely at least 4.1% would be exonerated," study authors write in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. "We conclude that this is a conservative estimate of the proportion of false conviction among death sentences in the United States." Click here to read the study itself.

The great majority of innocent people who are sentenced to death are never identified and freed, says professor Samuel Gross of the University of Michigan Law School, the study's lead author, in an article by the AP.

The difficulty in identifying innocent prisoners stems from the fact that more than 60 percent of prisoners in death penalty cases ultimately are removed from death row and re-sentenced to life imprisonment. Once that happens, their cases no longer receive the exhaustive reviews that the legal system provides for those on death row, the study concludes.

"The high rate of exoneration among death-sentenced defendants appears to be driven by the threat of execution," says the study. "But most death-sentenced defendants are removed from death row and re-sentenced to life imprisonment, after which the likelihood of exoneration drops sharply."
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