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As the 39th Annual General Assembly of the Unitarian Universalist Association
held its Opening Ceremony the evening of June 22, 2000, Gary Graham was executed
by lethal injection in Huntsville, Texas, the 222nd person to be executed in
Texas since that state reinstated the death penalty eighteen years ago, and the
135th person to be executed in that state in the past five years. Gary Graham,
an African American, was convicted of murder nineteen years ago, as a teenager,
on the testimony of a single witness. Multiple appeals were filed on his behalf
at state and federal levels. They were repeatedly denied. Graham did not go
gently to his death. Claiming innocence to the end, he fought legally,
physically, spiritedly. Malcolm X was the inspiration for his final words:
"There'll be one hundred more years of lynching unless we do something fast and
by any means necessary." The State of Tennessee, on April 19, 2000, carried out
the death penalty for the first time in forty years. There is reason to fear
that, having broken this precedent, Tennessee will move forward rapidly in
capital punishment cases.
Since the death penalty was declared constitutional by the United States
Supreme Court in 1976, the number of states exercising the death penalty and the
number of prisoners executed have increased yearly. A similarly increasing
number of religious and secular organizations, as well as public officials, have
questioned the fairness of the death penalty.
A moratorium on executions in Illinois was recently issued by the Governor of
that state. Too many capital convictions had been overturned to permit his
conscience to stay clear if one more person took that long walk.
Holding capital punishment as inconsistent with human life on account of its
retributive, discriminatory, and non-deterrent character, General Assemblies of
the Unitarian Universalist Association have opposed capital punishment
restoration or continuance in any form (1961, 1966, 1974, and 1979).
How much longer will we, as a nation aspiring to democracy and fair play,
condone capital punishment? How much longer will we, as a nation aspiring to
liberty and justice for all, condone the ultimate loss of liberty for so many,
whose numbers include a disproportionate percentage of persons of color?
As a community of faith promoting justice, equity, and compassion in human
relations, we call for an end to the death penalty. The 2000 General Assembly of
the Unitarian Universalist Association urges
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Last updated on Wednesday, August 24, 2011.
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