Death penalty awareness needs community support


Published: Saturday, March 1, 2003 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, February 28, 2003 at 10:34 p.m.

Today is International Death Penalty Abolition Day. It has its roots in Detroit, Mich., in the early 1800s as a result of two cases that awoke the hearts and minds of the people of Michigan as to the irreversibility of state-sanctioned killing.

Patrick Fitzpatrick, a Detroiter living in an inn across the Detroit River, was accused of raping and murdering the innkeeper's daughter. Though the evidence was only circumstantial, he was executed. Seven years later, Fitzpatrick's roommate confessed to the crime while on his deathbed. The people of Detroit were outraged that an innocent man had been executed.

Stephen Simmons was a temperamental bartender who killed his wife, who was carrying their unborn child. He was hanged in front of an enthusiastic, bloodthirsty public and, before dying, Simmons sang a redemptive and prayerful song, asking God for forgiveness and mercy. As he hung from the gallows, the people were horrified at the cruel and vindictive act they had committed.

On March 1, 1847, Michigan abolished capital punishment. The people of Michigan continue in this noble practice and the current penalty for capital crimes is a mandatory life sentence without a chance of parole.

For more information on the death penalty, call Citizens United for Alternatives to the Death Penalty at 1 800 973-6548, go to www.cuadp.org or come to a meeting of Gainesville Citizens for Alternatives to the Death Penalty (GCADP) at 7 p.m. on the first Tuesday of each month at Hurley House, which is located on the northwest corner of NW 17th Street and 1st Avenue.

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