April 2010

Minutes from the Sunday Supper Club April 11th 2010

We had a rather small crowd this evening but those who were in attendance enjoyed a great presentation by Beth Panilaitis from Virginians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty.  Thank you so much Beth for making the trek from Richmond to share your knowledge and experience on this important subject.

Five Minute Flash Reports:

Treasurer’s Report- Another month without a “treasurer sighting” (please come back Lisa, we miss you) but David Roos reported that we received $16.00 in donations at our last meeting, bringing our balance to $640.39.

Minutes Correction- Holder Trumbo brought to my attention a correction for the March Minutes.  He wanted to clarify the report provided by Nick Verna regarding the issuance of permits for the dumping of biosludge in Fauquier County.  These permits were issued by the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) NOT the Fauquier DEQ as the County does not have its own DEQ.

Democracy Restoration Act- Supporters of the Democracy Restoration Act (co-sponsored by Senator Russ Feingold and Rep. John Conyers) will be holding a lobby day on Wed. April 28th in DC.  Please visit www.sundaysupperclub.org for details.

This bill will:
Restore voting rights in federal elections to nearly 4 million Americans who have been released from prison after serving their sentences.
Ensure that people on probation never lose their right to vote.
Notify people about their right to vote in federal elections when they are leaving prison, sentenced to probation or convicted of a misdemeanor.

Why is this important?
Strengthens our democracy by broadening the possible base of voter participation.
Advances civil rights- felony disenfranchisement laws were intended to bar minorities from voting.  Nationwide 2 million Americans are disenfranchised.
Aids law enforcement- Allowing people to vote after release encourages participation in civic life and helps rebuild ties to the community which motivate law abiding behavior.
Facilitates election administration- Eliminating erroneous purges of eligible citizens from voting roles relieves confusion among election officials and the public about who is eligible to vote.

Extended Flash Report

Nancy Walbridge- O’Connell, Community Relations Director for Hospice of the Rapidan joined us to share some important information about the work of her organization.  Hospice of the Rapidan (HOTR) is the leading hospice program serving Fauquier, Culpeper, Orange, Madison and Rappahannock Counties.  They “provide dignified and compassionate end-of-life care for terminally ill patients and their families, including medical care and emotional, social, spiritual and grief support.”
HOTR has nurses and volunteers in each of the 5 counties they serve.
50% of patients reside in Fauquier County
HOTR provides service to pediatric patients- not all hospices are able to do this.

To qualify under Medicare/Medicaid for hospice care a patient must have approximately 6 months or less to live.  Some private insurers also will cover hospice care.  HOTR cares for patients of all ages and diagnoses and has a policy of providing care to all who qualify regardless of their ability to pay.  HOTR must raise approximately $300,000/yr to close the gap between actual costs and insurance reimbursements.

“Hospice focuses on caring, not curing, under the premise that each of us is entitled to die pain free and with dignity, surrounded by family and loved ones with the support of caring people who understand the process of dying peacefully.”

One of the priorities of HOTR is to intervene earlier with terminally ill patients as often the length and quality of life can be improved upon if pain can be controlled and the patient is able to return home.
HOTR use volunteers to provide many services including massage therapy, hair dressing, nails, home visitation…
The hospice care team involves many people: registered nurse, chaplain, grief care support, registered nurse assistant, social workers …

HOTR has received a land donation for a Hospice House in Sumerduck.  They hope to have this built within 3 years.

Statistics show:
Hospice patients receiving care earlier live 23-30 days longer and save Medicare 3.2 billion dollars.

All volunteers for HOTR undergo strict background checks and an initial 21 hour training.
HOTR currently has 130+ volunteers assisting them with patient/family support, office support and special events.
New volunteers are always welcome- no skills or prior experience needed.

Nancy encouraged all of us to be certain to make our wishes about end of life care known to our family, friends and doctor!

Call 540-825-4840 or visit www.hotr.org for more information.

*All passages in quotes are taken from the Hospice of the Rapidan brochure.

Guest Speaker

We were pleased to welcome Beth Panilaitis, executive director of Virginians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty, as our guest speaker.  Her presentation provided much food for thought and corrected a number of prevalent but false beliefs about the death penalty.

VADP is a statewide citizen’s organization dedicated to educating citizens and law makers about the death penalty.  In addition to having a strong presence in the General Assembly, the group holds educational events all around the state and also organizes against executions.

A Brief History
1608- First execution in the colonies in Jamestown
1632- First woman executed
1846- Michigan decides against the use of the death penalty.
1972- The US Supreme Court in the Furman v.GA case ruled the death penalty unconstitutional because of the arbitrary nature of its’ application.  This led to a de facto moratorium on the DP until 1976
From 1972-1976, 37 states enacted new statutes aimed at addressing the court’s concerns about arbitrary imposition.
1976- The Supreme Court, in the case of Gregg v. Georgia, upheld the procedure in which trials of capital crimes are divided into guilt and innocence phases.
1976- The “modern era” of the death penalty begins.
38 states reinstituted the death penalty; 35 states still practice the death penalty in 2010.
The following states currently have no death penalty statute: AK, HI, IA, ME, MI, MN, NJ, NM, ND, RI, VT, WV, WI, Washington, DC
MA and NY’s statutes have been ruled unconstitutional.
In 2000, after Illinois released 13 innocent inmates from death row (and executed 12 people) Governor Ryan of Illinois declared a moratorium on executions and appointed a commission to study the issue.

The Death Penalty in Virginia
Virginia has performed over 1300 executions since its’ first in 1608.
Virginia has the distinction of executing the most women and the youngest children of any state.
Up until 2005 it was legal to execute juveniles under the age of 18.
Virginia is second only to TX in number of executions.
While many states are abolishing the death penalty, Virginia is seeking to expand it.  Over the last 4-5 years numerous bills expanding the DP have been introduced in the General Assembly but killed in committee.
Since 1982 Virginia has not executed any women though one is currently on death row.
In 2009, VA executed 3 people.

The World and the Death Penalty
More than half of the countries in the international community have abolished the death penalty.  78 countries, including China, Iran, United States, Vietnam, Saudi Arabia, Sudan and Yemen retain the DP.
The European Union has been an active supporter of worldwide abolition and has been promoting a UN convention against the death penalty.
The US is the only western democracy that continues to practice the death penalty.  In 2009, the US was the only country in North or South America to execute their own citizens.

Innocence and the Death Penalty
Since 1972, 138 men and women have been exonerated from death row.  This figure represents approximately 10% of those on death row.
In 2004, Texas executed Cameron Todd Willingham for the murder of his three children via arson at the family home.  Willingham professed his innocence from his arrest until the moment of his execution.  On Aug. 2005, 2009, Dr. Craig Beyler, the investigator hired by the Texas Forensic Science Commission to review the case, released his report in which he found that “a finding of arson could not be sustained” by scientific analysis.  He concluded that the fire was accidental not arson.
In Virginia, Earl Washington Jr. came within nine days of being executed for a murder he did not commit.  Washington spent nearly 18 years in prison, including nine on death row, before DNA testing led to his exoneration on Feb. 12, 2001.  30 days before his execution date, Washington was moved to a cell adjacent to the execution chamber from which he could hear authorities testing the electric chair twice daily.
Death row exonorees often suffer from PTSD and yet when released from death row are generally provided no services.  Upon release they are no longer a part of the department of corrections and receive no money and no help.
Visit these sites for more info. on this topic:  http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/case/


Truths about the Death Penalty
The death penalty is unfairly applied.  The determination of whether to seek the DP often has nothing to do with the crime committed but instead is affected by the race of the victim (defendants in crimes with a white victim are 3x more likely to be charged with a capital crime), the race of the defendant and geography (prosecutors are more likely to seek the DP in the South and in rural and suburban areas.)
Capital cases are far more time and labor intensive than cases where a sentence of “Life without possibility of parole” is sought.
Study after study has shown that the threat of the death penalty provides absolutely no deterrence value.  In fact, states with the death penalty have higher murder rates than those without.
Police chiefs surveyed placed the death penalty last on a list of tools to reduce violent crime: reducing drug abuse, improving the economy and job prospects, simplifying court rules, longer prison sentences, more police officers, reducing guns, expanding death penalty.
88% of the country’s top criminologists do not believe the DP acts as a deterrent to homicide.  87% believe that abolition of the DP would not have any significant effect on murder rates.  75% agree that “debates about the death penalty distract Congress and state legislatures from focusing on real solutions to crime problems.”

4.  The death penalty is very expensive.
In CA the current system costs 137 million per year; a system without the DP would cost $11.5 million.
In KS, capital cases cost 70& more than comparable non-capital cases, including the cost of incarceration.
NC taxpayers spend $2.16 million per execution over the costs of sentencing murderers to life imprisonment.
In FL, $51 million per year is spent above what it would cost to punish all 1st degree murderers with life without the possibility of parole.
In MD, death penalty cases cost 3x more than non-death penalty cases.
The greatest costs with the DP occur prior to and during trial, not in post-conviction appeals.

The Human Toll
Innocent people may die; there have been over 130 exonerations from death row nationwide since 1973.
Victims’ families are dragged through a lengthy process over which they have no say.  Awareness of the pain and suffering of victims’ families was a large factor in the recent NJ decision to abolish the DP.
Victims’ families are led to believe that executing the perpetrator will bring them closure and relief and this is often not the case.  In cases in which the DP is not sought, the case ends with the verdict as the sentence starts immediately.  With DP cases the process drags on.
Being involved in the DP system causes trauma for corrections workers as well.  A former corrections officer, Jerry Givens, has come out against the DP and works closely with VADP.  Givens participated in many executions, by lethal injection and electric chair and was scheduled to participate in the execution of Earl Washington Jr.

For more information on this subject visit www.vadp.org

Thank you again to Beth Panilaitis for sharing her vast knowledge on this subject.  We wish her all the best as she transitions into her new role as executive director of ROSMY (http://rosmy.org/) , an organization working for equal opportunity for sexual minority youth.

Save the Dates
You won’t want to miss the interesting meetings we have planned!

May 16th- Krystal Ball,  Democratic candidate for Congress in the 1st CD.

June 13th- “An Evening with the Arts”, speakers to include Raven Yates of the Culpeper State Theater Foundation, Kelly Rozwadowski of  the Windmore Foundation, and Christie Clark of the Fauquier Community Theater.

July 11- Chris Miller of the Piedmont Environmental Council