Thursday, November 17, 2011

Francesco Patriarca

An expression of violence rather than justice that brings confusion and legalized revenge rather than real confrontation with than dark side of human beings.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Loren Santow

photograph © 2011 Loren Santow 


Dubious testimony by a purported eyewitness landed Steven Smith on death row

June 30, 1985, Virdeen Willis Jr., an off-duty assistant warden at the Illinois penitentiary in Pontiac, was shot to death outside the Shamrock Lounge on the south side of Chicago. Steven Smith, 36, who had been drinking in the bar, was charged with the crime after he was identified by a woman named Debrah Caraway, who claimed to have witnessed the murder. It was Caraway's testimony that ultimately sent Smith to death row, but that testimony was dubious for several reasons.

First, Caraway had been smoking crack cocaine. Second, she claimed Willis was alone when the killer stepped out of shadows and fired the fatal shot, but two other witnesses said they were standing beside Willis when he was murdered. Third, Caraway's boyfriend, Pervis (Pepper) Bell, was an alternative suspect in the murder. Finally, Caraway, according to her account, was across the street when the crime occurred and, while she positively identified Smith, the two persons who were standing beside Willis were within only two or three feet of the killer and could not identify Smith.

On February 19, 1999, the Illinois Supreme Court held that Caraway's testimony was less reliable than the contradictory testimony of the other witnesses and reversed the conviction outright, ordering Smith's release from prison. Smith's case is unusual in that the error was corrected without the intervention of volunteers outside the system.

text from the Center on Wrongful Convictions at Northwestern University. Chicago, IL

Monday, November 7, 2011

Barrie Maguire

In the United States, the sole remaining industrialized nation that has not abandoned the capital punishment, killing another person (as opposed to locking them up forever) has become a purely political issue, instead of a humanity issue. Sad. 

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Ed Carpenter


"Vessel", completed in July 2008, is a centerpiece for the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center. Rising more than four stories in a transparent and searching gesture, this monumental but delicate sculpture employs light to represent the optimistic spirit of the institution. It is a luminous container for the aspirations and hopes of all involved. By juxtaposing native plantings with crystalline structure, it suggests a variety of dualistic metaphors: natural and technological, intuitive and rational, transparent and opaque, formal and informal. This "basket of light" expresses the dynamism of the Center in the way light and shadows play off, through and around the combinations of materials. Its interwoven structure represents the interconnected and collaborative nature of the Hutchinson Center.

"Vessel" works on an urban scale, marking views along various axes, as well as on a human scale, allowing passage into and through the leafy core or the sculpture itself. As the vegetation surrounding “Vessel” matures and honeysuckle vines grow up its lattice structure, the interior space will be extraordinary for its delicate light and combination of intimacy and monumentality. Hourly, daily, and seasonal changes in the light and vegetation will make the sculpture an abstract sundial as well as symbol of transformation. Its' classic form, attractive materials, and hierarchy of scales will give "Vessel" universal appeal regardless of whether experienced from a passing car, adjacent building, or passage on foot through its center.

"Vessel" faced a challenging structural issue in that the site requires a tall sculpture to address axial views and to be in scale with surrounding buildings, but there are serious weight restrictions due to the load limits of the tunnel structure beneath. This dilemma was addressed with a design that is lightweight in spite of its monumentality. Employing aluminum, stainless steel, and slender strips of dichroic and beveled glass, the sculpture achieves both goals simultaneously. In an unusual innovation, laminated and tempered safety glasses were used structurally to strengthen the section of the aluminum members, allowing longer spans at lighter weight than with conventional methods.
Client: Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center.

Title: "Vessel"
Winning Competition Design, May 2006
Installation completion: July, 2008
Dimensions: 39' diameter wide x 60'  high.
Materials: Aluminum, stainless steel,  laminated dichroic glass, beveled  clear plate glass, concrete,  landscape vegetation.
Drawings & Renderings: Oanh Tran &  Michael Gregg.
Construction Drawings and project  coordination: Oanh Tran
Project Administrator: Arleen  Daugherty.
Structural Engineering: Grant Davis  and KPFF Consulting Engineers
Lighting Design: C.E. Marquardt
Metal Fabrication and Erection: W.A.  Botting Co.
Structural Rings: Albina Pipe
Cable and fittings: West Coast Wire  Rope
Glass Installation: Carpenter crew
Site work: Lease Crutcher Lewis
Electrical: SASCO
Photos: Ed Carpenter

I have never understood capital punishment.  Whether there is redemption in another life I do not know, but I have to believe in at least the possibility of redemption here on earth, and that makes capital punishment a rash and pessimistic practice that leads us toward darkness not light.

Margaret Scott

Friday, November 4, 2011

Janet Cardiff and George Bures Miller

The Killing Machine

Partly inspired by Franz Kafka's 'In the Penal Colony' and partly by the American system of capital punishment as well as the current political situation, the piece is an ironic approach to killing and torture machines. A moving megaphone speaker encircles an electric dental chair. The chair is covered in pink fun fur with leather straps and spikes. In the installation are two robotic arms that hover and move- sometimes like a ballet, and sometimes attacking the invisible prisoner in the chair with pneumonic pistons. A disco ball turns above the mechanism reflecting an array of coloured lights while a guitar hit by a robotic wand wails and a wall of old TV’s turns on and off creating an eerie glow.

In our culture right now there is a strange deliberate and indifferent approach to killing. I think that our interest in creating this piece comes from a response to that.
Robot arm design: Carlo Crovato
Music: “Heartstrings” by Frieda Abtan
Percussion assistance: Titus Maderlechner


Tip tap tip tap. Is that the sound of dripping or is it someone in a cell tapping a code on the wall? Now there are many more tapping sounds. Far and near. Loud and soft. Now someone is banging on a pipe, now a cupboard. Now the hall is filled with a cacophony of beats, working their way back and forth, a PANDEMONIUM of percussion.  Using the existing elements in the prison cells Janet Cardiff and George Bures Miller have made the entire Cellblock Seven into a giant musical instrument, producing a percussive site work. This instrument, controlled by a computer and midi system, is made up of one hundred and twenty separate beaters hitting disparate xobjects such as toilet bowls, light fixtures and bedside tables found within the prison cells. The composition begins subtly as if two prisoners are trying to communicate and then moves through an abstract soundscape and lively dance beats until it reaches a riot-like crescendo.

The massive Eastern State Penitentiary was once the most famous and expensive prison in the world.  Its gothic, castle-like towers stood as a grim warning to lawbreakers in the young United States. This was the world’s first true “penitentiary,” a prison intended to inspire profound regret – or penitence—in the hearts of criminals. The influential design featured cellblocks extending like the spokes of a wheel; each inmate lived in solitary confinement in a vaulted sky-lit cell. The prison itself had running water and central heat before the White House, and once held many of America’s most notorious criminals, including bank robber “Slick Willie” Sutton and Al Capone.

Eastern State closed in 1971.  The prison stands today in ruin, a haunting world of crumbling cellblocks and a place of surprising beauty. Cardiff and Miller present Pandemonium in Cell Block Seven, a massive, cathedral-like, two-story wing completed in 1836. It has never been open to the public, and has been stabilized especially for this exhibition.
Sound composition: Titus Maderlechner

I don't understand a culture that focusses so much on punishment especially when our scientists show us how all of us are connected at the atomic level. We need more compassion in our culture.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Athina Ouranidou

This blog site was created a few months ago so artists could demonstrate their opposition to the death penalty by participating in it with pieces of art of theirs. I started connecting artists I have been admiring and it is quite touching that these people although they did not know me and they never heard of me they trusted me.

Their great pieces of art and their generosity made this blog site a beautiful and stirring place on the web. I gave an interview about this blog site by the Greek magazine “Ανεξartητη Γυναίκα της Θεσσαλονίκης” recently which can be accessed on: page 44. This interview is dedicated to the artists participating in the blog site. Without them my idea of creating a blog site against the capital punishment would be still an idea and nothing would have happened.

I am really thankful indeed for your trust Maren Fiebig, Linda Hesh, Darrell Black, Kamala Platt, Carolina Mayorga, Maryam Lavaf, Majid Roohafza, Linda Larsen, Margaret Whiting, Linda Lee, Terry Schutte, Brian Seldt, Antonia Tricarico, Alex Warble, Bob Walls, Rita Fuchsberg, Wesley Anderegg, Ken Aptekar, Nick Crowe, Ian Rawlinson, Robert Butts and Dorothy Nott for your precious help, Arthur Judah Angel and Angus Hepburn.


Sunday, October 2, 2011

Angus Hepburn

Artists against the Death Penalty
Performance monologue.

The first time? Yes, I remember the first time. Father Conrad had been taken ill and so I had to take his place. Until then, I had only dealt with short-term prisoners and their families – helping where I could to give them the strength to stay together, to help the wives with the children, so many of whom couldn’t understand, and so became ... but yes, the first time!

I had no time to prepare – I did not know the man, only that his last appeal had been turned down and that he was to be executed in a week’s time – seven days – possibly the longest seven days of my life.

I had never been to that part of the prison before - the condemned calls - not that it was the worst part. They keep that for the really troublesome prisoners and the mentally disturbed. But so many of them. In cages stacked in the center of a huge area with the guards patrolling the periphery with machine guns. The light, what there is of it, filters in through dirty windows. The first time I went to visit him, many of the cells were empty because the prisoners were in the exercise yards. Not all of them though. I found out later that many of them had given up going the exercise yard because of the chimney. On one side of the yard is the execution cell, topped by the large chimney where they vent the gas after the execution. For many of them the sight of that chimney was too much for them to handle, looming over them, a constant reminder of their fate. So they don’t exercise any more.

I saw him first through the grill, lying on his bed, stripped to his underwear. It was hot, very hot and the air did not move. He looked pale, like a ghost already. There was very little else in the cell. The prisoners can buy radios or televisions if they have access to any money. If not, there is just the cell. Four feet by ten feet with a metal platform for a bed and a thin mattress on top of it. Nothing sharp, nothing that could be used as a weapon - not against the warders, but against themselves. Most of the condemned men have been there for years. The man I had come to see had been waiting for over ten years. It had taken him at least five before he had managed to find a lawyer to handle his appeal, I found out later. Some of the prisoners wait even longer – many are still waiting. For some, it all becomes more than they can handle - they are condemned to die -sometime - and although the process may take more than a decade to work through the system, their lives continue as if it were to take place the next day. And for some of the prisoners, despair takes over and they seek ways to - accelerate the process - and the resourceful can always find ways - even down to provoking the guards in the exercise yard - not all the pockmarks on the walls came from warning shots.

At the door to the cell, the guard shouted an instruction and someone, somewhere, pushed a button and opened the cell door - is hissed on its hydraulics and then shut behind me with a heavy finality.

He looked at me - even focused on me for a moment - then his gaze moved on - through and past me.

I remember how difficult it was - that first time - he never spoke to me - he only occasionally glanced at me. I talked to him - now I cannot even recall what I said. Eventually I ran out of words - he didn’t seem to notice. When the guard indicated that I should go, he didn’t acknowledge my leaving - and all I could feel was relief.

And so it continued for three days. I would arrive at his cell - he would ignore me - I would talk to him - he would ignore me - I would leave - he would ignore me. I wondered how I could reach him through the last few days of his life so that I could - what? - I didn’t know - the weight of that finality seemed to silence us both. I remember one of the guards told me not to worry -that I should be grateful the man was calm. I almost asked him what he meant - but at that time, I - feared the answer.

By the fourth day, I could see a change. His eyes, till then still and fixed had begun to flicker restlessly about the space he inhabited - never resting on any one place for long - seeking – I don’t know what. He seemed to acknowledge that I was speaking but showed no awareness of what I was saying.

It seemed so unreal - of course I had sat vigil at a death bed before, but then - death had been a form of release - of pain, of weariness - a moving on. But this man was no older than I and no matter what he had done we, all of us, we had held his moment of death over him for more than ten years - relentlessly - and had kept him in a cage for all that time - like an animal - no we do not even keep animals like that. Even that law to which we cleave distinguishes levels of cruelty - between those who kill in the heat of passion and those who plan and scheme - but nowhere is there a provision of punishment for keeping a human being in a featureless steel room for more than a decade before taking their life. All this came to me that day as I watched his face - emotions flickering across it - none lasting more than a few seconds.

On the next day, the day before he was due to be executed - I approached his cell with some trepidation. One of the guards had told me that the man was moving about - pacing. He had begun to hit the walls of his cell the previous night. They had tranquilized him somewhat I was told but he was still - unpredictable was the word he used.

When I entered the cell, for the first time the man was standing - he turned and stared at me with an intensify that was difficult to bear. I spoke to him - the usual words and his gaze flickered past me - and he began to move erratically about the cell - occasionally colliding with the bed not stopping quite in time before he hit the walls. He even collided with me - the first time, my heart raced but he acknowledged my presence no more than he had noticed the walls or the bed. When the guard announced that I must leave, the man turned and spoke to me for the first time. At the sound of his voice, I froze. After a long moment when we stared at each other he repeated the question that must have heard but could not recall. “Why are you here” and I was lost for words - and I said - where I snatched the cliche from I do not know - I said “for the sake of your soul, my son” he stared at me, then his eyes moved over my shoulder to the door and the guard who stood there and he said “mine?, or theirs?” and then he continued his relentless movement round the room.

Mine , or theirs!
Those words stayed with me all that night - and longer. The next day I was to accompany the prisoner on his last walk. They warned me that during the night he had become worse and they had had to tranquilize him further. When I saw him I could see that he was already beyond any need for me. His eyes were far away - who knows if he saw anything - or even knew what was happening any more. The rest was simple uncomplicated - an anti-climax. He was strapped into the chair, the electrolyte solution and the electrodes applied, and, at the appointed time, his life was taken from him. As his remains were removed I looked at the faces of those around me. The appointed officials mandated to monitor the event, to ensure that all was done according to the law ... and those words I had heard the day before sounded out again “mine, or theirs” As I turned to leave, the governor of the prison took my hand briefly and turned to go. “Mine or theirs”
So long ago - that first time. It becomes easier with time only, I think, because I know better what is expected of me.

But still I cannot answer the question - “Mine, or theirs”

The events are horrific, no matter how you look at them, but that is not the real reason why capital punishment must end. It’s really much more selfish
It was best put by an English preacher nearly 400 years ago.
In his Devotion upon emergent occasions #17, John Donne wrote
“No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main; if a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less as well as if a promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friends or of thine own were; any mans death dimishes me, because I am involved in mankind: And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.

And so, when the plunger descends in the syringe, or the gas billows into the room, or the current surges through the chair; when the rope tightens with a snap or the rifles crack at dawn and the prisoner dies, a part of each of us, of our humanity of our essential civilization, dies also.
Copyright Angus Hepburn 2009

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Kamala Platt

Seasonal Still Life, September 2011

I cannot hear you speak but your letters take me to the far reaches of the world .”*
--Troy Davis

Today, there were piles of feathers
and a detached wing
outside the Meadowlark aviary
where we found the peachicks,
their small bodies torn asunder.

Marauders—probably raccoons,
maybe babies themselves,
followed drought-driven hunger
that took them away
from the remnant of a stream
where “fishlings” no longer
squirmed in the mud.

It was the last day of summer.
105 degrees had reduced to 95 at midday
and 75 at night
in Los Ebanos, Roma, Rio Grande
where more walls
will be built on flood plains
homes will be evacuated ,
and young animals will die--
if autumn rains ever come, again.
Yet, tonight, fires still smolder
& Atlokoya, goddess of drought, reigns,
though the peachicks’ remains look more
like the dismembered Coyolhauhqui.

And tonight, the last day of summer,
at 11:08, their time, the lights
went out again in Georgia.
Tonight, despite the chanting
that connected the continents
in the light of prayer and good will,
Troy Davis was executed

On this last day of summer,
he refused his last supper,
in order to spend time with his friends.

Kamala Platt
September 22, 2011

*Troy Davis’ words come from his final letter to supporters that I read in Information Clearing House, September 22nd, 2011.

This poem was conceived as in some ways a "companion" to Seasonal Still Life, 2005--once I found it going in that direction I built on it, though it also resonates some with "In Support of Troops Home Fast" which has the images of pea hen killing at Meadowlark montaged with emailed images of the killing of Palestinians and others in the middle east.

Sadly, the pea chicks in the new poem did die the night before the Troy Davis execution. My Dad had found them (as described in the poem--his words adapted...) when he went to feed them that day. I read my Dad's email, called my parents to learn more, and we talked awhile, and when I hung up I saw notices of the delays of the execution and while I was reading that update, the message came through that Troy had then been killed. That instantaneousness and the intensity--the mix of hopefulness and disillusion in both situations--was behind the poem.  

One peachick earlier met its demise by the strangulation of a black rat snake; all their deaths have been traumatic because of the time & care we put into incubating & raising them; my dad got the incubator set up this spring when the pea hen was laying but not brooding, he collected the eggs, turned them twice a day until each hatched and from then on out we were caring for the babies: keeping the chicks warm (yeah, even in the heat they had to have a heat lamp at night) fed, clean...I have a friend in Ks who is bethel's interdisciplinary loan librarian and between her ordering and Amazon, I got most of the books on raising pea chicks that exist...(the best are from India, as are these peafowl, in origin). As the poem alludes, though, the bigger issue behind the recent killing is that it feels partially drought-induced. Nature, including humans, is suffering, and yet we put our time, technology and resources into more violence, which seems to only ramp up & get ramped up by the extremes in climate... When willl we get the implications of the fact that we all have a common future? Back to the peafowl, my housemates at Meadowlark report that "We have been enjoying the full grown ones [that I let out of the aviary to roam freely earlier this summer]. They walk right up to us and hang out."

Arthur Judah Angel, Exonerated Death Row Artist

A Teacher show the light, correct, transform, reform but death terminates and destroys giving its victims no chance for a change. every society still retaining death penalty is still blind to sound reasoning.

NO dividend. We lost lives and treasures in them. Enough of this abuse.

The only solution to death penalty is abolition. Don't  kill for me.

 In this age and time, WHY THE GALLOWS? WHY?


.Date of birth; 21 November 1962

.Self trained Artist, self employed, full time professional, human rights activist, author, Motivational Speaker."A humanist, (Arthur) works on projects that promotes life and restores hope to those who have despaired- Hence Life bridge/Rumbles Entertainment - a pet project 'Arthur' conceived and is pursuing for the rehabilitation/reintegration of ex convicts and youth empowerment respectively.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Nick Crowe and Ian Rawlinson

When thinking about capital punishment, and the various moral and ethical issues it raises, it seems to us that there is no better argument against the death penalty than the case of Stefan Kiszko - .

He was the subject of a major miscarriage of justice in the 1970.  Although not a victim of judicial murder, well....not by direct means anyway, his case is a powerful argument against capital punishment in the ways in which it reveals the pragmatics of the judicial system.  It is a particularly stark example as to the distortions that can occur in the interplay of individual, systemic and bureaucratic power.

Perhaps we should follow Hannah Arndt in realizing that any violence becomes truly barbaric at the point at which it becomes rationalised.  Or maybe, when we think of the case of Stefan Kiszko, we don't need even to advance that far.  We can simply recognise that the legal system, like any analytical system, is susceptible to those distortions resultant from the exercise of its own power and as such can never be permitted to exercise the power of life over death.

Created for   

March 2011

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Ken Aptekar

"maybe yes if maybe not,"


60" x 60" (153cm x 153cm),
four panels, oil on wood, sandblasted glass, bolts,

The problem with the death penalty: that we base our decisions to murder someone as punishment on "facts" that are often proven to be falsehoods later on, but once someone is dead, there's no way to right the wrongful punishment of death.

Death is simply not open to question.