Church of the Brethren
Rachel Gross, Director
P.O. Box 600
Liberty Mills, IN 46946


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DRSP News, Issue 22, March 2018

There is a lot going on with the death penalty. Our aim is to give you information to spark conversation, and get people thinking about capital punishment, and if it is needed in modern society. We also want to provide a space to answer questions and give updates on our program to find pen pals for prisoners on death row.

Due to an unprecedented number of persons signing up for DRSP last month (200 in one 20-hour period), many of you receiving this issue of DRSP News have probably not yet received your pen pal assignment. Please know that we are working diligently to fill all requests!


There is a lot of momentum to end the death penalty in the state of Utah. A bill on the issue of abolishment was pulled due to lack of votes, but it is anticipated the bill will be brought back to legislature for a future vote. The bill would have repealed and banned the death penalty.


New Hampshire has started the process to end the death penalty. A repeal bill has passed, but it still needs to secure a vote by the House in the spring. Governor Chris Sununu has promised to veto the bill when it reaches his desk.


Doyle Lee Hamm, 69, survived a torturous botched execution. His lawyers warned the state that Hamm was too sick, and his veins were unsuitable for lethal injection. The execution was called off after prison staff were unable to place an IV. Facing a civil rights lawsuit, the state has agreed not to set another execution date. Executions are performed by prison staff. Doctors and nurses are forbidden due to the ethics of their profession from participating in executions.


The US Supreme Court refused to hear a case questioning the constitutionality of the death penalty, which would have addressed a problem in Arizona where there are too many aggravating factors to consider, making almost ever murder case in the state eligible to be tried as a death penalty case.


The ruling that determined that juries must rule unanimously for the death penalty has so far only been applied to cases that were settled after 2002. This deadline is being challenged as arbitrary, and there is a state senate proposal to make this ruling retroactive, allowing all death penalty cases affected able to apply for relief.


We have recently started weekly updates. Each week we will examine a different death penalty state and give you information on how to add your voice to the debate. Find these updates at


On February 21 of this year, minutes before his scheduled execution, Thomas Whitaker's family and friends received good news. This is what DRSP volunteer Dina Milito wrote about the experience:

Thomas Bartlett Whitaker was granted clemency tonight instead of being executed. There are so many people deserving of thanks who worked tirelessly to make this happen and Thomas plans to do this directly once he is settled into his new unit. Please know we are so very grateful to all of you who wrote letters supporting clemency and faxed and called the Governor and the Board of Pardons and Paroles. To the many amazing people who reached out with kind words of support during this stressful time, your gestures have meant the world to Thomas and to all of us who care for him. We thank you from the bottoms of our hearts tonight. Because of you, Thomas will continue to write. And breathe. Our love and gratitude go out to all of you.

To see more of what Dina wrote and to learn more about Thomas, visit While you're there, check out writing by prisoners, many of whom are on death row. If your pen pal is a creative writer and is not aware of Minutes Before Six, please inform them.

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