I never thought about the death penalty, until I was asked to write for the drugs to execute ‘Bud’ Thompson in 1989. I had only been a prison doctor for the NDOC, Nevada Department of Corrections, for two years. I was informed it was my ‘job’, and they were not pleased when I told them I would not do it. Not only did I think it morally wrong for a doctor to take part in killing someone, the stories that my German mother told me about the Nazi’s, and just following orders, ran through my mind.
Some of you might not know that there is a bill AB 395 going before the legislature to abolish the death penalty and retroactively reduce existing death sentences to life without parole. It has been said that the more you know about the death penalty, the more you want it to be abolished. Did you know that Nevada has the second highest number of inmates on death row per capita than any other state, and the death penalty costs Nevada twcie as much as a case where the death penalty is not sought?
If you think that the death penalty deters violent crime you are mistaken. Violence and heinous acts are driven by emotion, not logic. 88% of the top US academic criminological society presidents reject the notion that the death penalty deters murder.
Did you know that 25% of the individuals on death row have a severe mental illness or brain damage? Or how racially biased the death penalty is where African Americans comprise 40% of the death row in Nevada when their population is only 10%?
I’m sure you’ve heard about innocent individuals on death row who have spent decades in prison, like Paul Browning, who was released in 2020 after two decades on death row in Nevada for a crime he didn’t commit. According to the ‘Nevada Coalition Against the Death Penalty’ 47% of the death penalty cases in Nevada are found to have severe prosecutorial misconduct.
If those reasons are not enough to sway you to tell your legislators to abolish the death penalty in Nevada, learn more about it, and you will.
Karen Gedney MD is author of, ‘30 Years Behind Bars,’ Trials of a Prison Doctor