Exposing Everything That's Wrong About The Death Penalty

Don't let them execute Eugene Colvin-El!

By: Virginia Harabin

The U.S. Supreme Court rejected Eugene Colvin-El's final federal appeal in April, clearing the way for the state of Maryland to set an execution date of June 12.

Eugene's only hope for avoiding the death chamber now lies with Maryland Gov. Paris Glendening. But abolitionists have been using the moratorium victory in Illinois to build strong opposition to another state-sponsored murder in Maryland.

Eugene's case exposes everything that's wrong with the death penalty. The evidence tying him to the crime was entirely circumstantial. Neither a confession, nor witnesses, nor direct physical evidence have ever been produced to show that Eugene committed the murder of Lena Buchman.

But because Eugene's court-appointed lawyer was entirely unprepared to represent him, Eugene was never given the opportunity to challenge the state's evidence, to use police reports that indicated other suspects in the crime or to introduce any mitigating circumstances for the jury to consider. And, as with so many death row prisoners, racism tainted the case against Eugene -- he was an African American convicted by an all-white jury.

In fact, several courts have overturned Eugene's death sentence, recognizing significant violations of his constitutional rights. But each time, the death sentence has been reinstated by higher appeals courts -- where the judges have found it politically expedient to uphold death sentences rather than deliver justice.

In Maryland, abolitionists have been raising the case of Eugene Colvin-El to expose the absurd claim recently made by Glendening that all of the men on his death row are clearly guilty and have received a fair judicial review. We were able to get the attention of the Washington Post, which ran an article on Eugene's case titled "A Death Penalty Case that Begs Scrutiny." We are soon to publish a signature ad in the Baltimore Sun about Eugene's case -- an ad that also calls on Glendening to stop executions in Maryland as Gov. George Ryan did in Illinois. Hundreds have signed on to the ad, including prominent figures such as Jonathan Kozol, Katha Pollitt, Manning Marable, Noam Chomsky and Mumia Abu-Jamal.

Eugene has spoken at several "Live from Death Row" events in the Washington and Maryland area. Several members of Eugene's family -- including Pastor Marion Tillory, Norma Brooks-McRoy and her sister Pam Brooks -- have all stepped forward to help fight.

"They always talk about what they say I did and did not do before this conviction," Eugene says. "I have been held in this hell of a place for nearly 20 years, and I didn't commit this crime. That is what people ought to be talking about."

We can't let them execute Eugene Colvin-El!