Say NO to the Gas Chamber!

Arizona, Alabama & Oklahoma Governors (and others TBD)


[See operative petition language below the following background.]

Alabama Recently Announced its Nitrogen Hypoxia Gas Chamber is Ready

In Oklahoma, they are still working to figure it out, but they are working on it.

Arizona recently announced that it has refurbished its gas chamber and is prepared to use cyanide gas to execute any current death row prisoner who was sentenced to be executed prior to November, 1992.

Members of the Jewish community who indicate so when they sign on to this petition are also adding their name to the following stand-alone statement:

JEWISH COMMUNITY STATEMENT OPPOSING THE GAS CHAMBER

Jewish tradition presents somewhat contradictory statements regarding the death penalty. While the Torah permits the death penalty, the Talmud, in Tractate Sanhedrin, imposes severe limits on capital punishment even where the crime is murder. Contemporary US laws do not meet the standards for fairness and accuracy as articulated in Jewish law. Today we are writing not about the death penalty as a whole, but about proposed forms of execution.

Certainly there are members of Jewish communities in states using the gas chamber who support the death penalty in concept or in practice. However, we stand united in opposition to the introduction of the gas chamber as a form of execution. We do not suggest comparisons to the atrocities of Nazi Germany under which millions of our relatives were murdered, many by suffocation in sealed chambers. Still, we cannot imagine it possible that Jewish communities anywhere could stand by while prisoners are executed by the state in our names, using any variation of that mechanism.

Therefore, the undersigned Rabbis, Cantors and other leaders the Jewish community call on you to reject the conduct of executions by suffocation in any sort of gas chamber anywhere in the United States.

Background:

Alabama has never used a gas chamber.

Executions in Arizona were generally carried out by hanging until 1934, when the first execution by gas chamber was carried out in Arizona. In 1992, after the Donald Harding execution, Arizona voters amended the constitution to have lethal injection as the method of execution, but for crimes committed before November, 1992, the prisoner could pick gas. In 1999 when Walter LaGrand, a German National, picked gas and challenged it, the US Supreme Court held that if a prisoner picks gas, he or she cannot challenge that method as to its constitutionality. Walter LaGrand was gassed despite protests by the German government.


NOTE: This petition may be edited for clarity or to add additional information.


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To: Arizona, Alabama & Oklahoma Governors (and others TBD)
From: [Your Name]

We understand that in Alabama, the nitrogen hypoxia gas chamber has been completed and may soon be used. Oklahoma is not far behind and both states stand ready to experiment with this never-before-use execution method.

We understand that in Arizona recently refurbished its gas chamber and is prepared to use cyanide gas to execute any current death row prisoner who was sentenced to be executed prior to November, 1992. We call for a halt to all executions, particularly those by suffocation.

[Members of the Jewish community who indicate so when they sign on are also adding their name to the following stand-alone statement]

STATEMENT OPPOSING THE GAS CHAMBER

Jewish tradition presents somewhat contradictory statements regarding the death penalty. While the Torah permits the death penalty, the Talmud, in Tractate Sanhedrin, imposes severe limits on capital punishment even where the crime is murder. Contemporary US law does not meet the standards for fairness and accuracy as articulated in Jewish law. Today we are writing not about the death penalty as a whole, but about proposed forms of execution.

Certainly there are members of Jewish communities who support the death penalty in concept or in practice. However, we stand united in opposition to the introduction of the gas chamber as a form of execution in Arizona. We do not suggest comparisons to the atrocities of Nazi Germany under which millions of our relatives were murdered, many by suffocation in sealed chambers. Still, we cannot imagine it possible that Jewish communities anywhere could stand by while prisoners are executed by the state in our names, using any variation of that mechanism.

Therefore, the undersigned Rabbis, Cantors and other leaders and members of the Jewish community call on you to reject the conduct of executions by suffocation in any sort of gas chamber in your state.