Death penalty protesters sentenced

Death penalty protesters sentenced

Local Brian Buckley and seven others were sentenced in D.C. Superior Court June 28 on charges that stemmed from a death penalty protest on the steps of the Supreme Court building. The activists faced charges of parading and displaying a banner on Supreme Court grounds that read “STOP EXECUTIONS” on January 17 while protesting the 30-year anniversary of the execution of Gary Mark Gilmore, the first execution since the death penalty was reinstated. They were carried away by D.C. police and jailed for about 30 hours.

“I think to become the killers we are trying to get rid of is certainly not a logical, rational or compassionate way to go,” says Brian Buckley, a local death penalty protestor.

“We were there both commemorating the anniversary of execution of people in our—quote—civilization,” says Buckley, 35, “and challenging the image of this very prominent and mighty building that is a symbol of truth and justice with the reality of a barbaric practice, the death penalty.”

At their hearing late last month, the group waived their rights to attorneys and defended themselves in D.C. Superior Court. Though the activists attempted to “put the death penalty on trial,” the court found them guilty of assembling and displaying a banner. Each of the protesters was sentenced to time served and must pay a $50 fine to the Crime Victims Compensation Program.

Buckley and the others had faced up to 60 days in jail and a fine of $5,000. Jack Payden-Travers, one of those arrested and director of Virginians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty, says the group is mounting an appeal on First Amendment grounds. Additional reporting by Will Goldsmith.

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