Ex-death row worker calls for death penalty to be abolished
Having worked for the summer along death row inmates he sees no benefit to the death penalty
A young Irishman who spent the summer working alongside death row inmates in Austin, Texas tells IrishCentral.com why he thinks the death penalty should be abolished.
When most Irish students contemplate a summer internship in the US, they don’t expect to find themselves face to face with convicted serial killers and rapists. But that is exactly where Dannie Hanna, a young man from Ennis Co. Clare ended up this past August while doing pro bono work for death row inmates in Austin, Texas.
Born in Abu Dhabi to an Irish mother and Lebanese father, Dannie spent the first three years of his life in the United Arab Emirates before moving home to Ennis in Co. Clare. The eldest of three boys he graduated in 2008 with a law degree from the National University of Ireland in Galway before moving to the UK to pursue postgraduate study.
With an inherent interest in philanthropy, the 23-year-old established Rotaract, the largest youth voluntary group of it's kind in the world while he was studying in Galway. With over 800 members, Rotaract raised €40,000 ($55,000) for charitable organisations throughout Ireland during his tenure.
With a background in law and special interest in human rights, the Clare man was studying for his Masters at the University of Cambridge when he first got involved with the NGO Texas Defender Service (TDS). As a result of his efforts he was selected to travel to Texas for a five-week internship with the organization.
Speaking to IrishCentral.com, Dannie explained that prior to his trip to Texas, he already had clear views about capital punishment.
“My initial opinion, arising more from "gut instinct", had always been that the use of the death penalty is an abhorrence to mankind.
“However, it was not until I began work with Texas Defender Service (TDS) and saw first hand the horrors that it manifests, that I was able to truly capture why it was such an abhorrence,” he said.
In preparation for his internship in Austin, Texas Dannie took part in training with two London based NGO's who specialize in death penalty work. He also met with Peter Pringle, an Irish man who was wrongly convicted of murder sentenced to death and later exonerated.
When his plane touched down in Austin amid scorching August temperatures, the Clare man soon established that he was a long way from home, not just in terms of distance.
“Coming from the West of Ireland, and having spent a number of months previously in Chicago, Texas is certainly very different. It very much sees itself as Texas, first and foremost, and America thereafter.
“I found that a small bit hard to come to terms with, as public opinion can be extremely conservative at times,” he added.
Despite his earlier work with TDS and extensive training, Dannie admitted that he learnt more in his first two days in the office than in any training exercise he underwent. For the majority of his internship Dannie was based in the Austin office of the TDS where he worked on reviewing the individual cases of death row inmates.
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