\"Dannie

Dannie Hanna worked on death row in Austin, Texas, U.S.A. Photo by: John Kelly

Ex-death row worker calls for death penalty to be abolished

\"Dannie

Dannie Hanna worked on death row in Austin, Texas, U.S.A. Photo by: John Kelly

“The atmosphere was a strange one. When I met the prisoners, they were just so happy to have someone to talk to. Yet the backdrop of the whole prison was emotionally draining,” he added.

For a $3 charge prison officials would take your photo with the offending inmate.

After witnessing prisoners living conditions, speaking with death row inmates and working extensively on their cases, Dannie was utterly convinced execution was not the solution.

“From a deterrent perspective - it simply does not work. Statistics show that murders actually increase on the day of an execution.

“From a human rights perspective, the conditions in which the inmates are subjected to are disgusting.

“Finally, from a justice perspective, the system in which the death verdict is given is nothing short of disgraceful - from the provision of ineffective legal counsel on behalf of state appointed lawyers, to the pedantic nature of some members of the Texas judiciary,” Dannie said.

The alternative for Dannie, similar to any lawyer working a death row appeal is life without parole.

“We never deny that some of our clients have done terrible things, and to this end, must pay through confinement. However executing them does not serve any type of purpose, bar making a bad situation worse,” the law graduate added.

Currently the death penalty is enforced in 35 states within the US. The primary method of execution is lethal injection. Since 1976, 463 prisoners have died by execution in Texas alone. In Texas a death penalty case costs an average of $2.3 million, that is almost three times the cost of imprisoning someone in a single cell at a high security facility for 40 years.

Despite international opposition a recent annual crime survey commissioned by Gallup found that 65% of Americans continue to support the use of the death penalty for persons convicted of murder, while 31% oppose it.

Speaking about the murder case of the Petit family in Connecticut where Steven Hayes was recently convicted of a litany of offences including the murder of a mother and her two young daughters, Dannie told IrishCentral.com why he believes that Hayes should not be executed.

“Having been following this case for some time, I can simply say that the facts around the incident are nothing short of horrific. Having dealt with case similar to this, there is always something that resonates when a capital murder involves anything to do with women, and especially so, with children.

“Mr. Hayes is not like normal people, no normal person would do such a thing. But this does not give us the right, as normal persons, to play God and execute him.

“All we are doing is creating another victim from this atrocity. I thus would believe that life without parole is an appropriate sentence,” the Clare man said.

For now Dannie is settling back into daily life in Dublin where he works as a legal researcher with the Law Reform Commission. He continues to stay in touch with the Texas Defender Service and closely monitors the progress of particular death row cases.

It is only now in the days and weeks that have followed his homecoming that the enormity of the experience has resonated. Having no regrets about his experience with TDS, Dannie admits he feels “fortunate not to live in a society” where the death penalty prevails.

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