(Washington, DC) ? Amnesty International USA (AIUSA) is demanding clemency
for North Carolina death row inmate Eddie Hartman, a gay man scheduled
for execution on October 3. The organization is deeply concerned that
prosecutors used Harman's sexual orientation against him at the trial
part of their successful bid to obtain a death sentence for the murder
of Herman Smith, which took place in North Hampton County.
"Eddie Hartman's prosecutors blatantly played on jurors' homophobia
and other prejudices in order to argue that since he was gay he deserved
to die," said Sue Gunawardena-Vaughn, Director of AIUSA's Program
the Death Penalty. "Such discrimination is in gross violation of
numerous internationally binding treaties such as the International Covenant
on Civil and Political Rights, which the United States ratified in 1992."
Throughout the sentencing phase of Hartman's trial, prosecutors attempted
to blunt mitigating evidence in favor of a sentence less than death by
insinuating that because of Hartman's sexual orientation his personal
history of severe childhood abuse was irrelevant.
When Hartman's mother testified that he was repeatedly sexually abused
as a child, the prosecutor cavalierly inquired, "[I]s not your son
a homosexual?" The prosecutor further stated that, "it seems
to me that if someone is a practicing homosexual, that that may in some
way ? it's a little bit different for
someone being a practicing homosexual in his real life as opposed to someone
who said he had been assaulted at some point in time."
"The unfortunate reality is that Eddie Harman's case is one of many
in which men and women are on death row because they appeared to be charged
? first and foremost ? with homosexuality," said Michael Heflin,
AIUSA's Outfront Program. "We have recently seen prosecutors emphasize
the defendants homosexual identity in capital punishment cases in Oklahoma,
Missouri and Texas."
Amnesty International has the deepest sympathy for the family and friends
of Herman Smith. As an organization that works for and with victims, AIUSA
believes that the death penalty is the ultimate human rights violation,
that every execution is a symptom of a culture of violence, not a solution
to it. The organization requests that activists send
their appeals immediately to Governor Michael F. Easley, urging that
Eddie Hartman be