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Diann Rust-Tierney
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Diann Rust-Tierney is an expert in the movement to eliminate the death penalty in the U.S. In 2004 she became the Executive Director of the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty (NCADP). Founded in 1976 in response to a Supreme Court decision permitting executions to resume, the Washington, D.C.- based NCADP unifies an extensive network of affiliates, dedicated advocates and volunteers, and prominent national human and civil rights organizations to fight the imposition of the death penalty in the United States. As NCADP Executive Director, Ms. Tierney manages and directs the program for the national organization and 100 affiliates seeking to change public policy on the death penalty. She serves as the national spokesperson for the organization and the movement to eliminate capital punishment. She previously served the NCADP as a member of its Board of Directors.

Before becoming the NCADP Executive Director, Ms. Rust-Tierney was the Director of the American Civil Liberties Union Capital Punishment Project in Washington, D.C. (1991 – 2004). As its lead strategist and spokesperson, she appeared on radio and television to educate the public about problems with the death penalty, and developed death penalty education materials, including a video on race and capital punishment. She developed and coordinated national strategy on capital punishment, and provided leadership to the death penalty abolitionist movement. She expanded efforts to build broad coalitions between the ACLU and new partners in order to spread the abolitionist message. She provided legal analyses of proposed state and federal death penalty legislation, and provided technical advice and assistance to affiliates on specific legislative proposals. She also served the ACLU as its Chief Legislative/ Counsel Associate Director (1994 – 2000), and as its Legislative Counsel (1985 – 1991).

Ms. Rust-Tierney received her undergraduate degree in political science from the College of Wooster in Ohio and her law degree from the University of Maryland.

Entries by Diann Rust-Tierney

Remembering Julian Bond

(0) Comments | Posted August 24, 2015 | 10:49 AM

On Saturday August 22, 2015, the family and friends of Julian Bond gathered at bodies of water across the world to release flowers in his honor. They encouraged others who wished to honor his memory to organize a flower release in their communities as well.

I note that the request...

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Reflections on Lethal Drugs, Sleeping and Waking Up

(0) Comments | Posted April 30, 2015 | 6:50 PM

I have always loved the Supreme Court.

As a law student, I made pilgrimages to the Court to listen to arguments. It fortified me and inspired me for the hard work and sacrifice ahead.

I proudly became a member of the Supreme Court bar and had the privilege of...

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An Anniversary of Our Evolving Standards of Decency

(0) Comments | Posted March 5, 2015 | 9:00 AM

More often than I would like, I have used this space to decry our shortcomings because we retain and still use capital punishment. This past Sunday, however, marked the 10th anniversary of a high point in our shared history.

On March 1, 2005 the U.S. Supreme Court issued its ruling...

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The Cloak and Daggers of Lethal Injection

(4) Comments | Posted February 19, 2015 | 4:17 PM

On Tuesday, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder called for a national moratorium on executions while the Supreme Court revisits lethal injection. Read his speech to the National Press Club and see news coverage from USA Today. He is absolutely right. We need to go further. It's...

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Inconsistency at the Supreme Court

(0) Comments | Posted February 6, 2015 | 10:30 AM

America's fascination with the death penalty is fading quickly, and it's increasingly practiced by only a handful of states. But those declining numbers don't mean that serious problems don't exist with capital punishment and who gets executed.

2014 saw a continued decline in the number of death sentences. There were...

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Double Justice in Missouri

(0) Comments | Posted November 19, 2014 | 5:57 PM

For the second time in two months, Governor Jay Nixon of Missouri approved the execution of an African American man sentenced to die by an all-white jury.

Governor Nixon denied Mr. Leon Taylor clemency shortly before his execution on November 19th. In September, he denied clemency for...

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'My Whole Body Is Burning': Double Execution in Oklahoma

(1) Comments | Posted April 29, 2014 | 4:37 PM

"My whole body is burning."

These were Michael Lee Wilson's last words as he was being executed in Oklahoma on January 9 -- the result of a controversial mix of untested drugs.

Now Oklahoma is reaching for new extreme heights in capital punishment by scheduling a double execution...

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Lost in the U.S. Senate

(0) Comments | Posted March 21, 2014 | 6:33 PM

On March 5 the Senate voted 52-47 on a procedural matter against confirming Debo Adgebile to head the Justice Department's civil rights division. Every Republican present and seven Democrats took the position that Mr. Adgebile, a former lawyer with the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund, and Senior Counsel with...

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Honoring Dr. King by Ending Capital Punishment

(0) Comments | Posted January 19, 2014 | 2:00 PM


The holiday marking the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. coincides with the beginning of legislative sessions in state capitals across the country. In a number of state capitals policymakers will consider whether the death penalty should continue as a feature...

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After the Holidays: Now Live It

(0) Comments | Posted January 2, 2014 | 1:54 PM

I spent the last days of 2013 reflecting on the principles of Kwanzaa. My celebration of Kwanzaa has changed over the years as our family has changed and grown.

In early years, the focus was on teaching the tradition. Colorful books taught the principles in engaging ways for young and...

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Farewell, Tata

(0) Comments | Posted December 11, 2013 | 3:22 PM

I learned of Nelson Mandela's passing, Tata, or father, as he is called in South Africa, from an emergency text on my phone:

"Use caution when driving near the South African Embassy -- there will be mourners gathering in the area."

It took a minute for me to...

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After Exoneration, Tibbs Pursued Justice

(3) Comments | Posted December 9, 2013 | 10:35 AM

Compassion stained cheeks
Steel smothered innocence
Transcendent soul freed
-- Diann Rust-Tierney December 3, 2013

Delbert Tibbs was sentenced to death in Florida for the murder of Terry Milroy and the rape of his companion, Cynthia Nadeau. He was innocent....

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Public's Changing Attitudes on Capital Punishment

(25) Comments | Posted November 6, 2013 | 11:44 AM

When capital punishment was halted in the United Sates by the Supreme Court in 1972, Justice Thurgood Marshall cautioned against relying too heavily on public opinion polls that measure the attitudes of a specific punishment based on "its mere mention." Justice Marshall believed correctly that most Americans knew too little...

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A Tribute to a Prison Warden's Influence on Capital Punishment Abolition

(32) Comments | Posted October 24, 2013 | 4:08 PM

Donald Cabana, a former Mississippi prison warden who presided over executions, was not the usual ally for me and the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty. But Donald Cabana loathed the death penalty. As I mark his passing and celebrate his life, he died this month at 67, I...

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Death Sentence in Case of Fort Hood Shooter Out of Step

(7) Comments | Posted September 9, 2013 | 9:45 AM

Major Nidal Hasan made no argument that he wasn't the person who opened fire killing 13 people and wounding 32 others inside the Medical Readiness Processing Center at Fort Hood, Texas. He represented himself and raised no claim that might save his life.

This was the worst shooting on a...

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Marylanders Voted With Their Feet

(0) Comments | Posted July 15, 2013 | 8:40 AM

The failed effort to give Maryland voters the opportunity to return to the death penalty and executions is instructive. As proponents of a pro-death penalty ballot initiative stated, "The groundswell of support across the state just wasn't there."

That is true of the death penalty in Maryland and...

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What Are You Giving Up for Lent?

(6) Comments | Posted February 15, 2013 | 10:22 AM

While running errands last week, the marquee of a local Catholic church reminded me that Ash Wednesday was Feb. 13 and that the Lenten Season and Easter would soon be upon us.

Regardless of your faith tradition, we all understand that the season of Lent, often closely accompanied by...

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Reflection on Dr. King's Legacy and the Arc of the Universe

(0) Comments | Posted January 28, 2013 | 5:11 PM

A few days ago on January 21, 2013, we celebrated the legacy and memory of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. There is incredible synchronicity in the unfolding events in just these first few weeks of the New Year.

Synchronicity finds meaning in the alignment of a series of seemingly...

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A Sister's Love: Martina Davis-Correia

(4) Comments | Posted December 14, 2011 | 4:07 PM

I imagine angels weeping today. But no soul shuddering sobs of despair are heard.

I imagine angels weeping quiet tears of recognition. These are the same tears we shed when we encounter a thing of extraordinary beauty, or are touched by unexpected and we think, undeserved compassion.


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(0) Comments | Posted November 23, 2011 | 3:00 PM

Yesterday, Governor John Kitzhaber imposed a moratorium on executions in Oregon.

He did not, as much as I might like to see it, end the death penalty.

Faced with deciding whether to allow the execution of Gary Haugen on December 6th, he did the right thing. He...

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