Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Execution Date Set for Editor of Magazine

Greetings friends of the Journey of Hope. I received the following email from Paula Skillacorn. Her husband is scheduled to be executed next month. Dennis Skillacorn is the editor of Compassion Magazine which has featured the stories of many Journey member like Marietta Jaeger Lane, Vicki Schieber and myself. Please read and act accordingly.

Peace,

Bill Pelke, President
Journey of Hope...from Violence to Healing
PO Box 210390
Anchorage, AK 99521-0390
Toll Free 877-9-24GIVE (4483)
Bill@JourneyofHope.org
www.JourneyofHope.org
Cell 305-775-5823
"The answer is love and compassion for all of humanity"

Sent: Saturday, July 26, 2008 4:15 AM
Subject: execution date

On Friday, despite the fact that we have two issues before the court, the Missouri Supreme Court set an execution date of Aug. 27.

For those of you who would like to do anything to help try to prevent this state from killing my husband, your help is welcome and there are some fairly simple things you can do. For those who are not aware of the facts of the case, here are some main points:

Allen Nicklasson, the man who shot and killed Richard Drummond in Aug. 1994 did so on his own after leaving Dennis behind in the stolen car. Allen has been consistent in telling the truth since day one - with his friends and close acquaintances, as well as with law enforcement - that Dennis had absolutely no idea that when Allen walked Drummond into the woods, Allen was going to shoot him. Allen had planned to tie Drummond up so that by the time Drummond could free himself and walk into town to all police, Allen, Dennis and Tim DeGraffenreid would be back in Blue Springs, hiding out.

Instead, Allen decided to kill Drummond. His statements to police have been consistent and truthful, but the state successfully kept Allen from testifying in trial. The jury never heard the truth and thus convicted Dennis for first-degree murder as an accomplice. Allen has tried through the years to be heard in court, but the appellate courts denied him that right as well.

We are still trying to get the Supreme Court to look at Allen's statements. Dennis is not an innocent victim, but he is innocent of first-degree murder. We are not asking that he be freed. We believe the sentence of death is excessive in this case, and that society would be safe and justice would be served through clemency, which means we want the governor to change Dennis' sentence to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

In addition, Dennis has been actively involved in restorative justice even before the program was established at Potosi Correctional Center. He is the editor of Compassion, a publication written and edited by death row inmates across the country who have raised more than $34,000 in college scholarships for family members of murdered victims. This scholarship goes to family members regardless of their stance on the death penalty. For example, Zach Osbourne, one of the recipients, supports the death penalty openly and is going to school to become a police officer.

Dennis compiled a book, "Today's Choices Affect Tomorrow's Dreams," that is distributed for free to juvenile centers around the country. The book has been so popular, he has been asked to do another. That book is currently being compiled.

Dennis is chairman of the prison's Hospice group and has cared for many dying prison patients through the years. He is a co-founder of 4-H LIFE, a family strengthening program that teaches inmates to be better parents and includes a family 4-H meeting each month inside the prison. As a former president and officer of 4-H, Dennis has led fundraisers to send money to children's programs in the state and to send 4-H LIFE members to summer camp and state leadership programs. 4-H LIFE has won several awards and is now active in several other prisons.

Dennis has actively worked to build bridges between the Protestant, Catholic, Muslim, Islamic and Native American religious groups at the prison. He is a founder of the Charity Carnival - in its second year - that raises money inside the prison for charitable organizations. The carnival is today, but he is locked up and cannot carry out his responsibilities for that event.

Dennis speaks to university student groups on a regular basis to give them insight into the death penalty and prison life. He is, and remains, a positive spokesman and positive role models for other prisoners.

He is a leader in the Set Free Ministry, a prison ministry that works with thousands of inmates in Missouri and Illinois to help them in their Christian walk. The Ministry has grown from an office of three to an office of around 20 inmates at PCC and a second office in Charleston's prison. The Ministry continues to expand in prisons in the two states as well as into jails.

All of this is documented, not the exaggerated account of a wife desperate to save her husband.

For those of you who have asked, I am terrified, but determined to fight for justice for my family. Murdering my husband is not justice - it is harming me, my son, Dennis' sisters, brother, nephews, aunts uncles, friends, etc. He is my soulmate, for those of you who understand what that means.

A date is an extremely serious situation, but we have issues to pursue and this does not mean we're done. Please do not assume that this is inevitable, even though we have a very, very difficult fight in the next 32 days.

I appreciate your support in any way. Should you want to write letters, file amicus briefs (friend of the court) with your church or other organization, let me know and I'll give you more info.

If you choose to pray, please ask God to intervene and see that Dennis receives a lesser sentence.

Thanks.

Paula skillicorn@centurytel.net

Doctor banned for incompetence is now part of Arizona's executions

Death Chamber, Missouri Correctional Center.

STORY JUST IN (Death Penalty Information Center)
The same doctor who was banned from executions in Missouri has been discovered as a participant in Arizona’s most recent execution. Dr. Alan Doerhoff’s signature is at the bottom of executed Robert Comer’s EKG tape, eight months after he was prohibited from further Missouri executions “because of questions about his standards and competence.” Doerhoff had assisted in more than 54 executions in Missouri, developed procedures, inserted catheters, and monitored prisoner’s consciousness in Indiana. According to 2006 court records, he admitted under oath to being dyslexic, that “he ‘improvised’ the dosages of the drugs (partly because of how conveniently or inconveniently they were packaged), had no set protocol and kept no records of procedures.” The hearing’s judge prohibited Doerhoff from participating “in any manner, at any level” in Missouri’s lethal-injection process. Prior to this ruling, Doerhoff had been sued for malpractice 20 times, paid several settlements, and was “officially reprimanded by the Missouri Board of Healing Arts for not disclosing malpractice suits to a hospital where he practiced and was subsequently barred from some hospitals.”

The techniques that Doerhoff developed appear to have influenced Arizona’s new execution procedures, “specifically a practice of administering the killing chemicals through a catheter in the groin instead of through an arm. It’s a method that some critics say is too complex and contributes to higher risks of error that could lead to undue suffering.” Such a technique appears to be unique to jurisdictions where Doerhoff participated in executions. When the Arizona Department of Corrections was questioned about Doerhoff’s participation, they denied any association with the doctor. When the media showed proof of Doerhoff’s signature on the execution documents, the Corrections officials cited statutes that protect the identity of Arizona executioners. The State of Arizona is still fighting petitions in court to reveal information about their execution staff. Experts say that Doerhoff techniques are overly complex and prone to error. Despite being prohibited from participating in Missouri executions, Dr. Doerhoff is still legally permitted to participate and influence other states’ and federal executions.

(M. Kiefer, “Doctor banned from executions in Mo. now in Ariz.,” The Arizona Republic, July 24, 2008). See Executions.

Monday, July 28, 2008

"The death penalty did not deter David from taking my daughter’s life"

Despite having vastly different experiences in relation to capital punishment, both Ron Keine and Marietta Jaeger-Lane ardently believe that the death penalty must be abolished.

In a dual appearance arranged by the Montana Abolition Coalition Tuesday night at the Clocktower Inn, Jaeger-Lane and Keine spoke at length about their experiences involving murder cases and the impact those experiences have had on their views about capital punishment. [...]

Keine was on a road trip with his California motorcycle club in 1974 when, on the way to visit his home state of Michigan, he and three others were convicted of a crime they didn’t commit.[...]With only an inexperienced public defender left to help in the case, Keine and his three friends were convicted of the charges and sentenced to death.

After Keine spent 22 months on death row and came within 10 days of being put to death, the real killer was found. According to a press release from the Montana Abolition Coalition, “In late 1975, a state district judge dismissed the original indictments and the four men were released in 1976 after the murder weapon was traced to a drifter from South Carolina who admitted to the killing. The murder weapon, a 22-caliber pistol, was found only after a search warrant was issued to open the sheriff’s safe.”

Eventually it was discovered that the sheriff hid the gun and the documents of the case, which explained to whom the gun belonged. The police also forced a prostitute from Albuquerque to testify and claim false information against the defendants, according to Keine. [...]

“Two months after we were released,” says Keine, “my friend went up to the mountains in Tennessee, put a shotgun into his mouth, and pulled the trigger. This was because of the brutal time we had as innocent men on death row.”

Keine added, “I had my spine beaten so bad that I couldn’t walk for two weeks, I thought I’d never walk again. I also became 20 percent deaf in my left ear.”

Jaeger-Lane went through a very different experience with capital punishment. Also a native of Michigan, Jaeger-Lane went camping with her family at the Missouri River Headwaters Park in Montana 35 years ago. During the night, her 7-year-old daughter, Susie, was kidnapped from her tent. After a long and excruciating process, in which the kidnapper claimed to be interested in a ransom deal, the FBI eventually found and arrested the man responsible for kidnapping and killing Susie. Though Jaeger-Lane said she was initially consumed with rage and the thought of revenge - which any parent would be - she was surprised later to find that she had begun to pray for the killer. [...]

Even though it took 15 months before the killer was caught and arrested, he had actually taken Susie’s life just a week after the kidnapping. Despite this, she requested that the man not be sentenced to death after his conviction. How could a mother not want to see this man dead for committing such a tragic act against her daughter?

“Satisfaction doesn’t come from another’s death,” said Jaeger-Lane. “The death penalty doesn’t heal anyone’s loss.”[...]

Perhaps Jaeger-Lane best summed up the thoughts of the speakers, and the Coalition, with one of her final comments of the night.

“The death penalty did not deter David from taking my daughter’s life.”

Please read complete artice in the Billings Outpost News

Saturday, July 26, 2008

The answer is love and compassion for all of humanity

The answer is love and compassion for all of humanity. I learned this lesson many years ago when God touched my heart with love and compassion for Paula Cooper. Paula Cooper was on death row at the time for the murder of my grandmother, Nana.

When God touched my heart with compassion, forgiveness took place. I learned immediately about the healing power of forgiveness. Healing is what all murder victim family members really need when a loved one has been killed.

Not only did forgiveness take place but I became very much aware that the death penalty was not an appropriate punishment, but in fact itself a crime against humanity. The death penalty not only had nothing to do with the healing that murder victim family members need so desperately. It just continues the cycle of violence and creates more murder victim family members.

There are many problems with the criminal justice system. If they could all be fixed, when I don’t believe they can, the death penalty would still be wrong. When I was in the infantry in Vietnam, our job was to kill or capture the enemy. If a prisoner was taken, we no longer tried to kill them.

I believe it is morally wrong to unnecessarily take another person life. If you can capture a violent offender and put them in prison where they can’t harm anyone else, there is no need to kill them for society to be safe. To take a person out of their cell some ten years or so after the have been arrested and lead them handcuffed to the death chamber and take their life is just not right.

We live in a vengeful society. Revenge is never, ever the answer; the answer is love and compassion for all of humanity. If you have love and compassion for all of humanity then it is impossible to want to see anyone taken to the death chamber and their life taken from them.

If you support the death penalty then you need to rethink your philosophies of life because somewhere in your thought process there is a glaring error. If you don’t have compassion for all of humanity then you are not keeping the great commandment.

Hate the sin but love the sinner. Hate the sin but not the person who committed it. The answer is love and compassion for all of humanity.

Bill Pelke

Friday, July 25, 2008

Prisoners and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights

All of us know the Declaration of Human Rights which was ratified by most countries in this world including the USA . But whom does it really apply to? Reading the news I sometimes believe that people don’t believe it really applies to everyone or for everyone…

Let me just quote some passages:

Article 5.
No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.

Article 29.
(2) In the exercise of his rights and freedoms, everyone shall be subject only to such limitations as are determined by law solely for the purpose of securing due recognition and respect for the rights and freedoms of others and of meeting the just requirements of morality, public order and the general welfare in a democratic society.

Especially reading article 29 (2) I would say the Universal Declaration of Human Rights applies to everyone – including prisoners as long as the rights and freedoms of others are not in danger.

Now let me tell you a few other things:

Maricopa County jails house inmates serving jail sentences, as well as pretrial detainees, who are legally innocent until proven guilty.

Sheriff JoeArpaio began to serve inmates surplus food (mainly outdated and oxidized green bologna) and limited meals to twice daily. Meal costs would be reduced to 30 cents per day.

Shortly after taking office, Arpaio reinstituted chain gangs, the controversial form of inmate labor which had been virtually eliminated in the United States.

The inmates wear traditional black-and-white striped uniforms and pink underwear. Arrpaio also introduced pink handcuffs. Later, Arpaio ordered that sheets, socks, towels, and other fabric items be dyed pink.

Arpaio's tent city jail has become notable particularly because of Phoenix 's extreme temperatures. Temperatures inside the tents have been reported as high as 150 degrees, which is sufficent to cause death or permanent disability in humans.

Amnesty International issued a report critical of the treatment of inmates in Maricopa County facilities. Criticism has resulted due to lawsuits filed against the sheriff’s office by family members of inmates who died in jail custody and in high-speed pursuits involving deputies.

From 2004 through November 2007, Arpaio was the target of a 2,150 lawsuits in U.S. District Court and hundreds more in Maricopa County courts; 50 times as many lawsuits as the New York , Los Angeles , Chicago , and Houston jail systems combined.

This year Arpaio has a good chance on getting re-elected for the 4th time.

I’m just wondering:

“No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.”…. and on the other hand male inmates in pink underwear living in tents with temperatures as high as 150 degrees, getting rotten food to eat and being subject ot other degrading treatments (please follow links in text)….

How about one of our family members getting into prison (even if innocent)? Do we want him to be treated this way?

Does "being tough on crime" also mean for us to take an inmate's dignity and to put his health at risk?

Or do we all just believe that this will never happen to anyone we care about, that the people living there "deserve" what they go through and therefore this is just none of our business?

Is this really how we all believe the Universal Declaration of Human Rights should be ratified? How about if other countries are taking the same freedom with the interpretation some parts of this declaration – do we really want to put this risk on our people when they travel abroad?

Thursday, July 24, 2008

More on MD Spying

Last Friday we posted an article about Maryland police spying on death penaly opponents and peace activists. Now one of the persons concered talks about this himself:

Spying on a Sportswriter
by Dave Zirin

Finally, at long last, I have something in common with Muhammad Ali.

No, I'm not the heavyweight champion of the world, but, like "the Greatest," I have been a target of state police surveillance for activities--in my case, against the death penalty--that were legal, nonviolent and, so I assumed, constitutionally protected.

In classified reports compiled by the Maryland State Police and the Department of Homeland Security, I am "Dave Z." This nickname was given by an undercover agent known to us as "Lucy." She sat in our meetings of the Campaign to End the Death Penalty, smiling and engaged, taking copious notes about actions deemed threatening by the former Maryland Governor Robert Ehrlich. Our seditious crimes, as Lucy reported, involved such acts as planning to set up a table at the local farmers market and writing up a petition. Adding a dash of farce to this outrage, she was monitoring us in the liberal enclave of Takoma Park, Maryland, a place known more for tie-dyeing than terrorism. Incidentally, current Governor Martin O'Malley says he opposes this kind of surveillance. He also opposes the death penalty. No word yet on whether he, too, is being spied upon. [...]

My friend Mike Stark, a board member of the Campaign to End the Death Penalty, is at times referred to in Lucy's report as a "socialist" and an "anarchist." One can only assume this is the pathetic, time-honored tradition of reducing people to simple caricatures, all the better to garner Homeland Security grant money.

Veteran Baltimore peace activist Max Obuszewski, who has initiated a lawsuit against the Maryland State Police, has also consistently been shadowed by authories. His "primary crime" (their terminology) was entered into the homeland security database as "terrorism-anti govern[ment]." His "secondary crime" was listed as "terrorism-antiwar protestors." The database is known as the Washington-Baltimore High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA). A respected peace organizer of many decades is identified as a terrorist, his actions listed as criminal, for doing nothing more than exercising his rights.

Former police superintendent Tim Hutchins defended these totalitarian practices in the Washington Post saying, "You do what you think is best to protect the general populace of the state." [...]

But "protect the general populace" from what? The surveillance continued even after it was determined that we were planning nothing more dangerous than carrying clipboards in a public place. [...]

Please read the complete article in The Nation

People who want to express their outrage can contact the office Governor Martin O'Malley. We should demand a full investigation of the MSP, public release of all documents obtained through this illegal activity, and a specific commitment that the antideath penalty and anti-war movement will not be targeted. Call the office of the governor at 1-800-811-8336, or submit a comment online at http://www.governor.maryland.gov/mail

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Make a difference - get involved!

A lot of times I'm getting asked how people who just don't have much time could help.

Naturally there are many ways to get involved - join one of the Anti-Death-Penalty-Groups, donate some money, write articles, stay informed and pass the information on, etc.... And a lot of these things don't cost much time, one doesn't have to have many skills etc and all of it is extemely important!

But there is one thing just everyone can do, even without a lot of time and even without having much money: sign petitions and pass them on!

There are many petitions on the internet and surely most of them are very important but unfortunately I don't have the space to write about all of them here, so let me just highlight some of them:


Jose Medellin


Jose Medellin, a mexican national, has an execution date for August 5th.

He was never advised by Texas authorities of his right as a detained foreign national to seek consular assistance, as required under article 36 of the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations (VCCR). Because of this treaty violation, José Medellín was deprived of the extensive assistance that Mexico provides for the defence of its citizens facing capital charges in the USA.

On 31 March 2004, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) ruled in Avena and Other Mexican Nationals that the USA had violated its VCCR obligations in the cases of José Medellín and 50 other Mexican nationals on death row in the USA.

On 25 March 2008, in Medellín v. Texas, the Supreme Court unanimously found that the ICJ’s Avena decision “constitutes an international law obligation on the part of the United States.” The Court also unanimously agreed that the reasons for complying with the ICJjudgment were “plainly compelling,” since its domestic enforcement would uphold “United States interests in ensuring the reciprocal observance of the Vienna Convention, protecting relations with foreign governments, and demonstrating commitment to the role of international law.”

However, a 6-3 majority ruled that the ICJ’s decision “is not automatically binding domestic law”.

On 14 July 2008, a bill known as the Avena Case Implementation Act was introduced in the US House of Representatives. Under its terms, José Medellín and other affected foreign nationals would be granted access to “appropriate remedies” through the domestic courts for VCCR violations, including the reversal “of the conviction or sentence, where appropriate.” The bill has been referred to the House Judiciary Committee for review, but insufficient time remains for it to be passed into law before Medellín’s scheduled execution. Similar legislation is expected to be introduced in the Texas Legislature when it reconvenes in early 2009.

Jeff Wood


Jeff Wood is due to be executed in Texas on August 21st.

Jeff did NOT kill anyone, he was charged under the Law of Parties, and was not the shooter in this crime. Jeff could not anticipate that a murder would occur. The actual shooter in this case has already been executed by the state of Texas.

Also there were some severe errors in his trial, his trial was not fair and he has been diagnosed with mental illnesses dating back to his childhood.

Kevin Young


Kevin Young is scheduled to be executed in Oklahoma on August 21 for a killing during a robbery that went "amiss", despite the absence of proof that he actually fired the fatal shot. The Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board voted 4-1 to grant him clemency and Governor Brad Henry granted a 30-day stay to consider his decision. Urge the Governor to accept this recommendation and grant clemency to Kevin Young.

Note Fri, July 25th: Gov. Brad Henry approved clemency for Kevin Young yesterday - his sentences got commuted to life without the possibility of parole.

Greg Wright


Greg Wright has been given an execution date of September 9th in spite of passing a polygraph examination and of being excluded from the jeans and murder weapon used to convict him by DNA testing.

Troy Davis


Restrictions on Federal appeals have prevented Troy Anthony Davis from having a hearing in federal court on the reliability of the witness testimony used against him, despite the fact that most of the witnesses have since recanted, many alleging they were pressured or coerced by police. Troy Davis remains on Georgia death row, and may be scheduled for execution in the near future.

On Monday, March 17, 2008, the Georgia Supreme Court decided 4-3 to deny a new trial for Troy Anthony Davis, despite significant concerns regarding his innocence. This stunning decision by the Georgia Supreme Court to let Mr. Davis’ death sentence stand means that the state of Georgia might soon execute a man who may well be innocent.

On July 10th, 2008, even the European Parliament passed a resolution calling on Georgia to commute the death sentence of Troy Davis.

Please just click on the names above to follow the links to more information and to the petitions!

There are so many more petitions out and I'm definitely sorry that I can't list them all - as today, there are 27 executions scheduled only for this year!

Please get active! Get involved!

Monday, July 21, 2008

The Journey of Hope will come to Montana!!!


The Montana Abolition Coalition has invited the Journey of Hope on a speaking tour of Montana October 2-11.

20 Journey speakers have been invited by MAC. 5 exonerees will be coming, Juan Melendez, Shujaa Graham, Greg Wilhoit, Curtis McCarty and Ron Keine. Two death row family members Terri Steinburg (son Justin on VA death row) and Delia Perez Meyers (brother on TX death row.) Cece McWee,who witnessed her son's execution and lost a daughter to murder as well,is coming. So is David Kaczynski, who will tell about his brother Ted's (Unabomber) arrest in Montana and how the death penalty was sought. Murder victim family members include Marietta Jaeger Lane, George White, Bud Welch, Art Laffin, Bess Klassen Landis, Eddie Hicks, Ron Carlson, Eve Malo, J.A. Ziegler and Rev. Walt Everett.

Charlie King and Karen Brandow will join us in support with their wonderful voices and service.

If you would like to make a tax deductible donation to the Journey of Hope please go to www.journeyofhope.org

Thanks, Peace,

Bill Pelke, President
Journey of Hope...from Violence to Healing
PO Box 210390
Anchorage, AK 99521-0390
Toll Free 877-9-24GIVE (4483)
Bill@JourneyofHope.org
www.JourneyofHope.org
Cell 305-775-5823

"The answer is love and compassion for all of humanity"

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Jeff Wood Execution Date August 21st Texas

Look for updates and more information soon...

Jeff Wood sits on Texas death row. Like many others, Jeff has a date in the long list of scheduled executions to take place in the US in the nxt months.
Jeff was born on 19th August 1974. If nothing happens to stop this madness, this year Jeff will be executed 2 days after his 34th birthday. On August 21st he will be put to death by the state of Texas, despite the fact that he didn't commit any crime. Jeff is not one of those men who maintain their innocence even if they are thought or suspected to be the authors of murders, Jeff Wood is a man who was condemned to death by a jury who knew that he had not killed anybody.

Texas has a law called the "Law of Parties" that allows a jury to give the death penalty to those are considered to have taken part to a murder, even if they were just present on the crime scene when a homicide was being committed. To give a better idea of what may be considered a "co-defendant" we can take the example of someone who is driving a car along with the person who has just committed the crime. This is what happened to Jeff Wood. He was sentenced to death under the Law of Parties. In this case, the death penalty was given to someone whose only fault is to have driven a car at a gun-point, threatened by the man who had just killed the clerk inside a gas station. Jeff Wood has a sentence of death pending on his head because he drove a car that was helping a criminal to escape.

When the jury had to decide the proper sentence for Jeff Wood, not only they gave no consideration at all to the fact that Jeff Wood was not the actual killer, but they also ignored the fact that Jeff had been being suffering from bi-polar disorder for many years...a disorder that made his character easy to be manipulated, especially by very dominant personalities.

Nowadays we condemn the death penalty for all crimes, because we consider it a barbaric punishment, used more to satisfy a need of vengeance for a crime than to respect a right for justice. Incredulity and indignation are even stronger when the death penalty is given to someone who didn't kill anyone.

One year ago Kenneth Foster, also sentenced under the Law of Parties with a case very similar to Jeff's, received a commutation of his death sentence into a sentence of life without parole. Kenneth fought for his life along with his family and friends, supported by mass-media like televisions, radios and newspapers that contributed to grant him salvation. Jeff Wood's case. on the other side, is not receiving the right attention.

If things will keep going in this way, Jeff will slide down to his execution date and people will never know of him and his story.

His family, including his wife and his teen-age daugther, is bravely fighting for him day by day even if the closer that date gets, the more fear and desperation threaten to discourage them. Even the father of the victim in Jeff's case, who is against the death penalty, fought to save the life of Reneau, the man who was the actual killer and who has already been executed by the State of Texas.Now we need to help Jeff to save his life!

People could do a lot to help save Jeff's life. You can sign his online petition on the website his family built up for him. You can contact Rick Perry, governor of Texas, sending him an email from that same website, expressing concern about all the scheduled executions and mentioning Jeff Wood's case.

August 21st is not far, Jeff's execution is not far...his premeditated murder gets closer and closer. We need to act now! Please sign Jeff Wood petition and spread the link for others to sign it as widely as you can. Each and everyone of us can make a difference for the life of Jeff Wood.

Ass. SenzaVoce Thanks to Katia!

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Watch CNN 7/23 & 24 "Black in America"

Did you know that companies in the US have said they would hire a white man with a felony record and no high school education BEFORE they would hire a black man with NO criminal record and a 4-year degree?

On Wednesday July 23 at 9pm and Thursday July 24 at 9pm, CNN will premier a series, 'Black in America with Soledad O'Brien' and I personally challenge you to watch it WITH your children, especially your sons, if you have any, uninterrupted. The aforemention statistic and many others will be revealed during the series.

I had the priviledge of meeting with Soledad O'Brien and actually SEEING this premier on Monday, and what I saw brought tears to my eyes and anguish, frustration! , and a sense of helplessness to my soul.

On Monday the series will focus on Women and Familes and Tuesday is dedicated entirely to the plight of the Black Man in America .

I beg and plead with you PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE watch and internalize what you see and hear; no matter HOW disturbing the information revealed...you can (and will) thank me later.

Meredith Lopez

Friday, July 18, 2008

Police Spied On Local Activists, ACLU Says----ACLU Says Police Spied On Anti-War, Anti-Death Penalty Groups

State police documents obtained by the American Civil Liberties Union reveal that undercover police officers infiltrated local groups opposed to the death penalty and the war.

The ACLU released the documents Thursday and argued that what police did during 2005 and 2006 is no different than the days of the FBI under J.Edgar Hoover and the targeting of activist groups during the 1960s.

The internal documents show that nearly three dozen times, undercover state police officers covertly took part in protests and in the meetings groups set up to organize them. The documents included the reports the officers wrote on the meetings detailing how many people attended, what they discussed and the protests they planned to do next, WBAL TV 11 News I-Team lead investigative reporter Jayne Miller said.

"What these documents reveal is beyond shocking," said David Rocha of the ACLU.

Much of the covert spying focused on the activities of anti-death penalty groups. The officers' reports made no mention of suspected illegal activity, Miller reported.

"Every single activity is lawful. Every single thing noted in these logs was lawful, First Amendment protected activity," Rocha said.

The documents show the undercover officers kept close tabs on long-time peace activist Max Obuszewski and anti-war protests. It appeared that Obuszewski's name was entered in a database of possible terrorists.

"You can't get any more insulting than that, to call me a terrorist and to label our group a security threat. Unbelievable," Obuszewski told Miller.

Obuszewski said he fears the affect the undercover spying will have on citizen participation.

"It's also scaring people away from our gatherings," he said.

The ACLU is currently looking for more information about the state police program. The documents covered 14 months throughout 2005 and 2006.

"I'm just sort of speechless, to comprehend that the Maryland State Police for 14 months thought this was acceptable," Rocha said.

The ACLU sued the state police to get access to the internal documents, Miller reported. State police did not respond to 11 News questions on Thursday.

A spokesman for the governor said he's reviewing the issues raised by the ACLU and will respond when appropriate.

(source: WBAL TV News)

Please read more about this matter on the homepage of the ACLU

Thursday, July 17, 2008

I received a present...

A friend gave me a a little stone with a quote on it and it seems to me as if this quote might be talking directly to us and I just wanted to share it with you.

I'm sure you know it as I knew this quote as well, just sometimes I think it's good to get reminded...

The quote is Hebrews 13:3 "Remember them that are in bonds, as bound with them; and them which suffer adversity, as being yourselves also in the body.

And I was thinking of Matthew 25:34 "Then the King will say to those on his right, 'Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.'"

And this reminds me on these millions of people who on one hand believe in god very deeply and go to church every sunday and are really serious about this but on the other hand are talking about "monsters who shall rot in prison" or even "get fried"...

Now I got this stone standing on my desk and I can see the quote on it every day. Jesus promised us that the Holy Spirit will teach us all we need to know and I pray that we all manage to keep our ears open to really listen to him and our hearts unlased from all these all so human feelings like anger and revenge so he is able to work inside of us.

Mike Farrell discusses death penalty


Part 2:

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Innocence Matters: Meet Troy Davis

Innocence Matters --- March to Save Troy Davis!

Atlanta. Sat oct 4 from 2-4pm.

Troy Davis was sent to death row in 1991 for the shooting of a white police officer in Savannah, Georgia, but serious questions about his guilt have surfaced. He came within 23 hours of execution in July, 2007, and a new date is likely to be set soon.

- 7 of 9 Eyewitnesses Recanted (Say their testimony was coerced by Police)
- No Physical Evidence/ No Weapon
- Evidence Never Heard By Jury (Anti-terrorism & Effective Death Penalty Act 1996)
- New Witnesses have Implicated other Suspect
- Ga. Supreme Court Ruled 4 to 3 that Recanted Testimony is not as strong as Original Trial Testimony.

Please join Amnesty International along with various celebrities, musicians, civil and political leaders, and other concerned citizens to support Troy and demand that the Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles prevent the execution of a man with a strong innocence case!

(source: Amnesty International)

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

The European Parliament on the death penalty and the case of Troy Davis

Parliament adopted a resolution calling for Troy Davis, who has been convicted of murder and sentenced to death in Georgia, USA, to be granted a retrial in view of evidence which strongly indicates his innocence.

Troy Davis was sentenced to death by the Georgia State Court in 1991 for the murder of a policeman and scheduled to be executed at the end of July 2008. According to Mr Davis' lawyers, there is abundant proof of his innocence, material evidence against him has never been found and seven witnesses against him have retracted their testimony.

On 4 August 2007 the Supreme Court of Georgia had agreed to reconsider the new elements casting doubt on Mr Davis' culpability but on 17 March 2008 the same court decided to deny him a new trial.

Retrial of Troy Davis merited on the basis of evidence

The EP resolution "asks, in view of abundant evidence which might reverse his sentence, for the relevant courts to grant Troy Davis a retrial, and for the death sentence therefore to be commuted". It also "appeals urgently to the Georgia State Board of Pardons and Paroles to commute the death sentence".

MEPs call on the Presidency of the Council and the Delegation of the European Commission to the USA to raise the issue with the US authorities as a matter of urgency.

EP opposed to death penalty on principle

More broadly, today's resolution calls upon those countries where the death penalty is carried out to take steps towards abolition. This is in line with Parliament's general stance on capital punishment: in the past it has devoted much effort to seeking abolition of the death penalty and warmly welcomed UN General Assembly Resolution 62/149 of 18 December 2007 calling for a worldwide moratorium on the death penalty.

Innocent death row prisoners have been reprieved in USA too

Lastly, to underline the flaw in the use of the death penalty, today's resolution points out that more than 120 people have been released from death row in the USA since 1975 on the grounds of innocence.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Rehabilitation...parole...merely an empty promise?


Sandra Davis Lawrence is grateful for the simple things she can do now, like pick up her grandniece from school. And she is anxious to make up for lost time, to find a career and start earning money again.

Lawrence spent 24 years in state prison for murdering her lover's wife with a gun and a potato peeler while in a jealous rage. A model inmate, she received a second chance at freedom last summer when a court ordered her released. Since then, she has reunited with family in Los Angeles and tried to re-integrate into society at age 61.[...]

But Lawrence may have to return to prison instead, if Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger can convince the California Supreme Court that she remains a threat to public safety. That she has had no problems with the law in a year of freedom is irrelevant, the governor's office said; she should not have been let out.

The court is poised in coming weeks to seal Lawrence's fate, along with that of nine other convicted murderers seeking freedom. The justices are expected to answer some difficult questions: When should a killer be set free? What are the limits, if any, on the governor's power to decide? Are such factors as an inmate's prison record and age ever more significant than a horrendous crime committed decades ago?

The state parole board had approved Lawrence's release four times since 1993, but three governors vetoed those decisions. Schwarzenegger blocked Lawrence's release twice before judges on the state Court of Appeal reversed him.[...]

While she was in prison, Lawrence earned two degrees, learned trades that included plumbing and data-processing, was president of the inmates' Toastmasters Club, worked as a library porter and tennis coach, co-founded a tutoring program and remained discipline-free. She apologized profusely for her crime.

The state sets up a false promise, Lawrence says. It encourages inmates to improve themselves to earn their release, then refuses to let them go.

"I was pretty successful by their standards, inside, notwithstanding the crime itself," she said. "They were talking rehabilitation. The system was talking rehabilitation. Here's a person who's rehabilitated. Now what?"

Increasingly, inmates fighting a parole process they believe is driven by tough-on-crime politics have filed petitions in court, successfully challenging the state's refusal to release them. Lawrence was one of them.

In at least 28 cases since late 2005, including hers, judges have overturned Schwarzenegger's parole denials for inmates who appeared to have reformed or who seemed too sick or elderly to pose a serious threat anymore. Some remain in prison pending appeals.

"This is an extremely high reversal rate," said Rich Pfeiffer, an Orange County attorney who represents such inmates. "It was so completely unfair, the courts finally had to do something. The governor can basically resentence these inmates to life without possibility of parole." [...]

Please read complete story here

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Protest outside the Supreme Court


Members of various activist groups from around the country, under the umbrella of the Abolitionist Action Committee (AAC), gathered at the U.S. Supreme Court on July 1st to protest capital punishment as well as Sens. Barack Obama and John McCain's support for the death penalty.

This protest was part of "Starvin, for Justice '08", the 15th Annual Fast & Vigil to Abolish the Death Penalty at the US Supreme Court. The event was a four day fast & vigil maintaining a presence at SCOTUS, the Supreme Court Of The United States. Some of the participants fasted during this time, but fasting was not required. The AAC encountered thousands of visitors to the Court and shared our message that no matter how you slice it, the death penalty is BAD PUBLIC POLICY. Much of the time was spent talking to individuals and creating visibility. Several larger events were held at key times during the event to highlight specific concerns, with a series of speakers each evening to educate, enlighten and entertain.

Those who participated in the full event arrived on June 28th and departed on July 3rd. June 29 and July 2 are anniversaries of key death penalty decisions: June 29th is the anniversary of the Furman v. Georgia decision in 1972, in which the U.S. Supreme Court found the death penalty to be arbitrary and capricious. More than 600 condemned inmates had their death sentences reduced to life. All states were required to re-write their death penalty laws. July 2nd is the anniversary of the Gregg v. Georgia decision in 1976 which allowed the resumption of executions in the United States.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Yarris talks with Oldest Prison Reform/Advocacy Group

With daughter Lara, wife Karen, daughter in happy mood, Nick in cap, Nick with others in "After Innocence"

In 1988, Yarris was the first death row prisoner in the United States to demand DNA testing to prove his innocence...

Although the BIG NEWS is that Nick Yarris book is finally coming out in just a little over a week (be sure to see blog just below) and new to some of us is that he's a spokeman for Reprieve. Nevertheless, although not so new,this interview is too good NOT to repeat here at this time. There's something here for all of us--all of us who care and know those who've been freed from the Row--even for those who THEMSELVES are freed from the row or prison. What a gift to be reminded what a gift life is, each moment of every day...

This interview with Nick was originally published in The Pennsylvania Prison Society's newsletter, "Correctional Forum".

The Pennsylvania Prison Society is the oldest prison reform and prisoner advocacy organization in the world. Founded in 1787, it offers support and services to prisoners, ex-offenders and their families.

NICK YARRIS: EXONERATED, FREE, AND 28 DAYS YOUNG "LIFE IS MORE THAN MERELY STAYING ALIVE." Interview with Nicholas Yarris By Catherine Wise, Communications Director, the Pennsylvania Prison Society February 13, 2004

Wrongfully convicted of kidnapping, rape, and murder, Nicholas James Yarris was condemned to death on July 1, 1982 at the age of 21. In 1988, he was the first death row prisoner in the United States to demand DNA testing to prove his innocence. Fifteen years later, Yarris successfully obtained the DNA results needed to prove his innocence. After numerous rounds of appeals, prison transfers, and even an escape, his convictions and sentences were vacated on September 3, 2003, the Delaware County charges were dropped in December, and on January 16, 2004, Yarris walked out of prison a free man after spending 22 years in solitary confinement on Pennsylvania's Death Row.

How does one stay sane in that environment, under those circumstances, especially in your case where you were incarcerated for something you did not do?
The act of finding sanity in the house of insanity is humility. You have to let go of all the ego; it gets stripped away from you and then you try and resurrect something from whatever you find, whatever you have left. You have to try and find that one good thing inside yourself that is everything to you, and try and build on that. On the more tangible side, I read books and taught myself things. I studied. I taught myself German and psychology. Learning about psychology really helped me understand myself and the others around me and it helped keep me sane.

What kinds of things did you want to do when you first got out? What did you want to eat? Pizza! Cheesesteaks! Are you kidding? I grew up in Philly! But seriously, I feel like God gave me brand new taste buds and said, "I've prepared this amazing feast for you. Go and enjoy it!" And I have. A few nights ago, I stayed at a friend's house and I had an enormous Mallow cup sundae with whipped cream and honey on top. I opened up both windows completely to the top and I laid under quilts and comforters in the freezing cold. It was quiet and I was alone and the moon was out and it was passing through the constellation of Orion in the sky and I was just laughing childishly with pure joy. It was amazing!

How long do you think it will be until you stop feeling this delight with life?
Never! That I've been given this wonderful gift, I'll never take for granted! Everyone seems to be rushing through their lives, wishing they had just two minutes to do all the things they want to get gone. I'll never have that ! I have a constant "2 minute reminder."

You are a bit of a twitchy person…
That nervousness which you describe is sensory overload for everything! Here we are with this beautiful sunset and I don't think anyone in here has noticed it. I am living a dream right now. I used to dream about being able to sit at a table with another human being, have a normal conversation, and have a meal with normal cutlery, and have normal moments.

Are you angry?
No! I'm as happy as can be! I sat and ate ice cream and laughed at the moon! I'm joyously happy!

You can be angry and happy at the same time….
Why would I be angry when I have been given the most profound gift of my life? There is a man out there who prosecuted me. He's been constantly calling different lawyers, telling them how afraid of me his is. He's afraid I'll come after him now that I'm out, because of all the horrible things he did to me. The furthest thing from my mind I would ever do is waste a day being vindictive. His fear, I think, is his greatest sorrow and he can't escape that. I'm not going to do anything to him; he has to live with what he did.

Do you think that life on death row is worse than death itself?
One of the things I feared more than death, was a life sentence. I couldn't imagine the horrors of watching everyone in my life die before I got out. I actually turned down a deal twice: once for life and once for less than life. I might have walked out of prison after 15 years. But then again, I wouldn't have been able to get the lawyers I did, because a lot of lawyers don't handle non-capital cases. In a way, I was lucky I guess to be on death row.

What are the worst things, the things people don't believe happen in prison?
They strip you bare - both literally and figuratively!

Every single time you leave your cell, they make you strip bare. And you hand them your clothing, which they go through to make sure you have no weapons. They make you open your mouth. This is every time you leave your cell. Every day. This is for level 5 inmates, not just death row inmates. Then, you are handed back your clothes and are hand cuffed and tethered to ankle cuffs. You're never allowed to touch anyone, hug anyone, and aren't even supposed to talk to anyone.

The sensory deprivation is the worst. Do you know I did not hug another human being for 14 years? Just to feel someone hold my hand or touch my face would have been the most wondrous of gifts.

Sometimes they leave the lights on 24 hours a day - to break men's minds. It's called H-Unit. Level 5. They leave the lights on 24 hours a day, take all your personal belongings. They took everything I had off of death row.

One of the things I hated the most was being inside all the time and not being able to go outside in the fresh air very often. The ventilation system is horrible. My skin atrophied and I was usually either freezing cold or hot as hell, just sweltering in the summer.

Do the people who know and admit their guilt handle death row differently than people like you who know and proclaim their innocence?
It's tough, because it is different for every single person. I could sit and chronicle everything I endured in prison for you, but it would not give you the understanding of someone else's experience. Prison is so different than anything else you could imagine. I know you've seen movies and television, but you have no idea what it's like.

As long as we have a death penalty in this country, there will be a death row. How do you think death row ought to operate and how do you respond to some people's notion that we shouldn't do anything in the way of programming since the people on death row are going to die anyway?
It's a fallacy that all people on death row are going to die anyway. 60% of people on death row will have their sentences reduced to a lesser charge and they'll get off death row. It happens all the time.

So, if you put someone for 15, 16, 17 years in a box and treat them like an animal and poke them with a stick and then they get their sentence reduced, what do you think happens for the rest of the prison population when they get out into the general prison population? You've created this bitter, broken, human being who is angry.

Or, you invest a little bit of dignity, a little bit of time, and some honest programming and you allow them to paint, you allow them to structure their mind, you allow them to grow. And you help them do it! You give them art supplies and books and other simple things so that they can find redeeming qualities within themselves.

The Quakers designed the prison for a purpose: so that you could put someone in a place where they'd have to face what they are, who they are, what they've done, and what they plan to do with their lives. And any redemption that comes out of that is what is supposed to be.

It was a good idea, but it didn't have a lot of goodness behind it, because it was done in solitary. And I don't think much good can come from keeping people isolated and alone for years or even months or weeks at a time - human beings were not meant to live that way.

If someone gave you a million dollars to develop and implement a program for people on death row, what would you do?
I would hire staffs of scholars to teach people and to help them structure their time each day so they could begin to structure their minds. I would have classes - teach people how to read, how to draw, how to understand themselves. Teach them languages, teach them things so they could think and be creative and not go crazy.

I have seen people literally go crazy from being in a cement box all day, day in and day out. The lack of programming for death row prisoners is the most deteriorating thing.

I think we need better programming for the staff too. They have high rates of suicide, divorce, disease. I think it's a really hard thing. I think there are some very good guards and staff who are really good people. And some guards start out good and try to do a good job, but they end up broken too.

You say you are 28 days old because you were released 28 days ago. Do you have a sense that you have to "catch up"?
That's an amazing thing. I know if I started doing that, chasing everything all at once, it would drive me crazy. You can't catch the wind. You can run in it, be pushed by it, but you can't catch it. I am going to sit back, savor and enjoy and take things as they come. What are your plans?
I'm going on a lecture circuit and use that as a way to help my family financially - they've lost almost everything trying to help me. I am hoping to get my book published. I want to use what happened to me and all the things that helped me to grow and then travel around and speak to people.

I hope that doing this article highlights how the Prison Society and its members and supporters are in a perfect position to help make changes for the people still on death row; that we have an obligation to use this opportunity to implement meaningful programming. As long as we're forced to deal with the death penalty, we have to put humanity at the forefront in how we treat these men and women.

Right now, what do you want the world to know about Nick Yarris? What do you want to tell the world?
Despite everyone's expectations of bitterness and anger or the inability to let go of what happened to me, I am focusing on all the good things. I am a good man now and I want the world to know that people can be redeemed. People can change.

I also want to tell the world that I think we are fools if we believe we have the right to decide who should die by sentencing them to the death penalty. As soon as we deem ourselves worthy of deciding who should or who shouldn't die, we start loosing part of ourselves that we really can't afford to lose.

Do you know what that part is?
Not fully. Not yet. I think it is such a combination of things.

P A * A B O L I T I O N I S T S * U N I T E D * A G A I N S T * T H E * D E A T H * P E N A L T Y
© 2003, PAUADP

New book:Seven Days to Live: The Amazing True Story of How One Man Survived 21 Years on Death Row for a Crime He Didn't Commit

The harrowing, heartbreaking story of Nick Yarris who spent twenty one years on Death Row for a crime he did not commit. When Nick was seven, his childhood was shattered when he was attacked and raped by a local teenage boy who went on to terrorize him throughout his teenage years. Nick responded by becoming a replica of his attacker, projecting a fierce and violent reputation in the hope that he would never feel so weak again. He became an alcoholic and drug addict, and started committing petty crimes to pay for his habit. On 20 December 1981, Nick was in a stolen car when he was pulled over for jumping a red light. A scuffle ensued after Nick was manhandled by the policeman, and he was placed in solitary confinement without treatment for drug withdrawal, causing him to collapse mentally. Having read the lone newspaper in his cell about the murder of Linda Mae Craig, who had been abducted from a local shopping mall car park, he concocted a story pinning the murder on a former drug buddy in a desperate bid for freedom. It backfired, and Nick was accused of the murder himself. Nick was charged and convicted on no real evidence other than his own failed story. At the age of 20 he was sent to one of the most notoriously brutal prisons in the United States, and was tormented by a guard later convicted of abuse at Abu Ghraib.

During more than two decades of torment and suffering on Death Row, in despair, Nick often begged to bring forward his execution. But Nick refused to give up, educating himself while in prison, and battled to use DNA evidence to prove his innocence. He was finally released, and now lives in the UK with his wife and baby daughter and continuing to fight against the death penalty.

Available at amazon.co.uk or from Dec 1st at amazon.com

European organizations assisting lawyers for justice on death row

Amicus and Reprieve are charities that assist those representing impoverished people facing execution across the world. They offer legal and humanitarian assistance by placing individuals in capital defence offices throughout the United States.

What they say about themselves

Reprieve
provides frontline investigation and legal representation to prisoners denied justice by powerful governments across the world, especially those governments that should be upholding the highest standards when it comes to fair trials.
Reprieve lawyers represent people facing the death penalty, particularly in the USA, or when those facing execution are British nationals. And we represent prisoners denied justice in the name of the ‘War on Terror’, including those held without charge or trial in Guantánamo Bay and the countless secret prisons beyond. None of these prisoners can afford to pay for representation.

It has been said that you can judge a society by how it treats people accused of violating its laws. Through the example set by the world’s most influential nations, fundamental human rights principles stand or fall across the world.

Reprieve uses international and domestic law as a tool to save lives, deliver justice and make the case for world-wide reform.

Amicus was set up in 1992 in memory of Andrew Lee Jones, who was executed in Louisiana in July 1991. The charity aims to help provide legal representation for those awaiting capital trial and punishment in the US and raise awareness of potential abuses of their rights.

Amicus relies on the generosity of volunteers and donors to continue to support those facing the death penalty in the United States. We need help to:

train UK lawyers and students to go and work in the US alongside attorneys (we send over twenty interns a year)
research particular areas of law, and also draft amicus curiae briefs to be presented to US courts
make applications to the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights in Washington about breaches of the American Declaration of Human Rights in death penalty trials
provide trained trial observers to report on individual cases

The charities have joined together to present a training programme (run each year in the Spring and Autumn) that provides practical as well as theoretical skills to assist defence counsel with the representation of those facing execution in the US. Please find more information about this training here

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Scheduled Protests in Texas Early Evening

Thursday, July 10, 2008 5-5:30 PM

Texas Capitol

Eleventh and Congress
Austin, Texas 78701
Category: Other

Carlton Turner is scheduled for execution on July 10, 2008.

Visit TEXAS MORATORIUM NETWORK for more information (BLOGS, COLUMNS, How to CALL, etc. to protest near and from afar,ETC.)...Also more here about the Texas Death Penalty, death penalty news and action alerts.

Come to the Governor's Mansion in Austin or one of the protests sites in the list of cities below to protest the Texas death penalty every time there is a scheduled execution.

Statewide Execution Vigils

Huntsville - Corner of 12th Street and Avenue I (in front of the Walls Unit) at 5:00 p.m.

Austin - At the Governor's Mansion on the Lavaca St. side between 10th and 11th St. from 5:30 to 6:30 PM.

Beaumont - Diocese of Beaumont, Diocesan Pastoral Office, 703 Archie St. @ 4:00 p.m. on the day of an execution.

College Station - 5:30 to 6 PM, east of Texas A &M campus at the corner of Walton and Texas Ave. across the street from the main entrance.

Corpus Christi - at 6 PM in front of Incarnate Word Convent at 2910 Alameda Street

Dallas - 5:30 pm, at the SMU Women's Center, 3116 Fondren Drive

Houston - call Burnham Terrell, 713/921-0948 for location.

Lewisville - St. Philip the Apostle Catholic Church, 1897 W. Main Street. Peace & Justice Ministry conducts Vigils of Witness Against Capital Punishment at 6:00 pm on the day executions are scheduled in Texas.

McKinney - St. Gabriel the Archangel Catholic Community located at 110 St. Gabriel Way. We gather the last Saturday of the month between 6:00 to 6:30 to pray for those men/women scheduled to be executed in the next month and to remember the victims, their families, and all lives touched, including us as a society.

San Antonio (Site 1) - Archdiocese of San Antonio, in the St. Joseph Chapel at the Chancery, 2718 W. Woodlawn Ave. (1 mile east of Bandera Rd.) at 11:30 a.m. on the day of execution. Broadcast on Catholic Television of San Antonio (Time-Warner cable channel 15) at 12:30 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. on the day of execution.

San Antonio (Site 2) - Main Plaza across from Bexar County Courthouse and San Fernando Cathedral - Noon

Spring - Prayer Vigil at 6 PM on evenings of executions at St Edward Catholic
Community, 2601 Spring Stuebner Rd for the murder victim, for family
and friends of the murder victim, the prison guards and correctional officers, for the family of the condemn man/woman, for the man/woman to be executed and to an end to the death penalty.

See more on Carlton Turner below just under Paul House info...

DNA could stop Paul House retrial

Prosecutor awaits FBI test results
Paul Gregory House

Call Governor Phil Bredesen at (615) 741-2001 and ask him to grant a full pardon to Paul House. ( The phone receptionist was unusually sympathetic--do call right away! )

BY JENNIFER BROOKS • STAFF WRITER • JULY 10, 2008

The prosecutor who put Paul House on death row once and planned a
second trial to try to keep him imprisoned for life now says he might
drop the case if the evidence doesn't back him up.

Eighth Judicial District Attorney William Paul Phillips, who is
prosecuting House for the 1985 killing of Carolyn Muncey, told The
Associated Press on Wednesday that he might drop the charges if
House's DNA is not found on evidence in the case. He said he would
ask a judge to allow the FBI to test a hair found on the victim's hand.

"If it's not his (House's) and not hers and (belongs to) some third
party, then we would have to evaluate that along with all the other
evidence, and we would determine if that raised a reasonable doubt,"
Phillips told the AP. "If at any time that (hair) or any other
evidence raised a reasonable doubt, then we would not prosecute."

DNA evidence was what got House released from prison after nearly 23
years behind bars.

The U.S. Supreme Court in 2006 concluded that House would not have
been convicted based on the DNA evidence that emerged years after his
trial. A federal judge ordered prosecutors to retry House within 180
days or free him. House was released last week pending an October
retrial.

House's mother, Joyce House, does not see Phillips' announcement as a
sign that he has changed his mind about her son's guilt.

"I don't trust the guy. He's got something up his sleeve," she said
in a telephone interview from her home in Crossville, Tenn., where
her son is staying. "I don't think he's ever going to give up — he's
got his teeth sunk so deep into it."

As for Phillips' declaration that he would not prosecute without DNA
evidence, she said, "Well, I would hope not."

Phillips, who prosecuted the original case against House, began
making plans for a new trial before House had even been released from
jail.

"I'm looking forward to giving him a new trial," he told The
Tennessean in May. "I am confident we will be ready within 180 days."

Stacy Rector, executive director of the Tennessee Coalition to
Abolish State Killing, believes the high court's ruling should have
ended Phillips' role in the case.

"I think that would be the just and responsible thing to do, to not
waste any more time or taxpayer money on a trial. The U.S. Supreme
Court has already said no reasonable juror would lack reasonable
doubt in this case, given the evidence," she said. "This trial
completely flies in the face of that. There is, to my knowledge, no
new evidence the prosecution would provide."

Rape Ruled Out

DNA testing has already proved that House did not rape Muncey, and
the blood found on his jeans came from samples spilled on them
afterward during the investigation.

"I continue to be baffled why the prosecutor wants to continue to
pursue this, given the court rulings and the evidence," Rector said.
"This has gone on far, far too long for everybody. It needs to be
concluded. The evidence is on the side of Paul House that he didn't
commit this crime. That's not just my opinion, but that of the
Supreme Court, the highest court in the land."

Lawyer Prepares

House's assistant public defender, Dale Potter, told the AP he is
proceeding with House's case as if it will begin in the fall as planned.

"If he (Phillips) decides to drop the charges, I don't think there
will be anybody screaming 'don't do it,' " Potter said. "If you're a
DA and you send off things to the crime lab and you're needing
certain test results and they don't come back showing what you need,
it's a whole lot less you have in your hands for proof, and this case
is already short on proof."

Phillips said the FBI is testing fingernail clippings from the victim
and cigarette butts submitted in House's first trial in 1985 to
determine if any DNA can be obtained.

Phillips said there was no scientific analysis available to be
performed on the items at the time of the original trial.

Phillips said he doesn't know when he will get DNA results back from
the FBI for the cigarette butts and fingernail clippings, but he
thinks they could get the hair results in a matter of weeks.

"We're getting ready for trial actively now, and this (DNA testing)
is part of it. We're trying to be very thorough. If the team of our
staff members determines at any time that in their professional
judgment there's reasonable doubt then we would not go forward."

Meanwhile, Joyce House said her son continues to enjoy his first
summer of freedom in two decades.

"He's doing great, he's just fine," she said. "We're both taking this
one day at a time."

The Associated Press and Tennessean reporters Brad Schrade and Chris
Echegaray contributed to this report. Contact Jennifer Brooks at
259-8892 or jabrooks@tennessean.com.

tennessean.com

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

JULY 10th Will Carlton Turner be killed? Texas

On July 10, Carlton Akee Turner is scheduled to be put to death in Texas for the murder of his adoptive parents when he was 19 years old. But a majority of the victims’ relatives are speaking out against the execution. Victim Tonya Carlton's brother, Kelly Johnson, wrote in a petition to the Board of Pardons and Paroles, “I do not wish to see my sister’s only child executed. I believe in my heart that my sister would only have wanted Akee to receive the help that he needed to restore his mind to a sound state.” Tonya’s first cousin and close friend Krishell Colemen said, “I don’t think Carlton [the defendant] should be executed. I don’t want him to be executed. Now that I know more of the details that led to the murders, I realize that he needs help. Killing him is just another murder. Nothing is going to bring my cousin back. Killing him will just hurt our family again, the way Tonya and Carlton’s murders did.”

The clemency also cited Governor Rick Perry’s statement that Texas can “never forget the impact felt by crime victims” while reminding the Board that the "vast majority" of the victims’ family members don’t want to see the couple’s son executed. “Executions are held out as a talisman that will provide the victim with closure,” said the petition. “This belief serves in part as a rationale for executions. But, in Mr. Turner’s case, an ‘eye for an eye’ truly does leave a family blind, twice robbed of their own.”

The petition also pointed out that Turner was convicted by an all-white jury, with no black citizens even making it to the voir dire phase of selection. The petition argued, “The capital prosecution of an African American man by an all white jury from a jurisdiction [Dallas County] with such an extensive record of discrimination in exactly that arena should cause doubts in the first instance.”
(B. Sanders, "Sanders: Another Troubling Dallas Case," Star Telegram, July 6, 2008). See Victims and Race.

Help Corpus Christi City Council, Texas

Please go to this website and register your "substance" view on the death penalty in Texas on Jim Lago's poll. I did not hear the program, but it was most critical and scathing from what I hear from others...please put this in search engine...

1360 Lago News Radio KKTX Corpus Christi

Below is the lead into the poll: Remember the group that came before City Council to get a resolution passed condemning the War? Well, Yesterday a new group surfaced, they want Council to pass a resolution condemning the Death Penalty. Several wanted it to extend to the entire Nation. Others were content with just a State condemnation...

Quite a few people got up and spoke. And, two council members patted them on the back and told them they were right.

Am I the only person in the room who thinks this is another one of those symbolism over substance issues that some members of council just love to warm their feet in?
I know if I were the Governor, in some back room of the Capitol building getting the gray in my hair covered up and getting it blown dry just right, why I'd be shaking in my boots if one of my aides brought me the news that the Corpus Christi City Council and a few well meaning citizens were condemning the death penalty.

The resolution may be read there:
http://www.tcadp.org/uploads/File/corpus%20moratorium%20resolution.doc

Please also visit the website of the Texas Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty

Monday, July 07, 2008

"The Right Thing To Do"?

Former Florida State Prison Warden Speaks Out

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Bill Pelke/Others Recently Interviewed at US SC

Don't Execute Bin Laden, Say Activists at Supreme Court
By Nicholas Ballasy CNSNews.com First published July 03, 2008

On the Spot (CNSNews.com) - Members of various activist groups from around the country, under the umbrella of the Abolitionist Action Committee (AAC), gathered at the U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday to protest capital punishment as well as Sens. Barack Obama and John McCain's support for the death penalty.

Some activists said the death penalty should not be imposed against terrorist Osama bin Laden or, in retrospect, against dictator Adolf Hitler.

According to the group's official Web site, the AAC is "an ad-hoc group of individuals committed to highly visible and effective public education for alternatives to the death penalty through nonviolent direct action."

The site also says nine people were arrested during last year's protest for refusing to put down a 30-foot banner that read "STOP EXECUTIONS!" on the stairs of the Court. The Court's security arrested all nine members and put them in jail for more than 30 hours before they were released by a Superior Court judge.

Cybercast News Service interviewed some of the activists. They were asked about McCain and Obama's support of the death penalty; if Osama Bin Laden, the mastermind of the 9/11 attacks should be given the death penalty if captured; and if dictator Adolf Hitler should have been given the death penalty.

Cybercast News Service interviewed Bill Pelke, whose grandmother was murdered. Her killer was given the death penalty but he said he later had a "change of heart."

Cybercast News Service also spoke to Andre Latallade, who walked from Trenton, New Jersey, on March 31, 2008 -- after the state legislature abolished the death penalty -- to Texas, the U.S. state with the most executions, to protest capital punishment; Scott Langley, who was arrested at last year's protest and said if you wear a shirt with "any kind of political message," you are not able to walk on the steps of the Supreme Court; and Anne Feczko, a member of Amnesty International who hopes that Obama is saying he supports the death penalty only because it is "politically inconvenient" to say otherwise.

Make media inquiries or request an interview about this article.
Copyright 1998-2006 Cybercast News Service

Saturday, July 05, 2008

Will DNA clear Bower in Texas? Issues: Man's Life, Costs Don't Apply to Prevention, Family Suffering is Multiplied

Lester Leroy Bower in an undated photo provided by the Grayson County District Clerk's office, Wednesday, July 2, 2008, in Sherman, Texas. In 1984--three months after four bodies were found shot execution-style in an airplane hangar on the B&B Ranch north of Dallas--Bower, a chemical salesman, was charged with capital murder.(AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)

Bower hopes DNA test will clear him. State district judge stopped scheduled July 22 execution to consider evidence not available in 1984.

Excerpt from article: Bower's fingerprints were not found at the scene. No witnesses saw him there. No murder weapon was recovered. Bower didn't confessed. And DNA testing wasn't available in 1984.

Regardless of facts and outcome--is this the way our US justice system should work? How might state funds for justice and crime prevention be used more wisely?

Although this information needs updating, this estimate, evidently, still stands: Texas death penalty cases cost about three times the cost of imprisoning someone in a single cell at the highest security level for 40 years. ("Executions Cost Texas Millions," Dallas Morning News, March 8, 1992) Add to this stat the years involved in seeking the facts in Bower's case.

Texas death row inmate hopes DNA test will clear him
State district judge stops scheduled July 22 execution to consider evidence not available in 1984.

By Michael Graczyk
ASSOCIATED PRESS
Sunday, July 06, 2008

SHERMAN — Three months after four people were found shot to death in an airplane hangar on the B&B Ranch north of Dallas, chemical salesman Lester Leroy Bower Jr. was charged with capital murder.

Four months later, a Grayson County jury deliberated two hours before convicting him. It took them only another two hours the next day to decide he should die for the crime.

Bower's fingerprints were not found at the scene. No witnesses saw him there. No murder weapon was recovered. Bower didn't confessed. And DNA testing wasn't available in 1984.

Now a state district judge has stopped a scheduled July 22 execution for Bower and has agreed to consider his request that evidence in the case be examined to see whether DNA testing could back up his quarter-century-long claims of innocence.

Prosecutors, who say the testing is a delaying tactic, said the salesman with a long marriage, two daughters and no record of criminal activity or mental-health problems just snapped. It happens, they said.

Bower's behavior had made investigators suspicious, officials say. He had lied to his wife, and authorities, about his efforts to buy an ultralight plane. He sold firearms on the side, including the kind that carried the ammunition used to kill the men.

Yet if mass murderers fit a profile, Bower stands out: Texas A&M University graduate, good job, family man, father of two daughters, soccer dad, stable marriage, no mental disabilities, no history of childhood abuse, no previous criminal record.

"Does this really sound like something I would do?" Bower, now 60, said recently from Texas death row.

Yes, it does, prosecutors say.

"There is no question in my mind that Bower is guilty," said Ronald Sievert, a federal prosecutor named as a special prosecutor to assist in Bower's trial.

Sievert is now a professor of national security law at the University of Texas Law School and the Bush School of Government at Texas A&M. He and Grayson County District Attorney Stephen Davidchik, who has since died, built a circumstantial case surrounding Bower's purchase from Grayson sheriff's Deputy Philip Good, 29, of an ultralight airplane stored at the hangar owned by building contractor Bob Tate, 51.

Tate, Good, Jerry Brown, 52, a Sherman interior designer, and Ronald Mayes, 39, a former Sherman police officer, were all killed at the hangar.

"I lied to the FBI about my involvement" in the purchase of the plane, Bower said. "I wish it hadn't happened."

"If you haven't done anything wrong, there's absolutely no reason to lie to the police — ever," said Karla Hackett, an assistant Grayson County district attorney handling the appeals on the case.

Bower said Brown was with Good that Saturday afternoon. They all waited about 15 minutes for Tate to show up with a key to the hangar.

"We got along well," Bower recalled, saying Tate welcomed him to return to use the facilities.

He never saw Mayes, Bower said.

Investigators seized on Bower when Good's phone records showed three calls from Bower charged on his company telephone credit card. Tate had told his wife that he and Good were going to meet someone they believed wanted to buy their plane.

A search of Bower's home turned up parts of Tate's ultralight aircraft missing from the hangar.

Questions about his conviction were raised in 1989 when a woman reading a newspaper article about an appeal filed in Bower's case called one of Bower's attorneys to say her ex-boyfriend and three of his friends were responsible for the slayings, the result of a drug deal gone bad. She said she didn't know anyone had been convicted of the murders.The identity of the woman, who signed a sworn affidavit, and the names of the four men she implicated for the slayings, identified in court filings as Rocky, Ches, Lynn and Bear, have been sealed by court order.

Hackett said the woman who called Bower's lawyers has her own credibility issues and the appeal, sent to the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, should be rejected.

Bower's attorneys point to FBI reports that initially suggested the four slayings possibly were drug or gambling related.

Bower's lawyers also question whether he could have driven the 135 miles from the hangar to his house in less than two hours. His wife testified he was home by 6:30 p.m. The killings occurred between 4:30 and 6:30 p.m.

In their DNA request, to be reviewed July 17, Bower's lawyers want to see whether substances on items removed from the crime scene match DNA of any of the four men they claim are the real killers.

"I'm hoping somebody will take a look at it and say there seems to be enough to bring the verdict into question and there is a likelihood this is a miscarriage of justice," Bower said. "That's probably the best I can hope for."
~~~
Article from The Statesman Sunday 12:56 PM ET

what families go through


And why closure is a misnomer...

"Yet (daughter) Murphy said the new evidence has raised questions in her mind about whether the right man was convicted." EXCERPT from article below...

Posted on Thu, Jul. 03, 2008 in The Star-Telegram
Judge stays Arlington man's execution, plans hearings

BY TIM MADIGAN
tmadigan@star-telegram.com

A state judge in Sherman has postponed the July 22 execution date of
Lester Leroy Bower Jr. and plans to hold hearings that could involve
the Arlington man’s claims of innocence.

Bower’s stay of execution, signed late Monday by Judge Jim Fallon,
was the latest twist in a case that began nearly a quarter-century
ago when four men were found shot to death inside an airplane hangar
near Sherman. In 1984, Bower was convicted and sent to Texas’ Death
Row, where he has survived five execution dates during a lengthy
appellate process.

Prosecutors contended at his trial that Bower, now 60, killed Bob
Tate, Ronald Mayes, Jerry Mack Brown and Philip Good during the theft
of an ultralight aircraft. But defense lawyers have uncovered
witnesses who allege that other men were the killers and that the
massacre occurred during a drug deal gone bad.

"My reaction is mixed," Shari Bower, the condemned man’s wife, said
Wednesday of the stay. "We’ve been doing this for 24 years. By the
same token, this is what we’ve been praying for, to get back into
court and have someone look at the evidence. Now our prayers are
going to go out that this judge will see the validity of all this."

News of Bower’s stay also inspired complicated emotions among
survivors of the victims, including Lorna Mayes Murphy, the only
daughter of Ronald Mayes. Murphy was 13 when her father was slain and
named her first child after him.

"You learn to live with that over the years," she said Wednesday of
her grief. "You don’t hear about it. You don’t talk about it. But
now, when it comes back, this sadness, this sense of loss, it’s like
losing him all over again.  . . .There has to be some closure
for the families."

Yet Murphy said the new evidence has raised questions in her mind
about whether the right man was convicted.

"I want to believe they’ve found the man who did this. I want to
believe it was Bower," Murphy said. "I can’t help it when they’re
starting to bring other evidence up. Did they get the right person?
And if they didn’t, they need to find the right person. I just want
it to be right. I want it to be done and be over."

Mayes’ widow and Murphy’s stepmother, Paula Mayes, said Wednesday
she has no doubt that Bower is the killer. Bower’s stay was another
devastating setback in her ongoing attempts to heal, she said.

"I mean, there is enough evidence against him that it would almost
convince people there was an eyewitness," Paula Mayes said. "To me,
he [Bower] is the scum of the earth. I have forgiven him and tried to
move on, but he keeps weaseling his way back into my life and I think
it’s wrong. This has been going on for 25 years and it’s all about
his rights. What about our rights?"

The case

From the time of his arrest, Bower, a family man and chemical
salesman, has denied involvement in the killings. He has acknowledged
visiting the hangar the afternoon of the crimes to buy an ultralight
aircraft from Tate. But when first questioned by investigators, Bower
repeatedly denied making the trip to the hangar, fabrications that
likely played a large role in his conviction. He was arrested when
parts of the ultralight belonging to Tate were found in his Arlington
residence. Bower was also known to have the same kind of weapon and
exotic ammunition that was used in the massacre.

But six years after the killings, a witness came forward to tell
defense lawyers that her then-boyfriend talked about participating in
the killings and mentioned three accomplices. The wife of one of the
other alternative suspects recently told defense investigators that
she overheard similar discussions about the slayings. Lawyers for
Bower say they have confirmed several other key aspects of the new
scenario. The names of the witnesses and suspects have been kept
under court seal.

In recent motions, Bower’s lawyers have asked Fallon to allow new
DNA analysis of hair and cigarette butts found at the crime scene.
The defense hopes that the testing might link one of the other
suspects to the crime. Citing the new evidence, Bower has also asked
Fallon to set aside his conviction and death sentence. The judge
could consider both requests during hearings in the next few weeks.

"We do very much appreciate an opportunity to present those issues
when the parties and the court are not operating under the emotional
pressure that comes with an imminent execution date," defense lawyer
Anthony Roth said.

Did they get the right person? And if they didn’t, they need to find
the right person. I just want it to be right. I want it to be done
and be over."

Lorna Mayes Murphy,
the only daughter of Ronald Mayes

TIM MADIGAN, writer 817-390-7544

Friday, July 04, 2008

On Behalf of Edward Chapman: NC

Below is a letter on behalf of Edward Chapman to Governor Easley. Please feel free to copy, paste, print, mail, and/or e-mail this letter to other groups, churches and individuals. We are trying to mount a ... letter-writing campaign urging Easley to take this important step before he leaves office. Easley's e-mail address is : governor.office@ncmail.net.

Thanks,
Alex Cury

Governor Mike Easley
Office of the Governor
20301 Mail Service Center
Raleigh, NC 27699-0301

Re. Pardon of Innocence for Glen Edward Chapman

Dear Governor Easley:

Glen Edward Chapman was released from Death Row on April 2 of this year after being incarcerated for over 15 years for crimes he did not commit. This case is about a man who was very nearly sent to his death because police detectives lied at trial, covered up the existence of a confession by the real killer, buried the results of a photo lineup in which someone else was positively identified, hid witness statements that pointed to the innocence of Mr. Chapman and the guilt of another man, and altered other witness statements to make them better fit the officers’ theory of guilt. Those fabricated statements were disclosed to the defense lawyers to throw them off the track. It is a case of official corruption that exposes striking frailties in our system of justice. The police misconduct was compounded by the complete ineptness of the lawyers assigned to defend Chapman at his trial, as well as by other flaws, including forensic medical evidence demonstrating that one of the two murder victims was not a homicide victim at all. I am very concerned that our criminal justice system lacks meaningful safeguards against the possibility that the truth-finding process will be perverted by unscrupulous officers bent on justifying an arrest, even when the result is to send an innocent man to his death in the execution chamber.

The court found that the officers had lied and concealed evidence, vacated the conviction and granted a new trial. The charges were eventually dismissed and Mr. Chapman was released after many long years on Death Row for crimes he did not commit.

I urge you to award Mr. Chapman an immediate Pardon of Innocence upon the grounds that Mr. Chapman did not commit the crimes for which he was convicted so that he may receive the appropriate compensation from the State of North Carolina for his unjust and unlawful incarceration per N.C.G.S.A. § 148-82-84.

Thank you for your attention to this matter.

Very truly yours,