Sunday, November 30, 2008

Saturday, November 29, 2008

North Carolina: Justice Obstructed

Regarding your Nov. 18 article "Correction officials, doctors set to argue:"

The group that licenses and sanctions physicians has challenged the state concerning a doctor's participation in the lethal injection process. For those who weren't there, both parties agreed that the state statutes require a doctor's presence at all executions.

I recently witnessed arguments made in the Justice Building in Raleigh that reduced the N.C. Medical Board's case against the N.C. Department of Correction concerning a doctor's role in executions to a disagreement over the word "present." Lawyers (for the doctors) meant to suggest that "present" the way that it is used by students during roll call should mean only "here" while failing to acknowledge that, as long as a student is in the classroom, behaviors such as not paying attention or sleeping are not usually tolerated. I submit that once you enter a classroom, there is also a shared expectation (between teachers and students) that each will respond or be available for the tasks at hand (participate).

2 years have passed since the last execution of a capital murderer in North Carolina. Justice remains obstructed. The courts have decided little. In the meantime or until this matter is settled, so much for public safety -- and for justice.

Wayne Uber----Chapel Hill

(source: Letter to the Editor, News & Observer)

Jamaica Vote Backs Death Penalty

Excerpt from article: "Opposition politician DK Duncan warned that the measure could lead to further violence, similar to what happened in the 1970s when the government authorised police to enter homes without a warrant. 'All that did was allow policemen to kick down people's doors, scare children and destroy lives,' he said, 'It developed a culture of brutality, and we have to take responsibility that Jamaica has come to this.' "

Wednesday, November 26 12:20 pm

Jamaica Vote Backs Death Penalty

Jamaica's parliament has voted to keep the death penalty, which has not been used for 20 years, despite pressure to abolish it.

Recent governments in the Caribbean nation have been reluctant to issue death warrants and the last execution was in 1988.

Human rights groups say the death penalty does not deter crime and called on the government to focus on attacking poverty and reforming the justice system instead.

But there have been demands for executions in the past few months, even by members of the clergy, after a young girl was beheaded and an 11-year-old boy's dismembered body was found in a rubbish bag.

The ruling Labour Party vowed to address the issue when it came to power 15 months ago.

Jamaica's House of Representatives voted 34-15 in favour of keeping capital punishment, with 10 abstentions.

Prime Minister Bruce Golding pledged to resume executions in response to the country's high murder rate, which has repeatedly been ranked among the worst in the world.

Opposition politician DK Duncan warned that the measure could lead to further violence, similar to what happened in the 1970s when the government authorised police to enter homes without a warrant.

"All that did was allow policemen to kick down people's doors, scare children and destroy lives," he said.

"It developed a culture of brutality, and we have to take responsibility that Jamaica has come to this."

More than 1,240 killings have been reported this year in the island of 3 million people, with a total of 1,400 murders last year.

In comparison, Chicago, a city of about 2.8 million residents, reported 443 murders in 2007.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

American Majority (Still) Endorses the Death Penalty

American Majority Endorses the Death Penalty

Many adults in the United States remain in favour of the death penalty for a person convicted of murder, according to a poll by Gallup released by USA Today. 64 % of respondents agree with this rationale, down 5 points in a year.

Since 1976, 1,135 people have been put to death in the United States, including 22 this year. More than 1/3 of all executions have taken place in the state of Texas. 14 states and the District of Columbia do not engage in capital punishment.

On Nov. 20, the United Nations (UN) Human Rights Committee voted 105-48 to call for a worldwide moratorium on capital punishment. The resolution is not mandatory, and opponents may refuse to implement it by invoking their national sovereignty.

Italy's ambassador to the UN Guilio Terzi declared: "This years increase in the number of votes cast in favour of the resolution reaching the unprecedented figure of 105 shows the growing support among the membership on an issue to which Italy and its European partners attach a great deal of importance."

Polling Data

Are you in favour of the death penalty for a person convicted of murder?

Oct. 2008 Oct. 2007 May 2006

In favour 64% 69% 65%

Opposed 30% 27% 28%

Not sure 6% 4% 7%

(source: Gallup / USA Today)

[Methodology: Telephone interviews to 1,011 American adults, conducted from Oct. 3 to Oct. 5, 2008. Margin of error is 3 %.]

(source: Angus Reid Global Monitor)

Monday, November 24, 2008

Sister Helen Prejean, recipient of the 2008 World Methodist Peace Award

Sister Helen Prejean, recipient of the 2008 World Methodist Peace Award, is congratulated April 2 by the Rev. John Barrett (from left), Bishop William Hutchinson and the Rev. George Freeman. UMNS photos by Betty Backstrom.

Note & Intro (from JOH blogger, Connie): This article is posted here now because we are drawing close to the 60th anniversary of The Declaration of Human Rights (December 10, 2008) so how fitting to remember various awards and groups who have chosen to honor abolitionists during the last year - along with the people they have honored, of course.

Sister Helen is a heroine among us if there ever was one. Many may not have known of this award who have some awareness of Sister Helen's work. If you go to her website, you will find many more. She has been a longtime supporter and participant in The Journey of Hope. Congratulations a little late, Sister Helen - and on all your many other awards and honorary degrees as well!

We also need to be constantly aware and getting out the news about the many church, religious and other groups - often overlooked - who've been coming forth more and more to say no to the death penalty by honoring leaders such as Sister Helen.

Please post any such notices under comments here on the JOH weblog and we will try to highlight them in future posts.
************
Sister Helen Prejean, recipient of the 2008 World Methodist Peace Award
By Betty Backstrom* From April 4, 2008 | NEW ORLEANS (UMNS)

United Methodists "stood by my side at the very beginning," said Sister Helen Prejean as she received the 2008 World Methodist Peace Award.

Prejean, 68, the Catholic nun who has become an international spokesperson against the death penalty, was presented the award April 2 by the Rev. John Barrett, president of the World Methodist Council and an ordained member of the British Methodist Church.

She is the author of Dead Man Walking: an Eyewitness Account of the Death Penalty in the United States, which detailed her relationship with Patrick Sonnier, a convicted killer of two teenagers who was executed in 1984.

Prejean speaks about her efforts to end capital punishment.
Serving as Sonnier’s spiritual advisor, Prejean was present at his execution in Louisiana. "I had never witnessed another person being killed," she recalled. "I came out of the room vomiting. It was then that a mission was born. I realized that most people were never going to see something like this, so the book was written to bear eyewitness."

Prejean spoke of early days when she and others publicly opposed the death penalty. There were marches from New Orleans to Baton Rouge, La., and from Baton Rouge to Angola Prison in Louisiana. "A young Methodist pastor named Tim Lawson was very involved with us during the early '80s," Prejean said.

Serving at the time as chairperson of the Louisiana Conference Board of Church and Society, Lawson was concerned about the death penalty even before he met Prejean. "In 1983, Robert Wayne Williams was the first person executed in Louisiana after the Supreme Court lifted a ban on capital punishment. Although I never met Williams, I just tried to agitate on his behalf for a stay of execution," Lawson said.

Lawson was delighted at Prejean's selection to receive the award. "I can’t think of a better choice," he said.

Before presenting the award, Barrett read from the Gospel of Luke, Chapter 6, reminding the audience of Christ’s command that His followers should love their enemies. "Peace is so much more than the absence of war," he said. "It is about truly living in love. Sister Prejean is doing that by working to bring reconciliation between individuals and the society from which they have become alienated."

International best-seller

Dead Man Walking, nominated for a Pulitzer Prize in 1993, was on the The New York Times Best Seller list for 31 weeks. The book also became an international best seller and has been translated into 10 languages. In 1995, the book was made into a movie starring Susan Sarandon and Sean Penn. Sarandon won an Academy Award for her portrayal of Prejean.

The Rev. George Freeman, the council's chief executive, cited Prejean's "commitment to abolishing the death penalty in the United States, her ministry to inmates and their families, as well as her ministry to the families of victims" as the key factors in presenting her with 2008 award.

Prejean joined the Sisters of St. Joseph of Medaille in 1957 and served as a teacher and religious education director in New Orleans. In 1981, after dedicating her life to the poor and beginning a prison ministry, she began corresponding with Sonnier.

Her second book, The Death of Innocents: An Eyewitness Account of Wrongful Executions, was published in 2004.

Prejean continues to educate the public about capital punishment. She founded Survive, a victims advocacy group in New Orleans, and continues to counsel inmates on death row, as well as the families of murder victims.

The World Methodist Peace Award is presented annually to individuals or groups who have contributed significantly to peace, justice and reconciliation. Among the criteria for the award are courage, creativity and consistency.

The World Methodist Council is a communion of 74 member churches in more than 132 countries reaching nearly 75 million people worldwide.

*Backstrom is the communications director of the United Methodist Louisiana Conference.

News media contact: Linda Bloom, New York, (646) 369-3759 or newsdesk@umcom.org.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Shujaa Graham and Minister Share Stories of Redemption and Forgiveness

Former death row inmate shares story - By David Singleton Pub. Nov 22, 2008

LA PLUME — One is a former death row inmate who shared a story of redemption. The other is the father of a murder victim who recounted a tale of forgiveness.

Together at Keystone College on Thursday, death penalty opponents Shujaa Graham and the Rev. Walter Everett used their personal experiences to challenge conventions of justice in general and capital punishment in particular.

“No one ever has to die to prove that killing is wrong,” said Mr. Graham, 58, of Takoma Park, Md., who spent four years on death row in California’s San Quentin prison before being exonerated in the killing of a prison guard.

The Rev. Everett, 74, a Methodist minister who lives in Lewisburg, said his ability to set aside his anger and not only forgive but embrace his son’s killer showed him reconciliation, not retribution, is the path to healing.

“The death penalty does nothing for the family of victims,” the Rev. Everett said.

The two men spoke to an audience of mostly students and faculty as part of Keystone’s Concerts and Lectures Series. Their presentation, “The Death Penalty: Voices of Experience,” came three weeks after Michael Blakey received life in prison for killing a 7-month-old child when a Lackawanna County jury deadlocked on whether to sentence him to death.

Another capital case looms in the county. Prosecutors have said they will seek the death penalty for Randal Rushing, accused of murdering three people in Scranton in July.

The Rev. Everett recalled his rage after his 24-year-old son, Scott, was murdered in Bridgeport, Conn., in 1987. But when the killer, Mike Carlucci, stood with head bowed at his sentencing and stated, “I’m sorry I killed Scott Everett,” the minister said it was “like God nudged me.”

On the first anniversary of his son’s death, the Rev. Everett wrote a letter to Mr. Carlucci in which he talked about his anger but then included, on the second page, three words that would change both their lives: “I forgive you.”

“Those were the hardest words I have ever written,” the Rev. Everett said.

He would later learn, he said, that Mr. Carlucci cried when he read the letter — no one in his 28 years “had ever said those words to him before — no parents, no teachers, nobody.”

The Rev. Everett later visited Mr. Carlucci in prison and eventually spoke on his behalf when he sought and received an early release from prison. As much as Mr. Carlucci’s life was transformed, the Rev. Everett said his was, too.

“I no longer live with that tremendous anger I lived with before,” he said.

Mr. Graham, who grew up in Louisiana before moving to California as a young teen, had already spent three years in juvenile institutions before he went to prison at 18. In 1973, he and another inmate were accused of killing a guard; three years later, they were convicted and placed on death row.

After their fourth trial on the charges — the first and third had ended in hung juries — they were acquitted, and Mr. Graham was released from prison in 1981. At the time, there were only a handful of exonerated “death row survivors” in the United States; now there are about 130.

“Here I stand wounded by the blows of capital punishment, but not slain,” Mr. Graham said, adding he thinks every day about the death penalty and the years he spent as a condemned man living on borrowed time.

He left the students in the audience with an admonishment to stand up for social justice and human rights, regardless of the career they chose.

“By standing up for social justice and standing up for human rights for all the people, it will make a better doctor, a better teacher and a better lawyer, and when you become a better teacher and a better lawyer, you will make America a finer land for all the people,” he said.

Contact the writer: dsingleton@timesshamrock.com The Times-Tribune dot com
(Find also under left column 'Death Penalty' at Axis of Logic)

First US Military Execution Since 1961 Scheduled for December


The U.S. military has scheduled its first execution since 1961 for December 10. Two decades ago, Pvt. Ronald Gray was convicted in a North Carolina civilian court for two murders and five rapes and was sentenced to three consecutive and five concurrent life terms. Then, the general court-martial panel at Fort Bragg tried and convicted him of the same two murders and three of the rapes and sentenced him to death.

President George W. Bush approved the Army’s request to execute Gray in July. Gray, who has been on the military’s death row at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas since 1988, is scheduled to be executed by lethal injection by Fort Leavenworth soldiers at the Federal Correctional Complex in Terre Haute, Indiana. While the Army has scheduled the execution, there are still important legal issues in the case that have not been fully reviewed.

The last U.S. military execution was in 1961 and the U.S. military hasn’t actively pursued an execution for a military prisoner since President John F. Kennedy commuted a death sentence in 1962. There are currently 9 men on death row.

(CNN, “First military execution since 1961 scheduled next month,” November 20, 2008). See also U.S. Military and Federal Death Row at Death Penalty Information Center (be sure to go often to the links lower right column for an easy click and keep watching Rick Halperin's Death Penalty Information and Updates)

Blogger's Note:

Since, as Kristin Houle does on her "Prevention Not Punishment Site", we abolitionists need to be clearly, consistently seeking and acting for prevention or our work will not get far...

Research Fort Bragg and find plenty of reasons why there are so many similar cases - often hidden - among so many military folk who train there over the years!
(Try Quaker House Fort Bragg and also here:

Here

Also if you do research, you will find - even among some of the military's own stats and training of women that there are an inordinate number of rapes going on in the Iraq war - many of these are US military men on US military women (some leading to deaths attributed to other causes) Also you may find as I have that many US military women die of dehydration for fear of going out at night to get water.(See Marjorie Cohn dot com, Democracy Now! and various search engines)

Friday, November 21, 2008

KRISTIN HOULE Now Executive Director Texas Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty (TCADP)

The Texas Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty is pleased to announce
that Kristin Houle has been selected as the organization's Executive
Director. Kristin was a 2007-2008 Soros Justice Fellow. Her 18-month
fellowship involved conducting public education around the intersection of
the death penalty and severe mental illness in Texas. Previously Kristin
served for five years as the Program Associate for Amnesty International
USA's Program to Abolish the Death Penalty in Washington DC. Kristin
currently serves on the board of The Journey of Hope.

Kristin has been involved with the human rights and anti-death penalty
movements since 1995. She also has held several volunteer leadership
roles with Amnesty International, including Student Area Coordinator and
State Death Penalty Abolition Coordinator for Kentucky, and was active as
a board member and local chapter leader for the Kentucky Coalition to
Abolish the Death Penalty. Kristin is a graduate of the University of
Kentucky. She resides in Austin, Texas.

TCADP is a grassroots, state wide non-profit organization working to end
the use of capital punishment in the state of Texas. This marks the first
time that TCADP has hired someone as an Executive Director. Kristin
begins her duties on December 1, 2008.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Amnesty International Sponsors Photo Exhibition Addressing the DP

Amnesty International is sponsoring a photography exhibition that focuses on the death penalty, a topic the group considers high on its priority list. The exhibition features the work of photographer Scott Langley and runs until Nov. 21 in Belk and Gray Academic Pavilions. Langley is a photojournalist and grassroots human rights activist based in Boston. He has served as an Amnesty International USA State Death Penalty Coordinator since 2004, first in North Carolina and currently in Massachusetts.

He works on a national and international level to end capital punishment and educate others about its effects.

The documentary project showcased in this exhibition, called The Death Penalty Photography Documentary Project, consists of more than 1,000 images that were taken over an 8 year period. According to Langley's Web site, it began as a college art project that required students to creatively address a human rights issue.

It is the largest known collection of photos about the death penalty in the United States. A selection of these photos is being shown at Elon, ranging from photos of the inside of a death chamber to events taking place on the streets.

"It's not a glamorous issue, because it's full of so many legal matters, but it's important that people know about it," said Mary Lyons, coordinator of Elon’s chapter of Amnesty International.

The exhibition has been shown all over the country, as well as in a few European countries, before it made its way to Elon. Amnesty International has exhibited Langley's work at several other universities, including Harvard and Cornell.

Amnesty International strongly opposes capital punishment. Its Web site refers to the death penalty as "the ultimate denial of human rights."

"In the course of this project, I have chosen to simply capture what I have been seeing in my own journey of working against capital punishment," Langley said. "With every rally I have been in, with every execution vigil I have stood with, and with all the incredible people I have met along the way, I increasingly feel the importance to tell these stories and bring the images to those who were unable to see what I saw."

Despite the dark nature of the photographs, Langley views his work as optimistic because he believes they can affect change.

"I just hope it makes people think about it and tests their beliefs on the issue," Lyons said. "We're not trying to change people's minds, just raise awareness that it happens."

Langley has actively worked in opposition to the death penalty since 1999. In 2004, he and his wife co-founded the Raleigh Catholic Worker Hospitality House, where families of death row prisoners can get free shelter, food and support.

Langley travels within and outside of the United States to speak about capital punishment, the work he does to end executions and his photography documentary project.

(source: The Elon Pendulum)

North Carolina: Should Doctors Monitor Executions?

NORTH CAROLINA: Should doctors monitor execution?----High court wants clarification on law

The N.C. Supreme Court dove into the 2-year stalemate on executions Tuesday by asking attorneys to define what legislators meant by requiring a doctor to be present when convicted murderers are put to death.

The debate over the word "present" has created a de facto moratorium on executions in North Carolina.

The legal battle pits the N.C. Medical Board against the Department of Correction, which wants a doctor to make sure lethal injections are properly administered. That, the department says, guards against a violation of the constitutional law against cruel and unusual punishment.

But the medical board contends that lawmakers, in requiring a doctor's presence, only meant that the doctor should certify that an inmate was executed. Taking part in the execution by monitoring an inmate's vital signs would violate a doctor's basic mission to preserve life, the board says.

That has prevented the Department of Correction from finding doctors to monitor executions.

Several justices peppered the attorneys with questions during an hourlong hearing. Associate Justice Edward Thomas Brady quickly challenged Todd Brosius, a lawyer for the medical board, on the legislature's intent in having a doctor present.

"The physicians are trained to save people," Brosius said. "They are not trained to kill people."

"Aren't they trained to detect pain and suffering?" Brady asked.

Brady and other justices also challenged state Assistant Attorney General Joseph Finarelli, who argued that lawmakers meant for doctors to do more than attend and certify death.

The justices noted that state lawmakers had an opportunity to clarify the law with 2 bills filed last year. But the General Assembly did not take up the legislation. Some justices suggested that the legislature, not the courts, should resolve the stalemate. "Why don't we send this right over where it belongs?" Associate Justice Patricia Timmons-Goodson asked.

Finarelli said the court had that option, but he contended the current law supported his position.

The debate swirling around lethal injections helped prompt the stalemate. It is the only method of execution used in North Carolina. Death row defendants have challenged it, saying the three drugs used to sedate, paralyze and kill do not guarantee that those injected do not suffer needlessly.

The U.S. Supreme Court in April upheld Kentucky's lethal injection law. Brosius said that state's law does not require a doctor to be present.

Finarelli said a doctor had been present and had monitored inmates in the previous 20North Carolina executions. But evidence at a state administrative hearing last year suggested the doctor was not in a position to determine how the inmate was reacting to the injection.

That hearing is part of another attack on the state's execution method. Attorneys representing death row inmates say they were improperly refused an opportunity to address the Council of State before it approved the execution protocol. That suit is before Wake County Superior Court Judge Donald Stephens.

At Tuesday's Supreme Court hearing, Brady suggested bringing in a doctor from out of state.

"Texas doesn't seem to have this problem, does it?" Brady asked, prompting some laughter.

The last inmate to be executed was 36-year-old Samuel Flippin on Aug. 18, 2006. He had been convicted of killing his 2-year-old stepdaughter. There are 163 inmates on death row.

The court did not indicate when it would rule on the issue.

(source: News Observer)

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Durham, NC: Circles of Healing Event

18 November 2008

The Capital Restorative Justice Presents:
Circles of Healing: An Exploration of the Spiritual Health of a Community that Executes

As execution dates potentially approach, please join the CRJP for a day of learning, sharing, listening, and moving forward. In the CRJP's fifth annual gathering, we will explore the physical, emotional, and spiritual health of a community in which state-sanctioned killing is a reality. We will:

? Examine what it means to be a person of faith in a retributive-driven society
? Hear stories of forgiveness and healing
? Discuss alternatives to this cycle of violence

When: Saturday, December 6, 2008, 9:00am?2:00 pm

Location:Duke Memorial United Methodist Church, 504 W. Chapel Hill Street, Durham, NC 27701

Cost:Pre-registration (by Nov. 20th) $15.00. After Nov. 20th cost is $25.00 (scholarships available). Lunch will be provided.

Contact: Please mail registration below to The CRJP, 800 Watts St. Durham, NC 27701. Please see our website for more information or to register online: www.capitalrestorativejustice.org

Please send checks to: The CRJP, 800 Watts St., Durham, NC 27701

Include your name, phone number, address, email, and special dietary needs (lunch will be provided).

If you are unable to attend, you may still send a tax-deductible donation to the CRJP.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

UPDATED: George White of the JOH to speak in Modena Italy on November 23rd

FIND MORE DETAILS (from Katia) at the end of this post!

Please get out the word on this event sent by Katia Rabacchi to all your contacts in Europe - especially Italy - and other folk as well:

(There is an event) against the death penalty that we will hold on November 23rd in Modena, Italy. We'll start with a conference at 6 pm where George White of the Journey of Hope will speak about his own experience of being a victim family member who opposes the death penalty and at the same time a man who was wrongfully accused of murder.

After the conference we'll have a night full of music, dance and art!!!

During the event, money will be raised to finance the "Tei-Jay Foundation" project: an organization that wants to help the children with imprisoned parents and ghetto kids, to give them a chance for a better life.

Please spread the word and...we'll wait for you (if you can be present!).

Love and peace,
Katia

PS For more information, Please send your question/request to:
"katia rabacchi" drmoonkey@yahoo.it
*******
NOTE: This even by Katia is raising funds for an oft forgotten need! May many other groups follow suit around the US and the World!

UPDATE:

Hello Connie,

the event will be held at La Tenda in Modena, Italy. it will be n event specifically against the death penalty and to educate people on this topic that many times is seen as something so far in Italy.
Everything will start at 6 pm with the conference. Multimedial tools will be used for the conference to not be too ordinary. Music, pictures and videos will lead the public into death row reality and will serve as introduction to our guest. We will hear the testimony of George White from the Journey of Hope...a man that not only is a victim family member (he lost his wife due to murder) but he also knows what it means to be on the other side of the walls (he was wrongfully accused of his wife's slaying).

After the conference, the event will go on with concerts by local bands (Padre Gutierrez, Flexus and SuperSonicDeadMonkeys) and performances by 2 dance crews: BlakSoulz Dance Crew and Capital Punishment crew.
All the artists will perform for free to support the cause and help spreading a message of non-violence.

During the event, a fundraising will be set up. All the funds will be devolved to the Tei-Jay Foundation project in Texas. The purpose of the Foundation is to provide ghetto kids and kids with imprisoned parents all the necessary tools (especially school supplies, uniforms, school books) to have a better chance in life.

----
hope this is good!!
Katia

Nebraska: Six People Recently Exonerated for One Crime!

I know it may sound like a broken record at this point, but innocence remains front and center in the death-penalty debate. The latest news comes from Nebraska, where six people were recently exonerated for one crime. It was a non-death penalty case, but there's little doubt the case will be inextricably linked to Nebraska's eventual abolition of capital punishment, as the following editorial in the Lincoln Journal Star clearly illustrates.
-Kurt

Death penalty distorted Beatrice case
Thursday, Nov 13, 2008

The exoneration of six people who had been convicted for the murder of a Beatrice woman is a shocking example of the justice system going awry. The wrongful convictions show how the death penalty can distort the search for justice. The case boggles the mind.

How could the complicated and detailed scenario presented in court testimony turn out to be complete fiction?

One reason is the police interrogation methods used at the time. Investigators supplied suspects suggestions on what could have happened. They showed photos of the crime scene. Under pressure, suspects offered the stories authorities wanted.

And how was that pressure exerted? By threatening the death penalty.

Four defendants were bullied into confessions when authorities threatened them with the electric chair, according to Attorney General Jon Bruning. Their testimony was used to convict Joseph Edgar White of first-degree murder. The other five pleaded guilty or no contest to lesser charges.

Advances in DNA analysis now show the prosecution's case was entirely fabricated. In the first step, the DNA evidence showed no link between the defendants and the crime. In the second, conclusive step, the DNA evidence proved who had actually committed the crime in 1985.

That turned out to be Bruce Allen Smith, who died of AIDS in 1992 in Oklahoma City. He had been a suspect early in the case, but authorities turned their attention elsewhere after he was apparently cleared by a blood test done by Oklahoma forensic specialist Joyce Gilchrist.

There's now reason to suspect the accuracy of that blood test. Gilchrist was fired after allegations of incompetence and untruthfulness. A federal appeals court reversed a death sentence, finding that Gilchrist had provided evidence that she "knew was rendered false and misleading by evidence withheld from the defense."

The circumstances of the Beatrice case ought to shake the faith of the most hardened defender of the death penalty. The death penalty was never imposed in the case, but it played a role in sending six people to prison. An error here, overzealousness there, and before anyone can stop it, the defendants are behind bars, out of sight and out of mind.

For decades, no one questioned the convictions. Then the case unraveled quickly and unequivocally, exposing the imperfection and error that will forever impair any criminal justice system operated by humans.

The next time Nebraska lawmakers once again consider whether to retain the death penalty, they should study this case. The evidence is fresh and convincing. The death penalty should be abolished.
--
_____________________
Kurt Rosenberg, Director
Witness to Innocence
P.O. Box 34725
Philadelphia, PA 19101
Tel. 215-387-1831
Fax 215-386-7288
witnesstoinnocence@gmail.com
www.witnesstoinnocence.org

Sunday, November 16, 2008

TEXAS: Dallas County district attorney reconciles opposition to death penalty with the law (UPDATED)

Posted on Sun, Nov. 16, 2008

Star-Telegram
Dallas County District Attorney Craig Watkins created a conviction integrity unit. He invited law students into his office to help probe for wrongful convictions. And there is at least one other way Watkins differs from most other prosecutors: He is personally opposed to capital punishment. In recent interviews, Watkins discussed those feelings and how he reconciles them with Texas law and the policies of his office.

Q: Why are you opposed to capital punishment?

I’m a human being, and as a human being, I will not kill anybody. I don’t want to use my position to take a life, even though you may go out and do a heinous crime. I may be even worse than you because I have the full weight of the government behind me. For me to use the full weight of the government to do the same thing that you did, is that justifiable?

We just agreed to seek the death penalty against a guy that raped a 3-year-old girl and strangled her and left her under a bed. When I see that, the human side of me says, "Yeah, that guy should be killed." But then the government is the supreme being, right? You’re in a supreme position. You’re higher than human existence and you should carry yourself as such.

Q: Given your feelings, when your office seeks the death penalty, do you personally sign off on that?

Professionally that’s something I have to do...for the citizens I represent...It’s the law and I have to implement it. I can’t let my personal views get in the way of what the public wants.

Q: Will your feelings about the death penalty ever affect the policy of your office?

I would like to think that I have the courage to stand up and say no [to capital punishment]. But I’m not at that point. I don’t know if I ever will be. It’s so early in my career as DA. I don’t have any seniority. I don’t have any credibility.  ...That might be a fight that I should fight, but at this point it’s too early.

Q: Do decisions on capital cases cause you any sleepless nights?

All the time. Not just the ones that I make the decision on. Every time I read in the newspaper that someone is going to the death chamber, I don’t sleep...They just did one last week with one of the Texas Seven. I pay attention to that. That’s something I struggle with, even though the person did something really bad.

Q: Are you concerned your position on capital punishment will hurt you politically?

I think it will, obviously. I can foresee the attacks that will come my way. But at the end of the day, the public wants honesty and openness. The fact that I am publicly trying to come to a conclusion on this is good for the system, and it’s good for politics. I don’t think politicians are honest enough. — Tim Madigan

********************
UPDATE: since there've been so many executions in Texas, I decided to place this list here. This is bare-bones info as the calls & fax may be the most effective way to act this late into the winter months? Yet, for more info contact abe at ncadp dot org (get on the toll-bells list for ongoing info & the longer schedulre)- also go to Rick Halperin's Death Penalty News and Updates site (see lower right column on the the JOH weblog) There are many other groups doing these kind of updates regularly and we can't keep up with them here - nor is there any need for us to "reinvent" the wheel...still there are simply such a ghastly number of state killings that we need to go ahead and post these...Thanx Abe Bonowitz, Rick Halperin and all the other groups for keeping us posted! If there is no contact info for the state, simply get the appropriate number for the Governor's Public phone and fax line.

NOVEMBER
18 - Texas
7:00 PM EST
Eric Cathey is scheduled to be killed by the people of Texas in
revenge for the murder of Christina Castillo.

19 - Texas
7:00 PM EST
Rogelio Cannaday is scheduled to be killed by the people of Texas in
revenge for the murder of Leovigildo Bonal.

19 - Ohio
10:00 AM EST
Gregory Bryant-Bey is scheduled to be killed by the people of Ohio in
revenge for the murder of Dale Pinkelman.

20 - Texas
7:00 PM EST
Robert Hudson is scheduled to be killed by the people of Texas in
revenge for the murder of an individual to be named in the next
update.

21 Kentucky
Marco Chapman is scheduled to have his suicide assisted by the people
of Kentucky in revenge for the murders of Chelbi and Cody Sharon.

DECEMBER

3 - Washington
Darold Stenson is scheduled to be killed by the people of Washington
in revenge for the murder of Frank Hoerner.

8 - Louisiana
7:00 PM EST
Antoinette Frank is scheduled to be killed by the people of Louisiana
in revenge for the murders of Officer Ronald A. Williams II, and Ha
and Cuong Vu.

CONTACT:

OHIO
Governor Ted Strickland
Governor's Office
Riffe Center, 30th Floor
77 South High Street
Columbus, OH 43215-6108
USA
Phone/General Info: (614) 466-3555
Fax: (614) 466-9354

TEXAS:
Governor Rick Perry
Office of the Governor
P.O. Box 12428
Austin, Texas 78711-2428
USA
Phone:
Citizen's Opinion Hotline: (800) 252-9600 [for Texas callers]
Information and Referral and Opinion Hotline: (512) 463-1782 [for
Austin, Texas and out-of-state callers]
Office of the Governor Main Switchboard: (512) 463-2000 [office hours
are 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. CST]
Fax: (512) 463-1849

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Updated Actions from Amnesty I-USA: Troy Davis and Others

After consulting again with Troy Davis' legal team and family, the folk at Amnesty have evidently posted this as the current updated action at the Amnesty Action Center. (please keep coming back in case there is any more updating.) For Troy go
Here

Also go here for other actions with goal of stopping other executions:
Here

Here's the recommended strategy from Brian at Amnesty I/USA for any who plan to act to help save Troy's life:

The new target is Governor Perdue, whom we believe does have the power to commute Troy's sentence (though not to grant him a pardon or parole). Briefly, according to the Georgia Constitution, the State Board of Pardons and Paroles does not have "exclusive" authority to commute sentences in death penalty cases. After the Georgia Constitution was ratified, the Georgia Legislature divested the Governor of the power to grant pardons or paroles, but it has never divested the Governor of the power to commute sentences, including death sentences. Based on this, and on the fact the the Board of Pardons and Paroles has rather definitively stated that it will not reverse its decision to deny clemency, we believe that sending appeals to the Governor is a more effective approach; of course, while the case remains in the courts, we won't be pursuing this action too aggressively.

Right now (Tuesday, Nov. 11) Troy's attorneys have filed their brief with the 11th Circuit arguing why he should be allowed to filed a second habeas petition with the federal district court. The state of Georgia was given up to 10 calendar days to respond, so anytime between now and November 20 the state's brief will be filed. Then the Court will decide whether or not to grant Troy his permission. We don't know whether that decision will happen quickly (within days), or slowly (months). Should Troy's appeal for permission be rejected, the state would probably move to set another execution date, though we believe it would be unlikely that they would try to schedule something too close to the Christmas holidays ... if Troy's petition is accepted, a new federal habeas process would begin which would likely take months or years to complete ... In that case, we would of course stop any actions calling for clemency or commutation.

That's the latest, and we will keep you posted as things develop ... Thank you so much for all the great work you all are doing, and please forward to all who might be interested,

Brian Evans
Amnesty International USA
202-544-0200 x 496

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Forgiveness: Breaking the cycle (Forgiveness Breakfast at Sacred Heart)

A victim family member and one of three speakers at the forgiveness breakfast (A great idea for a venue, eh?)

Forgiveness: Breaking the cycle By CLAUDIA BAYLISS South Bend Tribune Staff Writer published (or republished?) Nov 12, 2008 (See the Journey of Hope connection with this one!)

SOUTH BEND--More than 100 people in our community responded to Dismas House’s invitation to attend its Forgiveness Breakfast at Sacred Heart Parish Center.

They listened on Friday to three speakers testify to the power of forgiveness: a chaplain at a maximum security prison, the victim of a violent crime and an ex-felon.

All three told stories in which forgiveness proved as strong as any superhero, able to rescue both perpetrators and victims of crime from wretched lives, and change those lives for the better.

Forgiving offenders

In one story, a “macho” prisoner at Indiana State Prison in Michigan City experienced an epiphany when he realized a real man refuses to surrender to the temptation of violence.

The Rev. David Link, the event’s featured speaker and the dean of the University of Notre Dame’s Law School for 24 years, shared that story. After the death of his wife, he entered a second-career seminary, was ordained a priest and now serves as a chaplain at ISP.

Link spoke first of the essential work of Dismas House in helping reduce the rate of recidivism by offering recently released ex-offenders a place to stay as they transition back into the community. Then he made the case for the power of forgiveness.

In trying to win over his audience, Link elicited laughter when he quipped: “This is a guy who spent most of his life training prosecutors.”

At a time in his life when he should be retired and playing golf, Link said, he decided to plant his feet on new ground — doing “the most justice” by working with people in prison.

Link reminded his audience that, on the cross, “Jesus forgave Dismas for a life that had gone astray.” And He taught those who believed in Him to pray: “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.”

“The absence of forgiveness can bring about acts of revenge, violence, terrorism and war,” Link said. Forgiveness, however, can help curb them. As an example, he talked about Nelson Mandela — how he chose to respond when he was released after 27 years in prison under apartheid in South Africa.

Some prisoners at ISP, however, find it hard to forgive, Link said. “Even when they know that God has forgiven them, they need to forgive themselves for messing up their own lives and the lives of their families.

“They have to forgive those who abused them — often a father who beat them every day.”

And when bad things continue to happen — for example, the death of a loved one while he is in prison — a prisoner, as one man told Link, thinks of resorting to “the only two words” in his head: “suicide” or “homicide.”

Link’s stories about ISP inmates charted their sometimes barely navigable road to forgiveness. Some have discovered that not forgiving is a dead end and have begun to see that, up ahead, the road to forgiveness merges with the road to rehabilitation.

Link widened the road further when he urged his listeners to get busy forgiving and to think about getting involved with organizations like Dismas.

Journey to hope

At the Forgiveness Breakfast, another story described a daughter so consumed by anger, she lived recklessly for 10 years before seeing in herself a resemblance to her mother’s murderer.

Ruth Andrews, a resident of Cassopolis, told the story of her ongoing journey to forgiveness. Andrews, who comes from a Mennonite family, stepped off the school bus and into “the beginning of hell” in 1969 when she was 16.

The front yard of her home in Dunlap was “covered in cars parked at crazy angles.” It struck her as funny for an instant, the time it took her to realize “something was terribly wrong.”

Her 11-year-old sister had come home from school and found their mom’s body in the hallway — beaten, strangled and shot multiple times. Their mother had been raped and then murdered.

Andrews says her road to forgiveness was rocky and didn’t begin for a long, long time. She felt driven to flirt with death. “I didn’t think I deserved to (live),” she said, “because my mother was a much better person.” When she became pregnant for the first time, and later when she began sharing her story with others, her heart opened to the possibility of healing through forgiveness.

She met a man who had served time for murder, and got to know a woman whose son was on death row.

After joining Journey of Hope, an effort to abolish the death penalty, in 1993, Andrews went, in her words, from being a selfish person capable of cruelty — with no respect for life and the God within her — to a human being able to forgive.

“My biggest step was to forgive myself,” she said.

Each step freed her to push the limits of justice to include forgiveness, for example, as director of the Victim-Offender Reconciliation program in St. Joseph County (Ind.) from 1990-1993.

Today, two of Andrews’ sisters are on the road of forgiveness with her, working their way toward healing.

Making a new life

A nervous young woman who told the last story at the breakfast described herself as a person who has done wild, wicked things. For a time, she was so addicted to drugs, she loved them more than her two small children.

Mary D’Aloisio, who was released from Rockville Correctional Facility for women in December 2006, now lives in Valparaiso, Ind., and hopes to have her children live with her soon.

The road to becoming an accountable, responsible member of society was paved by an “unmerited act of grace,” she said in a more confident voice.

The people at Dismas House forgave her, she said, and then showed her how to live. And what they did for her has rippled outward, helping to heal the wounds of so many others connected to her, D’Aloisio said.

Her son and her daughter.

Her former in-laws who “never quit praying for me, though they thought I was the biggest waste ever.”

The messed-up, drug-addicted woman she counseled, who then was able to hold on.

The people at Dismas who helped her, D’Aloisio said, are all “a part of that.”

A 12-step program and volunteering at Dismas House also are helping her turn her life around, she said.

“The thing about miracles and grace and mercy is that they just keep growing,” D’Aloisio said.

Now she works as a waitress — practicing “a lit bit of forgiveness,” she notes, to the sound of laughter — while preparing to become a professional photographer.

The road best taken

The climax of the stories that the speakers shared last week illustrate a rarely understood truth, one they returned to over and over.

In the end, forgiveness is about healing. And the road to forgiveness that leads to healing is a road that can lead to a reduction in recidivism.Last week’s Forgiveness Breakfast came to an end when Janice Rauch, a current resident of Dismas House, read a poem she had written. Its lines unspooled what she has learned while living there: The love of forgiveness, which compares with God’s love, is the highest form of giving.

And what makes forgiving so special is its power to give people new life.
****
A nonprofit organization founded in 1974, Dismas House supports people recently released from prison or jail by providing transitional housing and needed services. Its staff — along with community volunteers and college students — works to help ex-offenders adjust when they return to the community.

Ex-offenders need support in order to be successful at making significant changes in their lives — and society needs to offer it in order to reduce the rates of recidivism and crime.

Dismas House of Michiana helps by providing room and board, transportation, job referrals, life skills counseling, and drug and alcohol counseling referrals.

At Dismas House’s Forgiveness Breakfast on Nov. 7, Bill Coleman, executive director of Dismas Inc., made an appeal for financial support. It takes $200 to get a resident started with clothes, toiletries, linens and a bus pass to look for a job, he said, and it takes $1,000 just to heat South Bend’s Dismas House in January.

For more information, call Maria Kaczmarek, executive director of Dismas House, 521 S. St. Joseph St., at (574) 233-8522.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Death Row Survivor: Ron Keine (Revealing Media Interview)

Click on "here" then on "Play" & give this video time to load!

To listen to the interview please click here

Also from Ron as of end of September:

As far as I know (Nationally) there are 130 of us (set free) with several pending. There are a few which we know are innocent but the Prosecutors won't drop the case and let them out. We can't count them untill they are free.
Left to Right: Ron Keine, Shujaa Graham, Greg Wilhout and Curtis McCarthy. This great photo of Ron & his brothers was taken at the NCADP conference last January in San Jose.

Here's a quote Ron uses sometimes on his emails:
"I am pleading for a time when hatred and cruelty will not control the hearts of men, when we can learn by reason and judgment and understanding and faith that all life is worth saving, and that mercy is the highest attribute of man.” ----- Clarence Darrow

Please check out the archives on this blog for much more about Ron, his experience during the Montana JOH, items on the new book that features Ron and others as well as many more related item. To find these, please go to the column on the right for archives and lower right for other links such as the one to the JOURNEY OF HOPE website.

Five prisoners executed in Afghanistan (orders signed by president Karzai)

11 November 2008 – The United Nations human rights chief voiced her dismay today after several prisoners were put to death in Afghanistan in recent days and urged the Government to stop any further planned executions.

Five convicted prisoners are known to have been executed – on orders signed by President Hamid Karzai – over the past four days in the country, which had observed a de facto moratorium on the death penalty since 2004.

“While recognizing the severity of the crimes with which these prisoners were charged, I am very concerned that the law enforcement and judicial systems in Afghanistan fall short of internationally accepted standards guaranteeing due process and fair trial,” said UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay.

“Under these circumstances, there is a grave risk that there will be miscarriages of justice and that innocent people may be executed. The serious shortcomings in the police and judiciary have been well documented, and the Government has recognized this and committed itself to reform both branches of law enforcement.”

The latest killings are the first State-implemented executions in Afghanistan since October 2007, when the Government carried out death sentences on 15 prisoners. Two months later, in December 2007, the General Assembly passed a resolution calling for a global moratorium on the death penalty.

Ms. Pillay urged Mr. Karzai “to call a halt to any further executions and to rejoin the growing international consensus for a moratorium on the death penalty.”

She also encouraged the Government to join the other 68 States that have acceded to the Additional Protocol II of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which requires the abolition of the death penalty.

UN News Centre

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Step Out of the Fire and Into the Light

Hatred of anyone -- for any reason -- sets the mind and heart on fire, makes the blood boil, and causes the eyes to see red. In short, in case you don't recognize the signposts for the place they describe, be warned: hatred is hell.

Guy Finley

Blogger's note: yet we know for most folk who have experienced grave violation of their person or the loss through murder of a loved one or family member, this journey away from hatred may be a long process...

People just can't skip the necessary stepping stones in order to eventually arrive at the above enlightened state...

we need each other to take those steps...

Sometimes choices come before the feelings...sometimes the full-fledged feelings of compassion may never come yet we will have that knowing that we have chosen rightly...

Each one's experience is unique while there may well be some recognition - some overlap with the experience of others.

Read the stories on the JOURNEY OF HOPE's Website...and that on other links - see the links on the lower right portion of this weblog and share your own experiences with us so we might pass them on. Use the comments sections below each post or send them to Susanne and me via newlease7@yahoo.com be sure to put FOR THE JOH Weblog in the subject heading.

Thanks so much for tuning in and be sure to come back real often - pass out the word that we are here to at least one other today, will you?

Connie

Death penalty opponents share stories

Shirley Cochran fought back tears as she made her way to the podium.

She was the last of 4 panelists to speak out against the death penalty, but as she said, certainly not the least.

Before a quiet audience Cochran recalled the day she found out her first husband was murdered. She remembers wanting his killer to die.

But years later she would marry her new husband, James Bo Cochran. Her new husband spent 19 years and 4 months on death row before being exonerated for the murder that sent him there.

She remembers wanting him to live.

"The death penalty should not be," Cochran said shaking her head. "I know that if it was someone in your family, you wouldn't want it to happen."

Cochran and a group of death penalty opponents spoke out last week at the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Alabama. It was an open forum, where members of the panel took questions from the audience. The speakers included Cochran's husband and former Tuskegee Police Chief Leon Frazier, a one-time supporter of the death penalty who now opposes it.

Eliminating the death penalty does not mean criminals should not pay for the crimes they commit, just that they do not have to die for it, Cochran said.

" I can understand how people can feel that way. All I could think of was my husband was murdered and that my children don't have a father," she said.

But after giving her life to God, Cochran said she realized revenge wouldn't change anything and she found mercy in herself for the man who killed her husband.

"No one should get away with doing a crime, but when we sentence them to death are we sure? Are we very sure, (they did it)?" she said.

Her husband, James Bo Cochran, was sure he didn't do it, but he said for almost 20 years that didn't make a difference.

"I had no business being there, he said, "I just used to cry and cry and my mom would say put God in your life and take it easy," he said.

James Bo Cochran said he was arrested in 1976 for murder (although) he left a store with nothing more than something to eat. According to a report from Project Hope, an organization that works to abolish the death penalty, Cochran is 1 of 7 men released from (Alabama) death row that authorities found have been wrongfully convicted.

Esther Brown, executive director of Project Hope, said Alabama has the largest per capita death row population nationwide and has sentenced more people to death per capita than any other state.

James Bo Cochran had a number of trials before he was convicted of robbery but not of murder. He maintains he is innocent of that crime, as well.

He said his life changed for the better after he was brought to Christ by another inmate on death row.

James Bo Cochran said he was on death row for such a long time that when he was finally free to go he struggled with his decision to leave.

"When I got ready to go I didn't want to. Those were my brothers," he said about fellow inmates.

Leon Frazier, who came to oppose the death penalty after spiritual self-exploration, said that it is better to let a guilty man go free than to see an innocent person executed, and he believes many innocent people have been executed in Alabama.

"If you kill them, you can't just say 'Oops,'" he said. "I think we should punish them but, 'an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth' is barbaric. The death penalty is not the answer."

Cora Cobb's son, Melvin Hodges, has been on death row for nine years and she is fighting to save his life. She said the jury voted by an 8-4 margin to give Hodges life, but the judge overturned the recommendation and gave him the death penalty.

Cobb said she thinks that judges should be appointed instead of elected.

In her son's case it was re-election year, and Cobb thinks judges not wanting to seem "soft" on crime are quicker to sentence someone to death.

According to Brown, a quarter of prisoners on death row in Alabama are there because a judge overruled a jury's recommendation.

(source: Montgomery Advertiser)

Revenge as a Disease

Hello, here is something a little out of the ordinary - even for The Journey of Hope usual items...but since Bill Pelke has generally given us permission to use our own creativity here, I found the quotes I heard on this radio show to be unusually relevant to our vision inviting love and compassion for all of humanity.

Of course this topic relates to whether or not to support executions and the need for prevention as well. See what you think of some of these discoveries, theories and statements and please dialogue with us and other readers by offering your own comments. Soon I hope to take the time to share some personal anecdotes, stories and concerns since among a few startling reflections & experiences. Among other items, I want to share how I've discovered I've also been a Murder Victim family member for quite awhile and didn't realize this...

I hope to keep adding more quotes and items related to this subject on this very same post...but for now, following is simply a taste of this wide and potentially healing topic. I trust this may be useful for your own discussions with family, students, groups of all kinds as well as any talks you do and your own journaling and personal reflections.

For now, I need to make an omelet for a wonderful kid all grown up who has been a murder victim family member since 2000...

Connie, blogger here...

+++

Revenge as a Disease - Do try to hear the whole (you will hear several references to the death penalty therein)

To Listen Go Here

Also see what this award winning radio program has been blogging this past week:blogged about in the past week:» A Poet of Love & Hate & Forgiveness & Revenge - Poet Marie Howe gets to "the war within us between light and shadow" ; Singing about Revenge and Forgiveness (Our intern draws upon music suggestions as she reflects on global reaction to U.S. politics.): The Movie Montage That Didn't Make the Cut - Cinematic moments of revenge that failed to make the final edit; "'A Change Came Over Me'" The story of a woman whose son was murdered, and her struggle to end the cycle of violence in north Minneapolis (also find this one a few days ago on this weblog)

From the program...

In the May 4, 2008 edition of The New York Times Magazine, Alex Kotlowitz wrote about Cease Fire, an organization that treats inner-city violence like a disease. They employ former gang members as "violence interrupters," people who intervene in potentially violent disputes.

Cease Fire's founder, Gary Slutkin, is an epidemiologist and a physician who for 10 years battled infectious diseases in Africa:

"For violence, we're trying to interrupt the next event, the next transmission, the next violent activity," Slutkin told me recently. "And the violent activity predicts the next violent activity like H.I.V. predicts the next H.I.V. and TB predicts the next TB." Slutkin wants to shift how we think about violence from a moral issue (good and bad people) to a public health one (healthful and unhealthful behavior).

Michael McCullough wrote a letter to the editor about the article, explaining why he disagreed with the analogy between violence and infectious disease:

Before laws, police, and courts protected individual interests, we had revenge. When social disadvantage and social pressure conspire to alienate people from those institutions today, people return to revenge for self-protection. And neuroscience shows that vengeful feelings arise from normal brain processes: Feeling vengeful after victimization shows that your mind works the way it should, not that you're in the throes of an illness.

In one study, led by Filippo Aureli of the University of Rome, researchers observed a group of 37 Japanese macaques at the Rome Zoo. They wanted to figure out why macaques who lose fights sometimes attack the blood relatives of their aggressors. New Scientist magazine reported that the "majority of cases (74 percent) occurred brazenly, within sight of the former aggressor. Aureli thinks this boldness reveals the function of such 'kin-directed revenge'. If an aggressor is forced to witness a group attack on one of its more vulnerable relatives, it may in the future think twice before attacking its former victim."

Well there's a lot more to post here about this but I've got to go make that Omelet...give the program a listen & let's talk soon...

Texas State Killings & Events Scheduled

November Scheduled Executions

November 6: Elkie Taylor - Executed
November 12: Goerge Whitaker III
November 13: Denard Manns
November 18: Eric Cathey
November 19: Rogelio Cannady
November 20: Robert Hudson

If all of the above inmates are executed, Texas will have executed 19 people from June 2008 through the end of November. 19 people in 6 months?

Attend a vigil in your city...(Also see Texas Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty Site - Go Here)

Contact your local State Senator and Representative about your opposition to the death penalty NOW.

(Note from blogger at the JOH weblog: If you are outside the state, you can still call Texas to register your protest! Go to the links lower right on this weblog for more information - especially check Death Pen News & Updates for Current Texas and other DP items)

IF you happen to be in Texas or know anyone who is - here is the schedule
Wednesday November 12, 2008 at 5:30pm and a few more...

Texas Capitol
Eleventh and Congress
Austin, Texas 78701

George Whitaker III is scheduled for execution on Nov 12, 2008.

Come to the Capitol 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 Also check any of the above groups to find other items in order to protest and vigil the following planned state killings of Eric Cathey and Robert Hudson

Utah Supreme Court Says Death Sentences Will be Reversed Unless...

COSTS: Utah Supreme Court Says Death Sentences Will Be Reversed Unless Legislature Provides for Adequate Counsel Posted: November 10, 2008

Utah’s Supreme Court recently expressed concern that the lack of qualified defense attorneys for indigent death row inmates could unravel capital sentences. In a unanimous decision in the case of death row inmate Michael Archuleta, Associate Chief Justice Michael Wilkins (pictured) said the court might be forced to reverse capital sentences because the low pay and the complexity of such cases have shrunk the pool of Utah attorneys who will accept them.

EDITORIAL: Imperfections Abound with Death Penalty
Posted: November 07, 2008

A recent editorial in The Virginian-Pilot points to the problem of arbitrariness in applying the death penalty. The editorial asks, “Is it right to look at who the victims were? Is it fair to consider the strength of the evidence and the time and resources required to pursue the death penalty, a costly process? Does it make a crime less important, a victim's life less memorable, if prosecutors decide that life in a tiny prison cell is punishment enough for the killer?”

NEW RESOURCES: The Supreme Court’s Emerging Death Penalty Jurisprudence: Severe Mental Illness as the Next Frontier

Read more about the above items at
Here

or remember deathpenaltyinfo dot org

Also KEEP COMING BACK to this weblog for much more and check out the LINKS on the lower right column

Thanks for tuning in....

Monday, November 10, 2008

Is Life Imprisonment a More Humane Way of Killing?

How do we find the buried sacrosanct? Is death penalty, the only justice that could satisfy the family of a victim and society at large? Currently, these issues are being debated around the world - including in India. Read the article and see our US debate in new light. As this article's intro said: Listening to both sides of the story will convince you that there is more to it than meets the eyes...While this article is more about not choosing the death penalty than about the actual varieties of experience for the lifer - still it opens up dialogue about options other than executions and challenges us to keep talking until we find a better way. (this note from Connie)

"Forgiveness does not imply letting others exploit us or walk over us. It does not amount to tolerating injustice or being passive in front of evil. We must be a paradox against injustice in every form and do our part to fight it. Once Gandhiji said, 'As long as I was a coward, I never understand non violence.' He saw more clearly than most of us that ahimsa – an active, forgiving love – is the law of human beings, just as violence and revenge are the norm for beast...It is very easy to urge people to hatred and violence. The real challenge is to help people to love and to forgive. THIS IS WHAT SUSTAINS AND HEALS US. An alternative always exists to the death penalty. If we keep that path, we discover little by little the sacrosanct that lies buried beneath ashes of our frailty." (excerpt from the article below)

This article was (thankfully) found by Susanne in merinews dot com : India's First Citizen Journalism News Portal How refreshing this experience of reading such articles in papers outside the US. Notice the word "sacrosant" which is an entirely new use of this word for me, a refreshing perspective, so well put - perhaps terribly foreign to much of our society...to find that which is MOST sacred and holy within us - to find that holy, sacred place within - a place immune to criticism and injury from without. To find it little by little with the help of the Divine of our own understanding...

And find a clear little summary of international death pen history here as well..

IS LIFE IMPRISONMENT A MORE HUMANE WAY OF KILLING?

THERE IS a saying which goes like this: “To err is human, to forgive divine.”

Nobody is perfect; each one of us makes errors in life. But what matters is the degree of error. To forgive is not easy no doubt; but it is a heavenly quality that descends on us from heaven. Our society must realise this and give an opportunity to criminals to repent for their mistakes and work on reforming themselves.

The celebrated film director Mrinal Sen told the Frontline magazine, “I have always been against capital punishment. The death penalty is a cruel and brutal practice. Let the criminal be punished for the rest of his life for what he has done. But brutality is not the answer to brutality.”

Dhananjoy Chattarjee was hanged for the rape and murder of a defenceless school girl. The Supreme Court upheld the death sentence pronounced by the lower court and majority of people agreed. At the same time, we should take into account the enormity and the gravity of criminality. Everyone has a different point of view. There is no such thing as ‘right’ or ‘wrong’, when majority says ‘yes’ to a particular thing, then it becomes the right thing.

Is death penalty, the only justice that could satisfy the family of a victim and society at large? Currently, these issues are being debated. Listening to both sides of the story will convince you that there is more to the story than meets the eyes.

Talking about capital punishment, writer and social activist Mahasweta Devi says, “You cannot bring down crime rate by awarding capital punishment.” She feels that Dhananjoy should have been given an opportunity to reform himself. Life imprisonment would have provided the chance that Dhananjoy wanted. It is a requisite that we should consider justice for the victim and victim’s loved ones.

Even though several human rights organisations and non governmental organisations protested against death sentence and petitioned the governor and president for commutation of the sentence, there were an equal number of outraged citizens who feel that the rapist killer deserves to be hanged.

Is it not ‘revenge’ disguised itself as ‘justice’? Apart from the victim’s relatives, it’s the society which wants the criminal to be punished. Society thinks that it is de rigueur not to let him go unpunished. If the society thinks that revenge will be the solution to criminality, then why are courts trying to find a more “humane method” with which to kill?

Revenge is a kind of wild justice. The execution must be as quick as possible. A delayed judgment is not only a denied justice to the victim but also a raison d’ĂȘtre for many problems both mentally and physically for the criminal as well.

When one becomes frightened, many physical changes occur within the body – when the danger is more psychological rather than physical, fear can force to take self protective measures. Prior knowing that one is going to meet his maker will change his appearance and body language. This feeling itself will veer him to death.

Another point of worry regarding such execution is the impact it creates in the society. It was evident in the case of Dhananjoy. Thanks to the visual media hype given to the hanging, he was portrayed as a national hero who ultimately led to the loss of two young children’s lives. While enacting the hanging incident without knowing its ramification, two students who have not even entered their teens, lost their lives in full view of their siblings. No doubt the utter disregard for social concern of the media is the cause for the pathetic incident. But still the law which permits capital punishment for the individuals who commit heinous crimes, has no such provision to punish the media for their slipshod attitude towards the society.

Several countries have abolished death sentence. India is a party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) that required a progression towards abolition of death penalty. Nearly 120 countries have signed the statute creating the International Criminal Court (ICC) which has repudiated the death sentence as a punishment for genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes. In all systems of justice, mistakes are inevitable. Mistakes can be rectified but death cannot. It is a glum way to end criminality. In fact, such a kind of judgment cannot bid adieu to criminality.

Many countries have taken steps to abolish capital punishment. It helps the victim to realise and reform himself. In 1989, only three states namely, Costa Rica, San Marino and Venezuela abolished the death penalty for all crimes. In 1948, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was adopted, at that time the number was only eight. Later in 1978 the number rose to nineteen. The Russian minister of justice stated that the Russian federation would abolish the death penalty by April 1999.

By the decline of 1998, around 67 countries had abolished the capital punishment for all crimes. Then about 14 countries abolished the capital punishment for all offences except war crimes. Jamaica, Guyana, Yemen, Trinidad and Tobago have withdrawn from optional protocol to the ICCPR. Some countries have taken necessary steps to speed up the execution.

Taking one’s own life ie suicide is an offence and then who has the right to take other man’s life? Are the human rights not violated then? In a way poverty does also matter to some extent. In order to defend oneself in court, one should be affluent to have the benefit of a competent lawyer.

We have been forgiven many more times than we remember – both by God and by other people..

Isn’t it logical that we in turn need to be at least generous in punishing if not to forgive a few hurts?

When Lincoln learned of the death sentence to a 14-year-old boy, he wrote to Starton, secretary of war, “My dear sir, hadn’t we better spank this drummer boy and send him back home?” From this anecdote, it is coherent that even the great people are against death penalty.

Let us not confuse forgiving with forgetting. Forgiveness does not imply letting others exploit us or walk over us. It does not amount to tolerating injustice or being passive in front of evil. We must be a paradox against injustice in every form and do our part to fight it. Once Gandhiji said, “As long as I was a coward, I never understand non violence.” He saw more clearly than most of us that ahimsa – an active, forgiving love – is the law of human beings, just as violence and revenge are the norm for beast.

It is very easy to urge people to hatred and violence. The real challenge is to help people to love and to forgive. This is what sustains and heals us. An alternative always exists to the death penalty. If we keep that path, we discover little by little the sacrosanct that lies buried beneath ashes of our frailty. Gandhiji rightly said, “An eye for an eye would leave the whole world blind.”
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Find the setting for this article at this very interesting periodical

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Burgeoning population, while on one hand champions India as the world's largest democracy, it sets forth newer challenges for us as a nation, towards building a responsible society. Evolution of technology and emergence of new modes of communication add bigger dimensions to this daunting task – raising the expectations and information needs of the people on one hand while facilitating instant and seamless flow of information. Thus People to People (P2P) interaction is of paramount importance and rather inevitable. Emanating from the need to empower democracy by providing a media to the people of the country to communicate with one and all, www.merinews.com is an effort to provide one such platform to interact and express. It is a news platform for collective wisdom,"OF THE PEOPLE, BY THE PEOPLE, FOR THE PEOPLE" (I left this in because it says a lot about this paper!)

Please add your comment on this topic here on the JOH blog...

The change that came over Mary Johnson

Mary Johnson
“A Change Came Over Me” By Kate Moos, Managing Producer of the radio show:
"Speaking of Faith"

I spent a couple of hours Saturday morning rapt, listening to a woman named Mary Johnson talk about her spiritual path toward forgiveness after her son was murdered in 1993. We were gathered at St. Jane’s House in north Minneapolis, a neighborhood where street violence leads to the death of many young men each year. In Mary’s case, her spiritual path toward reconciliation brought her to found a small organization called “From Death To Life” that brings the mothers of people killed in street violence together with the mothers of those who have killed.

Mary told us there was a time she did not see her son’s killer as human. Then a change, she says, came over her heart. Now she knows him well and has visited him in prison several times. He’s preparing to transition back to the community, and she says when he does they will work together to end the cycle of violence.

Our program “Getting Forgiveness and Revenge” will be available here at speaking of faith dot org later this week. We’re interested in your stories about forgiveness and revenge. Mary Johnson can be reached through her ministry called “Two Mothers” at twomothers@hotmail. For more on this story go Here

Saturday, November 08, 2008

A Lesson Before Dying by Ernest J. Gaines: See the Play--Read the Book

Ernest J. Gaines

Are you anywhere near Atlanta? IF so, do try to go to this play...7:30 p.m. Wednesdays-Saturdays; 2:30 p.m. Sundays; 2 p.m. Saturday and Nov. 22. Through Nov. 23. $30. Theatrical Outfit, Balzer Theater at Herren’s. 84 Luckie St. N.W., Atlanta. 678-528-1500, theatrical outfit dot org.

I read the moving, unique book this play is based on years ago--so did my daughter and we found it quite clarifying of the issues, in tune with southern death penalty history. We found this novel moving, the characters in the book "rounded" and haunting while the book was deceptively easy and compelling to read. Read it for a unique look and intro to the history of the death penalty -- especially in the US south - and see that many aspects of this story are still in existence today. There is something special that drives home the issues when you have a chance to get to know the people and to see what they go through...Do see the play if you are able yet even better -- read this classic book!

Ernest J. Gaines (born January 15, 1933), a prominent African-American fiction writer, has been a writer-in-residence at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. Gaines's fiction has received critical acclaim. His works have been taught in college classrooms and translated into many languages, including French, Spanish, German, Russian, and Chinese. Four of his works have been produced into television movies. This novel won the National Book Critics Circle Award for fiction and was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize for fiction. He won the national Humanities Medal, ironically - a Governor's award, was inducted into the French Order of Arts and Letters as a Chevalier and more.

Even more striking, Gaines was among the fifth generation of his sharecropper family to be born on the River Lake Plantation in Pointe Coupee Parish, Louisiana, an influence and common setting for his fiction. He was the eldest of 12 children, raised by his aunt, who was crippled and had to crawl to get around the house. Although born generations after the end of slavery, Gaines grew up impoverished, in old slave quarters on the plantation. Gaines's first six years of school took place in the plantation church. A visiting teacher would teach him and the other children for five to six months of each year, depending on when the children were not picking cotton in the fields.

Excerpt to note from the following review - in notable keeping with some of our JOH themes - and NOT UNLIKE many of the experiences of our JOURNEY in so many states:

"On opening night, so many tears flowed that the show felt like a lesson before crying. A somber, reflective and brutal story, yes, but one pinned to a CRUCIBLE OF GRACE AND HOPE." Looking at Gaines' photo, reading about his life and reminded of this novel - I can't help but wish he could be on the next JOURNEYS with the JOH family - along with another Louisiana star, Sister Helen Prejean - and if so - sure hope it's one I am able to make!

The above intro from blogger here, Connie

(source for following review: Atlanta Journal-Constitution) From November 7-8?

GEORGIA:

'Lesson' worth learning----Death-penalty drama set in Jim Crow era remains relevant

THEATER REVIEW: "A Lesson Before Dying"

7:30 p.m. Wednesdays-Saturdays; 2:30 p.m. Sundays; 2 p.m. Saturday and Nov. 22. Through Nov. 23. $30. Theatrical Outfit, Balzer Theater at Herren’s. 84 Luckie St. N.W., Atlanta. 678-528-1500, theatrical outfit dot org.

In Ernest J. Gaines' 1993 novel "A Lesson Before Dying" a young black man named Jefferson is falsely accused of killing a white merchant. When his defense attorney calls him a "hog," Jefferson is rendered sub-human and condemned to a deeper kind of psychological purgatory.

Jefferson shuns a maternal visitor's baskets of fried chicken and tea cakes, getting down on the floor to gnash at the food and grunt like a pig. But over the course of the story, he achieves spiritual rehabilitation and rebirth, thanks to the ministering of a schoolteacher and preacher recruited by his aunt.

Jefferson's journey —- his capacity to love and forgive in the face of brutality —- is on display in a strong production of Romulus Linney's adaptation at Theatrical Outfit. Delicately directed by Jill Jane Clements, the action moves painfully and methodically toward its inexorable conclusion.

Set in Jim Crow-era Louisiana, "Lesson" recalls such morally complex material as "To Kill a Mockingbird" and Horton Foote's "The Chase," both produced recently by the Outfit, the city's major producer of Southern drama.

At first glance, the plodding play can feel a little creaky, preachy and loaded with stock characters (the bigoted sheriff, the sensitive warden, the idealistic teacher). But as long as the criminal justice system is exacting the death penalty (in the state of Georgia, no less) and as long as America flaunts disparities of color and class, Gaines’ archetypal tale remains as ripe for debate as headlines and talk TV.

Here designers Jamie Bullins (sets) and Rob Dillard (lighting) create a mood of spot-on realism for the parish courthouse, where Jefferson lurches in from a nearby cell to receive visitors: His godmother, Miss Emma Glenn (Veronica Redd), never without a picnic basket in hand; the Rev. Moses Ambrose (Gordon Danniels); and plantation schoolteacher Grant Wiggins (Johnell J. Easter), who comes with his own set of troubles and conflicts.

Like some directorial angel, Clements takes great care in coaxing sensitively crafted performances from her company. Miss Emma's nerves are a source of good comedy. William S. Murphey, solid as always, struts like a rooster as Sheriff Sam Guidry. Rich Remedios, as the quiet deputy Paul Bonin, is almost always onstage, and though he says very little, he provides an aura of calm.

If Easter's Grant Wiggins seems a little flavorless, Eric J. Little's Jefferson is appropriately sullen —- a little broad at first but ultimately affecting. As Jefferson finds his peace in a twisted, bigoted world, time hangs. As he becomes a Christlike figure who is kind to children, his destiny transforms him. On opening night, so many tears flowed that the show felt like a lesson before crying. A somber, reflective and brutal story, yes, but one pinned to a crucible of grace and hope.

(source: Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Presidential candidate joins protest of execution

Texas: Execution of Gregory Wright

Cynthia McKinney made history in Texas Oct. 30. Never has any politician or any candidate for public office been in Huntsville, Texas, on an execution night to join in with those protesting.

McKinney, the Green Party candidate for president of the United States, joined the ranks of protesters this evening, Oct. 30, and quietly introduced herself to the family and friends of Greg Wright, who was scheduled to be executed 45 minutes later.

As Wright's stepdaughter stood outside of the death house holding a cell phone in one hand and a framed photo of Wright in the other, McKinney approached her and asked about the photo. "How long has your family been dealing with fighting this execution? Did you ever think that your family would ever have to deal with the issue of the death penalty in such a personal way?"

McKinney listened to Misty Smith explain that they had been fighting to prove Wright's innocence for 7 or 8 years and that never did she think she and her mother would be going through this injustice.

Then McKinney was introduced to the crowd opposing Wright's execution.

The candidate told them: "I am sad to join you tonight, those of you who have a conscience and who want the U.S. to join the community of nations that respect life, rights and the administration of justice. It's one thing to feel politically, academically and intellectually opposed to the death penalty. It's quite another thing to meet the family of someone who has maintained his innocence throughout his entire ordeal and yet they find themselves on the opposite side of justice.

"Most people in this country have believed in the justice system. They believe that they would never be the victims of injustice. And yet I am here in the very place where Shaka Sankofa was murdered by the state of Texas.

"Texas is the execution capital of the country. Why is it that the state of Texas wants the world to know that killing is wrong yet it engages in killing?"

...I join with the families that are here right now and say that we must end all of this killing, including the death penalty, including the use of depleted uranium munitions...

"Misty, thank you for allowing me to be here. Thank you for helping me to understand how barbarically this country can treat people, people who believe in it still. Thank you."

Greg Wright expressed his appreciation...just hours before his execution when his spouse, Connie Wright, told him that Cynthia McKinney would be in Huntsville for the protest. ...he told Connie. "I can't believe she will be here for me."

Music that Connie Wright and Greg Wright chose for the evening played over the sound system outside of the death house as the prison clock chimed at 6:00 p.m. Then Connie and the four other witnesses to the execution walked into the death house for the 419th Texas execution, while "You are the Wind Beneath My Wings" could be heard for blocks around.
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Some 1,125 people have been executed in the U.S. since the death penalty was reinstated in the 1970s. Over 1/3 of all executions have been in Texas and over 85 % have been in the South. Texas has 13 more executions scheduled, including another likely innocent person, Eric Cathey. Over 65 % of those on death row are African-American or Latino.

(source: Workers World

Posted also on Death Penalty News & Updates ( See Rick Halperin's Link - click lower right column )

This article is not here as an endorsement yet as a testament to a caring leader and a reminder of the methods of inhumanity still used in Texas as well as in many other places. A small portion was left out that could possibly be misconstrued here as a political statement. This is posted here because it is a moving, interesting item in very recent abolition history--albeit a sad record of a tragic event.

In Brief (From the Free Greg Wright Site) :

“There’s been a lot of confusion who done this. John Adams lied. He went to the police and told them a story. I left the house, and left him there. I never sold anything to anyone. My only act or involvement was not telling on him. John Adams was the one that killed Donna Vick. The evidence proves that. … I was in the bathroom when he attacked. I am deaf in one ear and I thought the TV was up too loud. I ran into the bedroom. By the time I came in, when I tried to help her with first aid, it was too late. The veins were cut on her throat. He stabbed her in her heart, and that's what killed her. I have done everything to prove my innocence. I took a polygraph and passed. John Adams never volunteered to take one. Before you is an innocent man. I love my family. I'll be waiting on y'all. I am finished talking.” Gregory Wright, Oct. 30th, 2008

After three test charts were administered, an analysis of the polygraph charts was made, and in my professional opinion Mr Wright is being truthful in all his answers to the relevant test questions." Joe D. Morris B.S., M.A., C.P.E. Polygraph Examiner, Texas... "Is Gregory E. Wright actually and factually innocent of the murder of Donna D. Vick and never knew of any intent to harm before the crime took place?" - "Yes he’s innocent of this crime. I did it." John Wade Adams, August 11, 2008

My name is John Wade Adams #999278. I want the record clear that Greg Wright is innocent of the crime he’s here on death row for. If you kill him your (sic) killing a innocent man. Greg Wright was used as a scape goat. I’m doing this because I’m tired of seeing innocent people being killed for murders they’ve not done the statement I made is a lie the one that I made at the first of our arrest. Greg Wright is innocent! I was there and know better. Did you place the murder of Donna D. Vick on the hands of Gregory E. Wright? Yes to make it look like he did it. I set him up.
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There is much more on this tragedy which will surely provide plenty of information to help prevent more executions and injustices in the future. To take a look please go Here

May the labor of love in putting together this information help free others.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Witness to Innocence in Austin, TX

Taken from the ACLU Blog - Text by Jack Payden-Travers, Capital Punishment Project

Reflections on a Gathering of 20 Death Row Exonerees

It was 4:00 a.m. last Friday when I set out for Conroe, Texas, home of both the Texas state flag and death row exoneree Clarence Brandley. Three hours later, I met Clarence outside the home of his 93-year-old mother as the sun was rising and an unfettered horse grazed on a neighbor’s lawn. Due to the current economy, Mr. Brandley’s job had been cut and his Houston home was foreclosed upon before his job was restored. He now commutes 1 ½ hours each way to work and lives in the home where he was born and the town where he worked as a school custodian before being wrongfully accused of the rape and murder a high school co-ed in 1981. Nine years later, he was exonerated. He has not received any compensation for his wrongful imprisonment, but is still paying child support for the nine years he was incarcerated.

A short break

Clarence would normally have rented a car in Conroe to attend the Witness to Innocence (WTI) training in Austin. WTI is an organization of those exonerated from death row. Each year, a “Tools Gathering” is held where these men come together as a community, share experiences, teach each other how to survive, welcome the newly exonerated and learn tools to help spread their unique message.

But on Thursday the local car rental agency refused to accept a debit card from Clarence. He was scheduled to represent Texas exonerees at the WTI press conference at the state capital on Friday afternoon. Fortunately, as Public Education Associate of the ACLU Capital Punishment Project, I was attending the training as support staff for WTI and could make the drive to get him to the training in time.

We went to stop at a restaurant on the way back to Austin but were deterred from patronizing the establishment by the Confederate flags decorating the entrance. We settled for cranberry juice from a gas station.

Shujaa Graham

It was an inspiring moment when the press conference began. Behind the podium stood 17 men and seated at the speakers’ table were Ray Krone, WTI’s Director of Communications and Training, who was exonerated by DNA in 2002 from a 1992 sentence of death; Clarence Brandley; and Juan Melendez, who served over 17 years on Florida’s death row. All together, 20 exonerees were gathered beneath the seal of the State of Texas. Additional speakers included Sam Millsap, former prosecutor of Bexar County, Texas; Texas Representative Elliott Naishtat, who is introducing legislation to give the governor the authority to enact a moratorium on executions; and the founding Executive Director of WTI, Kurt Rosenberg. Mr. Millsap prosecuted Ruben Cantu, who was executed in 1993. Mr. Millsap now accepts responsibility for what he believes to be the execution of an innocent man, and thinks the death penalty is broken and must be ended.

When our three days together were ending, the exonerated, their loved ones, and staff gathered in a closing circle. We were asked to share two words that represented the time in Austin. I could only say “Holy Ground,” and take off my shoes in recognition of how special the place I shared with them was for me. Being in that room with these men and their loved ones was a humbling experience. Their willingness to work to end the death penalty in spite of the nightmarish memories of death row are gifts that these exonerees give to the abolition movement. They share their experiences in the hope that others will not have to face what they did. It was a blessing to be allowed to spend time with each of them.

Kurt Rosenberg, Director Witness to Innocence and Terry Rumsie, finance director Witness to Innocence