Saturday, February 28, 2009

International Death Penalty Abolition Day

Greetings Abolitionists!

(SUNDAY) - March 1st- is International Death Penalty Abolition Day, which marks the anniversary of the date in 1847 in which the State of Michigan officially became the first English-speaking territory in the world to abolish capital punishment. It is a day to remember the victims of violent crime and their survivors; it is a day to remember those killed by state sanctioned violence - guilty or not- and their survivors; and it is a day for intensified education and action for alternatives to the death penalty.

Abolition Day is especially exciting this year because so much is happening in state legislatures to advance our cause. Below are several things you can do to help. Please take action now!

#1 - Take Action in Maryland. (This action is for Maryland residents only. If you do not live in Maryland, please forward this to friends, relatives, colleagues etc. who you know who do live in Maryland.)

The Maryland Senate will vote on whether to repeal the death penalty THIS TUESDAY. The time to act is now! Email your Senator today at here!

Follow-up your e-mail with a phone call. The General Assembly switchboard is 1-800-492-7122 (toll free in Maryland) Tell your Senator to vote for a fair vote in the full Senate AND to vote for the repeal bill.


This past Friday, the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee voted 5-5 on Governor O'Malley's death penalty repeal bill. For most bills, this would have been its end.

But there is just too much momentum in Maryland for repealing the death penalty - thanks to Governor O'Malley's leadership, the recent findings and recommendation of the Maryland Commission on Capital Punishment, and people like you!

The Senate leadership has agreed to consider motions that will allow the bill to get a full Senate vote despite the committee's vote. We must win both the motions and the repeal vote itself in order to repeal the death penalty in Maryland.

Take action now at here and please forward this mailing to friends or colleagues.

All of our efforts to end the death penalty must come to bear this week!

#2 - Take Action in New Mexico! (This action is for everyone!)

Please IMMEDIATELY contact Governor Bill Richardson and thank him for openly reconsidering his position on the death penalty, and urge him to support HB 285 to repeal the death penalty and HB 211 and HB 284 to enhance support for murder victim families in our state. A short, hand written note sent in the mail is the single most important action you can take. You can also call or fax a letter, but please send your short note in the mail first.

Contact NM Governor Bill Richardson at:
Office of the Governor
490 Old Santa Fe Trail
Room 400
Santa Fe, NM 87501

Telephone: (505)827-3000
Fax: (505)827-3026

#3 - Make certain that you are on your state affiliate contact list so that they may reach you quickly and efficiently when it is time to contact your state legislators. Click here to learn who to contact in your state: here

Especially if you live in the following states, sign up and take action TODAY: Encourage people you know who live in those states to sign up also. Thank you!

Colorado - here
Kansas - here
Montana - here
Nebraska - here

#4 - Make a special Abolition Day contribution to support the work of the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty.

Thank you!

Yours in the Struggle,


Abraham J. Bonowitz
Director of Affiliate Support
National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty

MONTANA: Quick Poll Action Needed Now!

Go here: here

Scroll about halfway down, and there is a poll on the right-hand side of the page.


Thanks, everyone,

Friday, February 27, 2009

Witness to Innocence at Texas Capitol VIDEO

The 24 men who are represented in this video, are members of Witness to Innocence, a national organization composed of exonerated former death row prisoners and their loved ones. These 24 men spent a combined total of nearly 200 years on death row.

Although some of the info in this short video (and related videos you can find by clicking this URL) has already been posted here and elsewhere on abolition sites, y we want to remind our readers - often - that Innocent issues do expose grave dynamics in our US death penalty system.

There is some audio blurring at the beginning of this video - but hang-in for a very clear, sobering and personal statement by a prosecutor who relates his process toward serious concerns with the death penalty - and emphasizes the "personal and moral duty" of the US prosecutor for their choices and mistakes - whether or not the person being tried is ultimately proven innocent without a doubt - which does happen - often, sadly, after an execution. The admittance in the video here is that our system is woefully flawed despite the prosecutor's "good intentions". "Accepting a system that tries hard most of the simply not good enough.")


Again, be sure to look here for a number of other related videos at this above site - including at least one exceptional Journey video.

The personal testimonials by both officials and by these 24 men via a variety of videos and the multitude of well-researched reports at Death penalty Information Center, Rick Halperin's almost daily Death Penalty News & Information site, The Innocence Project and many more valuable resources - are must viewing if you have any lingering questions about the Innocence cases. Of course you can find more of these videos and 'Innocence' reports by clicking on any number of our favorite sites listed in the right column (lower section) of this blogsite: The Journey of Hope.

IF you are willing to post your name and having something well-informed and/or well-thought out to say, please leave your comment under this post.

Thank you for tuning in! Connie

Thursday, February 26, 2009

The Death Penalty and Its Perils—A Story for Maryland, O'Malley and the Supreme Court

February 26, 2009

By John Aloysius Farrell, Thomas Jefferson Street blog

The state of Maryland is debating Gov. Martin O'Malley's proposal to repeal the death penalty. And the U.S. Supreme Court will soon consider whether prisoners have a right to DNA testing that could prove their innocence.

So this seems an opportune moment to share a story from my upcoming book on Clarence Darrow. It's about the case in which Darrow worked as a prosecutor, and why the great defense attorney never forgot the lessons it taught him.

The tale is about a hundred years old—from back in the days when special interests or influential families, or even newspapers, would kick in a few thousand dollars in notable cases to hire special counsels and help poorly-funded local prosecutors.

In 1908, Darrow needed work, having lost his savings in a period of illness, and a stock market crash, in 1906 and 1907. He agreed to help prosecute a Chicago businessman by the name of E.C. Divine, who had been charged with forgery in Massachusetts.

It seemed, at first, an open and shut case. Three witnesses traveled to Chicago from New England and said that they had no doubt: Divine was the same "Richard Parker" who had fleeced his victims of a small fortune back East. There was no mistaking the dimpled nose, the high forehead, the brown hair. And handwriting experts testified as well: there could be no mistake, they said. Divine was the forger.

But Divine put on a formidable defense. At the very moment that the forged check was being passed in Massachusetts, he was conducting business in Chicago, and had dated documents to prove it. All Darrow's skills could not shake him.

"His alibi stood like a rock in a weary land against every attempt of the prosecution to break it down," the Chicago Tribune reported. "The honest man passed through the portals of peace."

And so Darrow lost the case. Yet Divine lost much more. His reputation had been blackened by his journey through those peaceful portals. Tainted by the trial, he found that old associates did not trust him. He lost job after job. Ultimately, he took a revolver and shot himself.

Before Divine's suicide, he made a trip to Massachusetts. And there, in the state penitentiary in Boston, he introduced himself to Gilbert Sargent, who had been arrested on an unrelated charge of fraud and then confessed to committing the forgery for which Divine stood trial.

The two men, the Tribune said, "were as like as two peas."

"Would you have let me remain in prison if you had known I had been convicted of your crime?" Divine asked him.

"Certainly. Why not?" said the thief.

To the Supreme Court's conservative justices, and to the legislators of the Free State, all of whom are considering the risks of condemning innocent men and women to imprisonment, or death, I offer Darrow's final thoughts on the matter.

"Mr. Divine was the only man I ever prosecuted," the chastened attorney said. "As I escaped sending this innocent man to prison, so help me God I will never prosecute another."
Note: I found this on Death Penalty Focus under Breaking for today. Connie

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

We, Too, Are Abolitionists: Black History Month, Slavery and the Death Penalty

When one hears the term "abolitionists" one automatically thinks of the courageous men and women, white and African American, who aided runaway slaves fleeing to freedom in the nation's Northern states and Canada.

A parallel abolitionist movement developed in the U.S. of the late 18th century, continuing into the 19th Century and the present, the movement to abolish the death penalty. Religious groups such as Unitarians and Quakers, who were active in the anti-slavery movement, as well as liberal secularists, were also death penalty abolitionists. Several were influenced by a 1767 essay authored by Cesare Beccaria, "On Crimes and Punishment," which said there is no justification for state sponsored executions. The essay led to the death penalty's abolition in Austria and Tuscany.

Thomas Jefferson, who was moved by the essay, supported legislation in Virginia outlawing the death penalty except in cases of murder and treason. It was defeated by one vote. But such enlightened thinking did not apply to slaves; death by execution was a significant tool in maintaining slavery in the U.S., no less so than in Virginia. As activist and scholar Angela Davis noted, "In Virginia before the end of slavery there was only one crime for which a white person could be executed, but there were 66 crimes for which a slave could be executed. Had it not been for slavery, the death penalty would have likely been abolished in America. Slavery became a haven for the death penalty." African American abolitionist Frederick Douglass pointed out in his autobiography that in some states, slaves could be executed for trying to learn to read.

The late A. Leon Higginbotham, the first African American judge on the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, elaborated on the death penalty double standard in his book, "In the Matter of Color, the Colonial Period." If a slave killed his master or another white person, or raped a white woman, the penalty was automatic death. If a white person killed or raped a slave, the punishment might be imprisonment or a fine. Most crimes by whites against slaves went unpunished. The laws carried the clear, if unstated, message, that some lives are worth more than others. This is still true today, as there are more people of color sentenced to death whose victims were white than the reverse. Higginbotham's book posits the idea that our criminal justice system was less about public safety than it was about reinforcing the social and legal inequality of African Americans and other people of color.

To some degree, anti-slavery abolitionists also lived under the threat of execution, as the Southern states viewed the anti-slavery movement as a threat to their intricately interwoven race, caste, and economic infrastructure. A Georgia newspaper's slogan in the years prior to the Civil War was "The cry of the whole South should be Death, Instant Death, to the Abolitionist, whenever he is caught."

In the 20th Century, death penalty abolition was embraced by major civil rights movement figures. Ebony Magazine quoted Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in 1957 as saying, "I do not think God approves the death penalty for any crime -- rape or murder included. God's concern is to improve individuals and bring them to the point of conversion. Even criminology has repudiated the motive of punishment in favor of reformation of the criminal. Shall a good God harbor resentment? Since the purpose of jailing a criminal is that of reformation rather than retribution - improving him rather than paying him back for some crime that he has done -- it is highly inconsistent to take the life of a criminal. How can he improve if his life is taken? Capital punishment is against the best judgment of modern criminology and, above all, against the highest expression of love in the nature of God."

Dr. King's widow, Coretta Scott King, said, "As one whose husband and mother-in-law have died the victims of murder and assassination, I stand firmly and unequivocally opposed to the death penalty for those convicted of capital offenses. . . An evil deed is not redeemed by an evil deed of retaliation. Justice is never advanced in the taking of a human life. Morality is never upheld by legalized murder."

Reverend Joseph Lowery, co-founder of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference with Dr. King, has said that "The death penalty is a matter of place and race, inequity. . ." and "The state does not have the right to kill, to take a human life; the state does not have the right to enslave. It has the power, but the Bible addresses that. It says 'Not by power, not by might, but by my spirit, says the Lord.' "

Death penalty abolitionists, like their anti-slavery predecessors, have fought to end that which enslaves our humanity. We Americans should honor abolitionists of the past and present not only by remembering them during Black History Month, but by working to repeal capital punishment in all death penalty states. In their memory, we must forever renounce and reject this outdated legacy of slavery.

by Diann Rust-Tierney
Executive Director of the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

A life for a life: For two women who lost a loved one, two roads to finding peace

This is the fourth part of a series on capital punishment by Takayasu Ogura, Mainichi Shimbun - a japanese newspaper

Dear Mr. Mickey, 12 years ago, I had a beautiful daughter named Catherine. She was a young woman of unusual talents and intelligence. She was slender and her skin glowed with health and vitality. She had long naturally wavy hair that framed her sparkling eyes and warm bright smile. She radiated love and joy!

(When you took her life,) I knew that I had been robbed of my precious child and that she had been robbed of growing into womanhood and achieving all of her potential. I was very angry with you and wanted to see you punished to the limit of the law. You had done irreparable damage to my family and my dreams for the future. (But) after eight long years of grief and anger...I was surprised to find that I could forgive you.

In April 1992, Aba Gayle, 72, of Silverton, Oregon, wrote these words in a letter to Douglas Mickey, 60, the man sitting on death row at San Quentin California State Prison for the murder of her daughter. A few weeks later she received a thankful reply from Mickey, and in August of the same year Gayle went to visit Mickey.

Gayle was led to a part of the prison for death row inmates. She had always thought that such a place would be full of monsters, but on her visit she found the inmates to be quietly courteous. While she waited for Mickey to arrive, her heart raced. After a wait of 45 minutes, she finally laid eyes on the man who took Catherine's life and saw no monster but "a completely normal man."

The pair talked for more than three hours. She learned that Mickey's mother had committed suicide when he was just 16 years old. "We talked together about Catherine, I cried and he cried. I realized the night I lost my daughter, Douglas also lost his future."

When Catherine died in September 1980 at the age of 19, she had been living in a California apartment with a 30-year-old musician who had got into some drug-related trouble. It was this trouble that led Mickey to stab the musician to death, and Catherine as well. After the crime, Mickey fled to Japan, but was captured in 1981. He was sentenced to death in 1983.

For many years after, Gayle cried "buckets of tears" over the loss of her daughter. Later, more than sadness, Gayle felt growing hate for Mickey. She swore that when it came time for Mickey's execution she would go and see Catherine's killer suffer.

However, some eight years after her daughter's violent death, she began to question whether her life should be spent in hatred. Gradually, through visits to churches and other methods, she transformed her anger into a search for peace and love.

Twelve years after the murder, she heard a mysterious voice from within her heart.

"You must forgive him and you must let him know!" it said. Gayle wrote the letter to Mickey soon after.

It took 12 years for Gayle to forgive Catherine's killer, but some family members of murder victims find any length of time too short to grant forgiveness.

In the northeastern state of New Jersey, the parents of Sharon Hazard-Johnson, 52, were brutally murdered in their home by a robber. The culprit was caught and sentenced to death, but avoided execution when New Jersey abandoned the death penalty at the end of 2007. Hazard-Johnson said that her heart would now "remain broken," as she lost the chance to stand in front of her parents' grave and tell them that their killer had been executed.

As the New Jersey State Legislature debated the need for capital punishment, Hazard-Johnson continued to argue in favor of the death sentence.

"Personally, I do not forgive my parents' murderer for what he did to them," says Hazard-Johnson. "Neither have I sought revenge. I did, however, expect justice. At the very least, my parents deserved justice."

The United States is unusual in that it leaves the application and enforcement of capital punishment up to individual states. Grieving families of murder victims who hoped for the death penalty but will never see it carried out are almost certainly not rare.

However, "the death penalty just makes another family of a victim," says Gayle, who is now giving lectures calling for the abolition of the death penalty all over the United States. She even calls Douglas Mickey a friend, and continues to give him regular comfort.

Does Gayle ever have second thoughts about forgiving and even befriending her daughter's killer? "I heard the voice of Catherine, 'Mom, you are not wrong,' " she says.

Monday, February 23, 2009

ALASKA: Quick Action Needed Now!

We need your help. Please vote on the Alaska TV Poll. Results to be announced tomorrow. Right now we are losing 70% to 30%.

VOTE here

Today was the first hearing on House Bill 9 to implement a death penalty in Alaska in the House Judiciary Committee. The local TV station, Channel 2 is doing an online poll. Please help by logging on and voting in the poll. We need all the votes we can get!

Also, if you live in Alaska, now is the time to contact your Representative to let them know where you stand on HB 9. You can reach your representative RIGHT here

Bill Pelke was allowed to testify in the Judiciary Committee Hearing today, and was introduced to the entire House by his Representative, Pete Peterson. When Pete was campaigning last fall, he came to my door and I asked him where he stood on the death penalty. Not knowing a thing about me, he almost sheepishly replied that he would not support any legislation to implement a death penalty in Alaska. I think he was surprised when I told him he had my vote.

There will be second hearing on the bill on Wednesday, February 25 at 1:00 p.m. You can participate telephonically from your local Legislative information office in Anchorage. To locate a LIO near you go RIGHT here

Help us keep Alaska Death Penalty Free!
Kathy Harris

Bill History/Action for 26th Legislature:

HEARING: (H) JUD Feb 23 1:00 PM CAPITOL 120 Heard/Teleconference

TITLE: "An Act relating to murder; authorizing capital punishment, classifying murder in the first degree as a capital felony, and allowing the imposition of the death penalty for certain murders; establishing sentencing procedures for capital felonies; and amending Rules 32, 32.1, and 32.3, Alaska Rules of Criminal Procedure, and Rules 204, 209, 210, and 212, Alaska Rules of Appellate Procedure."

ACTION: Texas, New Mexico

Some of this may repeat earlier items - yet better a little more than we concerned with abolition of the death penalty may need rather than a little less...

Below you will find two actions that need your immediate attention. The first is a clemency appeal for Texas death row inmate Willie Pondexter, who is scheduled to be executed on March 3, 2009. The second is a request for help from our colleagues in New Mexico , targeting Governor Bill Richardson and urging his support for the repeal of the death penalty.

Please contact the TCADP Office at 512-441-1808 or if you have questions about either of these actions. Thank you for your support.

Urge Clemency for Willie Pondexter

Willie Pondexter is scheduled to be executed by the State of Texas on March 3, 2009. A clemency petition has been filed with the Board of Pardons and Paroles.

Mr. Pondexter has repeatedly expressed remorse for the 1993 crime in which he took part. During the course of more than 14 years on death row, he has been a helpful, respectful inmate with no disciplinary problems. At least one TDCJ guard has stepped forward to support clemency.

Below is a sample clemency letter to the Board that you could use as the basis for your own appeals; another sample is available here (link to clemency page). If you are able, please FAX your letters to the Board so that they arrive in time: (512) 467-0945. For more information about Mr. Pondexter, including the motion for his stay of execution, please go to here
- - - - -
Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles

General Counsel's Office
8610 Shoal Creek Boulevard
Austin, Texas 78758

Dear Board Members:

I urge you to recommend to Governor Rick Perry that the death sentence of Willie Pondexter be commuted to life in prison. Mr. Pondexter is scheduled to be executed by the State of Texas on March 3, 2009 for the 1993 burglary and murder of Martha Lennox. He was 19 years old at the time of the crime and had no previous prison record.

Every human being is capable of change and improvement. Mr. Pondexter has demonstrated remorse for his crime. In prison, on death row, he has worked daily to be a good and respectful man. The way he has lived his life for the past 14-plus years should be taken into account in your consideration of clemency.

Under Texas law, only those who represent a future danger to our society can be sentenced to death. Mr. Pondexter has shown that he does not fit that category.

You have a responsibility to show mercy on those deserving of it. When you do, it sends a powerful message to those in prison today that personal conduct matters. I urge you to recommend clemency in his case.


Send a Postcard to New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson

This is an exciting time for our movement, and today we have a great opportunity to weigh in on what could be the next U.S. state to abandon the death penalty. The New Mexico legislative session ends on March 20, so between now and then, the Catastrophic Crime and Family Restitution Program, which includes repeal of the death penalty, must pass two committees in the NM Senate and then the full Senate. The real hurdle, however, is Governor Bill Richardson. Please see below for an action YOU can take today to help end the death penalty in New Mexico !

Dear NM Repeal Members and Supporters,

Last week, Governor Bill Richardson suggested in comments to the media that he has "softened" his views on the death penalty, deliberately "sending a signal" to the NM Senate that it should take a vote on the groundbreaking package of legislation to repeal the death penalty and enhance support for murder victim's families in New Mexico. Read these statements at here

Please take a few minutes RIGHT NOW to thank Governor Richardson for openly reconsidering his position on the death penalty, and urge him to support HB 285 to repeal the death penalty and HB 211 and HB 284 to enhance support for murder victim families in our state. A short, handwritten note or postcard sent via mail is the single most important action you can take. You can also call, fax and e-mail, but please send your short note in the mail first.

Contact NM Governor Bill Richardson at:

Office of the Governor

490 Old Santa Fe Trail

Room 400

Santa Fe, NM 87501

Fax: (505)827-3026


Thank you for taking this action. If you have any questions or I can help you in any way, please do not hesitate to contact me directly.

Viki Elkey, Executive Director

New Mexico Coalition to Repeal the Death Penalty


Main Message: Please thank Governor Richardson for reconsidering his position on the death penalty and encourage him to support HB 285 to abolish the death penalty in New Mexico . Also ask him to support HB 211, which allows for paid or unpaid leave for family members to attend court proceedings, and HB 284, which expands services to murder victim family members in New Mexico .

"Slumdog Millionaire" Shines for Human Rights, Forgiveness and Art

By Connie Lynn Nash

The film which just won a staggering eight Oscars begins with scenes of torture: a person threatened, beaten, given extreme doses of shock and other vile treatment, made unconscious. The star of the movie is shown vividly during this scene: eyes eventually unseeing - phlegm and saliva dripping from the sides of his mouth. Imagine this kind of treatment and worse day after day for years as in GTMO, ABU G. at many US-approved and directed secret sites all over the world. Not to mention the treatment in the planes to these places. Inhumanity - missing people - lives and families destroyed/torture often leading to extra-judicial death.

Here in a movie of the year are crimes' of cops and other "authorities" acted out graphically. Here is but a brief glimpse into our socially and nationally-approved crimes. Here in this movie - if we let ourselves - we can feel these acts of inhumanity in our gut and heart. These are scenes the whole world needs to see and decry.

Then - early into this shining movie - there's one of the most heartbreaking scenes of violence and murder imaginable - followed by an astute comment by one of the victim's family members. This comment is simply put yet with layers of implication about the inhumanity of religion when administered and misused by those hardened of heart. Immediately, the film promises to be about people- people caught in religious-political crossfires - flames amplified by revenge, hidden and ignored because that's what we do the world over with our powerless and our poor.

The rest of the film - I interpret - is, at center, the effect this murder and related social ills have on two brothers and a girl - all from the same slum - and what they do about what they have seen, felt and experienced.

When you see this film, ask: is there ever a last chance to re-think an earlier action and belief? See why our world still needs heroes and heroines. In which way is each of this story's youths a mentor?

This classic work of universal art and social commentary - plays well with lights and shadows. "Slumdog" plays beautifully with lighting both physical and metaphysical -perhaps adding new archetype possibilities for the viewer. This is why I saw the film three times (like I did the film "Gandhi").

The first time, I was inspired by a radio interview with one of the film's Indian co-makers. I felt then that each member of our international nuclear family would find something within "Slumdog" that would relate to their own backgrounds.

We each did in many ways.

Our children related easily to the scenes of poverty, loss, tragedy, and displacement from earlier homes and other connections. I was shocked - among these connections - to also view the scene of the family member killed and something within the torture scene - both scenes related to our three adopted sons.

The second time I wanted to confirm that I was not cheaply manipulated to love and appreciate this film the first time. I confirmed that I was not.

The third time I went to analyze the components and that was the time I loved best because I found "Slumdog..." virtually flawless, the seamless story-telling and so much more. I'd never heard or seen better use of the flashback. The appeal to all the senses and more swept over me: the gorgeous sound-track and the smells, sights, sounds and flavors of the slums and the country. Authentic reminders we were on a journey in another place - yet one universal - the train carrying us on our own journey. Yet there was hardly anything to finally distract from the story itself.

My daughter and I were blown away this third time to see that nearly every frame within this fast-moving film was a breathtaking work of visual art. I saw the entire film working together as one well-rounded triumphal unity.

Would anyone who saw the film have guessed before seeing it that "Slumdog Millionaire" - in some parts predictable -would have ended with such integrity, triumph and surprises along with some of the best attributes of Bollywood and Hollywood - teasing out, scene-by-scene a new glowing patina? Add to that - such potential for international connections and concerns for human rights.

Finally, this film gives us plenty of reasons to add forgiveness to our current personal and global histories.

Go and see it if you haven't. Go and see it again if you have. Watch it with a family, a group, a few older kids. Talk about the implications for each of our small interactions - for our choices after tragedies - for our actions whether small or large. Recognize how it takes power from the many reasons we as a society give to hate and seek revenge - based on grievances small or large - fueled by religion or status quo -whether we are led 'en mass' by some kind of "tribal" alliances or even by our own deeply-flawed natures in need of daily transformations.

Talk about what it is that fuels and allows torture and tragic deaths - that feeds murders by people or by the state. Reflect on the silences and denials.

Talk about how executions - judicial and not - help or hinder us from digging out the roots of crime - state crime as well as all the others.

Talk about why so many of our countries remains at war.

Find solutions together and on your own. Find something you can do - to change the way things are when life is not what it can become.

These are just some of the ways this glorious film has changed my life.

Slumdog Millionaire won Oscars in the following categories:

Best Picture
Music (Song)
Music (Score)
Film Editing
Sound Mixing
Writing (Adapted Screenplay)

Letter to Governor Richardson by Ron Keine

Dear Governor Richardson:

As Past Chairman of my local Republican party and the only living survivor of New Mexico's death row, I would like to offer a few words in support of the bill to repeal the death penalty. Although innocent, I was nearly executed. I was pronounced guilty by twelve men and women who had no reasonable doubt in their mind that I committed a particularly brutal and atrocious murder of a 26 year old man--William Velten. I am among the ranks of 130 exonerated men and women in the United States who were almost put to death in error. In my case, my innocence and that of my three co-defendants was discovered when the real killer underwent a religious conversion and confessed to a priest. There are others who were not so fortunate and were put to death before they were able to establish their innocence. Just to name a few I offer the following.

Carlos DeLuna Texas Conviction: 1983, Executed: 1989 Ruben Cantu Texas Convicted: 1985, Executed: 1993 Larry Griffin Missouri Conviction: 1981, Executed: 1995 Joseph O'Dell Virginia Conviction: 1986, Executed: 1997 David Spence Texas Conviction: 1984, Executed: 1997 Leo Jones Florida Convicted: 1981, Executed: 1998 Gary Graham Texas Convicted: 1981, Executed: 2000 Cameron Willingham Texas Convicted: 1992, Executed: 2004

The most shocking cases are those of Charles hudspeth and William Marion. In both of these separate instances the murder victim was found to be alive and well but only after the execution of these two innocent men.

Most of the 130 exonerees were not freed by the system, but in spite of it. They were saved by pure luck, usually when outside sources for one reason or another took up their plight. Almost every exoneree and executed man did not have money to put on an adequate defense.

We have a system so broken it cannot be fixed. New Mexico now has the opportunity to repeal this broken system and to put an end to a practice that sets our country apart from so many of our democratic allies and places us in the company of notorious human rights violators, such as China, North Korea, Iran, Saudi Arabia, and Pakistan. Indeed the United States has the unenviable distinction of being in the same peer group these nations, the world's leading executioners.

New Mexico has the highest rate of exonerations in the country with four exonerations to one execution. This does not mean that the people of New Mexico are bad or that New Mexico's government is heartless. It is because of one overzealous prosecutor who was entertaining a run for Governor. To this day he refuses to admit he was wrong even though his assistant was disbarred and three sheriff's officers were fired over their wrong-doing in this case. what he did was so horrendous that he has become the poster child of what can happen when someone abuses power. The power the citizens have given him over the life and death of other human beings. He almost killed 4 innocent human beings. If he had succeeded the blood would have been on the hands of the whole state. Not just one incompetent prosecutor

Since 1961 New Mexico has had ONE execution and we currently have two people on New Mexico's death row. That ONE execution has proven costly. A very conservative estimate is that the death penalty has cost New Mexico taxpayers at least $100 million since 1961. The death penalty has squandered New Mexico's scarce resources without keeping its communities one bit safer.

The sooner New Mexico abolishes the death penalty, the better. There are so many ways New Mexico could more productively use the resources it currently squanders on the death penalty. For example, it could provide more comprehensive services to murder victims' families or it could fund its law enforcement officers better.

You can read more about my story and the stories of four other death row exonerees in the recently published book "At Execution's Doorstep," by Leslie Lytle. For more information, please visit

Thank you for your time, and please, if you have any questions, I do not hesitate to call me at (number deleted by editor) I will respond personally.

Ron Keine, Sterling Heights, Michigan

The forgotten victims of the death penalty

One of the most overlooked and seldom mentioned effects of the death penalty is the horrible victimizing of innocent people. This collateral damage is most disheartening when one looks at the immediate family of the death row denizen. What they suffer through is truly cruel and unusual.

Even though I was Innocent--exonerated after two years on death row after the confession of the law enforcement officer who was the real murderer--my family suffered greatly. My mother would not come out of the house for two years because of peer pressure. She had a son on death row.

Even her closest friends did not know how to greet her at the super market, drug store or on the street. What do you say to a mother who is grieving as the state prosecutor gets to kill her son? It will not be alright. Time will not heal these wounds. Tomorrow or next week or next month will not be better. Others, mostly strangers, but also a few so called friends were not so kind to her and did not remain silent. She quit church when someone sitting in the back row of pews loudly called out, "Murderer. Rapist." As she walked out of that church, in tears with her shawl over her head in shame, she probably never heard the people admonishing the loud mouth.

She was shunned by the local society that had, in the past, respected her and relied on her outgoing personality to bolster the morale at community and social gatherings. She became a recluse. Even after I was exonorated she remained so. She died in sadness, never recovering her love of life and former status as a pillar of our community. I wonder if she ever understood that she shunned society more than they shunned her. My grandmother was a little stronger. She, at least, went to church. Some say that Grandpa went to church only to defend Grandma from the ridicule. I think it was so he could argue with people who talked about me, and so he could shake his ever present cane at them. I really loved that old man. He taught me how to fish.

Execution is not a death such as a car accident. An accidental death. A death that can be forgiven or excused. This killing is slow and calculated. It takes an average of ten years to execute a man. Throughout the appeals, which last many years and cost an average $3,200,000.00 per person, I wonder if families of the executed are aware of the indignity of even having to pay for that death with their tax dollars. Several times these men were innocent and the family knew it.

My father planned his suicide for months. He was saved, just in time by the news of my exoneration. A few days later and the state would have got a death anyway as he had already purchased the gun.

Probably the worst effects of all were inflicted on my kids.

Peer pressure is perhaps the most profound on school age children. Children can be cruel and outright vicious. "Your daddy is a Murderer." "Your daddy rapes people." "They should have killed him." "How do we know he did not do it? " "My dad says that your dad got out because of a slick lawyer." " My mom says she better not see him at any school functions or she will give him a piece of her mind." "Our parents are watching him when he is around kids." This all happened even though my daughters were born years after my release. I would get that phone call from the school to come and pick up a daughter as she was in distress. As she sat crying, waiting for me to leave work to come and get her she didn’t know that I was also wiping the tears off my face . These were innocent little girls. What did they ever do to deserve this? How can God let this happen to them? It became an ordeal to make them go to school every day. They shuddered at the thought of it. Changing schools (six times) worked only for a short time until the cat calling started again. They never did graduate. They both quit when they became old enough to do so. What a total waste of a human mind. One of the girls has an IQ of about 160.

My only thanks is that this did not happen when I was on the row. They did not have to live through the debacle of a justice system that is allowing the state to kill their daddy. Thousands of other innocent children were not so lucky. I wonder what it is like for them to have to carry that burden. I wonder how mothers answer that much dreaded question, "Why do they have to kill lmy daddy".

Ron Keine

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Forgiveness in the face of the unforgivable: Rev. Walter Everett

The Article is By SAM KUSIC, and was originally published: Tuesday, February 17, 2009

"The Death Penalty: A voice of Experience" (This article is about a talk by Rev. Walter Everett.)

Technically, the Rev. Walter Everett's talk Monday evening at Indiana University of Pennsylvania was about the death penalty and about why it should be abolished.

But really it was about forgiveness, even in the face of the unforgivable.

Everett, who spoke to a standing-room-only audience in the Hadley Union Building as part of the university's Six O'Clock speaker series, is a member of a group called Murder Victims' Families for Human Rights, which is seeking an end to the death penalty.

And he shared with the audience the story of himself and Mike Carlucci, a former drug addict who, in 1987, shot and killed Everett's 24-year-old son, Scott.

The death penalty was never on the table for Carlucci. In fact, he ultimately struck a plea bargain and served no more than five years on a manslaughter charge.

Even though Everett had always opposed the death penalty, he still wanted to see Carlucci go to prison for a long, long time.

But Everett said he came to realize that he couldn't live the rest of his life with the rage he felt and that he needed to let it go. But he didn't know how.

So he prayed. He asked God, ``How do I unload this anger?''

``I felt I was getting no answer at all,'' he said.

But when it came time for Carlucci's sentencing, Everett stood before the court and read a statement describing the impact his son's death had on him.

He doesn't remember what he said. But he remembers what Carlucci said when the judge asked if wanted to say anything.

``I'm sorry I killed Scott. These must seem like empty words to the Everetts, but I don't know what else to say.''

Everett said it was then that God showed him how. He said he heard something in Carlucci's words.

He went home and wondered how to respond.

So on the anniversary of his son's death, he sat down and wrote a letter to Carlucci. He told him about the rage and frustration and loneliness he was feeling and about how his family was being torn apart.

And after having said all that at the end of the letter, he told Carlucci that he forgave him.

``Those are the hardest words I've ever written in my life,'' he said.

Carlucci wrote back, and the two struck up a correspondence. Eventually Carlucci asked if Everett would visit him in prison.

He agreed, although reluctantly.

``I was being asked to do something not only by Mike but by God.''

Later, he would testify at a parole hearing, arguing for Carlucci's early release, which he was given.

And later still, he officiated at Carlucci's wedding.

Everett said that while there are some people who should never be let out of prison, Carlucci wasn't one of them. He said he has been able to make himself a better person.

``I can never forget what happened to Scott,'' Everett said. ``It has forever changed my life. But when I look at Mike, I don't see somebody who hurt Scott. I see somebody whose life has been changed by God. And I celebrate that.''

Copyright © 2009 - Indiana Gazette

Saturday, February 21, 2009

MONTANA: Update from Bill

Feb. 20:

House speaker says death penalty ban has a chance

House Speaker Bob Bergren says there are a few big policy initiatives that could pass a legislative session that has seen many proposals die amid tight partisan margins and budget worries.

The Havre Democrat says a proposed death penalty ban that has cleared the Senate for the 2nd time could get out of the House that killed it in 2007. Bergren also says he expects enough Democrats will join Republicans to push through some GOP efforts to spur energy development.

Many large policy initiatives have stalled this session.

Bergren says part of the reason is a very tight budget with no room for pricey proposals. He also cited split the 50-50 split in the House.

Bergren says that has prompted many lawmakers to not even bother proposing some ideas.

The Legislature reaches its midpoint next week.

(source: Associated Press)

Friday, February 20, 2009

Headlines Updated: Texas, Virginia & Louisiana/US forensics

From FEBRUARY 19, 2009 Find all these items below - and more - at Rick Halperin's site here

For Rick's site in general: check often if not daily - here (this site is also listed among the recommended sites on lower right column of this home page)

The following are mere excerpts of these important items - Be sure to see the ACTION item on New Mexico just below this post for today. (Also, there have been som NPR dot org items today, Feb. 20th on Texas and Virginia death penalty items.)

TEXAS: State panel opens case over last-minute appeal - A state judicial conduct commission is launching proceedings that could result in the removal of the top criminal courts judge from office for bringing "public discredit" on the courts by refusing to accept an appeal from a death row inmate hours before his execution...
The Texas Commission on Judicial Conduct today filed 7 charges of misconduct against Texas Court of Criminal Appeals Chief Justice Sharon Keller... The commission said Keller willfully and persistently failed to follow court procedures and state constitutional protections in her handling of the last-minute appeals of death row inmate Michael Wayne Richard...Richard was executed...More than 300 Texas lawyers filed complaints with the commission seeking Keller's removal from office-Jim Harrington of the Texas Civil Rights Project, one of the lead lawyers filing the complaint, said the commission's action is "pretty amazing."

VIRGINIA----execution: Edward Nathaniel Bell was executed by injection tonight for the Oct. 29, 1999, slaying of a Winchester police officer. Bell maintained his innocence to the end. According to Larry Traylor, spokesman for the Virginia Department of Corrections, the Jamaican national said: "To the Timbrook family, you definitely have the wrong person. The truth will come out one day. This here -- killing me -- there's no justice about it." Traylor said it was difficult to understand him because of his accent...The killer's last hope was Virginia Gov. Timothy M. Kaine, who personally opposes the death penalty. But in a statement released about 4 p.m. today, Kaine declined to interfere. (Bell's lawyers) contend that Bell's IQ was measured at 68 and that he functions at an intellectual level below 95 % of the population.-His lawyers also told Kaine that no court ever heard new evidence that cast doubt on Bell's guilt or that he was mentally disabled and, therefore, ineligible for the death penalty. The U.S. Supreme Court has banned the execution of people who are mentally disabled.-Since taking office, Kaine has allowed 9 executions to be carried out and commuted one death sentence. He briefly stayed Bell's execution last year while the U.S. Supreme Court took up the legality of lethal injection.-Bell becomes the 1st condemned inmate to be put to death this year in Virginia and the 103rd overall since the state resumed capital punishment in 1982. Since the death penalty was re-legalized in the USA on July 2, 1976, only Texas has carried out more executions (423) than Virginia.-Bell becomes the 14th condemned inmate to be put to death this year in the USA and the 1149th overall since the nation resumed executions on January 17, 1977.(sources: Richmond Times-Dispatch & Rick Halperin)

LOUISIANA: Manufacturing Guilt?----Experts say this exclusive video shows a dental examiner creating the bite marks that put a man on death row. Editor's Note: The following article contains graphic and disturbing photographs and video excerpts of an examination conducted on the body of a 23-month-old girl. The images are the basis of claims that forensic experts fabricated evidence in a case that put a man on death row, where he awaits exoneration or execution.

Warning: These video excerpts, approximately 30 seconds long, contain disturbing images. These are from reason dot com See here
(NOTE: you may need to go to Rick's site to see the logical/chronological development of this story and the videos.)

For most of the last 20 years, doctors Steven Hayne and Michael West have served as expert forensic witnesses for the state of Mississippi... 'Reason' has been following Hayne's deteriorating career since an October 2006 article that detailed his role in putting a possibly innocent man named Cory Maye on death row. See an archive of our Hayne-related reporting at: here

Last year, 2 men that Hayne and West helped convict of murder in the early 1990s, Levon Brooks and Kennedy Brewer, were exonerated and freed from prison through DNA testing after serving more than 30 years combined behind bars...Reason recently obtained shocking video from another Hayne and West collaboration that may shed light on the question...Forensic scientists who have viewed the footage say the video reveals not only medical malpractice, but criminal evidence tampering.

Reason also showed (one of the videos)to David Averill, a dentist and a former president of the American Board of Forensic Odontology. "The video is troubling. I don't know how you can explain where those marks come from. And there's just no justification for him to push the cast into the skin like that," Averill said. "That isn't an acceptable way to perform a bite mark analysis." Duncan's post-conviction attorneys hired San Diego forensic pathologist Harry Bonnell to review Hayne and West's testimony in the case. Bonnell, who has been highly critical of Hayne in the past, sits on the board of trustees for Parents of Murdered Children, Inc., a victim advocacy group. He has worked for the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology and formerly served on the ethics committee of the National Association of Medical Examiners. By email, Bonnell told Reason, "If what I am seeing on the video is accurate, someone is using the mold of Duncan's teeth to create an apparent bite mark; this, in my mind, is criminal tampering with evidence." (source: Radley Balko is a senior editor at Reason magazine)

USA: Report questions science, reliability of crime lab evidence----The National Academy of Sciences says many courtroom claims about fingerprints, bite marks and other evidence lack scientific verification. It finds forensics inconsistent and in disarray nationwide.- Sweeping claims made in courtrooms about fingerprints, ballistics, bite marks and other forensic evidence often have little or no basis in science, according to a landmark report released Wednesday by the nation's leading science body.-The National Academy of Sciences report called for a wholesale overhaul of the crime lab system, which has become increasingly crucial to American jurisprudence. (source: Los Angeles Times)

Find more on each excerpted item at Rick's site - Go

For Rick's site in general: check often if not daily - here (this site is also listed among the recommended sites on lower right column of this home page)

New Mexico: URGENT letter writing campain - please participate and spread widely!

Earlier this week, Governor Bill Richardson suggested in comments to the media that he has "softened" his views on the death penalty, deliberately "sending a signal" to the NM Senate that it should take a vote on the groundbreaking package of legislation to repeal the death penalty and enhance support for murder victim's families in New Mexico. Read these statements on our web page at

Please take a few minutes RIGHT NOW to thank Governor Richardson for openly reconsidering his position on the death penalty, and urge him to support HB 285 to repeal the death penalty and HB 211 and HB 284 to enhance support for murder victim families in our state. A short, hand written note sent in the mail is the single most important action you can take. You can also call, fax and e-mail, but please send your short note in the mail first.

If you wish to expand on the issues, see additional talking points below. The most important thing is that you communicate now.

Contact NM Governor Bill Richardson at:

Office of the Governor
490 Old Santa Fe Trail
Room 400
Santa Fe, NM 87501

Telephone: (505)827-3000
Fax: (505)827-3026

Thank you for taking this action. If you have any questions or I can help you in any way, please do not hesitate to contact me directly.

Viki Elkey, Executive Director
New Mexico Coalition to Repeal the Death Penalty

Main Message: Please encourage Governor Richardson to support HB 285 to abolish the death penalty in New Mexico, and also support HB 211 that allows for paid or unpaid leave for family members to attend court proceedings and HB 284 that expands services to murder victim family members in New Mexico.

Optional points to make in your message to the Governor:

It's about helping murder victim families:
New Mexico will become the first state to TRULY put victims' families first. When murder happens, it is the family of the victim that suffers the most and the longest - yet our criminal justice system is focused on how to treat the murderer. It is time for the focus to return to the family, to address the harsh realities of losing a loved one. The Catastrophic Crime and Family Restitution Program would replace the death penalty with true life without parole and create an innovative package of services for the families of murder victims - the first such program in the country. This legislation is the toughest on criminals and the most compassionate to the families of the victim.

Public opinion supports this package of bills:
A statewide December 2008 poll of likely New Mexican voters showed that 64% support replacing the death penalty with life without parole plus restitution to victims' families.

Keeping the death penalty means risking a wrongful execution:
At least 130 men and women who were convicted and sentenced to death have been released from death row nationwide since 1973 – less than 15% of them through DNA evidence. Rather, it is false witness testimony, police misconduct and prosecutorial misconduct that put innocent men and women on death row in this country. In 1974, New Mexico sentenced to death four innocent men, Thomas Gladis, Ronald Keine, Clarence Smith and Richard Greer, based on false witness testimony and police misconduct. A 1992 study found 23 cases since 1900 where innocent people were executed.

The death penalty costs too much:
According to the NM Public Defender Department, the abolition of the death penalty would save New Mexico several million dollars each year. The costs of the death penalty are borne systemically, impacting the Public Defender Department, the Attorney General's office, the various District Attorney offices, and the trial and the appellate courts. In December, 2004, Supreme Court Chief Justice Bosson estimated that the cost of a death penalty case was 6 times higher than other murder cases in New Mexico.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

MONTANA: Legislature 2009: Death penalty proposal endorsed

(Expect more soon from Journey folk and others about this hopeful news! Also see updates on other glad abolition news in Comments section below)

By MIKE DENNISON Missoulian State Bureau (from February 16-17, 2009)

HELENA - After a 90-minute emotionally charged debate, the Republican-controlled state Senate Monday endorsed a bill to abolish the death penalty in Montana.

Supporters of Senate Bill 236 said the death penalty is a costly, imperfect punishment that doesn't deter crime and does more harm than good for the families of those who are horribly murdered.

“In order for punishment to be effective, it must be swift and it must be sure,” said Sen. Dave Wanzenried, D-Missoula, the sponsor of SB236. “The death penalty is neither.”

Opponents argued just as passionately that Montana should maintain the harshest penalty for those who commit the most heinous crimes.

“This state needs to have an ultimate form of punishment for those people who have done something that is so egregious to society that we have a bound duty to take that person out of society,” said Sen. Dan McGee, R-Laurel.

Yet by a 27-23 vote, supporters of the bill carried the day, setting up a final binding vote Tuesday that would send the measure to the House for its consideration.

Six Senate Republicans joined 21 Democrats in voting for the bill, while 21 Republicans and two Democrats voted “no.”

SB236 would abolish capital punishment in Montana, substituting the death penalty with life in prison without parole. If the bill becomes law, the two men on death row at the Montana State Prison would be re-sentenced to life in prison.

Wanzenried said the death penalty, while sometimes advertised as bringing “closure” to relatives of the crime's victim, does nothing of the sort.

Instead, it creates a litany of publicized appeals that forces the family members to relive the crime again and again, he said.

“The current system does nothing to take care of the family of the victims,” Wanzenried said. “The current system simply prolongs the pain and agony of the victims.”

Supporters also invoked morality and spirituality in arguing to abolish the death penalty, saying only God should take a life, and that life in prison is perhaps a harsher punishment.

“We are the judge today as to whether someone will die at our hands,” said Sen. Gary Perry, R-Manhattan. “It is a death sentence (to be sentenced to life in prison). The question is not whether the (criminal) will die. The question is, by whose hand will he die? Ours? Or God's?”

Sen. Jonathan Windy Boy, D-Box Elder, said convicted murderers will be held accountable, whether they are executed or not: “If we vote for this, the people on death row, they are going to pay for their mistake. If they don't pay for it on this Earth, they're going to pay for it regardless. That's the law of the Creator, that's the law of the universe.”

Opponents of the measure argued that the death penalty does deter crime, particularly for murderers or other violent offenders already in prison.

“(For) violent criminals who have already murdered at least once, and the worst they can get is life without parole, what's to deter them from killing another inmate, the first chance they get?” asked Sen. Joe Balyeat, R-Bozeman.

They also doubted claims that life sentences would lessen appeals for convicted murderers, or that it would somehow make prisons or society any safer.

“I think my job here is to stand up for the victim,” said Sen. John Esp, R-Big Timber. “The minute that that murderer has been put to death, he will not have additional victims.”

Balyeat also said the death penalty is a threat that prosecutors can use to extract guilty pleas from murderers, and noted that capital punishment has been handed out in only a few cases in Montana in the past 30 years.

Wanzenried said while Montana apparently hasn't had any innocent people on death row, mistakes can be made in the criminal justice system, and that he doesn't want to take the chance of executing an innocent person.

He also quoted the statement of a woman whose daughter had been kidnapped and murdered, and who opposes the death penalty:

“She said, ‘To kill someone in (my daughter's) name would be to violate and profane the goodness of her life. The idea is offensive and repulsive to me.' ”

Copyright © 2009 Missoulian

JAPAN: Death penalty won't bring victims back to life

The Osaka building where the woman's mother-in-law was murdered in 1988. (Mainichi)

With Japan's citizen judge system set to begin in May, there are increasing fears over the participation of ordinary citizens in the trials of murder and other serious criminal cases as they may be forced to face situations in which defendants are given the death penalty.

Japan and the U.S. are two of the few developed countries that still uphold the death penalty. How do victims' families and the families of defendants who have been sentenced to death deal with the loss of loved ones?

A 40-year-old woman whose doting mother-in-law fell victim to a murder-robbery once took the stand as a witness at a murder trial at the Nagoya District Court in November 2000. The defendant was her younger brother. "At first, I couldn't forgive him," she began.

Their father was never around, and their mother left home when the younger brother was 13 years old. The five brothers and sisters who were left on their own in Osaka never had enough to eat. The woman quietly spoke of their life in shambles. But one's upbringing doesn't justify murder. "I just feel so sorry for the victims." She often appears at a loss for words as she tries to relay her experiences.

"If possible, I'd like my younger brother to have another chance at life," she'd said when her brother's lawyer asked how she felt at the trial. "I just don't want any more people to die, even if they're guilty."
The Osaka building where the woman's younger brother is accused of murdering a man in 1994. (Mainichi)
The Osaka building where the woman's younger brother is accused of murdering a man in 1994. (Mainichi)

The murder took place on Sept. 28, 1994, in a bustling section of Minami, Osaka. Four youths dragged 26-year-old Masahide Hayashi into a room of a multi-tenant building and brutally murdered him. The youths subsequently went on to take the lives of three people in 10 days.

The murders were characterized as the result of the group's repeated acts of extortion going unchecked, and in October 2005, the Nagoya District Court delivered the death sentence to three of them who were 18- or 19-year-olds at the time of the crime. The woman's younger brother was one of them. All three defendants have denied the intention to kill and have appealed the sentence; there is a possibility that the Supreme Court will hand down a decision sometime this year.

The rooms on the fourth floor of the building in Minami are labeled with letters instead of numbers, as if attempting to obscure what happened 15 years ago.

The woman's mother-in-law, who was 45 years old at the time, was killed in May 1988, in a building five kilometers to the north of the one in Minami. The first floor where her mother-in-law's pub used to be is shuttered, and few people living in the neighborhood now know of the murder.

"It was because of my husband that I said in court that I didn't want anyone else to die," says the woman, who currently lives in the Kansai region.

At 18, she married a man four years her senior who came from a family of four boys. "She's my first daughter," the newlywed woman's mother-in-law bragged to people around her. Three months before the murder, the woman gave birth to a girl, and her mother-in-law had looked joyous as she held her first grandchild. When the mother-in-law was found murdered, however, her mouth was twisted and her eyes were open. From the shock of the death, the woman stopped menstruating for seven months.

The perpetrator was a 39-year-old former member of the Self-Defense Forces. He had committed the crime for want of money to lavish on women, and stole 12,000 yen from the scene of the murder.

Immediately after the incident, she felt she wanted to kill the murderer, the woman recalls, and she still can't forgive him. But the words uttered by her husband when he returned from taking the stand as the prosecution's witness at his mother's murder trial in Osaka have stayed with her to this day. He gently recounted what he'd said when he was asked what sentence he wished to see handed down to the defendant: "Giving him the death penalty won't bring my mother back." On March 1989, the Osaka District Court sentenced the defendant to an indefinite prison term, which he served.

A devoted son, the woman's husband had driven an hour everyday to take his mother to work. She came to understand that he did not wish for another death precisely because he knew how painful it was to lose a loved one. Still, she will never forget the eyes of the victims' families in her brother's murder trial boring holes in her back as she pleaded for a compassionate sentence.

In November 2005, soon after her brother's death sentence was handed down, the woman stocked up on clothes and delivered them to her brother at a Nagoya detention center. On her visit with her brother, whom she only knew as kind and quick to cry, tears prevented them from saying anything.

She hasn't been to see him since. "Considering how the victims' families must feel, my brother doesn't deserve to be treated gently," she said, her shoulders trembling. The color of her brother's skin, pale from his time in detention, is burned into her memory. (This is the first part of a series on capital punishment)

For the original Japanese story, click

(Mainichi Japan) February 18, 2009

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

GEORGIA: State Sen. Fort Seeks Death Penalty Moratorium, Activists Oppose Jury Changes

A coalition of Georgia religious and human rights activists led by Georgians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty (GFADP) spent Tuesday, February 17, 2009, asking state lawmakers to put the death penalty on hold in Georgia, improve indigent defense, and to oppose an effort to allow non-unanimous jury decisions in death penalty cases.

State Sen. Vincent Fort (D-Atlanta) and activists urged lawmakers to place a moratorium on all executions while the State studies potential blind spots in the system.

Fort said he filed a moratorium bill Tuesday, adding "further studies are necessary to make sure the State is doing its job" of protecting the innocent. The bill information is not yet available online as of press time.

"We should demand that we have a system where mistakes are held at a bare minimum," he said.

The Georgia General Assembly is also considering 2 bills that anti-death penalty activists say are harmful.

SB 42 would do away with the Georgia Public Defenders Standards Council (GPDSC), a group that assures people who cannot afford legal defense are provided adequate and effective legal representation, and replace it with a single director appointed by the governor.

"This will dramatically weaken legal support for poor people," Sara Totonchi, chair of GFADP, said of SB 42 during a press conference at the State Capitol.

Activists say the GPDSC is well-designed but it was not been able to serve effectively because state lawmakers have been unwilling or unable to fully fund it.

Another bill, HB 32, would allow non-unanimous juries to issue a death sentence; this is the reintroduction of a bill Atlanta Progressive News also covered last Session.

Activists say if the bill becomes law, Georgia would become the first state with a hybrid system that factors in the jury and judge's decision.

"Split jury decisions don't show a weakness in the criminal justice system," Totonchi said. "They show strength and fairness. They are evidence that jurors are taking their duty seriously, carefully weighing the evidence, and making the system operate as it was intended."

GFADP also argues the inevitable, protracted constitutional challenges to such a law would cost taxpayers millions of dollars, tie up the courts, and further delay already drawn out death penalty trials, appeals, and reversals.

"What is so important about the rush to kill people in Georgia," Edward DuBose, chair of the Georgia conference of the National Associated for the Advancement of Colored People, asked. "We stand opposed to any deal that would reduce the number of jurors, especially in a state holding innocent people – people who have been on death row for 20, 30 years."

Meanwhile, a bill moving quickly through the General Assembly could slow the number of death penalty convictions.

SB 13, sponsored by State Sen. Preston Smith (R-Rome), would give district attorneys the option of seeking a life without parole sentence without first having to seek the death penalty to obtain it. The bill is also co-sponsored by State Sen. Kasim Reed, currently running for Mayor of Atlanta.

Current rules dictate that the only way to keep a convicted murderer in jail forever is for the district attorney to seek the death penalty or to obtain a murder conviction against someone who already had a violent felony conviction.

SB 13 unanimously passed the State Senate on February 03, 2009, and received a favorable report from the House Non-Civil Judiciary Committee on February 11, 2009.

A similar Senate bill failed in a conference committee last Session after lawmakers could not come to an agreement on the non-unanimous juries legislation, which the House wanted attached.

Since 1973, 129 inmates have been exonerated from death row, including five in Georgia. While DNA evidence has played a significant role in these exonerations, faulty eyewitness testimony has been to blame for putting innocent lives on the line.

Troy Anthony Davis has been on Georgia’s death row since 1991 after a jury convicted him of the 1989 murder of Savannah police officer Mark Allen MacPhail. The prosecution used only eyewitness testimony to obtain a conviction.

But since the original trial, 7 of 9 witnesses have either changed or recanted their testimony. In light of the recantations, groups like GFADP and Amnesty International say there is far too much doubt to execute Davis and that he should be granted a new trial so the new evidence can be heard.

Martina Correia, sister of Davis, said Tuesday her brother’s case represents the problems that already exist in the system.

"We believe in a higher standard for the justice system," Correia said. "The standards that are trying to be imposed should really disgust all of us."

State Rep. Stephanie Stuckey Benfield (D-Decatur), who spent at least 2 years trying to reform eyewitness identification procedures through the General Assembly, said Tuesday there has been progress without legislation.

Working with various law enforcement agencies, Benfield said the Georgia Public Safety Training Center has developed a course on eyewitness identification as part of its training for all officers.

"I hope we won't see injustices like Troy Davis again in the future," Benfield said.

Correia urged other Georgians to stay informed on these issues. "If I stand out, it's because too many of us stand back."

"This is bigger than the death penalty, this is bigger than Troy Davis," Correia added. "This is about a system unseen. We can fight and be a voice for the voiceless."

(source: Jonathan Springston is a Senior Staff Writer for The Atlanta Progressive News)

Help Save Troy Davis from Execution Once Again!

Hello Readers and Journey Family! I found this in my email box today addressed to: Dear EmailNation Subscriber,

Troy Davis has been on death row in Georgia for 18 years for the murder of a Police Officer in Savannah; a murder he maintains he did not commit. And, after 18 years, the case against him has crumbled. His execution date has been delayed 3 times because the pieces just don't add up. Now, the state of Georgia may be about to kill the wrong man. Follow the links below and join Amnesty International USA's call to urge Georgia Governor Perdue to prevent the execution of Troy Davis.


All best,
Peter Rothberg
The Nation

Troy Davis was convicted in 1991 for the murder of a police officer. After 18 years on death row, the state of Georgia is prepared to kill a man who may be innocent:
Tell Georgia Governor Perdue to prevent the execution of Troy Davis!

The state of Georgia seems determined to kill Troy Davis. Despite mounting evidence proving his innocence, Troy's life still hangs in the balance. Urge Georgia Governor Perdue to exercise leadership and prevent the execution of Troy Davis!

While Troy Davis has sat on death row for the last 18 years, the case against him has crumbled. His execution date has been delayed 3 times because the pieces just don't add up. The state of Georgia may be about to kill the wrong man:

7 of the 9 witnesses have recanted their testimonies
No murder weapon nor any physical evidence has been found to link Troy to the crime
And if that wasn't enough to cast a shadow of doubt: One of the remaining two witnesses has actually been implicated as the real killer

Troy Davis was sentenced to death despite a tainted case and serious claims of innocence.

Pursuing the case against Troy Davis is an outrageous display of injustice. The family of police officer Mark MacPhail, whose life was tragically cut short by this crime, and the people of Georgia deserve true justice. It cannot be accomplished by executing a man with such strong claims of innocence.

The story of Troy Davis is not over. You have the power to help tip the scale in favor of justice. Please take action today.



Sue G. Vaughn
Director, Death Penalty Abolition Campaign
Amnesty International USA

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Pursue Love

After much reflection during the last few days I've decided to post the following as well as the posting just below called "Unconditional Love". Perhaps several others who read this may want to join me in using it as a reference? Some of us constantly need the centering power of love along with some possible definitions. I slip so easily yet such a "Bill of Love" helps to leads the way way back to forgiveness and the Journey of Hope. (So does our Bill Pelke help lead the way by his own vision and life!)

The Love Chapter (also see the posting just below)

If I have all the eloquence of mortal languages or angels yet speak without love
I am simply a gong booming or a cymbal clashing.

Love is patient and kind and gives others the benefit of the doubt. Love seeks not to take offense nor to hold resentment. Love lives in readiness to trust, hope and to endure anything. In fact, love does not end.

Love takes no pleasure in other folks' undoing or flaws. Love does not insist on its own way.

Now we see in a mirror only dimly. Love will help us to see face-to-face.

Faith, hope and love abide with us still. Yet the greatest of these is love.

Pursue it - want love more than anything else.


Taken freely from 1 Corinthians 13 in the New Testament attributed to St. Paul. This is my attempt to splice together phrasing from the New Revised Standard Version,The Jerusalem Bible and paraphrased according to my own understanding.

There are of course many other interpretations just as legitimate.

Perhaps there are others here who use other spiritual or ethical literature or scripture from various traditions who may want to share what helps and guides in this Journey of Life?

Be sure to see the sister post just below...

Monday, February 16, 2009

Unconditional Love

In the COMMENTS section of one of my favorite writers about those tortured and left for dead in Guantanamo, a faithful reader of his blogs, Frances Madeson, has written a beautiful tribute to this writer. Frances says the following, today, February 16, 2009, of Andy Worthington and his work

(To Andy): In addition to everything else your work has been, it is an act of unconditional love to the whole wide world. You have loved your neighbor as yourself, and you are, as a result, golden. Innocence can never be restored; our rose colored glasses have been crushed into a fine powder. But they have been replaced by depth perception and ocular clarity, which will serve us far better going forward, as we must.

Find the entire article and the Comments section here and/or go to the post here just below...

Shortly before my mother-in-law died, our minister preached on 1 Corinthians 13 in the New Testament of the Christian bible. This beautiful section of scripture which speaks so poetically of unconditional love -- provided the nurture which helped me to get through a grueling 10 or so days of sharing round-the-clock hospital & home presence and care of my beautiful mother with her other loved ones. While my little part was so imperfect, nevertheless I was able - through this vision of love - to put aside the weights of that which was unresolved and to be at peace with this amazing mother, so gifted while so unlike me in many ways. I was also able to make a final peace with her and her with me. I was given new lens by which to see more clearly the expansive good she had imparted in her son, my beloved husband, our children and others. (The degree of which I had earlier missed.)

Yet, there are others in our lives much harder to love. Some of us are victims' family members. Others may be released at last from prison with final proof of innocence. All of this is so hard to forgive.

There are so many who have reason to rage personally as well as as citizens and those from other countries and cultures at those who have terribly infected humanity -- those like our recent past - and some current - leaders in church and government today.

Where might we personally and corporately be able to apply this universal creed for loving and forgiveness?

So, here is my response to Frances...This is edited from the first version which I spontaneously posted a few moments ago on Andy's site...

So well put, Frances -- & you express such a wide & passionate heart...keep us informed about your progress to give of yourself for the tortured ones & what you learn along the way about loving them.

1 Corinthians 13 in the so-called New Testament of the Christian Bible is sheer poetry, clarity and guidance from the few who live out this timeless principle. This Bible with which I have grown up is to my limited understanding - a scripture written through the sometimes egoistic view of many different folk throughout the years who really cared to understand life, ethics, God, the enemy and the Beloved Community. So therefore, I would say that it is a scripture written largely according to people & perhaps at times with the mark of the Holy Spirit as well-- from the unfathomable ink well of the deepest, most truthful and loving Spirit of us all - Who is within us & beyond us at the same time. This Spirit - which I still fully embrace - is how I discern, how I recognize authentic peacemakers, healers and the like, from whatever perspective...

Although I'm a long, long way from my some of biblical upbringing in interpretation and focus of interests - I still find a universal quality to this portion of scripture - the Love chapter -which our US citizenry and leaders and we ourselves as well - would do well to heed (I who am very willful, often non-loving, unforgiving - and way too often merely spouting polemics and political rights "dogma" second-hand -- I need to heed this chapter on unconditional love at least as much as most folk!).

"...although I do good works & have not love, I am a sounding brass and a tinkling symbol..."

So whenever I want to give up myself - my psyche & my body even up - for someone personally or someone I've merely read about or even for an archetype - whenever I seek through sacrifice to somehow benefit one of the most powerless & the most voiceless among us -- (and I have tried to do this from time to time) - I try to remember this poetry from scripture and ask myself: how can I do so & still love...not only the victim yet also the victimizer...a feat which only a few manage to accomplish in one lifetime...

Perhaps this understanding of what's required for healing, human rights and peace on earth is universal enough to connect with readers here of all persuasions, even the pantheists, the atheists, the agnostics, those of any of the major or minor faiths and those of a variety of cultures and countries apparently so different from our own?

How - or in which way - do any here personally find resonance with this theme?


Rahim Ahmadi has 3 days to live

by SCE Campaign

SCE President, Nazanin Afshin-Jam received news from former child-prisoner Reza Alinejad of the imminent execution of Rahim Ahmadi believed to be carried out this Wednesday, February 18th 2009.
Reza Alinejad who was recently saved from death row and released from prison, got a phone call from his past cellmates informing him that Rahim Ahmadi had been sent to the section where prisoners are held before they are to be executed.

Reza Alinejad described Rahim Ahmadi as a good and quiet boy who minded his own business. He said that he would often read his prayer books and pray. He also said that he was really good at handicrafts like knitting and sewing, activities given to prisoners to keep them occupied.


Despite a few Judges acknowledging that Rahim used a knife in self defense, his death sentence was confirmed by Iran’s head of Judiciary Ayatollah Shahroudi. On August 8th 2005, when Rahim was 15 years old, he stabbed and killed a man named Reza. Shiraz police were notified that the attacker had fled the scene and started a widespread manhunt. Rahim turned himself in the following day. During investigation, Rahim said:

“the day before the incident happened, Reza and two of his friends confronted me. They beat me and ran away and of course, I hit them back. The next day, the three of them came after me again. I was standing at my front door, when they attacked me. I managed to grab a knife away from one of them. In self-defense, I stabbed Reza. I had not planned to kill anyone and if I had not hit Reza, they would have hit me”.

Although Rahim was no more than 15 years old, the presiding judges considered him an adult from a religious standpoint and sentenced Rahim to death. He was transferred him to Adelabad prison in Shiraz where he spent the last 5 years in jail. The sentencing was confirmed by the Supreme Court and sent to Ayatullah Shahroudi for final approval. His death sentence was confirmed and he now awaits imminent execution.

Please send your urgent action by phoning or faxing the Permanent Mission of the Islamic Republic of Iran to the United Nations:

Mohammad Khazaee, Ambassador and Permanent Representative
622 Third Ave. New York, NY 10017
Tel: (212) 687-2020 / Fax: (212) 867-7086

And writing to the Head of Judiciary in Iran

His Excellency Ayatollah Mahmoud Hashemi Shahroudi
Howzeh Riyasat-e Qoveh Qazaiyeh / Office of the Head of the Judiciary
Pasteur St., Vali Asr Ave., south of Serah-e Jomhouri,
Tehran 1316814737,
Islamic Republic of Iran
Phone: [00 98 21] 391 1109
Fax: [00 98 21] 390 4986

Salutation: Your Excellency

(Due to the short time left, we ask you to either send faxes or e-mails or make phone calls.)

48 Hours Mystery
My Father's Killer

Accompaniing these videos please also read "Introducing the Journey of Hope - Family: SUEZANN BOSLER"

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Power to Forgive

WHEN Brian Aim came face to face with Jahche Broughton – the teenager who murdered his daughter Karen – for the first time in New Zealand last week, he would have been justified in unleashing a torrent of abuse.
Broughton – his hair gelled as if he was attending a rock concert rather than appearing in court – had just pleaded guilty to battering the pretty backpacker to death with a baseball bat.

But instead of branding Broughton evil or saying he hoped he would rot in hell, the 52- year-old builder, from Orkney, was restrained and dignified. Though clearly shattered by his loss, he thanked the police for the work they had done to bring the 15-year-old to justice and insisted that what had happened to his daughter would not turn him against the country she had fallen in love with. More astonishingly, he spoke of forgiveness and of the need to avoid going down a "spiral of hatred".

Aim had already voiced his desire to meet with the killer and his family in an attempt to gain a greater insight into what happened to Karen, 26, as she walked home after a night out in the lakeside resort of Taupo. Once again, his measured tones seemed remarkable to those who could only imagine a compulsion for revenge.

But in fact, Aim's attitude – that forgiveness and reconciliation have something to offer the victim as well as the perpetrator – is one that is gaining credence. In the same way that nations have sought a more conciliative approach to conflict resolution (such as South Africa's Truth and Reconciliation Commission), individuals, too, have found ways to empathise with and eventually forgive those who have committed atrocities.

Take Ginn Fourie, whose daughter Lyndi was killed when members of the Azanian People's Liberation Army fired indiscriminately at diners in a restaurant in Cape Town, South Africa, in 1993. She has not only forgiven the gunmen but formed a strong bond with the man who ordered the attack, Letlapa Mphahele, even though he never apologised for his actions. And Jo Berry, whose father, the Conservative MP Sir Anthony Berry, was killed in the Brighton bombing in 1984, has struck up a friendship with the former IRA terrorist who planted it, Patrick Magee.

To forgive may be divine, but it may also be the healthier approach: US research suggests forgiveness is not only good for our spiritual wellbeing, but has actual physical benefits in terms of lower blood pressure and cardiovascular disease.

But not all experts agree. Psychologist Dr Jeanne Safer, author of the book Must We Forgive?, believes the pressure on those who have suffered great wrongs to forgive can 'revictimise' them. "First someone screws you. And then it's your fault you don't want to embrace them in heaven."

So why do some people choose forgiveness over vengeance and how difficult is the journey from anger to absolution?

Marina Cantacuzino is the founder of The Forgiveness Project, an initiative that encourages victims of crime to share their stories. She says the journey towards acceptance is complex and differs very much from person to person. For Rosalyn Boyce, who was raped repeatedly in her own home by a knife-wielding attacker while her daughter, two, slept next door, it was made all the more difficult by the fact that the man involved – a serial offender – showed no sign of regretting his actions.

Rosalyn, who is now a life coach, was cut and threatened with death before her attacker ran off. He was later caught and given three life sentences. Afterwards, she was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder and depression, for which she was prescribed Prozac and tranquillisers. But soon Rosalyn realised no one was going to help her but herself, so she ditched the medication and "embarked on a long, hard journey of self-discovery".

She says: "To me, forgiveness now equated to my own freedom. It meant that I no longer had to feel any attachment to my rapist or the act of rape and by doing so I could free myself from the crime and move on with my life. Once I chose to perceive forgiveness on these terms a massive burden was lifted."

Ten years on, Rosalyn admits her attitude to the rapist is better described as "neutral detachment" than complete forgiveness. "I think if I felt there was any remorse, I would be able to forgive him entirely," she says. "Instead, I have a situation where I – and his other victims – believe that were he to be let out he would attack again even more violently. So trying to forgive him is something I've had to do entirely alone, for me."

There are others who have no desire to forgive and whose lives become consumed by the need for retribution. Ann West, mother of Moors murder victim Lesley-Ann Downey, dedicated her life to ensuring Myra Hindley remained in jail and went to her grave filled with hatred for the woman who had taken her child's life. On being diagnosed with cancer, she said: "I hope my name lives on and will haunt Hindley every day in a cell until she dies."

While West's bitterness is entirely understandable, many psychologists believe striving to forgive is a healthier approach.

Dr Loren Toussaint, of Luther University in Iowa, has carried out research he says proves that an ability to forgive lowers blood pressure and reduces depression in the over-45s. "Sometimes people do not want to forgive because they feel the person involved doesn't deserve their forgiveness," he says. "Then it becomes a game of one-upmanship and what you are actually doing is handing control back to the original offender because there's nothing you can do to change the fact they've hurt you."

He says research is beginning to show the concept of forgiveness is stronger in collectivistic than individualistic cultures. When Charles Roberts killed five children in the Amish community of Nickel Mines, Pennsylvania, before turning the gun on himself, their forgiveness was immediate, communal and entirely in line with their belief system.

On the other side of the debate, while Safer accepts that for the Amish people the concept of forgiveness is fundamental, she insists putting pressure on people to forgive when they don't want to can be just as damaging.

"People seem to believe the opposite of forgiving is seeking vengeance, but that's not the case," she says. "We have found the process of working through a terrible event involves several steps and the outcome may be forgiving or not forgiving, and both are equally valid. Those who are made to feel otherwise are being given an additional burden."

The London-based Forgiveness Project – which began in the run-up to the Iraq war when Cantacuzino, a journalist, started collecting stories of forgiveness as an antidote to the prevailing language of pay-back – takes all of this on board.

It doesn't sermonise, preferring to provide a platform for people to describe how they endured terrible traumas without being overwhelmed by them. And it recognises that even those who have achieved a degree of acceptance will have days when negative feelings flare up again. "Forgiveness is a journey not a destination," Cantacuzino says.

That Brian Aim is still on that journey is clear from the mixed emotions he expressed last week after the court hearing into his daughter's murder. Still raw with grief, he spoke of how he had hoped to take his daughter down the aisle in her wedding dress, but was forced instead to take her down the aisle in her coffin. Describing his daughter's murder as "one moment's madness", he added: "Jahche will never know how much he has taken from us."

Perhaps shaken by at last seeing her killer face to face, Aim tried to clarify his feelings, saying: "Forgive is possibly too strong a word. Maybe we should have said that we will live to tolerate what he has done."

This inner conflict is something Jo Berry clearly identifies with. On The Forgiveness Project website she describes how her desire to forgive Magee fluctuates: "For me the question is always about whether I can let go of my need to blame, and open my heart enough to hear Pat's story and understand his motivations. The truth is that sometimes I can and sometimes I can't. It's a journey and it's a choice, which means it's not all sorted and put away in a box."

Most of those who have contributed their stories do seem to believe in the inherent value of forgiveness. "Some people think it means excusing or condoning or that is a magical key to serenity," Cantacuzino says. "In fact, it is difficult and complex, but potentially very potent. For many it is a liberating route out of victimhood, a choice, a process, the final victory over those who have done you harm."
by Dani Garavelli
(Source: ScotlandonSunday)