Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Ode to Mike Kennedy (Letter from "Pajama Lady")

NOTE: There was no title on this piece about Mike. This came as a letter which came in the mail before it got extremely busy with Journey tours, etc. Also, I need to get a regular photo turned into one I might be able to post. Bear with me. Thanx so much, "Pajama Lady" and the "Death Row Support Project in Liberty Mills, Indiana - for sending the letter to us, here at The Journey blog"!!! Thanx for your patience, Pajama Lady and Rachel for sending this poignant piece & photo (which I hope to post soon!)

For those who haven't seen it, we did a post on Mike quite awhile back here on The Journey Blogsite. How Mike's story is deepened as more who knew him write about him! Connie

Mike Kennedy was born on May 17, 1954, under a radical star. That was the day the US Supreme Court declared school segregation unconstitutional, which ushered (in) the civil rights movement of the 50's and 60's.

Through July of 1995, Mike was seizure-free. His medication (depakote); however, was raised to 500 mgs, 3x a day. (Double what he had been taking.) The doctor though Mike may have had seizures of which he was unaware. Mike had lesions on the brain.

Mike spent four years in college to earn a BA in Social Work. He had a Masters in Theological Studies. He took courses on Pastoral Care, Counseling, Ethics and Latin American Studies. It took him four years to complete a two-year course. He was a certified Social Worker in Texas.

He worked with alcoholics and drug addicts eight years even though he was not a certified alcohol/drug counselor. He also worked in a soup kitchen for a year. He still was unemployed...

He revealed the medication affected his speech and balance. (The balance more so at night.) But his legs were exhausted from carrying his body around all day.

With little money in his pocket for travel and holes in his shoes, he still would grab his cane and join a Journey of abolition fast - or protest peacefully against man's indignity to man.

Sometimes I would remind him not to forget his cane. And of course he did, in Atlanta, GA. And he implied that I jinxed him. He said, "So don't you jinx my teeth!"

Unfortunately, we never had that reunion we hoped for. But I know where he is. He's in the place of pleasant dreams and blue skies, where the lion and the lamb co-exist in peace and there is no death penalty.

Pajama Lady

PS I heard Mike died in the doctor's office of a heart attack, during a visit.
Here are a few notes that were in the letter "packet" from Pajama Lady: "Mike took in people who might have been on the streets - but for his good heart. He took in a pregnant lady, offered his apartment to a woman in jail - people with ALS, MS, those who stagger, etc. He was my friend since '92. He mentioned Franz Jagerstatter and Deitrich Bonhoeffer."

Monday, March 30, 2009

Death penalty foe tells story of forgiveness

VALPARAISO -- A man who forgave the girl who was sentenced to death for the murder of his grandmother told a church audience Saturday night that capital punishment has nothing to do with justice or closure for families of victims.
Former Portage steelworker Bill Pelke, now living in Anchorage, Alaska, spoke on "From Violence to Healing."

He added St. Teresa of Avila in Valparaiso to a two-week tour that began March 10 in Dayton, Ohio, for Journey of Hope, the organization of families of murder victims and former death-row inmates who were exonerated before they could be executed.

A spokesman for the Diocese of Gary said the parish "jumped at the chance" to hear Pelke while he was visiting family and friends after the tour.

"We had a similar program two years ago," said the Rev. Kevin McCarthy of St. Teresa. "The timing was short, but we are a very socially conscious church community. We want to support life."

Following a supper after Mass, Pelke told 70 listeners the details of the 1985 murder of his grandmother Ruth Pelke during a robbery by four teenage girls, including 15-year-old Paula Cooper, who be-came the youngest person ever sentenced to death in Indiana.

"That was OK with me," Pelke said.

But three and a half months after she was sentenced to be executed, as the case was gaining international attention, he experienced a "transformation" one night while sitting in his crane cab at Bethlehem Steel.

"I became convinced beyond the shadow of a doubt that my grandmother would have had love and compassion for Paula Cooper and her family. I realized I didn't have to see somebody else die," he said.

Cooper was resentenced in 1989 to 60 years in prison by unanimous order of the Indiana Supreme Court.

Pelke said his opposition to capital punishment broadened after meeting Sister Helen Prejean, author of "Dead Man Walking," which became the 1995 movie that won Susan Sarandon the Oscar for portraying the activist nun.

Cooper is scheduled for release before completing the standard 30 years in prison on her new sentence, on March 14, 2014, according to Pelke.

Learn more about Journey of Hope by going to www.journeyofhope.org or call (877) 924-4483.
(Article taken from the Post-Tribune)

Kids Against the Death Penalty Named 2009 Youth Abolitionists of the Year

Kids Against the Death Penalty has won the 2009 Youth Abolitionists of the Year award given by Students Against the Death Penalty and Texas Students Against the Death Penalty. The award was announced and presented to KADP at the Texas Capitol on March 24 by Hooman Hedayati, president of Students Against the Death Penalty and Jason Kyriakides, board member of Texas Students Against the Death Penalty.

The award recognizes the hundreds of hours of activism performed by Kids Against the Death Penalty in the last year educating the public about the injustice of the death penalty. The hard work and passionate commitment of members of Kids Against the Death Penalty has greatly benefited the national movement to abolish the death penalty. Several members of KADP are relatives of Jeff Wood, who is on Texas death row convicted under the Law of Parties even though he did not kill anyone.

Scott Cobb of Texas Moratorium Network, one of the many people who nominated Kids Against the Death Penalty for the award said, "Martin Luther King, Jr wrote in a letter from a Birmingham Jail that 'injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere'. That sense of injustice was what compelled Dr King to carry the gospel of freedom beyond his own home town. I have personally witnessed how Kids Against the Death Penalty have brought their message of justice beyond their own home town to cities throughout Texas. They have marched for miles along Texas streets holding anti-death penalty signs, through neighborhoods in Houston and down Congress Avenue in Austin to the State Capitol. They have stood vigil many times at the Texas Capitol when Texas has executed someone. They have visited the home of Texas Governor Rick Perry and pressed for justice. They lobbied members of the Texas Legislature on Lobby Day Against the Death Penalty March 24, 2009. Carissa Bywater of KADP testified to the Texas House Committee on Criminal Jurisprudence Subcommittee on Capital Punishment on March 19. (The video of Carissa's testimony is viewable here from the Texas House website, click forward to minute 57 and 50 seconds.) It is also now on YouTube. KADP has courageously spoken out on an issue in which relatively few other people in Texas, whether adults or children, have found the time or the courage to speak out about. By doing so, they are following in the footsteps of other children in America’s past who have stood up for human rights".

"Children and teenagers played a significant role in the Civil Rights Movement. Barbara Johns was 16 in 1951 when she started a campaign for equal treatment at her school in Virginia. Her case became part of the landmark Brown v Board of Education decision by the U.S. Supreme Court that ruled that school segregation violated the Constitution of the United States. In 1963, more than a thousand children skipped their classes and marched in downtown Birmingham for equal schools. Many of them were arrested. Because of those kids’ actions during the civil rights movement, we live in a country today where candidates for president are not judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their platforms", said Cobb.

"KADP has already inspired kids in other states to join the anti-death penalty movement. Because of KADP's hard work against the death penalty, both Texas and the U.S. have moved closer to the day when we live in a society where the state does not kill in order to teach the lesson that killing is wrong", said Hooman Hedayati. KADP members received commemorative medals and $100 to be used in their anti-death penalty work.

Also Gislaine Williams of Rice for Peace (Rice University) and Ashley Kincaid (University of Indiana) each received a Certificate of Achievement by Students Against the Death Penalty.

2009 Youth Abolitionists of the Year

Gavin Been – Founder and President of KADP
Nick Been – 1st Vice President
Nathan Been -2nd Vice President
Carissa Bywater – Secretary and Committee Chair
Paige Wood – Board Member
Cory Bywater - Board Member
Deanna Nickell - Board Member
Tanner Tucker – Board member

Members of KADP holding their awards for 2009 Youth Abolitionists of the Year.
Front row, Left to right: Carissa Bywater 14, Gavin Been 12
Back Row, Left to right: Deanna Nickell 13, Nathan Been 14, Nick Been 13, Cory Bywater 11, and Tanner Tucker 12
Not Pictured: Paige Wood 15
(Taken from the blog of Texas Moratorium Network)

Saturday, March 28, 2009


A Journey of Hope event in Indianapolis is now available by VIDEO here

Recorded in Indianapolis, St Thomas Aquinas Catholic Church on March 19, 2009.

Please watch and COMMENT.

PENNSYLVANIA: NEXT known State Killing - April 1st?!

Please, Abolitionists, CALL ASAP:

Pennsylvania Governor Edward Rendell
225 Main Capitol Bldg.
Harrisburg, PA 17120
email: governor@state.pa.us

This pending state killing is NO April Fools Joke, not from any facet of this multi-layered American tragedy. I decided to post the most recent news from the Pennsylvania Gov's office as well as posting a much earlier article. This also brings up the value in connections and discussions between Abolitionists and those who would seek to prevent drug crime.

HARRISBURG, Pa., Feb. 10 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Governor Edward G. Rendell today signed an execution warrant for Richard Boxley, 40, who was sentenced to die for killing a rival drug dealer in Reading in 1997.

In 2000, Boxley was convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to death for fatally shooting Jason Bolton. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court affirmed the murder conviction, but vacated the death sentence and called for a new penalty hearing. After the second penalty hearing in 2004, Boxley was again sentenced to death. In 2008, the state Supreme Court affirmed that sentence and the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear an appeal.

Boxley's execution by lethal injection is set for April 1. He is held at the
State Correctional Institution at Graterford.

Governor Rendell has now signed 85 death warrants.

The Rendell administration is committed to creating a first-rate public education system, protecting our most vulnerable citizens and continuing economic investment to support our communities and businesses.To find out more about Governor Rendell's initiatives and to sign up for his weekly newsletter, visit here

SOURCE Pennsylvania Office of the Governor, Chuck Ardo +1-717-783-1116

The following article is from MUCH earlier - 2004 - yet with some interesting twists and comments...

New York man gets death for second time in murder

Jurors decide that Richard Boxley deserves to be executed for a drug-related killing. The same sentence was ordered after a 2000 trial but later overturned by the state Supreme Court.

By Mary E. Young Reading Eagle

A New York City man has been sentenced to death a second time for the murder of a Reading man in a drug dispute.

After six days of testimony, a jury of five women and seven men deliberated for more than two hours before deciding Wednesday night that Richard Boxley, 36, should be executed for murdering Jarvay "Jason" Bolton, 24, of 1001 Chestnut St. in the 100 block of South Sixth Street on June 11, 1997.

The jury reached the same conclusion as the first jury did in 2000, when Boxley was convicted of the murder.

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court upheld the conviction but overturned the death sentenced because Judge Stephen B. Lieberman did not allow lawyers to question, in detail, each juror about the death penalty.

Bolton’s aunt, Deborah Moss, did not get to hear the jury’s decision because she and other family members had to be on the last bus leaving for New York City.

Before she left around 7 p.m. Wednesday, Moss said she would be saddened by the outcome, no matter what the jury decided.

"It bothered me that Jarvay was here," she said. "He caused Reading pain, too. He was a good child and a good teenager. However, he got involved with some bad guys here.

"Whatever he did, he would have went to jail for it. But it wasn’t up to Richard Boxley to take his life."

In closing arguments before Judge Jeffrey L. Schmehl, defense attorney John J. Grenko told the jury that Boxley has a nugget of good in him, and that he would be unable to share that good with anyone if the jury sentenced him to death.

"He has done bad things," Grenko said. "There’s no denying that.

"But those things do not rise to the level that is warranted to take his life. Putting him in jail for the rest of his life, without the chance of parole, is an adequate and appropriate punishment for what he did."

Bolton put himself in danger by dealing in drugs and firing back when co-defendant Jose Busanet had a shootout with Bolton about a month before the murder, Grenko said.

"I beg you: Spare Richard Boxley his life," he told the jury.

But District Attorney Mark C. Baldwin said the evidence proved that the two factors needed by law to support the death penalty existed in Boxley’s case.

Other lives were endangered because children were playing on the sidewalk, and adults were sitting on their porches where the murder took place, he said.

And Boxley has a history of violent crime, including two robberies and a firearm violation while he was on parole, Baldwin said.

Boxley and Busanet killed Bolton because Bolton was Busanet’s drug-dealing rival, he said.

"Richard Boxley had no ax to grind," Baldwin said. "Richard Boxley had no motive to kill Jason Bolton. He was brought here for one purpose and one purpose only — to take part in the killing of Jason Bolton."

According to testimony:

Boxley plotted with Busanet, also known as Tito Black, to kill Bolton.

They went with Wilson Melendez, a friend of Busanet’s, to the 100 block of South Sixth Street in the middle of the afternoon.

When Bolton approached, Boxley and Busanet began firing.

Bolton died of gunshot wounds to his chest.

Busanet, 31, was convicted and sentenced to death. He is on death row in the State Correctional Institution at Greensburg, Greene County.

Melendez, 26, is serving three to six years in state prison after pleading guilty to conspiring to commit the murder.

Contact reporter Mary Young at 610-478-6292 or myoung@readingeagle.com. (NOTE: this article is FIVE years old and this reporter may not be available.)

Pending and State by State Info

Every now & then, perhaps putting out this overview could be a bit helpful? Note even to seasoned abolitionists - how about filing this info for easy access - adding to it and sending us more items useful for all of us to find in one place with one click?







Thursday, March 26, 2009

Speaking out from death row
"Life from Death Row" national speaking tour

Lee Wengraf reports on the "Live from Death Row" national speaking tour

"IF THIS had been the 1950s, I would be hanging from a tree. I would be speaking to you as a ghost."

With those words, Yusef Salaam, exonerated and freed from prison in the infamous Central Park jogger case, addressed a crowd of more than 110 people who attended the Harlem stop of a "Live from Death Row" national speaking tour to build opposition to the death penalty.

Sponsored by the Campaign to End the Death Penalty (CEDP), the tour has made more than a dozen stops across the country, with many more slated for the spring.

Headlined by death row prisoners speaking over speakerphone, the "Live from Death Row" tour brings their voices from behind prison walls to live audiences, allowing them to relate their stories of injustice, loss and struggle, and add to the growing national chorus for abolition of capital punishment.

Featured speakers include Pennsylvania death row prisoner Mumia Abu-Jamal, John Booth-El of Maryland, Timothy McKinney of Tennessee, Kevin Cooper of California and Stanley Howard of Illinois.

It's not too late to catch the "Live from Death Row" tour, or host a stop yourself. For details about dates and locations of upcoming tour stops, visit the Campaign to End the Death Penalty Web site, or contact the national tour organizer at nyc@nodeathpenalty.org.

Upcoming stops include:

March 25:
Peace Center, Albuquerque, N.M.

March 31:
Harold Washington College, Chicago,
with police torture victim Darrel Cannon

April 1:
Rutgers University Law School, Newark, N.J.

April 9:
University of Maryland Law School, Baltimore, Md.

April 14:
Georgia State University,
with Martina Correia, sister of Troy Davis

April 14:
San Jose State University, San Jose, Calif.,
with Kevin Cooper and Veronica Luna, whose uncle is on California's death row.

April 15:
University of Texas-Austin

April 17:
Binghamton University, Binghamton, N.Y.

April 18:
Left Forum Conference, New York City,
with Lawrence Hayes

April 28:
Brooklyn College, Brooklyn, N.Y.

The events to date have brought out large crowds--a sign that the brutality of the death penalty and criminal injustice system is sparking activism. The tour kicked off in September 2008 at the Critical Resistance 10 conference in Oakland, Calif., with Barbara Becnel, longtime collaborator with the late Stanley Tookie Williams, as a featured speaker.

Later stops included Howard University in Washington, D.C., where Mumia Abu-Jamal spoke to an audience of 200; the CEDP's national convention in Chicago; and the Social Justice Conference in Binghamton, N.Y.

Highlights from the spring included a stop at the University of California-Berkeley, with Jack Bryson, whose son was brutalized in the police attack that killed Oscar Grant; and one at the Seattle Human Rights Film Festival, where CEDP board member Derrel Myers spoke along with Angola 3 member Robert "King" Wilkerson at a screening of In Prison My Whole Life, a new film about Mumia Abu-Jamal.

At the Harlem meeting, Salaam was joined by Lawrence Hayes, a former Black Panther and exonerated death row prisoner. Both men described the myriad injustices they experienced at the hands of the police, the courts and the media.

In February, 70 people turned out at Pace University in New York to hear Hayes and Salaam. "There is no reason to kill," said Lawrence. "No reason for me to kill, no reason for you to kill, and no reason for the state to kill." John Booth-El from Maryland's death row and Stanley Howard, speaking live, gave powerful testimony about the dehumanization of everyday life on death row.

The following day, Hayes and former Illinois death row prisoner Darby Tillis spoke to a crowd of 200 at Rowan College in Glassboro, N.J. "Death row is a place of horror," Darby told the audience. "It feels like hell, it looks like hell, it is hell." They were joined by Barbara Lewis, whose son Robert is on Delaware's death row.

On March 10, 60 people turned out at Towson University near Baltimore to hear Barbara Becnel and a call-in from Kenny Collins, a former Maryland death row prisoner now serving life without parole.

The recent abolition victory in New Mexico shows that momentum is with us to turn the tide against the death penalty for good. It needs to be ended now, and the "Live from Death Row" tour is part of bringing together the forces that can make that a reality.
(source: Socialiar Worker)

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

INDIANA: After murders, families find a healing path

Bess Klassen-Landis, Ruth Klassen Andrews, Bill Pelke and Suzy Klassen are active in Journey to Hope, an organization for murder victims’ family members seeking alternatives to the death penalty. — Photo by Emily Dougherty/for MWR

By Emily Dougherty For Mennonite Weekly Review
March 23 issue

GOSHEN, Ind. — Four sisters — Ruth, Frieda, Bess and Suzy — have lived 40 years without their mother. Helen Klassen, a Sunday school teacher, was murdered March 14, 1969.

Bill Pelke’s grandmother, Ruth Pelke, was killed by four teenage girls in Gary who robbed her house May 14, 1985.

These acts of violence devastated two families and, for the Klassen sisters, infected the years of their youth. Their path to adulthood was fraught with struggles of how to heal and when to forgive.

On March 15 at College Mennonite Church, Pelke and three of the Klassen sisters spoke about their evolution from fear and anger to healing and forgiveness. Their stories have been told around the world through Journey of Hope, an organization co-founded by Pelke and led by murder victims’ family members, such as the Klassens, who oppose the death penalty.

The Scream

Suzy Klassen was 11 in 1969 when she walked into their Elkhart home after school one Friday to find her mother raped and strangled. Klassen was the youngest in the family, and at that second she was set apart.

“From then on,” Klassen said, “I would live in a world where I had met evil face to face.”

The first time Klassen saw the painting “The Scream” by Edvard Munch, she was flabbergasted. It was like seeing a reflection of herself and the physical horror she confronted that day.

On Friday their mother had died. On Sunday the family returned home, seeing bullet holes in the floor and fingerprint powder on the walls. Monday was the funeral. Tuesday the girls returned to school.

After Helen Klassen’s death, family members lived on their own islands of grief, isolated from each other by pain and fear.

Because the murderer was never caught, the girls spent years in fear for their own lives. Suzy Klassen and Bess Klassen-Landis had escape routes choreographed in their minds.

“I felt like my mother’s murderer always knew where I was,” Klassen-Landis said.

Otto Klassen, their father and a child psychiatrist, tried to hold the family together but had no place to direct his pain.

Ending isolation

Their distance became physical as the sisters married and moved to different locations around the United States and world.

Yet, eventually, each woman began to let out the darkness that had enveloped their lives. In the journey from violence to healing, one of those steps is telling your story and not having secrets.

“We are only as sick as our darkest secret,” Klassen-Landis said, “and we had despair and fear and grief tucked away in every nook and cranny.”

Klassen-Landis and Klassen only began to share their story when their sister Ruth Andrews, who became involved with Journey of Hope in 1993, encouraged them to join.

Their ability to reconcile anger and pain became stronger the more they had to tell their story. They discovered ties between their experience and those of other murder victim family members whose relationships became restorative.

“The beauty of love is the healing that happens through it,” Klassen-Landis said. “Forgiveness is a way of life that sets us all free.”

Klassen-Landis said she had fantasized that their favorite authors would write her family’s story and make sense of it. She wanted a beginning, a middle and an end.

“When I forgave my mother’s murderer, I was able to find that closure,” she said.

Klassen attributed a part of her healing and capacity to forgive her mother’s murderer to the birth of her children.

Ruth Andrews found some light at the first seminar at which she spoke. A convicted murderer was present in the audience. On a whim, she asked him to pray for her. Immediately, he dropped to his knees and started praying for her out loud. This act helped transform her point of view and begin her passage to forgiveness.

The sisters face the 40th anniversary of their mother’s death without the presence of their father, who died Jan. 31 at age 81. Yet they remember their family by sharing their story.

As Mennonites, the Klassens practiced nonviolence, and even before their mother’s death, the family opposed the death penalty.

“I knew that mom wouldn’t want any violence committed in her name,” Klassen-Landis said.

Journey of Hope gives them a forum to speak out against capital punishment.

Journey of Hope

Bill Pelke’s testament of witnessing violence and experiencing healing begins, like the Klassens’, with a death.

His grandmother, Ruth Pelke, was 78 when she invited four teenage girls into her home, under the impression they wanted her to teach them a Bible lesson.

Pelke’s father found Ruth’s body the next day.

Paula Cooper was 15 when she stabbed Ruth Pelke 33 times, and a year later became the youngest female on death row in America.

At first Pelke supported Cooper’s sentence. But he struggled with whether Cooper should die.

Pelke began questioning God. Three things he meditated on changed his perspective. The first was Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. Second, Pelke remembered Matthew 18 when Peter asked Jesus how often to forgive a sin, seven times? Jesus replied by saying 70 times seven. Last, he envisioned Jesus’ words at the crucifixion: “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do.”

At that point, he remembered Cooper’s grandfather yelling at the sentencing, “You’re going to kill my baby!” He saw the tears on her prison uniform and knew that if he didn’t try to forgive, he would feel guilty whenever he thought about his grandmother.

After forgiving Cooper, Pelke went on a mission to have her life spared. Through his work, she was taken off of death row and sentenced to 60 years in prison.

“Revenge is not the answer. It’s never the answer,” Pelke said. “The answer is love and compassion for all of humanity.”

© 1999-2008, Mennonite Weekly Review Inc. | All rights reserved.

129 W 6th St Newton KS 67114 | 800-424-0178 | For reprints, write editor (at) mennoweekly.org


Bess Klassen-Landis and I have been on the Indiana Journey of Hope these last two weeks.

Bess's sister Ruth Andrews joined us for several talks and their sister Suzy joined us in Goshen for a memorial service for her father, which coincided with the 40th anniversary of their mothers death.

The first link is from the Mennonite weekly and the other two are pre and post article of my trip to Terre Haute.

This has been a very powerful Journey as we all returned to the state of Indiana where our loved ones were murdered. These are stories of healing and hope.


Bill Pelke

After Murders Families Find Healing Path: here

Local Story: here

Another Local Story: here

THANX so much, Bill, from us ALL!!!!!!!!!! We look forward to MUCH more later with some photos as easy to send. All of you, PLEASE rest & take care of selves.

MONTANA Abolition Coalition

Evidently, there was a hearing live with the Montana House Judiciary Committee this am, Wednesday, concerning Montana's Death Penalty Abolition bill (SB 236) starting at 8am Mountain time. The committee was to take testimony today and is expected to vote on Monday.

I will try to find the archived hearing link soon. For now, perhaps you may be able to find this before I do? Go here Or Go: here

Choose the House Judiciary Committee.



Quick Note: Although the bloggers here are slammed with many home, job & other responsibilities right now, as well as Susanne helping to set-up the German Journey, what Bill & others are doing in Indiana is DEAR to our heart and in our prayers!!!

We will try to get more out to you soon. PLEASE let others who may be interested know about this event and the coming articles. Search out some great ones yourself.
Back with you soon!

Find the final leg of the Indiana Journey and contact info -- here

Thanx so much for tuning in!

Monday, March 23, 2009

NOTICE: TUESDAY Texas, DC & Indiana Events & Amnesty Stats & More!

Please take at least a quick survey of the blogs to be found her the last few days and be sure to notice that Tuesday Bill Pelke will be speaking TWICE in Indiana.

A small gathering of Friends and Supporters will gather with The Justice Project in DC on Tuesday - for more info Go here (Incidently, there's an important piece of concern about New Mexico from TJP here

Also notice the Texas Lobby activism - Tuesday as well.

Note that the Amnesty ANNUAL Report was discussed on BBC News World (for 2008) and the short version is on this Journey blogsite...Go: here

Don't miss the STATS from the Amnesty report to be found on Rick Halperin's Death Pen. News & Updates right here You will also be rewarded at Rick's site today by an interesting article about Texas and personal story.

Of course, we've been following the New Mexico breakthrough quite thoroughly!

Then keep going for much more, including the schedule for the German Journey of Hope!

Once you've done this, be sure to search for articles about and by Senator Russ Feingold -- 'cause he's at it again -- one of our most faithful abolitionists ever. Please let us know what you hear about his current activism to Connie newlease7@yahoo.com with Subject Heading: Russ Feingold. Here are just a few reports on his current efforts: FEINGOLD'S Website: here And also find a report at Alternet dot Org - Click here

Thanx for tuning in!

Check it out: Bill is in INDIANA!

• Bill Pelke will speak at the First Unitarian Universalist Congregation, 1875 S. Fruitridge Ave. at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday as well as at noon Tuesday in O’Shaughnessy Hall at St. Mary of the Woods College.

• For more information, contact the Indiana Information Center on Abolition of Capitol Punishment at (317)797-3210 or visit here, or e-mail info@iicap.org.
Anti-death penalty advocate bringing message of ‘Hope’ to Valley

By Brian M. Boyce
The Tribune-Star

TERRE HAUTE March 22, 2009 10:24 pm

— All the electricity in the execution chair won’t bring Bill Pelke’s grandmother back to life. And that’s just one of his points.

“I’ve dedicated my life to the abolition of the death penalty,” the 61-year-old retired steelworker said Sunday as he prepared for two presentations in Terre Haute on Tuesday.

On May 14, 1985, Ruth Pelke, a Bible teacher in Gary, was murdered by four teenage girls inside her own home. According to Pelke, the four high school freshmen attended nearby Lew Wallace High School, where his own father had gone, and had decided to skip school that day.

The girls had been drinking and smoking marijuana when they decided to play video games at an arcade and needed money. One of the girls lived near a woman who was known to teach Bible lessons in her home, so the group went there and knocked on the door under the pretense of wanting a lesson.

Once inside, one girl hit Pelke over the head with a vase while the others stabbed her 33 times until she died.

Paula Cooper, then 15, was determined to have been the ringleader of the attack and was sentenced to death on July 11, 1986.

Pelke was in his 20th year at Bethlehem Steel, and at the time, fully in favor of executing his grandmother’s murderer.

But as he reflected on her life and the faith she had taught him, his views began to change. And when Pelke saw Cooper’s own grandfather forced from the courtroom for his emotional outburst at the death sentence handed “his baby,” he decided his grandmother “would have had compassion on her and her grandfather.”

What started as a simple prayer for the power to forgive began a transformation which Pelke described as life-changing, as he switched sides and crusaded for Cooper’s removal from death row.

More than 2 million signatures and Pope John Paul II’s request later, Cooper’s death sentence was commuted to 60 years in 1989.

Pelke retired from Bethlehem Steel 12 years after his grandmother’s death and has recently authored the book “Journey of Hope … From Violence to Healing” in conjunction with 20 years of anti-death penalty advocacy, crossing 40 states and 10 nations to tell his story and make his case with his own Journey of Hope Organization and the Indiana Information Center on Abolition of Capital Punishment.
As Pelke explained, it wasn’t until he remembered his grandmother’s compassion that he could forget the way she died to celebrate the way she lived.

“I agree that society has a right to protect itself from violent people,” he said Sunday afternoon, noting that Indiana, like many states, offers a sentence of life without parole.

And broken down in dollars, the prison term often makes more sense.

“It’s cheaper to keep a person in prison for life,” he said, noting the cost of mounting a death penalty case can often be three or four times more expensive. But, “even if the costs were the same, I’d rather feed them than kill them,” he said.

Along with the families of victims, Pelke’s organization actively works to free individuals wrongly convicted of crimes.

Since their work began, more than 130 people have been exonerated from death row.

“The death penalty system is so fraught with errors. We do know eye witnesses make mistakes, and so much is based on snitch testimony,” he said, referring to inmates testifying against one another in exchange for leniency.

Another speaker that often travels with Pelke is Darryl Burton of St. Louis, who spent 24 years in prison for a crime of which he was later found innocent.

And while some argue that executions would be cheaper if the appeals process were modified, Pelke, currently a resident of Alaska, said of the men and women he’s met, “I wonder how many of my friends would be dead if it hadn’t been for the appeals process.”

Pelke’s tour is sponsored by the Indiana Information Center on Abolition of Capital Punishment in Indianapolis and a dozen or more churches and colleges in Indiana.

Brian Boyce can be reached at 812-231-4253 or brian.boyce@tribstar.com.

Copyright © 1999-2008 cnhi, inc.


Hello viewers! You get a lot of posts here today for the "price of one" viewing. (smiles) Lots coming in!

NOTE: Please be sure to go read the latest AMNESTY ANNUAL REPORT on the DEATH PENALTY (see this report a few posts down) and then go to this site to express your opinion: here
Please join us and people from across Texas in Austin Tuesday, March 24, for Lobby Day Against the Death Penalty. (Or tell your Texas contacts about this!)

We will speak with legislators about the injustice of the Texas death penalty system. Issues to be discussed include the risk of executing an innocent person (HB788), the need for a moratorium on executions (HB 913, HJR 24), abolition of the death penalty (HB 297, HB 682), the Law of Parties (HB 304, HB 2267), and impeaching Sharon Keller (HR 480).

The Lobby Day will include a press conference at 1 PM and a rally on the South Steps of the Capitol at 5:30.

We expect many family members of people currently or formerly on death row to participate in Lobby Day events, including the families of Kenneth Foster, Jeff Wood, Howard Guidry, Louis Castro Perez, Juan Raul Ramirez, Robert Garza, Rudy Medrano, Humberto Garza and others.

Jeanette Popp will speak as a mother of a murder victim. She will have copies of her new book "Mortal Justice" to give away to legislators. Thank you to everyone who donated a book!

Advocating an end to death sentences under the Law of Parties is the primary focus of the Lobby Day. In 2007, the death sentence of Kenneth Foster was commuted to life by Governor Perry. Foster had been sentenced to death under the Law of Parties even though he never killed anyone. Family members of Kenneth Foster, Jeff Wood and others convicted under the Law of Parties will meet with members of the House Committee on Criminal Jurisprudence and other legislators to urge them to approve HB 2267 and HB 304, both of which would end the death penalty under the Law of Parties.

There are people coming from Houston, the Rio Grande Valley and other cities. We have set up appointments with lots of legislative offices. At the lobby training session Tuesday morning, we will put everyone in groups to go around and lobby in the afternoon and we will give you a list of offices to visit. We will also provide talking points and other guidance at the training session.

The people from Houston who have already attended a training session in Houston will start lobbying at 10 AM. The rest of us will meet for a lobby training session at 10 AM and then lobby from 2-5.

Please register to let us know you are interested in coming to Lobby Day on March 24. Registration is not mandatory, but it will help us make plans if we know how many people to expect. You can also just show up at any of the day's events.

If enough people participate, we could send groups to visit more than 90 legislative offices. Participate and you can tell your grand-kids you helped end the death penalty in Texas.

(Many Groups are Participating)

Death penalty drains justice system resources

By JOHN CONNOR, former chief special prosecutor for the state of Montana

I served as chief special prosecutor for the state of Montana for 21 years. During that time I was involved with the prosecution of many homicide cases, including five death penalty cases involving homicides committed by prison inmates against other inmates. I also managed the prosecution of 14 inmates for the 1991 prison riot homicides.

I believed at the time that the death penalty was needed to keep correctional officers safe from inmates serving a sentence of life without parole. Without the threat of execution, I thought, there would be no deterrent to prevent such inmates from taking the life of a correctional officer.

But my direct experience prosecuting prison homicides changed my mind. I have come to believe that the death penalty is an incalculable drain on our limited criminal justice resources. It makes bizarre celebrities of the sentenced inmates while essentially ignoring the suffering that victims' families must endure through decades of legal scrutiny. And frankly, it lessens our own humanity. It is time for Montana to repeal it.

I would never advocate for repealing the penalty if I thought it placed our correctional personnel at risk. During the years I prosecuted cases of violence in the prison, I learned to greatly admire and respect the dedicated corrections professionals that care for and manage the inmate population in all of our state and county detention facilities. Theirs is a thankless, stressful responsibility for which they are paid very little, especially given the demands of their jobs. Nonetheless, they continue to labor in the most difficult of environments for Montana's citizens.

But the best way to protect our correctional professionals is to recognize the need for a well-trained staff, for the commitment of adequate resources to operate the institutions safely, and for innovative management incentives that serve to reduce the opportunity for prison violence.

After the 1991 riots in the Montana State Prison's maximum-security unit, prison officials examined their protocols and made many positive changes to heighten security and ensure safety. As a result of those changes, there have been no homicides in the maximum security unit since the riot. The drop in homicides is not because of the death penalty - which existed in Montana both before and after 1991 and did nothing to deter the riots - nor because there are fewer dangerous people in the prison now than there once were. The decrease in homicides is a result of better procedures and other positive changes to the management of the prison.

The truth is that inmates serving sentences of life without the possibility of parole are not the primary threat to corrections officers' safety. Studies have shown that inmates serving life sentences are actually very manageable because they do not want to jeopardize the limited privileges they can earn in the system. A well-managed prison with proper classification and staffing can create incentives for lifers to behave while segregating and punishing those who are a threat before violence ever occurs. Our prison system already knows how to do this.

The reality is that the death penalty is not, and never has been, a deterrent. Prison safety depends on proper staffing, equipment, resources and training. Certainly the money spent on trying to put someone to death for over 20 years could find better use in addressing those practical needs of our correctional system.

John Connor practices law in Helena.
(Taken from: The Billings Gazette)

Prisoner State Killings Scheduled SAVE for the Year!

The following came from Abe Bonowitz (Bells Campaign) & possibly from Rick Halperin/Death Penalty Information Center - Please watch for more items from the Carolinas - Especially from South Carolina - which has had a lack of communication to the rest of the Abolition Movement for a long time - this to be amended soon!)

More may be added/updated ON this post during the next month or two.

PLEASE SAVE ENTIRE LIST including the Contact Info for KEY States
for easy reference!

write to Abe Bonowitz to be added to his (Toll)Bells Campaign List or to contact him about this list or the complete post:
This was excerpted from a longer post from Abe:

...Since the last update the following prisoner received a stay:
Phillip Haliford - Alabama

And no prisoners were killed.

Total killed in 2009: 20
Total killed since resumption of executions in 1977: 1156
See for a complete list.


07 - Texas
7:00 PM EDT
Jose Briseno is scheduled to be killed by the people of Texas in
revenge for the murder of Sheriff Ben Doc Murray.

7 - Ohio
10:00 AM EDT
Brett Hartman is scheduled to be killed by the people of Ohio in
revenge for the murder of Winda Snipes.

7 - Tennessee
Michael Rimmer is scheduled to be killed by the people of Tennessee in
revenge for the murder of Ricci Ellsworth.

15 - Texas
7:00 PM EDT
Michael Rosales is scheduled to be killed by the people of Texas in
revenge for the murder of Mary Felder.

16 - Alabama
6:00 PM EDT
Jimmy Lee Dill is scheduled to be killed by the people of Alabama in
revenge for the murder of Leon Shaw.

30 - Texas
7:00 PM EDT
Derrick Johnson is scheduled to be killed by the people of Texas in
revenge for the murder of an individual to be named in one of the next


5 - Oklahoma
Donald Gilson is scheduled to be killed by the people of Oklahoma in
revenge for the murder of Shane Coffman.

14 - Alabama
6:00 PM EDT
Willie McNair is scheduled to be killed by the people of Alabama in
revenge for the murder of Ella Foy Riley.


2 - Texas
7:00 PM EDT
Terry Hankins is scheduled to be killed by the people of Texas in
revenge for the murders of three individuals to be named in one of the
next updates.

3 - Tennessee
James Dellinger is scheduled to be killed by the people of Tennessee
in revenge for the murder of Tommy Griffin.

3 - Ohio
10:00 AM EDT
Daniel Wilson is scheduled to be killed by the people of Ohio in
revenge for the murder of Carol Lutz.

11 - Alabama
Jack Trawick is scheduled to be killed by the people of Alabama in
revenge for the murders of Stephanie Gach and Aileen Pruitt.


9 - Tennessee
Devin Banks is scheduled to be killed by the people of Tennessee in
revenge for the murder of Kadhem Al-Maily.


Governor Bob Riley
State Capitol
600 Dexter Avenue
Montgomery, Alabama 36130
Switchboard: (334) 242-7100
Fax: (334) 353-0004
Email at: http://governor. alabama.gov/ contact/contact_ form.aspx

Governor Ted Strickland
Governor's Office
Riffe Center, 30th Floor
77 South High Street
Columbus, OH 43215-6108
Phone/General Info: (614) 466-3555
Fax: (614) 466-9354
Email at
http://governor. ohio.gov/ Assistance/ ContacttheGovern or/tabid/ 448/Default

Governor Mark Sanford
Office of the Governor
P.O. Box 12267
Columbia, SC 29211
Fax: 803-734-5167
Email at: http://www.scgovern or.com/contact/ email/default. htm

Governor Rick Perry
Office of the Governor
P.O. Box 12428
Austin, Texas 78711-2428
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
Email at: http://www2. governor. state.tx. us/contact/ assistance. aspx

Governor Phil Bredesen
Governor's Office
Tennessee State Capitol
Nashville, TN 37243-0001
Phone: 615.741.2001
Fax: 615.532.9711
Email: phil.bredesen@ state.tn. us

Governor Tim Kaine
Office of the Governor
Patrick Henry Building, 3rd Floor
1111 East Broad Street
Richmond, Virginia 23219
Phone: (804) 786-2211
Fax: (804) 371-6351
Email at:
http://www.governor .virginia. gov/AboutTheGove rnor/contactGove rnor.cfm

Governor Chris Gregoire
Office of the Governor
PO Box 40002
Olympia, WA 98504-0002
Give Governor Gregoire's Office a Call:
Governor's Office 360-902-4111
For relay operators for the deaf or hard of hearing, please dial 7-1-1
Fax Governor Gregoire a Letter:
Email at http://www.governor .wa.gov/contact/

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Amnesty ANNUAL Survey (sentences and executions both up a lot!)

BBC NEWS (You should be able to find the AUDIO later on BBC World News soon. Listen out for an interview with Pierce Bannister, Amnesty UK death pen. expert who was a big help staying connected with Journey folk while we had the privilege of having Edward Mpagi of Uganda with us on the Texas Journey of Hope. (2007 Journey - one year before Montana Journey) Connie
Death penalty 'closer to demise'

The world is moving nearer to ending the use of capital punishment, Amnesty International says, despite its latest report revealing a mixed picture.

In its annual survey the group says 2,390 people were put to death in 2008, up from 1,252 in 2007. And 8,864 were sentenced to death, up from 3,347.

Of 25 nations using the death penalty in 2008, China was the most prolific.

But Amnesty said it was encouraging that just 59 nations retained the death penalty and so few actually used it.

The group's secretary general, Irene Khan, said such punishments as beheading, stoning and electrocution "have no place in the 21st Century".

Despite the rise in executions during 2008, she said there were reasons to be optimistic.

"The good news is that executions are only carried out by a small number of countries, which shows that we are moving closer to a death-penalty free world," she said.

'Worrying instances'

The group highlighted decisions by Argentina and Uzbekistan to abolish the death penalty in 2008.

And the fact that Belarus was the only European nation to carry out executions was also interpreted positively.

But Ms Khan said the "bad news" in the report, entitled Death Sentences and Executions in 2008, was that hundreds of people continued to suffer.

The report said China used lethal injection and shooting to execute at least 1,718 people.

China executes more people than any other nation

But Beijing does not publish data on the death penalty.

Of the top-six countries in Amnesty's list, only the US (37) publishes statistics on the penalty's use.

The figures for the others are estimates based on what Amnesty has verified through media reports, rights groups and official statements.

Other groups frequently give much higher figures.

The other worst-offending nations on the list are Iran (346), Saudi Arabia (102), Pakistan (36) and Iraq (34).

Amnesty also highlighted "worrying instances" of some nations bucking a long-term trend away from the death penalty.

St Kitts and Nevis carried out the first execution in the Caribbean for five years, the group's report said.

And Liberia introduced capital punishment for robbery, terrorism and hijacking.

Story from BBC NEWS:
here Find more related articles by going to this link.

Published: 2009/03/24 01:01:14 GMT


Amnesty International on New Mexico

Death penalty decision

Amnesty International warmly welcomes the decision by New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson to abandon the death penalty (New Mexico bans death penalty, The Herald, March 20).

As Governor Richardson says, no legal system can ever be perfect but the death penalty is an inherently flawed mechanism for criminal redress.

It is a violation of our fundamental right to life, and the ultimate cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment.

It clearly contravenes articles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It is irrevocable and can be inflicted on the innocent, and it has never been shown to deter crime more effectively than other punishments.

At the time of the International Conference on the Death Penalty in 1977, just 16 countries around the world had abolished capital punishment for all crimes. Today that figure stands at 80, while many more have not conducted executions for years. There is still a long way to go but, as more countries move away from the use of capital punishment, maybe the glimmer of hope is in sight.

(source: The Herald; John Watson, Programme Director, Scotland, Amnesty International, Rosebery House, 9 Haymarket Terrace Edinburgh)

Saturday, March 21, 2009

The Journey of Hope goes to Germany

There will be a German Journey of Hope tour with more than 30 events from April 28th until May 15th.

You'll find all the information about this tour at the tourhomepage www.nicht-in-unserem-namen.de (translates to: "Not in our names") but please understand that this tourhomepage is written in German.

Speakers in Germany will be Terri Steinberg, Ray Krone and Bill Pelke. Choosing one death row family member, one exonereee and one victim family member, the German organizer try to show the people over there all the aspects of the death penalty.

The tour itself is organized by the German Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty (Initiative gegen die Todesstrafe e.V.) but single events are being organized by many other organizations as well, so the tour is actually a co-operation of diffent groups working towards increasing human rights and by doing this tour together, the groups also want to express that these differnt organizations stand together in their fight againt the death penalty worldwide.

I'll list the public events below, but you'll find more detailed information about them on the tourhomepage which is also being updated daily, so please keep checking there. The school events are only being listed on the tourhomepage .

Public events:

April 28th: Göttingen
April 29th: Hamburg
May 1st: Kirchheimbolanden
May 2nd: Neustadt/Weinstraße
May 3rd: Wiesbaden
May 4th: Heidelberg
May 5th: Freiburg
May 6th: Augsburg
May 7th: Munich
May 8th: Ravensburg
May 10th: Constance
May 11th: Bad Mergentheim
May 12th: Gelnhausen
May 13th: Haunetal
May 14th: Magdeburg
May 15th: Potsdam

Thursday, March 19, 2009

N.M. Governor Signs Bill Banning Death Penalty AP

March 18, 2009 · Gov. Bill Richardson signed legislation Wednesday repealing New Mexico's death penalty, making it the second state to ban executions since the U.S. Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty in 1976.

Richardson, a Democrat who formerly supported capital punishment, said signing the bill was the "most difficult decision" of his political life.

"Faced with the reality that our system for imposing the death penalty can never be perfect, my conscience compels me to replace the death penalty with a solution that keeps society safe," Richardson told a news conference in the state Capitol.

The most severe punishment now will be a sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole.

By signing the measure, New Mexico joins 14 other states that do not impose capital punishment. New Jersey, in 2007, was the first and only other state to outlaw capital punishment since its reinstatement by the Supreme Court.

New Mexico has executed one person since 1960, child killer Terry Clark in 2001. The sentences of two men currently on death row will not be affected by the new law.

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and former President Jimmy Carter were among those who urged Richardson to sign the bill.

The New Mexico Sheriffs' and Police Association opposed repealing the death penalty, saying capital punishment deters violence against police officers, jailers and prison guards. District attorneys also opposed the legislation, arguing that the death penalty was a useful prosecutorial tool.

New Mexico was one of several states considering repealing the death penalty this year. In Kansas, a bill failed to clear the Senate this week.
Also you may be able to find audio on morning news NPR.org for March 19th about the signing. The number of calls for the ban were astounding!

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

ABOLITION Day in New Mexico!

Today, March 18, 2009, is Death Penalty Abolition Day in New Mexico!

Just minutes ago, New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson signed into law the bill to repeal the death penalty in that state. New Mexico has become the second state since 1965 to legislatively abolish the death penalty. I know you will join me in applauding and congratulating Governor Richardson and the people of New Mexico for taking this important step.

Today marks the culmination of a campaign that started more than ten years ago in New Mexico. To everyone who had a hand in today's success, we at the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty offer our thanks and our congratulations.

While we celebrate this important victory for human rights, let us not forget that ours is an issue rooted in tragedy, pain and suffering. Please take a moment to reflect on or pray for the families who have lost loved ones to murder, for the families of those accused and facing punishment for the crime of murder, for the members of law enforcement who must deal with the aftermath of murder, and yes, for those condemned to death, guilty or not.

Today, I ask you to take two important actions.
#1: Please take a few minutes to mail a hand written note of thanks to Governor Richardson. What he did was both just and proper, and he needs to know that his action is appreciated.

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

#2: There is so much more work to be done. Thirty-five states still have the death penalty. As we did in New Mexico, the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty is working to ensure that effective and strategic campaigns are in place across the nation. With your help, we can do more. Please make a generous contribution today to help NCADP continue to be a useful partner to the efforts of our affiliates, the folks who are on the front lines every day in this struggle. Your support makes it happen.

A few additional thoughts....

Visit our web page here to see NCADP's official statement on Abolition in New Mexico.

Visit NCADP's blog here to see related posts, including the comments NCADP Director of Affiliate Support, Abe Bonowitz, who worked very closely with our New Mexico affiliate in the work that culminated in today's events.

Check out NCADP on Twitter and Facebook

And finally,

Thank you.

Diann Rust-Tierney
Executive Director

All Eyes on New Mexico: Last Day to Call!


Governor Bill Richardson's office reports that he has heard from a total of 9,413 constituents - 7169 for the repeal of the death penalty and 2244 against. This is an exciting moment, and even more so for you and I, as we know that repeal in New Mexico is not a fluke, but part of a real trend.

...this trend is (also) taking Maryland and New Hampshire. (Watch for more on EJUSA site and at several of the sites listed in the column of this Journey blog - lower right)

This is an excerpt from a letter-email sent from Equal Justice USA
Thanx to Jeanne of EJUSA! here

Equal Justice USA
20 Jay St, #808, Brooklyn, NY 11201
tel: 718-801-8940 fax: 718-801-8947
www.ejusa.org info@ejusa.org

Tuesday, March 17, 2009


"Warum?" ("Why?") This is the message which can be read on hundreds of signs which were laid down in front of the Albertville Realschule in Winnenden last week.

"Warum?" This is the question which we hear over and over again. No matter which TV channel we turn to, everyone talks about what happened in Winnenden and asks why it happened.

"Warum?" It's the question that haunts the German nation in these days.

"Warum?" So many lives lost, so many families ripped apart, so many students who suffer from the pictures they had to live through, so many people mourning...

"Warum?" A question another family is surely asking itself as well: the family of Tim Kretschner, the 17 year old who first shot 15 people and then killed himself.

A question which will never be answered with a 100% accuracy. A question which people can only speculate about but will never totally catch the answer.

What remains is a lot of grief, a lot of horror, of not understanding and of asking what could have been done to prevent this shooting spree.

Germany has very strict weapons laws, with gun holders having to fulfill certain criteria on age and weapons expertise to obtain a firearms license. And after the shooting spree in Erfurt (in the year 2002) it got even stricter: state governments supported the federal government in passing a new law banning pump-action shotguns and raising the minimum age for ownership of sporting guns from 18 to 21 and for hunting weapons from 16 to 18. It also requires any prospective target shooter younger than 25 to have a doctor's certificate proving mental capacity to own weapons. A separate examination process was already in place for owners of hunting weapons. In Germany not everybody is allowed to own or buy a weapon. And even if you are allowed to, one has to keep the weapon unloaded in a locked cabinet and the ammunition has to be kept in another locked cabinet with no one but the owner of the gun knowing where the keys are.

But Tim's father did not act due to the German law: he owns 17 guns, 16 of which were locked up but the 17th he kept in his nightstand in case "someone would break into the house and he would have to defend his family".

Now we've had three shooting sprees in schools in Germany and in all of these cases the shooters used legally owned weapons. 18-year old Bastian B. (the shooter of Emsdetten) had a gun license (for sports shooters) - luckily in Emsdetten although lots of people got injured the only one dead after the spree was Bastian himself - he killed himself. 19-year old Robert Steinhäuser (the shooter of Erfurt. He killed 10 students, 2 teachers, the school secretary and a policeman before he killed himself) was member of a gun club and Tim's father is member of a gun club as well. None of them had to try to find a weapon somewhere, the weapons were just there when "needed".

Why? Nobody will ever be able to tell why Tim killed so many but one thing is absolutely clear: If there had not been any weapons around, these shooting sprees would have never happened!

Tim's father will face legal investigation and will probably get punished for not obeying the law and locking all of his weapons up but this will not bring the dead back to life. And Tim's father will always have to live with his guilt.

What is happening now? What is going on over here?

Politics is trying to find ways to prevent things like this for the future. Schools are talking about prevention, about training for the worst case and about trying to figure out "troubled" students earlier and try to help them BEFORE anything can happen.

People try to somehow comprehend what was going on, try to somehow go on with their lives. The school administration in Winnenden offered the students who want to attend classes the option to do so (not in the same school building but in different schools and public buildings). This is offered on a voluntary basis. The school heads hope to give the students some kind of skeleton to hang on to after all they've lived through - after all they will still face.

Although there is a lot of psychological help - of course it will be a while before the students and teachers from Winnenden will even begin to get over what they had to live through - a long time before the victim's families will be able to go on with their lives. One of the students who lived through the Erfurt massacre in 2002 was talking on TV this week and she still suffers and has fears and nightmares although she does have constant psychological help.

No matter how much we feel with those who lived through this horror - no matter how much we care - it's the sufferers themselves who have to live through this nightmare every day. All we can do is offer our help and our prayers.

In June 2002 12 people from Littleton came to Erfurt to help the students here in Germany. Two of the Littleton students - Evan Todd and Heidi Johnson - told the people in Erfurt what they had to live through. Both of them were wounded during the spree in Littleton and both of them had to watch their fellow students die.

Evan and Heidi were holding up a photo of an other student: Rachel Scott who was killed in the spree just a few days after the photo had been taken. Then Rachel's sister Diana read from her sister's diary which spoke of her hopes. This reading and the sister's comments told the Erfurt students more about the wishes and dreams of this girl who got killed: Rachel was dreaming of respect and charity and this is the legacy toward which these students from Littleton wanted to live.

Pastor Porter who had accompanied the students from Littleton had already asked at Rachel's grave: Who wanted to keep this legacy? The pastor repeated his question in Erfurt, the arms of all the Erfurt students rose.

"Warum?" We will never be able to answer this question and there is nothing any more we can do to make this horrible crime undone. There is not much we can do to help the victims of the spree to heal. But all of us can keep this legacy of the girl who was killed in Littleton: respect and charity to everyone.


Monday, March 16, 2009

NEW MEXICO: Update for March 17

As you know, this past Friday, March 13, 2009, the New Mexico Senate voted 24-18 to repeal the death penalty in New Mexico and replace it with a sentence of life in prison without possibility of parole. House Bill 285 passed the House last month and was delivered to Gov. Bill Richardson for his signature on Sunday. Governor Richardson has until Wednesday night to sign this bill, and when he does New Mexico will become the second state in as many years to legislatively abolish the death penalty.

The New Mexico Coalition to Repeal the Death Penalty has asked for our immediate help in two ways.

#1 - The Albuquerque Journal is running an on-line own poll. Please click on the link below to vote to urge Governor Richardson to sign the bill. The poll is in the middle of the page: here (It has been in a little gray box!)

#2 - New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson is inviting the public to help him decide if he should sign the bill. Please take a few minutes right now to contact Governor Richardson and ask him to sign House Bill 285 as soon as possible. Governor Richardson's office has set up a hotline to receive the opinions of New Mexicans (and anyone else) on the issue. That number is 505-476-2225. Those wishing to weigh in via e-mail can do so through the governor's web site at: here and clicking on "Contact the Governor."

"This is an extremely difficult issue that deserved the serious and thoughtful debate it received in the Legislature," Richardson said in a prepared statement. "I have met with many people and will continue to consider all sides of the issue before making a decision."

Please take action RIGHT NOW to urge Governor Richardson to sign HB 285, the Death Penalty Repeal Bill, whether you live in New Mexico or anywhere else. Especially if you know people who live in New Mexico, please forward this message and urge them to take action immediately. Thank you.

A few additional thoughts:

Please visit NCADP's blog to see some photos of a few of the many key players who helped make this happen.

Check out NCADP on Twitter to see my "tweets" - short comments I made as sort of a play by play as the day went on. While there you can sign up to follow NCADP on Twitter.

And finally, please make a generous contribution today to help NCADP continue to be a useful partner to the efforts of our affiliates, the folks who are on the front lines every day in this struggle. New Jersey in 2007. New Mexico and possibly others in 2009. And many others with much work still to do. Your support makes it happen.

Thank you.

Yours in the Struggle,


Abraham J. Bonowitz
Director of Affiliate Support
National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty
http://www.NCADP.org or GO here
Note from Connie:

Don't forget to MAKE THAT CALL to Governor Richardson's office: 505-476-2225

And be sure to VOTE on this online poll & to get this out far & wide!

here Remember to go to about the middle of page -it's about half way down the page in a little gray box

Sunday, March 15, 2009

NEW MEXICO: A brief look at Death Penalty history

(NOTE: Be sure to make your call to the Gov. Bill Richardson of New Mexico and register your strong preference for Abolition! There's some info here and find more at this recent post: here)

Also be sure to note the activist suggestions in the item: "Texas Doings" just below
Death penalty used sparingly throughout New Mexico's history

New Mexico for centuries has been reluctant to execute criminals, even though the state has had some form of capital punishment law on its books for virtually all of its history since the Spanish colonial era.

Even during the blazing days of the Wild West, judges routinely requested territorial governors commute death sentences. And governors frequently complied. Some governors even spoke out against the death penalty.

Why the reluctance? Some speculate it's the influence of the Catholic Church. At least one historian says it might have roots in a series of executions in 1847 by the U.S. government of native New Mexicans who rebelled against the American occupation of New Mexico.

History might be in the making. The state Senate on Friday voted to codifying that reluctance by repealing the death penalty. Gov. Bill Richardson, who in the past has supported the death penalty, said after passage that he would speak to people from both sides before making a decision whether to sign the bill. He encouraged New Mexicans to contact his office at (505) 476-2225 or e-mail by going to here and clicking on "Contact the Governor" to encourage him to either sign or veto the bill.

The bill, sponsored by Rep. Gail Chasey, D-Albuquerque — who has been carrying capital punishment repeal bills for the past decade — would eliminate the sentence of lethal injection, replacing it with life in prison without possibility of parole. Currently a life sentence means the convict isn't eligible for parole for at least 30 years.

Here is a look at the history of the death penalty in New Mexico.

In this year's capital punishment debate in the Legislature, both sides have referred to the fact that in the past 49 years only 1 person — child rapist and killer Terry Clark — has been executed. And Clark, who was lethally injected in November 2001, voluntarily ended his appeals process, which had gone on for 15 years.

Death penalty opponents use this to illustrate that the death penalty is not a useful law-enforcement tool and that keeping the law on the books only wastes money on lengthy appeals.

Supporters say the fact there are so few executions only proves that the state has been properly cautious in applying capital punishment.

But it's not just in recent years that New Mexico has appeared reluctant to impose the ultimate sentence.

Territorial Days

Former State Historian Robert J. Torrez, author of a 2008 book called "Myth of the Hanging Tree: Stories of Crime and Punishment in Territorial New Mexico," said in an interview last week that New Mexico juries, and sometimes even judges, never have been eager to sentence criminals to death.

"There were only 2 capital cases in the Spanish colonial period," Torrez said. Each of those cases involved 2 defendants, which means there were only 4 executions during that time, Torrez said. One case was in 1779, the other in 1809.

It's likely the influence of the Catholic Church had something to do with those low numbers. Allan Sanchez, executive director of the New Mexico Conference of Catholic Bishops, said that after the Inquisition in the mid-1500s, the Church "pulled back and looked at its theology." In the 1700s and 1800s, the church doctrine was that if a criminal could be rendered harmless to society, he shouldn't be executed, Sanchez said.

During the period when New Mexico was under the Mexican government, 1821-1846, there are no records of any executions being carried out, Torrez said. He agreed it's possible that some records from those years have been lost.

During New Mexico's Territorial period, 1846-1913, there were a total of 51 legal executions by state and local authorities, all by hanging. According to Torrez's book, there were about 100 convictions in state courts during that time for first-degree murder, which at the time carried an automatic death sentence. Some died in prison and a few escaped. But nearly half who weren't executed were pardoned or had their sentences commuted by the territorial governor.

In many cases, Torrez points out, territorial judges themselves — who had no say in the sentence because of the automatic death penalty — requested clemency from the governor because of some extenuating circumstance.

Torrez's execution figures in the territorial days do not include the 20 New Mexicans who were hung after being convicted by military courts for an insurrection, sometimes called "The Taos Rebellion." This revolt against the American occupation took place in 1847.

These executions, which Torrez calls "the harsh introduction of American jurisprudence," might explain why juries and even judges were not so gung-ho on capital punishment, the historian said. He notes that the counties that bore the brunt of the retaliation by American forces — Taos, Rio Arriba and Mora — had some of the lowest rates of convictions in capital cases during territorial days.

Some territorial governors spoke out against the death penalty, Torrez wrote. Although he signed the death warrant for the last man hanged during the territorial period, Gov. George Curry told lawmakers that capital punishment was not a deterrent to crime and that an execution "involves an element of revenge repugnant to civilization." And in 1851, Gov. James Calhoun told the Legislature, "Humanity shudders at the thought of capital punishment."

Electric chairs, gas chambers

In the early years of statehood, from 1913 to 1923, there were 20 legal executions. Twelve of those hanged were Mexican nationals.

In 1929, the Legislature passed a law making it the state's responsibility, rather than that of the individual county sheriffs, to carry out executions. The method of execution was changed from hanging to electrocution.

The state's electric chair was first used in 1933. It would be used a total of 7 times between that year and 1956. Reporter and author Tony Hillerman, who died last year, covered the 1956 execution of James Larry Upton for The New Mexican.

"I did a sidebar for the paper on the kind of Roman holiday they made out of this execution," Hillerman said in a 1999 interview. "They had it in a big room, in the old penitentiary near downtown. They had about 110 drunk sheriff's posse types in there celebrating. It was really a grisly kind of thing. The politicos controlled the tickets. It was kind of like getting tickets to a Lobos-Utah game."

Upton had been composed and ready to die, Hillerman recalled. "Then he sees this great mob of drunken louts gaping at him like a circus." The grim spectacle of the execution apparently prompted the Legislature to passed a law limiting witnesses for executions.

By 1960, the method of execution changed again. Gas chambers were now in vogue around the country. But only one person would be executed that way in this state, David Nelson Cooper, who was executed in January 1960.

10 years later, the Legislature passed a law eliminating the death penalty for any crime except the murder of a law enforcement officer. Gov. David Cargo commuted the sentences of the inmates on death row.

In 1972, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down death penalty laws, saying capital punishment was administered unevenly by the various states and thus was cruel and unusual punishment.

The next year, New Mexico's Legislature overwhelmingly passed a law similar to the old territorial law, making execution automatic for anyone convicted of 1st-degree murder.

Although nobody was executed in New Mexico under that law before it was struck down as unconstitutional by the state Supreme Court, 4 members of a California motorcycle gang during that period were sentenced to death for the murder of a man in Albuquerque. The four eventually were exonerated and released after the chief witness admitted she lied on the witness stand and the true killer confessed and led authorities to the murder weapon.

Capital punishment today

In 1979, the Legislature passed the current law. Only those convicted of 1st-degree murder with aggravating circumstances are eligible for execution.

Those circumstances include: killing a law-enforcement officer or a prison guard, killing a fellow inmate, killing while trying to escape from incarceration, murder for hire, murdering to prevent a witness of a crime from testifying and murder while trying to commit rape, kidnapping or child molestation.

Death row began to fill up again. The last time a Santa Fe jury imposed a death sentence was in 1983, when Ricky Garcia, a prison inmate, was sentenced to die for killing a guard.

But in November 1986, outgoing Gov. Toney Anaya surprised the nation by commuting the sentences of Garcia and the other four killers awaiting execution. Although he was blasted by many in the state, Anaya on Wednesday said he feels good about the fact the current repeal bill should at least come close to passing.

"Sometimes a good idea takes a long time," he said.

In 1999, Clark, who was sentenced to death shortly after Anaya left office, first said he wanted to drop his appeals. He changed his mind several months later, but by 2001 he made the request again and this time a judge agreed with his wishes.

On Nov. 6, 2001, hired executioners from the Texas Corrections Department injected Clark with lethal doses of drugs purchased through the state Health Department.

Capital punishment in New Mexico

Here's a list of all legal executions performed by the New Mexico Department of Corrections (between 1913 and 1929 all executions there were the responsibilities of individual county sheriffs):

• July 21, 1933: Two men die in the state's new electric chair. The first was Thomas Johnson, a black man convicted of killing 18-year-old Angelina Jaramillo. Through the years some have claimed that Johnson was framed by authorities. In author Ralph Melnick's Justice Betrayed (2002), Melnick argues Johnson was innocent and the guilty party was part of the victim's family. Melnick points out that Johnson's race constantly was made an issue in The New Mexican at the time, with Johnson frequently referred to as "The Negro" in the newspaper's stories and headlines. Santiago Garduno was executed the same day as Johnson. He was convicted of murdering his stepson. Garduno gave the boy a drink of whiskey laced with strychnine.

• May 10, 1946: Pedro Talamonte, who was convicted in Gallup of murdering his 25-year-old wife.

• June 13, 1947: Louis Young was the second black man accused of killing a Santa Fe woman to die in the electric chair. Young was a prison inmate who worked as personal handyman at the prison warden's home which was near the victim's house. Young confessed to the crime following a late-night interrogation in his cell by authorities, though he soon recanted.

• Feb. 19, 1954: Arthur Johnson, who was convicted of murdering and robbing a Hobbs man.

• Oct. 29, 1954: Frederick Heisler, who was convicted of murdering a man who had given him a ride hitchhiking.

• Feb. 24, 1956: James Larry Upton, who also was convicted of murdering a man who had given him a ride hitchhiking. According to newspaper accounts, several spectators at his electrocution were drunk and rowdy.

• Jan. 8, 1960: David Cooper Nelson, who was the first and only New Mexico inmate to die in the gas chamber.

(source: Las Cruces Sun-News)

NEW MEXICO: Man crusades against death penalty

Juan Melendez A man exonerated after 17 years on Florida's death row is sharing his story in hopes New Mexico repeals the death penalty:

...Melendez was sentenced to die after he was convicted of armed robbery and murder. His capital murder trial lasted just 4 days.

"Thursday they found me guilty, Friday the same week they sentence me to death and the judge complained it was taking too long," Melendez said.

At the time, Melendez did not speak English and did not have an interpreter to help him understand his own trial. But he knew he was in a bind when the prosecutors showed the jury pictures from the crime scene.

"They show the picture, they all look at me with hate in their eyes. So I know this Puerto Rican was in trouble then," he said.

Melendez spent the next 17 years in a 6 by 9 cell infested with rats and roaches. He was finally released when an old confession from the real killer was discovered.

As New Mexico sits on the verge of abolishing the death penalty, Melendez hopes his story can convince Richardson to sign a bill that would exchange capital punishment for a sentence of life in prison.

"You always can release an innocent man from prison, but you can never you can never release an innocent man from the grave," he said.

Melendez, who now lives in New Mexico, said the people of the state have already spoken through their legislators who passed the bill. He hopes the governor will respect their voices.

(source: KOB News)


A Saint on Death Row by Thomas Cahill Book - Dallas Morning New -

NOTE: Please be sure to read the post just below this one on all the "Doings in Texas" Help in anyway you are able and willing. Now's the right time!
MARCH 16, 2009:

TEXAS: 'A Saint on Death Row' by Thomas Cahill: a case against the death penalty

At first, it seems like yet another Texas case, one set in Harris County to be precise: A troubled young black male faces a murder charge despite weak evidence, appears before an all-white jury, ends up on death row and dies courtesy of the state.

But the saga of Dominique Green, executed by lethal injection in Huntsville on Oct. 26, 2004, diverges from the stereotypical script.

Born in 1974, Green had already been arrested three times before Oct. 18, 1992, when Andrew Lastrapes Jr., was gunned down during a convenience store robbery in Houston. Green swore he was not the killer. Evidence suggests he might have participated in the robbery but never shot a gun.

The book is not remarkable because of its suggestion of a deeply flawed criminal justice system skewed by the availability of the death penalty. Such books abound, involving cases in Texas and other states.

Instead, the book is remarkable because of Green's transformation in prison (note the word "saint" as part of the title) and because the believer in Green's sainthood is author Thomas Cahill, a sober historian whose best-selling books include How the Irish Saved Civilization and The Gifts of the Jews.

Cahill was living in Italy when he heard about Green. His messenger? Sheila Murphy, a retired judge from Chicago. Murphy had heard about Green's transformation, had visited him in prison and had become an advocate for rescinding his death sentence because the previously unschooled, thuggish inmate was spreading so much good throughout the world.

Cahill in time also became an advocate for a reduction of Green's sentence, as well as an advocate for abolishing the death penalty, reasoning that it does not serve as a deterrent and punishes inmates who demonstrate rehabilitation is possible.

Cahill stimulates deep thought about good and evil, and he is an intelligent, engaging historian. That said, he seems to lose perspective about Green. The effusiveness begins within the prologue and rarely diminishes. "His quiet brow shows no effort or anxiety, but his eyes, when concentrating, seem to look beyond the present to a better world that only he can see," Cahill says. "His countenance is suffused with an aura that, if one did not know something of the harshness of his history, might be mistaken for innocence."

If Cahill had showed more and told less, he would have served his readers – and the memory of Green – better. The flaws will not stop the tears, however. A Saint on Death Row is an affecting book.

Steve Weinberg is a journalist in Columbia, Mo. His newest book is Taking on the Trust: The Epic Battle of Ida Tarbell and John D. Rockefeller.

A Saint on Death Row: The Story of Dominique Green

Thomas Cahill -- (Doubleday, $18.95) (source: Dallas Morning News)

TEXAS Doings This Week and Soon! (Law of Parties and more)

We need people to come to the capitol this Thursday, March 19, because the Capital Punishment subcommittee in the Texas House of Representatives in Austin will hold a hearing on a bill to end the death penalty under the Law of Parties and other bills on a moratorium on executions and a death penalty study commission. The Law of Parties is the law that allowed Kenneth Foster and Jeff Wood to be sentenced to death, even though they did not kill anyone or intend anyone to be killed.

We need as many people as possible to go over to the capitol and sign in - in support of HB 877, HJR 24 and HB 2267. All you have to do is fill out a postcard sized form in the room where the hearing is taking place and mark that you are in favor, then you can leave. Or you can stay and testify in person.

The meeting starts at 8 AM, but it is likely to recess at 9 and then reconvene after the full House adjourns around 11. There are other bills scheduled to be heard at this meeting too, so we don't know what time the Law of Parties bill will be heard, but you can sign the form as being in support at any time while the meeting is taking place and then leave. Try to be there at 8 AM, but come later if that is the only way.

The hearing is in room E2.016 at the Texas Capitol at 11th and Congress. Take the elevator down to level E2.

Call Scott Cobb at 512-552-4743, if you have questions. Email Scott at scottcobb99@gmail.com if you can come to the Capitol and fill out a form in favor of the Law of Parties bill. It only takes five minutes to fill out the form.

Parking is available in the Capitol Visitors Parking Garage located between Trinity and San Jacinto Streets at 12th and 13th streets. Parking is free for the first two hours and $.75 for each half- hour thereafter (maximum daily charge: $6.00). Metered spaces are available throughout the area.

If you can not make it to Austin, we need you to call or email the following members of the subcommittee on Capital Punishment and say that you want the committee to approve HB 2267, the Law of Parties bill. Please be polite in your letters. You can mention that people who do not kill anyone should certainly not be subject to the death penalty.

Members of the Subcommittee on Capital Punishment

Robert Miklos, Chair of Subcommittee on Capital Punishment
District 101 (Dallas County)
Send him an Email
Phone: 512-463-0464; FAX: 512-463-9295

Wayne Christian (Vice Chair), District 09 (Shelby, Nacogdoches, San Augustine, Sabine, Jasper Counties)
Send him an Email
Phone: 512-463-0556; FAX: 512-463-5896

Joseph Moody, District 78 (El Paso County-part) Send him an Email
Phone: 512-463-0728; FAX: 512-463-0397

Pete Gallego
Send him an Email
Phone: 512-463-0566; FAX: 512-263-9408

Terri Hodge (Sponsor of Law of Parties bill, so no need to contact her)

This is happening because we have been pushing for a new law ever since 2007 when Kenneth Foster's death sentence under the Law of Parties was commuted to life. You can see our press conference from Feb 24 on this YouTube video.

Lobby Day Against the Texas Death Penalty March 24

Tuesday March 24, 2009
Texas State Capitol
11th and Congress
Austin, Texas

Fill out the form to register for Lobby Day!

This is shaping up to be the largest Lobby Day Against the Death Penalty ever. Come attend and be a part of an historic day of anti-death penalty advocacy at the Texas capitol! Tell your grandkids you did something to help abolish the death penalty in Texas by attending the Lobby Day in 2009!

Every Texas legislative session since 2003, the anti- death penalty community in Texas has rallied at the Texas capitol to lobby legislators to end the death penalty. In 2009, there have already been several bills filed that we will be lobbying in favor of, including a bill to end the death penalty under the Law of Parties, an abolition bill, a death penalty study commission and moratorium on executions bill, a resolution to impeach Sharon Keller and other issues.

Sponsored by Texas Moratorium Network, Texas Death Penalty Abolition Movement, Campaign to End the Death Penalty - Austin Chapter, Texas Death Penalty Education and Resource Center, Texas Students Against the Death Penalty, Texas CURE, the Student Prison Caucus, the Abolish the Death Penalty Caucus of the Texas Democratic Part, the Eye & Tooth Project: Forum Theatre on the Death Penalty, Kids Against the Death Penalty. and People Organized in Defense of Earth and Her Resources (PODER). (If your organization would like to participate or be one of the Lobby Day sponsors, contact us at 512 961 6389 or by email to admin@texasmoratorium.org)

Please make plans to be in Austin on Tuesday, March 24, so that we can all raise our voices together against the injustice of the Texas death penalty.

Schedule. You do not have to attend all events.

9 AM: Pick up clipboards and materials for those people who have already been trained and do not need to attend the 10 AM training session. Same location as workshop at 10 AM

10 AM - Noon Lobbying Training Workshop Location: University of Texas at Austin, Sanchez Building (College of Education) in the Cissy McDaniel Parker Dean's Conference Room located near Congress Ave and MLK, between University Avenue and the Blanton Museum of Art (just north of the Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum)

12:00 Break for Lunch on your own (there is a cafeteria in the Capitol)

1 PM Press Conference in the House Speaker's Committee Room 2W.6 in the Capitol

Afternoon: Visiting legislative offices and attending committee hearings (If any committees will be hearing any death penalty related bills that day, we will know five days before the event.)

5:30 PM Rally on the South Steps of the Capitol (Musical Guest: Aaron Blount)

If you are coming to Lobby Day, you can call the offices of your state senator and state representative and tell them you are coming to Austin on March 24 and would like to meet with someone in their office.

Last Saturday, there was a very well-attended lobby training session in Houston. It was organized by Texas Death Penalty Abolition Movement and conducted by aides to State Rep Dutton and State Rep Farrar.

You can find out who your legislators are by going to the link below and entering your address: here

Thank you to everyone who bought a copy of Jeanette's New Book
Jeanette Popp, mother of a murder victim and TMN's former chairperson has just published a new book, Mortal Justice: A True Story of Murder and Vindication.

Her book tells the story of her daughter Nancy's murder, the wrongful conviction of two innocent men Chris Ochoa and Richard Danziger, their eventual exoneration, the subsequent conviction of the real killer, and Jeanette's many years of activism against the death penalty, including a jailhouse meeting with the real killer and her successful efforts to prevent him from being sentenced to death.

A recent Dallas Morning News article said, "Ms. Popp asked prosecutors not to seek the death penalty, because she says she did not want her daughter's memory stained with someone's blood. "I'm not a bleeding heart liberal," she says. "But I do have a heart."

Jeanette plans to come to Lobby Day Against the Death Penalty on March 24 at the Texas Capitol in Austin. She will also be in Austin this Thursday to testify to the committee in favor of a moratorium on executions and on ending the death penalty under the Law of Parties.

In 2001, Jeanette's testimony to the House Criminal Jurisprudence Committee was instrumental in persuading that committee to vote in favor of a moratorium on executions. This year, the same committee will again consider a proposal for a moratorium on executions and to create a commission to study the death penalty system in Texas.

It would be great if Jeanette would be able to give signed copies of her book to members of the House Criminal Jurisprudence Committee. As a mother of a murder victim who opposes the death penalty and campaigned to prevent her daughter's killer from getting the death penalty, her story is very powerful, so she can really help us on Lobby Day. Already 15 copies of the book have been donated for Jeanette to give to legislators.

You can buy a copy of the book for yourself on Amazon.

We want to give copies of her book to legislators on Lobby Day Against the Death Penalty on March 24, signed by her and personally delivered by her, but to do that, we have to buy the books.

So, if anyone would like to make a donation, we need donations to help us buy 20 books for Jeanette to give away on Lobby Day March 24.

If you want to donate 15 dollars per book so we can buy a book, you can donate online here or send a check to:

Texas Moratorium Network
3616 Far West Blvd, Suite 117, Box 251
Austin, Texas 78731

Or you can buy a book on Amazon, read it, then give it to us so she can give it away to legislators on Lobby Day. Of course, as the author, she gets a percentage of all sales from her publisher, so if you buy a book, you help her increase sales.

You can also buy a book on Amazon and have it sent it to us at the address above. We will give it to Jeanette to sign and she will give it legislators during Lobby Day Against the Death Penalty at the Texas Capitol...

...In her new book, Jeanette includes the story of her jailhouse meeting with the man who had murdered her daughter in 1988 in Austin. Two innocent men were wrongfully convicted and sent to prison for 12 years before they were exonerated and the real kill was found and convicted. She tells the story in her book of how she met with the real killer in jail before his trial because she wanted to convince him to take a plea bargain and accept life in prison instead of going to trial and risking the death penalty.