Tuesday, March 30, 2010

A Father’s Grief and Change of Heart

Bob Curley discusses the death penalty at Howard Thurman Center Wednesday
By Caroline Hailey (COM’11)

In 1997, 10-year-old Jeffrey Curley, was sexually abused and murdered by two men who lured him with the promise of a new bicycle. In the months following the East Cambridge boy’s murder, his father led a movement to reinstate the death penalty in Massachusetts, thinking it was the best way to see that justice was done for his son. Years after lawmakers rejected the reinstatement by one vote, Bob Curley had a change of heart, and became an outspoken opponent of capital punishment.

Curley will be on campus Wednesday evening to discuss the death penalty and his journey from advocate to opponent. The event is sponsored by the BU chapter of Amnesty International, which lobbies against the death penalty.

“After Jeff was killed, it seemed like I was supposed to be for the death penalty,” Curley says. “It took time for me to step back and realize the problems with it.”

One problem is socioeconomics, Curley says, which affected the sentences of Sal Sicari and Charles Jaynes, the two men found guilty in Curley’s murder. Sicari was sentenced to life without parole, while Jaynes was sentenced to life with the possibility of parole after 23 years.

“It was clear that Jaynes was the real bad guy, and Sicari was just a not-so-bright tag-along,” Curley says. “But Sicari got a longer sentence because he couldn’t afford a private attorney like Jaynes.”

Curley also talked with people who had been through similar tragedies. One was Bud Welch, whose daughter was killed in the Oklahoma City bombings. “Bud showed me that I shouldn’t feel obligated to be for the death penalty just because of what happened to Jeff,” Curley says.

Brian MacQuarrie, a Boston Globe reporter who became friends with Curley while covering Jeffrey’s murder, will also be at the discussion, to be held in the Howard Thurman Center. Published last year, MacQuarrie’s book The Ride chronicles Curley’s transformation.

“I thought it would just be a true crime book,” he says. “I soon realized the story was about Bob’s ride as much as it was about Jeffrey’s ride.”

“Bob Curley’s reasons for opposing the death penalty are not emotional or moral, but about justice and facts,” says Paige Buckley (COM’12), secretary of the BU chapter of Amnesty International. “That’s something I think could change a lot of minds or at least inspire people to learn more.”

A Discussion on the Death Penalty: Brian MacQuarrie and Bob Curley will be held Wednesday, March 31, at the Howard Thurman Center in the lower level of the George Sherman Union, 775 Commonwealth Ave., from 7 to 9 p.m.; it is free and open to the public. More information can be found on the Amnesty International at BU Facebook page here.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Death penalty hurts – not helps – families of murder victims

Guest commentary by Kathleen M. Garcia in the Nashua Telegraph

The state of New Hampshire is studying the death penalty through its study commission, so I want to share the view of the surviving families – from a state that struggled with the death penalty for a quarter century and hadn’t carried out an execution in 40 years before finally giving up on it.

Make no mistake – I am a conservative, a victims’ advocate and a death penalty supporter. But my real life experience has taught me that as long as the death penalty is on the books in any form, it will continue to harm survivors. For that reason alone, it must be ended.

I’ve spent the last two decades of my life fighting for the rights of crime victims. It’s a mission I began after a terrible murder in my own family. The death penalty is no abstract concept to me – I’ve had to confront it every day since 1984, in my work with countless families that have been impacted by the sudden trauma of homicide.

Three years ago, New Jersey conducted a study of its death penalty system like the one New Hampshire is conducting now. One of the questions put to the commission was the impact of the death penalty on homicide survivors, and I was selected to serve on the committee as a victims’ advocate.

It is my opinion, as well as the view of other long-standing victim advocates throughout New Jersey, that our capital punishment system harmed the survivors of murder victims. It may have been put in place to serve us, but in fact it was a colossal failure for the many families I serve.

I don’t have any compassion for murderers and believe they deserve harsh and certain punishment. In real life, the death penalty doesn’t work that way.

The courts scrutinize death penalty cases more than any other. I understand why they do that – once an execution happens it can’t be reversed, and we already know the system has made mistakes. Truly, not just technically, innocent people have been exonerated after spending years on death row.

But the result of that extra care is a process that takes years, and in many cases, decades. The criminal justice system is hard enough on survivors. When the death penalty is added to the process, the survivor’s connection to the system becomes a long-term and often multidecade nightmare that almost never ends in the promised result.

The details of the crime are replayed over and over in the press with each appeal. The defendant is turned into a celebrity.

I have watched too many families go through this over the years to believe that there is any way to make the system work better. Even in those states that do carry out executions, most cases are reversed at some point. I’ve known people in New Jersey whose entire childhoods were lost waiting for an execution that never came.

They endured multiple trials, as well as the additional trauma each one created in their fractured lives, leaving them feeling revictimized by the very system they once trusted to give them some sense of justice. Meanwhile, families with differing opinions on the death penalty are divided at the moment they need each other most.

Added to this traumatizing process is the sad reality that the true needs of homicide survivors are often forgotten and ignored. While well-intentioned people defend capital punishment “for the victims,” surviving family members are left to grieve in silence, without access to ongoing services, peer support, or affordable, specialized counseling

Of the many hundreds of survivors I’ve worked with, I found most were not focused on the perpetrator literally losing their own life, but on the criminal justice system ensuring they would no longer have the opportunity to harm another person, their family or have the freedom to view anything but prison walls for the rest of their life.

I now believe that the death penalty must be ended and replaced with life without parole, a harsh punishment that provides victims with the swiftness and certainty they need at a fraction of the cost in terms of dollars and human suffering by homicide survivors.

New Hampshire has the opportunity to stop this before more families are subjected to this painful system. As a society, we will continue to fail victims’ families until they have the services they really need to heal as best they can.

Every dollar we spend on a punishment that harms survivors is one we are taking away from the services that can address the emergent and long-term needs of all victims.

Kathleen M. Garcia is a victims’ advocate, an expert in traumatic grief and served on the New Jersey Death Penalty Study Commission.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

"Beyond every label and every enemy there is a human being"

... a sentence spoken by Jo Berry whose father was killed in the IRA Brighton Bombing during the 1984 Tory Party Conference.

I consider myself very lucky that I had the chance to listen to the stories of Jo Berry and Pat Magee during the World Congress against the Death Penalty in Geneve. A story that really touched everyone's heart and - more importantly - a story that all of us can learn so much from.

Although her father was killed, Jo decided to travel to Ireland to learn more about the conditons there and she decided that she needed to meet with Pat Magee, the man who planted the bomb. Today Jo and Pat travel through the world together and ask people to think outside the box, to cast a glance at their "enemies" views and experiences and hopefully learn to understand the other one a bit better.

I'm absolutely convinced if we all could learn to try to look through the other's eyes a bit more, this world would be a so much better one to live on!

Jo and Pat started a non-profit organization together called "Building bridges for Peace" with the aim of promoting peace and conflict resolution throughout the World. Have a look at their website!

To read more about the stories of Jo Berry and Pat Magee, please also visit the website of The Forgiveness Project.

Jo Berry's speach at the World Congress against the Death Penalty:

Thank you for inviting me to speak here. It is an honour and a privilege and this subject is something I am very passionate about.

My story begins the day my father Sir Anthony Berry was blown up by an IRA bomb as he was attending the Conservative party Conference in Brighton, England, October 12 1984. I am standing here with Pat Magee, the man t who planted the bomb.

I adored my Dad. I was 27 years old when he was killed. We had become very close, and the trauma, loss and devastation were immense. It was such a public death, and the violence was incomprehensible to me. And yet 2 days after the bomb, I made an inner commitment to find a way to bring something positive out of the tragedy, to go on a journey of giving up blame, a journey of understanding. My heart was opened to the pain of the conflict and I could not go back to being the free spirit I had been. During the years 85 and 86 I went to Northern Ireland many times, meeting courageous people on both sides who shared their story of being affected by the conflict. I found in Northern Ireland the support that I needed and that people welcomed me with open arms. I was beginning to understand the conditions, which would lead someone to join the IRA. It was only after the peace process in 1999 that I got the opportunity that I needed for healing my own trauma and I first went to a victims group. I also met men who had been in different paramilitary groups and this was preparing me to meet Pat Magee. I wanted to hear his story, to see him as a human being.

In November 2000 I was getting ready to go to Ireland when I got the phone call to say that I could meet Pat Magee that evening. My first thought was that I was not in the mood, not caring about peace right now, I just want a normal day. Then I wondered how could I be ready for such a momentous event and knew I could trust.

I was very scared as I went on the ferry between Wales and Ireland, wondering if I was making the worst mistake of my life. I remember waiting in my friend’s kitchen and the knock on the door and in came Pat. ‘Thank you for coming’ were my first words. And Pat replied ‘No I thank you.’ Straight away we started talking and we went into a room of our own. The first conversation lasted 3 hours and there was an intensity that is hard to explain. I started by asking him questions, listening to his reasons for joining the IRA and why he thought the bomb was a good strategy that had led to the Peace process. He told me he was not a violent man, but the situation in his community showed him, that violence was the only way that they could be heard. I found his justification emotionally hard but that was what I had expected. I asked him other questions and began to be able to glimpse the man behind the ‘terrorist’. I shared a little about my wonderful father and the journey I had been on. I was thinking to myself privately that I wouldn’t be back for a second visit. Given his justifications for what he had done, it would not be necessary to see him again.

But then something happened, he took of his glasses, rubbed his eyes, and said, ’I have never met someone like you, so open and with so much dignity, I want to hear your anger, I want to hear your pain.’ I knew then that another journey had begun, Pat had taken off his political hat, opened up and become a vulnerable human being. We talked very differently now, and in some ways it was even more challenging. I wanted to leave, thinking what am I doing talking to the man who killed my Father, yet something strong in me wanted to engage at this very human level. As we left, Pat said ‘I am sorry for killing your Father’, and I said, ’I am glad its you’. Strange words but what I meant was I acknowledged his willingness to open and engage with me, many wouldn’t have. I was very disorientated after this meeting, felt like I had broken a taboo of society, wondered if I had betrayed my father, but more that all of this I know it was a powerful step in my healing and my personal way of ending the cycle of violence and revenge in myself.

I am often asked about closure,. I do not believe in closure, closure would mean to me that I would reach a moment when I just feel peace and happiness, and that is not even something I am looking for. I am connected now to the pain of terrorism, to war, to violence, and I care when others are hurt.

During the making of the documentary about us, I was given a small camcorder, and I filmed myself watching the public execution of Timothy McVeigh, I am in tears, seeing the pain of the victims who are present thinking this will bring them closure, and that they will now feel better. I do not believe this will help, and KNOW, in fact, it will delay their healing. This killing is only bringing more pain and denying them the opportunity to meet him, if they ever wished to. I weep at the inhumane way we treat our fellow men.

Having heard Pat's story I know that if I had lived his life with all the experiences of pain and oppression I may have done the same thing, and in that moment there is nothing to forgive, only understanding. This liberates my heart, my need to blame, my remaining a victim. I still may have pain but I take responsibility and am transforming my grief into passion for peace.

I have felt the pain inside me of wanting to act on revenge, to make someone hurt as much as me. It is a powerful impulse, which tells me I will feel better but I also know that it would hurt me ever more and cost me some of my humanity. It is a choice. I have faced my pain, felt the enormity of it, cried, and raged, and I know only by taking responsibility, can I make it better. I have had the level of support that I have needed for me to be heard: I have been lucky. We need to make sure all victims have the right type of support. Over time the pain has become a part of me, and I know how to transform it.

I now call Pat my friend, it’s a remarkable friendship, difficult sometimes, but also a way of healing the most broken relationship in my life, and helping me transform and find ways of bringing something positive out my trauma. I am very glad Pat was not killed through the death penalty, for that would have robbed me of healing the most broken relationship I had, of helping me understand the roots of violence, of transforming in me the need to seek revenge. I now care about Pat and I thank you Pat for your readiness to meet me time after time and your commitment to dialogue with me, even though I know it’s challenging. We meet so that others can avoid what we both have gone through. If Pat had been killed through the death penalty I would have faced my responsibility for a death, because it would have been done in my name. And that would have been very hard.

I am no longer a victim, I am deepening my own humanity, and I aspire to see the humanity in all. For the truth is we all have the capacity to hurt others, we are all capable of being revengeful, and yet we have also the potential to honour the connection that exists between us all and find ways to heal the darkest pain, Let us in the world right now give up using violence to punish others and give up using violence to resolve conflict, learning how to to be non-violent and compassionate, committed to restoring relationships and understanding the 'other'. For the cost of hurting even one person is too great.

Together we can make a difference, together we are making a difference, thank you for giving me the opportunity to speak.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Mother Confronts Daughter's Killer

MANASSAS, Va. - Lorraine Whoberry shares with ABC 7 News her conversation with the man who killed one of her daughters and brutally raped the other more than a decade ago.
"He told us he was sorry," Whoberry recalled.

Whoberry has waited 11 years to hear from the man who killed her then 16-year-old daughter Stacie and viciously attacked her then 14-year-old daughter, Kristie.

Paul Powell spoke to Lorraine and Kristie from death row during a private conference call.

"We asked him what possessed him to do what he did to Stacie and Kristie and he told us it was senseless, pointless and there was no reason for it," Whoberry said.

Whoberry told Powell she had forgiven him during the conversation.

"I did ask him, 'Have you forgiven yourself,' and he said 'no' immediately," Whoberry said.

Despite what Powell has taken from the family, they say their recent conversation transformed him from a monster to a calm human who had made key mistakes.

"But I hope that you can reach that point of forgiveness, but again, that's between you and God and I heard him crying in the background and knew he was getting emotional," Whoberry told Powell during the call.

Paul Warner Powell, 31, is set to die by electrocution at 9 p.m. at Greensville Correctional Center in Jarratt. He chose electrocution rather than lethal injection. Lorraine, Kristie and her family will be there to witness. They told Powell they will be praying for him and he said thank you before saying goodbye.

"I walked in there with a lot anxiety, a lot of apprehension and I left there with a lot of peace. I think we all did and that is what I've been waiting for the past 11 years," Whoberry added.

Powell was convicted in 2000 and sentenced to death for fatally stabbing 16-year-old Stacie Reed of Manassas. He also raped and attempted to kill her 14-year-old sister.

The Virginia Supreme Court overturned that verdict, and Powell wrote a taunting letter to prosecutors detailing the crime. He was convicted again in 2003.

Source: ABC7 news
Please find video here as well

Paul Warner Powell was indeed executed on March 18, 2010.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Sandrine Ageorges-Skinner and Curtis McCarty on Larry King Live

Sandrine Ageorges-Skinner and Curtis McCarty appear on Larry King Live on CNN on March 24, 2010 to speak about the stay of execution for Hank Skinner by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Hank Skinner - Texas: CNN Article Just in


(CNN) - The Supreme Court granted a temporary stay of execution late Wednesday for a condemned Texas inmate who is requesting DNA testing of evidence in his case.

The order was handed down less than an hour before Henry "Hank" Skinner, 47, was scheduled to be executed by injection for the New Year's Eve 1993 killings of his live-in girlfriend, Twila Busby, and her two sons, Elwin Caler, 22, and Randy Busby, 20, in Pampa, Texas.

The Supreme Court granted the temporary stay while it considers whether to take up Skinner's broader appeal. It was not immediately clear when the court might consider the case, but there was no indication a decision would be made before Thursday.

Skinner's attorneys maintain that DNA testing of the evidence could establish his innocence and determine the real killer.

"Since his arrest in the early morning hours of January 1, 1994, Mr. Skinner has always and consistently maintained that he did not commit the crimes for which he was convicted," defense attorney Robert Owen wrote this month in a 30-page letter to Texas Gov. Rick Perry, seeking a 30-day reprieve of Skinner's execution.

Skinner's attorneys maintain that DNA testing of the evidence could establish his innocence and determine the real killer.

See post just below for some of the RIGHT ONE Comments that have been coming in on Larry King Live ... MANY more great blogs are pouring in on the Larry King Live oneline blog. I hope to post more of these, minus names later. Why not add your's? AND/Or place a comment on this blog?

End CNN article just in...

This one just in from CHANGE dot org: here

On Death Penalty and Related: Blog Comments on Larry King Live

March 24th, 2010 3:39 pm ET

As a many generation Texan, and resident of the state, I do not understand how the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, the Texas Board of Pardons and Parole and the prosecutor do not want to allow DNA testing of the evidence in this case.

Clearly not all cases have access to DNA evidence, but when there is evidence, and a question of innocence, we owe it to the integrity of our criminal justice system to do all that we can to make sure that the right person is being convicted – particularly in a death penalty case.

Texas – 11 death row exonerations, and the executed with strong innocence claims – Cameron Todd Willingham, Ruben Cantu, Carlos De Luna... not to mention the many non-death penalty exonerations and the most recent Timothy Cole pardon. How can Governor Perry be so blinded by the death penalty and his political agenda that he cannot see reason in reviewing evidence?

March 24th, 2010 4:02 pm ET

Do I support the death penalty?

Well, let me say it this way. If someone murdered a person or persons close to me and it was determined that there were witnesses, DNA and whatever other means proved that person did 100% commit the crime, I am totally for the death penalty.

On the other hand, if there is only circumstantial evidence, I do not support the dealth penalty in these cases. Life without the possibility of parole should be considered.

Lastly, how is it that Mr. Skinner has never been given DNA testing for these murders? He is begging for this test on his last day of life. This is not adding up OR he has not been given enough publicity for the crime. Hope justice is fair!

March 24th, 2010 4:37 pm ET

Why would anyone be executed without DNA testing of evidence when such testing is clearly an option. Pathetic.

March 24th, 2010 5:09 pm ET

Test the DNA already. Good God what is this the stone age?

March 24th, 2010 5:30 pm ET

This message is for Govenor Rick Perry of Texas regarding the Hank Skinner case. Please grant the 30 day stay of execution and insist that the DNA be tested. I am part of a group that has a corporate stance against the death penalty.

March 24th, 2010 5:50 pm ET

If there is DNA evidence in any case (current and/or past cases) testing should be mandatory and not have to wait for motions to be filed!

March 24th, 2010 6:12 pm ET

"Lastly, how is it that Mr. Skinner has never been given DNA testing for these murders? He is begging for this test on his last day of life."

(No to last comment...he has begged for these tests ever since the conviction. He didn't wait until today.

March 24th, 2010 6:15 pm ET

As a Collin County, Texas resident, I have no doubt that the Governor will block eleventh hour efforts to test DNA in this case. He has traditionally upheld death penalty cases like all his predecessors. I am appalled by the propensity of Texas politics to continue to apply the death penalty despite the astounding number of cases overturned by DNA evidence. I would be fascinated to see cases from as long as a hundred years ago where the person was put to death be put through a rigorous re-examination. I feel confident that not only are many of the current death row inmates innocent, I have no doubt that many, many men have gone to their deaths who were innocent of the crimes for which they were convicted. The classic pro-death penalty response is: well, you win some, you lose some. A really cavalier attitude when you consider that when you put to death an innocent person the guilty person still went free. That means two travesties of justice – first the family who wanted "justice" by putting the "killer" to death essentially supported killing an innocent man AND that same family can be assured that an innocent man walked free and escaped justice. The argument for the death penalty in Texas is so hallow. The sad part is that the legislature here is so backward that no Texas university has yet completed a state sponsored study of the death penalty and its effectiveness. Not one single comprehensive research study as looked at death penalty cases in Texas from a historical perspective through the present to examine where or not the death penalty has accomplished anything whatsoever. These are the same sober people who want their government to account for every penny spent, the same ones who want a balanced budget, the same folks who want accountability in schools. DNA evidence should not only be applied in this case but in all cases where there is an opportunity to move justice forward. But then, this is Texas we're talking about...

March 24th, 2010 6:18 pm ET

First of all, we has bloggers have no preview of this case and so I don’t know what if anything can be expected by people like us. And I’m no lawyer either, but I got to say that it seems to me that there is an underlining unspoken pretense going on about DNA. In other words (DNA equals guilt.) And that to me if true is both illogical and barbaric crime solving at best. It’s like if police ever want to solve a crime in a rush that ought to simply go to the closest partner or relative, collect DNA and convict. Again, we don’t have the all story about this man said to be about executed. But then wouldn’t it me more damaging evidence if no DNA was found? According to what they tell us here, the people lived with him in the same house..!

March 24th, 2010 9:12 pm ET

DNA should be examined and compared. Executions are barbaric, and set a bad example when the state commits homicide. I feel prisoners should be housed humanely. Violent criminals and those convicted of grand theft (whether white collar criminals or others) should be required to do some hard productive labor instead of being pampered. People in jail for no reason (victemless "criminals") should be released right away.

Why not add your comments here on The Journey of Hope blog...and/or if you wish to do so on the Larry King Live blog...See the Post below...

More articles, blogs and possibly see Hank's Wife, Sandrine, on Larry King Live replay?

Blog comment here building - you may still be able to make your's and vote nay to death penalty...



Hank Skinner gets a STAY!


March 24, 2010
Texas: Condemned Man Gets a Stay

Less than an hour before Hank Skinner was to be put to death for the murder of his girlfriend and her two sons, the United States Supreme Court blocked his execution on Wednesday, giving him another chance to gain access to DNA evidence. Prosecutors and the state courts have repeatedly refused to let him test blood, fingernail scrapings and hair found at the scene of the killings against his genetic markers. The justices ordered the execution postponed until they decide whether to review the case.

TEXAS: OPEN short message to Gov. Rick Perry

REMEMBER the legacy we all will leave behind for our children and the children of our city, our state, our country and for the Creator....I doubt if we'll have the opportunity to do this over again. Remember the other "mistakes" of innoncents executed...what a difficulty for so many to have to go through that! Surely that bothered your heart and conscience as well and reminded all that the ACTUAL guy who did the crime may still "out there" on the loose? The REAL criminal may also still be "out there" so how does this keep women children and any others safe from those who committing the ACTUAL crime? How does executing Hank without everyone knowing he REALLY did it keep people in Texas secure? How will anyone know unless you allow this DNA? My children ask me about these things....what do I tell them? Don 't your children and doesn't your wife ask you? What do you tell THEM?

Connie L. Nash
The Journey of Hope

Quick Actions : FORM to urge Gov Perry to allow DNA testing

Order DNA Testing for Hank Skinner | Change.org here Hank Skinner is set to be executed March 24 in Texas for a crime he says he didn't commit, but DNA evidence that could prove his guilt or innocence has never been tested. Use the form above to urge Texas Gov. Rick Perry to order a stay of executions so DNA testing can proceed.

TEXAS: Impending Execution! KEEP CALLS/FAXES coming!

MARCH 23, 2010:

PLZ go to POSTS just below for NUMBERS TO CALL/FAX! Make them STRONG!

TEXAS----impending execution

Testing Phobia: Texas Set to Execute Another Innocent Man

The bloody-minded, death-obsessed state of Texas, which has already demonstrably executed at least one innocent man, Cameron Todd Willingham (who was falsely accused and ultimately killed by the state for the alleged arson "murder" of his two little children when in fact they'd died because of a fire caused by an electrical fault), may be about to execute yet another innocent man.

This time it's Hank Skinner, 47, a man who has spent 16 years on the state's busy death row protesting his innocence in the 1993 New Year's Eve murder of his girlfriend, Twila Busby, and her 2 sons, aged 20 and 22.

The thing about Skinner's case is it would be relatively easy to prove whether or not he was really the killer of the 3. There are 2 bloody knives that have never been tested for Skinner's DNA--or for the DNA of Twila's uncle, the man who had reportedly made several unwanted sexual advances at her earlier that evening, leading her to leave a party early, and who Skinner claims is the real killer. Nor was semen that was found on Twila Busby, who was raped, or skin found under her fingernails, ever DNA tested to see who they belonged to.

There were, to be sure, plenty of circumstantial reasons at the time to suspect Skinner. It is undisputed that he had been drunk and passed out on the couch in Busby's house shortly before the murders, which occurred in the same room he was in. The drunken Skinner also staggered from the home in Pampa, TX, his hands bloodied, following the killings. But Skinner maintains that he had cut his hand, falling off the couch, and that the blood was his own. He says he had woken up to find Busby and her sons already dead.

Incredibly, police investigators at the crime scene never took fingernail clippings from Busby, nor did they take a vaginal swab at the scene, though she had clearly struggled and had apparently been raped. Skinner's court-appointed trial attorney could and clearly should have sought that DNA testing before or even during his trial, but didn't bother to do so--no surprise, given the low quality of public defender representation provided in Texas, especially at that time. (Incredibly, that defense attorney, Harold Comer, was the same person who, as a district attorney, had earlier had prosecuted Skinner for 2 minor crimes--assault and car theft! Comer had lost his prosecutor's post when he pleaded guilty to mishandling cash seized in drug cases his office had handled.)

But Skinner's current appellate lawyer, Rob Owen, a University of Texas law professor, says that's no reason not to do those tests today, to settle the matter once and for all--before Skinner is executed.

So far, inexplicably, the state of Texas has blocked his efforts to have the testing done. And time is growing very short. Skinner's execution is set for Wednesday, March 24. He and attorney Owen have asked the US Supreme Court to block the execution and to order testing. As Owen told the Los Angeles Times, "In any investigation today, all of this evidence would have been tested for DNA. But why not do the testing now?"

On March 19, 6 men who had spent a collective 67 years on death rows for crimes they were later able to prove they did not commit gathered to call on Texas to do the right thing, and allow time for DNA testing of the evidence in Skinner's case.

Curtis McCarty, who himself spent 21 years on Oklahoma's death row waiting to die, only to finally get DNA testing of evidence that finally proved his innocence, says, "When evidence is available to be tested, it is criminal and unconstitutional not to test it."

The gratuitously cruel attitude of the state of Texas, where the court of appeals rejected Skinner's request for DNA testing, and where Gov. Rick Perry has been unwilling to intervene, has been clearly illustrated in its treatment of Skinner's wife, Sandrine Ageorges-Skinner, who has been barred for nearly 22 months from visiting her husband on death row, on the technicality that she is a foreigner (she is a French national).

Skinner came within a week of execution in February, when a state judge delayed the date for a month to allow his appeal to the US Supreme Court.

To take action on this outrageous case, and call on Gov. Perry to grant Skinner's reasonable request to have the evidence in his case DNA tested, go to:

here Change dot org Innocence Project

(source: Oped News--- DAVE LINDORFF is a Philadelphia-based journalist. He is author of "Killing Time: An Investigation into the Death Penalty Case of Mumia Abu-Jamal" (Common Courage Press, 2003). His latest book is "The Case for Impeachment" (St. Martin's Press, 2006). His work is available at thiscantbehappening dot net)


The Prisoner's Wife

She would prefer to talk only about him. That everyone forget about their marriage, the intimate relationship of this impossible couple, between a French documentary filmmaker and a Texas prisoner moldering on death row for 15 years and who has no more than a few hours left. She would like for him to remain just him, Hank Skinner, number 99143, found guilty of a triple murder committed in 1993 and which he says he did not commit. He, that 47-year-old construction worker whom she can only see behind the Plexiglas of a visiting room, who has become a symbol of the dysfunction of a system, and today, more than ever, hangs on a hypothetical last minute reprieve from the Supreme Court or the State Governor.

Sitting in a restaurant by the side of a Texas freeway, Sandrine Ageorges is a 49-year-old woman, with a gaunt face and an impressive power of expression. The execution of her husband has been set for Wednesday, March 24th, at the end of the day. She no longer sleeps. A 1st date had been set for February 24th, but an appeals court ordered a last minute stay.

Then too, she had come from France, right here, with fear in her belly, moved in for the umpteenth time with a woman friend in Houston, into what she calls her second home. With the announcement of the stay, she had told herself that she was "more than happy" but couldn't help thinking that this new agony imposed on her man was perhaps worse than death itself.

She knows what she is talking about. Sandrine Ageorges has been a militant for the abolition of the death penalty for more than 30 yeaars. She has lost count of the cases that she has followed and defended, the prisoners with whom she has maintained written or telephone correspondence. An obsessive commitment which seized her in adolescence, in 1976 precisely, when she discovered on television the portrait of Christian Ranucci, sentenced to death and guillotined during the presidency of Valéry Giscard d’Estaing. "I haven't stopped being angry ever since," she says.

After a period with Amnesty International, in London, and the birth of a daughter, she became production director in the audiovisual area. In 1995, a friend encouraged her to read an article in the magazine Télérama on the Lamp of Hope Association, grouping those sentenced to death in Texas. She contacted them, decided to translate the quarterly newsletter that they wrote up with local militants.

Sandrine Ageorges began writing letters to 3 inmates: Gene Hathorn, whose sentence has just been commuted to life in prison after 33 years on death row; Robert Fratta, sentenced to death for the second time at the end of a 2nd trial in 2009; and Hank Skinner.

When she read his 1st letter, Sandrine Ageorges was filled with emotion. "I didn't fall in love, I prefer to say that we immediately found each other." He wrote her long, frequent letters. She followed the pace. For 5 years they got to know each other. She, leading figure in the abolitionist movement in France, he that "bohemian with a rebellious character."

On the legal level, the Skinner case presents directly all the elements of a bad thriller: a slap-dash trial, a procedure marked by irregularities, a court appointed lawyer, incompetent and corrupt. Hank Skinner fit the profile of the ideal culprit. A loudmouth. Alcoholic. And the man had already been in trouble with the law for petty larceny when, during that night of December 31, 1993, the police found, in his house, the body of his girlfriend, her head smashed with an axe handle, and 2 of her children stabbed to death.

He says he spent the night at home, but remembers nothing. His clothes were stained with blood. He had a cut on his hand. And a neighbor accused him of having threatened her, to keep her from calling the sheriff.

In court, Hank Skinner proclaimed his innocence, but he was sentenced to death in 1995, after two hours of deliberation. Since, other lawyers have taken up the case, have done other investigations. A toxicological analysis, done by an FBI expert, shows that Hank Skinner had ingested, that evening, enough vodka and codeine to make him incapable of standing up without help.

In 1997 the neighbor recanted, saying that she had been pressured by the police to incriminate Hank Skinner. Other disturbing facts, several elements found at the scene of the crime were never tested for DNA, which could have proved him innocent. Worse, his girlfriend’s uncle, who has since died, known for his violent past and who had sexually harassed his niece during the New Year’s Eve party, was never questioned.

Time presses. Sandrine Ageorges counts the 8 appeals, all rejected. Years of legal procedure which have only brought Hank Skinner closer to his execution. "An unbearable torture," she says.

One day they talked about marriage. "If you need that, we'll do it," she told him. He sent her his request in June 2008. The letter had barely been sent when the prison warden forbade Sandrine Ageorges to visit. The marriage would take place by proxy, in Houston, 4 months later, in the presence of a member of the French consular staff.

She would not say anything about it. Hank's lawyers and the associations she worked with would not be notified. She claims she doesn't want anything to do with those women they call "killer groupies," married to men in prison.

For the moment she says she is still hanging on and wants to believe in a last intervention by the Supreme Court, to finally order the DNA tests. On Wednesday, she will not attend the executioin, if it takes place. Hank did not put her on the list - "to protect me”", she whispers. She will wait outside, in front of the high walls of Huntsville’s main prison, where they kill those sentenced to death in Texas.

Afterward? She thinks about it. She knows that she will call a New York lawyer to recover the evidence and do the famous DNA tests. Even after his death, she will continue to fight for him, for the truth, the principles of human justice. And she will still bother people.

(source: Le Monde, Paris, France)


Liliana Segura March 24th DNA STILL Untested...

Posted by Liliana Segura at 6:40 am at Alternet dot org RIGHTS

March 24, 2010

REPLIES: 2 With DNA Still Untested, Texas Prisoner Hank Skinner Scheduled to Die Tonight

Last month, a Texas judge granted death row prisoner Hank Skinner a temporary stay of execution, giving him a one-month lease on life beyond his February 24th execution date.

For his lawyers, the Medill Innocence Project at Northwestern University, and Amnesty International and other activists, this meant a one-month window to fight like hell to get critical DNA evidence in his case tested for the first time. Earlier this month, Chromosomal Laboratories, a DNA laboratory in Phoenix, AZ, offered to analyze the DNA evidence within 30 days and free of charge, if Gov. Rick Perry would grant permission.

But one month later, Skinner is set to die anyway. The courts have turned him down. The Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles has turned him down. Barring intervention from the governor, Skinner will be executed in the Huntsville death chamber at 6pm.

Skinner sits on death row for the 1993 murder of his girlfriend, Twila Jean Busby, and her two adult sons, who were stabbed to death on New Years Eve. Subsequent investigations into his case, however, have revealed alarming evidence that Skinner could be innocent of the crime. (Read about the case in detail here.)

“In more than twenty years of investigating and researching possible wrongful convictions, I have rarely seen a case this circumstantial and shaky in which the prisoner was actually guilty,” says Medill Innocence Project Director David Protess.

Many Texans share his alarm, including state Senator Rodney Ellis and state Representative Elliott Naishtat, who yesterday sent letters to Gov. Perry urging him to grant a 30-day reprieve for Skinner.

“The state’s determination to execute Hank Skinner tomorrow should make even death-penalty supporters go pale,” the Dallas Morning News wrote in an editorial yesterday.

Key evidence in the 1993 murder case has never undergone DNA analysis. Skinner may be guilty of a bloody triple slaying … but every sliver of doubt must be eliminated before the state exercises its life-or-death authority.

We trust that Gov. Rick Perry agrees with that, and we urge him to use the power of his office to postpone tomorrow’s planned execution as insurance against miscarriage of justice.

Unfortunately, as we have seen again and again and again and again, Rick Perry has never let concerns over innocence get in the way of a good execution. With 212 executions under his belt, killing Hank Skinner tonight will be business as usual.

To demand a stay of execution for Hank Skinner, call Gov. Perry at (512) 463-1782 or Fax: (512) 463-1849

Monday, March 22, 2010

The Latest From Texas (CALL, FAX, SPREAD the WORD!)

From: TCADP (Texas Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty)
To: Bill Pelke
Sent: Monday, March 22, 2010 2:45 PM

TCADP released the following statement this evening in response to the Board of Pardons and Parole 7- 0 vote against clemency for Hank Skinner. Please call and fax letters to Governor Rick Perry requesting a 30 day stay for Hank Skinner. Talking Points are available at tcadp dot org - CLICK here (and below on this blogsite there are several others)

Chelsea Thornton Buchholtz
Assistant General Counsel
Office of the Governor
1100 San Jacinto
Austin, Texas 78701
The fax number for the General Counsel's office is 512-463-1932.

Governor's Office:
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]

The following is a statement from Rob Owen, one of Mr. Skinner's attorneys, in response to the Board's recommendation:

"We are disheartened that the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles has turned a deaf ear to Mr. Skinner's plea for a stay of execution to allow for DNA testing of key evidence that could prove his innocence. It is now more urgent than ever that Governor Rick Perry not allow Wednesday's execution to proceed until all of the facts are in. We urge the governor to take the reasonable and fair action of halting Mr. Skinner's execution so that readily available scientific evidence can be tested before he is put to death on Wednesday. To do anything less means that the State of Texas is willing to risk the execution of an innocent man."

Also, in recent days, thanks to your efforts, we are aware of more than 3000 letters that have been sent to Governor Perry by members and supporters of organizations who are urging the governor to stay Wednesday's execution so that DNA testing can take place.

Thank you for urging additional letters to the Governor, along with letters to the editor and online comments. They are needed now more than ever.

------------ --------- --------- --------- ---------

Monday, March 22, 2010

CONTACT: Bob Van Steenburg, TCADP Board President
512-569-8928 (cell); austin@tcadp. org

Today, March 22, 2010 Kristin Houlé, Executive Director of the Texas Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty, issued the following statement in response to the decision by the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles to deny clemency to Hank Skinner:

Austin, Texas - The Texas Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty (TCADP) is dismayed that the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles has recommended against a commutation or reprieve for Hank Skinner. Skinner is scheduled to be executed on Wednesday, March 24for the murder of Twila Busby, even though critical DNA evidence that was collected at the crime scene has never been tested. Mr. Skinner has steadfastly insisted he is innocent of the crime. It is inconceivable that the Board of Pardons and Paroles not act to prevent this execution when simple DNA testing may prevent a possible miscarriage of justice.

The Texas Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty echoes the call of Mr. Skinner’s attorneys in urging Governor Perry to not allow this execution to proceed until all the facts are known. It is inconceivable that the state of Texas would deny a person the right to have all evidence in his case properly considered before putting him to death.

This decision comes at a time of increased public scrutiny and growing awareness of the flaws and failures of the Texas death penalty system. TCADP strongly urges Governor Perry to stay the scheduled execution of Mr. Skinner to permit testing of the available DNA evidence.


- Spread the Word! Forward this email and other items below on this Journey blogsite to your friends & Contacts NOW - include Facebook, Twitter, Etc. Due especially to the URGENCY, FAX if at all possible and CALL rather than email the Governor's Office per the INFO at top of this post. Skim below for some other great talking points. After that, if you have time, then check out the petition in posts below.

Even Non-Advocates say: Why NOT do the testing?

Death Penalty and Execution News

MARCH 22, 2010:

TEXAS----impending execution

Isn't a man's life worth an extra 30 days?

Henry W. "Hank" Skinner, convicted of murder in 1994, may be guilty as sin.

Then again, he may be innocent.

But so what?

This is Texas, and Skinner is scheduled to be executed Wednesday evening even though simple testing might prove conclusively that he was not the killer of his live-in girlfriend and her two adult sons 16 years ago in the Panhandle town of Pampa.

Of course, the DNA testing could confirm his guilt, or perhaps be deemed inconclusive.

Either way, would it not make sense to do the testing if it helped us to be sure one way or the other? Why is the state so adamant about not doing it?

Do we permit Texas to make a possible deadly mistake without even trying to learn the whole truth?

It seems almost ironic that Gov. Rick Perry came to Fort Worth on Friday with a freshly issued pardon for a man who was wrongly convicted of raping a Texas Tech student in 1985.

Tim Cole, who was exonerated by DNA testing last year, was not there to receive his pardon -- his mother accepted for him. The test that proved his innocence came too late for Cole. He died in prison while serving a 25-year sentence for that wrongful conviction.

Cole's family fought hard and long to clear his name and has worked tirelessly for legislation that would help keep such miscarriages of justice from happening. A state advisory panel on wrongful convictions was named in his honor.

I was with Cole's family Friday afternoon as his mother, Ruby Session, along with Cole's sister and five brothers accepted the pardon.

After Perry's visit, Session took the governor's pardon to her son Tim -- at his grave.

Session has said no other family should have to go through such an ordeal, especially when DNA testing could have proved a defendant's innocence.

That brings us back to Skinner's case.

He maintains his innocence, but none of us knows for sure whether he bludgeoned Twila Busby to death and fatally stabbed her two sons on New Year's Eve, 1993. Skinner's attorneys argue he was convicted on "entirely circumstantial" evidence even while untested evidence remains sealed. Prosecutors and the courts have refused to permit a forensic examination for DNA as Skinner's execution date draws near.

Last week, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals refused to intervene in the case, so hope lies with the U.S. Supreme Court and Perry.

Lawyers for Skinner officially asked the governor this month to grant a 30-day reprieve and order DNA testing on evidence that prosecutors say still exists.

In addition to the problematic trial evidence, the attorneys offer evidence to prove that Skinner was too incapacitated by alcohol and drugs to have committed the crimes even though he was in the house when they occurred.

Students of Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism, who investigated the case in 1999 and 2000, helped uncover some of the disturbing revelations in the case.

The state's star witness, a woman whose home Skinner went to after he left the crime scene, recanted her testimony on tape. She has repeated, under oath, that she lied after authorities intimidated her.

Several witnesses believe, as was suggested during the trial, that the dead woman's uncle was the killer, and it has been suggested that a windbreaker found next to Busby's body belonged to him. Again, prosecutors never followed up on those allegations, attorneys say.

But the most crucial evidence -- seven items, in fact -- could be the most revealing if only tested for DNA: 1) vaginal swabs taken from Busby; 2) Busby's fingernail clippings; 3) a knife found on the front porch of Busby's home; 4) a knife found in a plastic bag in the living room; 5) a dishtowel also found in the bag; 6) the windbreaker; and 7) hairs found in Busby's hands.

Hair that was introduced at trial, by the way, was not Skinner's.

This overwhelming information could give new insight into the case, not to mention other things in the lawyers' petition to the governor.

Texas has waited this long; what's wrong with taking an extra 30 days if it could get to the truth?

"I'm not an advocate of Hank Skinner," law professor Robert C. Owen wrote in the appeal to the governor. "If DNA tests could remove the uncertainty about Skinner's guilt -- one way or the other -- there's not a good reason in the world not to do it."

I totally agree.

As a resident of this state, and with Tim Cole constantly on my mind, I don't want the death of another innocent man on my hands -- or my conscience.

(source: Opinion, Bob Ray Sanders, Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Mar. 20)

MUST READ on Hank Skinner Case! Just In...

Hello, I'm leaving the following intact because it's SO crucial and put SO well:

Skeptical Juror has left a new comment on your post "Hank Skinner Case: MORE Talking points, etc...":

Barry Scheck has asked that the DNA be tested before Hank is executed.

The Innocence Project has asked that the DNA be tested before Hank is executed.

Seven death row exonerees have asked that the DNA be tested before Hank is executed.

Sam Millsap, the DA who won a death sentence for Ruben Cantu, the DA who now believes Ruben Cantu was innocent, asked that the DNA be tested before Hank is executed.

The Medill Innocence Project has offered to bear the cost of the testing.

An Arizona DNA testing firm has offered to conduct the testing for free.

Hank Skinner will not be one of the many guilty people Texas executes. He will be one of the relatively few innocent people Texas executes. He will join the likes of Ruben Cantu, Cameron Todd Willingham, Shaka Sankofa (aka Gary Graham), Johnny Frank Garrett, David Wayne Spence, and others too numerous to list here.

This is too sad to contemplate.


So Do ALL you can to STOP this State killing! Scroll below for lots of quick and easy things you can do NOW. (Bill, Connie and Susanne along with MANY others for The Journey of Hope Blogsite)


JUST IN MONDAY: "Is Texas about to Execute an Innocent Man?" From "ALL GOV" TEXAS

Henry Watkins “Hank” Skinner is scheduled to be executed on March 24 in Texas for the New Year’s Eve 1993 murders of his girlfriend and her two grown sons. But Northwestern University Journalism School’s Medill Innocence Project contends there are enough holes in the Skinner case to ask for a postponement of his execution until DNA tests can be run on blood and other evidence collected at the scene of the crimes.

Skinner was in the Pampa, Texas, house where Twila Busby and her children were found bludgeoned and stabbed to death. Skinner contends he was unconscious at the time of the murders after consuming vodka and codeine. His conviction rested largely on the facts that he was present at the crime scene, had small spots of blood from two of the three victims on his shirt, and his neighbor and ex-girlfriend, Andrea Reed, testified that he admitted his guilt to her.

Reed recanted her testimony in 1997, later telling the Medill Innocence Project she was pressured by police and prosecutors into fingering Skinner for the murders. Furthermore, DNA evidence lifted from the crime scene—including blood off the murder weapons, skin taken from under Busby’s fingernails and a rape test kit—have never been tested by a forensics laboratory.

Supporters of Skinner urge that a lab examine the DNA evidence before it’s too late. But Texas officials have refused to do so.

Chromosomal Laboratories in Phoenix, Arizona, has even offered to analyze the DNA for free.
-Noel Brinkerhoff with "ALL GOV"

PLZ SCROLL BELOW For various ways you can HELP NOW...PLZ ACT QUICKLY!!

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Hank Skinner Case: MORE Talking points, etc. from Sandrine

THIS ACTION IS PRIMARLY FOR TEXANS AND AMERICANS!! from Sandrine (Yet, go below and SEE last few posts also to see how you may help by empathy and more...AND ALL can keep getting out the word! Connie )

This is also from Sandrine:

Hank's clemency petition is seeking a commutation of Hank's death sentence to life in prison in order to enable him to prove his innocence and seek a pardon.


Governor Rick Perry
Office of the Governor
P.O. Box 12428
Austin, Texas 78711-2428
Fax: 512-463-1849

Main number: 512-463-2000

Website email contact form GO here

and/or use the online letter signing page set up by the Innocence Project GO here


All the details of the case are available on the website, however, here are some of the points you can raise:

Hank was sentenced to die on the basis of a perjured testimony and circumstancial evidence

The accusation theory relied on that one witness, who later recanted and explained how she was threatened to make a false statement to the police and give a deposition at trial which was based on a script supplied by the district attorney's office

Both the State's star witnesses (Andrea Reed & Howard Mitchell) have testified that they believe Hank to be innocent

The little forensic analysis done before his trial excluded him as the killer

The additional and minimum testing done during his post conviction appeals excluded him too

The available scientific evidence proves his physical incapacitation at the time of the crime

The important quantity of evidence remaining to be tested is essential to reveal the truth about his innocence

His motions for DNA testing have been denied although he has always offered to pay for the costs

The state of Texas has a very poor record in terms of wrongful convictions and DNA exonerations

The interest of justice is to find out the truth and to not execute an innocent

The state is withholding the untested evidence that can prove Hank's innocence

All three of the previous D.A.s have publicly stated that they believe the evidence needs to be tested

The D.A. has admitted in Ch 64 DNA pleadings that the evidence is in a condition making testing possible, that the chain of custody has been maintained, that the evidence is capable of providing a probative result and idendity is an issue in Hank's case

Texas should not execute a man it does not know for a fact to be guilty. After Andrea Reed's recantation, according to the state own's experts, the remaining evidence does nothing to prove guilt at all. The A.G has stated through his spokesman that it would violate the constitution to murder someone who is innocent - that has got to apply equally to someone they do not know for a fact to be guilty

Both petitions (commutation and reprieve) as well as three statements attached to the petitions can be dowloaded in the "legal documents" section of the website.

hankskinner dot org or GO here


PETITION/PROTEST the Planned Execution of Hank Skinner NOW

Write a few words for Hank and Sandrine on the following "wall" GO here

Thank you! (And you may want to skim through and read these lovely expressions of empathy, prayer and love.)

Don't forget to sign the petition at here (Reminder from Gilles D. Winterhuder)


Start Time: Wednesday, March 24 at 5:30pm
End Time: Wednesday, March 24 at 6:30pm
Where: Texas State Capitol, 11th and Congress

Watch for more details and see the post just below...

Friday, March 19, 2010

Will Texas Soon Execute Another Innocent Man?

Bulletin from the cause: Voices for death row inmates
Posted By: Michaela Smith

URGENT Help needed for Hank Skinner.
Our Reporting Challenges Verdict As Clock Ticks.

See latest updates including for March 19th

Please contact Gov Perry he has the power to stop this.

Office of the Governor
P.O. Box 12428, Austin, Texas 78711
Phone: (512) 463-2000
Fax: (512) 463-1849

"LET'S All Work for HANK and SANDRINE NOW!" Bill

In this photo: Shujaa Graham (photos), Bill Pelke (photos), Sandrine Ageorges-Skinner (photos), Juan Melendez (photos), Curtis Mccarty (photos)

The following caption is from Sandrine Ageorges-Skinner: Austin, the Capitol - March 18th - Press Conference with very special gardian angels: 6 exonerated from US death rows, Bill Pelke from the Journey of Hope, Deila Meyer and the wonderful student movement against DP, who speak up for Hank's urgent request for DNA testing and who stand by me every minute - without them, I'm not sure I'd still be standing up today. Thank you guys, you are a treat to human intelligence and I love you so!

PLZ CALL/FAX TEXAS Governor's Office (Again if you already have) to say NO to Hank Skinner's Execution HERE

Has anyone from Texas called Texas Catholic Bishop's Office? They will send a FAX if requestd which has been known to have effect.

This photo is of Journey of Hope founder: Bill Pelke with Sister Helen Prejean (Dead Man Walking and MUCH more)and Susan Sarandon (Who played Sister Helen in the film version of Dead Man Walkine and more works related to abolishing the death penalty and justice/mercy)


Last Update - March 11, 2010 -here The case of Hank Skinner When the guilty verdict was passed in this case, Hank Skinner suffered a fatal injury in every sense of the phrase - injurious because his name was ...

From google search today: Texas Tribune (blog) DNA lab offers free 30-day test in Hank Skinner case ‎ - 17 hours ago

The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals may be indifferent to the truth in the hank Skinner case (focusing only on procedural questions), but Chromosomal ...
Dallas Morning News (blog) - 5 related articles (See google search)

Also FROM google search from March 17:

No surprise here: TCCA denies Hank Skinner appeal ‎ - Dallas Morning News (blog)


Find many more photos from recent WORLD CONGRESS against the death penalty and more travels around the US and the world along with frequent UPDATES Bill Pelke's FACEBOOK HERE

AGAIN - PLZ CALL/FAX TEXAS Governor's Office (Again if you already have) to say NO to Hank Skinner's Execution HERE You don't need to live in Texas to call!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Unsung Hero

By Mike Farrell, actor M*A*S*H and Providence
Posted in The Huffington Post

You've probably never heard of Greg Wilhoit. Which is too bad, because he's a hero. His story is one of the great unacknowledged tragedies of modern America. As sometimes happens with the quiet, unsung heroes, he's fighting for his life today. And not for the first time.

Greg is one of the thousands of men and women who have been tried, convicted and sentenced to death in our country. More to the point, he's one of the 139 who, after struggling for years to cling to sanity and humanity in the rubbish heap of death row, was proven innocent of the crime, exonerated and freed almost two decades ago.

A simple man, a laborer, Greg had lived a simple life until his wife, the mother of his two children, was brutally murdered and the Oklahoma authorities, unable to solve the crime, decided he had to pay for it.

And pay he did. With an ambitious prosecutor pressing the case against a drunken defense attorney, Greg was stunned but not surprised to be found guilty. As he says, "the jury only heard one side."

If you've read John Grisham's The Innocent Man, you've heard of Greg because he was on Oklahoma's death row with Ron Williamson, the subject of that powerful work. In fact, Grisham has publicly credited Greg for befriending Williamson on death row and fighting to keep him sane.

I don't use the word hero casually. For someone to experience the horror of having been deemed so vile as to warrant being put to death, of being told he deserved to be shackled and caged until they got around to extinguishing him, of being found so repulsive that he merits only the contempt of captors who strip him of every trace of humanity before strapping him down and killing him, is to endure torture.

To experience such degradation and suddenly be released by the work of a caring appellate attorney is to be vomited from darkness to light. To live through it and be freed without compensation for the pain inflicted, without even so much as a simple apology from those who sent him to die or from the state that tortured him, is maddening.

To survive it at all takes the kind of courage and stamina most don't possess. But no matter how brave, no human does so without injury. Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is the least one can expect from suffering this ninth circle of hell. And Greg didn't escape the horrors: the sweats, the night terrors, the panic attacks, the need to hide, the sense of impending doom, the terrifying, overwhelming fear that at any moment they can take you away again, strip you again, and kill you again.

But no matter the pain, some unalterable core of decency in this man would not be extinguished. Despite the unimaginable pain of his experience, rather than dwelling in fury at those who had done him harm, rather than armoring himself with cynical bitterness at the world at large, or smothering in self-pity as do so many who suffer hideous abuse, Greg put Oklahoma behind him and came to California, striving to overcome his demons.

A shy man uncomfortable with attention, he nevertheless worked to turn his pain into benefit for others. Joining other exonerees, with Death Penalty Focus and other organizations, speaking to children in schools, to adults in churches and town halls, Greg tried to square his experience with the world we believe exists. Largely unschooled and inarticulate, he spoke with an eloquence borne of passion that moved and inspired those who heard him.

But the memory of his torture never left. The scars were too vivid, too painful. He fought the terror. He tried to trust. He tried to build a life.

Ten years after he was declared innocent and freed, Oklahoma finally passed a law allowing compensation for those who had been wrongly convicted. Hopeful, Greg went home. If not an apology, at least there could be something to help heal the wounds the state had inflicted. But the politicians were clever. Before he could be compensated, there had to be a pardon. The Board of Pardons and Paroles said since Greg had not committed a crime they could issue no pardon.

Without a pardon, the moneychangers said, he had to show that the court had held him to be "factually innocent." But in 1993, when a judge set him free saying he was not guilty, the words "factually innocent" were not uttered, not being a legal term generally in use at the time.

When Greg went back to court with the expert witness who gave the lie to the evidence used to convict him, the prosecutor, refusing to admit error, said the evidence was no longer relevant so the expert's opinion was inadmissible. The judge agreed.

Insulted, injured yet again, Greg returned to California and restarted his lonely journey of healing and his efforts to educate us about the danger of ambitious prosecutors, complacent judges and an abusive system.

He found a home and friends, but never peace. Riding his bicycle in Sacramento last year, Greg was hit by a truck and severely injured. Determination, time and brutal physical therapy moved him closer to the dream of again pursuing justice, but it was not to be. Last month he collapsed. Alone and unable to move, he lay doubled up for hours, further traumatizing his injured spine. When finally discovered, he was paralyzed. Further, damage to internal organs has left him in critical condition. He is now in hospice care.

As he lies there, I ask you: When the state becomes a crushing, soulless monster, who is to answer for it? When ambition, arrogance, complacency and self-protection betray justice, who is served? When a simple man can be ground thoughtlessly under the heel of an uncaring system, does anything matter?

One unsung hero, Greg Wilhoit, believes it does.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Alternative Spring Break:
The issue becomes personal

Blogpost in the Dallas Morning News by James Tate, a student at the University of Texas at Dallas.

I am a student at the University of Texas at Dallas, and upon receiving an email from a professor, I elected to spend my spring break at the University of Texas learning about the death penalty and its violations against human rights. The Anti-Death Penalty Alternative Spring Break is in its 5th year, and the momentum continues to build. The activities from this conference, that includes students from all over the country, has resulted in bringing awareness to the death penalty, sending a message of its injustice, and in some ways affected Texas legislation.

Last night was the first time that all of the participants gathered. Guided to a small room in the Communications Building on the UT campus, the walls were decorated with signs reading "Stop the Death Penalty" and "30 Years of Blood on Our Hands". The diversity of the attendees surprised me. Every race and ethnicity, age, gender, and funny enough political affiliation was in attendance and it likened us to an ad for United Colors of Benetton. The emotions were varied. Students were quiet at first, nervously flipping through materials given to us as we entered the room. A large screen in the front of the room played a video of a mother at a rally whose son had been executed only days earlier. The silence gave way as we were each asked to give an "ice breaker" and tell where we were from and our reasoning for coming. A young student had flown in from upstate New York. She had previously worked for Amnesty International and would rather spend her spring break "making a difference." Another was a Chicago native who is studying piano performance at the University of Houston. She is eager to help in any avenue of justice and plans to attend law school after completing her Bachelors.

I assume I was naive to the complexity of this conference. I had originally thought my days would be filled with information sessions loaded with details and statistics pertaining to the death penalty. I figured there would be guest speakers and workshops of how to handle the question of whether it is the right of the State to execute, but I hadn't given much thought to the human side of the situation. After a brief introduction to the agenda for the next four days, the temperature was immediately turned up. We received a call from Stanley Howard, a 47 year-old black man who has been incarcerated for more than half of his life. Stanley shared his story and what it is truly like to be on death row. He belongs to a group of men that were forced into confessions through torture by Chicago's Area 2 detectives known as the "Death Row 10". We were introduced to five exonerees who had all been on death row awaiting the inevitable. Each story uniquely compelling, gave insight to how the justice system had not only failed them, but had nearly killed them.

I was expecting to hear an array of stories claiming innocence and injustice. Such existed, but by no means was this the focus. The exonerees were more interested in conveying to us what their lives on death row had done to their families. Being on death row "killed both of my parents," said Derrick Jamison, a man who served on death row for 17 years to be exonerated only hours before his scheduled execution.

A day that started with nervous anticipation and eagerness to learn ended with a human approach to the question at hand. I have, for as long as I can remember, been opposed to the death penalty. I have never, however, been privy to have a conversation with someone living on death row. Debating the issue of the death penalty is only half of the issue. When given the opportunity to make the situation personal and make a human connection to someone who has to live this reality, the sentiment felt changes profoundly. I know now that I made the right decision in attending this conference. I look forward to what follows.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Anti-Death Penalty Alternative Spring Break - Austin Texas

from Left: Shujaa Graham, Ron Keine, Curtis McCarty

Join us March 15-19 in Austin for the Anti-Death Penalty Alternative Spring Break

Dear NCADP Affiliates,

Join Students Against the Death Penalty March 15-19, 2010 in Austin, Texas for the award-winning Anti-Death Penalty Alternative Spring Break. We will be training the next generation of anti-death penalty activists. Send us some of the young members of your state anti-death penalty organizations and we will send them back to you trained, energized and ready to work. This will be four days that your anti-death penalty organization's young members and future leaders will remember their entire lives.

It starts at 4:30 PM on Monday, March 15. The location is the Jesse H. Jones Communication Center - CMA room 3.112 on the campus of The University of Texas at Austin. CMA is on the corner of Whitis Avenue and Dean Keeton. The room is located on the entrance level of the building. here

TO Register, GO here

Special guests will be six innocent death row exoneress: Shujaa Graham, Curtis McCarty, Ron Keine, Derrick Jamison, Perry Cobb and Juan Melendez. They are attending alternative spring break to speak with participants about how innocent people can end up on death row. Altogether, the six exonerees attending the alternative spring break spent a total of about 65 years on death row for crimes they did not commit.

It's free, except for a $25 housing fee for those who need us to arrange housing for you. We will house you in a shared room with other spring breakers in either a hotel or dorm. You are responsible for your travel, food and other expenses, but the program and most of the housing costs are on us. The $25 housing fee is all you pay. Register here.

It is designed for high school and college students to learn and train to be leaders of the next generation of anti-death penalty activists, but it is also for all those who consider themselves students of the world, community, peace and justice. Please look at the schedule and consider attending. All events are open to the public.

If you can not attend next week's amazing Anti Death Penalty Alternative Spring Break, you can still help us put on an event that the participating students will remember the rest of their lives by making a donation.

You can donate online with a credit card by clicking here. Or you can send a check to Texas Students Against the Death Penalty, 3616 Far West Blvd, Suite 117, Box 251, Austin, Texas 78731.

One of the students will be guest blogging every day about what happens at the spring break for the Dallas Morning News.

I want to thank the many organizations that are helping us by sending speakers, workshop leaders and donations, including Journey of Hope ... From Violence to Healing, Witness to Innocence, Amnesty International USA, Campus Progress, and MVFHR

Special thank you to the six death row exonerees who are coming! Your courage and generosity with your time to share your stories with young people is why we will one day abolish the death penalty in the U.S, including in Texas!

Thank you!

Hooman Hedayati

Full Schedule of the 2010 Alternative Spring Break

You can attend the entire week of events or you can just attend those events that interest you, but please register so we know how many to expect.

Monday, March 15 (Jesse H. Jones Communication Center - CMA room 3.112 on the campus of The University of Texas at Austin. CMA is on the corner of Whitis Avenue and Dean Keeton, Google Map )

Afternoon: Housing check-in for people who have signed up for housing.

4:30-5 PM: Introduction to the Anti-Death Penalty Alternative Spring Break

5:00-6:00 PM "Overview of the Death Penalty Issue" with Brian Evans from Washington, D.C. office of Amnesty International USA’s Death Penalty Abolition Campaign

6- 6:30 “Live from Death Row” - Telephone Call from a person on death row, organized by Campaign to End the Death Penalty – Austin Chapter

6:30- 7 PM Snacks and socializing

7:00- 8:30 PM Panel discussion with death row exonerees Shujaa Graham (3 years on California death row), Perry Cobb (8 years on Illinois death row), Derrick Jamison (17 years on death row in Ohio), plus family members of people on death row, Delia Perez Meyer, Terri Been and Crystal Halprin. Delia’s brother Louis Perez is on Texas Death Row. Terri’s brother Jeff Wood is on Texas Death Row. Crystal’s husband Randy Halprin is on Texas Death Row. The Law of Parties will be one topic covered by Terri and Crystal.

Evening Time on your own for enjoying Austin, including the SXSW film festival.

Tuesday, March 16 Issues Day (Jesse H. Jones Communication Center - CMA room 3.112 on the campus of The University of Texas at Austin. CMA is on the corner of Whitis Avenue and Dean Keeton, Google Map)

Noon to 1 PM: "Religious Views of the Death Penalty” presented by Steven Crimaldi, National Director of Dead Man Walking School Theater Project. Steven will also explain how students can get involved by doing a production of the play at their schools or in their communities.

1- 2 PM: “Mental Illness and the Death Penalty”, presented by Susannah Sheffer of Murder Victims' Families for Human Rights. “Prevention, Not Execution”. Read background report: "DOUBLE TRAGEDIES: Victims Speak Out Against the Death Penalty for People with Severe Mental Illness".

2:15-2:30 Break

2:30-3:30 Mary K. Poirier, mitigation specialist from The McCallister Law Firm. Mary will discuss her work on capital trials in Texas and elsewhere and how activists can work with legal teams. A good mitigation specialist can save someone from being sentenced to death.

3:30-3:45 Break

3:45- 5:00 PM Bill Pelke, president of Journeyof Hope … From Violence to Healing will speak and present a film of the work of Journey of Hope ... From Violence to Healing. The film documents family members of murder victims speaking out against the death penalty. Also, we will introduce and hear comments from another special guest arriving Tuesday, death row exoneree Curtis McCarty who spent 19 years on death row in Oklahoma.

5:30 PM - 7:30 PM Petition Signature Gathering Competition: We will divide into teams and fan out throughout Austin to collect signatures on a petition against the death penalty. People can collect signatures at places such as where SXSW events are taking place such as the convention center, outside certain bookstores or other stores if they allow it, on the streets in downtown Austin and wherever else the teams want to try. The team that collects the most petition signatures (with names, addresses, email addresses and possibly phone numbers) will win a prize of $100.

Evening Free time on your own for enjoying Austin

Wednesday, March 17 (Jesse H. Jones Communication Center - CMA room 3.112 on the campus of The University of Texas at Austin. CMA is on the corner of Whitis Avenue and Dean Keeton, Google Map)

Noon - 1:00 Media Workshop with Vincent Villano of Campus Progress. Workshop will give tips on communicating effectively with reporters, writing press releases, organizing press conferences and other topics.

1:00 - 2:00 PM Lobbying Workshop in preparation for next day's lobbying at capitol, with Alison Brock, Chief of Staff to Texas State Representative Sylvester Turner.

2:00 - 2:15 Break

2:15 - 3:15 “Art and Activism” with John Holbrook, photographer of Texas death row, whose work has been exhibited in the Europe and the U.S., including at the Texas Capitol in May 2009. A selection of John's photographs and other death penalty-themed artworks will be on display. John will talk about his experiences photographing people on Texas death row and his 17 years working as a private investigator on Texas capital murder cases.

3:15 - 3:30 Break

3:30 - 4:30 PM Campus Organizing and Coalition Building Workshop with Vincent Villano of Campus Progress. There’s so much more to working in coalition than inviting people to join you in your efforts. It’s hard work and requires skill, understanding and strategy, but the rewards for you, your partners, and your cause are endless (and fun!). Learn the importance of working in coalition, how to identify allies, how to engage non-traditional partners, where coalition building fits in with your campaign plan, and why it might be just what you need to take your issue campaign to the next level.

4:30- 5 PM Discussion of next day's press conference, lobbying visits and rally.·
Dinner break (on your own)

7:00 Screen Printing Workshop with Garry Spitzer of CEDP, plus sign-making session for next day's rally. Screen printing is a method of applying images to signs and t-shirts.

Free Time to enjoy Austin

Thursday, March 18: Lobby Day and Justice Rally at the Texas Capitol

11 AM - Press conference in Texas House Speaker's Committee Room 2W.6 at Texas Capitol (Press conference will be organized, moderated and run by students from spring break).

12:30- 2:00 Death Penalty Panel with Six Exonerated Former Death Row Inmates and Bill Pelke - President of Journey of Hope ... From Violence to Healing. Location: Committee Room E2.016 in the Texas State Capitol.

Shujaa Graham, who spent 3 years of his life on California's death-row for a crime he did not commit.

Curtis McCarty, who spent 19 years of his life on Oklahoma's death-row for a crime he did not commit.

Ron Keine, who spent almost two years on death row in New Mexico for a crime he did not commit.

Perry Cobb, who spent 8 years on death row in Illinois for a crime he did not commit.

Derrick Jamison, who spent 17 years on death row in Ohio for a crime he did not commit.

Juan Melendez spent seventeen years, eight months and one day on Florida ’s death row for a crime he did not commit.

Bill Pelke, president of Journey of Hope … From Violence to Healing and former Chairman of the Board of the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty. Bill authored a book entitled "Journey of Hope...From Violence to Healing", which details the May14, 1985 murder of his grandmother Ruth Pelke, a Bible teacher, by four teenage girls. He shares his story of forgiveness and healing, and how he came to realize that he did not need to see someone else die in order to heal from his grandmother's death. He also helps organize Journey tours nationally and abroad. Bill has traveled to over forty states and ten countries with the Journey of Hope and has told his story over 5,000 times.
2:00 - 2:45 Break

2:45 - 3:45 PM Screening of 17-minute film about Todd Willingham and how Rick Perry recently shook-up the Texas Forensic Science Commission, followed by a discussion with filmmaker Joshua Riehl and Liz Gilbert, the friend of Todd Willingham who first investigated his innocence and helped find a fire expert to examine the forensic evidence. Gilbert's role is explained in the article "Trial by Fire" in The New Yorker by David Grann. Location: Committee Room E2.016 in the Texas State Capitol

3:45 - 4:45 Lobbying Visits with legislators and/or their aides.

4:45 - 5:00 Set up for Justice Rally

5:00 - 7:30 Justice Rally Against the Death Penalty on the South Steps of the Texas Capitol (If you get off work at 5, you can still come, just get there as soon after work as possible)

Rally Speakers include death row exonerees Shujaa Graham, Ron Keine, Perry Cobb, Juan Melendez, Derrick Jamison and Curtis McCarty; Bill Pelke, president of Journey of Hope and past chair of the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty; students participating in Anti-Death Penalty Alternative Spring Break; Katie Kelly representing Clinton Young; Lily Hughes of the Campaign to End the Death Penalty; Gloria Rubac of the Texas Death Penalty Abolition Movement; Delia Meyer-Perez, whose brother Louis Castro Perez is on death row; Cory Session of the Innocence Project of Texas, Cory's brother, Tim Cole, was an innocent man who died while in prison and was posthumously exonerated and pardoned by Rick Perry; Regina Kelly - her story was the subject of the film "American Violet". She was unlawfully targeted and arrested on drug charges; Ron Carlson, whose sister Debra Ruth Carlson, along with two others, was murdered with a pick-ax by Karla Faye Tucker and Daniel Ryan Garrett; plus other speakers.

After Rally: Last Supper. Food and discussion of the rally as well as the entire spring break. We will go to a restaurant (everyone buys their own meal and drinks). Fill out feedback forms.

Friday, March 19: Fun Day on your own in Austin.

This is Spring Break, so today we will have some fun and take a break after all the hard work we have done all week. Everyone is free to choose their own activities. Some things people could do are: Go swimming at Barton Springs Pool, attend a SXSW film or music event, go shopping, take a Segway tour of Austin, go jogging around Town Lake, go bike riding, visit a museum or do something else. Some of these activities cost money, so plan accordingly.

For More information - GO here

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Greg Wilhoit: The story of an innocent man

By Lisa Rea - Blog entry and original comments from www.rjonline.org or CLICK here published at The Centre for Justice and Reconciliation, a division of PFI.

I have a friend whose name is Greg Wilhoit. His story is a remarkable one. He is an exoneree who was freed from death row in Oklahoma after having served time for a crime he did not commit. He was convicted and sent to death row for the killing of his wife. The only incriminating "evidence" which convicted Greg Wilhoit was teeth marks found on the victim's body. Dental "experts" said the teeth marks matched Greg's.

His story is on the website of The Journey of Hope: Greg is active with the Journey, as are many exonerees, as he tells his story of America's broken criminal justice system.

Greg was fully exonerated and released from prison in 1993. Best seller author, and former trial attorney, John Grisham writes about Ron Williamson and Greg Wilhoit in his excellent book The Innocent Man (Bantam Dell; 2006). Williamson and Wilhoit were cell mates on Oklahoma's death row and became best friends. Both were innocent men.

Life has not been easy for Greg since his release. But life is often not easy for those who have suffered such miscarriages of justice. Though exonerated, the state of Oklahoma has refused to compensate Greg for the five years he spent on death row. However, there was an encouraging update about his case in an Oklahoma newspaper at the end of 2009.

The Oklahoma Supreme Court agrees that Wilhoit's case has merit as he and his family have pressed on seeking compensation for his years of incarceration. However, Greg Wilhoit will need a pardon from the Governor for a crime he did not commit in order to be eligible for state compensation under a state law passed in 2003. The link to the Oklahoma paper explains this tortured reasoning.

The facts are bleak for the wrongfully convicted nationwide in the U.S. According to the Innocence Project, a U.S. based nonprofit that works to free innocent men and women from prison, of the 240 people (to date) exonerated through DNA testing nationwide 40% have received no form of assistance after their release. (December 2009 Innocent Project report) The report states that 23 states in the U.S. do not offer any compensation to the exonerated. This would be the case of Greg Wilhoit.

Today Greg Wilhoit is in a California hospital struggling for his life. He has battled many things since 1993 including being hit by a car as he rode his bicycle in the summer of 2009. Will another miracle save him? I pray for that miracle as do all his many friends around the country, many exonerees themselves but many advocates for systemic justice reform. But as prayers are needed for Greg there is also a cry for justice for him and others like him who deserve compensation for crimes they never committed. They also need services to help them get back on their feet once released. Not surprisingly, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is common among this growing group of exonerees. Fair compensation for the years lost plus other assistance as needed (e.g. counseling, drug and alcohol treatment, and other re-entry services) must be provided. It is the least we can do as a civil society. Then, God wiling, we will learn that convicting an innocent man to prison has its consequences.

In a system of justice based on restorative justice principles offenders are held accountable for their actions. Victims, or victims' family members and communities, are restored as much as possible. In the cases of those wrongfully convicted what happens to the victim (or the victim's family) when an innocent man is convicted? Where is the real offender? Justice has been denied and denied twice. In addition, who holds the prosecuting attorney, and the legal system, accountable after an innocent man is exonerated? I believe that is the role of a society that believes that justice is achievable. Real justice should not be denied any human being.

Posted by Bill Pelke at Mar 05, 2010 07:46 PM
God bless Greg Wilhoit

Posted by Ron Keine at Mar 05, 2010 07:46 PM
This is an excellent article. It shows what happens when our justice system wrongfully and casually discards its mistakes after ruining the lives of these innocent people. Reentry life for these forgotten castoffs is as sad a story sometimes as the actual wrongful death row incarceration. Most of these exonorees were young at the onset of their ordeal. For years they sat, wasting away in a 6 X 9 cell, while other young men were getting an education, learning job skills, trades and building careers. Starting families and building their legacies.

When regular convict is released from prison he is on parole. With that parole comes a parole officer who helps with reentry. For parolees there is help with food, housing, employment, clothes and other services. For the innocent exonoree there is nothing. Flat out nothing. Many times they sneak him out the back gate of the prison to cloak him from the press.. He stands, facing the world with no money and just the clothes on his back. Many times with no place to go. I remember when we could not find a certain exonoree we wanted to contact because there was no street address for the bridge he lived under. His parents had passed away and that wife or girlfriend deserted him years ago. He has PTSD of epic perportions from years on the row watching that damm calendar. His fear heightens daily as his life span shortens with every time he puts another X in a numbered square. . He knows the date when they plan to snuff out his life. All the while his cries of innocence are lost in the din of the cell block.

Now as an exonoree he has to find work but has nothing to offer. He has to vie with teenagers to flip burgers at a fast food place. He has no self esteem. No sense of worth.He is tainted merchandise. Even if he does find a job he is qualified to do, He can’t explain all those missing years on the job application. Is there any wonder why some of these men turn to drugs and alcohol? Is there any wonder why some of them commit suicide?

God Bless Greg
Posted by Karen Torley at Mar 06, 2010 08:01 AM
I hope and Pray that Greg gets well really soon. My thoughts and prayers are with him, his family and his friends.

I am sending this message from Glasgow in Bonnie Scotland

Hugs to Greg and please get well soon x


“I swore never to be silent whenever and wherever human beings endure suffering and humiliation. We must always take sides. . Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented. To remain silent and indifferent is the greatest sin of all... " Elie Wiesel Nobel Prize for Peace in 1986

Posted by Mary Gelonek at Mar 07, 2010 06:37 AM
I met his sister in ICU at Mercy in Sacramento on Feb. 25th. We asked what was going on with her situation as our rather large family was with our brother in law who passed the next evening. She told us her brother had been unjustly convicted of his ex-wife's murder and asked if we had ever read The Innocent Man. I told her I was just reading it but found it so disturbing that I was having trouble getting through it. I recognized Greg and felt so badly that the injustice continues. Today is March 6th, and I just finished the book. What a travesty to Greg and the other young men. Please convey my thoughts and prayers to her and the family. I live in the Sacramento area, so if there is any assistance I might be able to provide, please let me know.

Greg Wilhoit
Posted by Marietta Jaeger Lane at Mar 08, 2010 04:50 AM
How can the US claim to call itself a moral, civilized society and a "world leader" when we all too often incarcerate innocent people just so the prosecutor can get another notch on his belt or that the state can close its books on a bothersome crime? We take prime years and freedom from these innocents, then cast them out on the street with only their shower sandals on their feet and the uniform they happen to be wearing that day. Not a penny in their pockets, miles and miles from their homes (if they are still welcome there) and a heart broken and a mind messed up from being forced to live in the brutality of death row for way too many years. We need some new laws that not only generously recompenses each exoneree, pays for counseling, provides the wherewithall whereby the exoneree can get immediate housing,and also holds responsible, in some concrete way, the "justice system" personnel who committed this travesty in the first place. So sadly, there are too many exonerees whose lives, like Greg's, continue to exact more suffering from them, long after they are freed from death row. I second Bill Pelke's "God bless Greg Wilhoit!".

Posted by Lisa Rea at Mar 08, 2010 02:29 PM
I was so glad to see these excellent comments after my blog entry on the story of Greg Wilhoit. What many do not know is that two of the comments are written by those severely affected (injured) by crime. Marietta Jaeger Lane's young daughter was kidnapped and murdered. Ron Keine is an exoneree who was also on death row (in New Mexico)for a crime he did not commit. Each has a story to tell and each is working daily to change a justice system that is broken.

I am in agreement with Marietta who suggests that laws should be changed to address miscarriages of justice in the U.S. and abroad. As I said in my entry those who send innocent people to prison, and often death row, for crimes they did not commit should be held accountable once the innocent person is exonerated. Rarely do we see that. Often prosecutors, and other involved, walk away from these cases having not been affected in any way (professionally). They are still practicing law. They are still actively a part of our justice system.

Greg Wilhoit's sister Nancy said that Greg deserved an apology. Each exoneree is owed an apology as well as the financial compensation (restitution)for the lost years they spent in prison. How do you measure those years lost? For Greg, his remaining years have reflected the deep injury of a broken justice system.

This is restorative justice at work, perhaps to some, in a new way. And remember, there are still victims (of the original crime) waiting for justice. What happens to them and their cases? We have much work to do. As we remember to pray for men like Greg Wilhoit, which I do, we also must act.

Lisa Rea
Restorative Justice

Several Key Components to this case & others
Posted by Tony Calig at Mar 08, 2010 04:50 PM
As I read this brief summary regarding the plight Mr. Wilhoit has endured, several key components come readily to mind that affected his case and others. First of all, one has to question the quality of police work and rush to judgment without sufficient evidence. Secondly, the willingness of the district attorney not only to pursue a conviction in the light of the dubious evidence but the use of so called experts who are paid to take the stand with the understanding that a link is to be manufactured and presented to the jury as fact. Thirdly, the lack of any uniform compensation and restorative process for those who had been unjustly incarcerated upon their release. Finally, the safety of the community being placed in danger while a guilty party remains free perhaps to repeat their offenses. Obviously, citizens should demand accountability on all levels.

Death penalty
Posted by Mpagi Edward Edmary at Mar 09, 2010 07:43 AM
Some people think the death penalty is meant for criminals,that is wrong any body can be a victim of Wrongful conviction or death penalty.we should all join the abolition fight.
Edward -former death row inmate in Africa

Greg Wilhoit
Posted by Kimberly Cook at Mar 09, 2010 03:35 PM
Thanks, Lisa, for an excellent column and for a humane understanding of Greg's situation. I've known Greg for years and he is a truly remarkable man in many ways. I hope people will also keep in mind that Greg's two daughters have also endured a difficult legacy as a consequence of this miscarriage of justice. Their mother was murdered when they were just 4 months old and 14 months old. Their father was wrongly arrested, tried, convicted, and condemned by the OK justice system's rush to judgment. Thanks to his attorney, Mark Barrett, Greg eventually was exonerated and released; though he still endured two more years on bond in OK. The ripple effect of this wrongful conviction is vast. Greg's dauthers grew up without their mother and without their father. Their foster family was good, thank heavens, but still they grew up with the stigma of their mother's murder being blamed on their father. Greg's parents also walked through a version of hell all their own in this mess. The state of OK has never offered an apology (that doesn't cost a dime), let alone provided compensation.

Greg's current medical situation is dire. I pray he will recover. He is an amazing man -- strong, funny, smart, devoted to his cause, making productive meaning out of the tragic events in his life, devoted to his daughters and his grandchildren, and an active participant in seeking justice for so many more. He is a gracious and delightful man. We need more from Greg. The state owes so much more to him, too.

Peace, Kim

My brother Greg Wilhoit
Posted by Nancy Vollertsen at Mar 09, 2010 04:22 PM
Lisa, thank you so much for your thoughtful, inspiring article about my brother Greg Wilhoit and for faithfully visiting him and boosting his spirits. I appreciate so much all the other comments supporting Greg and our family. We absolutely feel all your prayers as we walk yet another difficult journey with him. His health situation is indeed dire and we are currently planning to leave Oklahoma tomorrow in a rented RV so we can bring him back home to be near his family. He is not going to want to come to Oklahoma (they did try to kill him after all) but unfortunately we have no choice. I know we're going to need everyone's continued prayers for what I'm sure will be an "interesting" trip home!

We are so thankful for all the amazing friends we have made since we became active in the abolition movement. Please continue the fight so no one else will ever suffer as Greg, Ron and all the other exonorees have. America is just better than that.

The above with Comments originally posted here