Saturday, July 31, 2010

Marietta Still Needs Our Prayers!

This email was sent to Lisa Rea from Marietta.

As you read you will see that Marietta still needs our prayers. Please ask the pray warriors in your life to pray for Marietta too,

Thanks, In His Peace,


Thanks for your prayers and concern! However, I've just now heard that the news is not so good. The latest follow-up MRI's indicate that the artery in my thigh is more blocked than before, allowing even less blood to get to my lower leg. I'm more than a bit upset about this as it hasn't been that long since they performed the last "rooter-router routine" and now it's even worse! Makes one wonder if the first one was done properly, especially since I've seen the insurance reports on the payments the radiologist received. For that kind of money, my arteries should be free and clear for the rest of my life! GGRRRR!

Anyhow, the surgeon and the radiologist are meeting Tuesday to study the MRI photos and will determine the appropriate protocol. However, it seems unavoidable that it will mean more hospital stays and more down-time at home. Sure hope this won't affect my activities re the TX-JOH!

Thanks again for keeping in touch!

Friday, July 30, 2010

Update on Marietta from Bill

I just talked to Marietta yesterday. She only spent a short time in the hospital. She is not having headaches so that is wonderful news to me. She is having some MRI tests on her legs. Thank you all for your prayers of support for Marietta. She appreciates your thoughts and prayers.

Let us all continue to pray that Marietta will gain back her full strength, she still has many unfinished challenges to conquer. She is a great warrior.

God's Speed,



Wednesday, July 28, 2010

TX: Flawed evidence led to execution

Forensic commission expert points to faulty conclusions in Willingham investigation
By Nolan Hicks, Daily Texan Staff
Published: Monday, July 26, 2010

SAN ANTONIO — Investigators used “flawed science” to determine that the fire that destroyed Cameron Todd Willingham’s mobile home and killed his three children was arson, the Texas Forensic Science Commission concluded Friday.

The arson reports were a key part of Willingham’s murder trial, in which he was convicted of setting the December 1991 fire that killed his children. He was executed in 2004.

“I’m comfortable that not only did [Cameron] Todd Willingham have a fair and open and exhaustive and process, but I think that justice was served in the case,” Gov. Rick Perry said at a Friday press briefing in San Antonio.

The commission, which was created after scandals surfaced at the Houston and Texas Department of Public Safety crime labs, is charged with evaluating the validity of the evidence used during trials. It announced there was insufficient evidence to determine whether the fire investigators were negligent or committed professional misconduct.

“The fire investigators were negligent at the time,” said Stephen Saloom, policy director for the Innocence Project. “Basically, Cameron Todd Willingham was convicted and executed on discredited arson evidence.”

The commission, which can only look at the validity of the evidence and cannot examine the innocence of a defendant, will solicit additional testimony and input as it prepares to write its final report on the subject. The report could be issued as soon as September.

Willingham’s execution has come under intense scrutiny after three separate investigations — conducted by the Chicago Tribune, the Innocence Project and the Texas Forensic Science Commission, the state agency charged with investigating such matters — raised significant questions about the evidence and expert testimony offered during Willingham’s trial.

The commission’s own expert, Dr. Craig Beyler, said there was no way to conclude that arson was the cause of the fire from the available evidence and condemned key testimony provided by State Deputy Fire Marshal Manuel Vasquez, writing that his testimony was “hardly consistent with a scientific mind-set and is more characteristic of mystics or psychics.”

The commission has been mired in political controversy as it has tackled the case. Perry dismissed then-commission Chairman Sam Bassett and two other commission members just two days before Beyler was scheduled to testify before the committee in a hearing to examine the evidence in the Willingham case.

Bassett was replaced by John Bradley, longtime Perry loyalist and Williamson County district attorney, who canceled the 2009 hearing. Since he took over as chairman, there have been frequent complaints from Bassett, Texas legislators and outside experts that Bradley has been dragging out the hearings in an attempt to slow the investigation to death.

“It’s been clear with every move he has made that he doesn’t want to see this investigation go forward,” Saloom said.

Late Thursday, just hours before the commission was set to convene its hearing in Houston, news leaked that its members were going to consider a memorandum that would significantly reduce the scope of the commission’s jurisdiction to examine evidence — in effect, preventing the commission from examining the evidence that led to Willingham’s execution.

While the memo was unsigned, a senior aide to Texas Senate Criminal Justice Committee Chair John Whitmire, D-Houston, said Bradley was certainly the person pushing its adoption. Attempts to contact Bradley were unsuccessful as of press time.

The aide said that despite Bradley’s efforts, when the commission came out of executive session, commission members made a motion not to accept it.

An aide to Sen. Rodney Ellis, D-Houston, was even more blunt, saying that Bradley was the author and the person on the board pushing the memo.

Originally published here

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

TENNESSEE and ARKANSAS : From Death Penalty Focus: Two Important Items

Working for alternatives to the death penalty

We are thrilled to report that because of the thousands of letters sent by our supporters and others on behalf of Gaile Owens--a battered woman on Tennessee's death row--Governor Bredesen changed her sentence from death to life with parole. This just shows how committed individuals can have an impact and save a life. Now, please take just a few seconds to help save Damien Echols, a man on death row in Arkansas who could be executed for a crime he did not commit. Thank you for your commitment to ending the death penalty. --Stefanie


Dear Connie,

Damien Echols could be executed for a crime he did not commit unless you ACT NOW.

In 1993, 18-year-old Damien Echols had dyed black hair, wore heavy metal t-shirts, and read Stephen King. When a terrible crime happened in the small town where he lived, he immediately became a suspect, simply because he was "different." He's been on death row ever since.

There was no physical evidence, weapon or motive linking Damien to the murder of three 8-year-old boys. His guilty verdict was based on a recanted confession by a peer with a severe developmental disability. And now new DNA evidence has emerged that could prove once and for all that he's innocent.

Arkansas may execute Damien Echols for a crime he did not commit unless you speak up for him now. Tell Arkansas Governor Mike Beebe that Damien deserves a fair chance -- please, just a few dozen postcards could save Damien's life.

The Arkansas Supreme Court is currently reviewing the new forensic evidence to decide whether they'll grant Damien Echols a new trial. But the Governor has the power to end this nightmare now.

We are partnering with CREDO Action to flood the Arkansas Governor's mailbox with postcards -- postcards that could literally save Damien's life today.


Stefanie Faucher
Associate Director

Randy Steidl: Turn a death-row tragedy into a collective triumph

I survived Illinois’ death penalty. I’m living proof why it needs to end.

I was the victim of the system needing a scapegoat for the tragic murders of the Rhoads family in 1986 in central Illinois. I was convicted on no evidence and sentenced to death, then spent 12 years on death row before the Center on Wrongful Convictions helped prove my innocence.

I was changed forever, but fortunately lived to tell my story in the hope that no one else has to go through what I did. And the only way to make sure of that is to repeal the death penalty. The costs are simply too great.

Illinois’ capital punishment system is broken. Executions were put on hold a decade ago and that hold remains in place because the flaws have not been fixed. Systemic reforms cannot eliminate the risk of an ultimate horror — the execution of an innocent person.

An independent poll this spring found that more than 60 percent of voters prefer a punishment other than death for murder. And a majority of those polled were unaware capital punishment is still an option in Illinois, much less a viable sentencing outcome. The death penalty has fallen so far out of the public’s mindset, this poll found, that it’s clear it has run its course.

There’s a growing understanding that the death penalty is too costly for Illinois. As an innocent man sentenced to die here in this state, I’ve seen firsthand the toll capital punishment has taken over the past decade.

In addition to me, Illinois has sent 19 other men to death row who were later released due to evidence of their innocence. That is the nation’s second-highest wrongful conviction rate and undeniable proof that the system is broken. Those men and their families were devastated by the death penalty. I know. I was one of them. Despite our best efforts, we cannot guarantee we will not sentence an innocent person to death.

What is even scarier to me is that this system remains so inaccurate despite sucking up major financial resources. Illinois spends at least $12 million a year to prosecute and administer death penalty cases. Since 2003, more than $100 million has been spent on costs for the Capital Litigation Trust Fund to handle death penalty cases. There haven’t been any executions as a result of these millions, but there have been more mistakes. Just last year, another innocent man was found on our death row. That is government waste at its most extreme. The state’s budget problems are infamous and those are millions and millions of dollars that could be spent elsewhere to protect victims and enhance law enforcement.

Illinoisans get it. When told about the millions of dollars in wasted death penalty expenses, voters responded in the poll that they preferred life in prison without parole by a more than 2-to-1 margin over the death penalty. The costs just can’t be justified when lives like mine are on the line. And in this budget crisis, every dime has to count in state government.

I know that policy-makers in Springfield had the right intentions when they spent so many years trying to improve the system and protect innocent people like me. But the death penalty has paralyzed our Statehouse. As long as it exists, they will have to remember my story and keep working to reform a system that cannot be reformed.

Real reform won’t come until the death penalty is silenced for good.

Ending the death penalty isn’t about being tough or soft on crime. It is being smart on crime. Stand with me and end the chaos and waste. Together, we can turn my personal tragedy into our collective triumph.

Randy Steidl spent more than 17 years wrongfully in prison — including a dozen years on death row — for the 1986 murders of Dyke and Karen Rhoads in Paris, Ill. He now works to end the death penalty to spare other innocent people from being convicted and condemned by a broken system.

Originally published on SJ-R.COM

Monday, July 19, 2010

NORTH CAROLINA: A moral debt to innocent, former death row inmates

JULY 18, 2010:

The state of North Carolina condemned 7 men to die who were later exonerated and has denied them any compensation. We owe them.

Glen Chapman, Alan Gell, Jonathon Hoffman, Levon Jones, Samuel Poole, Alfred Rivera and Christopher Spicer spent nearly 5 decades on North Carolina's death row and in our prisons for murders and other crimes they did not commit. They were condemned to die in your name and mine.

Most of these cases involve serious and unlawful breaches of the trust and duties bestowed on court officers and law enforcement personnel. These exonerated were condemned after police or prosecutors unlawfully withheld, lost or destroyed evidence or made deals with or paid jailhouse snitches.

It appears that even though six of the seven exonerees are African-American and African-Americans compose 22 % of the state's population, most of the juries of the exonerees' "peers" were all white or nearly all white.

Some cases involve reversible errors by judges or ineffective assistance by defense counsel.

The innocent are often exonerated in spite of the system, not because of it. Alan Gell is alive today in part because he had the good fortune that the News & Observer in Raleigh decided to investigate his case, apparently suspicious of his claims of innocence.

Instead, the paper's investigation showed Gell could not have committed the murder in his case. Even so, ostensibly trying to save political face, N.C. Attorney General Roy Cooper refused to drop the charges and re-tried the case, spending tens of thousands of taxpayer dollars, only to have a jury quickly find Gell not guilty.

After nearly everything, including their lives, was taken from these men they were released with only the clothes on their backs. No transition. No help. No apology. No money.


People guilty of serious violent crimes get more help when they are released.

How can we allow this to happen?

Sure, innocent people are charged, tried and acquitted often, and the state is under no obligation to pay them. But these men were condemned to be poisoned to death in the dark of night in Central Prison in Raleigh after wasting away for years on death row. A disturbing number of their cases involve malice or negligence on the part of authorities, none of whom has ever faced criminal charges.

State prosecutors and investigators in Gell's case withheld mounds of evidence that he could not have committed the crime. Gell sued the state in civil court and won a settlement of $3.9 million.

The thing about our death penalty system is that some of those who get entrapped in it are not Boy Scouts. Some, like Gell, had criminal records. A few exonerees have ended up back in prison, when it is arguable that if they had not been left penniless they would not have turned to crime or drugs or alcohol to deal with their suffering -- suffering which we imposed on them. Presumed innocent until proven guilty is the hallmark of America's justice system, and it also applies to exonerees, even those guilty of other crimes.

Spend time with some of these men, as I have, and you know their lives have been shattered. There's the psychological and physical damage left by years of isolation in a cage in a maximum-security prison. There is the post-traumatic stress disorder, the fear of ordinary things, the nightmares. There are the fractured relationships with family and friends. There is starting from scratch in an unfamiliar world without any money. There is the stigma of having been convicted of murder and having been on death row. Try explaining that away in a job interview.

These men need re-entry funds, affordable housing, job training and health, educational and legal services.

The state of North Carolina allows for $50,000 in compensation to the wrongfully convicted per year of incarceration, limited to $750,000. That's not enough. Still, no one exonerated from North Carolina's death row has received any of that money. It's not because they are undeserving. It's because they are relatively powerless and vulnerable against the system that tried to kill them in the first place.

North Carolinians need to own up to our system's misdeeds and mistakes. We have a moral obligation to these men we condemned. We need a stronger legal obligation. We need revisions of our compensation statutes and programs to make them navigable and possible for death row exonerees to rebuild their lives.

Too expensive? Then let's repeal the death penalty. We can't have it both ways.

The death penalty already costs North Carolina taxpayers millions more every year than life without parole. Compensating the wrongfully convicted should be considered another cost of the dirty business that is North Carolina's death penalty industry.

Stephen Dear is executive director of People of Faith Against the Death Penalty in Carrboro.

(source: Commentary, Herald Sun)

Why Someone Might Confess to a Crime He Did Not Commit

YES, the US has been practicing torture and intimidation before the "War on Terror" and has passed on the same techniques:

More often than many realize, innocent people falsely confess to crimes they did not commit, according to a recent review in the Chicago Tribune. For example, Kevin Fox, was accused of sexually assaulting and murdering his 3-year-old daughter in Illinois. He confessed to the crime after spending 14 hours in interrogation, during which police ignored his requests for a lawyer and told him that they would arrange for inmates to rape him in jail. Fox was later released after DNA evidence excluded him as a suspect, and another man was subsequently charged with the crime. Saul Kassin, psychology professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, explained the pressures that could lead to this happening, "The interrogation itself is stressful enough to get innocent people to confess. But add to that a layer of grief and shock and perhaps even some guilt — 'I should have been there' — and then that the parent is trying like hell to be cooperative because they want the murder of their child solved." Trauma, lack of sleep and highly manipulative interrogation techniques can cause false confessions to even the most heinous crimes, including ones carrying the death penalty. Experts believe that false confessions account for an estimated 25% of wrongful convictions. "We know that for certain kinds of people, particularly those with mental illness and mental deficiencies, but other people as well, the psychological intensity of an interrogation can prove absolutely as torturous as physical pain," said Lawrence Marshall, a Stanford University law professor who co-founded Northwestern University's Center on Wrongful Convictions.

Find more at Death Penalty Information Center and at Northwestern University's Center on Wrongful Convictions

"Demand AZ Governor Jan Brewer Free An Innocent Man" on

Gilles DENIZOT has sent you an invitation to sign the petition "Demand AZ Governor Jan Brewer Free An Innocent Man" on

Click to view the petition here

Friday, July 16, 2010

Please Pray for My Friend -- from Bill Pelke

Please pray for my friend, Marietta Jaeger-Lane who is in the hospital. Please pray for her husband Bob. I just talked with him. I told him that I would ask friends to pray for her and continue to do so until she is released and comes home.

Just two weeks ago Marietta was in Washington DC at the 17th annual Fast and Vigil, an event she cofounded in 1994, and for the Journey of Hope…from Violence to Healing Board of Directors meeting that coincided with the Fast and Vigil. Marietta also cofounded the Journey of Hope in 1997.

Marietta was not going to come but she knew how important it was to me and she came. And now she is in the hospital. I flew Marietta to DC and back to Montana on my personal frequent flyer miles. It had to work out that Marietta could leave one day before the Vigil and board meeting was over, so she could get back to Montana for the wedding of Jennifer Kirby. Jennifer is a dear friend of Marietta’s and also of the Journey of Hope. I scheduled a flight for Marietta that would get her back in time, and it was in good time, but it required three legs, instead of the normal two.

She left DC only a few minutes late, but not time to catch her flight in Atlanta. She ended up spending all day and all night in the airport. It was a terrible night in many ways for Marietta and my frequent flyer miles ticket seemed of no value to officials there offering her nothing. She ended up missing Jenn’s wedding after all that. That night in the airport I am sure that is what started the headaches that Marietta is experiencing. She does have a story to tell about that night.

Bob said they have ruled out meningitis, but are still testing to find the cause of the headaches.

Please pray for Marietta and Bob!!

Please pray for me too because I feel guilty about her trip to DC.

God’s Peace,

Pray for Marietta until she gets out of the hospital and home to Bob.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Bill Pelke on behalf of Leslie Van Houten

I recently wrote the following letter for my friend Leslie Van Houten to present to the California Parole board.

Board of Parole Hearings June 28, 2010

Dear Members,

There is a Child of God sitting in one of your prisons. She has been there for over forty years. I believe Leslie Van Houten has served sufficient time for her crime and has paid her debt to society. Any further punishment would be only an act of revenge.

I am a murder victim family member and I know the pain and suffering that family members feel. My grandmother, Ruth Pelke, was brutally murdered in 1985. I understand the pain, anger and hate that a murder victim’s family member can feel. I also understand the desire for revenge. I have come to learn however that revenge is never the answer and the desire for such only delays the healing process.

I believe that when a person does change for good, it should be recognized. Leslie Van Houten is no longer a threat to society. I believe that when she is paroled she will continue helping others as she has done during her incarceration.

At nineteen years of age, under the influence of a cult leader, Leslie committed a terrible crime. A life was lost. Now, at over 60 years of age, Leslie has lost most of her life. Let her go now or you will be injecting only the element of revenge, because her sin has been paid for.

And I believe my Father God would want His Child Leslie to be set free.

Thank you,

William R. Pelke
Journey of Hope…from Violence to Healing.

(For identification purposes only, not necessarily the opinion of the Organization)

Leslie’s parole was once again denied as the following youtube link shows.


Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Support the Swim! A Message from Death Row Survivor Freddie Pitts

Dear Advocates for Justice:

My name is Freddie Pitts, and I survived 12 years on Florida's death row for a crime I had nothing to do with. Now, I am Chairman of the Board of Directors at Witness to Innocence, an organization of those exonerated from death row, and you can read my story on our website. My nightmare took place a long time ago, and since then, the list of those exonerated from death row has grown to 138.

I am writing because I am so impressed with what my friend and colleague Lynn Greer is doing to recognize the pain and struggle that each of us death row survivors endured. This Sunday, July 18, Lynn will swim from "The Rock," the old prison at Alcatraz in the San Francisco Bay, to Golden Gate Park in the annual Alcatraz Aquathlon & Swim, a USA Triathlon-sanctioned event. She is using her participation in that event to invite sponsorship in support the organization upon whose board she sits - Virginians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty (VADP). I am writing to urge you to become one of Lynn's sponsors.

Lynn's goal? To draw attention to the problem of wrongful death sentences and executions by raising $100 for each of the 138 of us who survived death row. That's $13,800, and at this writing, Lynn is close to 20% of the way towards her goal.

I want to challenge each of you, my Abolitionist friends, to support Lynn's effort today by visiting her FirstGiving page, and making a donation to support VADP. If you think about it, if only 138 people gave $100, we're there! Or, it would take 276 people giving $50. You get the idea. If everyone reading this message gives what they can, Lynn would be so excited she would fly across the water! And she would surpass her goals.

Lynn is braving the freezing cold, choppy waters to raise money for VADP's work, and to increase public attention to wrongful convictions and executions. She's doing the hard part. My fellow members of Witness to Innocence and I have lived the harder part by surviving the horrors of life on death row, facing execution for crimes we did not commit. I am asking you to do the easy part - today.

Please go to and give as much as you can. Every dollar you give and every stroke Lynn swims gets us closer to abolition. Thank you for supporting Lynn's effort. It warms my heart.

Yours for Abolition,

Freddie Lee Pitts
Witness to Innocence

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

"We are all connected" A Speech by Gilles Denizot

(find original source of photo at URL end of this post)

This is a speech Gilles Denizot (Journey of Hope Board Member and supporter) gave during the last teach-in session in Washington D.C. The original article is here I am not sure what Gilles wants for the title so renamed this post. Let me know if you'd prefer something else, Gilles?

By GILLES Denizot

Yesterday, standing under a tree was one of ours: a lovely, tiny elderly woman showing her support for abolition.

Not far from the tree, I noticed another woman holding a big sign that read “KAGAN LESBIAN” and “NO TO GAY MARRIAGE”. She was standing close to a group of people who were also holding signs to protest against various issues, including Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan. It was clear that on one side of the pavement, the group was motivated by hate, while on the other side of the pavement, our activists were fighting the death penalty and displaying love for all of humanity.

I approached the young woman and asked her if she could explain her “No To Gay Marriage” sign. She began by telling me that Elena Kagan was a lesbian (which remains to be confirmed), that she would surely use her position to push for gay marriage throughout the USA (if only!), and that she needed to be stopped. At that moment, another woman joined the first one and stated that “marriage is between a man and a woman only”. I replied that I should be allowed to marry my partner and that discrimination was not the way to go. They were totally shocked and immediately began insulting me, saying that I was “Satan”, and from that point on, there was no possibility for me to be heard. I nevertheless asked why they would refuse me the right to marry the person I love, that the love for my partner was as meaningful as any other love shared between two consenting adults. They kept screaming that I was “sick” and tried to avoid me. I just had the time to add: “Do you know what my friends and I are doing right now in front of the Supreme Court? We are fighting the death penalty in the USA, where black people like you (yes, those women were Afro Americans) are executed at a higher rate than white people. I am protecting your right to life and you are trying to rob me of my right to marry.” I left, utterly disgusted and hurt. I had NEVER experienced anything quite like that.

We are all connected. We are all connected even if we do not think that we are.

I come from a country where, not long ago, human beings were tied to a wooden board, alive, and cut in two. Literally. It took great moral wisdom and immense political courage to stop this shame and horror. With a pro-death penalty President, and without political courage among most State governors, there might be little hope to see capital punishment being abolished anytime soon in this country. But the whole world is looking at the USA, and two-thirds of our world is supporting your fight for an “America that does not execute”. But the USA must be open and embrace the world. We will never win this struggle if we do not collaborate on an international level, if we refuse to see that we are all connected. As I always say: “You and only you will abolish the death penalty in your country.” On that day, however, we will be with you to celebrate. Throughout this long journey, we were wise and brave enough to understand the necessity to abolish slavery and torture. The next step is the universal abolition of the death penalty. We must turn from violence to healing, from vengeance to compassion. Our journey continues and it is a journey of hope.

The USA aspires to be a leader in human rights and to set an example for the whole world. In fact, the only real example the USA sends out on many human rights issues is a poor example. In the fight against the death penalty, several countries of the world (China, Japan, Taiwan…) have no intention of getting rid of capital punishment because the USA keeps executing its citizens (and those of other countries). In 9, and possibly soon 10 countries, homosexuals and/or people living with HIV/AIDS (PLWHA) are already criminalized and subjected to the death penalty because of who they love or because of a virus that already has a devastating impact on them. The un-equal rights for the American LGBT community sets a very bad example for the rest of the world.

In March 2009, three American evangelical “Christians” flew to Uganda and gave a series of talks on The dangers of homosexuality, on how to convert gays into heterosexuals, and explained why HIV-positive homosexuals “often contaminate teenagers”. Then they left.

A month later, on April 20, 2009, the first draft of an Anti-Homosexuality Bill was created. The proposed legislation defines a new crime of “aggravated homosexuality” for those who engage in sex with someone under the age of 18, who are HIV-positive, who is a “repeat offender” (so broadly defined as to include anyone who has had a relationship with more than one person, or who had sex with the same person more than once), or who had sex with a disabled person (consensual or not). The penalty for “aggravated homosexuality”: death by hanging.

The three Americans were helped by many others, notably by members of the American secretive group The Family (sometimes known as The Fellowship). There are some very interesting names in this family, well-known amongst US politicians, including South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford. A man who is against same-sex marriage and civil unions, and who voted against allowing gay couples adopt children. A man who – when spotted – admitted having an extramarital affair. A man who not only is in favour of a harsher death penalty, but who, as Governor, has sole authority to grant clemency. A man who authorized 14 executions since 2003.

We are all connected you see.

I have been fighting this anti-human rights bill for a long time now. As the administrator of the Red Ribbon Army, a Facebook page with over 500,000 members, I repeatedly alert people against the criminalization of homosexuality and HIV/AIDS. I wish more members would take action. I wish the 1.2 million who gathered at the San Francisco Pride in 2009 (and those for the 2010 edition) would have shown their pride AND their support towards their brothers and sisters in Uganda and the rest of the world. In Paris, during the 2010 Gay Pride, ECPM (Ensemble Contre la Peine de Mort) activists marched along a truck carrying gallows, one for each country that still kills homosexuals: Nigeria, Sudan, Yemen, Mauritania, United Arab Emirates – a popular destination among gays (just saying…) – Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan (think about it next time you unroll the red carpet for Hamid Karzai…), Pakistan, and Iran (where gays are hanged before they had a chance to become adults). ECPM invited participants to sign their petition “HOMOS EN DANGER, L’OUGANDA VA VOTER ! / NO GAYS TO THE SCAFFOLD!” and many signatures were collected.

As I said, we are all connected. And some show solidarity more than others.

In November 2008, members of the LGBT community broadly supported Obama, allowing him to become the first Black President of the USA. Simultaneously in California, the infamous Proposition 8 (“Eliminates Rights of Same-Sex Couples to Marry. Initiative Constitutional Amendment.”) was passed with a 58 percent support among blacks who voted, well above the 52 percent Prop. 8 received from all voters. Much of that can be attributed to the strong religious tradition in the black community. Just like the two black women who attacked me yesterday, a lot of hate is generated instead of spreading the message of love.

A few months later (end of July 2009), CA Gov. Schwarzenegger (a European who sadly forgot the beauty of our death penalty-free zone) announced a minimum of $52 million budget cut in services from HIV/AIDS to child health care to domestic violence victim. Meanwhile, he wants to spend $400 million to construct a new death row facility. With over 700 condemned human beings, the death penalty system cost California taxpayers $137 million each year, whereas permanent imprisonment for all those currently on death row would cost $11 million/year. If everyone currently sentenced to execution were sentenced to permanent imprisonment instead, California taxpayers would save $1 billion in five years. California wastes money that could – and should – be used to recruit and pay more teachers, nurses, firefighters. The current worldwide financial situation touches us all, not just California. Although I deplore its growing impact on the American people, it might have one positive consequence: the abolition of the death penalty in the USA. I would prefer to see it abolished for moral reasons, but I will settle for economical ones if necessary.

I told you, we are all connected. We are all part of a large group of people called Humanity.

Find out more about Gilles other causes besides his passion for The Journey of Hope and his huge effort to end the Death Penalty here

Saturday, July 10, 2010

What's New?

Innocence Commission Created in Florida
Posted: July 09, 2010

Florida Supreme Court Chief Justice Charles Canaday issued an Administrative Order creating a Florida Innocence Commission “to conduct a comprehensive study of the causes of wrongful conviction and of measures to prevent such convictions.” The Administrative Order creating the commission stated the basis for the investigation: "WHEREAS, the occurrence of cases in which the innocent are convicted and punished constitutes a grave injustice; and WHEREAS, the imperative of avoiding such injustice requires a comprehensive examination of the causes of wrongful convictions and an in-depth consideration of measures to prevent the conviction of the innocent." The commission will only review cases that have already been determined to be wrongful convictions. The 23-member Innocence Commission is scheduled to submit an interim report to the Court no later than June 30, 2011 and a final report and recommendations to the Court no later than June 30, 2012.

Briefs Filed in Troy Davis Case in Georgia
Posted: July 08, 2010

Briefs from both parties in the Troy Davis case were filed in the U.S. District Court in Savannah, Georgia, on July 7, 2010. The federal judge considering the possible innocence of Davis, a death row inmate from Georgia who has been granted a stay of execution from the U.S. Supreme Court, requested the briefs following an evidentiary hearing on June 23 reviewing new evidence that had arisen since Davis's original trial. A ruling is expected in the near future and further action by the U.S. Supreme Court may follow. The briefs may be found here: Defendant's brief and Attorney General's brief. (Posted by DPIC, July 8, 2010).

Georgia Death Penalty Defendant Lacked Representation Because of Budget Problems
Posted: July 07, 2010

Defense attorneys for Georgia capital defendant Jamie Weis have asked the U.S. Supreme Court to block the state from seeking the death penalty because state prosecutors hand picked the public defenders assigned to the case and because the case has languished for years without adequate representation. Prosecutors announced in August 2006 that they would seek the death penalty against Weis. By March of the next year, the state ran out of money to pay Mr. Weis’ attorneys. The prosecutors then asked the judge to appoint two overworked public defenders instead, identifying them by name. Against the wishes of the defendant, the judge granted their request, resulting in the new lawyers filing three motions to withdraw citing their lack of experience, time, or money to pay experts or investigators. Finally, after years of lost time that the attorneys could have spent working on Weis' defense, the state agreed to reinstate Weis’ original attorneys on the eve of the trial. Prosecutors had spent those years steadily building their case while the defense lost leads and witnesses went missing or died. The defense maintains that such a lack of adequate defense for so many years is unconstitutional.

COSTS: Death Penalty Cases Cost Indiana Counties Ten Times More than Life Without Parole
Posted: July 06, 2010

A recent state analysis of the costs of the death penalty in Indiana found the average cost to a county for a trial and direct appeal in a capital case was over ten times more than a life-without-parole case. The average death case cost $449,887, while the average cost of a life-without-parole case was only $42,658. The study, prepared by the Legislative Services Agency for the General Assembly, found that even while factoring the longer incarceration period for those sentenced to life without parole, the cost of the death penalty still outweighed the cost of life without parole. The study also noted that Indiana was following the national trend of declining use of the death penalty. Indiana prosecutors did not file a single new death penalty case for more than a year from August 2006 through December 2007, according to the public defender council. Between 1990 and 2000, prosecutors requested the death penalty in 153 cases from the 4,617 murders and homicides reported in the state. From those 153 cases where the death penalty was sought, 48 went to trial, 25 resulted in death sentences, and 4 actually resulted in an execution. Clark County Prosecutor Steven Stewart stated that, while he agrees with the death penalty, it does cost more than life in prison without parole.

Texas Judge to Hold Hearing on Risk of Executing the Innocent
Posted: July 02, 2010

Texas District Judge Kevin Fine scheduled a hearing in a death penalty case to consider whether there is a substantial risk that Texas's death penalty laws could result in the execution of an innocent person. The hearing, expected to last two weeks, will likely include testimony from experts around the country. Casey Kiernan, one of the attorneys for the defendant, John Green, filed a pre-trial motion regarding the issue of innocence, which led to the hearing. Kiernan said, "I think everybody in the United States would agree that the possibility exists [an innocent person has been executed]. We think there is much more than a possibility, based on all the exonerations, all the problems with the forensics." Defense attorneys are also planning to raise other issues at the hearing, including the reliability of eyewitness testimony. The hearing will begin on November 8. Judge Fine had initially granted the motion in March, finding Texas' death penalty law to be unconstitutional. However, he withdrew that decision so that more evidence from both sides could be submitted.

U.S. Supreme Court Orders Reconsideration of Georgia Death Sentence Because of Inadequate Representation
Posted: July 01, 2010

On June 29, the U.S. Supreme Court returned a death penalty case to the Georgia Supreme Court to reconsider whether the failures of the defendant's lawyer probably affected the sentence he received. Demarcus Sears was sentenced to death in 1993 for the murder of a woman in Cobb County. Sears' attorneys attempted to convince jurors to spare his life by saying that he came from a stable and loving family who would be devastated if he received the death penalty. However, the defense lawyers failed to conduct an adequate investigation of Sears' childhood. They neglected to show that his parents had been in a physically abusive relationship, that he was sexually abused and inappropriately disciplined. By the time Sears reached high school, he was “described as severely learning disabled and as severely behaviorally handicapped.” One expert determined he was among the "most impaired individuals in the population" as a result of significant frontal lobe brain damage. Although a lower court in Georgia found the defense attorneys conduct to be faulty, it concluded that the mitigating evidence that was not presented would not have made a difference. The U.S. Supreme Court held that the evidence "might well have helped the jury understand Sears and his horrendous acts ...." The Court granted certiorari, vacated the judgment below, and ordered Georgia to reconsider the possible prejudice to Sears from the ineffective representation rendered by his lawyers, especially in light of other Supreme Court decisions where attorneys failed to conduct a thorough investigation.

EDITORIALS: "Forget the Death Penalty"
Posted: June 30, 2010

On June 24, the Democrat Herald (Oregon) featured an editorial about Randy Lee Guzek, who was recently sentenced to death for the fourth time for murders committed in 1987. The Oregon Supreme Court overturned his three previous death sentences on various grounds. The editorial questioned whether such a death penalty process made any sense. "If the procedures are so difficult that Oregon trial courts cannot get them right in three tries, maybe there is something wrong with the procedures and the system."

Death Penalty Information Center

Kagan Testimony on Death Penalty

JULY 9, 2010:


New Kagan Testimony on Death Penalty

New sworn testimony from Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan reveals that she has no personal objection to the death penalty...

Even though Kagan's confirmation hearing ended last week some senators submitted written follow-up questions that Kagan answered and are now posted on the Senate Judiciary Committee’s website.

The simplest question that Kagan answered came from Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, who asked if the nominee had any personal objection to the death penalty. "No," was Kagan's one word reply.

The written questions give senators an opportunity to reflect on what happened in the hearing and follow-up with additional inquiry or to address issues that never came up.

(source: Fox News)

Tuesday, July 06, 2010


To add your vote for justice, plz go to justicefordamien dot com here

Damien Echols could be executed for a crime he did not commit unless you ACT NOW.

In 1993, 18-year-old Damien Echols had dyed black hair, wore heavy metal t-shirts, and read Stephen King. When a terrible crime happened in the small town where he lived, he immediately became a suspect, simply because he was "different." He's been on death row ever since.

There was no physical evidence, weapon or motive linking Damien to the murder of three 8-year-old boys. His guilty verdict was based on a recanted confession by a peer with a severe developmental disability. And now new DNA evidence has emerged that could prove once and for all that he's innocent.

Arkansas may execute Damien Echols for a crime he did not commit unless you speak up for him now. Tell Arkansas Governor Mike Beebe that Damien deserves a fair chance -- please, just a few dozen postcards could save Damien's life.

The Arkansas Supreme Court is currently reviewing the new forensic evidence to decide whether they'll grant Damien Echols a new trial. But the Governor has the power to end this nightmare now.

We are partnering with CREDO Action to flood the Arkansas Governor's mailbox with postcards -- postcards that could literally save Damien's life today. Please, it will only take 15 seconds to TAKE ACTION NOW!


Stefanie Faucher
Associate Director


Again, to add your vote for justice, plz go to justicefordamien dot com here

JULY 5, 2010: USA: The Uneven Hand of Justice

JULY 5, 2010:


The Uneven Hand of Justice

There have been a number of articles over the past months on the racial bias of the death sentence and in jury selection. To be more accurate, the issue is one of disenfranchisement of Blacks from their legal right to sit on juries. This is a subject I was involved with in 1991 when I was a pro bono expert witness on precisely this issue. I am not going to recount the details only to say we lost in District Court but won in Appellate Court: 3-0. (Three-zip in an Appellate Court is the equivalent of a grand slam home run.) The Appellate Court agreed with our position that jurors were struck because of race.

Even though I have been thinking about this article since Virginia's Republican Governor Bob McDonnell declared April to be "Confederate History Month," it was Elena Kagan's confirmation hearings that crystallized the focus of this blog. Kagan was cross-examined by Senators Jeff Sessions (R-AL), Lindsey Graham (R-SC), and others who called Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall an activist. Followed by Lindsey Graham asking her where "her people" spent Christmas? Kagan did say: "Chinese restaurants," allowing her to add still a third minority to the hearings. (In fairness, an apparently obscure concept in the Senate, Graham did not say "her people;" it was implied.) The New York Times commented on a study entitled "Illegal Racial Discrimination in Jury Selection" by the Equal Justice Initiative (EJI). The report discusses the ongoing discrimination of excluding Black jurors in the South to increase the probability of a death penalty verdict.

The game prosecutors play is simple. There is a strong rejection by Blacks of the death penalty. So Southern prosecutors know the likelihood of successfully seeking the death penalty depends on the exclusion of Black jurors who are part of the jury pool (i.e., voir dire). Because the prosecution has a finite number of challenges (i.e., exclusions), the prosecutor must have a pool of jurors that does not have a high number of Black jurors. It is this balance between challenges and the number of Blacks in the jury pool that dictates whether prosecutors will seek the death penalty. Depending on the demographics of a county, the pool of Black jurors can be so small that a prosecutor can remove all Blacks from serving on a jury for a particular case. The net result of this process is that the death penalty in the South varies by county. Just like real estate: The where matters.

While my own investigation convinced me that the prosecutor in this particular case had a long history of discriminating against Blacks sitting on juries, what concerns me is the huge divide between Black and White views on the death penalty. Is it any wonder that Blacks have a strong opposition to the death penalty? One hundred and thirty-five years after the Civil War, we have a Virginia Governor who wants to celebrate the Confederacy and US Senators questioning a Supreme Court nominee on her "dangerous" association with Justice Thurgood Marshall, one of the great forces in desegregation.

Common sense dictates when we have a reasonable, causal basis for an action, coupled with numerous supportive studies, we accept the fact that race is the single largest contributing factor to the death penalty, when the defendant is Black and the victim White. Yet, common sense seldom prevails.

(source: Gary Liberson, Huffington Post)



Troy Davis case full of murky legal questions

Thanks to an order from the U.S. Supreme Court, a Georgia death row inmate was granted a hearing to prove his innocence to a federal judge — a chance afforded no American facing execution in nearly half a century.

Now that the court hearing is over, what happens next isn't so clear. The case of condemned inmate Troy Anthony Davis is so unusual, legal experts can't even agree on what the judge can do.

Davis' fate rests with a U.S. District Court judge who heard testimony in June from witnesses who say they lied at Davis' trial. Others say they heard another man confess to the 1989 slaying of Savannah police officer Mark MacPhail.

Judge William T. Moore Jr. won't rule until after he reviews legal briefs from both sides due Wednesday.

Some experts say the judge could order a new trial. Others say the judge could make a recommendation to the Supreme Court that Davis be freed from prison. There's also a possibility the judge could find Davis innocent, yet rule he's powerless to spare Davis' life.

"There is some ambiguity," said John H. Blume, a Cornell Law School professor who specializes in death penalty appeals. "Whenever you've got something this new, that hasn't happened all these years, you're really making your best guess."

In death penalty cases, federal courts normally consider only violations of due process and constitutional rights. When a divided Supreme Court granted Davis a hearing to prove his innocence last August, dissenting Justice Antonin Scalia called it "an extraordinary step — one not taken in nearly 50 years."

The Supreme Court set the burden on Davis to "clearly establish" his innocence with evidence that wasn't available at his 1991 trial, when Davis was convicted of shooting MacPhail as the off-duty officer rushed to help a homeless man being attacked.

If the judge rules against Davis and the Supreme Court upholds his decision, it's likely the end of his case — though Davis could make another appeal for clemency to the Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles.

If Davis succeeds in proving his innocence, things get murkier.

Michael Mears, a John Marshall Law School professor who's defended numerous capital cases in Georgia, suspects Davis may be granted a new trial. That's what Davis' lawyers were seeking in 2007 when his latest round of appeals started.

But Stephen Bright, a Yale Law School lecturer and veteran death penalty attorney, argues a favorable ruling for Davis would likely result in the Supreme Court ordering Georgia authorities to free Davis. A 2nd trial, he says, would amount to double jeopardy.

"We're in totally uncharted waters," Bright said. "There would be arguments all over the ballpark on it."

A major factor in the judge's ruling will be whether he believes witnesses who say they lied at Davis' trial or caved under police pressure to point to Davis as the killer.

Mears said the credibility of Davis' witnesses will be his biggest hurdle.

"They start off in the hole being admitted perjurers," said Mears, a former head of the Georgia Indigent Defense Council. "They've admitted they lied under oath at one point. How much credibility does that give them now?"

Davis' lawyers are also counting on 2 witnesses who testified that Sylvester Coles, who was with Davis moments before the slaying, later told them he shot the officer. One says he witnessed Coles shoot MacPhail.

But the judge criticized Davis' attorneys for failing to subpoena Coles for the latest hearing. He denied being the shooter at Davis' trial.

Because Coles didn't get a chance to answer the new accusations in his courtroom, the judge said he may disregard any testimony against him as inadmissible hearsay.

Davis' lawyers failure to put Coles on the witness stand "may very well be fatal," said Donald E. Wilkes Jr., a University of Georgia law professor and expert on death penalty appeals.

"I've never heard of anybody in a post-conviction case committing such egregious, damaging blunders," Wilkes said.

Complicating things further, the legal issues before the judge don't stop with Davis' innocence or guilt.

The judge has asked lawyers to weigh in by Wednesday on 2 broader issues that could restrict his authority.

The judge's 1st question: Is he prohibited from helping Davis, even if he's innocent, by a 1996 law passed by Congress after the Oklahoma City bombing that limits death penalty appeals?

Scalia argued in his dissent that the Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act means federal courts are powerless to overrule Georgia courts that already rejected Davis' innocence claim.

The other legal question before the judge sounds like a no-brainer, but it's a constitutional issue the Supreme Court hasn't settled.

Appeals courts found that Davis received a fair trial. If he later proves he's innocent, would it be cruel and unusual punishment to execute him? Or would putting him to death still be constitutional because Davis received a fair trial?

"It's the kind of claim you almost have to be a lawyer to make it sound even plausible," said Robert Schapiro, a professor of constitutional law at Emory Law School. "But the Supreme Court has never held that it violates the Eighth Amendment to execute someone who is actually innocent."

Still, legal experts say they doubt the Supreme Court would have ordered a hearing for Davis if it thought the federal courts were powerless to take action.

The judge hasn't laid out what options he's considering in Davis' case, and hasn't given himself a deadline to rule. The Supreme Court has recessed until October, so the wait could be weeks if not months.

(source: Associated Press)

THANX to Dr. Rick Halperin and his Death Penalty News and Updates for BOTH of these current and crucial items!