Monday, October 31, 2011

FROM BILL P.: I feel like I am in the middle of the history of the abolition movement....

Bill, Marietta and Rick Photo a bit old yet representative of work abolitionists do together in front of buildings representing our US and State Law and Justice Systems.

Posted originally - Sunday, 30 October 2011 on Journey/Bill's Journal.

I feel like I am in the middle of the history of the abolition movement in the United States and around the World.

Yesterday I stood in front of the State Capitol of Texas at the Twelfth Annual March to Abolish the Death Penalty. I saw TWENTY-FIVE human beings who were sentenced to death for a crime they did not commit. Fortunately they were able to prove their innocence before the states that could kill them.

I have heard many of them say, they were not saved because of the sytem, but they were saved in spite of the system.

Folks, the death penalty system is broke and it can`t be fixed. 24 men and one woman testified how they would be dead today, if the states would have had their way.

The "Witness to Innocence" is a non-profit organization for exonerated death row inmates. Their recent events in Texas, a tour throughout major areas in Texas from Houston to Dallas and from the Valley to Austin, sharing their personal stories of what it was like for them and their families to be on death row for a crime they didn`t commit.

These folks say: Stop the death penalty!

Many of the death row exonerees that were present are friends of mine. Shujaa Graham and Juan Melendez are past Journey of Hope…from Violence to Healing board members and participants on many a Journey of Hope tours.

Ray Krone, Delbert Tibbs, Greg Wilhoit, Ron Keine have all been on Journeys.

I have long admired Kurt Bloodsworth and it was good to see him there. Kurt was the FIRST person to be exonerated by DNA evidence.

I also saw my friend Derrick Jamison and it was good to see him and once again hear his powerful voice for abolition.

I met David Keaton, the first exoneree in the growing list of ONE HUNDRED and THIRTY-EIGHT, along with Albert Burrell, Gary Stydl again.

All these men have amazing stories. This year I thought a lot about Randall Dale Adams who was exonerated off Texas’s death row who story became well known through the film “Thin Blue Line”. Randall sadly passed away last year. He is missed by me and the Journey of Hope.

Yes, at least 138 death row exonerees in this country who were sentenced to die, no longer worthy to live in our highly developed society.

When it comes to the deathe penalty there is no room for mistakes. As long as human beings are making the decisions on who lives and who dies there will be mistakes.

I applaud Scott Cobb and his efforts on the Annual March again this year. I have been on quite a few of these but this one held special historical significance.
Never have I seen so many powerful messengers on one stage at the same time.

(TO) the ABOLITION MOVEMENT: help these guys get out the message of why they want the death penalty to be abolished. It is powerful and affective and a vital key for abolition of the death penalty. Witness to Innocence will prove to be a major factor in not only the United States of America but also for worldwide abolition of the death penalty.

So thank you, Scott Cobb for having the vision and the determaination to carry this Twelfth Annual March to an historic conclusion. Thank you for drawing the attention of the world to this great moment for abolition. And I am sure "Witness to Innocence" will use this as a springboard for future tours around the country. Members have also toured through Spain with their witness.

As the president of the "Journey of Hope... from Violence to Healing" I declare that we were happy and honored to be part of this historic event, and that our prayers for continued succes in your efforts to rid the world of the scourge called the death penalty.

Thank you Scott and thanks to "Witness to Innocence".

Thanks to Gloria Rubac, Hooman Hedayati, Allison Dieter and others who continually and tirelessly work for abolition in the state of Texas. Your contribution for this march is greatly appreciated. I always feel welcome in Texas when I am with you guys.

"Journey of Hope" board members Randy Gardner and Charity Lee, two of my companions this month in our Uganda Journey of Hope, which turned into the Seattle, Dallas, Uganda, Rwanda, Kenya, Dallas, Austin and San Antonio Journey, were also on the march and rally.

Randy covered his "Journey of Hope" shirt when he put on the orange death row prison jump suit that his, brother Ronnie Lee Gardner wore while on death row in the state of Utah; before he was executed last year, on June 18, 2010.

Randy saw the four bullet holes in his brother`s chest, after he was executed.
Randy, has put a dream to action, in starting a non-profit organization called "Back to Basics Organic Farm and Ranch" in his brothers memory.

Randy took his passion for abolition to Africa and was part of the team in Uganda and Rwanda. You will learn a lot more about Randy when I talk about Africa.

Charity Lee was on the Uganda and Rwanda segments. Charity Lee is founding a non-profit organisation, called the ELLA Foundation. Charity`s beautiful daughter Ella was brutally murdered at the age of four. Not only did Charity lose her daughter, but had the double tragedy of her only son Paris, age 13, committing the murder.

Charity will be publishing her journals, a story that took her to the depths of hell and back. Love helped Charity to survive her cunconceivable journey. I will tell you more about Charity when I talk about Africa or you can go to http://www.theellafoundation.com or CLICK here

Ron Carlson drove with his wife Debbie to Austin to be with the "Journey of Hope" as we honored "Witness to Innocence" and Scott Cobb`s dedication to the movement.
Ron Carlson`s sister Deborah Thornton was murdered by Karla Faye Tucker. After a long journey Ron`s faith called him to forgiveness and he and Karla became friends. Ron held the "Journey of Hope...from Violence to Healing" banner, and walked the entire length despite having sever arthritis and back pain.

Ron had to make the drive to Austin from Houston and get a hotel for the night. He said he did the trip with his wife Debbie because he wanted to suupport me and the "Journey of Hope" as we honored the exonerees.

At one point of the program, after each of the exonerees had spoken, Ron went up and shook the hands of each death row exoneree. To Ron that was a real honor.

Can you imagine what these guys on death row have been going through, for a crime they didn`t commit? It is sad, America, that we said they should be excecuted.
Have there been any innocent people executed?

It was so interesting that as we traveled into the country side of Uganda, that teachers in the primitive schools knew about the Troy Davis case. They know around the world that the state of Georgia, more than likely killed an innocent person.

America, our death penalty system is known as a farce of Justice around world.

But of course; what do we care about what foreigners think?

Genifer Kaye wore Amnesty International`s "I am Troy Davis" T-shirt on the march and helped carry the "Journey of Hope" banner. Genifer is a human rights activist from Dallas, TX and good friends with Rick Halperin, who is a "Journey of Hope" board member.

We met Genifer and Rais Bhuyan during a lay-over in Dallas on our way to Entebbe, Uganda. Rais has been a real instrument for those who wish to rid this world of violence. We met for breakfast at our hotel. It was the second day of this life changing Journey, that began on October 2nd.

We were so happy when she was able to drive down from Dallas to be part of the march. Genifer plays the activist role that is such a big part of the "Journey of Hope".

We are three categories of people at the Journey; murder victim family members, people with death row connections and activists.

It was our great pleasure to support Scott Cobb and the Twelfth Annual March to Abolish the Death Penalty.

It was our great pleasure to support “Witness to Innocence” and encourage their great work.

It was our great pleasure to support the abolition movement in Texas.

I know that we are right in the middle of history for abolition, not only in America but around the World.


Bill Pelke

10/25

NOTE from The Journey Blog:

READERS: for more on the folk Bill mentions, scroll below where we've tried to post everything Bill's sent our way on the recent journey or google The Journey of Hope and the name which interests you. I took the liberty to emphasize some of the numbers Bill mentions by upper-case.

BILL: We are so GLAD you are in the US and are so inspired/energized. We look forward to hearing AS MUCH of your UGANDA JOURNEY (Including Seattle, Dallas, Uganda, Rwanda, Kenya, Dallas, Austin and San Antonio) you are (EACH) willing to share ASAP. (with articles from any and each of these places ASAP and photos too.)

(Not only from Bill but from you, "the other Bill", Charity, Randy, Edward and anyone else who knows about this amazing trip.

What a WONDERFULLY passionate, full and inspiring letter/journal piece from a guy with a HUGE heart. All the best to EACH of you who went on the UGANDA JOURNEY in the days ahead!

Another Story of Great Forgiveness: Richard Wayne Jones & His Advocates

Both Richard Jones and his tireless advocate, Arianna Ballotta, forgave the unspeakable...even the State of Texas! I'm so glad I found this ultimately uplifting article which fits right into The Journey experience...

Posted on October 9, 2011 as "The fight for evidence of innocence"
Written by Michela Mancini (for fittedin.com*)
A story of how unexpected important a penfriendship can get...

Arianna Ballotta, one of the founders and the president of the ICADP (Illinois Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty) since it was founded in 1997, started to write to Richard Wayne Jones in 1992. Richard had been on Texas death row since 1987 for a murder of which he was most probably innocent and was executed despite compelling evidence of his always proclaimed innocence.

Evidence which unfortunately was never sufficiently considered by any court in the United States. He was convicted largely on the basis of a confession obtained under coercion and duress.

Both the state and federal courts failed to protect his rights for a fair trial by sanctioning the trial court’s use of the coerced confession to convict him. State and federal appeals courts denied the legal challenge to his conviction and the evidence of innocence uncovered after his conviction.

Despite being subjected to police coercion, in violation of his constitutional and international human rights, and irrespective of evidence of his innocence, he was executed by the State of Texas on August 22, 2000

(detailed info can be found here: http://www.lairdcarlson.com/grip/Jones%20Case%20Summary.htm) or GO here

When she started the correspondence with Richard Jones, Arianna did not know anything at all about the case. As a coherent thinker and activist, Arianna was not interested in knowing if he had or had not committed the crime for which he was sitting on death row.

Opposing the death penalty unconditionally, she chose many years ago to take the side in defense of life, no matter what, which includes having guilty pen-pals among her correspondents.

Yet, some time after having started her correspondence with Richard, a talland quite reserved man with a very gentle behavior and a distinct sense of humor, whom she regularly visited on death row twice or three times a year, she became curious and decided to know more. She simply could not believe that he was the real killer. Too well mannered, too gentle, too sweet, Richard was so different from all the stereotypes surrounding killers. She intensified her efforts and trips to Texas, she did her own investigations, spoke to many people, including Richard’s family and lawyers, hired a private investigator (supported by her own family and the crucial financial aid of dearest friends), appointed a new lawyer, and they came to the conclusion that he was not the man who had committed that horrible murder.

Unfortunately all of their efforts were in vain. The State of Texas never admitted having made a mistake and Richard’s life was taken in the name of justice. She and some of Richard’s dearest friends (including Michela Mancini, the vice-president of the ICADP) were in Texas with him when he was executed.

He stated his innocence again and again even before the lethal drugs were pumped into his veins. In October 2000 his name was officially included in the report released by Equal Justice USA stating that “the American system of capital punishment has taken the lives of 16 men despite compelling evidence of their innocence” (http://truthinjustice.org/prob-innocent.htm).

Unfortunately, this very same American system of capital punishment continues imperturbably to take the lives of human beings in spite of serious doubt about their guilt. The last victim of this “an eye for an eye” attitude was Troy Davis, recently executed by the State of Georgia and in the name of its people. Besides the ethical and moral reasons for which capital punishment cannot be ever accepted, this is not justice.

Arianna has written a book (in Italian) on Richard’s story and, as promised to Richard before his execution, she donates 100% of the book’s earnings to the cause in defense of life, in the hope of having soon a world free from capital punishment. Information on the book can be found here: http://www.coalit.it/pagina.asp?sezione=22&cat=10

A victim herself of wrong behaviors (her dad was killed at the age of 33 when she was only 13), Arianna knows a lot about hatred and forgiveness. After realizing that she had forgiven the man who had killed her father, sadly he had passed way and she was unable to tell him. She has equally forgiven the State of Texas for killing Richard.

Richard had forgiven them, too.

But he was so very much troubled by the fact that the people of Texas thought he was the real killer, especially the family of the victim. Arianna has tried in vain to get in touch with them to let them know that Richard was praying for Tammy and that in spite of the many mistakes he had committed during his short life, he was not a killer. Maybe one day God will make their paths cross and Arianna will be finally able to tell them more about Richard, a Richard that probably nobody had never really seen.

Last Updated on Sunday, 09 October 2011 22:19
Find here

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Tears and Flowers: Rais Bhuiyan awarded Freedom Riders award

Right-top is an Amnesty Photo See Rais Bhuiyan's website World Without Hate ** from mysanantonio.com

photo by Jonathan White of Rais Bhuiyan with the evening's MC, Susan Collin Marks (Vice President, SFCG) accepting the Freedom Rider award October 27, 2011

Condensed article:

(Bhuiyan) found forgiveness and hope in his faith. Taking the stage to a standing ovation, Rais Bhuiyan, who campaigned to have his attacker’s death sentence commuted, said, “We, in our lives, can make a difference when we move away from hate and revenge and turn to love and forgiveness.” He added, “This is not tribal, it’s not about skin color. This is a human issue.”

Emmanuel Jal brought the entire room to its feet, with a rousing rendition of his hit song, We Want Peace. Introduced by his “friend and brother,” John Prendergast, Jal was magnetic , passionate and humbly suggested he did not know how to accept an award that had previously been given to heroes of his, like Desmond Tutu. “I believe in putting light in a dark place,” Jal said. And so he accepted the award on behalf of those whose voices continue to go unheard, to hopefully be able to bring light to them...

The 2011 Common Ground Awards - October 28, 2011:

Also Awarded: Diane Nash, Emmanuel Jal, Freedom Riders, John Lewis, Ysaye Barnwellby sfcg.

Holding up his Common Ground Award, Cardinal McCarrick likened its design to both a flower and a tear. He accepted his award for his role in securing the Freedom of the American Hikers from Iran saying the design was fitting, “For along this journey there have been many tears, but there have been flowers too.” This might very well have been the official theme of the 2011 Common Ground Awards.

Each of the honorees had faced remarkable struggles, in many cases near-death experiences. They had seen the ugliest of human nature. But they remained unbowed and showed that however easy it may be to meet hatred with more hatred, there are ordinary people doing the opposite each day.“This action of showing compassion and mercy taken by the families [of the hikers] is something our governments can learn from,” Ambassador (Ret.) Bill Miller said...

*First compelling blog photo is from Amnesty I-USA blog GO here

**World Without Hate Website here Calendar of events coming:
November:- Amnesty Regional West Conference, CA- Amnesty Regional South Conference, NC- Rome, Italy -- December:- Rome, Italy- Dallas Peace Center

Commentary on Rais stand for forgiveness "We need more people like Rais Bhuiyan in America here

Article on Rais' lead in the battle to save his attacker from execution here

More on the award night here

Friday, October 28, 2011

Reflections on the death penalty in America

originally posted in The Archway

The issue of the death penalty is among the most talked-about conundrums in American society, for it attempts to determine a point at which it is acceptable to end a human life. The recent execution of Troy Davis, a man who many believed was wrongly convicted of a murder in 1989, has brought the issue once again to the forefront of public discussion.

Such an issue is inherently precarious, though practicing states seem to ignore the inherent hypocrisy of sentencing people to death. Practitioners of execution seem to want to have their cake and eat it too, in that they use a form of killing to atone for that same act.

A state-sanctioned execution is naught more than the intentional killing of a person as allowed by existing laws. A murder, by contrast, is the intentional killing of a person in violation of the law. The only non-circumstantial difference between murder and execution is that the latter is permitted by law.

This key difference, which makes one form of killing acceptable and the other intolerable, produces an interesting hypocrisy, for laws are nothing more than societal constructs set in place by humans.

To fully understand the contradiction, one must first accept the old adage that “might does not make right”, insofar as the majority does not necessarily make “right” decisions, merely popular decisions. For example, democratic elections put numerous members of the Nazi party into the German Reichstag in the 1920s.

Though the majority typically attempts to seek the greatest good for the greatest number, their attempts are not universally successful. Hence, it can be accepted that mere numbers do not make something correct in an objective sense.

This casts the concept of laws in a somewhat dimmer light. While laws can be considered honest attempts at shaping society for the better, they certainly cannot be considered to be universally infallible.

In a world where laws are not objective, laws have no more moral validity than the capricious whims of a man who commits murder, and herein lays the problem. When the motivations of the murderer are no less valid than the whims of the society which demonizes him, the majority’s use of might against him constitutes hypocrisy.

Society likes to pretend that acting under the law absolves them of the same sin they demonize by executing murderers. Unfortunately, the inherent subjectivity of these matters means that, though this may be true in the minds of believers, such a statement is syllogistically false.

There are those who may accept their hypocrisy, and instead argue the point that, regardless of the cognitive dissonance associated with execution’s logical inconsistencies, the practice is beneficial.

Such arguments stress the point that the end of a safer society justifies whatever means is necessary to achieve it, even the commission of hypocritical acts. However, the use value of execution over imprisonment is questionable.

When a person is sentenced to prison time, it is incumbent on the prison to ensure the safety of society. Some argue that, because prisons can be escaped, the death penalty is preferable to ensure that violent criminals can never reappear.

While the death penalty ensures that escape is impossible, society can be adequately protected by reinforcing the existing practices and structures of prisons. Such improvements greatly diminish the use value gap between the two methods.

The financial aspect is also a concern in this respect, and while there is no denying that keeping people alive on the taxpayer dime is far costlier than executing them, this problem lies not with the principle of imprisonment, but with the implementation.

This establishes the role of the death penalty not only as a source of hypocrisy, but as a cop-out for those who do not wish to devote time and resources to developing a better solution that does not necessitate hypocrisy.

While people are quick to draw criticisms of the financial burden placed on society by long-term imprisonment, fewer people raise an eyebrow at the societal impact of the practice of execution.

A typical point made to this end is the lack of focus on rehabilitation. Should society’s good be considered the chief goal, as is done throughout the criminal justice system, civilization benefits more from rehabilitating a man than killing him.

If felons, even murderers, were to spend years in an environment of positivity, some stand a chance of being conditioned to refocus their emotions into more positive channels, which allow them to cope with and cathartically express their negativity.

People are largely products of socialization, and this fact can be used to produce immense change, even in criminals. Though not possible in all cases, the general ignorance of rehabilitation is a gross oversimplification and insult both to the practice of psychology and to felons themselves.

The safety aspect of criminal justice is handled as well by a good prison as by a syringe of potassium solution. The cross into punishment and the disregard of rehabilitation is evidence of something more than emphasis on society’s wellbeing.

The sociological and psychological roots of capital punishment’s popularity are rather frightening. They date back to the very roots of civilization, and help to establish vengeance as a universal principle under the guise of justice.

The concept of an eye for an eye dates back to Hammurabi’s Code, and was reinforced by many later religions wherein a god figure would smite disobedient humans. In modern times, god is replaced by the state, but, hypocritically, the principle of objectively-justified vengeance lives on.

The practice of capital punishment falsely gives a majority of humans the sense of superiority over the minority and the individual. Vengeance becomes a universal principle, but bloodlust becomes synonymous with law.

A society which practices the death penalty cannot be emulated, for it is a society that accepts killing as a social norm. Death is the status quo, and disingenuous killing becomes preferable to killing which, if nothing else, has the courage to stand up for that which it truly is.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Comments to articles about Rais Bhuiyan's forgiveness of would-be killer

Comments to almost all the media stories on Rais' heroic and thorough effort to save his attacker's life show positive amazement at such a stance. So I've included here just a sample...

I am absolutely in awe of this gentleman. According to Colorlines, Stroman is a white supremacist with a long history of crimes. Apparently, he broke down when he heard that Bhuiyan is trying to save him and said, “This is the first act of kindness that I’ve ever known." This is true faith in action. God bless Mr. Bhuiyan, his family and Waqar Hasan’s family, who also support saving Stroman and who publicly support Rais Bhuiman's efforts.
==
Mr.Bhuiyan is showing the world the peaceful side of Islam. Something which many people refuse to admit exists.
==
I'm a Humanist, but was reared as a Christian, and my parents taught me over and over again that forgiveness was imperative, that revenge was not the way. I wasn't sure in the beginning how I felt about what Rais wanted for Mark Stroman, but I'm certain now. Rais is absolutely correct.
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I wish Mr Bhuiyan all the best in his health and I do agree that executing his assailant will solve nothing. Better still, do away with the death penalty completely.
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The ability to forgive is a necessary part of society, if we never forgave anyone for their actions society would surly never have existed.
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As-salamualikum Brother Rias. I just heard this news very first time tonight’s National (News). I am very impressed to know that you wanted to save the life of someone who want to kill you. My thoughts and prayers will be with you. I wish I could be there in Dallas and participate with you and be a part of saving someone ‘life’, what is precious gift from God.
==
As-salamualikum Brother Rias. I just heard this news very first time tonight’s National (News). I am very impressed to know that you wanted to save the life of someone who want to kill you. My thoughts and prayers will be with you. I wish I could be there in Dallas and participate with you and be a part of saving someone ‘life’, what is precious gift from God.
==

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

RAIS BHUIYAN (Old and New Items - continually updated here)

Hello: I plan to post older to new-ish items here because I missed many great pieces (plz keep coming back!)

Meantime, plz take a look at the Reprieve.org.UK site for many such pieces. (link end of this post) You are likely to be most amazed!

TX: Press conference: Victim of man facing execution
Mon Jul 4, 2011 14:14
78.35.100.163

04 July 2011

Press conference: Victim of man facing execution with European drugs campaigns to save his life

Tomorrow (Tuesday 5 July), shooting victim Rais Bhuiyan will speak at a press conference at the European Parliament on his campaign to save the life of the man who shot him and now faces execution in the US, using drugs produced by a European company. Rais was shot by Mark Ströman along with two other men he believed to be of Middle Eastern descent in the immediate aftermath of 9/11.

Press conference: 14:00-15:00, Tuesday 5 July, European Parliament, Strasbourg, room LOW S3.5
Speakers: Rais Bhuiyan, victim of Mark Ströman and advocate; Sarah Ludford MEP, Lib Dem human rights spokesperson; Maya Foa, Investigator, Reprieve

Rais Bhuiyan survived being shot in 2001 by Mark Ströman, an American with strong links to Germany who is due to be executed in Texas using the drug pentobarbital, which was produced by a European firm. Rais has travelled to Europe as part of his tireless efforts to stop Mark’s execution, scheduled for 20 July.

Mark Ströman was sentenced to death in 2002 for a crime committed immediately after the attack on the twin towers on 11 September, 2001. In the days following the tragedy, Mark shot and killed two men he believed to be of Middle Eastern descent and injured Rais Bhuiyan.

Rais believes that executing Mark will only perpetuate the cycle of hate and violence seen on 9/11. He has said that Mark's execution will only end another human life without eliminating the root cause of violence, and insists that bridges can only be built between victims and perpetrators through forgiveness. Rais is asking Texas to reduce Mark's sentence from death to life in prison.

Rais is in Strasbourg to raise awareness about the impending execution and the European trade in lethal injection drugs. He will speak as part of a seminar and press conference hosted by Liberal Democrat European justice & human rights spokesperson Sarah Ludford MEP about how to stop European drugs from being used in executions.

Rais is also speaking in the German Parliament on Thursday 7 July, asking for the German government’s support in seeking clemency for Mark Ströman; and meeting with the Executive Vice President of Lundbeck, the Danish company which produced the drugs which will be used in the execution.

Mark is the father of three daughters and a son, and was raised in Texas. He is of German descent and has close family ties to Germany.

For further information, please contact Katherine O’Shea at Reprieve’s Press Office:katherine.oshea@reprieve.org.uk 020 7427 1099.

Notes for Editors:

European death drugs

Following domestic shortages in the US, European drugs have come to dominate the execution process. Key drugs used in carrying out lethal injections produced by firms from Britain and Denmark have so far been used to execute over 20 people in the US. Several of the executions using the new European drugs have apparently been botched, with the prisoners in a number of cases either jerking or thrashing, or keeping their eyes open during the process – indications that they would have suffered severe pain. While unilateral action by the UK government and (most recently) pharmaceutical firm Lundbeck is starting to constrain this trade, EU-wide measures are necessary to ensure this is not allowed to happen again.

Who is Mark Ströman?

Mark Ströman, a man with strong links to Germany, is currently on death row in Polunsky Unit, Livingston, Texas. He is due to be executed by the state of Texas on 20 July 2011.

Mark has strong ties to Germany. His father, Eddie Ströman, was from Germany. Mark’s father’s family are originally from Lower Saxony. Accordingly, we have approached the German consulate in Texas to ask them urgently to consider whether Mark Strömancan be recognised as a German national.

Mark Ströman was born on October 3, 1969. Before he was born, Mark chose the wrong parents. Mark’s mother Sandra was a severe alcoholic. She was found in a gutter during one of her pregnancies and hospitalised. Sandra married Doyle Baker, Mark’s stepfather. They were both heavy drinkers living in their own world. Mark’s mother told him “you were just $50 short of being aborted, I wish I’d borrowed the money.” Doyle physically abused Mark throughout his childhood. Unsurprisingly, Mark had problems in school and was bullied. Doyle would beat Mark up to show him what he should do to his bullies. Mark, desperate to get away from his parents, ran away from home frequently; he would ride his bike 30 miles at the age of 8 to come to his grandparents’ house. Mark was first diagnosed as suffering from mental health problems before the age of 10 and again at age 13, but he never received proper treatment. Mark began using drugs to escape his brutal reality at around age 11. The fruit does not fall far from the tree. Mark absorbed many lessons from his mother and step-father – on violence, on racism, on paranoia, on substance abuse – none of which was positive.

Mark was sentenced to death for a series of shootings in the aftermath of September 11, 2001, which left two men dead and one man injured.

Why should Mark not be killed on 20 July?

Mark’s victims and their families have suffered a great deal from his actions; nevertheless, they all oppose Mark’s execution. Mark’s surviving victim, Rais Bhuyian, is actively campaigning for Mark’s sentence to be commuted to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole. In whose name is Texas killing Mark Ströman if none of the victims want this kind of vengeance?

While Mark Ströman would not begin to pretend that, even today, he is the person he wants to be, he has struggled to overcome some of the “lessons” that his mother and stepfather taught him. He is, today, proud of his German roots, and maintains an active correspondence with pen pals in Germany and around the world. One of his German pen pals has written to Reprieve to tell us how Mark’s faithful letters, humanity and friendship helped her overcome her depression.

Mark is deeply remorseful for his actions in September 2001, and does not know why he did what he did. It is clear that he suffered from diminished capacity at the time, because of his mental health problems, which he attempted to self-medicate by taking drugs; that alone should disqualify him from execution.

Sadly, however, this and other issues were never properly raised in court, because Mark never had the legal assistance he needed until it was too late. His publicly appointed lawyers lacked the resources properly to investigate Mark’s background and the circumstances surrounding his alleged crimes.

Mark Ströman is due to be executed by lethal injection. Texas has recently changed its execution protocol from sodium thiopental to pentobarbital, which is manufactured by Danish pharmaceutical company Lundbeck. This shift, hastily effected with no clinical or scientific testing, puts prisoners at risk of extreme suffering. Extensive research shows that pentobarbital was developed as a sedative and has no clinical history as an agent to induce anaesthesia. Should the agent not work, as is highly likely according to anaesthesiologists’ analyses, Mark will suffer excruciating pain as the next two drugs are administered.

Who are Reprieve?

Reprieve, a legal action charity, uses the law to enforce the human rights of prisoners, from death row to Guantánamo Bay. Reprieve investigates, litigates and educates, working on the frontline, to provide legal support to prisoners unable to pay for it themselves. Reprieve promotes the rule of law around the world, securing each person’s right to a fair trial and saving lives.

Clive Stafford Smithis the founder of Reprieve and has spent 25 years working on behalf of people facing the death penalty in the USA.

Reprieve’s current casework involves representing 33 prisoners in the US prison at Guantánamo Bay, working on behalf of prisoners facing the death penalty, and conducting ongoing investigations into the rendition and the secret detention of ‘ghost prisoners’ in the so-called ‘war on terror.’

Reprieve.org.uk here

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

UN Expert Calls for End to Solitary Confinement

GO here UN torture expert - Juan Mendez - calls for an end to solitary confinement...

Monday, October 24, 2011

Executions wrong no matter what (even in case of Brewer)

"Byrd says the execution of Brewer is simply another expression of the hate shown toward his father on that dark night in 1998. Everybody, he said, including the government, should choose not to continue that cycle." A quote from Ross Byrd from the shortened article below.

Just in case readers missed (as I did) the consistent calls to forego the death penalty - even in the worst of cases. Here is a condensation of an article with another excerpt:

"You can't fight murder with murder," Ross Byrd, 32, told Reuters late Tuesday (late September, 2011) the night before Wednesday's scheduled execution of Lawrence Russell Brewer for one of the most notorious hate crimes in modern times.

"Life in prison would have been fine..."

...An avowed white supremacist, Brewer, 44, was one of three white men convicted of capital murder in the kidnapping and killing of Byrd Jr., in June 1998.

John King, another white supremacist, is on death row awaiting an execution date. Shawn Berry is serving a life sentence.

...Dick Gregory has joined Ross Byrd and Martin Luther King III in the past to publicly protest Brewer's execution.

Ross Byrd, a recording artist studying for his MBA at nearby Stephen F. Austin University, said Tuesday that he wouldn't attend the execution but will "be there in spirit."

He says he doesn't want to "waste my time" watching anybody die, even a man who killed his dad.

"Life goes on," said Byrd, who has a son. "I've got responsibilities that I have every day..."

(The) crime ...touched off a nationwide effort to tighten punishments for hate crimes...The jury sentenced the three men as the nation was still reeling from a second hate crime that same year -- the October 1998 murder of Matthew Shepard, beaten and left to die on a fence in Wyoming because he was gay.

'WATERSHED MOMENT'

In 2001, Texas passed its hate crimes bill named after Byrd Jr., and its symbolic signing by Perry was a "watershed moment" in Texas and one of Perry's "finest moments in office," said Texas state Senator Rodney Ellis, a Houston Democrat, who helped move the bill through the Texas Senate in spite of staunch Republican opposition.

Eight years later, President Obama signed into law a similar federal bill named after Byrd Jr. and Shepard.

"James Byrd's murder certainly changed Texas and, in many ways, the nation," Ellis told Reuters.

"It was a wake-up call that evil and hate, while no longer considered mainstream views, are more prevalent and virulent than we pretend."

Ellis said the death sentence in Brewer's case "will close a chapter in this tragic story."

"I cannot say for certain that it is a requirement in order for justice to be served but, as Mr. Brewer was a ringleader in the most brutal hate crime in the post-Civil Rights era, it is certainly a very appropriate sentence," he said.

Unlike Byrd's children and wife, all of whom oppose the use of the death penalty against his killers, other family members have been supportive of it.

"I'm not down on them at all for the fact that they support the death penalty," said David Atwood, a good friend of Ross Byrd's and founder of the Texas Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty.* "They've gone through a traumatic experience, and there's a history in our country of horrible things happening to African Americans, so it's understandable that a number of them would say finally we're getting some justice."

He called Ross Byrd's stand "powerful."

Byrd says the execution of Brewer is simply another expression of the hate shown toward his father on that dark night in 1998. Everybody, he said, including the government, should choose not to continue that cycle.

"Everybody's in that position," he said. "And I hope they will stand back and look at it before they go down that road of hate. Like Ghandi said, an eye for an eye, and the whole world will go blind."

(Editing by Jerry Norton)

See Reuters article here

* Note: David Atwood has been a longtime friend of The Journey of Hope and a great encourager/supporter in Journey's efforts in Texas.

Another comment about Brewer execution and in response to criticism of assumed silence by death penalty opponents:

Gloria Rubac said: ALL the anti-death penalty organizations in Texas opposed the execution of Russell Brewer...ALL of us oppose ALL executions, even those of despicable racists. There was an unusually large crowd protesting in Huntsville... ...which groups did not protest brewer’s execution (?). The organization that I work with, the Texas Death Penalty Abolition Movement has opposed the execution for James Byrd’s killers since 1998. We went to Jasper for Byrd’s funeral in 1998 with flyers explaining why the death penalty should not be a punishment for this unspeakable hate crime.

Byrd’s son, Ross Byrd, spoke at our annual march to abolish the death penalty back in 2002. We held a press conference and then caravaned with Martin Luther King III and Ross Byrd when they drove to Brazoria County to the prison where Shawn Berry is doing life and met with him for two hours.

Randy Gardner's page updated! Brief Note...


GO here
Randy Gardner and family sending love and freedom to Ronnie as he faces/faced execution by firing squad - promising to bring love and healing to youth in his name.


Randy's daughter comforted at his execution.
She felt deeply his love for her and was very close to him.

Also be sure to see the amazing and NEEDED article posted just below about yet one more honest person who refuses to see revenge - ie - state murder or the Death Penalty as offering any peace or closure at all. Note as well the quiet mention at end of this article Death Penalty's Unlikely Opponents - GO here (At the end of that article see the rare and moving comment by a son protesting the execution of his father's murderer.

Death penalty's unlikely opponents

By Eliott C. McLaughlin

Charisse Coleman has no real compassion for the man who walked into the Thrifty Liquor Store in Shreveport, Louisiana, in 1995 and put three bullets in her brother, Russell.

But she doesn't want Bobby Lee Hampton -- one of more than seven dozen killers on Louisiana's death row -- executed, either.

"My opposition to the death penalty has nothing to do with Bobby Lee Hampton," Coleman said. "He's a bad dude. He's never going to be a good dude. If I got a call that said Bobby Lee Hampton dropped dead in his cell last night, I don't think it would create a ripple in my pond."

She added, though, "I will be goddamned if I will let Bobby Lee Hampton make me a victim, too, by taking me down that road of bitterness and revenge."

Coleman, 50, is among the most unlikely opponents of the death penalty, people who lost loved ones to unspeakable violence yet believe executing the killer will do nothing for family members or society.

Their stance is backed by groups like Murder Victims' Families for Reconciliation and Murder Victims' Families for Human Rights, and their reasons aren't as religious or political as one might think. Some feel so strongly they've spoken against the death penalty even when it wasn't an option in their loved one's case.

There's no denying most Americans are pro-death penalty. They have been since 1967, according to Gallup, which regularly conducts polls asking whether Americans are for or against capital punishment in murder cases. Support reached as high as 80% in 1994 and declined to 61% in a poll this month -- the lowest since 1972, the year the Supreme Court temporarily halted executions.

Add a little nuance, though, and sentiments shift. When asked to choose between the death penalty and life in prison, 50% of respondents in a recent CNN/ORC International Poll said they favored a life sentence, compared to 48% who preferred the death penalty.

Two executions, two views

Perhaps the split in opinion was most evident on September 21, when two executions were met with vastly different reactions.

Thousands of people -- including entertainers, dignitaries, Amnesty International and the pope -- denounced the execution of Troy Davis. Some said they believed Davis was innocent in the slaying of a Georgia police officer. Others said there was too much doubt to execute him. (The officer's family, like the relatives of many victims, had no qualms about seeing the person convicted of their loved one's murder put to death.)

Meanwhile in Texas, the lethal injection of Lawrence Brewer, who took part in the racially charged dragging death of James Byrd Jr., barely elicited a whisper.

Byrd's son, Ross, voiced the loudest protest, saying, "You can't fight murder with murder," but to no avail.

Please keep reading here.

Saturday, October 22, 2011


Robi Damelin

“The first words that came out of my mouth were 'do not take revenge in the name of my son"

Abstract/Excerpt:

"...There is no revenge for a lost loved one. I too would have released the whole world in order to get David back.

I belong to a group of Palestinians and Israelis called the Parents Circle - Families Forum. We are more than 600 families who have lost an immediate family member to the conflict. Our long-term vision is to create a framework for reconciliation process that would be an integral part of future political agreements.

When it was first disclosed that David’s killer may be walking free I received phone calls from my Palestinian friends, also members of the Parents Circle - Families Forum. They had listened carefully to the names of the prisoners released and when they had heard that David’s killer might be amongst them, they were in great turmoil. They wanted to come to my house, some from the West Bank, to be with me. They said they were proud of my reaction and that they also understood how painful it is.

I think of the pain of the Palestinian mothers in our group. Their pain is the same as mine and the tears are the same colour. Some of the men in our group had served jail sentences and today they are tireless campaigners for reconciliation..."

Read more from and about Robi's story and that of The Parents Circle at the top of One Heart For Peace GO here to see the two posts for Saturday, October 22st, 2011.

Be SURE to WATCH this moving short VIDEO Plz take just a few minutes to WATCH this most moving video of the new effort for peace which has just been launced by The Parents Circle

GO here

You may also want to go to www.bloodrelations.org for more information on the newest peace project to meet real human need now or CLICK here where ALL are now invited to donate your blood (or to do so by support) and send our message across asking everyone: Could you hurt someone who had your blood running through their veins?

Friday, October 21, 2011

VIDEO - Meditation: Rais Bhuiyan - Hate Crime Victim Forgives


Rais Bhuiyan
for credit see end of post *

Find a reposting of a short NPR article and Video (link below) by very inter-faith oriented Christian blog-site Oct 21, 2011

Title: Hate Crime Victim Forgives

Date: October 21, 2011
NPR ran this story:

In 2011, Rais Bhuiyan strove to save the life of the man who had tried to kill him with a double-barrel shotgun blast to the face. Now blind in one eye, Bhuiyan survived, but Mark Stroman, his attacker, who was on a 2001, post 9/11, rage-powered killing spree, also murdered two Muslim men, simply because they looked Muslim. A white supremacist, Stroman, was aiming to kill Muslims just to vent his rage. A decade later, Stroman, having failed in his final court appeal, sat on Texas’ death row while Bhuiyan, his hate crime victim, worked to stay the execution.

"According to my faith in Islam, there is no hate, no killing. It doesn't allow anything like that. Yes, Mark Stroman did a horrible thing, and he brought a lot of pain and disaster, sufferings in my life. But in return I never hated him. By hating him it will not bring any good to society. But by forgiving him, who knows?" said Bhuiyan. Bhuiyan added that his motivation was that in Islam, saving one human life is the same as saving the entirety of humankind.

When Stroman heard that Bhuiyan was working to save his life, Stroman cried, saying it was this first act of kindness he had ever known and that he was truly and deeply sorry.

Stroman targeted Bhuiyan because of his faith and yet it was Bhuiyan’s faith that propelled him to save Stroman.

Let’s Pray: Dear God, we thank you that people of faith can be heroic examples to us all. Amen.

Here’s a Thought: Forgiveness is love.

Sources:
NPR audio, here

9/11 Hate-Crime Victim Seeks to Save His Attacker by NPR Staff, here

Mark Stroman Blog here

CBS Dallas Man Condemned For Post-9/11 Slaying Loses Appeal
December 28, 2010 3:04 PM, http://dfw.cbslocal.com/2010/12/28/dallas-man-condemned-for-post-911-slaying-loses-appeal/

“Whoever slays a soul, unless it be for a manslaughter or for mischief in the land, it is as though he slew all men; and whoever keeps it alive, it is as though he kept alive all men.” (Quran 5:32)

============

* Photo credit goes to Common Grounds. Rais Bhuiyan is soon to be honored by this group which seeks justice thru peace leaders of all kinds, world-wide. CG has honored the likes of Desmond Tutu. for more GO here

Henry James Walks Out of La. State Pen. (Angola)


photo of Henry James, Angola, thanx to the Innocent Project.

Man cleared after THIRTY years imprisoned for false charges wants to eat some Jumbo Shrimp! (He was behind bars more time than he was free even while he's not that young at 50...good thing he looks so young and fit.)

See these two stories Just In followed by the release from The Innocence Project:
The Grio.com here See more links below just in...

We have wonderful news to share: This afternoon, our client Henry James walked out of the Louisiana State Penitentiary in Angola a free man for the first time in three decades. DNA tests prove his innocence of a 1981 rape, and last night a judge overturned his conviction.

Right now, he is on his way to New Orleans to greet supporters and talk with the media about the injustice he suffered and his plan to build a life at age 50, after losing 30 years in prison for a crime he did not commit.

James was arrested and charged with rape in 1981 after the victim misidentified him as the perpetrator. His conviction was based on faulty evidence, and it took the miraculous discovery of missing evidence to clear him. Blood type tests pointed to his innocence, but his defense attorney failed to share those results with the jury.

The Innocence Project accepted James’ case in 2005, but several searches for evidence proved fruitless. Then, in May 2010, James had an incredible stroke of luck. That day, a lab worker named Milton Dureau was looking for evidence in a different case when he stumbled upon a slide from James’ case. Fortunately, he remembered James’ case number from his earlier search. The evidence was sent to a lab, where DNA testing proved James’ innocence.

James will now begin the long process of building a new life after so many years lost to wrongful incarceration. Send him a note of support today to welcome him home.

James’ legal team includes the Innocence Project, our partners at the Innocence Project New Orleans and Willkie Farr & Gallagher LLP.

Best,

The Innocence Project Team

========
More current links here and
see copy of the legal release form by pdf here

Thursday, October 20, 2011

From UGANDA: Wednesday, 19 October 2011 GREETINGS & APPRECIATION

I greet you in the name of Love for our offenders.

Greetings from the 241 Inmates on the Death row in Upper Prison-Luzira, Kampala Uganda.

For sure your words were a great insipiration to them and even to us who are doing all it takes to reform them as they extend words of request for forgiveness unto those they offended.

Right from the day you visited them in their Condemn Cells, I wish to notify you that in this period, 02 Inmates, namely Muramuzi Herbert and Lubowa Robert, had their death sentence overturned and awarded a sentence of 30 years including those they had spent on the death row. They now have only 09 years to serve and then walk to their freedom.

However, they were able to have this second chance in life courtesy of their attainment of FORMAL EDUCATION while on the death row. The recommendation that our office submitted to the Judges as one of their mitigation factor, played a tremendous role in having their death sentence overturned.

It is to this end that I wish to extend our sincere appreciation for the wonderful package you left for the Inmates' Schools at Upper Prison-Luzira, Kampala Uganda. this School received 39 Dozens of Writing/Notes Books and 50 Pens. I tell you, that "Blessed is the Hand that giveth...".

It was a great boost for us in a situation of scarcity that thee Inmates Schools operate in. We received them from the Franciscan Prison Ministry Team.
Thanks and may the Almighty GOD fill your purse a hundredfold.

Our Schools have started a season for national examinations which commenced on 14.10.2011 and shall end on 1.12.2011, encompassing Secondary School Level Entry Examinations, High School Entry Examinations, and University Entry examinations. It is a hectic and financially expensive period but we hope that by GOD's Grace, we shall sail through safely.

In all there are 128 Candidates, out of which 53 are Inmates on the Death row. This gives us encouragement when we see you coming up and promising to support our efforts in providing them with formal education which is a starting point for their reintegration into society as productive and law abiding upon their release.
We shall continue endeavoring to provide this vital ingredient towards their reformation and rehabilitation, and as you promised, we call for your support in all forms, for it is said..:"The good you do will all (be) coming back a hundredfold to you...in working good for GOD on earth".

Early January 2012, we shall be undertaking new admissions into School for formal education and at the same time as the Inmates on the Death row told you in their request for alms, Registraton for Candidates for Entry Examinations to various levels shall be conducted at Elementary, Lower and Upper Secondary.

Please do not be tired to support us when we turn to you for some modest financial support which in any case does range between US $ 5000-8000 for all levels combined and for all eligible inmates which must be paid to the Ministry of Education-Uganda National Examinations Board if they are to sit for these examinations.

I would love to identify with and be part of your efforts in overturning this vengeful punishment in the name of Death Penalty since "Two bad things cannot turn into anything good".

Should the State kill...or it should rehabilitate?

This is why I stand out with my head high to call upon you to support us - so that the seeds you are planting in the whole world of this noble fight can yield great fruits internationally. (So that)using a multidimensional approach such as Rehabilitative Formal Education (which) we are championing in Uganda can be replicated in other parts of the world as a panacea to recidivism and state revenge sometimes on innocent victims cum offenders.

I shall continue updating you on the trends we are taking to realise your mission on earth and we are ready to combine efforts with you in this aspect.

I wish you well and good health and all your loved ones as we continue in the struggle.

Once again thanks for your inspirational visit to Upper Prison, for it left an indelible mark in the lives of those who listened to your testimonies, I inclusive.

We love you all.

GOD bless.

BIRYOMUMAISHO ANATOLI OWAKUBARUHO
SENIOR SOCIAL WORKER/HEAD TEACHER UPPER PRISON SCHOOLS

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

The Journey and Bill Pelke (Esp. for New Readers)



Journey of Hope…from Violence to Healing

The story we share here with you is a remarkable story - written by a man who had to experience the murder of a beloved family member.

Dealing with the pain of loss and the revenge feelings towards the murderers, this is a story of forgiveness and healing, of compassion and love. The story tells how his organization “ Journey of Hope…from Violence to Healing”, started and how the members want to share there extreme painful experiences, from either side of the fence….I want to introduce you to a great man and a dear friend of mine, Bill Pelke...

Plz read this remarkable, well-written story anew or for the first time...

GO here

Thanx for this posting to Angela whom I hope will soon be able to join us here at The Journey blog and have more NEW reports from Charity, Edward, Randy and the two Bills as they continue the Journey in Africa...

Monday, October 17, 2011

UPDATED: RANDY GARDNER with the Kids on Africa Journey


Randy in Africa with Journey...

Update: I did a little research on October 25th and found these moving articles of a most caring family who are bringing good out of their executed loved one's troubled yet loving and transformed life. Here are the articles. There is so much depth here and possibilities for change for us all:

Go here
and here and finally here Readers are likely to find more articles on Ronnie (Randy's brother shot by firing sqad) and life behind bars of seeking to make amends and make good to all he possibly could. His deep remorse and loving concern extended also to Jason who was three when his father was murdered. Jason forgave Ronnie for the crime.

Note that if you look up more info on Randy Gardner, Ronnie's brother, he's NOT the famous world skater champion nor the champion who held is breath an inordinate length of time. However, we at Journey already know Randy's a champion with kids and turning tragedy into sunlight!

Randy founded Back to Basics Organic Farm and Ranch in honor of his brother, Ronnie Lee Gardner, who was executed by the state of Utah by firing squad on June 18, 2010.

To see a video and more about Randy's vision for youth with the need for special, healing direction, plz CLICK here

After just a few minutes seeing Randy's photo and a little of his vision, I sure do want to meet him someday and hope to post more on him when I learn more. His Back To Basics Organic Garden vision looks like a kind of country version of what the new (headed for an award) film "The Interruptors" is all about in a troubled city context - it's all about LOVE.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Edward (Mpagi Edward Edmary) and Uganda's Death Row

Edward (Mpagi Edward Edmary)

Edward's family

ALERT: Be sure to visit Journey of Hope...Events Diary Blog OFTEN (and READ the moving, fascinating archived diary entries & memoirs here to see the progression of the trip, photos, etc.
Find other links on the END of post just below.

NOTE: Surely, Edward and The Journey will help Uganda achieve the goals named below for better, more humane and accurate justice in Uganda. May the same goals be sought and improved in a more effective way in the US as well.

Edward at the UN - You Tube video here

Here are some more references to Edward's life and work at Angela's blog here

ABSTRACT from new release on Uganda below : "...three rulings significantly improve how the death penalty is used in Uganda. Unfortunately however, they have not been fully implemented. For example, there are individuals in Uganda who have been on death row for 18 years. People facing the death penalty often do not routinely have good access to lawyers or even legal advice."

Mon Oct 10, 2011 10:46
78.35.118.31

Uganda: Abolish the Death Penalty; It Undermines Human Dignity

Martin Shearman

10 October 2011

opinion

Right now in Uganda, there are more than 470 prisoners on death row. In 2010 in Uganda, five death sentences were handed out.

Today is World Day against the Death Penalty. People, governments and countries unite to oppose the death penalty. It undermines human dignity and there is no firm evidence that it has any value as a deterrent.

The UK nationally, and as a member state of the European Union, opposes the death penalty in all circumstances as a matter of principle and believes that it should be abolished. And we are not alone. 138 countries, including 16 African Union members, have abolished the death penalty in law or practice. In December 2010 more UN Member states than ever before supported the UN General Assembly resolution on stopping the use of the death penalty.

Now you may disagree. In Uganda, there are currently 16 offences that carry the death penalty and these include crimes such as rape, murder and espionage. You may believe that people found guilty of these crimes deserve such a punishment.

However, regardless of your views on the death penalty, there are still important reasons to ensure that its use meets minimum standards. No one would argue that it should be used for anything but the most serious crimes. It is important that those charged are given a fair trial: if an innocent person is convicted and wrongly executed, you cannot make it up to them. It is important that people on death row are treated humanely. These minimum standards should be met to protect human dignity.

The Constitutional Court of Uganda agrees. In 2009, it made three landmark rulings on how the death penalty is used. Firstly, it declared that it is cruel, inhuman and degrading for a convict to be on death row for longer than three years. It ruled that these convicts should have their cases reviewed and, if appropriate, their death penalties commuted to life imprisonment.

Secondly, the court declared it is unconstitutional for crimes to automatically result in a death penalty. Mandatory death penalties do not allow for the individual facts of the case to be considered. Finally, the court ruled that it is unlawful for civilians to be given a death penalty in a military court. The Ugandan People's Defence Force has since said that it will pass civilian cases to the High Court.

These three rulings significantly improve how the death penalty is used in Uganda. Unfortunately however, they have not been fully implemented. For example, there are individuals in Uganda who have been on death row for 18 years. People facing the death penalty often do not routinely have good access to lawyers or even legal advice.

East Africa
Uganda
Legal Affairs

This is why the UK is supporting Ugandan civil societies' efforts led by the Foundation for Human Rights Initiative to promote the implementation of the Constitutional Court rulings and ensure minimum standards are met. Firstly, the initiative will help prevent innocent people being wrongly convicted by providing legal support for a fair trial.

Secondly, it is working to have death penalty sentences changed to life imprisonment when prisoners have spent more than three years on death row. Thirdly, it is helping to ensure that judges and magistrates are fully informed about the sentencing guidelines.

Lastly, it is supporting the amendment of laws that carry a mandatory death penalty. The UK hopes that Uganda will abolish the death penalty. But in the meantime, it is important that minimum standards on its use are met. We applaud the rulings of Uganda's Constitutional Court on the death penalty and look forward to their full implementation.

Mr Shearman it the British high commissioner to Uganda.

ALSO read more in All Africa here

Be sure not to miss the inspiring Photo, excerpts and find LINKS just below!

SAVE LINKS & Updates & Great Photo of Bill Babbitt with Ugandan CHILDREN

Bill Babbitt (Bill has been speaking around the world about his brother Manny who was executed in 1999. Bill has helped raise over $2000 so that this Journey can take place....) He also has a beautiful - especially articulate daughter. What an effective, heart-felt man and family. Who doesn't LOVE Bill Babbitt?

GREAT SCREEN-SAVER or Wall Poster idea: Try clicking on photo once to double the size - Bill B has a marvelously emotive face - and what a beautiful banner, eh?
(Just posted late yesterday! Some terrific photographer - Charity?)

At the very beginning of the Archive don't miss the compelling/inspirational "Follow the Signs..." by Charity here (some of us who've chosen not to do FB have missed some of the most poignant items of all - but will do better, promise!)

More on Charity's Ella Foundation soon...

We need to revisit Angela's posting of Bill Pelke's and Journey's story again soon.

LINKS TO KEEP HANDY to be able to check out as new items keep coming in OFTEN and to review older gems:

DAILY Uganda Journey blog/photo album for yourself: here

FaceBook Wall- GO here to READ EXTRA comments like this one from Lisa Rea: Great to see this. Mpagi Edward Edmary was an innocent man on death row in Uganda. He is alive today to tell his story. I support the work of the Journey of Hope as it works for true justice for victims of crime. (Lisa is a friend and a FAMILY member of Journey. She has also done a lot to support Edward personally and his work with kids. Someday soon we need to let you know about or review here own special calling.) Also, go see Debbie Kearns pertinent timely YouTube videos and her passionate comments.

Or this one by Bill Pelke: It has been great to see Edward, his wife, mother and family. He is recovering from a stroke, but will be traveling with us to Rwanda for for a meeting of African nations trying to Abolish the Death Penalty in Africa. The president of Rwanda will address the conference. God's Peace to all.

(or if on FB, add your own comments! either way, there is no problem with clicking to read the latest.)

Here is the ministry page for Edward's Kids here

To read more about Edward, plz GO here

Finally yet NOT LEAST, PLZ help support this one of a kind UGANDAN Journey

Bill Pelke
President, Journey of Hope…from Violence to Healing
WWW.JourneyofHope.org
877-9 24GIVE (4483)
“The answer is love and compassion for all of humanity”

or GO here

Monday, October 10, 2011

CHILDREN in Uganda - Bill sent on World Day against the DP

Ugandan photo posted on World Day Against the Death Penalty


Bill posted this on his diary: October 9, 2011

Charity, Bill and Randy...together with the radioman :-)

Plz see the Comments which include some good links to the World Day...and add your own. Also, be sure to go to the posts below for links to FB, to Bill's dairy, to Charity's work with Edward to help Ugandan Children and to Angela's NEW history of Bill and Journey.

Help us out if you have any questions and photos as we are having to juggle lots of busy schedules and I may be missing for a few days...

Friday, October 07, 2011

Hurrah! , we are in Africa! Friday, 7 Oct 2011

From Bill Pelke:

All right,
we made it to Nairobi in fine shape although the plane ride was not as nice as our previous flight from Dallas to Amsterdam.

It was a crowded flight; I don’t think there was one empty seat on the Jumbo Jet.

Since our bags had been checked to Entebbe we headed to the gate where we were told we could get our gate pass for our final leg on Kenya Airline to Entebbe, Uganda.
At the gate we were told the door to the plane had been shut and we would be rebooked for the first flight out in the morning. That wasn`t what what we wanted to hear after our two long flights to arrive in Africa. We elected to spend the night at the airport rather than leave and try to find a hotel so late at night when we would just have to return early in the morning.

I had checked prices earlier in the week and prices were very steep so we decided to stay at the airport.

We called Edward’s friend Ronald who was supposed to pick us up in Entebbe. He had already made the hour drive to meet us and I had to tell him we missed our flight. He thanked us for calling him and said he would come back in the morning at nine o’clock. He told us that Edward was sick. We had known that Edward had been ill but he had been confident he would be better by the time we got there. We hope he is recovering and will be fine. He has Ronald helping him organize our tour.
I am glad I had Ronald’s phone number.

We have been killing time catching a few little cat naps and just ate a meal at the only restaurant open in the middle of the night. We did get into a few good conversations on the last flight and have been passing out information all along the way.

But hurrah!, we are in Africa.

We are tired but we are in good spirits.

For more photos and diary entries, plz go to the top of Journey of Hope Diary here and also to a descriptive overview of the anticipated trip/events here and of course the FB wall...Send this out to others: http://www.facebook.com/JourneyOfHope?v=wall and/or CLICK here (Again, if you like me are not "on" fb you don't need to be a member or sign up to look and see what's up.)

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

UGANDA Journey of Hope Begins - Bon Voyage!

L to R:
Bill Pelke, Rais Bhuiyan, Genifer Kaye, Charity Lee and Bill Babbitt

(I just found this photo on fb wall and the journeyofhope diary. Journey may have Genifer Kaye to thank for this photo) For more photos and diary entries, plz go to the top of Journey of Hope Diary here and also to a descriptive overview of the anticipated trip/events here

Another Journey begins (written by Bill Pelke a few days ago)...

This may be the most important Journey of my life and for the "Journey of Hope…from Violence to Healing".

I boarded a plane in Anchorage, Alaska and am on my way to Seattle, Washington, to meet up with Bill Babbitt. During our 4 plus hour lay-over we will meet for lunch with James Basden. James and Bill have a common bond. Both of them had brothers that were executed. James has been very supportive of our African Journey of Hope.

From Seattle, Bill (2TT’s Babbitt) and I will fly to Dallas, Texas where we will stay overnight, and then head for Uganda tomorrow afternoon. Tomorrow morning we will meet up with Charity Lee who will accompany us on this Journey.

The three of us will have breakfast with Rick Halperin, Journey of Hope board member, dear friend, and Human Rights professor at the Southern Methodist University (SMU), and Rais Bhuiyan, the man who forgave his attacker in the 9/11 aftermath killings that took place in the Dallas area.

Several others will be joining us, hopefully Stan Allridge, whose brother James was executed by the state of Texas in 2004. I stood behind Stan, Sister Helen Prejean, Dave Atwood and others and watched as the state of Texas put poison into James blood and killed him. Stan also watched another brother be executed in 1995.

I have never met Rais before so I am looking forward to that.

And then Charity, 2TT’s and I head for Uganda. We have to fly to Amsterdam, then to Nairobi, Kenya and from there on to Entebbe, Uganda, where we will meet up with death row exoneree Edward Edmary Mpagi. I haven’t seen Edward since 2007 on the Texas Journey of Hope.

Randy Gardner will join us Uganda several days later.

This is a dream come true for all of us. Not only for Bill, Randy, Charity, Edward and I but also for Kathy Chrism who has been helping Edward from afar for many years now to build his orphanage/ school in Uganda.

Kathy runs the organization "Dream One World" and her dream is being fulfilled with our Uganda trip. There are few things I have done in my life that I would consider as God inspired, as this trip. It came together on short notice and the support fell into place. The organizing has gone like clockwork as if all the stars were in line for this great event.

We will be taking our message of love and compassion for all of humanity and helping Edward not only to abolish the death penalty in Uganda, but also helping "Hands off Cain" and the "World Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty" while being in Rwanda where we will meet with the African delegation trying to bring about abolition there.

Then we go to Nairobi, Kenya on a mission of justice and reconciliation where we will be speaking in a large church before coming home.

More later.

Love and Peace, Bill

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NOTE: Here's a quick look at the "Dream One World" Project - and what an effort for peace this looks to be! GO here Go with God, Edward, Kathy, Bill and the rest of the "crew".



Look below for other ways to connect with The Journey...

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Taking a Break...

Readers, Finally, I'm going to take a break to update my technique here...I have been wanting to do this for some time. I want to work with other bloggers here - possibly a new co-blogger - and to confer with the folk doing the Journey of Hope facebook wall/web to see how we might continue to polish our good flow.

Meantime, GO to the facebook wall if you wish (you can read what's on the wall there even if you are not signed up to fb without signing up). See our latest comments on the fb wall and great work with the links to videos and more (Looks like Bill Pelke will be blogging his Journey in Uganda from the new Journey Diary which should link to the fb wall as well - See the post JUST ABOVE.)

Meantime, take a little scroll through our archives here for a wide perspective of issues and featured stories. Remember also to check out other sites listed in the lower right column.

I'll try to check periodically to post any comments submitted if appropriate, clear and not anonymous.

May we BE PEACE.

All the Best,

Connie

Monday, October 03, 2011

Updated: Imagine A World Without Hate

Photo found on Reprieve UK site

On October 4, 2011 I also found this article on the death of one of Mark Stroman's pen pals: Goodbye Marge check out the Reprieve site often at reprieve.org.uk - GO here

September 21, 2011, on World Peace Day, Rais Bhuiyan said "This is the anniversary of my shooting...The lessons I’ve learned during the last decade, and the journey I’ve taken moved me from a place of pain on the deepest level to a place of hope for a kinder world."

Read Rais Bhuiyan's words for yourself.

"...Yes! We can build a better world by paying attention and noticing where we blame and build walls with our family, friends, neighbors, and colleagues. Then we can choose to change and diminish anger...It’s not easy, but the future of humanity depends on us. Our actions CAN heal. I know this because 10 years ago I was the survivor of a hate crime."

Here is a man who, along with the widows of Mark Stroman's two murdered victims, would choose to try to stop their perpetrator's execution. This rare witness of genuine forgiveness led to a dramatic change in the life of their perpetrator. A few weeks ago, countless people from all backgrounds joined in the plea for Stroman's life.

Read entire post and more here

Let's choose life and healing today by accepting this transformative invitation from this new movement:

"We invite you to join us in taking this image beyond imagination to reality. Learn about hate crimes through our website and work to prevent them. See our Get Involved section here

We’ve got to stop the hate and give peace a chance! Let’s work together to end the cycle of hate and violence, and make this world a better place for us and our next generations!"

Read an article about this story as well from Huffington Post here

See an earlier press conference on Reprieve's UK site - Rais Buiyan press conference in Germany from 05 July 2011 - here

Some of the places/events where "World Without Hate" plans to go...
We are taking the message into the world by speaking at:

- Churches
- Schools
- Prisons
- Universities
- Governments, and anywhere we can.

Events & Activities

October:

- Search for Common Ground, Washington, D.C.
- American University, D.C.
- Meeting with the co-founder of “Journey of Hope”
- CAIR (Council on American –Islamic Relations), Washington, DC.

November:

- Amnesty Regional West Conference, CA
- Amnesty Regional South Conference, NC
- Rome, Italy

December:

- Rome, Italy

Saturday, October 01, 2011

Asheville North Carolina: A Unique Position

Asheville stands in a unique position to positively affect this national movement and debate. The very next day after Troy Davis was executed as innocent, the North Carolina Innocence Commission, the only one in the country, found three Buncombe County men (translate as Asheville) completely innocent for murder and released them immediately from the Buncombe County Jail after serving a long ten years.

These so-called “Guiding Light 3” pled guilty upon threat of the death penalty, but ten years later, their attorneys found a suppressed video tape of the convenience store shooting. Unbelievably, the shooters' faces had been taped over with an episode of the soap opera, “Guiding Light,” within two hours after the tape arrived in the possession of the Buncombe County Sheriff's Department. No, this is not fiction. Three Buncombe County men were convicted for a murder they did not commit while the Buncombe County Sheriff's office framed them with a soap opera, evidence that was withheld by our DA's office.

In addition, the Asheville Police Department has been rocked with criminal scandal when it was discovered that large amounts of drugs, guns and money turned up “missing” from the evidence room and many large-scale drug trafficking cases had to be dismissed. Our Police Chief, Hogan, immediately “retired.” The SBI and independent auditors were called in and are expected to issue preliminary findings in coming weeks.

Other instances of local police and prosecutorial misconduct include racially targeting a Mexican man with trafficking 90 lbs of “tortilla dough,” (also, true story), and the random, unwarranted brutality of local musician Juan Holliday, as well as increasing excessive force and illegal searches, seizures and arrests. Anyone familiar with our local criminal justice system, as myself, can testify to the corruption in both law enforcement and prosecution. We have several bad apples that need to be removed, and to support our exemplary police officers, of which there are many.

Asheville must come together to educate itself about our local corruption and demand it's end, as we stand ready to employ a new Asheville Police Chief.

The execution of Troy Davis was a clear human rights violation, as leaders from all over the world strenuously called for it's halt. Seven of the nine witnesses recanting ever implicating Troy, one of the remaining two was the real killer. Pages of affidavits revealed police intimidation and threats to implicate Troy. Anyone with any sense could read those affidavits and their corroborating details and immediately see police misconduct against a black man led to Troy's conviction and ultimately execution by the State of Georgia.

As the spectacular timing suggests, North Carolina, and, in particular, Buncombe County, hold a key towards preventing wrongful convictions and ending execution of the innocent in the future, and perhaps ending the death penalty all together. The North Carolina Innocence Commission worked. The Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles did not.

Journey of Hope and Bill Headed for Uganda

Bill Pelke

I am really getting excited about the Uganda Journey of Hope.

So is Bill Babbitt. Bill has been speaking around the world about his brother Manny who was executed in 1999. Bill has helped raise over $2000 so that this Journey can take place.
...
Randy Gardner is excited about going too. Randy founded Back to Basics Randy called the Journey of Hope office last year right after Christmas and told how his brother had been executed by firing squad five months earlier. Randy said he was busting at the gut to speak out against the death penalty with his firsthand experience. Randy will be having that chance when the Journey goes to Africa.

These two brothers will be sharing the torture that their families went through because of state sanctioned executions.

Charity Lee called the Journey of Hope office a few months ago and told me about the ELLA Foundation, a non-profit named after her four year old daughter. Ella was killed by her 13 year-old brother. Charity has seen crime from both sides of the fence. She has determined that Love conquers all. She told me she was looking for opportunities to share that love through speaking opportunities.

About three months ago, Edward Edmary Mpagi asked me if the Journey of Hope could come to Uganda and help him in his lonely efforts for abolition. My friend Dirk Sisson opened a door, other doors followed suit and in 5 short days the Journey of Hope is headed to Uganda.

The timing was set to coincide with the ninth annual World Day Against the Death Penalty on Oct 10. We leave for Uganda on October 2 and will speak in middle school, high school and college classes. We will be speaking at rallies, visiting the men’s death row, the women’s prison and family members of death row inmates.

Since Edward was exonerated from Uganda’s death row, he has spent his time working to build a school and orphanage for the children of death row and other inmates who were forced to leave school when their family member was incarcerated. For more information on Edward go to Dream One World When Maria Donatelli, Coordinator for the World Coalition to Abolish the death Penalty was made aware that the Journey of Hope was going to be in Uganda during World Day, she invited the Journey of Hope to
attend a two day conference sponsored by the WCADP and Hands Off Cain in Kigali, Rwanda October 12-14.

From Rwanda we head to Nairobi Kenya for several meetings returning to the US on October 19th.

I will try to make frequent posts on the Journey of Hope events Diary blog

Thank you for your support.

Please keep us in your prayers and thoughts.

In Love and Peace,
Bill


Bill Pelke
President, Journey of Hope…from Violence to Healing
WWW.JourneyofHope.org
877-9 24GIVE (4483)
“The answer is love and compassion for all of humanity”

Plz follow The Journey on FB Wall

NOTE on REGGIE - TROY Davis' Legacy

Be sure to go to Amnesty to the Take Action section to see how to help stop a similar execution from happening in Missouri where there is ALSO TOO MUCH DOUBT. See Comments below for ongoing reports.
The top photo found at - ncadp.org - of a rooftop sign visible to vehicles on the Bruckner Expressway in the Bronx came to us via twitter and demonstrates the permanance and deep resonance of the case of Troy Davis. On The Huffington Post, NCADP's Executive Director reflects on how the execution of Troy Davis impacts efforts to abolish the death penalty. Find the photo with CURRENT alerts to sign on NCADP's current home page GO here

Martina Correia CBSNews.com
In this 2nd Thursday, Sept. 11, 2008 file photo, Troy Davis supporter Jessica Peifer, left, is comforted by Davis' older sister Martina Correia, right, during an Amnesty International rally at the State Capitol in Atlanta. Correia, the older sister of Troy Davis says she's not angry following his execution of her brother Troy Davis in Georgia, but she's determined to keep fighting the death penalty in her brother's memory. (AP Photo/Jenni Girtman)

Troy Davis' Legacy: A New, Deeply Personal Movement
By Jen Marlowe and Kung Li,
Colorlines

01 October 11

On September 21, at 11:08 p.m., Martina Correia leaned forward in her wheelchair on the grounds of the Georgia Diagnostic and Classification Prison in Jackson, Georgia. Though weak from battling illness, she called out to Laura Moye, Amnesty USA's death penalty abolition campaign director.

"Laura, come here. I want you to meet this young woman. She drove all the way from San Francisco to be here." Correia asked Moye to be sure to plug the young woman into the abolition work taking place in California.

Neither Correia nor Moye had any way to know that at the exact moment Correia was recruiting the young activist into the movement, her brother, Troy Davis, had just succumbed to death by lethal injection.

The young woman was one of hundreds of thousands of people recruited, directly or indirectly, by Correia to the fight against her brother's death sentence. Nearly a million wrote letters and signed petitions on behalf of Davis. In the weeks after Georgia set his execution date, thousands took to the streets and marched in Atlanta and thousands more marched around the world. On Sept. 21, over 600 made the journey to Jackson to protest the execution and stand in solidarity with Troy Davis's family. It was an uproar, utterly unprecedented.

Almost exactly 20 years earlier, on the same prison grounds in Jackson, fewer than a dozen people were on hand for the execution of Warren McCleskey, a black man sentenced to death for killing a white police officer. There was no physical evidence that McCleskey was the shooter, leaving the state's main evidence a man who testified McCleskey had confessed to him. For years, the state hid the fact that the witness was a police informant, and that the police had illegally created the testimony by placing the informant in McCleskey's jail cell.

McCleskey the man is little remembered, but one of his appeals that reached the Supreme Court changed legal history. In McCleskey v. Kemp, the US Supreme Court considered statistical evidence that Georgia's death penalty is carried out in a racially discriminatory manner. The evidence was undisputed, but the Court understood that if a death sentence could be overturned by statistics showing racial disparities, then no part of the criminal justice system would be safe from legal challenge. Racial disparities far more yawning than those surrounding the death penalty exist in arrests, detention and sentencing.

So the Supreme Court created an impossible test: McCleskey must show the racial discrimination was intentional. That is, McCleskey could only prove racial discrimination if the district attorney or trial judge stepped forward and proclaimed that they had acted on the basis of race.

With McCleskey, the Supreme Court decided it would rather tolerate a racist criminal justice system than open the floodgates to legal challenges about the system's racial disparities.

Troy Davis's case, fought as hard in the courts as McCleskey's, exposed another morally questionable judicial preference - for finality over truth. No matter how flawed the process that produces a conviction, the burden shifts to the convicted to prove claims of innocence. It is a standard designed to help the system bury its mistakes - in Troy's case, quite literally so. The judiciary would rather get it done than get it right.

For the last 30 years, the battle over the death penalty has been contained inside courtrooms and on the pages of legal briefs. The judicial system, asked to judge the foundations of its own house, papered over the problems of racial bias and doubt.

But then something extraordinary happened, as support for Troy Davis grew. These fundamental problems of doubt and racial bias moved outside the confines of the judiciary and shifted - quite abruptly - from being legal questions to personal ones.

Correia is most responsible for making things personal. People were drawn to Troy Davis's case because she insisted that people connect with her brother not as a convict or a death row inmate, but as a person. The connection between Troy and his supporters was at times literally made through his sister. In 2009, Correia patched Troy through from prison to a conference call with activists from Amnesty International.

"Everything is coming to a head and people are starting to wake up more and more," Davis said on the call. "This is just the beginning of something … we're going to win this fight, we're going to continue to open these eyes, we're going to continue to open these prison doors, we're going to continue to hold accountable all those that are in charge of these unjust systems."

As activists sought out who to hold accountable, it became clear that what Justice John Paul Stevens famously called the "machinery of death" is in fact made up of individual human beings, each with their own moral compass, and so each one morally accountable.

There is Larry Chisolm, the Chatham County district attorney, who put in the request for a death warrant. There is the Superior Court judge named Penny Freesmann who signed it. The man who set the actual date and time of execution is Brian Owens, commissioner of the Georgia Department of Corrections. Five human beings comprise the Georgia State Board of Pardons and Parole, three of whom voted to deny Davis clemency. A group of correctional officers walked Troy to the execution chamber. Prison nurses prepared the IV lines. Carlo Musso, a doctor, collected $18,000 for overseeing the execution. Warden Carl Humphrey ordered over 125 CERT officers to dress out in full riot gear and stand guard so that those inside the prison could carry out the killing.

But the most significant shift into the personal can be understood through the blue Amnesty USA t-shirts that Troy supporters have been wearing for years, with white letters spelling, "I Am Troy Davis."

Initially, the t-shirts were a sign of solidarity with the plight of a possibly innocent man on death row. But many are now wearing them with a sense of anger and identification that is far wider and deeper than the issue of Davis's innocence. Davis's execution, the events leading up to it and the feelings growing out of it have mobilized those who have been targeted and under attack by our criminal justice apparatus, especially (but not only) young black men, particularly in the South, and their mothers, sisters, parents and grandparents. What was once primarily a badge of solidarity is now, for many, a declaration of identity.

These young black and brown men and women are taking to heart James Baldwin's plea in "An Open Letter to My Sister, Angela Y. Davis" when she was awaiting trial: "we must fight for your life as though it were our own - which it is - and render impassable with our bodies the corridor to the gas chamber. For, if they take you in the morning, they will be coming for us that night."

Angela Davis was acquitted, and years later in an essay advocating the abolition of not only the death penalty but the entire prison industrial complex, wrote that "we are fighting the same battles over and over again, but in doing so in community, we are ever enlarging, ever expanding our notion of freedom."

It is a sentiment echoed by Troy Davis, who repeatedly stressed that "we need to continue to stand together and educate each other and don't give up the fight."

The fight is not metaphorical. There are people determined to end capital punishment, and there are people determined to use it. The latest battle took place September 21, 2011, in Jackson, Georgia. Inside, hundreds of people carried out their parts in the script for killing Troy Davis, while outside, hundreds more - including four busloads of students from Armstrong, Savannah State, Morehouse, Spelman and Atlanta University - stood, prayed, and raged in opposition.

One of the people in the crowd at Jackson that night was Cara McCleskey, Warren McCleskey's now adult daughter. Twenty legal appeals and a small army of lawyers did not save her father's life. The million people who rallied behind Troy did not save his. The battles against the death penalty and against the racism of our criminal justice system will, as Angela Davis predicted, continue to be fought over and over again.

But something profound has shifted. Millions have had their eyes opened due to Troy Davis. For others, he made visible what they already knew, through personal experience, about the racism embedded in the criminal justice system. Thousands of young, African American men and women in the South are declaring "I am Troy Davis" as if their lives depend on it. We are standing together in a moment of expansion, which, if seized with the love and fury that surrounded the Davis family in Jackson last week, could bring us all closer to free.
END


Michael Henry and other protesters gather on the steps of the Georgia Capitol building in Atlanta on September 20, 2011, the day before the state killed Troy Davis. (photo: Jessica McGowan/Getty Images)

Jen Marlowe is a human rights activist, author and filmmaker. Her most recent book is "The Hour of Sunlight: One Palestinian's Journey from Prisoner to Peacemaker" (Nation Books, 2011). Kung Li is the former executive director of the Southern Center for Human Rights in Atlanta.