Wednesday, October 25, 2006

More Journey updates

Above: Journey of Hope participant Robert Hoelscher, who has been bringing us regular updates on the progress of the Journey of Hope...From Violence to Healing, talks to law students at the College of William and Mary.

The latest dispatch (actually, three dispatches) from Robert:

On Tuesday, October 24, Tracy Spirko and I visited two criminology classes at University of Mary Washington taught by Dr. Joan Olson (thank you Joan!). About two of every three students signed the petitions asking for a death penalty moratorium in Virginia. The students (even those at the 8 a.m. class) were very attentive and respectful and asked lots of questions. These classes don't offer a huge block of time to talk. And it would be unreasonable to expect anyone to fully comprehend all sides of a topic they may not have given much thought to. So the best measure I can think of regarding our discussion is simply to ask the class if our information was helpful. Most nod their heads and say it was. To me, that's a successful event. Our host Debbie Simpson arranged dinner for me and Tracy with some very nice members of her church. Again, we are so grateful for the hospitality extended to us.

On Monday, October 23, Tracy Spirko (family member of death row prisoner) and I visited a group of law school students at the William & Mary Law School in Williamsburg. This was a real treat for me because these law students were also forming an innocence project to investigate suspected cases of wrongful conviction. I had worked for five years for innocence projects in Louisiana and Texas. And Tracy's husband John has been claiming his innocence for every day of his 24 years on Ohio's death row. On top of that, to my pleasant surprise, Virginia exoneree Beverly Monroe attended. I met Beverly two years ago at the National Innocence Network Conference in Austin, Texas where she participated in a panel discussion that I organized. Bottom line, a grand time was had by all. After this event, Tracy and I continued on to Fredericksburg, where we would be speaking on Tuesday and Wednesday. We were greeted in Fredericksburg by local activist Debbie Simpson, who served as our host for the next two days. I cannot say enough about the kindness and generosity of Journey activists and volunteers who, like Debbie, have been so important in making this adventure possible.

Sunday, October 22 was another caravan day. We checked out of Richmond and headed to Williamsburg and a noon event with Sister Helen at the William and Mary Catholic Campus Ministry. It was a great crowd (over 150). Sister Helen was introduced by William and Mary President Gene R. Nichol. She gave another rousing performance. Then on we went to Norfolk and our last event with Sister Helen at the Church of the Ascension in Virginia Beach. This was our largest audience (over 400) on the Journey. After this event, we gathered in our hospitality room at the hotel for some personal time with Sister Helen. She regaled us with a few "Boudreaux" jokes from Louisiana. It was a hoot. Time flies when you're having fun. Most of us didn't hit the sack until the wee hours of the morning.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Above: Activist Abe Bonowitz gets a much-needed massage from Journey of Hope participant SueZann Bosler (with an assist from little Isaac Bonowitz!)

Here's the latest posting from Robert Hoelscher as the Journey prepares for its final week:

Saturday, Oct. 21 was rest day. Clothes got washed. And several of us received hairdressing services from family member SueZann Bosler. Mine included an all purpose touch up which left me confident that I was free of unsightly nose hair.

Tonight we gathered at St. Edward's Catholic Church in Richmond for our first major event with Sister Helen Prejean. Before Sister Helen spoke, each JOH participant placed a rose dedicated to a loved one in a vase. This ritual was very powerful and emotional for both the audience and the JOH folks. Tears were in abundance.

Sister Helen was her usual sassy self. The thing about Sister Helen is that she is as
authentic as it gets. Her passion to abolish the death penalty comes from the
depths of her faith and her up close and personal relationships with those affected by the capital punishment. When we were driving back to the hotel, activist Claire (sorry Claire, forgot your last name) recalled the first time she met Sister Helen. "I fell in love with her in about eight seconds." That, indeed, is Sister Helen.

The Ridge Baptist Church is right down the street from our hotel. The sermon tomorrow is "Finding Strength in Broken Places." That is what the Journey of Hope is all about. And from this strength we will defeat the broken death

Monday, October 23, 2006

Halfway home!

Above: Some of the journey crew pose for a group shot after dinner at the Super King buffet.

The Journey of Hope...From Violence to Healing continues. Here's the latest report from Robert Hoelscher, Journey participant and campaign coordinator for Murder Victims' Families for Reconciliation:

Friday, Oct. 20 was the halfway point of the Journey. We have been to Northern Virginia, Charlottesville, Harrisonburg, Lexington, Roanoke, and now Richmond. At this point we have spoken at over 50 events, to hundreds and hundreds of people, about how the death penalty fails America and doesn't serve victims.

During my morning jog, I ran through a nearby neighborhood. It was a modest, older middle-class enclave of homogeneous brick homes hugged by a forest of towering trees. There were no storm sewers, no curbs, no garages or paved driveways. Flags (Old Glory, Washington Redskins, Virginia Tech) and Halloween pumpkins animated porch fronts. A fellow drove by and waved to me, probably thinking I was a local. I found myself thinking that the fate of the death penalty will be decided in neighborhoods like this one. Maybe we'll see one of these residents this weekend.

At noon a number of us went into downtown Richmond for a Burma Shave/Visibility event. For about an hour, we stood on the sidewalk inviting honks of support from
passing drivers. The honks came steadily. Our informal survey concluded that
most of the responses came from people of color and young people. No real surprise. But maybe our other supporters were just too shy to honk.

Many new family members and others have joined the Journey this weekend. And of course our special friend Sister Helen Prejean will be with us tomorrow for a major event at St. Edwards Catholic Church here in Richmond.

A big pack of us caravaned to dinner at the Super King Buffet. The best damn buffet I've ever been to. We pigged out on an assortment of delightful dishes that included seafood, sushi, and Asian offerings. I did take a pass on the chicken legs, however.

After a week as part of the Journey, I am comforted by the warmth and spirit of this
unique tribe of individuals. This is like an instant family. You meet someone for the first time and you know you are connected in a special way. It's spontaneous friendship. And the joy that these folks express, the affection they have for laughter in spite of the wounds they carry with them, is truly a wonder to behold. If we could bottle what these people have, we really could have peace on earth. And end the death penalty while we're at it.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Kicking it up a notch

Above: Isaac Bonowitz -- Never too young for the Journey of Hope!

Today's Journey of Hope...From Violence to Healing blogging continues with Robert Hoelscher's latest report from the road:

Thursday began with most folks moving from Roanoke to Richmond (state capital). Once again, I was privileged to ride with our JOH mascot Isaac Bonowitz and activist mother Beth. Once in Richmond, family member Bud Welch and I headed over to Randolph-Macon College to speak. It was a small but attentive group. Bud's tender story about his daughter Julie, who was killed in the Oklahoma City bombing attack, just gets better with age. His relationship with the father of Timothy McVeigh is a wonderful testimony to the power of forgiveness.

The rest of the JOH brood attended events in Charlottesville, Lynchburg, Roanoke, and Lexington, spreading words of love and reconciliation.

Inside sources tell me that JOH storytellers/family members SueZann Bosler and Christina Lawson are getting JOH tattoos tonight. I have confirmed that each will be
in a region permitting photographs, for which I have exclusive rights.

I must also report that Virginia is an absolutely beautiful state. Just about every road we've been on has offered breathtaking scenery. The trees are thick across the countryside and ablaze in their fall glory.

Tomorrow begins our weekend with Sister Helen Prejean. The JOH is about to "kick it up a notch."

Thursday, October 19, 2006

The Journey continues

Above: Robert poses with the high school youth group at Salem Presbyterian Church

Here's the daily Journey of Hope...From Violence to Healing installment from Robert Hoelscher, Journey participant and campaign coordinator for Murder Victims' Families for Reconciliation:

On Wednesday we packed up in Harrisonburg and set out for Roanoke. I caravaned in the abolitionmobile with JOH co-founder George White, family member Aba Gayle, activist Beth Wood-Bonowitz and her JOH mascot son Isaac (son of Abe
Bonowitz), family member Christina Lawson, and activist Steve "I Sell Music on E-Bay" Louis. We had lunch on the road at the Whistle Stop Cafe. Yes, I had fried green tomatoes. They was yummy.

After we got set up in Roanoke, local VDAP activist Gene Edmunds (thank you Gene!) escorted me to the Salem Presbyterian Church where I visited with a high school youth group. We talked for about an hour in a "living room" setting. I told the story of losing my father at age 7. And how my mother had called the offender's parents just two days after the murder to offer forgiveness. At the end, I asked if our discussion had helped. They all seemed to think it had. One student mentioned
that the most she had really thought about the death penalty was through the
humor of comedian Ron "Tater Salad" White who has a joke about Texas using the
"express lane" for its death penalty. I tried to encourage them always to look
deeply at issues where fellow human beings are involved. I believe they will.

We're having a "debriefing" of the days events in a few minutes. I'm off to check it out.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Cool T-shirt, huh?

Here's the latest installation from Robert Hoelscher, campaign coordinator for Murder Victims' Families for Reconciliation and a participant in the ongoing Journey of Hope...From Violence to Healing:

Yesterday (Monday, October 16) teams fanned out into Northern Virginia for events at a high school, prison, university, a Catholic church, and on Capital Hill in Washington, DC. I pulled out about 3 p.m. with family member Vera Crutcher and death row family member Tracy Spirko to head to Charlottesville for the night, where we stayed at the home of Democratic activists and JOH supporters Tom and Betty Gallagher (thank you Tom and Betty!). As the evening wound down, I talked for awhile with Tracy, who was on the computer cruising the internet trying to find out whether Gov. Taft of Ohio had issued a reprieve for her husband John, who has an execution date. She went to bed with no answer.

This morning (Tuesday, October 17) Vera, Tracy, Betty and I met with Virginia state delegate David Toscano. David is a staunch abolitionist and spent a gracious hour with us discussing legislative strategies to advance death penalty related issues. It was a good meeting. While we were meeting with David in Charlottesville, the rest of the group "broke camp" in Falls Church and headed to Harrisonburg for the next
phase of the Journey. We drove over to Harrisonburg after our meeting.

This afternoon in our hotel we were treated to massage services donated by a local JOH supporter. One after the other, Journey participants filed into Room 151 for a genuine "ahhhhh" refresher. Boy, did it hit the spot. As I write this, the crew is out doing evening events at James Madison University here inHarrisonburg, the Central United Methodist Church in Staunton, and the Augusta Coalition for Peace and Justice in Waynesboro.

Tomorrow (Wednesday, October 18) looks like a very full day, at the end of which we'll go to Roanoke. I still await my "inaugural" JOH storytelling event, what with group events on Saturday, the cancelled event on Sunday due to bad directions, travel yesterday, and a one-on-one meeting today. I'm looking forward to finally sharing the experience the others are having. Stories are starting to trickle back of tears shed, changing hearts and minds, and other special moments.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Above: Journey of Hope participants kick it off with a march and rally!

Here's the latest update from Robert Hoelscher:

This afternoon, we drove an hour to Manassas in Prince William County, the jurisdiction that produces the most death sentences in Virginia. On the way, we passed a service station with regular at $1.91 a gallon. We observed a moment of silence in celebration of sub-two dollar gas. In Manassas, our group of about 75 marched from the All Saints Catholic Church to the Manassas Peace Pole, where VADP executive director Jack Payton-Travers thrashed the death penalty in Virginia, urging the state to enact a moratorium on capital punishment. Following Jack, Pennsylvania death row exoneree and now Manassas resident Harold Wilson and murder victim family member SueZann Bosler shared their stories and joined in the call for a moratorium. It wasn't the Million Man March, but it was nonetheless a fine start for the Journey of Hope. The good people of All Saints Catholic Church hosted an after-march meal (my third straight with a pasta entree, but hey, I'm not

Monday, October 16, 2006

Day One: Journey of Hope

Pictured above: During an orientation for Journey of Hope participants, Jack Payden-Travers and Connie Watts point to the route the entourage will travel as they make their way across the state.

This is the second in what will be a series of posts from Robert Hoelscher, campaign coordinator for Murder Victims' Families for Reconciliation and a participant in the Journey of Hope...From Violence to Healing.

Last night I dreamt that I kept going into the wrong rooms - naked - at the hotel where we are staying these first four nights. Five bucks to any shrink (amateur or otherwise) that can translate that piece of "too much information."

This morning while out on a run I was looking for a store to grab some orange juice and a snack bar. No surprise, I find a neighborhood 7/11. There's a million of them of course. But there were only a few dozen in 1961 when my father, the manager of a suburban Houston 7/11, was murdered during a robbery. I've gone into 7/11's a million times since then and rarely associate the visits with my father. But today it felt different. Today I was remembering.

This morning we had our orientation and training session. We started out by being led in song, "break 'em on down these walls between us, break 'em on down."

Then everyone introduced themselves and I saw a glimpse of the power and poignancy of these stories. We not only have murder victim family members, but also family members of death row inmates, and former prisoners who were exonerated from death row. Along with the dedicated activists who are the logistical backbone of this great project. I can sense the magic about to be unleashed.

We leave in about an hour for the kick-off march and rally. I have my Journey of Hope t-shirt and I'm good to go.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Journey of Hope 2006 launches!

The picture above is a bit dark -- it shows Connie Watts, organizer for the Journey of Hope...From Violence to Healing. But if you look closely at the table in front of Connie, you can see that Journey participants have their media kits, notebooks, pens, clipboards and other materials they need to take Virginia by storm.

Because tomorrow is Day One of a two-week journey that will culminate with the annual conference of the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty.

From the front lines, Robert Hoelscher, a Journey participant and campaign coordinator for Murder Victims' Families for Reconciliation, reports:

Today, I'm on my way to the Virginia Journey of Hope 2006. Every day for the next two weeks, starting tomorrow, murder victim family members opposed to the death penalty will tell our stories at over 100 events across the state. My flight from Austin to Virginia went through Chicago. It was a picture perfect day, bright sun and few clouds. As the plane turned to land at Midway Airport, something caught my eye on the ground below. It was a cemetery. The sun was bouncing off the marble headstones, creating a festival of flickering light. I think of these next two weeks. And how our stories will chronicle a graveyard of death. The thought sits heavy in my chest.

Keep an eye on this space. We'll be blogging the Journey "live," just as often as Robert (and possibly others) can access a computer and send in the stories of their journey.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Tuesday's Focus: Vicki Schieber

We apologize for being a day late with the latest installment in our Tuesday's Focus series. Today we look at the journey of Vicki Schieber:

Vicki Schieber’s daughter, Shannon, was raped and murdered on May 7, 1998 while finishing her first year of graduate school on a full scholarship at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania.

Shannon’s killer was not arrested until 2002. He is serving several life sentences without parole in Colorado and Pennsylvania not only for Shannon’s rape and murder but for 13 other sexual assaults as well.

Vicki and her husband, Sylvester, both Maryland residents, testified in support of a Maryland bill that would extend that state’s moratorium on executions and create a commission to study the way the death penalty is imposed. She also testified in Pennsylvania for the abolition of the death penalty alongside former Illinois governor George Ryan and exonerated former death row inmates, including Kirk Bloodsworth.

She has taught many high school and university classes on abolition, run workshops at state conferences, and published op-ed pieces in newspapers including the Philadelphia Inquirer and the Washington Post. She also has met with and testified before state legislators in Maryland, Pennsylvania and Virginia.

Vicki was vocal in her opposition to the death penalty long before Shannon’s murderer was apprehended. The Schiebers fought the district attorney and the prosecutors to keep the death penalty from being applied to their daughter’s killer.

“The death penalty is against our religion, a belief system in which life is held to be sacred,” she says. “We know that there are many inequities in how the states apply the death penalty. Therefore I believe MVFHR must focus on abolition in the context of its being a human rights issue and work hard to bring the world community of murder victims together to oppose the death penalty in the U.S. I have traveled in many parts of the world and citizens in other countries are appalled at the inequitable application of this sentence in our homeland.”

Vicki, who has spent her career in a variety of financial marketing and management roles, was profiled on “Dateline NBC”, a show which also aired multiple times on Court TV. Her story is part of an NBC film on the death penalty sponsored by the Robert Kennedy Foundation.

She has long been active in leadership positions in non-profits dedicated to literacy and programs for elderly, disabled and low-income residents of Washington, D.C.

Vicki is the recipient of the Fannie Mae Foundation Good Neighbor Award, the Courage in Community Award of the McAuley Institute Board of Trustees and the Exceptional Community Spirit Award from Rebuilding Together of Washington, D.C.

Links to Vicki's journey:

Vickie’s Story: Go to MVFHR Board of Directors for more of Vicki’s story
May Brings Relief for Vicki Schieber: Having suspect in Shannon's killing eases pain this Mother's Day
…Vicki Schieber said: "I have forgiven him
"It would be an insult to our daughter's memory to put another person to death," Vicki Schieber said, "even the murderer of our daughter."
What happened when one state governor declared a moratorium on capital punishment?
Testimony of MVFHR's Vicki Schieber to the U.S. Senate

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Tuesday's Focus: Ruth Andrews

The latest installment of our continuing Tuesday's Focus series examines the journey of Ruth Andrews:

Ruth Andrews is an ethnic Mennonite. She has always believed the death penalty is immoral.
Ruth’s mother's murder (when she was 16) didn't change that, although it changed everything else. Since the crime was never solved, Ruth couldn't take her anger out on anyone. Instead, she took it out on herself. For the next ten years she lived recklessly and was dangerously self-destructive. It wasn't until Ruth became pregnant that she began to care for herself again.

Another turning point in her healing occurred at a conference on forgiveness, when Ruth asked a murderer to pray for her. On the Journey of Hope in Georgia in 1994, Ruth was paired with a woman who had a son on death row, “The similarities in our experiences were remarkable. I felt closer to her than to the "good" people I'd known all my life. I'm very grateful to belong to the Journey of Hope.“

Links to Ruth’s Journey:

Slaying victim's daughter fights death penalty
Cassopolis woman in Houston in effort to abolish death penalty
Peacemaking, Terrorism and Art: By Ruth Andrews

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Tuesday's Focus: Rev. Walt Everett

Today, as the latest in our Tuesday's Focus installment we bring you the story of Rev. Walt Everett of Connecticut:

In 1987 Walt Everett’s son, Scott, was shot and killed at the age of 24. For almost a year afterwards, Walt’s emotional state moved from rage to depression. He found it difficult to even go through the motions of his work as pastor of a United Methodist Church.

It was only at the sentencing when he heard Mike Carlucci express remorse for killing Scott that Walt felt God nudging him towards forgiveness. Walt describes this journey as the most difficult thing he has ever had to do.

He wrote to Mike on the first anniversary of Scott’s death. Thus began a correspondence, which led to visits and finally to Walt’s testifying on Mike’s behalf at a parole hearing. Based on this testimony, Mike obtained an early release and went to work for a trucking firm where his boss described him as “the best supervisor I ever had.”

Walt and Mike often speak together at universities, churches and community groups about the healing power of forgiveness, healing for both the forgiven and forgiver.

Walt is a pastor of United Methodist Church of Hartford, Connecticut. He met his wife at a bereavement group and between them they have six children, four of whom are still living, and eight grandchildren.

Walt is an ardent advocate of the anti-death penalty movement and is active in numerous abolition and restorative justice organizations. His story has been told in numerous publications including an extensive profile in Rolling Stone.

Links to Walt’s Journey:

Father Forgives the Man Who Murdered His Son
The Transformative Power of Forgiveness
The Mercy Minute: Unconditional Love
Yesterday, I drove Walt Everett and his wife Nancy to an event at a Catholic church in McKinney, Texas.
Sermon: One Hand Clapping
State Counts Down to Killers Death
Speakers on Capital Punishment audio file

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Tuesday's Focus: Shujaa Graham

Our Tuesday's Focus series continues today with a look at California death row exonoree Shujaa Graham:

Shujaa Graham was born in Lake Providence, LA, where he grew up on a plantation. His family worked as share-croppers, in the segregated South of the 50s. In 1961, he moved to join his family who had moved to South Central Los Angeles, to try to build a more stable life. As a teenager, Shujaa lived through the Watts riot and experienced the police occupation of his community. In and out of trouble, he spent much of his adolescent life in juvenile institutions, until at age 18, he was sent to Soledad Prison.

Within the prison walls, Shujaa came of age, mentored by the leadership of the Black Prison movement. Shujaa taught himself to read and write, he studied history and world affairs, and became a leader of the growing movement within the California prison system, as the Black Panther Party expanded in the community.

In 1973, Shujaa was framed in the murder of a prison guard at the Deul Vocational Institute, Stockton, California. As a recognized leader within and without the prison, the community became involved in his defense, and supported him through 4 trials. Shujaa and his co-defendant, Eugene Allen, were sent to San Quentin's death row in 1976, after a second trial in San Francisco. The DA systematically excluded all African American jurors, and in 1979, the California Supreme Court overturned the death conviction.

After spending three years on death row, Shujaa and Eugene Allen, continued to fight for their innocence. A third trial ended in a hung jury, and after a fourth trial, they were found innocent. As Shujaa often says, he won his freedom and affirmed his innocence in spite of the system.
Shujaa was released in March, 1981, and continued to organize in the Bay area, building community support for the prison movement, as well as protest in the neighborhoods against police brutality.

In the following years, Shujaa moved away from the Bay area. Shujaa learned landscaping, and created his own business. He and his wife raised three children, and became part of a progressive community in Maryland.

In 1999, Shujaa was invited to speak about his experiences on Death Row at fund raiser for the Alabama Death Penalty project, sponsored by the New York Legal Aid Foundation. This was a new beginning, and provided Shujaa the opportunity to begin to tell his story, his experiences and grow through work with other death penalty opponents.

Links to Shujaa’s Journey:
Shujaa’s web site
Campaign to End The Death Penalty
Faces of Wrongful Conviction
Death penalty debated The Post and Courier
The New Abolitionist: I See This Struggle As A New Challenge
Former Inmate Condemns Capital Punishment
A Life’s Sentence
STOP The Death Penalty

Shujaa Graham Quotes:

"I was framed because of my beliefs and because I was outspoken about prison conditions."

"We need a government that would be so sensitive to the needs of the people that its every endeavor would be towards building peace and happiness and not preying on the misery of people. And that’s really how the death penalty goes--it preys upon people’s fears"

"I've tried to integrate the prison issue with other movements. My politics go far beyond prison itself, but because I’ve been in prison, I felt a responsibility to try to expose the conditions of prison life, to fight against new prisons, to address how the disenfranchised will be tomorrow’s victims of the prison system.

“I stand here wounded by the blows of the death penalty of racism, trying to end this awful reality”

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Tuesday's Focus: Abe Bonowitz

(blogger's note: the above photo was taken by Scott Langley. You can see more of Scott's outstanding work here.)

The latest installment of the Tuesday's Focus series takes a look at anti-death penalty activist Abe Bonowitz. In his own words, Abe explains how participation in the Journey of Hope...From Violence to Healing affected him. Remember, the Journey will visit Virginia this October. You can learn more and find out how to get involved by going here.

Here is Abe's message:

Dear Friends,

As many of you know, I have not always opposed the death penalty. When I tell the story of my transition, I say, "The facts changed my mind, and the people I met on the Journey changed my heart."

By 1993, I had become a fairly active anti-death penalty activist through my involvement with Amnesty International, but I would still say things like, "IF we could make it fair and equal, I would pull the switch myself." But when I went on the Indiana Journey of Hope ...From Violence to Healing, I met and learned first hand the stories of people who have been "in the fire," as Sister Helen would say. It was certainly inspiring to meet and work with people like Bill Pelke, Marietta Jaeger, Marie Deans and SueZann Bosler and so many others who have lost loved ones to murder and forgiven the perpetrator. But what touched my heart -- what *changed* my heart -- was learning the stories of people like George White (with the double whammy of seeing his wife murdered and then being wrongly convicted of the killing) and Sunny Jacobs (with the double whammy of being wrongly convicted *with* her husband, who was also wrongly executed!), and others, including Randall Dale Adams, who was wrongly convicted and was nearly Texecuted. What changed my heart even more, was meeting people like Shirley Dicks, Ken & Lois Robison, Jill Fratta, Catherine Forbes, and so many others who have had a loved one convicted of murder - rightly or wrongly - and who themselves have been put through the wringer by a society that condemns killing but ignores the collateral damage created in the process of exacting revenge through execution.

Being on the Journey allowed me to not only meet these people and hear their stories. I got to know them. And by hearing their stories several times in front of different audiences as we spent 17 days traversing a state, I got to *know* their stories. Ever since that 1993 Journey, whenever someone attempts to dismiss me by saying I'd "feel different if my loved one was murdered," I respond with, "Maybe you are right, but let me tell you about my friend Bill (or Sunny or Sam or Marietta). And I share the stories I learned on the Journey. And it works!
ALSO on the Journey, I got plenty of practice talking about the death penalty as an activist. I learned how to lead marches, how to better convey our message through the media, how to handle hate-filled opposition with a loving response, and how important it is to provide a hug for a person who has just relived the most painful experience in their life over and over again.
The Journey made me the activist I am today. There is no better training ground for abolitionists. Period.


Links to Abe’s Journey:
Biography of Abe Bonowitz
Death Penalty Opponents Gather
Protesters Converge on Prison
Journey of Hope in Monterey
Journey Of Hope ...From Violence to Healing, Inc.
Seven Arrested on 25th Gilmore Anniversary
Opponents of the death penalty speak out
Marchers Spotlight Growing Scrutiny of Florida Death Penalty
A Discussion with Jeb Bush on the Death Penalty
Execution May Only Spur More Killing: Reflections on the "Martyrdom" of Paul Hill

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Tuesday's Focus: Ray Krone

The latest Tuesday's Focus examines the story of Ray Krone, death row exonoree:

In April 2002 Ray Krone became the 100th innocent person released from prison after having been sentenced to death. Ray spent ten years in prison, including two years on Arizona’s death row, for the murder of a female bartender.

He was freed when DNA testing proved he was not the killer and identified a man serving a sentence for an unrelated crime as the murderer. Ray believes in the U.S. system of justice but feels the death penalty system is broken.

He has been profiled in “Parade Magazine” and has spoken widely since his release

Links to Ray’s Journey:
DNA Frees Arizona Inmate after 10 Years in Prison
The Ray Krone Story
Bill Kurtis and Ray Krone Hold Court in York
Sister Helen and Journey of Hope
Conference Addresses the Death Penalty Page 3
Journey Update - The Final Weekend
The Daily News
The Innocence Project: Ray Krone
R.E.M. Fan Forums - Ray Krone
From Death Row to TV ‘Makeover’
Phoenix to pay $3 million for framing Ray Krone for murder and jailing him 10 years

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Tuesday's Focus: Bud Welch

Our continuing Tuesday's Focus series examines the journey of Bud Welch:

On April 19, 1995, Bud Welch’s 23-year old daughter, Julie, and 167 others were killed in the bomb blast that destroyed the Alfred P. Murrah building in Oklahoma City.

Bud had always opposed the death penalty but Julie’s death prompted bouts of anger, pain, hatred and revenge. He longed to see Timothy McVeigh (who was eventually tried and convicted of the bombing and executed) dead.

After months of agony Bud began to question his desire for revenge. He realized that nothing positive would arise from McVeigh’s execution. “It was hatred and revenge that made me want to see him dead and those two things were the very reason that Julie and 167 others were dead,” he says. He also remembered Julie’s comments that executions were only “teaching children to hate.”

Bud spent the next several years speaking out against the death penalty in general and McVeigh’s execution in particular. He met Bill McVeigh, Tim’s father, and the two formed a friendship that is being documented in an upcoming film.

As an ardent abolitionist he has addressed the Russian Duma, the British and the European Parliaments, and universities and groups across Europe. He has testified twice before the U.S. House Judiciary Committee, once in opposition to the habeas corpus reforms that were being proposed and later passed as part of the Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act.

He has testified before 22 state legislative bodies including the Illinois house judiciary committee on that state’s death penalty moratorium bill. His speeches at scores of universities and law schools center on his hard-won stance against the death penalty. He is a board member of the National Coalition Against the Death Penalty. He was a member of the Board of Directors of the Oklahoma City National Memorial Foundation and met with President Clinton at the White House to present the plans for the national memorial.

He has been interviewed with Larry King and Bill Moyers and appeared on “Good Morning America,” the “Today Show,” CBS’s “60 Minutes” and “Dateline NBC.” He has written pieces for both Time and Newsweek. Profiles of Bud have appeared in numerous magazines including Guideposts and Parade.

Bud received the “Abolitionist of the Year” award from the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty. He also received of the “Abolitionist of the Year Award” in 1998 from the Oklahoma Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty; the “Felton Humanitarian Award” from Death Penalty Focus; the “Spirit of Compassion” award of the Prison Action Committee in Buffalo, New York; and the ACLU Oklahoma Foundation “Anti-Death penalty/Prison Project Award.” He is also the recipient of the "2003 Reconciliation Award" from California People of Faith Working Against the Death Penalty; the "Frederick Douglass Equal Justice Award" from the Southern Center for Human Rights in 2001; the "2001 Abolitionist of the Year Award" from Coloradoans Against the Death Penalty; the "Golden K" of the Kiwanis Club in Decatur, IL in 2002; and he was presented with the Key to the City of Buffalo, NY in 1998 by Mayor Anthony Masiello. He has participated in the “Journey of Hope” and many other anti-death penalty activities and organizations.

Reprinted with permission from "Not In Our Name: Murder Victims Families Speak Out Against the Death Penalty," a publication of Murder Victims Families For Reconciliation,
Barbara Hood & Rachel King, Editors.

Links to Bud's Journey:

Oklahoma City Bombing: Two Fathers and Forgiveness
Dad finds solace in mercy, not revenge
Journey Toward Forgiveness Video
A Campaign for Forgiveness Research
A Long Healing Process
Revenge and Hate is what Resulted in the Death of 167 People
The Death Penalty and the Catholic Church
Florida Moratorium Tour: Journey of Hope
Choosing Forgiveness – from Opposite Places
Hero Award

Bud Welch Quote:

"I was opposed to the death penalty all my life until my daughter Julie Marie was killed in the Oklahoma City bombing. For many months after the bombing I could have killed Timothy McVeigh myself. Temporary insanity is real, and I have lived it. You can’t think of enough adjectives to describe the rage, revenge, and hate I felt. But after time, I was able to examine my conscience, and I realized that if McVeigh is put to death, it won’t help me in the healing process. People talk about executions bringing closure. But how can there be closure when my little girl is never coming back. I finally realized that the death penalty is all about revenge and hate, and revenge and hate are why Julie Marie and 167 others are dead."

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Tuesday's Focus: Jennifer Bishop-Jenkins

The latest in our installment of the Tuesday's Focus series looks at the story of Jennifer Bishop-Jenkins. In addition to being involved with The Journey of Hope...From Violence to Healing, Jennifer serves on the Board of Directors both for the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty and for our affiliate, Murder Victims' Families for Human Rights.

Here is Jennifer's story:

Jennifer Bishop-Jenkins
Northfield, Illinois

Jennifer Bishop-Jenkins’ sister Nancy Bishop Langert was shot to death along with her husband, Richard Langert, and their unborn child in suburban Chicago in 1990. Their killer was 16 years old at the time and a local politician running for re-election proposed lowering the age of death penalty eligibility in Illinois to 16 to “honor your sister.”

Jennifer vowed to oppose him publicly if her sister’s murder was used as the rationale for this proposal. “Nancy loved children and this is not what she would have wanted,” she says. Since that time she has worked to end the death penalty both in Illinois and nationwide.

She serves on the board of the Illinois Coalition Against the Death Penalty, is the state president for the Million Mom March /Brady Campaign and volunteers with the Illinois Council Against Handgun Violence. She was a featured speaker on the steps of the U.S. Capital for the Halt the Assault Million Mom March on Mother’s Day 2004.

She has testified before the Illinois Governor’s Commission on Capital Punishment and in death penalty clemency hearings before the Illinois Prisoner Review Board. She has spoken before state legislative committees and the Chicago City Council on issues of gun violence, crime prevention, and criminal justice reform.

She appeared in the documentary on the death penalty, “Too Flawed To Fix” and was profiled in a Chicago Tribune Magazine cover story. Her story and abolition work are included in the book Don’t Kill In Our Names by Rachel King. Jennifer, who first visited Illinois’ death row in 1994, is on a mercy committee for former death row inmate Renaldo Hudson. She wrote the foreword for the recently published book of prisoners’ essays on personal responsibility and transformation entitled Lockdown Prison Heart.

Jennifer and her sister, Jeanne Bishop, were co-recipients of the Brigid Award given by Concern Worldwide in recognition of their reconciliation work. She has taught high school and college for more than 20 years and has received several outstanding teacher awards. She is the Field Director for the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence for Illinois and Minnesota.

Links to Jennifer ’s Journey:

Not in Our Name: by Rachel King
A Long Healing Process -- Murder victims' families describe their struggle to rebuild lives, By Stephen Gawlik
The Million Mom March - working against gun violence
A Peace Conference: Giving Witness to Non-Violence: Saturday Morning
Speakers Examine Death Penalty
Lecture on Death Penalty Sparks Contemplation
Victim Impact Teaches Juvenile Offenders Consequences of Their Actions
The Choices Program
Mamie Till Mobley, Mother of Lynched Teen Obituary

Jennifer Bishop-Jenkins Quotes:

"Our sister Nancy and her husband Richard were a young couple expecting their first child when they were shot to death in their home. They loved and valued life; our sister was carrying life within her when she died a terrifying and brutal death. Her last act as she was dying was to write a message of love in her blood. We can’t imagine making the death of another human being her memorial."

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Tuesday's Focus: Renny Cushing

The continuing Tuesday's Focus series today looks at the story of Renny Cushing:

Renny Cushing is the founder and Executive Director of Murder Victims’ Families for Human Rights. His father’s murder in 1988 has shaped his work as an advocate for crime victims and as an opponent of capital punishment.

As a victim-abolitionist Renny has been a pioneer in the effort to bridge death penalty abolition groups and the victims’ rights movement. He travels throughout the U.S. and the world speaking with and on behalf of victims who oppose capital punishment.

He has testified before the U.S. Congress and several state legislatures on victims’ issues and the death penalty, articulating policies that promote violence prevention, meet the needs of crime victims, and end state killings. He has written and lectured extensively and is the co-author of Dignity Denied: The Experience of Murder Victims' Family Members Who Oppose the Death Penalty, and I Don’t Want Another Kid to Die, a collection of homicide family members' voices against the juvenile death penalty. He also appears, along with many other MVFHR founding members, in Not In Our Name, a collection of profiles of murder victims’ families who oppose executions.

A lifelong social justice activist, Renny has been a Justice of the Peace for the past 25 years. He served two terms in the New Hampshire House of Representatives, where he was involved in victims’ issues and sponsored a measure that would have abolished the death penalty in that state. Renny wrote the Whistleblower’s Protection Act, a groundbreaking law providing assistance to victims of domestic violence. He also supported the passage of laws establishing a victims’ bill of rights, victims’ advocate programs, and a victims’ compensation fund. In 2001, as plaintiff in Cushing v. McLaughlin, he was successful in a landmark state court case brought to enforce New Hampshire’s Victims Bill of Rights law.

Links to Renny’s Journey
Breaking the Cycle of Violence from Amnesty Now, 1999
Forgiving the Unforgivable, the story of the murder of Robert Cushing, Sr.
Not in Our Name, homicide survivors Renny Cushing and Bud Welch speak out against the death penalty at Harvard University, 1999
Statement of Renny Cushing Central Prison Raleigh, North Carolina December 1, 2005 Eve of the 1000th Execution in the US since 1976
The Good Fight
Renny Cushing to Visit Alaska in March
Poster Boy For Abolition – McVeigh

Renny Cushing Quotes:
"A man come up to me after my father was murdered and said, "I hope they fry those people. I hope they fry them so you and your family can get some peace." I know that man meant to comfort me, but it was the most horrible thing he could possibly have said.
If we let murderers turn us to murder, we give them too much power. They succeed in bringing us to their way of thinking and acting, and we become what we say we abhor."

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Today's Focus: Christina Lawson

With apologies for being a day late, we bring you the latest Tuesday's Focus. Today we examine the story of Christina Lawson.

Christina Lawson was nine years old when her father was murdered on a jogging trail. She experienced pain, anger, loneliness, and hatred towards his killers.

She was twenty when her husband was sentenced to death for the murder of a twenty four year old woman, on a jogging trail.

On that day, looking at the victim’s family members she recognized their pain. She saw herself. She realized that when her father was murdered, so was she. She began her journey towards reconciliation.

Seven years later she witnessed the execution of her husband and the father of their two children. Their youngest child was nine years old. “That was the day I realized that the death penalty only created more victims. That was the day I stopped supporting the death penalty.”

When asked what she does now, she replies “I am surviving the cycle.”
Links to Christina’s Journey:
Victims of Texas: Supporting the Forgotten Survivors (VOT)
MtvU wants to turn Spring Breakers into action-makers
Journey of Hope -- Interview of Christina Lawson
13TH Annual Fast and Vigil
Alternative Spring Break
Bring Friends who are Ambivalent About the Death Penalty

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Tuesday's Focus: Juan Melendez

The latest Tuesday's Focus examines the story of Juan Melendez:

Juan Roberto Melendez Colon became the 24th person exonerated and released from Florida's death row when he was freed on January 3, 2002 after spending almost 18 years facing execution for a crime he had nothing to do with. Melendez was convicted in 1984 at the age of 33 with no physical evidence linking him to the crime and testimony from questionable witnesses.

In fact, prosecutors hid evidence and lied to the court in order to protect the real killer, a police informant. Melendez's conviction fell apart when the police informant's confession came to light in 1999 - a confession that prosecutors knew about before they took Melendez to trial. Of course, the state of Florida refuses to apologize or admit wrongdoing, and gave Melendez the same thing it gives every prisoner when they leave prison - $100. (Hardy Pickard, the lead prosecutor in Melendez' case, is still working as a State's Attorney in Polk County, Florida.)

Known to his friends as "Johnny," Melendez was born in Brooklyn but grew up in Puerto Rico, where he currently lives.

Juan has joined the Board of Directors for the Journey of Hope…from Violence to Healing and the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty. He continually travel this country and internationally giving presentations about his experiences. He has formed the Juan Melendez Voices United for Justice Project.

To arrange for Juan to speak at your venue, please contact Ms Judi Caruso at 505-362-1784 or, director, Juan Melendez Murder Victims Families for Reconciliation

(Reprinted with permission from "Not In Our Name: Murder Victims Families Speak Out Against the Death Penalty," a publication of Murder Victims Families For Reconciliation,
Barbara Hood & Rachel King, Editors.)
Links to Juan’s Journey:

Judge Cites Prosecutor Trickery, Orders Retrial
Florida Death Row Inmate to be Released, 99th Freed Nationwide
Juan Melendez Freed from Death Row
Another Death Row Mistake: Washington Post Editorial January 5, 2002
A dead man walking toward freedom?----The uncertain future of Florida death row inmate Juan Melendez.
Juan Melendez and Bud Welch: Choosing Forgiveness – from Opposite Places
Journey of Hope in Monterey
Faith in Action: Working to Abolish the Death Penalty Amnesty International
Human Rights Working Group
Comunita di Sant Egidio: No More Death Penalty, International Campaign

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Tuesday's focus: Aba Gayle

The latest Tuesday's Focus series looks at the story of Aba Gayle:

Aba Gayle’s 19 year old daughter Catherine Blount was murdered. She spent 8 long years in anger and rage and lusting for revenge. She was assured by the district attorney that the execution of the man responsible for Catherine’s murder would make everything alright and she would be healed.

Aba Gayle then spent the next 4 years in intensive study in the Unity Church and Church of Religious Science. She read her way through metaphysical books stores and learned about all the great spiritual teachers who have come earth to show us the way to live in love, peace and harmony. After 12 long years Aba Gayle had an epithany. She heard a voice that told her to forgive the man who murdered Catherine, and to let him know. That led to a letter to Douglas Mickey who was convicted and sent to death row in San Quentin State Prison in California. The act of mailing the letter resulted in instant healing for Aba Gayle. She has since visited San Quentin and now considers Douglas Mickey to be her friend. See her web site at to read the letter and the rest of the story.

Aba Gayle participated for all 17 days on the Georgia, Virginia, Ohio and Texas 2005 Journeys. Her passion in life is speaking and teaching about the healing power of forgiveness. She has appeared in numerous documentary films and several recent books have her story including Unstoppable Women-Achieve any Breakthrough Goal in 30 Days by Cynthia Kersey, Radical Acts of Love by Susan Skog, Sharing Visions by John E. Sumwalt and Stop Singing the Blues and Start Living a Life of Joy, Simplicity and Beauty by Dr. Cynthia Barnett.
Aba Gayle participated for all 17 days in the following Journeys:

Links to Aba Gayle’s Journey:
Aba Gayles Story
The Healing Power of Forgiveness:Healing Quest
The Healing Power of Forgiveness: To Be A Blessing
The Healing Power of Forgiveness: The Forgiveness Conference
Prison Ministries - Aba Gayle at San Quentin
Forgiving the unforgivable. State of Justice 4 (April). A periodic publication of Friends Committee on Restorative Justice. 2002
Death Penalty Foes Offer Message of Forgiveness
Learning to forgive helps her heal. by Elizabeth Perez, Marin Independent Journal reporter
Recipient of Heroes Award - 1999

Aba Gayle currently lives in Silverton, Oregon. Her life passion is teaching the healing power of forgiveness

Aba Gayle Quotes:

“I'm opposed to the death penalty because I don't agree with murder. Murder is still murder. It's violence against a human being."

“Anger is just a horrible thing to do to your body. Not to mention what it does to your soul and spirit. Forgiveness is not saying what he did was right - it's taking back your power."

“It's time to stop teaching people to hate and start teaching people to love. The whole execution as closure idea is not realistic"

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Remembering Carol Byars

Carol Byars, a member of the Journey of Hope family, passed away this week. She was a leaders in the victims' movement to abolish the death penalty and a powerful voice for the healing power of forgiveness. May God rest her soul.

Here is Carol's story:

When I met Jimmy, little did I know how knowing him would change my life. He was the love of my life. Although I was barely more than a child, I also knew I would marry him someday. And I did, at the age of eighteen. We had our first child less than a year after. At twenty-one I was pregnant with my second child. Even at so young of an age, I knew this kind of relationship was rare.

It was the Labor Day of that year when everything so drastically changed. Since I was pregnant and not up to the usual BBQ and such, I went to my mom's to rest and Jimmy went to his mom's to watch the game. Sometime during that day there was an argument with his mother's neighbors. I have had some conflicting stories through the years so there are details that I still don't know. But this is what happened as I know it.

When the altercation started, there was the usual anger and name calling. It was said, "Wait till John Earl gets home, and he will take care of this." When he arrived home, the argument started again. He got his gun and first shot Jimmy's ten year old brother Sonny. He then shot Jimmy's sixteen year old brother Bryan. I think there was a scuffle with his other brother Pete and he was beat with the butt of the shotgun.

All of this happened very quickly. The gun had just been turned on Jimmy's mother when he ran and opened the front door and yelled to stop. That's when John Earl turned and shot Jimmy. He was shot from twenty feet with a twelve gauge pump shotgun through a screen door. So he not only had all of the scatter from the shot gun, he also had a lot of screen from the door.

They didn't think Jimmy would make it past the first night but he lived almost a year. He was awake and alert in ICU for most of that time, so he felt every pain and disappointment in his attempted recovery. But he was an amazing man. During all those months in the hospital, he came to the realization that he had to let go of all of the anger he felt towards this man. Even with the knowledge that he would never see his daughters grow up, he let go. I know he did this for my benefit as well. It also gave me permission to let go, heal, and move on with my life, though it took me a little longer than it did Jimmy.

Now I have forgiven and moved on. For me it means trying to stop that circle of violence. That includes state executions. Healing will never happen by holding onto the pain of the past. That is where an execution holds us, focused on the pain of the past. I think it's time to find a new way of dealing with our crime problem. There has been enough pain to go around.

You can read more here:

Carol was a member of the Journey of Hope...from Violence to Healing, Murder Victims Families for Reconciliation, Murder Victims Families for Human Rights, Citizens United for Alternatives to the Death penalty, Texas Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty, and the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty.

She will be greatly missed. We love you Carol.

Carol Byars Quotes:

"It is past time for being silent about the death penalty. In Texas, we’re executing record numbers each year. Things have gotten so bad because people have all been silent and let things get bad. We are told many times that we are not supposed to forgive – that when people do horrible things to us we should do something just as bad in retribution. Those of us who know better – those of us who know the power of forgiveness – need to speak up. Every chance we get, we need to challenge the mentality that compassion is a weakness. Compassion is the toughest thing of all, but it’s the only thing that works to restore peace in our live."

"When my husband was killed a piece of me died with him, but in time I discovered the only way to heal was to let go of the pain and anger. I chose to honor his memory through compassion and forgiveness, not by creating more victims."

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Tuesday's Focus: George White

With apologies for being a day late, here is the latest in our Tuesday's Focus series. Today we profile George White:

On February 27, 1985, the White family experienced first-hand the insanity and horror of murder. George and his wife Charlene were shot repeatedly by an armed robber at his place of business in Enterprise, Alabama. George held Charlene in his arms as her life slipped away.

Their children, Tom and Christie, were only 12 and 5 at the time. The nightmare had just begun. Sixteen months later, George was charged with murdering his wife. Following a capital murder trial that was later described as "a mockery and a sham," George was convicted and sentenced to life in prison. His conviction was overturned in 1989 and he was released from prison, but George remained in legal limbo until 1992, when proof of his innocence was finally brought forward. Following a brief hearing the trial court ordered the charge against him forevermore dismissed.

The nightmare had lasted more than seven years. Had the State of Alabama had its way, George White would be a dead man today.

Understanding fully how easy it is to become advocates for revenge, the White family, however, rejects the death penalty as a solution and as way of healing the wounds of their loss.

George White Quote:
"Charlene White loved life...that should be her legacy. What began with a horrible act of violence should not memorialized by an act of vengeance. Hate is a continuation, not an ending. Tom, Christie and I say "Not in our names — our hearts have bled enough."

Monday, July 03, 2006

Journey featured on the web

A religious-oriented webzine called The Word Among Us has posted a feature story about The Journey of Hope...From Violence to Healing:

From Hatred to Mercy
A Ministry That Asks: What do you do when a loved one is murdered?
By Jan Petroni Brown

In a perfect world, Marietta Jaeger Lane and Bill Pelke would probably have never met, let alone felt called to found an organization that promotes radical—some would say illogical—mercy. She was a Michigan mother busily caring for her five children; he was a Vietnam veteran who worked as a crane operator in Portage, Indiana. But when unthinkable tragedy shattered their lives, each one was thrust into a painful but ultimately healing journey from revenge to forgiveness.

Today, with other family members of murder victims, they travel far and wide to share their hard-won wisdom. They organized their first such Journey of Hope in 1993, when 120 people boarded buses for a sixteen-day speaking tour to fifteen cities in the American Midwest. Since that time, the group has addressed audiences in more than forty states and ten countries.

Theirs are wrenching stories of pain and loss—but stories that are told with peace and compassion. If Journey of Hope members are credible when they urge forgiveness as a way of life, it is because they themselves have been purified of hatred and the desire for revenge.

To read the entire article go here.

Friday, June 30, 2006

Day Two update from the Fast & Vigil

As noted previously, many people from the Journey of Hope...From Violence to Healing are participating in the four-day Fast & Vigil Against the Death Penalty on the sidewalk in front of the U.S. Supreme Court.

Today’s blog entry comes from Jonathan Sheehan, intern for the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty. This fall, Jonathan will be a high school senior at Landon School in Bethesda, Maryland. He enjoys playing baseball and soccer and one of his career goals is “someday to run for public office.”

Which is a good thing – can you imagine what the climate will be like for abolish the death penalty if more abolitionists entered politics?

Here is Jonathan’s report from the sidewalk in front of the U.S. Supreme Court:

“Equal Justice Under Law.”

These words are carved in the marble over the pillars that support our nation’s Supreme Court building. Just below the steps of this American landmark stood 30 or so protestors, holding signs and demonstrating their support for the abolition movement. Quotes from Justice Byron White, Coretta Scott King, and others could be seen on signs and t-shirts alike. As a man walked by the vigil, I heard him remark, “Take them executed people to your house and let them live with you.”

I just wish he had stayed the rest of the morning.

As I stood in the heat, I recognized death row exoneree Shujaa Graham standing in the shade listening to his walkman. Mr. Graham and I met this past week at the Death Penalty Information Center’s Thurgood Marshall awards. He gave me a big hug, and we started to discuss his many reasons for being at the vigil. Mr. Graham spent three years on California’s San Quentin death row, before being released in 1979. His experiences have prompted him to travel the country and speak to high school and university students. His message is clear and concise: “Learn what you can [about the death penalty] and understand the reality.”

Information is power. Shujaa Graham knows that if people learn all there is to learn, someday we will outlaw “the lynching that is the death penalty.”

As the morning drew on, guests spoke adamantly in favor of abolition. Kurt Rosenberg, director of the “Witness to Innocence” program, stood up with an unusual group of men behind him. They were a small fraction of the astounding 123 death row exonerees, people freed from death row since the 1970s after evidence emerged of their innocence. This lineup included Ray Krone (Arizona), Ronald Keine (New Mexico), Gary Beeman (Ohio), Harold Wilson (Pennsylvania) and Shujaa Graham (California). Harold Wilson was the 122nd person exonerated from death row, having been released on Nov. 15, 2005. He is sure his wrongful conviction was influenced by the all-white jury that convicted him.

As I stood and listened to these men give gut-wrenching accounts of the horrible injustices they faced, I couldn’t help looking repeatedly at those big marble words above the Supreme Court:

“Equal Justice Under Law.”


Thursday, June 29, 2006

Day One update from the Fast & Vigil

This is from NCADP intern Rachel Lawler, who just returned from spending part of the day down at the U.S. Supreme Court:

Today is the first day of the annual Fast & Vigil at the Supreme Court of the United States. The event began last night with a “Last Supper” at a nice restaurant close to SCOTUS. Attendees were activists, murder victims’ family members, death row family members, and even baby Isaac. The food was delicious and the company was even better. We all laughed over George recounting stories of Mike’s mishaps, while munching on hummus. This is my first Fast & Vigil and also my first time fasting for more than one day. So far I’ve been able to stave off hunger pangs with Gatorade, water, caffeine gum, and Tabasco sauce. My food/beverage intake will be limited to these three things until July 3rd at midnight.

I just returned to the NCADP office after distributing literature about the death penalty to hundreds of Hill workers, tourists, and students. Spending several hours doing this may seem redundant, pointless, even a complete waste of time to some. However, I have always believed that one of the reasons why some people support the death penalty is because they simply don’t know the truth about it. I’d think to myself, “If only they knew the real facts, then perhaps they’d feel differently about it.” So today was the perfect opportunity for me to increase the public’s awareness of the flaws inherent in our death penalty. If I handed a flyer to even one person who after reading it, decides to reexamine their views and ends up opposing the death penalty, then the day was a success. And hey, I got to work on my tan too!

The Fast and Vigil has begun!

Members of the Journey of Hope...From Violence to Healing are participating in the annual Fast and Vigil Against the Death Penalty, on the sidewalk in front of the U.S. Supreme Court. With support from NCADP's Abolish the Death Penalty blog, we'll be bringing you "live" reports from the activities over the course of the next four or five days, so check back often!

Also, a new blog has launched to provide additional coverage. You can see it here.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

One woman's journey

Out in California, the Ventura Star became the latest newspaper to call for abolition of the death penalty. After the newspaper's editorial appeared, a number of people submitted supportive letters to the editor. Among them was this Journey of Hope member:

Journey offers hope

Re: your June 22 editorial, "Time to end death penalty":

This is an editorial long overdue. In my opinion, the execution of only one innocent person is enough to get rid of the death penalty everywhere.

As the mother of a murder victim, I felt I had to practice what I preach and joined a group of people in Texas, who, with the Texas Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty, went on a Journey of Hope "From Violence to Reconciliation," a 17-day trip that started in Houston with a quiet vigil in front of the prison in Huntsville where executions take place.

These people came from many states, from Hawaii to Alaska, California to Massachusetts, and states in between. The group consisted of parents of murder victims, relatives of people on death row, mothers of executed victims and men who had spent many years on death row before finally being exonerated.

We had the opportunity to tell our stories in churches, high schools, colleges and universities, wherever we were invited, including speaking in front of the College of Law in Austin.

The reception we received from all, especially the young people, was very gratifying, especially when they acknowledged it by coming to give you a hug and thanking you for coming. Our journey ended in Austin, where we met with the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty.
There will be another journey in Virginia this October, and, if at all possible, I hope to be there. I cannot think of a more worthwhile project for myself at this time of my life.

Elvira Ramirez Crutcher

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Tuesday's Focus: Marietta Jaeger-Lane

This is the second installment of the Tuesday's Focus series. Today we look at the story of Marietta Jaeger-Lane:

Marietta Jaeger's daughter Susie was abducted at the age of seven during a family camping trip in Montana. For over a year afterwards, the family knew nothing of Susie's whereabouts. Shortly before the one-year anniversary of Susie's disappearance, Marietta stated to the press that she wanted to speak with the person who had taken her child. On the anniversary date, she received a call from a young man who taunted her by asking, "So what do you want to talk to me about?"

During the year following Susie's disappearance, Marietta had struggled to balance her rage against her belief in the need for forgiveness. Her immediate response to the young man was to ask how he was feeling, since his actions must have placed a heavy burden on his soul. Her caring words disarmed him, and he broke down in tears on the phone. He subsequently spoke with Marietta for over an hour, revealing details about himself and the crime that ultimately allowed the FBI to solve the case.

Marietta was to learn that Susie had been killed on a remote Montana ranch a week after she disappeared. Despite her family's tragedy, she remains committed to forgiveness and has been an ardent opponent of the death penalty for the over 25 years since Susie's death.

(Reprinted with permission from Not in our Name: Murder Victims Families Speak Out Against the Death Penalty, a publication of Murder Victims Families For Reconciliation (Barbara Hood & Rachel King, Editors; MVFR)

Several years ago Marietta married Bob Lane and left the intercity of Detroit and moved to his sprawling ranch in Three Forks, Montana. Marietta continues to travel around the world with her Christian message of forgiveness

Marietta Jaeger-Lane Quotes:

"Loved ones, wrenched from our lives by violent crime, deserve more beautiful, noble and honorable memorials than pre-meditated, state-sanctioned killings. The death penalty only creates more victims and more grieving families. By becoming that which we deplore -- people who kill people -- we insult the sacred memory of all our precious victims."

"Concerning the claim of justice for the victim's family, I say there is no amount of retaliatory deaths that would compensate to me the inestimable value of my daughter's life, nor would they restore her to my arms. To say that the death of any other person would be just retribution is to insult the immeasurable worth of our loved ones who are victims. We cannot put a price on their lives. That kind of justice would only dehumanize and degrade us because it legitimates an animal instinct for gut-level bloodthirsty revenge."

"In my case, my own daughter was such a gift of joy and sweetness and beauty, that to kill someone in her name would have been to violate and profane the goodness of her life; the idea is offensive and repulsive to me."

"Capital punishment degrades, dehumanizes and debilitates us as a human society."

Monday, June 19, 2006

Tuesday's focus: SueZann Bosler

Today we introduce a new feature, "Tuesday's Focus."

"Tuesday's Focus" will feature the stories of:
  • Murder victim's family members
  • Death row exonorees
  • Family members of those on death row
  • Family members of those who have been executed
  • Anti-death penalty activists

Today, as the first part of a continuing series, we feature the story of SueZann Bosler.

On December 22, 1986, SueZann Bosler and her father, Rev. Billy Bosler, were attacked in the church parsonage by an intruder. Rev. Bosler was stabbed 24 times. SueZann, in an effort to help him, was herself stabbed in the back and head and left for dead. While lying on the floor pretending to be dead, she heard the intruder ransack the house as she watched her father take his last breath.

As a Brethren minister, Rev. Bosler had been an opponent of capital punishment, and had once told SueZann that if he was ever murdered he would not want his killer to receive the death penalty. On her father's behalf, SueZann worked for 10 1/2 years to spare the life of his murderer, James Bernard Campbell. She voiced her opposition to the death penalty throughout three trials and two sentencings. Her efforts put her at stark odds with Florida prosecutors and judges, who at one point threatened her with contempt of court if she revealed her views to the jury considering Campbell's fate.

SueZann devoted many years to seeking commutation of Campbell's death sentence. On June 13, 1996, her efforts were successful and his sentence was commuted to three consecutive life terms. "Being able to point to him at that moment, and express my forgiveness, was like having a weight lifted from my shoulders," she recalls.

(The above was reprinted with permission from Not In Our Name: Murder Victims Families Speak Out Against the Death Penalty, a publication of Murder Victims Families For Reconciliation, Barbara Hood & Rachel King, Editors.

Links to SueZann’s Journey:

SueZann Bosler Quote:
"My father's favorite hymn was 'Let There Be Peace on Earth, and Let it Begin With Me. Those of us who work against the death penalty are working for peace."

Friday, June 09, 2006

Virginia Journey of Hope: Oct. 13-29, 2006

The Journey of Hope is returning to Virginia October 13-29, 2006. Ten years ago the Journey, then an annual event of Murder Victims’ Families for Reconciliation spread throughout the State of Virginia. MVFR Founder Marie Deans, MVFR Executive Director Pat Bane, and Henry Heller, Executive Director Virginians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty, did the bulk of the work in organizing the 1996 Virginia Journey of Hope.

In 1997 the Journey of Hope…from Violence to Healing incorporated. Since incorporation the Journey has conducted similar events in Texas, Tennessee, North Carolina, Ohio and last year again in Texas. In 2006 we are coming back to Virginia.

As Journey participants we will be sharing our personal stories, speaking from our hearts.
As we speak from our hearts, we touch other people’s hearts.

When someone’s heart is touched they are more receptive to the idea of abolition. They are more likely to rethink their age-old stand of supporting the Death Penalty and realized they can’t support it anymore.

Ask George White, Marietta Jaeger-Lane, SueZann Bosler, Bud Welch, Juan Melendez, David Kaczynski and the rest of the people on the Journey and they will tell you it happens all the time.

We need your help. Won’t you please join us in Virginia October 13-29th and help us spread the seeds of forgiveness as a way of healing, and the seeds of compassion for all of Humanity.

With great organizations like Murder Victims’ Families for Reconciliation and Murder Victims’ Families for Human Rights under the Journeys Spotlight, and with groups like the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty, Citizens United for Alternatives to the Death Penalty, Amnesty International USA’s Program to Abolish the Death Penalty, Virginians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty and other State and National Coalitions walking hand in hand with us, we will make an impressive impact.

In 1996 the Virginia Journey took on VADP’s goal of ending the 21-day rule and that effort by the Journey was very successful. This year the Journey will be taking on the issue of a Moratorium on the Death Penalty in the State of Virginia.

The Journey will begin in Northern Virginia (near DC). We will spread through parts of the state and reach Richmond, the State Capital the second weekend. It is when Sister Helen Prejean joins the Journey. It is also Amnesty Internationals Faith In Action Weekend. This will be a special weekend for the Journey.

The Virginia Journey will conclude with the gathering of abolitionists for the annual NCADP Conference Oct 26-29th in Reston, VA.

Thank you,
Bill Pelke

Journey of Hope Box 2100390Anchorage, AK 99521-0390 877-9-2-4GIVE (4483)