Friday, October 26, 2007

Another update from The Journey

From the ground in Texas:

Abolitionists/Moratorium folk--people of faith and those seeking human rights for all: we want you to help spread the word that we are in Texas representing you. We need all your support: letters to the editor, legislative, funding, prayers, etc. Let folk know we are here! So far,we have had warm reception and some changed hearts and mind.

We have quite a few venues left including in Waco, interviews with The Dallas Morning News, an SMU event and a big March/Rally in Houston. Come if you are able and get the word out. We are worth your time and dollars!

Look at our remaining schedule -- join the dialogue

Thanks for all you do and are for "love and compassion for ALL humanity" as Bill Pelke says often.

Our warmest greetings,

The Journey of Hope Folk in Austin

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Update from the Texas Journey

This good article appeared today in The Lariat, which is the student newspaper at Baylor University. Nice work, Journey folk!

Group hopes to raise death penalty awareness

The death penalty is reserved for criminals who have committed cruel,
inhumane crimes- acts that give their victims and their victims' loved
ones little room for compassion. But the members of Journey of Hope find

"No other group has power and authority to speak about forgiveness than
(the members of Journey of Hope). They have no reason to forgive, but they
do," Fernando Arroyo, chair of Waco Amnesty International, said.

Baylor National Association of Social Workers and Baylor Students for
Social Justice in association with Waco Amnesty International will join
Journey of Hope to speak about death penalty alternatives on campus
Thursday morning in Kayser Auditorium.

Step by Step, a documentary about Journey of Hope members will be shown
from 8:30 to 10 a.m., and Journey of Hope members will speak from 10:30
a.m. to noon. Each session will be followed by a question-and-answer

Family members of murder victims and the executed and exonerated lead
Journey of Hope. They conduct public education speaking tours to address
alternatives to the death penalty.

Amnesty International, an organization supporting different human rights
issues, is the umbrella organization for Journey of Hope. Their main
action for human rights is letter writing, but having an event on campus
is something Arroyo, said he has always wanted.

Arroyo said Amnesty International has received a lot of help from Baylor
students, especially in helping to promote 2 main campaigns - Journey of
Hope and genocide in Darfur and Sudan.

Last semester Amnesty International held 6 film sessions in Waco that many
Baylor students were involved in. This year, they hope more students will
be able to take something away from Journey of Hope since they will be
speaking on campus.

"We have the privilege of having the founders come," Arroyo said.

Executive Director Bill Pelke will speak to students and answer questions
on behalf of Journey of Hope.

"It's a platform for family members of victims to share their story, and,
in some cases, prove death row inmates' innocence," Arroyo said. "It puts
a human face on the death penalty."

Journey of Hope is not a Christian organization because it's mission is to
gather people of all belief systems who share in its mission.

"It's their faith that's helped them overcome hatred and revenge and it's
what has helped them overcome the bitterness creeping into their heart,"
Arroyo said. "They find healing and the miracle of forgiveness in their
hearts and want to pass is around in the lives of victims and their

McGregor senior Flor Avellanedo, president of Baylor's social work
association helped to organize the event. "It's a miraculous thing -- that
God gives people the power to forgive and speak on behalf of them," she

Members of Journey of Hope said they believe there's only an allusion of
closure when a murderer is executed.

Arroyo said family members end up destroying true reconciliation that
could take place after the murder of a family member.

"It's so sad to think how many innocent people we've sent to death row,"
he said "Even if it's one, it's too many."

Acknowledging that the death penalty is a controversial issue, Avellanedo
said, "We all have our opposing views of the death penalty, but it's
always good to be aware of other views so we can reflect and think twice
about what we think."

Andrea Brashier, Carrolton senior and association member, said she will
attend the event because she wants to support awareness of the justice

"I think we have a lot of room to grow in that area so I think this
program will open our eyes to thinking about other options, especially as
students of a Christian school," she said.

Arroyo hopes the event will start more dialogue about the issue and prompt

Friday, October 19, 2007

Where are we on lethal injection executions?

Rather than comment myself, I thought I would post this informative article from

What was scheduled to be a busy week in the nations death chambers instead
has offered growing evidence that a moratorium on lethal injection is
materializing across the country even as a U.S. Supreme Court justice
suggested that some executions should go on.

Virginia last night (Oct. 17) became the 16th state where executions by
lethal injection effectively are on hold. The U.S. Supreme Court, without
giving a reason, granted a stay to convicted murderer Christopher Scott
Emmett 4 hours before he was scheduled to die at the Greensville
Correctional Center in Jarratt, Va.

It was the second time this week that a court delayed a lethal injection
with little time to spare. On Monday (Oct. 15), the Nevada Supreme Court
granted a stay to killer William Castillo 90 minutes before he was set to
die, even though Castillo himself did not appeal the punishment and later
expressed disappointment that he was not put to death. The American Civil
Liberties Union of Nevada brought the case.

Arkansas, Ohio and Georgia also were scheduled to execute prisoners using
lethal injection this week, but only the execution in Georgia set for 7
p.m. Friday (Oct. 19) remains a possibility, as earlier court decisions
delayed the other executions. (Blogger's update: the Georgia Supreme Court on Wednesday stayed Friday's scheduled execution, citing the U.S. Supreme Court's acceptance of cert in the Kentucky case.)

The flurry of activity follows the U.S. Supreme Court's decision on Sept.
25 to hear Baze v. Rees, a case brought by 2 Kentucky prisoners who argue
that lethal injection as it is carried out by 36 states amounts to cruel
and unusual punishment in violation of the Eighth Amendment. (See related
story: Lethal injection goes on trial, but goes on)

The high courts decision last month to enter the debate over lethal
injection has had an immediate chilling effect across the country, as
lawyers for death-row prisoners have argued that states should not carry
out death sentences using a method that may be ruled unconstitutional.
Executions in Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas and Texas were suspended after
the Supreme Court took up the Kentucky prisoners challenge, and Nevada and
Virginia joined those states this week.

Speaking directly to the possibility of a nationwide moratorium on lethal
injection, Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia on Tuesday (Oct. 16)
cautioned that stopping all executions by that method wasn't the high
court's intention when it agreed to hear Baze v. Rees. Just because the
justices agreed to take on the case, Scalia said, doesn't necessarily mean
that a moratorium should ensue.

Overall, 16 states now have governor-imposed or court-ordered holds on
lethal injection: Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Delaware,
Florida, Kentucky, Maryland, Missouri, Nevada, New Jersey, North Carolina,
Ohio, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia, according to the Death Penalty
Information Center, which opposes capital punishment.

Lethal injection was placed on hold in 10 of those states before the
Supreme Court agreed to hear Baze v. Rees, underscoring the legal
uncertainty that has surrounded the procedure for much of the past 2

Meanwhile, only 2 states where lethal injections are not on hold Georgia
and Mississippi have set execution dates for prisoners before next
spring, when the Supreme Court is expected to rule in Baze v. Rees,
according to the Death Penalty Information Center, which maintains an
updated list of upcoming executions. (Blogger's update: slight error here. Alabama and Florida still have executions pending. We hope these will be stayed. But as of right now, they remain pending and should be considered serious dates.)

After Georgia's scheduled execution on Friday and another in that state
set for Oct. 23 Mississippi is scheduled to execute Earl Wesley Berry on
Oct. 30.

On Tuesday, Scalia disagreed with the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeal's
decision to stay the execution of Arkansas death-row inmate Jack Harold
Jones Jr., who was scheduled to die that day.

Scalia, dissenting from the Supreme Court majority, wrote that the circuit
court's opinion was "based on the mistaken premise that our grant of
certiorari in Baze v. Rees calls for the stay of every execution in which
an individual raises an Eighth Amendment challenge to the lethal injection

Granting certiorari means the Supreme Court has agreed to hear a case.

"The grant of certiorari in a single case does not alter the application
of normal rules of procedure," Scalia wrote.

Legal experts said Scalias statement gave a good indication of his
personal views, but did not necessarily signal that a national moratorium
would be averted.

"The fact that it's a dissent says more than anything. It suggests that a
majority of the court disagrees with that perspective," said Bryan
Stevenson, a law professor at New York University and executive director
of the Equal Justice Initiative, a nonprofit legal clinic.

In the meantime, lower courts already have begun to issue stays of
execution on their own, Stevenson said, pointing to the Nevada Supreme
Courts decision this week, as well as a decision by the Texas Court of
Criminal Appeals earlier this month.

Attention now remains focused on Georgia, where state officials have vowed
to move ahead with the execution Friday of killer Jack Alderman, as well
as the scheduled execution by lethal injection on Oct. 23 of Curtis

The Georgia Supreme Court this week rejected Alderman's request for a
stay, arguing as Scalia did that the U.S. Supreme Court "has not yet
indicated that, in cases in this posture, all executions by lethal
injection should be stayed," according to the Georgia courts opinion.

But Michael Siem, one of the lawyers working on a stay for Alderman, told that the precedent already has been set at least for now.

"Our position is this: Every state but Virginia and Georgia has stayed
executions [scheduled since the court agreed to hear Baze v. Rees]," Siem
said before last night's stay in Virginia. "If that isn't a direct
indication to the states what they should be doing, I don't know what is."

Thursday, October 18, 2007

The Journey of Hope begins in Texas

This just in, from Connie Nash, who is participating in the current Journey of Hope...From Violence to Healing:

Report #1 on the Texas Journey 2007

From Houston on Thursday afternoon...

Hello, this is a quickly pulled-together report right before some of us take off for San Antonio, Dallas, etc. Not yet sure in what order. Sound familiar?(smiles)

We have had a rich & wondrous week in Houston. Of course we are all cry-babies and huggers and so there were lots of the same this morning as some of this Journey's group took off for various & sundry places.

To start more-or-less at the beginning:
Most of us stayed at the Dominican Sisters place on Almeda. Later, we want to tell you about their beautiful mission so in keeping with our own. Of course, their welcoming us with open arms wasn't hurt at all by the fact that Sister Helen was with us for several days and spoke in their chapel.

The first real gathering with all of us began with a bang! We saw together the DVD of the '98 Journey of Hope which is just now completed & in process of release to several venues. Quite a few of us were in that film. Of course watching this, we felt the presence of many other Journey folk and abolitionists as we teared up and laughed together.


"We plan to be on the road 'til the death penalty is abolished..."

Ron Carlson "The hardest thing I ever did was to forgive (Carla Faye Tucker)...I took the time to get to know Carla Faye. She was the firmest believer I've ever met."

"It wasn't hate that sustained me, it was love."

Ken & Louis Robinson "Texas is 50th in the nation for (not) taking care of mentally ill...cutting mental health (funding) to build more prisons."

"(Folk) don't want babies killed...(they) just want adults killed."

Execution "dehumanizes the (criminal) just as they dehumanize their victim."

George "We're not on different sides... you can't restore something that you kill."

"Hatred is simply not healthy." Sister Helen or Marietta?

From an angry bystander right after a state killing: "They should be tortured & let everyone see it."

Bill Pelke "To forgive is not condoning. Forgiving Paula (Cooper) did more for me than it did for Paula."

After the film, we got acquainted & reacquainted...
Here is just a wee bit from this sharing...

CeCe McWee "My son first asked me not to witness his execution but I refused and went. We were asked by the prison officials not to express emotions. I didn't cry but later in the shower I felt the salt more than the water. I still keep trying to ask myself 'what more could I have done for my son?'" (CeCe also lost a daughter to murder)

Dave Atwood "We are here in the Belly of the Beast--(or maybe) the Belly of the Belly of the Beast. We still have politicians to change--it's a political animal here."

A group of Koreans were with us. Father Li who ministers to death row inmates and other prisoners and certain sacred remembrances, washes the feet of these inmates. Mr. Ko lost three family members to a murder and forgives the serial killer. Much more on this group later.

Read about others here on this site and I will tell you more about each later.

Well, I'm gonna go quickly through the rest of the week because I know any moment the cars will roll out of here...


Concert with Nancy G. and Charlie King. Presentations by Mr. Ko, Father Li and Sister Helen. This night was so well-received although the collection barely paid the expenses.

We gathered the next evening...

Sister Helen to Bill P. "Was it tense for you last night?"

Bill "It's been tense the last six months."

Lisa "I'm a Johnny Appleseed but I never see the apples." (Lisa does Restorative Justice work since '89. She has been a key player in the release of an

We all got to talk with Abe B. and Susan B. by phone and felt so connected and close to them.

Ron talked about how "People show up like tulips" one of many fresh metaphors and phrases were were to hear throughout this week.

One of the "vindicated" (new term for exoneree) thanked the activist and supporters for being with us.

Greg P. Audel, a local lawyer who was a close friend of Karla Faye and is a close friend of Sister Helen said, "We're here to lift all of society up--that's why we're here."

Well there's ever so much more about this week to tell. These are only a few of the highlights. More nd tidbits from Dallas on Houston part #2 soon. Look forward to an amazing scenario at a youth center in a challenging neighborhood--the way they connected with Terri and her deep concerns for her son who's on death row for a crime he didn't do--and their connections also with the "vindicated" guys--

Find out soon how to download or hear online a radio program with Greg and Shujaa that you won't believe, there was an incredibly polished and moving set-up on screen with many profound quotes silently presented as Sister Helen and Terri's told their stories at St.
Pius X High School. The students were the leaders and warm receivers. There was a couple in the audience who have a brother on Texas Death Row--friends of Monica (of Sweden) and Robin who've been with us on the Journey. They are all family in supporting Roger on Texas Death Row.

In closing, part #1 from Jim U who helped edit and write a book with a Texas death row inmate, Carter Flores' son.

"Taking my first Journey (not my last) has deepened and motivated me as an actrivist and a whole person.
It was a privelege to bring the Journey's hope within the razorwire. Those who've forgiven the most atrocious crimes imaginable embrace ;you with a powerful spirit of compassion. I got the read Bill P.'s powerful book in the days I got to know him and in the days that others purchased Charle's own books.
Sitting to hear Charlie King sing a new song is like encountering Phil Ochs all over again. It's a wonderful journey."

More soon from us all--excuse any typos--you know how much we have to keep movin' on this Journey! Please keep the Atwoods, Bill and Kathy and all of us in The Light as we do for you--

Your Journey Scribe (as Sister Helen calls me) from the Carolinas, Connie Nash