Friday, February 29, 2008

Ode to Bill

Please don't miss the important youtube video (and rate it) just below the "Ode"!

I am reposting this well-written and colorful piece by Ron which was first posted here in the archives under "Special NCADP Special Recognition Award for Jan 22 2008" --See the Call for Gratitudes and the Comments under that story. Look for more repostings and some new similar items and reports coming up. Because I've detected a little Bill Pelke humility or shyness--I took a little break from these--but now I'm trying to "sneak" these in with the visibility they deserve. Connie

Ode to Bill

"Ron, I would like you to meet Bill Pelke."

It wasn’t that long ago that I was standing in my living room listening to Abe Bonowitz introduce Bill to Pat and I.

Abe, Juan Melendez and Bill Pelke were on a Journey of Hope tour across the states. I had talked to Abe and Juan at a Seminar for exonorees at a retreat in Florida.

They were traveling the states in a van, towing a trailer full of abolitionist T-shirts and literature . The wording on both vehicles said "Journey of Hope.
From Violence to Healing, Stop the Killing." (along with an inordinate amount of anti-Bush parroting.) I dubbed it Brother Love’s Traveling Salvation Show.

The very sight of it conjured up images of southern ministers who traveled from town to town, in rural areas, preaching the words of Armageddon. I could almost hear them, hollering on hot summer nights, in circus tents, to save the towns people from eternal damnation. Halleluia Brothers! Can I get an Amen?

When Abe told me that they would be in Ohio around Easter time I invited this strolling minstrel show to my place, in Michigan for the Easter weekend. "Come
and have Easter dinner with us. I know you guys probably have not had any real food in a long time. Pat is a great cook. Spend the whole week end, you can kick back and relax. You probably need a little vacation from the Journey."

Juan told me that they will would have a guy named Bill Pelke with them.
"If it is OK ," he added.

"Sure", I said, "Any friend of you guys Is welcome in my house." Abe
went on to tell me a little about Bill and I immediately had second thoughts about this visit. Great. After years of successfully keeping the Jehovah Witnesses at bay, I now was letting one stay in my house.

I have learned that there are two things you cannot change about fanatics. Their mind or the subject. I believe that this is inherent to all extremists.

"If he starts trying to save me, he is going to end up staying in the garage," I told Abe. "NO NO," Juan said to me " Bill’s not like that, He’s cool." Abe then
says to me "You could use some saving you heathen." "Is he a Jehovah’s witness?" I queried. "NO," was the reply.

I remember one of the first things Bill did was to give me an autographed copy of his book. Early the next morning I scanned the book and realized that there was a whole lot more to this man than meets the eye.

We went to dinner at one of my favorite restaurants. It was here that Abe, Juan, Bill, myself, and my girlfriend Pat began one of the longest discussions, on the Death Penalty in recent history. It lasted for 3 continuous days and nights and is still ongoing. I don’t even remember what we ate or drank as the conversation was that engrossing. I even ignored our waiter as he waited on us. ( This guy tries to hit on me sometimes when I eat there. This usually annoys me which gives me a chance to try out a new insult. Pat thinks it is cute and gets her laughs out of it.)

Enter Bill Pelkeism (Yes, it is too a word)

Billpelkeism– Pronunciation: \0'i-zc?m\ Function: noun
Etymology: - ism

distinctive doctrine, cause, or theory 2: an oppressive and especially discriminatory attitude or belief having to do with Bill Pelke

1. The act of being Bill Pelke

2. The belief that One can stop government killings

3. The following of Bill Pelke Or Pelkieists, Commonly known as JOH contributors and workers.

4. The understanding that hard work and dedication can stop executions .

5. The realization that one cannot keep up with other abolitionists when drinking in a local pub.

In recent years I have had the biblical expertise and knowledge of Bill Pelke, on my side, just a phone call away. We have had many discussions about the Death
Penalty aspects of the bible which led me to study it diligently.

Now days when A Jehovah’s witness comes to my door,things are different.

"Come on in. Would you like some coffee? I want to talk to you about the death penalty. Just where in the hell do you get off telling people that God says it is
OK to kill people. Sit your asses down in those chairs, shut up and don’t interrupt me. Get comfortable cause this is going to take a while."

Anyway, I got to know Bill. I can honestly say that my life has become more complete because of knowing him. The whole abolitionist movement has benefited from his
diligent and dedicated work. On the Journey, in Texas, this year I watched as Bill took on this Destined for Failure (There had been some problems before the
Journey even began) undertaking and through his leadership, brought it to success. I watched in admiration as he worked day and night skipping many meals. Even at night as we slept, he worked.

Bill has worked throughout the U.S and even Europe to end government killing. Just think of all the people Bill has reached out to and how many lives are saved
because of him, his relentless pursuit of our cause, at great personal and financial hardship. Look at the impact the Journey of Hope has put in the Death

Keep on keeping on. We all love you Brother.

All it takes for evil to prevail --is for good men to
do nothing. Edmund Burke

WATCH New Video on Death Penalty, Victims, Revenge

Hi all,

We have just posted our newest YouTube video:

We’ve been told that the first 48 hours on YouTube is critical to making a video a success. Here’s how you can help:

1) watch the video
2) comment on the video
3) rank the video—highly please!
4) make it a favorite
5) send it to your friends or your email lists and ask them to do the same.

To do items 2,3 and 4 you need to login to a YouTube account, but its easy and free and the rest takes only a few minutes.

Videos with the highest marks in these categories in the first 48 hours will be placed on the YouTube’s “best of lists” and get even more traffic. So please take a few minutes to help us get this message out. It's your fast and fun activism for the day!


Natasha Minsker
Death Penalty Policy Director
ACLU of Northern California
39 Drumm Street
San Francisco , CA 94111
Telephone: (415) 621-2493
FAX: (415) 255-1478
E-mail: nminsker@aclunc. org



Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Four Vindicated Meet in San Jose

The photo above shows four men --all vindicated from death row-- who attended the National Coalition Against the Death Penalty annual conference in San Jose. Be sure to see Ron Keine's Report on SAN JOSE and Ron's BIO just below the report. Here are short BIOS for the other four men. For even more details on the lives of these four brave souls and others go to

Ron Keine, Shujaa Graham, Greg Wilhout, Curtis McCarty

Shujaa Graham
Shujaa Graham was born in Lake Providence, Louisiana, where he grew up on a plantation. At the age of 18, he was sent to Soledad Prison. In prison, Shujaa became part of the prison activist movement. In 1973,Shujaa was targeted and framed in the murder of a prison guard at the Deul Vocational Institute in Stockton, California. The community became involved in his defense and supported him throughout four trials. In 1979, the California Supreme Court overturned the death conviction. Finally, Shujaa won his freedom and affirmed his innocence in spite of the system and was released in March 1981. In the years following his release, Shujaa moved away from the Bay Area,learned landscaping and created his own business. He lectures frequently on the death penalty, the criminal justice system, incarceration and innocence, and racism in America. “I’m filled with ideals that would make life better for all humanity, that’s my struggle,” Shujaa says. “That’s going to be my struggle until I die.

Greg Wilhoit
Greg Wilhoit grew up in Tulsa, Oklahoma in an average, middle class, Christian family. In 1983 he married Kathy Godwin. They had two daughters. Greg loved his family, but in May 1985 he and Kathy separated to try and work out some problems. Kathy and their daughters, Krissy and Kim moved into an apartment across town, but Greg saw them almost daily. On June 1, 1985 Kathy was found brutally murdered in her apartment. Greg was home alone sleeping, so he had no alibi. Almost a year later, Greg was stunned when he was unexpectedly arrested and charged with Kathy’s murder. The lawyers that were hired and paid did sloppy work and finally Greg fired them. Greg located a lawyer with a reputation for being one of the best in the country. Yet, unbeknownst to Greg or his parents, they found out too late that this attorney had become an alcoholic and had developed alcohol-related brain damage. He embodied the definition of an incompetent attorney and did no preparation whatsoever for Greg’s trial. He appeared in court drunk, threw up in the judge’s chambers, and literally put on no defense. Since the jury basically only heard the prosecution’s case, Greg was found guilty and sentenced to death. At the sentencing, Greg said, “The judge told me I was to die by lethal injection. ‘If that fails we’ll electrocute you. If the power goes out, we’ll hang you. And if the rope breaks we’ll take you out back and shoot you.’” Eventually,the 12 top forensic odontologists in the country examined the bite mark evidence and all 12 testified that the bite mark could not possibly have been Greg’s. A new trial was eventually granted and in 1983 Greg was finally cleared of all guilt. He has never received an apology or one penny in compensation. Despite challenges such as post-traumatic stress symptoms,Greg has found that sharing his story about the horrors of the death penalty and the fallibility of the justice system gives him a purpose and will contribute to the abolition of the death penalty.

Curtis McCarty
After 21 Years in Prison – including 16 on Death Row –
Curtis McCarty is Exonerated Based on DNA Evidence. He was released from an Oklahoma prison May 11, 2007. Oklahoma City case is one of the worst cases of government misconduct in the history of the American criminal justice system, Innocence Project says
Curtis Edward McCarty was convicted twice and sentenced to death for the same murder in verdicts that were both thrown out based on evidence of his innocence and an extraordinary pattern of government misconduct.

Monday, February 18, 2008


By Ron Keine

Several of our JOH warriors went to the NCADP conference in San Jose California this January. Ron and Greg Wilhoit went 5 days early and did a road trip with A friend, Gary Segatti. Gary is a Lawyer from Michigan who plays ball with Ron on weekends. He was pro Death penalty before meeting Ron.

The trip went to Yosemite National Park and to Kings Forest to see the giant Sequoia trees. It was on to to Big Sur from there. They ended up at Cannery Row ( From John Steinbeck's book of the same name ) to see the sights but never made it past the first bar which they closed.

The next day Rachel and Terry were added to the bunch and all went to the famous Fisherman's Wharf where they had lunch at the Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. Ron almost choked on his food when he suddenly noticed Alcatraz Prison which loomed right outside the big bay window of the restaurant.

They made it to the conference on time and met with Shujaa, Curtis McCarty Bill Pelke , Kathy. Renny Judi Caruso, Juan Melendez, Jack Travers Suzann Bosler and Connie. Later it was nice to see George White and Marietta lane who came just to honor Bill.

Day one of the conference was registration and looking at the various exhibits set up by abolitionist groups from near and far including the JOH exhibit which was by far the best. The official conference opening began at five pm where Bill Pelke, Larry Marshal and several other dignataries spoke to a standing room only crowd. Later that evening Micky Dickoff showed her wonderful film about the JOH which brought many people in tears.

Days two, and three each started with breakfast, and a speech, Then each attendee chose which of the many workshops he or she wanted to attend. Included were Organizing, Fundraising, Strategic Planning Issues, Lethal Injection, Case studies, The Power of Innocence. Public Speaking, Family Members of Murder Victims, Individual Death Row Cases,Communications, Death Penalty Research, Writers Bureau, How to pass Resolutions , Working with murder victims families, Faith communities, Activist caucuses, Youth Organizers, and other related subjects. These workshops were a wealth of information and training. Each was led by a leader in that respective field.

Saturday evening was the Big Awards Banquet where Bill Pelke ( Our Hero ) was awarded and honored as outgoing Board Chair. It is a position Bill has had for about 3 1/2 years and he is now stepping down.

The highlight of the evening was when the moderator Magdaleno Rose-Avila called upon Abe Bonowitz to introduce bill. Abe asked for anyone whom has worked with or been inspired by Bill to "Please come up to the front of the room." What ensued resembled a stampede. There were so many people up there that the rest of the room looked deserted. Bill Started blubbering at the resulting standing Ovation. He was clearly moved.

All and all the Conference was a resounding success. We Learned a lot at the various workshops. Ran into a lot of old friends and made some new ones. It would behoove any abolitionist to attend these NCADP conferences. It is a wealth of information and learning. With all the various workshops we were able to " brush up " on a few areas and learn some totaly new concepts. We are now better armed to do battle with the pro Death Penalty minions and end the government killing.

BIO of Ron Keine

Along with three co-defendants, Ron Keine was convicted of the murder, kidnapping, sodomy and rape of University of New Mexico student William Velten in 1974 and was sentenced to die in New Mexico¢s gas chamber. At the time of the murder, Ron was traveling through New Mexico with a motorcycle gang from California. "We were pretty rowdy," he says. "We were having fun, raising hell and drinking beer. But we weren't killers." Throughout the trial, Ron maintained his innocence. He was unable to believe that he might be found guilty. "I didn't think they could convict four innocent men and sentence them to death," he says. "I had faith in the American justice system. Now I know it's corrupt and broken. I don't believe the government should kill people."

An investigation by The Detroit News after Ron and his co-defendants were sentenced uncovered lies by the prosecution's star witness, perjured identification given under police pressure, and the use of poorly administered lie detector tests. Ron spent 22 months on death row until the real killer came forward and confessed. At one point, Ron says, he was so close to going to the gas chamber that an assistant warden came to talk to him about what he wanted for his last meal. In late 1975, a state district judge dismissed the original indictments and the four men were released in 1976 after the murder weapon was traced to a drifter from South Carolina who admitted to the killing. The murder weapon, a 22-caliber pistol, was found only after a search warrant was issued to open the sheriff's safe. Not only was the murder weapon found, there was also dated evidence showing that the gun was hidden from the defense at the original trial.

After his release, Ron returned to Michigan, where he became a successful businessman and became active in local politics. At one point, Ron held seven elected and appointed positions. His transition, however, was not easy. "It was hard to find a job," Ron says. "I found that people read the headlines but don't read the whole story. All they knew is that I'd been involved in a murder. I had employers tell me they couldn't hire me because I'd be bad for employee morale and scare the women."

Ron currently lives outside of Detroit, where he owns his own business. He speaks to groups throughout the country about having survived death row and has done numerous media interviews about his wrongful conviction and the criminal justice system. Ron has been on the Larry King show, various radio talk shows and in the summer of 2007, a PBS documentary highlighting a speech he gave at Bluffton University in Ohio was released. He has also been a practicing martial artist for more than 20 years. Ron is a dynamic speaker who frequently takes his audience on an emotional roller-coaster ride with a high-impact mixture of sadness and humor.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Do you recognize these guys?

Magdaleno: Poster Guy

Leno just said HAPPY LOVE DAY to us ALL!

More About Leno

First try his blog which is very easy

If you don't know him yet, you'll like him right away! And if you do know him, you'll end up liking him even more. See his latest AHORA on his blog which covers The Economy and more. I'm sure he's open for discussion as well. You will find him most personal and a listener par excellence--not to mention so spontaneous and full of surprises hosting the NCADP San Jose conference--if you know anyone who needs such a host? We REALLY need to hear from Leno's experience at such a time as this!


When you read Leno's book and you MUST!)be sure to give special attention to the chapter: RECONCILIATION, REASON & HUMAN RIGHTS which includes a lot about Journey of Hope and also about our Reason for Being, how to say in Spanish, Leno?

Check out Leno's website and order this book. Also keep watching under Comments here for more...

Magdaleno "Leno" Rose-Avila
Executive Director
South Florida Interfaith Worker Justice
Office: 786-264-1708
Fax: 786-264-1859

Cell: (206) 310-2102

Email 1:
Email 2:

Don't forget to look for Leno UPDATES/his blog entries/etc. on THIS PAGE from time to time here under COMMENTS since this page will only be here a very short time. So mark it as a favorite and please Check Back!

Please find more from and about Leno and his book here under January 30, 2008 in our JOURNEY Blog...

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Leno's Poem "Our Work"

With so much being said and voted upon related to immigration and the lack of empathy for survivors of the human predicament, here are a few words from Leno which may have some bearing on the work of prevention which we all say we want to support:

Our Work

I woke up one day
I knew I was different
my skin was not right
it was sort of off-colored...
well things just seemed
to go on the same each
day and the next
with nothing but little upon
our red table...
I remembered going early
each morning with all
the workers, to some
farmer's fields where
we laughed and we worked
throughout all the sun
till gray setting dusk.
then we all went back
to the truck in our
stooped little shuffle...
a real tired people
going back to dirt little homes
with nothing but little upon
our red table...
to sleep, and then
back to the truck with no
change in the life of these
off-colored people who
speak not like you.
one day those workers
will be buried side by side
in government coffins
and graves
made especially for those
poor little off-colored people.

This poem was written in 1968 when I was working in Colorado's
San Luis Valley. I was frustrated at how farm workers would work all
their (our) lives and have nothing to show for it, nothing but a
government grave.

Find this in -Looking For My Wings- a book by Magdaleno M. Rose-Avila

(Come back later for more from Leno and under comments for updates that
will make you ask: what's changed after all these years? Connie)

Magdaleno "Leno" Rose-Avila
Executive Director
South Florida Interfaith Worker Justice
Office: 786-264-1708
Fax: 786-264-1859

Friday, February 08, 2008

Hector Black and His Daughter

Father Finds Peace in Forgiveness

Seven years ago, Hector Black's daughter was murdered after she surprised an intruder in her Atlanta home...
See also Ron Keine's Article in the Comments below as it relates to prevention of various kinds of tragedies as in the story above. If only the right people had been around EARLY ON and able to help Ivan Simpson who was born in a mental hospital...

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Edward Edward Mpagi (Edmary)

Just think back to Edward's courage and our JOH flexibility--not to mention the gift he was to us from Amnesty! And because of all this, Edward was able
to be present before these thousand plus people and to impart to them the message of forgiveness and healing. We often take such large and small gifts for
granted and fail to recognize what they give us! A
reminder that we at the JOH Texas, 2007 were all part of this for Edward and he continues what JOH has begun all over the world. Let's not take this lightly!

"...I visited University of Torano sharing with them my situation of how I was sentenced to death for murdering a person who was actually alive. They were all amazed--everybody wanted to listen to me.

I went to Borgomanero High School and I spoke to over a THOUSAND students and old people.

I got a chance of visiting Fr. Agostini who during his work in Uganda helped me a lot during my days in prison. I was very happy to meet him..."

See more from Edward at this blogsite

Saturday, February 02, 2008

Edward's Joyful Report from Italy

Photos Coming... I have decided to do kind of a gallery of photos here for Leno, Edward, Contributors of items to follow, JOH folk at NCADP conference, and more from Texas -- rather than for individual postings. So keep watching and send more of your blog contributions and photos to me will you? No need to polish what you send to this blog site. I will do the bare editing or not if you specify. Not too late to send notes from San Jose along with moments you remember recently, from Texas and much earlier from your events with JOH family or somewhere else. Connie


from Edward Mpagi Edmary Sent 02 February 2008

Thanks to the president of Journey of hope for his recommendation to go and speak in Italy. I boarded the airline on 24 /nov/2007 and I reached on 26/nov/2007 at Rome Airport. I was received by Attonita from the Airport.

I spent my first night in Rome in the house of
St. Egidio Community. I appreciated the hospitality given to me by my hosts. They took me around Rome and we visited quite a good number of places.

The following day, I went to a technical school. I shared my testimony and spoke to them about love and forgiveness and the need to support the complete abolition of death penalty in Italy and the whole world.

From there I was taken to Malpensa airport. I left for Milano. I was welcomed by Francisco. We stayed in Novara (I stayed at the home of Francisco and Paulo.)

I gave a sharing in the university the following day. I visited University of Torano sharing with them my situation of how I was sentenced to death for murdering a person who was actually alive. They were all amazed--everybody wanted to listen to me.

I went to Borgomanero High School and I spoke to over a thousand students and old people.

I got a chance of visiting Fr. Agostini who during his work in Uganda helped me a lot during my days in prison. I was very happy to meet him. He gave me some money for the prisoners on death row--the ones he left in Uganda when he returned to Italy.

It was two hours journey to Como. I was welcomed by the Father from Como .

After that I went back to Novara. The following day I went to Lucca. From Lucca I went to Genova. I visited many parts in Genova. We went to the Ocean where I saw different trypes of fish not found in Uganda.

I left for Alexandria--people liked me so much in that part of the country. I was taken to Malpensa to Rome and then flew to Dubai were I spent a night and finally flew back to Uganda.

Through out my trip I stressed the need for forgiveness and to love one another. I talked to people about how cruel and degrading the death penalty is to our society. For example, I spoke about how an innocent person can be convicted--giving examples. I told them how the death penalty is not meant for criminals only--everybody can be a victim any time.

I missed seeing Bill in Italy,as he was busy in a different part of Italy. I enjoyed staying with the people of Italy and they showed me great love during my stay. I was served Italian foods for the first time. It was nice sharing with the people of Italy.

It was amazing to see myself shown in an Italian daily -- almost a full page -- though I could not read the language. I knew the story in the paper could impact the people of Italy regarding the abolition of death penalty.

PS I am very sorry for the delay in writting this. I have had a lot of commitments in Northern Uganda and also working on some film up country. I could hardly access internet during all this period and a lot of work on me --including talk shows,interviews by local and international media. I had a program on BCC last month with Raykroone. I found many things to do after the long time I stayed in US sick. But I thank God life is better --GOOD!

Edward (Mpagi Edmary)

NOTE: We were so honored to have Edward with us on the Journey of Hope in Texas -- right after his work with Amnesty at the UN in New York. Although he was quite ill his entire time with us, Edward courageously told his story along with the rest of us in many Texan venues.