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.