Sunday, May 31, 2009

WORLD-WIDE Protests Planned for 200th Execution Under Texas Governor Rick Perry

Anti-Death Penalty protesters marching in Austin, Texas to bring attention to the case of Jeff Wood, who is on Texas death row convicted under the Law of Parties for a murder (many reliable human rights groups claim) he did not commit.

2009-05-30 08:26:57 - On June 2, 2009, protests will be held in the U.S, Canada and Europe of the 200th execution under Texas Governor Rick Perry, which is scheduled to take place on that day. Since he became governor of Texas in December 2000, Perry has allowed more executions to proceed than any other governor in U.S. history. Terry Hankins is scheduled to be the 200th person executed under Rick Perry.

Media Advisory

For immediate release: May 28, 2009

Contact: Scott Cobb, president, Texas Moratorium Network 512-552-4743

Protests Planned of 200th Execution Under Texas Governor Rick Perry

The TEXAS ANTI-DEATH PENALTY COMMUNITY asks people around the world to focus attention on Texas and join us in protesting the 200th execution carried out under Rick Perry. Altogether, Texas has executed 438 people since 1982, including 152 under former Texas Governor George W. Bush.

Protest locations include Austin at the Texas Capitol (Organized by Campaign to End the Death Penalty and Texas Moratorium Network), Huntsville, Texas outside The Walls Unit (Organized by Texas Moratorium Network), downtown Houston (Organized by Texas Death Penalty Abolition Movement), Albuquerque, New Mexico (May 30), Montreal Canada, Paris France (June 3), and Leipzig Germany at the U.S. Embassy. Leipzig is a sister city of Houston, Texas. Unless noted, protests will occur on June 2. More protests will be announced as they are confirmed. Some of the locations will include a reading of the names of the people executed under Rick Perry. The Montreal protest will include a "die-in". Times and locations of the protests are available on the website

Perry could have taken a large step to reduce the risk of executing an innocent person if he had supported a moratorium on executions as early as 2001. Now, he may have to answer for the execution of Todd Willingham, who most likely was innocent of the arson/murders for which he was executed in 2004. Most recently, Perry’s threatened veto of a bill in the current legislative session to end the death penalty for people who do not kill anyone but are convicted under the Law of Parties forced legislators to take that provision out of HB 2267.

In Texas, a death penalty case costs an average of $2.3 million, about three times the cost of imprisoning someone in a single cell at the highest security level for 40 years, so it has cost Texas state and local governments $300 million more to seek, obtain and carry out the 200 executions carried out under Rick Perry than it would have cost to seek life in prison in these cases.

The 200th execution protests are sponsored by Texas Moratorium Network, Texas Death Penalty Abolition Movement, Campaign to End the Death Penalty - Austin, Campaign to End the Death Penalty – Albuquerque, Students Against the Death Penalty, Texas Death Penalty Education and Resource Center, Abolish the Death Penalty Project on Amazee, the DP Coordination Team of Amnesty International Canada Francophone, and Amnesty International - Leipzig.

How people can protest the 200th execution under Texas Governor Rick Perry

1) On the day of the 200th execution, call Governor Perry at 512-462-1782 and tell him your opinion on the death penalty. If you live in the U.S., you can use his form on his website to email him. We suggest you both call him and email him. If you live outside the U.S., you can fax him at (512) 463-1849 or send him a letter in the postal mail. We would like to hand deliver letters to him, so please send your letter to the address below and we will deliver it to Rick Perry: You can send us your letter to Perry for us to deliver whether you live in the U.S. or another country.

Texas Moratorium Network
3616 Far West Blvd, Suite 117, Box 251
Austin, Texas 7831

2) Attend a protest in your city either on the day of the 200th execution or sometime before. If a protest is not scheduled, you can organize a protest. If you live outside the U.S., organize a protest at the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. Send us a photo or video of your protest by email and we will post it on the website and on YouTube. Or you can upload your photos and videos yourself to our social networking site or directly to our group on YouTube. If your organization is planning a protest, please let us know so that we can list your protest on this site.

3) Sign the petition at and add your name to the list of people who are raising their voices to protest the 200th execution under Texas Governor Rick Perry.

4) Visit the website and donate a symbolic 200 cents towards helping us organize against the Texas death penalty. That is one penny for every execution under Rick Perry. We are asking everyone to donate $2, which is the equivalent of 200 pennies. You are welcome to donate more if you can afford it, but everyone can afford to donate $2.

The artwork at is by German artist Jasmin Hilmer and represents the isolation of Texas in the world community. While most of the rest of the world, including all of Europe, have turned their backs on the use of capital punishment, Texas continues to execute people at a shocking rate.

Houston Protest of the 200th Execution

In Houston, the 200th legal lynching protest will be held from 5:00 until 6:30 under The Old Hanging Tree, corner of Bagby and Capitol downtown. Guest speaker is the borther of Albert Woodfox, one of the Angola Three!
A press conference will be held at 5:00 in Houston. Following the press conference, there will be an open mic so all can register their outrage at another day of infamy for the state of Texas in its quest for executions.

Time: June 2, 2009 from 5pm to 6:30pm Location: The Old Hanging Tree
Street: Bagby and Capitol
City: Houston
Organized By: Texas Death Penalty Abolition Movement

Austin Protest of the 200th Execution at the Texas Capitol

The Austin protest of the 200th execution will be at 5:30 PM on the day of the 200th execution at the sidewalk in front of the Texas Capitol facing South on Congress and 11th Street.
Organized by Campaign to End the Death Penalty and Texas Moratorium Network

Huntsville Protest of the 200th Execution

Time: June 2, 2009 from 5pm to 6:30pm
Location: The Walls Unit (location of the execution)
Street: 12th Street and Avenue I
City/Town: Huntsville, Texas

Paris France Protest of the 200th Execution

There will be a protest of the 200th execution under Governor Rick Perry on the Place de la Concorde, Tuileries/US Consulate side from 6pm to 7pm.
"Nous vous invitions à soutenir les efforts du mouvement abolitionniste au Texas en participant à une protestation le mercredi 3 juin à 18h, Place de la Concorde. Nous vous encourageons par ailleurs à manifester votre désapprobation en écrivant directement à l'Ambassadeur des Etats-Unis en France, Mr. Craig Stapleton, Ambassade des Etats-Unis, 2 avenue Gabriel, 75832 Paris Cédex 08; ainsi qu notre Secrétaire d'Etat Chargée des Affaires Etrangères et des Droits de l'Homme, Madame Rama Yade, 37 quai d'Orsay, 75351 Paris.
Rendez-vous le 3 juin 2009 à 18h Place de la Concorde à Paris."

Leipzig Germany Protest of the 200th Execution

There will be a protest of the 200th execution under Governor Rick Perry outside the US Consulate in Leipzig Germany. Leipzig is a sister city of Houston, Texas.
When the old East Germany conducted executions, they held the executions in Leipzig, although at the time it was not widely if at all known.
Time: June 2, 2009 from 5pm to 6pm
Location: U.S. Consulate
Street: Wilhelm-Seyfferth- Straße 4
City/Town: Leipzig, Germany
Organized By: Amnesty International - Leipzig

Albuquerque, New Mexico Protest of 200th Execution

Protest the 200th Texas Execution under Gov. Rick Perry! Bring your own signs if you have some! We can also stay for the Peace Protest afterwards!
New Mexico recently abolished the death penalty. On May 30, people in New Mexico will hold a protest of the 200th execution under Rick Perry of Texas.
Date and Time: May 30, 2009 from 12pm to 1pm
Location: Albuquerque, New Mexico
Street: Central Ave and Tulane Dr

Montreal, Canada Protest of the 200th Execution

Die-In to Protest Rick Perry's 200th Execution

The DP Coordination Team of Amnesty International Canada Francophone invites the public, organizations and its members to participate in a die-in.

When : June 2nd @ 5:30PM

Where : Ste-Catherine St., between Berri and St-Denis Streets (just off Berri-UQAM subway station)

This die-in is held for those wishing to express a strong message in favor of abolishing the death penalty in the State of Texas.

The renactment will represent the 200 executions pronounced by the Governor of Texas, Rick Perry, since the beginning of his governorship in 2001, when he replaced George W. Bush.

We ask people to dress soberly; preferably all dressed in black.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

NORTH CAROLINA: NAACP and Catholic leaders against death-penalty bill change

The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People is taking a stand against changes by the state Senate to a bill designed to prevent racial bias in the death penalty.

The Racial Justice Act would allow a death row inmate to appeal his conviction if race played a role during trial. Two weeks ago, the bill cleared the chamber but with an amendment that would restart executions by allowing doctors and nurses to be present. The change would remove a legal obstacle that has halted executions for two years.

The NAACP and other religious groups oppose this addition to the bill.

“I am opposed to the Racial Justice Act," said Senate Minority Leader Phil Berger.

Berger, who added the amendment to the bill, said he did so because the act places "another potential hurdle from carrying out death sentences and gives defendants a 2nd bite at the apple.”

Rev. William Barber, with the state chapter of the NAACP, disagrees with Berger. He and others began pushing for the Racial Justice Act after 3 black inmates, who sat on death row for a combined total of 40 years, were exonerated.

They say the intention of the act is to give defendants in capital murder cases the right to challenge their prosecution on racial bias grounds. However, Barber says state legislators have now changed the original purpose of the bill.

"Ultra conservatives and others used it as a pretext for restarting the death penalty, rather than staying focused on the real issue, which is racial justice," Barber said.

Supporters of the death penalty say, even with the changes, the bill will create another loophole for defendants to slow cases.

"It's intended to halt the system. It will make capital punishment unenforceable," said Wayne Uber, a death penalty supporter.

Uber, a Chapel Hill resident, has personal reasons for supporting the death penalty. His twin brother, Jeffrey, was murdered in Florida.

"I do something everyday to honor my brother's memory," he said.

Uber said he believes cases with racial bias should be appealed. But he also thinks current legal wrangling on the issue hurts victims' families.

"The main thing behind a lot of that frustration is just fear," Uber said.

Barber said he plans to keep fighting for the bill to be passed without the amendment, and insists race is a factor.

"In North Carolina and throughout the South, we have killed innocent black men and have placed black men on death row because of their race, or because of the race of the victim," Barber said. The bill will go before another committee of state legislators Wednesday.

(source: WRAL News)


Bishops oppose death penalty bill

North Carolina's Roman Catholic bishops say changes by the state Senate to a bill designed to prevent racial bias in the death penalty are "beyond comprehension."

A priest read a letter Thursday from Bishop Peter Jugis of the Charlotte diocese and Bishop Michael Burbidge of Raleigh at a news conference outside the Legislative Building.

Other religious leaders attending the event agreed they're unhappy with how the Senate approved the Racial Justice Act with new language also designed to allow executions to resume in North Carolina.

Capital punishment has been put on hold for more than 2 years due to a legal tangle in the courts.

The speakers said the new language should be stripped from the bill and the original measure approved alone.


Thursday, May 28, 2009

Ask for an attorney, even if you already have one

This is a post taken from the "Dallas Criminal Defense Lawyer Blog" by Robert Guest, attorney of law.

How can cops interrogate you if they can't talk to you because you have a lawyer? Even a false confession requires significant psychological pressure. The kind LEO can only exert without your defense lawyer present. Welcome to the new 6th amendment, it's no longer a right, it's a privilege (you have to assert!).

Time for the SCOTUS case of the day- Montejo vs. Lousiana.

What happened?

Jesse Montejo was arrested on September 6, 2002, for a robbery/murder. On September 10, Montejo was brought before a judge for a “72-hour hearing” and appointed counsel.

That same day, before Montejo's lawyer could make it to the jail, the police picked up Montejo, Mirandized him again, and elicited more incriminating evidence.

What's wrong with that?

Well, Montejo had a lawyer, and the police continued to interrogate him. The record isn't clear that Montejo requested a lawyer, or even knew who his lawyer was. That shouldn't matter. The right to counsel includes (or should) the right to actually meet with and/or speak to your attorney.

I've been appointed on cases and not known about the appointment for a few days. It's not always possible for me to meet each client the instant I am appointed. I may have to change this approach if Montejo inspired officers start (or continue) to interrogate my clients post appointment.

Montejo had been in jail and interrogated for 3 days, at the very least he needed a break to speak with his attorney. SCOTUS acknowledges that Montejo would have been protected had he asked for a lawyer. Your new 6th amendment= the appointment of an attorney provides no protection. The public must be aware that the burden is on them to invoke their right to counsel.

Even without Jackson, few badger-ing-induced waivers, if any, would be admitted at trial because theCourt has taken substantial other, overlapping measures to exclude them. Under Miranda, any suspect subject to custodial interrogation must be advised of his right to have a lawyer present. 384 U. S., at
474. Under Edwards, once such a defendant “has invoked his [Miranda] right,” interrogation must stop. 451 U. S., at 484. And under Minnick v. Mississippi, 498 U. S. 146, no subsequent interro-gation may take place until counsel is present. Id., at 153. These three layers of prophylaxis are sufficient. On the other side of the equation, the principal cost of applying Jackson’s rule is that crimes can go unsolved and criminals unpunished when uncoerced confes-sions are excluded and when officers are deterred from even trying to obtain confessions. The Court concludes that the Jackson rule does not “pay its way,” United States v. Leon, 468 U. S. 897, 907–908, n. 6, and thus the case should be overruled. Pp. 13–18.

The Montejo lesson for police encounters; ask for an attorney, even if you already have one.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Execute This

I was thrilled when I heard that the legislature voted to abolish the death penalty in Connecticut. I have a unique perspective on this whole “kill-the-killers” mentality.

I watched the state do it.

A little more than four years ago I was one of five reporters selected by my peers to cover the first execution in New England in 45 years.

Ivy-league educated serial rapist and murderer Michael Ross had spent 20 years on death row, first fighting not to be executed and later to be executed.

You see, he had figured out what many of us had kind of thought all along: life in prison is much worse than death.

[...]If you talk to family members or friends of those he killed, they almost all tell you that the death of Michael Ross did not bring the often-talked about “closure.”

In fact the decades of hearings and more hearings and motions from both sides gnawed away at the families of the victims. Almost without exception they will tell you that every return to court was no different from ripping the scab off of a healing wound — and then pouring salt on it.

I have sympathy for those who survive and who must deal with the loss every day. I can only hope that some day, somehow they find closure.

I have significantly less understanding for the politicians who continue to support the death penalty.

They know the death penalty serves no purpose. It provides no closure and no deterrence. The possible future imposition of the death penalty has never deterred a murder.

Death penalty proponents need to admit to themselves that they want revenge. The death penalty never has been and never will be about justice.

Justice is locking someone up in a 10 foot by 14 foot cell for decades with no way out.

Revenge is wanting the convicted killer put to death. It is the easy way out. For everyone.

And the other problem is that politicians and prosecutors don’t have to actually perform executions. They can sit at home secure in the knowledge that they do not have to be actively involved.

But we can fix that. We could make this very personal for those who are responsible for continuing to legislate for the death penalty.

We could require the governor be in the death chamber, look into the eyes of the person the state is about execute in all of our names. Bring along the AG, the prosecutor and all of the legislators who support the death penalty.

Make them active participants in the execution. Make them stand there and watch.

It is easy to take a life from a distance. I suspect it is a lot harder when death is up close and personal and it is the way it should be when the state takes a life.
(Taken from an article in the New Haven Independent by Steve Kalb)

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

ACTION: CONNECTICUT From Murder Victims' Families for Reconciliation

Murder Victims' Families for Reconciliation
Reconciliation means accepting you cannot undo the murder but you can decide how to want to live afterwards.

Family Member Walt Everett is quoted in the attached article about the abolition efforts in Connecticut. See: here

Let's join Walt and let this Governor know what we think:

If you live in Connecticut, please call and e-mail Governor Rell.

If you live elsewhere, please think about who you know who lives in Connecticut and forward this action request to them. Then call them to alert them to your e-mail and ask them to both call and e-mail Governor Rell immediately with the message that:

"I live in Connecticut and I am very happy the the legislature passed a bill to repeal the death penalty. Please sign that bill."

The phone is 860-566-4840.

The email:

Letters, blog posts and comments expressing a similar sentiment on the web pages of Connecticut newspapers would be useful as well.

To stay updated on what is happening in Connecticut, join CNADP by sending an e-mail to CNADP's executive director Ben Jones at See CNADP's web page at here

TODAY is the day that you can help make all the difference. Please take action now!

Finally, please let us know if you are quoted in any death penalty news so that we can share with folks on our list.


Beth Wood

Associate Director

ACTION: Connecticut Governor May Yet Listen to Many Calls/Emails?

Although the Connecticut legislature passed a death penalty abolition bill on Friday, the Governor says she promises to veto it.

Don't Give Up Yet!

Please call or email the Governor and ask her to sign the bill.

The phone is 860-566-4840.

The email:

Monday, May 25, 2009

CALIFORNIA: Interview with Kevin Cooper (one step away from execution for 2nd time)

consortiumnews dot com

On Death Row: Murder and Innocence

By Dennis Bernstein
May 23, 2009

Editor’s Note: This past week, Dennis Bernstein of “Flashpoints,” a Pacifica news program in the Bay Area of California, conducted an interview with a black prisoner named Kevin Cooper, who for a second time is one step away from execution for a murder that he says he did not commit, found guilty at a trial that a number of federal judges believe fell short of fairness:

Dennis Bernstein: If you believe the claims of death row prisoner Kevin Cooper, that he is innocent, and that there are many reasons to do so, then the state of California should be brought up on charges of attempted murder and false imprisonment.

Eleven federal judges of the Ninth Circuit of Appeals have enough doubt about Cooper’s guilt or various violations of his due process, that they opposed the court’s recent denial of a rehearing to examine further evidence key to Cooper’s case.

Cooper has been denied such hearings in the past, most recently on May 11. In a hundred page-plus dissent issued on the eleventh, Judge W. Fletcher of the Ninth Circuit warned that the state may be about to execute an innocent man.

Kevin Cooper spoke to Flashpoints last five years ago in 2004, five days after the state came within a few hours of murdering him. Cooper’s lawyers are appealing the recent ruling by the entire Ninth Circuit to the Supreme Court. Cooper has been on death row for over twenty-five years. He joins us now from death row on San Quentin. Kevin Cooper, welcome.

Cooper: Thank you, Dennis.

Bernstein: And also joining the discussion is Leslie Kean. She’s a friend of Cooper’s who has been visiting him for over ten years on death row, and has done extensive research on the case. …

Why don’t you tell us, set the scene, tell us what was happening five years ago, several hours before the state tried to kill you? Tell us what the situation was.

Cooper: The situation was hectic. I was locked inside this dungeon here in the bowels of San Quentin prison, where these volunteer institutionals are trying to murder, torture and murder. And somehow or other, I managed to get a stay of execution from that state, which was based on a Brady law violation. The state was holding material, exculpatory evidence. I was able to survive this madness. And now I seem to be right back, right in it.

Bernstein: In one moment, Leslie Kean is going to go over the recent decisions and the things that people can do, as well. We’re going to be talking about that later on, Kevin. But again, when you say the madness, you were within eight hours of being executed by the state. …

Cooper: Three hours and 42 minutes.

Bernstein: That’s what I thought. The Chronicle reported eight hours. That’s why I never trust them. And where were you being held?

Cooper: In a room right next to the death chamber, the death chamber waiting room. At various points in time, I was in different parts of the prison. I was over here where I am now, called the East Block, when they moved me to another part of the prison, called Mulstaic which is right above the Death House, and they moved me down inside the death chamber waiting room.

Bernstein: Kevin Cooper, it must have been a devastating experience, coming three hours within your life knowing, feeling in your heart that you’re an innocent man. Could you describe what happens, what was going on and the impact that has on you as a person?

Cooper: No, I can’t. That’s how unbelievable it is – you have to experience it to truly appreciate and understand it. It has an effect on you emotionally, psychologically, mentally, spiritually, I mean, it’s a life-altering event. It’s so real. It’s so real that it seems unreal. There’s no way I can honestly do this --what happened to me or to anyone else that was tortured and murdered by any state in any death house in this country.

Bernstein: They put you through a ritual, don’t they, in which they’re, in essence, attempting to get your cooperation in your own killing, in your own murder.

Cooper: Exactly. They want you to be complicit. Exactly. They want you to participate. They want you to make them feel good about killing you. And I refuse to do that. I just couldn’t do that. I couldn’t eat their food, I couldn’t do anything that they wanted me to do. They asked me or told me to choose the method by which I wanted them to murder me by. I couldn’t do that. How can I do that? Look how sick that even sounds like. They kept asking did I want a last meal and, if so, what did I want? I wanted to eat good food. I don’t want to choose the method by which they were to murder me, how they were going to torture me. That’s for them to decide. I can’t deal with that. That’s how unreal the situation is.

Bernstein: Also in the studio is Leslie Kean. She is a former producer and host of Flashpoints, a friend of Cooper’s who has done extensive research on the case. Leslie.

Kean: Kevin, hi, it’s Leslie Kean. In order to bring the story up to date, we’ve talked about how you came so close to being executed. After the whole ritualistic thing was over and you were back in your cell, and you have maintained your position as an activist… But how did you recover? If you could describe, and I know you said it’s really, really hard to describe, but the first few weeks after this horrific attempt on your life, how did you actually recover from that and kind of bounce back into the struggle that you’ve been carrying on so powerfully ever since?

Cooper: Well, I’ve been blessed to have friends out here such as yourself who’ve taken time out of their lives to come and visit me at this plantation, and visit me, spend quality time with me. I read a lot of books. I do my artwork which, to me, is kind of a therapeutic type thing, it helps me escape the reality of this hectic day-to-day life in this place. And so, through a combination of things, through a combination of willpower, because I understand that if I don’t recover, if I didn’t recover, then these people would win. And I’m not about to let them win if I can help it. I had to find my inner spirit and somehow I managed to do it, but it was hard then and it’s still hard now.

Bernstein: What are you reading now?

Cooper: Right now, I’m reading Slavery By Another Name. And that is by Douglas A. Black.

Kean: And you just finished Mumia Abu-Jamal’s book, is that right?

Cooper: Yeah. Jailhouse Lawyers. I read a lot of different books, and I do a lot of artwork, and I write a lot. I mean, I do a variety of different things, you know, in order to live, to live here on death row.

Kean: And a big part of what you do, Kevin Cooper, is you are an activist. From that cell, you deal with a lot of activists in the Bay Area and around the country. You’re part of a movement to abolish the death penalty, and play a very important role in that. Can you describe what role that activism plays in your life and how that keeps you going in prison?

Cooper: Well, this activism has allowed me to vindicate myself because I do feel vindicated with [what] those eleven justices on the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals have just done. Not only have they believed that I am innocent, and they agreed that I’m innocent, they agreed that they have proven my innocence and proven how the state of California went about framing me. It is all in the first 105 pages. Without this movement, a lot of the things that I now know, even the lawyers that took on this case pro bono, which is Orrick, Herrington, and Sutliffe, none of that would have came about without the movement, without this activism. Every single person that has ever done anything in this movement, to help expose corruption in any death penalty case, any case here, lay the foundation for us to walk on and to build what’s happening in my filing.

Kean: And you just made reference to this filing. Just so people know what you made reference to about the eleven judges, there was a filing on May 11 in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, as Dennis mentioned earlier, actually denying you a rehearing, but what was really important about that was the fact that you had eleven judges who dissented in 101 pages, as you just mentioned. And I want to get into what some of the points are that these judges made and some of the statements that they made.

Why don’t you talk about, first of all, it was a very, very powerful dissent, laying out all the details of your case. What was your reaction when you read that?

Cooper: Vindication! I felt, no matter what happens to me, whether these people go ahead and torture me and murder me, no matter what happens to me, I did what I set out to do. And we as a movement did what we set out to do. And that is, prove that I am innocent. There is no way in the world that eleven federal circuit judges would come to the conclusions that they came to if it weren’t the truth. These people don’t deal with lies, they deal with the truth. Now there are other judges up there who know the truth, but they haven’t said anything. They’ve either just ignored it or said it was procedurally broad. They’ve never said that we were lying. They didn’t say that the stuff didn’t happen; they just said it’s procedurally broad or too late or this or that or it’s a harmless error or this or that. But they’ve never said I was lying. Now these other judges, these eleven, and they’re Republicans and Democrats, even the Chief Judge of the Ninth Circuit, who’s a Republican, a right-wing conservative Republican, is on my side.

Bernstein: And again, to be clear, as we quoted in the introduction, the writer, the judge who wrote the hundred-plus page dissent, Judge Fletcher, said that the state may be about to execute an innocent man. So he didn’t really restrain in any way from suggesting that the state could become a murderer once again.

Cooper: What Judge Fletcher stated was not just present day fact, it’s historical fact. You see, history is my teacher, history has exposed all types of things to me, good and bad about this country. And the one thing that is most definitely timely is that this country was founded upon killing innocent people. It was built upon killing innocent people. And it was maintained, and is being maintained to date, on killing innocent people. And so this is something that this country has always done. This is why they don’t ever seem to blink an eye about it. This is how they can say that it’s not unconstitutional to kill an innocent person – because they’ve always done it. And somehow or another, when we find a constitutional violation, they seem to bypass them or to get around them, say that it is procedurally wrong, because this is what they do, all they know. So I’m not surprised that they’ll kill me as an innocent man, but what I am surprised about is that these judges – and it’s not just one judge, it’s not just him, it’s ten others with him, and there’s others that just didn’t say nothing but also agreed with him.

Bernstein: Well, the point here is that eleven federal judges have opposed the recent decision by the Ninth Circuit to deny you this important new hearing. …
Kean: Kevin, just to give people some examples of some of the corruption that has gone on in your case…First of all, you were convicted in 1983 for murdering four people and I just want to give you the chance to make the point…You have always stated from the very beginning that you were innocent of this crime, correct?

Cooper: Exactly. Yes, I have.

Kean: And one of the things that the judge pointed out in this recent ruling was that certain evidence in your original trial in 1983 was withheld from the jury. And if that evidence had been introduced, you would very likely not have been convicted. Can you give us some examples of some of the key pieces of evidence that were not included?

Cooper: Well, there was a pair of bloody coveralls that a lady turned over to the police, and told them that her boyfriend, who was a convicted murderer, left at her house. And they were covered in blood. And she and her sister seen him getting out of a car that matched the description of the victim’s stolen car. And things of that nature. And they just threw those coveralls away. So what they did was, by throwing those coveralls away, they eliminated the jury from learning about the coveralls, from learning about the guy who left them at her house, learning about he was a convicted murderer, learning about a whole bunch of stuff. They denied me due process on that. They also withheld evidence that the warden at CIM [California Institution for Men, a medium security prison] at that time, her name was Ms. Carroll, she told them that the tennis shoes that they tried to say that I had were not prison-issue tennis shoes, as they claimed they were. Because those tennis shoes were supposed to have matched an imprint that they had found in blood on the victim’s bedsheet that they did not find at the crime scene, but somehow they found at the crime lab. So it’s stuff like this, when you listen to me talk about it, it don’t sound real, but this is so real. This is so real. They’re getting ready to kill me by just making evidence disappear. There was a blue shirt that they found. They threw it away. They didn’t tell nobody. We didn’t even know it existed until 2004 when we got some police logs that happened to mention that somebody called the police and told them about a blue shirt. The police went and picked it up. And on the police log is the evidence of pick up and the shirt was in connection with the Ryen-Hughes murder.

Kean: Absolutely so. Yes, these are just some examples that we see this in other cases in this country, where people are wrongfully convicted. And Judge Fletcher actually wrote in his summary of his 101-page statement here, “Given the weakness of the evidence against Cooper, if the state had given Cooper’s attorneys this exculpatory evidence, it is highly unlikely that Cooper would have been convicted.” So your original trial was a problem. And, of course, there have been many other things since then that have developed. And the other thing that Judge Fletcher has focused on is the issue of evidence having been tampered with, both at the time of the trial and in the years following. So do you want to talk about that aspect a little bit?

Cooper: Well, they tampered with…I had some DNA testing on a drop of blood that they had claimed was found inside the victim’s house. It was supposed to be one drop of blood. So I asked them, when the evidence came around, I asked for it. And at first the state said, “No.” I asked again and they said, “No.” I asked again and they said, “No” and then the fourth time, they happened to say, “Yes.” But what they didn’t tell us was before they said yes, they let the criminalist who was messing with it at that trial, to go down there and take it out for 24 hours along with my saliva and other evidence, my other blood that they took from me when I was arrested. And they didn’t tell nobody.

So then this guy puts it back after having it out 24 hours. And we found out about it. We found out about it after the DNA tests were done and the DNA test come back and said that was mine. So what’s stuff like that? One cigarette butt had a yellow filter in 1983, and in 2001 when there was DNA testing, they had a white filter. And it was 4 mm in length in, I think it was 1983, and it turns out to have been 7.7 mm in 2001. How does the cigarette grow after they’ve taken it apart and tested? And then, they put it back together. I mean, with stuff like this that we proved, we have photographic evidence of all this stuff I’m saying, and these people, this court system, just ignored everything. They just ignored it, or acted like it didn’t exist, or they made excuses for it, and the bottom line is they’re giving me the type of trial that they gave Dred Scott back in 1857. They’re saying that this man don’t have no rights at all that a white man, and in this case, a white woman, a guard, is bound to respect because they messed over all my life, every last single one of them, in order to kill me for something that I did not do.

Even Joshua Ryen, who was a child at the time, he told them people, when he saw my face on TV, that Kevin Cooper didn’t do it, that it was three white men. I believe that Judge Fletcher mentions that in his dissent as well. Well, if Joshua Ryen had of saw my picture on TV and said, “Yeah, that was him,” well they would have used that against me. But he said no, it wasn’t me. He told his grandmother it wasn’t me, he told other people it wasn’t me. He told the police it wasn’t me.

Kean: And just so people know, there were four people that were murdered. Joshua Ryen was a young boy in the family that was killed. He was not killed, but severely injured during the assault on his family. So he was basically the only living witness…

Bernstein: The only eyewitness, right?

Kean: And the only living eyewitness, and he was interviewed very shortly after this crime by two different people in the hospital, and did indicate that there were three white men that committed the crime.

Cooper: In fact, they even found a police log in 2004, the same time they found that police log about that missing blue shirt, that indicated that they were looking for three young males driving the car they took.

Bernstein: A recent decision by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals is sort of negative in that the entire court voted against your request for a new rehearing, but eleven federal judges are saying based on lack of due process or their belief that you are guilty…

Cooper: You mean, their belief that I am innocent.

Bernstein: Exactly. And what I want to ask you, in terms of the entire process you’ve been talking with Leslie about – jury tampering, messing about with evidence, ignoring an eyewitness account, could you talk about the nature of some of the personnel and how racism plays into that?

Cooper: Down there in San Bernardino County where this case happened, is one of the racist counties in this state. I mean, shortly after my arrest, they had a gorilla hung in effigy with a sign that said “Hang the troglodyte”, speaking about me, calling me a troglodyte. They wanted to get their hands on Kevin Cooper so they can mete their justice, you know the type of justice they always give black men who are accused of...

Bernstein: Say that again? Explain that again.

Cooper: They had a gorilla hung in effigy. And it had a sign that said, Hang the troglodyte.” And they were calling me a troglodyte. And they said they wanted to get their hands on me. They wanted to give me justice, their form of justice.

Bernstein: And – by the way, I said “jury tampering”; I meant evidence tampering. What about questionable personnel and actions by personnel regarding the actual chain of custody of evidence, and so on and so forth?

Cooper: I’ll put it to you like this. The head criminalist, the person who was in charge of all the evidence that they used to convict me, was a heroin addict. He was fired shortly after my conviction for stealing five pounds of heroin out of the evidence locker.

Bernstein: His name?

Cooper: William Baird. He was a lieutenant, I believe. And he was using that heroin for his own personal use and to sell to drug dealers. Now, he didn’t stand trial. He didn’t do no time in prison or nothing, obviously. They just let him go. And this is the man who had another pair of tennis shoes just like the ones they claimed I had, which I didn’t have. He had a pair like that in the crime lab. He had all types of stuff in the crime lab. If you read Fletcher’s dissent, everything is in there. If anybody takes the time and looks it up and reads it, it’ll piss you off so much that you might even want to get involved in this movement -- if you’re not already in it – to try to help save my life.

Because this is American justice, old school style. This is what they used to do to black men back in the day. This is what they are doing in the twenty-first century. But they’re not just doing it to me, Dennis. When I asked people to believe me, they wouldn’t do it. So I’m asking them to believe this judge. And if you believe that judge and all the other judges that are going along with him, then you have to ask yourself a bigger question. You have to ask yourself, “If they did this to Kevin Cooper, and these judges are saying they did, then how many other men and women are on death row or in prison in this country that had the same thing done to them by the same type of people that’s doing this to Kevin?” I am not so special of a person that these people will go out of their way to frame me and not do it to anyone else. I’m not the only person that they’d tell that about, I’m not the only person who they tampered with evidence, or threw away evidence, or do what they do, tampered with witnesses or whatever. This is in the system so deeply that people need to start to think, to put an end to this mess, that’s how I really feel. After you read that, it has to open a person’s eyes, if they want their eyes to be opened.

Bernstein: By the way, if you want to know a lot more about this case, more information about the case, you can go to – is that correct? and find out more information. There’s a petition there you might want to know more about that calls for – Leslie…

Kean: On this website,, there will be a link where people can go and read this recent filing by the Ninth Circuit. This is really an historic filing. It’s very rare that eleven judges will dissent in a hundred pages, 101 pages, so we encourage every one to go to, get a link to the petition or the recent filing in the court, and you can read it for yourself. It lays out everything about his case that you would want to know.

Bernstein: Now we’re going to get cut off in a second. When we come back, we’re gonna talk more about the case and more about the systematic injustice system that railroads poor people and people of color to the death house. We’re speaking with Kevin Cooper at San Quentin, facing death. …

Kevin, one of the things we say on this program, we refer to it not as a matter of hyperbole, but we refer to the justice system as the criminal injustice system because there is a pattern and practice of racism and a situation where if you don’t have the money, usually to pay for the lawyers, you end up on death row and you die without a proper defense. You have become an expert in understanding how the system works and how it is stacked up against poor people and people of color. Could you talk a little bit about your research and your activities in this regard?

Cooper: Yes. I had an attorney that was appointed to me by a federal district judge, Marilyn Huff. His name was Robert Amadon. Marilyn Huff is the same judge that Judge Fletcher talks about very badly in his dissent. But this man, who was a criminal attorney, damn near got me executed because everything he did was against my best interests. But nonetheless, he was still getting paid, him and the people he had working with him.

So in this movement, I decided to take matters into my own hands because I have learned, as I said earlier, history is my teacher, and I have learned that, historically speaking, we people who are locked in these prisons have these attorneys who, for the most part, don’t give a damn about us because all we are to them is a paycheck. But I cared about me enough to get involved with this movement, to get involved with the campaign to end the death penalty from a socialist viewpoint, with socialist action, with a whole bunch of other different organizations and people, and together, we all formulated a plan. And the plan was to educate the public. And we did this, over and over and over again for years and years and years. And this is how, just before these people want to murder me, I somehow managed to get in touch with The Innocence Project and Santa Clara University.

And they ended up finding this law firm now, who took my case, Orrick, Herrington, and Sutliffe, and they did it pro bono. Now this law firm, [that] was a white collar or corporate law firm, saved my life! They’re not a criminal law firm. The criminal lawyer, who worked in the criminal justice system, damn near got me killed. Well this right there says a lot about this system, like the difference being the fact that caring, but they also had the money. And money makes a difference. And through their hard work, they completely turned this case around. They got me a stay and they found out all this new evidence that we have now. And this evidence is what Fletcher speaks about in his dissent. Most of it we didn’t know.

But if you don’t have a committee of people, whether they’re lawyers or not, in your corner, you’re in trouble. If you don’t have people who care about you, who will fight for you and fight with you, you’re dead. And if you don’t have a powerful law firm, or powerful people, lawyers who care, who have the money to fight back, you’re damn sure dead. But I do know this: that if you keep on fighting, keep on working and don’t give up, there’s a chance. I had a chance. I mean, look at the law firm I have now and the work that they did and the evidence they uncovered, and the constitutional violations they discovered, I found out. And I’m still one decision away from being tortured and murdered by the state once they restart this killing machine up here in San Quentin prison. And believe me, I will be tortured in this prison just as well as or as good as any other person has been tortured in these death houses across this country. Make no mistake about that. Because these people tell you they don’t torture, because they tell you that this is humane, no, you don’t believe them, you can’t believe them. Through history tells you not to believe them. And I do not look forward to being tortured and murdered by the state of California.

Bernstein: Now it’s interesting, I think it’s important to note, as you refer to torture and murder in every part of this process, is that including the actual murder by lethal injection, it is interesting and important to note that one of the judges that supports your murder is named Judge Bybee and he was a key player in the Bush administration’s torture program. Does that interest you?

Cooper: In 2004, I received a 9-2 decision for a stay. One of the two judges that refused to give me that stay was Judge Bybee. And now we come to find out that Judge Bybee was also one of the people who wrote those torture memos for the Bush-Cheney administration allowing torture to happen to criminals or people they consider criminals, whether it is at Abu Ghraib or Guantanamo Bay or any other place around the world, he’s fine with them being tortured there, but he’s also fine with them being tortured here because he supports the death penalty. So torture is part of what he believes in. But these people that he’s torturing, and that he believes in torture are all poor people. Not rich people, but poor people, and mostly people of color. He ain’t got no problem with that. Yet he can sit his ass upon the Ninth Circuit like some guard, and dictate who should live and who should die and who should be tortured and who shouldn’t.

Bernstein: He may find himself before too long in some kind of dock in the various international tribunals -- facing what? Crimes against humanity.

Cooper: Yeah, right. I’ll believe that when I see it.

Bernstein: You’ve done a lot of research on this. And I’m noting that more and more poor women are on death row. People don’t realize that there’s a death row at Chowchilla where many women are facing death. Is this a part of there are more and more poor people, so there will be more and more women who find themselves facing this similar situation?

Cooper: Historically speaking, women have always been on death row, whether that death row has been in their own homes where they’ve been victims of domestic violence or whether they’re shot and killed in the street or in prison. But there’s never much said about it. But believe me, these women that are down there most definitely are all poor. They have never been given “equal rights” in their entire life. And for the first time in their life, if they do get executed, they’ll be given equal rights. They’ll have equality of a man death row inmate because they’ll get the same amount of poison pumped in their body as I’ll get pumped into mine. So this is how they look at it because that’s the reality of this situation. These women, who are victims of all types of things, suffer in silence today as they have historically. You never hear the news media talk about women on death row in this state. But one day, you will. And they’ll talk about them so proudly. For the first time in so many years, the state of California’s going to execute a woman. You know, that’s a damn shame; that’s a disgusting thing that these people do. But they’ll do it. Other states have.

Kean: Kevin, you mentioned earlier about the importance of having good lawyers and how very few death row inmates have them. We know you have good lawyers, but we also know it’s extremely important that people get involved and fight for your case. You need all the help you can get because you’re really going to be facing some serious possibility of being executed. And one person at this station certainly covered a lot was Stanley “Tookie” Williams, who indeed, also as I understand it, and I think he had pretty good lawyers, he got a lot of attention. And he was executed. He was also a friend of yours. And you were able to help him out along the years that you knew each other. And I’m just wondering if you could share with our listeners some of the information, some of the story of your relationship with him.

Cooper: He is my friend; he will always be my friend. He’s my brother; he will always be my brother, regardless of what Schwarzenegger or anybody else thinks about him. He’s a good man and it wasn’t so much that I taught him anything. I learned more from him than I could ever teach him, except when it came to the fact of him going through this ritual death the way they wanted to search his arms for his veins, the way they wanted to send a psychiatrist to his house and see if he was all right, the way he was going to mess with him psychologically. He didn’t know about that because he’d never been through it before. And as I said, before me, everybody else who had been through it ended up dying, so nobody knew what to expect. But because I got that stay, I was there to show him what I went through. So that is how I taught him a thing or two. But other than that, it was… They tortured him, and they murdered him and it came out in Fogel’s court that they did it, and they’re going to do the same thing to me and to everybody else. They’re just going to try to go about it differently.

Bernstein: And when we say torture, again, that includes a process by which they’ve deceived the public into suggesting and believing that lethal injection, this three-stage process, is humane. Could you please talk a little bit more about how that is massive and troubling torture?

Cooper: It’s not humane; there’s no…If this system was humane, they wouldn’t have to lie about it, they wouldn’t have to lie about the people , not just in this state but across the country, who’ve been tortured in these death houses. If it was humane, then the medical society, doctors and them, would be participating in it. But it’s not humane, it’s inhumane. People won’t even kill animals the same way they’re willing to kill us in this state and across the country. This lethal cocktail that they use has been banned by the people who murder animals. They won’t use that to kill an animal with. So, no, this is not humane, this is inhumane, this is torture. And because that poison that they pump in your body, you feel that. They’ve just got you paralyzed so you can’t screw it up. And then they tell people who witness body contortions and all these things, that their lying eyes didn’t see what their eyes told their brain they saw. This system is sick and the people who run it are sick. So no, I do not look forward to being strapped down on that gurney and have them put their needles in my arm and pump their poison in my body. I do not look forward to that process at all. And I am an innocent man. I had eleven, eleven federal circuit judges telling the world, warning the world, not just telling them, but warning them, that this state is about to execute an innocent man. And what’s the world going to do? They’re gonna step up to the plate and show everyone how humane you are or are they just going to turn a blind eye to my murder like they do everyone else, because [connection was cut off]

Bernstein: All right. We spoke with Kevin Cooper. We’ve been listening to an interview with Kevin Cooper.

More about anger and forgiveness

This is an article I found in the and I wanted to share it with you. It's written by Kathy McAnany and it's part of a series of articles she wrote about forgiveness.

In my last article I touched on the fact that we have a choice about how we respond to other people’s anger and that keeping yourself in a state of anger causes you more harm than it does the other person. I also touched on forgiveness and how forgiveness is the solution to freeing yourself from the bondage of the past.

I want to clarify that forgiveness does not mean condoning abuse from other people. Abuse is never okay in any form. Forgiveness is about letting go. It is about a very deep letting go; and is not always easy. It is sometimes much easier to stay in the feelings of hurt, anger, and resentment. Sometimes we feel our anger and resentment is justified, and why should we forgive the other person. We might feel that they don’t deserve our forgiveness.

However, one important thing to remember is that forgiveness is really for us. We are doing it for our self, so that we may have peace of mind. When we are consumed with anger and resentment we cannot move forward because as I’ve mentioned before, the energy is bound up in the anger and resentment.

It is also okay to feel angry. Some forms of religion and spirituality teach that anger is never okay. I disagree with this. I think it is appropriate to feel anger when someone has abused you or has crossed your boundaries.

Anger is an important emotion because it tells us when somebody has crossed our boundaries. Our anger is telling us that this is not okay. Without anger we would have no way of knowing when somebody has crossed the line. Our anger can propel us to take action and do something about it (whatever the violation may be) in a constructive way.
What is not okay is to hold on to that anger an let it turn into rage or resentment. It’s okay to feel anger. But to let it continue and have it become a state of mind is harmful. So allow yourself to feel the anger. Do something about it in a constructive way if the situation calls for it. Then let it go.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Juvenile Offenders on Death Row in Iran

Stop Child executions has been provided with a video that documents the suffering of Irans juvenile offenders, co-produced by one of Iran's leading advocates against child execution, attorney Mohammad Mostafaei. In this edited version of the video, the filmmakers talk to juvenile offenders on death row, as their parents and advocates frantically beg the victims' family for forgiveness, the only way their lives can be spared.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Children live with the heartbreak of parents on Death Row

By DAPHNE DURET, Palm Beach Post Staff Writer

Click here to watch a video with an interviewwith the boy

Daddy did something in the woods. That's all the boy knows.

He hears tidbits of information from whispers at school, and when he lingers in the hallway after his mother tells him to go play in his room while she talks to guests about his father's case.

He smiles and chats happily whenever visitors come to his West Palm Beach home. He shows them his new puppy, April, his bird, Polly, and his massive collection of stuffed animals.

But within 10 minutes, Ricardo Sanchez III blurts out what is weighing heaviest on his mind.

"They won't let me see Daddy at jail anymore," the 6-year-old says. "I'm supposed to be 9."

No one has told him exactly why he's not able to see his father.

The increased restrictions on Ricardo Sanchez Jr.'s confinement in federal detention, and the reason his son can't visit, lie in a reality he will inevitably find out one day:

His father is going to Death Row.

U.S. Senior District Judge Daniel T.K. Hurley on May 13 sentenced Sanchez, 25, and Daniel Troya, 26, to die for the 2006 slayings of two boys and their parents on Florida's Turnpike in what prosecutors say was a drug-related killing.

For Sanchez's son, whose family calls him "Three," the death sentence joins him to a group suffering from the weight of loving a parent whom society has deemed unfit to live.

"They really are the forgotten victims in death penalty cases," Susannah Sheffer, director of the No Silence, No Shame project for Murder Victims' Families for Human Rights, says of Death Row inmates' children. "It's not something that has been part of the debate about capital punishment."

Little has been done to study the effect of an execution on an inmate's children, but some say the combination of the loss of the parent, shame about the crime for which he or she is convicted, and conflicted feelings about the government often come together to inflict deep emotional and psychological trauma that follows them into adulthood.

Desiree Babbitt, now 30 and living in New England, was a toddler when her father, Manny, was sentenced to death in California for killing a 78-year-old grandmother after he broke into her house while suffering a flashback to his time in Vietnam.

She grew up knowing he was in prison but unaware he was on Death Row. After she found out, she spoke out on his behalf. She asked anyone who would listen to keep her father from being executed, saying she needed him.

In the meantime, Desiree said, her father was her world. He sent letters full of poetry and math problems, which prison guards helped him devise as she aged and her proficiency in the subject surpassed his.

Manny Babbitt was executed in 1999. Desiree was 21.

His death is a cloud that hangs over her life, she says.

Since then, she has been hospitalized more than a dozen times for mental illness. She works for several months at a time, lately as a booking agent for a club, but after awhile her depression sets in and she can no longer function.

"I'm OK today," Babbitt said Tuesday. "But if you would have called me yesterday, I probably would have been crying on the phone."

For Misty McWee of South Carolina, the death sentence and 2004 execution of her father, Jerry, fueled a downward spiral that included years of drug and alcohol abuse, a violent marriage and a suicide attempt.

She was 14 and living with her father, a former police officer, when he was charged in the murder of a convenience store clerk in 1991. She was 28 when he was executed.

Now in her early 30s, McWee says she is just now regrouping from the toll of her father's execution.

The birth of her son, now 3, has changed her life for the better, but she says she still wrestles with deep issues of anger. For years, she said, she cried for the children of her father's victim, sad that they would never see their father again.

"I hated him for what he did. I hated him for putting all of us in that situation," McWee said of her father. "But in the end, all the love you have for him takes over."

Sheffer says a death sentence for a parent leaves a child with questions. Chief among them, she says: "If killing is wrong, then why is the state killing daddy?"

The answers, or lack thereof, often breed a resentment of government institutions.

Two weeks ago, Ricardo Sanchez III's mother, Maria Lopez, had to drag her son, howling and screaming, into her car after they were turned away at the Federal Detention Center in Miami.

"He asked me, 'Why are they being mean to me? I don't like this jail anymore,' " Lopez said.

Defense mitigation specialist Lisa McDermott spent months talking to other children of Death Row inmates to help Sanchez's attorney, Donnie Murrell, in preparation for the penalty phase of the trial.

McDermott says she has tried to get Lopez to take her son for counseling. Lopez says she will do so.

But even if she goes, Sheffer says, it is difficult to find a counselor trained in how to deal with children in Ricardo's situation. No one has even come up with a number of the children across the country who have a parent on Death Row.

It is clear on a Thursday morning, though, that Ricardo III understands none of that. He plays with his soccer ball, watches Scooby-Doo and offers homemade brownies to guests at his house before he runs to his room and emerges with his favorite bear.

His mother and grandmother got it for him at a Build-a-Bear workshop. He made a wish on a heart that went into the bear.

For weeks, the boy has refused to tell anyone what he wished.

But after holding the bear for a few minutes that Thursday, he releases a clue in a tiny whisper, his hand cupped around the side of his mouth so no one else will hear.

"It's about Daddy," he says.

Then he pulls away quickly to say goodbye and asks to pass a message along to his dad, a request he makes to anyone he thinks might see Sanchez.

"Tell him, 'I love you ... and be good,' " he says.
(Article taken from the Palm Beach Post, 5/22/09)

CONNECTICUT ACTION Needed Now! Senate just voted to end death penalty

Just after 4am this morning, the Connecticut Senate voted 19 to 17 to repeal that state's death penalty. This follows on the heals of the unexpectedly overwhelming 90-56 vote in the House last week. The bill is now on its way to the desk of Connecticut Governor Jodi Rell, who in media reports is saying that she still supports the death penalty and is suggesting that she may veto the bill.

There is no time to lose!

If you live in Connecticut, please call and e-mail Governor Rell.

If you live elsewhere, please think about who you know who lives in Connecticut and forward this action request to them. Then call them to alert them to your e-mail and ask them to both call and e-mail Governor Rell immediately with the message that:

"I live in Connecticut and I am very happy the the legislature passed a bill to repeal the death penalty. Please sign that bill."

The phone is 860-566-4840.

The email:

Letters, blog posts and comments expressing a similar sentiment on the web pages of Connecticut newspapers would be useful as well.

To stay updated on what is happening in Connecticut, join CNADP by sending an e-mail to CNADP's executive director Ben Jones at See CNADP's web page here

TODAY is the day that you can help make all the difference. Please take action now!


Abraham J. Bonowitz
Director of Affiliate Support

CLICK here

PS - Have an excellent holiday weekend!

Thursday, May 21, 2009

The school in Weikersheim, Germany:
Awesome preparation for a JOH event!

When the school in Weikersheim decided to host a Journey of Hope event, the school also knew that with this they had a chance to offer something very valuable to their students: Only very rarely a German school manages to get speakers from the US to speak to their students, only very rarely any school gets the change to have people who know about the death penalty from their own experience to talk in front to their students...

So the school decided that since they had have this chance, they would also make sure that their students would benefit from the event as much as anyhow possible.

Weeks before the event a group consisting of students and teachers was formed to prepare it. And the week before the JOH speakers came, was declared a "Project week" about the death penalty. They had polls in the school and asked the students if they would support the death penalty or not. During this week, teachers would talk about the death penalty in their lessons (in diffent subjects). Information and statistics about the death penalty was exhibited all over the school. And the day before the event, there were short plays about the death penalty all over the school during the breaks.

A display introducing the speakers and giving a short overview about their stories.

One of the exhibits. It asks: "What would you decide for?" and gives some information about diffent ways of executing people.

The group preparing the event had made a net and on this net they asked "Thinking about the death penalty, what is the first words which comes to your mind?" All of the students of the school were allowed to write a piece of paper with this first word which came to their mind and put it on the net.

One of the participants of this group told me after the event that it was interesting to watch how much respect the students showed towards this net and to read everything standing on the small pieces of paper on there.

The answers to this question "Thinking about the death penalty, what is the first words which comes to your mind?" did not include "deterrant" or "justice" but there were words like:

Electric chair, poison, guillotine, gallows, decapitation
Insolence, very evil punishment
Revenge, vengeance
Power, playing God
Cruel, tortures
China, Iran, USA
Saddam Hussein, Bin Laden, Bush, Hitler

At one place in the school they had also put the outlines of a death row cell on the floor.

The actual event: Ray speaking in front of about 250 students

After the event: Students waiting to sign petitions

We had every petition laying out about 5 times but it still took about half an hour until the last student who wanted to sign had done this.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Jury Acquits Former Death Row Inmate of All Charges

Daniel Wade Moore was acquitted of all charges by a jury in Alabama on May 14. Moore was originally found guilty of the murder and sexual assault of Karen Tipton in 2002. The judge overruled the jury’s recommendation of a life sentence and instead sentenced him to death in January 2003, calling the murder one of the worst ever in the county. A new trial was ordered in 2003 because of evidence withheld by the prosecution. A second trial in 2008 ended in a mistrial with the jury deadlocked at 8-4 for acquittal. (Moore is the 133rd person to be exonerated and freed from death row since 1973, according to DPIC's record of exonerations.)

Judge Glenn Thompson, who originally sentenced Moore to death, ordered a retrial upon discovery that the prosecution had withheld important evidence. "Orders were entered in any capital case, that whatever the state has, whatever the prosecutor has, whatever the investigation has they should provide that to the defendant," said Judge Thompson. The evidence missing was a 256-page F.B.I. report. "The prosecution, Mr. Valeska specifically, looked me in the eye and said, quote, 'there ain't no such thing as an F.B.I. report.' Well, there probably wasn't a report, but there were 256 pages of information collected by Decatur police officers that were sent to the F.B.I.," said Judge Thompson. According to Judge Thompson, Assistant Attorney General Don Valeska later came to him confessing there was withheld information. "Mr. Valeska came forward with the information after the conviction," said Judge Thompson. “Clearly, the only remedy was to grant him a new trial and I did," he said. "It frustrated and angered me that he would be willing to lie to the court," he continued. Meanwhile, the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals ordered Judge Thompson to stand down from the trial and continued to let Valeska prosecute Moore.

Upon hearing the jury’s not guilty verdict, Judge Thompson responded, "I felt like it was the only conclusion that a jury could reach if they actually followed the law." Thompson also said that the problems with the prosecution withholding evidence continued throughout the 10 years of the case. Just days before the current trial started, the prosecution called the defense saying they had just found new evidence from the victim's home computer.

(A Stuart, “Judge in Moore’s first trial discusses case,” WHNT (Alabama), May 18, 2009). See Innocence. Since 1973, 132 other inmates have been exonerated and freed from death row. This is the third exoneration in 2009 in the U.S. There have now been six exonerations in Alabama. Troy Davis, an inmate on death row in Georgia, is facing an execution date despite new exculpatory evidence in his case. He is asking the U.S. Supreme Court to review his new evidence. Read more about Troy Davis in an updated Amnesty International Report.
(Article taken from DPIC)

Monday, May 18, 2009

What might have helped
Reflections of a murder victim's daughter

When 11-year-old Suzy Klassen came home from school in 1969 and opened the door to her home Suzy found her mother lying on the floor, dead. She had been the victim of a sexual attack, and had been brutally murdered.

In an article posted in the spring 2009 newsletter of MVRHRSuzy writes about the consequences the murder of her mother had in her life. She also decribes a bit about the reactions she got from the people around her.

"[...]There is a famous Norwegian painting by Edvard Munch entitled “The Scream.” It is considered a symbolic portrayal of anguish, isolation, and fear. The first time I saw it I was flabbergasted. It was unbelievable how accurately someone had captured
me at the moment of transformation from being an 11-year-old sixth grader to becoming the being in this painting. Finding Mom, I felt stunned into muteness by the magnitude and horrific detail of what I beheld, as if I’d been shot into another universe where “the scream” said it all. From that moment I would now live in a world where I would be constantly reminded that I had met evil face to face. A place where wishing to go home was an impossibility because that universe no longer existed. [...]

Mom was killed on Friday. On Sunday we returned to our house with bullet holes in the floor and fingerprint powder on the walls and counters. The funeral was on Monday, and we were sent back to school on Tuesday.[...]

I went back to school. My sixth grade teacher was clearly lost about what to say, what to do, or how to relate to me. So without a word, he simply laid the missed assignments on my desk and walked away. It was the first of what seemed like a lifetime of similar experiences. There was a huge distance between me and my classmates, who stopped talking to me out of the awkwardness of not knowing what to say or how to be around me. Sometimes adults were so uncomfortable being around me, they just didn’t attempt anything. Others might explain to me that mom’s death was the Lord’s will, or say something which made no sense, like, she’s in a better place now. Or I would come into somebody’s radar and be identified as one of Otto Klassen’s daughters, and inevitably the question came: Were you the one who found your mother? And then there were some who felt it their duty to tell me what to do with my life, adding that it’s what your mother would have wanted.

Now, I’m able to recognize that these statements are sometimes spoken to end an awkward silence, or as a way for people to set boundaries for themselves to
rationalize the horror. But as a child, those words and actions felt like an erasure of mom’s being, and I didn’t know how to respond.[...]"

Reading this reminded me on how often we just don't know how to respond to someone who just lived through a terrible situation, how often we just don't find any words to decribe our feelings. Thankfully only very few of us encounter murder in their lifes or the lifes of friends and acquantances. But even such "normal" things as someone telling us of a family member dying of cancer already leaves us speachless.

And so I wrote an e-mail to Suzy asking her what the people surrounding her should have done, what might have helped her back then. Here's her answer:

Perhaps this will be helpful for those wishing to respond to a child in a situation of loss. Loss happens in so many different ways, however, many of the components are the same (such as your experience in losing a parent to cancer). The following expresses some of the feelings I was unable to voice as a child about my own experience and the kind of support that might have helped me.

To conceptualize:

The contrast between Mom’s life and death was mind-boggling. My father expressed it accurately when he wrote how much the murder of Mom seemed to express profoundly the diametric opposite of who she was, the polar opposites of her character - which was solid, full of kindness and devotion, and protective and gentle of the needs of others. She defined beauty for me, and the love and trust I had in her provided the landscape that shaped my vision of the world.

As a child, I never questioned the fact of this granite-sized love, so when it was torn away, what had been a joyful and carefree life was now despairing and without a natural sense of freedom or beauty. What used to be the reliable everyday order of things now had the predictability of a tornado.

I wanted to hear people mention her name, talk about her, share a story - any remembrance of her no matter how small. Just to hear her name spoken. Speaking about her conveyed caring. Relating to a family member of a murder victim is not something we receive training in, it’s awkward and uncomfortable. It often appeared easier to skirt around the topic of my mother, perhaps believing that it would hurt me more to hear about her, or simply being unsure how to go about it. If I had been asked whether it was a good thing to hear her talked about, or whether it made things harder, I could have told people - but I wasn’t asked. The result was it made me feel they would rather forget her, as if she were erased.

An environment where I could say whatever I needed to without feeling judged. Someone who understood the power and gift of listening, giving me space to work through my anger and grief, support for the volume and intensity of my feelings. In addition to rage directed at her murderer, it included people asking me point blank if I was the daughter who found our mother. My anger included people (who worked in child psychology) asking, aren’t you angry with your mother for leaving you? I answered that Mom would never choose to be torn from her own, and our lives. Unbelievably, this was not acceptable, my answer wasn’t credible, and some would actually insist that I be mad at her. I think too often adults don’t understand the emotional leap of maturity that happens to children who suffer from deep losses, in my case, of a violent nature. It may have been the question they were trained to ask and possibly useful in a different situation, but not to me, not after being a witness to a graphically brutal murder.

Comments such as, she’s in a better place now, had the same effect – that her existence, her life hadn’t mattered. The implication that she’d prefer to be wherever she was, instead of with us. It’s the Lord’s will, another statement of erasure, implying again that it was somehow wrong for her to remain with us; I didn’t deserve her, and therefore I’m not worthy enough not to be abandoned.

Permission to hate God out loud. (Bear with me, this gets a bit convoluted.)

In my child’s way of thinking, those statements of she’s in a better place now (implying heaven), and it’s the Lord’s will, were statements I didn’t believe but confused me nevertheless. Before mom’s death I had already come to believe that God didn’t exist. After her murder, I demanded God to exist. Mom’s murderer was never caught, and there was no other target for my anger. I needed someone to scream at, to be furious with. However, the idea of “God the father” was very disturbing and upsetting. I reasoned: If God modeled man after himself, then it must be true that he considered women/girls as less worthy; a woman’s anatomy must be deficient. She was not made in God’s image, making her more incidental, and, a vessel for shame. If this was true, I was inferior and one could reason, that like other women I was destined to forge a heavy chain – such as Jacob Marley’s (in Charles Dicken’s A Christmas Carol), which he describes as an unending and ponderous thing - the debt of women.

If I accepted “God the father” as truth, then wouldn’t it also be true that her murderer had the face and anatomy of God? And isn’t this the same anatomy that sexually brutalized and murderer my mother?

If God is Love, then Love, is also the image of God - who has the face and anatomy of her murderer.

If God is Love, then in my new universe, Love is Suffering, is God.

If God is Suffering, he will not supply answers. God is Silence.

If God is Suffering and Silent, than no good will come from any “good” you’d want to live for.

If God is Good, than why did he raise Jesus from the dead and not my mother? She was a million trillion gazillion times better than Jesus - or any of his cohort.

So, it stood to reason that God looks like her murderer, God sanctioned her murder, God is equivalent to the worst Murderer, Rapist, and Predator, with the instruments of Cruelty, Suffering, and Silence.
This conception of God’s identity, coupled with the murderer who still had his freedom, left me vulnerable and without protection. I was an available target and could be undercut at any moment (thus the escape routes).

Given all of this, how could I possibly look forward to womanhood? The idea was reprehensible. I tried to hide my changing body. All of it was a cumbersome, shameful secret.

I can only imagine how valuable a mentor may have been - to guide me through this labyrinth and walk me through these difficult issues of body image. Encouragement to discover the things that had potential to become personal successes, no matter how small.

My sister Bess reminded me about an annual dinner at our church, the Mother/Daughter banquet. It was a festive affair, held at a local restaurant, an event I looked forward to while Mom was living. After Mom’s death we were paired up with someone to be our “mother” for this event. For me it felt unnatural, uncomfortable and made me feel like an object of pity. Bess remembers it differently. Her memory is of people “lined up”, wanting to volunteer to act as our mother for the evening, and it brings tears to her eyes. No doubt there were many caring people, and perhaps if I’d had a person who consciously cultivated a friendship with me, I may have felt better about participating. In the end it just made a sad event more acute.

I’m not sure what to say about my teacher’s non-responsiveness to me when I returned to school. Clearly, he was out of his league and I felt sorry for him. Bess, who teaches at a public school tells me that today a school counselor would never abandon a child. In a situation like ours, a counselor would be able to meet with the class, helping them understand how difficult it would be for (someone like us) to return to school, explaining how we would feel different and need understanding and love, even if we couldn't be the same person we were before.

In Eugene, Oregon, where I live in now, there is a support group for kids who are grieving the loss of a parent. It’s called “Courageous Kids”. A resource like this would have been wonderful. I would have been among other kids who were in trauma, experiencing some of the same emotions and asking some of the same questions. The knowledge that I wasn’t alone, in itself would have meant a great deal to me. An environment of trust, able to facilitate the speech needed to describe what we couldn’t before, and provide skills which are necessary in relationship to others. I like to think that a child in my situation could be helped to find appropriate words to respond to inappropriate remarks and questions from others.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

School Event in Adelsheim

Bill Pelke

Terri Steinberg

Ray Krone

School event in Konstanz May 11th

Students listening to the speaches. In the center you see the principle of the school and the teacher who helped organizing everything there.

Having coffee and brezels together with the school group of Amnesty after the event


Mai (unfortunately not on the photo) had prepared a barbeque for the night we arrived at Konstanz. But it was raining cats and dogs outside, and she was really disappointed. So we had to fit into a small room which made this evening even more cosy. Just great evening with lots of new friends from Amnesty Konstanz.

A little bit of sightseeing in Konstaz with Rainer and Roswitha from Amnesty Konstanz on Sunday, May 10th

Very close to the center of Konstanz there is the border to Switzerland. So we all walked there and on the photo you can see Terri and Ray with one foot in Switzerland while the other one was still in Germany.

Public speaking event in the evening of May 10th

People waiting to sign petitions

Terri, Ray and Bill with the people from Amnesty Konstanz who hosted the event

Most of the times after a public event the speakers and the hosts (and me when being there as well) were sitting together for a little while. this time, in Konstanz, this was in the appartment of Rainer.

A trip on the Lake Constance

Together with Roswitha of Amnesty Konstanz on the boat to the island Reichenau

Terri looking at the old houses at the waterfront in Konstanz

Relaxing on the beach of Reichenau

This was before Ray's bath. Look at the jeans: close to dry. And now compare with the next post

Germany is hot

We did have nice weather this day, not too cold but not too hot either, just perfect I would say.... Well, but not for Ray. It seems that he decided Germany was just too hot for him and so he took a bath in the Lake Constance...

Not really absolutely volunteerly though. We all felt sorry for him as he had to walk around with wet cloth for the next 4 hours on the island Reichenau but he has a great sense of humor and so he didn't complain but laughed about himself and made sure his cloth had a chance to dry in the sun.