Monday, June 28, 2010

by the Abolitionist Action Committee

June 29 and June 30 from 8:30 a.m. until 8:00 p.m.
July 1 and 2 - around the clock, 24 hour presence (ending at midnight on July 2)
*** A public rally will be held Tuesday June 29 at Noon ***
A four day liquid-only fast and vigil to mark the anniversaries of the historical 1972 Furman and 1976 Greg Supreme Court decisions to involve the death penalty.
Exonerated death row prisoners, murder victim family members, anti-death penalty activists from around the country, and other leaders of state and national anti-death penalty organizations. Over 50 people participating from 15 different states and several countries.
On the sidewalk in front of the United States Supreme Court in Washington, DC

July 2, 2010 marks the 34th anniversary of the Gregg V. Georgia decision in which the United States Supreme Court upheld laws written in various states to reinstate the death penalty in the wake of the Furman decision in 1972.

This press conference is part of the Annual Fast & Vigil to Abolish the Death Penalty at the U.S. Supreme Court, wherein anti-death penalty activists will converge on Washington, D.C. from June 29 through July 2 for four days of activities commemorating the historic 1972 and 1976 Supreme Court rulings that suspended the death penalty in the United States and later allowed executions to resume. This is the sixteenth year in a row that the Abolitionist Action Committee will hold its annual Fast and Vigil between the dates of these two landmark decisions. Activists, many of whom are fasting the entire four days, are traveling to Washington D.C. from across the United States and beyond.

Highlights of this highly visual and interactive annual event include live music and evening teach-ins by death row survivors, murder victim family members, and noted activists and scholars. Please see details at

ATTENTION REPORTERS, EDITORS AND PRODUCERS: Consider interviews with activists from your specific state or region.  We can arrange for this.

RAIN ALERT:  In the event of rain or significant threat thereof, evening events requiring amplification will take part inside the United Methodist Church Building, immediately adjacent (across Maryland Ave. on 1st St.)

The Abolitionist Action Committee is an ad-hoc group of individuals committed to highly visible and effective public education for alternatives to the death penalty through nonviolent direct action.

Contact the AAC at: (518) 821-6684,, or

SOURCE Abolitionist Action Committee

US SC Allows Defendant to Challenge 2nd DeathSentence/ More on Troy Davis Case

Clarence Thomas, US Supreme Court (Photo credit goes to Death Penalty Info Center)

Find the following and much more on the latest News and Stats old and new at

Death Penalty Information Center

What's New
U.S. Supreme Court Allows Defendant to Challenge Second Death Sentence
Posted: June 28, 2010

On June 24, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of Billy Joe Magwood, who was twice sentenced to death for the 1979 murder of Coffee County Sheriff Neil Grantham. Magwood was sentenced to death a second time by a trial court after his original sentence was overturned by a District Court. When Magwood filed a habeas petition challenging his new sentence, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit held that Magwood's challenge to his new death sentence was an unreviewable “second or successive” challenge. Justice Clarence Thomas, writing for the majority, said "because Magwood's habeas application challenges new judgment for the first time, it is not 'second or successive.'" The Supreme Court decision allows Magwood to challenge his second death sentence as a brand new judgement, even if it raises issues that could have been made against the original sentence.

Judge Norman Nelson, Former Georgia US Supreme Court Justice
(Photo credit goes to Death Penalty Info Center)
NEW VOICES: Former Georgia Supreme Court Justice Would Have Granted Troy Davis a Hearing
Posted: June 25, 2010

Judge Norman Fletcher served on the Georgia Supreme Court and was in the majority that upheld Troy Davis's original conviction and death sentence on direct appeal. However, Judge Fletcher has noted he was not on the court after many of the witnesses from Davis's trial recanted their testimony, and he probably would have voted in favor of a new evidentiary hearing for Davis if he was on the court today. Judge Fletcher recently wrote about the wisdom of retiring U.S. Supreme Court Justice Stevens regarding his decision in the Troy Davis case to grant such a hearing: "[His] leadership in this case was a triumph of the common-sense notion that innocence matters; it matters more than procedural technicalities. No matter whether one opposes or supports the death penalty, I would hope we can at least agree that the innocent should not be executed." Of Davis's case, he wrote further, "No matter the outcome of this case, Davis stands for the principle that the factual innocence or guilt of people sentenced to death matters. For those facing the irreversible punishment of death, we should always do our best to get to the truth. Never should procedural rules trump the consideration of newly discovered exculpatory evidence."

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Death-row exonorees fight death penalty

“We are victims. ... We have pain,” said death-row exoneree Shabaka WaQlimi, also known as Joseph Green Brown, prior to speaking at an event at Beebe Memorial CME Church on Tuesday night.

“Society don’t want to hear that,” he added.

Washingtonians listened as WaQlimi shared his story of suppression by — and his anger with — the American justice system. It’s a system that placed him on death row for 13 years for a crime he didn’t commit.

He was joined onstage by fellow death-row exoneree Randal Padgett, who spent five years on death row in Alabama.

WaQlimi and Padgett are two of 138 death-row exonorees nationally. Since being released from prison, each has traveled the country, speaking out against the death penalty.

WaQlimi has been particularly critical of the state of Florida, where he was sentenced to death and came within 15 hours of execution before receiving a stay from a federal judge. Florida leads the nation with 23 death-row exonorees, followed by Illinois with 20. North Carolina has had eight exonorees.

“I’m a firm believer that the state of Florida killed four innocent people while I was (on death row),” WaQlimi said, adding that 16 people were executed in Florida while he was in prison.

“I was 15 hours from being the 17th,” he said.

WaQlimi said he never thought he would die in prison, even hours from execution. As he sat in his dingy, dimly lit cell, WaQlimi said, his thoughts were focused squarely on his mother, who suffered a stroke and heart attack on the day the governor of Florida signed his order for execution.

“I knew down here,” WaQlimi said, pointing at his heart, “that Shabaka was not going to die in nobody’s prison.”

WaQlimi, who now lives with his wife in Charlotte, was convicted of raping and murdering Earlene Treva Barksdale, a Tampa, Fla., clothing store owner, in the early 1970s. He was found guilty by a Hillsborough County jury after the state’s star witness, Ronald Floyd, testified against him. Floyd allegedly held a grudge against WaQlimi for turning him in for robbery.

The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals eventually overturned WaQlimi’s conviction, ruling that the prosecution knowingly allowed false testimony from Floyd.

Growing up in Charleston, S.C., during the time of segregation, WaQlimi said he had “no miscomings” about the American justice system, which he called the country’s own apartheid system.

Padgett, who grew up in northern Alabama, did have miscomings.

He said that before he was convicted for the rape and murder of his estranged wife, he was “naive” about the country’s judicial system.

“I thought they didn’t sentence innocent people to die,” Padgett said, adding that he had never been arrested before going to death row.

He was convicted of murder in 1992 after his wife was found stabbed 46 times at her home in Marshall County, Ala. At the time, Padgett was in Destin, Fla., with his neighbor and mistress, Judy Bagwell, according to testimony.

Asked why he has devoted so much of his life — since being released from prison in 1997 — to speaking out against the death penalty, Padgett said, “I’m just trying to warn other people that what happened to me can happen to them.”

Padgett said that through his travels, he has met many fellow death-row exonorees.

“There are so many other people like me who are innocent,” he said, adding that speaking with them and sharing stories has made him realize how “broken” the judicial system is.

WaQlimi and Padgett said that, although exonerated, they are outcasts in a society that expected them to be dead or in prison.

“There’s no book written on how to deal with us,” WaQlimi said.

So, they go town to town, educating those who will listen about the horrors they experienced in prison and why they believe the death penalty should be abolished.

Their current speaking tour, sponsored by People of Faith Against the Death Penalty, a nonprofit organization based in Carrboro, Witness to Innocence, a nonprofit based in Philadelphia, the Pitt and Perquimans county branches of the NAACP and the Pitt County chapter of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, wrapped up Tuesday night.

The second leg of the tour, which features the same sponsors but different death-row exonorees, begins today in Wilmington. The tour will make an appearance at Sheppard Memorial Library in Greenville on Thursday at 6:30 p.m.

“This tour will give people the chance to hear incredibly powerful stories and compelling testimony from individuals just like them, but who were sentenced to death and lived to tell about it,” said Stephen Dear, executive director of PFADP, in a written statement.

By Greg Katski in The Washington Daily News

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Horrific Conditions In Los Angeles County Jail (Specific Changes Recommended)

By Stephen Lendman

20 June, 2010

In July 2008, the Southern California ACLU released a "Report on Mental Health Issues at Los Angeles County" Jail by Dr. Terry Kupers, a practicing psychiatrist, an expert on long-term isolated prison confinement and correctional mental health issues. He's also written numerous articles on these topics, and been an expert witness on the mental health crisis behind bars, what he wrote about in his book "Prison Madness."

In May, he toured the LA County Jail system where most inmates aren't convicted and are awaiting trial - Men's Central Jail (MCJ), Twin Towers 1 & 2 (TT 1 & 2), and the Inmate Reception Center (IRC). He interviewed 18 prisoners in private, confidential settings; others in more casual, cell-front ones; and discussed issues with mental health and custody staff.

As in all prisons nationwide, many LA County inmates suffer "serious mental illness." Incarceration exacerbates it. They need treatment, but aren't getting it.

Besides prison confinement harm, state mental hospital deinstitutionalization took hold in the 1980s, part of Reagan Revolution policies that whatever government can do, business does better, so let it. As a result, large numbers of seriously ill patients were discharged, based on studies indicating community care was superior to state facilities. The consequences were predictable. The promise was never realized because of budget cuts, unaffordable housing, and other priorities.

In 1955, state and VA psychiatric hospitals had about 550,000 patients. In 2008, there were less than 60,000, but given constraints today on budget strapped states and communities, the numbers are likely lower and dropping.

Yet according to a study by the Federal Bureau of Justice Statistics, over a million individuals suffer from significant mental illness in jails and prisons. With 20,000 detainees, some call the LA County Jail system the largest psychiatric hospital in the country (the Men's Central Jail has 5,000), but, like elsewhere, treatment there's not forthcoming.

Correctional setting mental illness factors:

"are complex, including shortcomings in our public mental health systems, the tendency for post-Hinckley criminal courts to give relatively less weight to psychiatric testimony, the incarceration of large numbers of drug offenders including those with dual diagnoses (substance abuse and mental illness), and the growing tendency for local governments to incarcerate homeless people for a variety of minor crimes."

As a result, the prevalence of prison mental illness is high and rising - about 15 - 30% according to national epidemiological studies. The 2006 Special Report from the Federal Bureau of Prison Statistics titled, "Mental Health Problems of Prison and Jail Inmates," confirms a high, unprecedented mental illness population behind bars, concluding that 64% of jail inmates suffer significantly - based on structured interviews, "not necessarily clinical diagnoses."

A comparable 1999 study estimated 19%. The 2006 one concludes that previously homeless inmates are twice as likely to be ill, the result of living on streets or in unfavorable environments, unconducive to good mental health.

Other epidemiological studies concur with the Bureau of Justice Statistics, and despite the prevalence of inmate illness, few prisoners get help, what's provided is inadequate, and medications only for many are stressed. Even then, they're only given to symptomatic inmates, then withdrawn when they abate, when it's essential they be continued. Otherwise, those in need aren't helped.

Overcrowding and Few Inmate Programs - A Serious Problem

When the 1970s prison population was much smaller, studies showed overcrowding caused violence, mental illness, and suicides. Today it's much worse. "One ha(s) only to tour a jail or prison to understand how violence and madness were bred by the crowding."

Imagine a small dormitory expanded to house 150 prisoners - the situation in LA County Men's Central Jail with bunk beds lined up in rows. "A prisoner cannot move more than a few feet away from a neighbor, and lines form at the pay telephones and the urinals."

It's the same with four men crammed into small cells with barely enough room to get off bunks for any reason. The cells have no chairs, desks or any space but bunks to sit or lie on. It's enough to fray anyones nerves, but with "tough men" in small spaces, altercations follow, then disciplinary action, greater anger, and inevitable mental illness for many.

"In general, as an individual prone to psychosis becomes angrier, his thinking becomes more regressed and irrational, and therefore subjecting (these inmates) to conditions that exacerbate irritability and anger (worsens) their mental illness, often precipitating a state of acute decompensation or 'breakdown.' "

For those depression prone, self-imposed isolation to escape violence or unbearable conditions deepens their problem and "leads to thoughts of self-harm." Open rage and violence pushes some over the edge, especially with no remedial treatment. Also, mentally ill prisoners are prime targets for violence because they're vulnerabe. "The more violence, the more madness, and the crowding exacerbates both."

Over the past 30 years, few constructive changes were made in jail architecture. Most cells are windowless. Recreation for most is once a month. For many, none at all, even though they're supposed to have three times a week minimum. Even the Medical Disability/Stepdown area (6050) is deplorable.

"Men in wheelchairs, on crutches, and otherwise disabled were stuffed like sardines into long interconnecting, dark rooms with far too many bunk beds for them to be able to walk around." Absent are desks and chairs, and moving between bunks requires others to make way.

Under conditions of overcrowding and little rehabilitation, prisoners are idle - the result being worse traumas and abuse for many. Loners are especially vulnerable, an easy target for rapists or others to vent anger without retaliation.

Imagine a jail complex where 13,000 prisoners enter monthly in overcrowded quarters, others, of course, being released. But with inadequate assessments of mental illness and no treatment, inmates are on their own to survive in a very harsh environment. If they don't follow rules, they're in trouble, are punished, are abused by other prisoners, and their condition deteriorates.

"I was stunned by the degree of overcrowding I witnessed (on) May 8 & 9, 2008." Inmates stay in windowless cells nearly 24 hours a day, with no furnishings except their bunk. They have poor round-the-clock lighting. It disturbs sleep and hampers reading. They're noisy, fraying nerves. They eat there with no programs or mental health treatment possibilities. A combustible environment is inevitable, and it erupts daily.

In one Administrative Segregation Unit (2904), cells are also small (about 5 x 6 feet) with no windows and solid doors always closed. Isolation produces claustrophobia, suffering, and serious psychiatric harm.

"Throughout the Men's Central Jail (MCJ), the cells and dormitories violate minimum standards in terms of both social and spacial density (including) compensatory out-of-cell time for jail prisoners confined in substandard cells or dormitories. (It's) intolerable to leave prisoners in harsh, crowded conditions that we know cause psychiatric breakdown."

Conditions also affect staff. They get impatient, angry, and take it out on inmates for minor infractions. They, in turn react, and the longer they're incarcerated awaiting trial (at times years), the worse their condition becomes.

Like the MCJ, conditions in the Twin Towers are poor. Yet some positive mental health programs are in place, including inpatient beds in the Forensic Inpatient Program (FIP), crisis intervention/observation capabilities in TT 1, a step-down or subacute mental health unit, mental health housing, pre-release linking with community mental health services, and Jail Mental Evaluation Teams (JMET). The latter are "excellent in concept," but inadequate in implementation, prisoners outside mental health housing units saying they're not helped.

For the most part, little besides psychotropic medications are provided. Yet prisoners complain about not getting them or having them discontinued, their charts corroborating their accounts. Most inmates needing help wait weeks or months to be seen, that at best lasts a few minutes. Others are never seen because of too few staff to handle large numbers in need.

"I was told repeatedly by prisoners that there is nothing available in the way of mental health treatment except the prescription of psychiatric medications. This is far from adequate mental health treatment....There is a Pattern of Failure to Diagnose and Inappropriately Down-grad(e) the Diagnoses of Prisoners who Cannot be Accommodated in Mental Health Housing."

Some inmates are never diagnosed despite complaining of "significant psychiatric history." Others, seriously ill, are "un-diagnosed;" for example, Schizophrenia to a personality disorder, an "adjustment disorder," or "malingering." Without treatment, symptoms inevitably worsen, often jeopardizing inmate safety.

"It is important to note that serious mental illnesses are, mostly, lifetime conditions that pursue a waxing and waning course. An individual suffering from Schizophrenia might go into remission," especially if properly medicated, but it doesn't mean he's cured. Future eruptions can happen anytime and do. Under LA County Jail conditions, a complete breakdown or suicide can result.

"It is striking how indifferent mental health staff are to evidence of serious mental illness by history - past hospitalizations, Social Security Disability benefits, or even competency evaluations." Instead, they focus only on current symptoms, and do it poorly by misdiagnosing.

Disciplinary Housing Exacerbates Mental Illness and the Potential for Suicide

A "disproportionate number of prisoners with serious mental illness predictably wind up in punitive segregation." Besides harming them further, it contributes to a greater pandemonium level throughout the prison population because of their screaming and irrational actions like throwing feces at guards.

"Human beings require some degree of social interaction and productive activity to establish and sustain a sense of identity and to maintain a grasp on reality." Absent these, paranoia and an inability to control rage increases.

Segregated inmates do what they can. Some pace relentlessly. Others read and write letters, but many are illiterate. They fare worst in isolation. Anxiety, hallucinations, anger, obsessions, and/or despair result.

In isolation, previously healthy inmates develop psychiatric symptoms, including anxiety; rage; claustrophobia; panic attacks; headaches; lethargy; heart palpitations; violent fantasies; depression; and/or trouble focusing, remembering or sleeping.

Conditions "that cause emotional distress in relatively healthy prisoners cause psychotic breakdowns, severe affective disorders and suicide crises in prisoners who have histories of serious mental illness, as well as in (some) who never suffered a (previous) breakdown...."

Enough stress can break anyone, and "once an individual crosses a line into psychosis or depressive despair, it is very possible that (removing harsh isolation won't be able) to bring him back to a normal mental state."

Staff abuse is also a major problem. Based on widespread inmate reports, they're excessive, including severe beatings, compounded by the stress of overcrowding and inmate-on-inmate violence.

Recommended Remedies

They're often made but ignored, including:

-- reduce overcrowding;

-- increase mental health treatment by competent staff;

-- provide diversion for seriously ill prisoners;

-- institute early release programs for outside treatment;

-- address forced idleness, lack of recreation, and the need for more time out of cells - in day rooms, cafeterias, anywhere for needed relief;

-- improve lighting and provide desks and chairs;

-- remove mentally ill prisoners from overcrowded, toxic environments;

-- create more housing for treatment and improved safety for the mentally ill;

-- keep them out of segregation and disciplinary housing; they need mental health treatment in a proper setting;

-- greatly expand mental health housing;

-- halt harmful diagnosis down-gradings;

-- properly evaluate psychiatric histories;

-- improve JMET interventions and provide better outpatient services in the general prison population and other jail areas;

-- provide a range of mental health services;

-- have enough competent staff to serve needs;

-- increase substance abuse treatment;

-- provide more comprehensive post-release planning, including housing, medication, and other social services;

-- increase staff training;

-- take steps to reduce custodial abuse; and

-- other remedial measures.

Whatever the cost, it's small compared to readmissions, a larger inmate population, and the toll on society when ill or abused prisoners return to communities.

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at Also visit his blog site at and listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network Thursdays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.

GO here

And earlier article in the LA Times as to same conditions (little if anything changed since then?): ACLU calls conditions in L.A. County Men's Central Jail 'medieval - Apr 15, 2009 - the poor jail conditions exacerbate...problems GO here

Forgiving my daughter's killer

Guest post by Linda L White in The Washington Post

One of the two 15-year-old boys who killed my 26-year-old daughter Cathy was released from prison last month after serving 23 years of a 54-year sentence. Gary Brown was released from prison one week before the Supreme Court decided in Graham v. Florida to end the practice of sentencing juveniles to life without parole for crimes other than murder.

Until November of 1986, I was not very knowledgeable about or interested in criminal or juvenile justice matters. I spent most of 1987 in limbo awaiting the trials of Gary Brown and his co-defendant. All I knew about them was that they were certified to stand trial as adults and had long criminal records as juveniles. At the time they seemed to be non-persons. It would take years for me to get over my indifference toward them, to eventually discover their humanity.

Ten years ago I found out that Gary was willing to meet me in a mediated dialogue through the sponsorship of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice. I had never laid eyes on him and had, over the years, gradually come to ignore his existence. As the time approached for us to meet, I know that Gary became more and more apprehensive, but not me. I wanted to see him and tell him how grateful I was for his remorse. I know that this was an unusual response, but it was only possible through my discovery of restorative justice and, of course, by the grace of God. I strongly believe that most of my journey over the last 23 years has been through grace. Otherwise, I have no explanation for it.

When I met with Gary, I discovered a young man whose life had been one of abuse and neglect, a world apart from that of my childhood and that of my children's. Though he offered no excuses for his actions, what he told me helped me to place my daughter's murder in a larger context and helped me to understand how he could have done such a tragic deed. His total remorse was an incredibly healing encounter for me.

I think it's the love shown him by an adopted family that transformed Gary and made him the person he is today. He wants us to go and talk to kids about our experiences, and I hope we can do that. My experience with Gary has taught me that we have a responsibility to protect our youth from the kind of childhood that Gary had, from treatment that recklessly disregards their inherent vulnerability. He is proof that young people, even those who have done horrible things, can be transformed.

When my daughter was killed, I would have supported a sentence of life without parole for the juveniles who killed her. Today, I am glad the Supreme Court ruled that young offenders must be treated differently from adults even for heinous crimes.
We cannot afford to lose our young people to desolation and cruelty. The Supreme Court has taken one small step, but we must go further. Our policies should reflect what I truly believe is God's will for forgiveness. We must end the practice of sentencing youth to prison for the rest of their lives without hope of release, because people should never be declared worthless and stripped of the opportunity for rehabilitation due to crimes committed in their youth.

Linda L. White was an adjunct faculty member at Sam Houston State University in the department of Psychology and Philosophy, where she taught upper level college courses in the Department of Psychology and Philosophy, and occasionally in Criminal Justice.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Day of Action for Innocence and Justice Wednesday, June 23

The 254 wrongful convictions overturned through DNA testing have exposed serious flaws in our criminal justice system. To stop these injustices, we have to address the root causes and we need your help to do it.

We have planned a day of action for Wednesday, June 23, when we’ll be asking you to call three leaders in the U.S. Senate to urge them to support the creation of a national commission to study the criminal justice system and recommend reforms to address problems.

Please mark your calendars and spread the word today about next Wednesday’s day of action by posting it on Facebook and Twitter and emailing your friends. Every call to the Senate next Wednesday will bring us closer to true criminal justice reform.

The National Criminal Justice Commission proposed by Senator Jim Webb would review and identify effective criminal justice policies and make recommendations for reform. The commission has passed the Senate Judiciary Committee and gained bipartisan support, with nearly 40 co-sponsors from both sides of the aisle.

A bipartisan blue-ribbon panel to examine the American criminal justice system could bring about lasting reform, but it won’t happen without your help. Learn more about the proposed commission and the June 23rd Day of Action here. We’ll send a reminder with phone numbers and more next Wednesday morning.

Thank you for your commitment to justice,

Maddy deLone
Executive Director
The Innocence Project

Be sure to read the related post below about the TOUR of some of these KEY (Innocence Project and Journey of Hope) players who are speaking for all of us in the Journey of Hope family...

Four Men, 32 Years on Death Row, to Tour Eastern NC


Come hear four men who were exonerated from death row after 32 years tell their stories at churches and community centers across Eastern North Carolina. Gary Drinkard, Randal Padgett, Deblert Tibbs, and Shabaka WaQlimi will be speaking in pairs on an eight-day tour starting with a brunch for clergy on Saturday morning in Greenville, NC.

"No one can describe the horror of the death penalty and the reality of life on death row better than someone who has experienced it," said John P. Comer, the Greenville‐based Eastern North Carolina coordinator for PFADP.

The tour is sponsored by two nonprofit organizations, People of Faith Against the Death Penalty and Witness to Innocence. The Pitt and Perquimans county branches of the NC NAACP and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference Pitt County, NC chapter are also co-sponsoring the tour.

Randal Padgett spent six years in prison and on death row for the rape and murder of his estranged wife before the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals overturned his conviction. Prior to his own sentencing, Padgett had assumed innocent people were never convicted. "That isn't the case. Innocent people are convicted, and once you're convicted, it's difficult to find anyone willing to believe otherwise," he said.

Padgett will be joined Saturday by Shabaka WaQlimi of Charlotte, who spent 13 years on death row in Florida before being exonerated. They will speak in Greenville, Goldsboro, Winterville, and Washington.

Delbert Tibbs was in his second year of pursuing his master's degree at Chicago Theological Seminary when he decided to travel around the country. After a stop in Florida he was arrested for a rape of a 16-year-old girl and the murder of her traveling companion there. An all-white jury sentenced him to die based on a misidentification from the rape victim. He spent eight years on death row before the state supreme court overturned his conviction and the state dropped the charges.

Tibbs will be joined on the tour by Gary Drinkard, who was exonerated after six years on Alabama's death row. He later testified before the US Senate Judiciary Committee. Tibbs and Drinkard will speak in Wilmington, Greenville, Hertford, and at a brunch for clergy Elizabeth City.

"This tour will give people the chance to hear incredibly powerful stories and compelling testimony from individuals just like them - but who were sentenced to death and lived to tell about it," said Stephen Dear, executive director of People of Faith Against the Death Penalty, which is organizing the tour.

The tour will begin with a brunch for local clergy in Greenville on Saturday, June 19 and end with a luncheon for clergy in Elizabeth City on Saturday, June 26.

Seven people have been exonerated from death row in North Carolina, 138 nationally.

Kurt Rosenberg, executive director of Witness to Innocence, said that regardless of a person's position on capital punishment, he or she will learn a great deal from hearing one of these courageous individuals speak. "Their stories invariably have a transformative impact on audiences."

All of the following events are free.

The tour schedule includes:

Saturday, June 19 - Greenville, NC 9 am
"Discerning Justice: A Conversation Over Brunch for Clergy & Religious Leaders About the Death Penalty in North Carolina"
Featuring Exonerees Randal Padgett and Shabaka WaQlimi
Cornerstone Missionary Baptist Church, 1095 Allen Rd.
***This event is open to all clergy and religious leaders only.

Sunday, June 20 - Goldsboro, NC 10 am
Featuring Exonerees Randal Padgett and Shabaka WaQlimi
Greenleaf Christian Church (during services)
2110 N. William St.

Monday, June 21 - Winterville, NC 7:30 pm
Featuring Exonerees Randal Padgett and Shabaka WaQlimi
Next Generation Church
401 N. Railroad St.

Tuesday, June 22 - Washington, NC 7 pm
Featuring Exonerees Randal Padgett and Shabaka WaQlimi
Beebe Memorial CME Church
427 North Respess St.

Wednesday, June 23 - Wilmington, NC 11 am
Re-Entry Roundtable
Featuring Delbert Tibbs and Gary Drinkard
Johnny McCoy Auditorium
507 N. Sixth St.

Wednesday, June 23 - Wilmington, NC 7 pm
Featuring Delbert Tibbs and Gary Drinkard
Chestnut Street Presbyterian Church
712 Chestnut St.

Thursday, June 24 - Greenville, NC 6:30 pm
Featuring Delbert Tibbs and Gary Drinkard
Muhammad Mosque #79
Sheppard Memorial Library
530 S. Evans St.

Friday, June 25 - Hertford, NC 7 pm
Featuring Delbert Tibbs and Gary Drinkard
First Baptist Missionary Church
211 Hyde Park St.

Saturday, June 26 - Elizabeth City, NC 9:30 am
"Discerning Justice: A Conversation Over Brunch for Clergy & Religious Leaders About the Death Penalty in North Carolina"
Featuring Delbert Tibbs and Gary Drinkard
Museum of the Albemarle
501 S. Water St.
***This event is open to all clergy and religious leaders only.

For more information, contact John P. Comer, PFADP Eastern NC Coordinator, at 919.215.0714 or or call 919.933.7567.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Los Angeles California: FREE Activist Training

Sat., June 19, 2010 - Los Angeles, CA
Activist Training

The Los Angeles County Coalition for Alternatives to the Death Penalty is sponsoring a 2nd, FREE Activist Training.

Saturday, June 19, from 11am - 3pm,
ACLU-SC office
1313 West Eighth St.
Los Angeles, CA 90017

This training will be a great way to learn how to get more involved and maximize your contributions to this movement. It's also the weekend before the Global Day of Solidarity for Troy Davis, so it will be a great way to prepare for that action and make sure our voice is heard!

Please RSVP to by June 17th.

GO here for more info.

Friday, June 11, 2010

California: Breaking News: Execution Procedures Rejected!

More Than 7500 Supported California Racial Justice Act!

Also look below for more information re: Sat., June 12, 2010 - San Francisco, CA
World Coalition Against the Death Penalty - 2010 Annual General Assembly and ONE DAY FREE workshops.

This will be a landmark event -- the first meeting of more than eighty death penalty abolition organizations from around the world to be held in the United States.

CALIFORNIA is a major place to look right now for several firsts including the FIRST World Coalition Against the Death Penalty Conference in San Fransisco. Although I'm unable to be there, it's great to be in California following the event at the same time from the same state.


This week California's Office of Administrative Law rejected the proposed lethal injection regulations drafted by the Department of Corrections (CDCR) citing numerous, serious problems! This was, in great part, due to all of the objections raised by you! CDCR was given 120 days to fix these problems.

Today, less than 3 days later, CDCR opened another comment period starting today, ending on June 25th. However, it is clear that they have still failed to address many of the serious concerns that have been raised. We will be asking everyone to submit another round of comments next week when we send out sample talking points.

This decision demonstrates what we already knew to be true: California's death penalty is broken beyond repair and should be abolished!

What you can do in the meantime:
Please take a few minutes to send a letter to the editor of your local newspaper.

Letter writing tips:

1. Keep it simple. Less is more. Less than 200 words preferred.

2. Always include your full name, address, and phone number.

3. If possible, respond directly to a related article in your local paper.

Talking points:

# The death penalty is failed government program. Let's stop throwing good money after bad and end it already.

# We should be investing in violence prevention programs, instead of wasting money killing prisoners.

# The death penalty costs millions more than the alternative, life without parole.

# There is no humane way to kill a prisoner. We should stop the tinkering and just abolish the death penalty.

# The death penalty is a failed public safety policy. It doesn't deter crime and it doesn't make us safer.

# The United States is one of the few remaining democracies that still kills prisoners.

More Than 7500 Supported California Racial Justice Act!
We are so pleased to announce that more than 7500 individuals took action to support the RJA. More than 25 civil rights and religious organizations also supported the bill. The bill, SB 1331, advanced out of the CA Senate Public Safety Committee, but failed to advance out of the Appropriations Committee. While the bill will no longer advance this year, tremendous progress was made and the bill may be brought back in the future.

Thank you to all our supporters who took action!

Election Results and the Death Penalty: Check out today's piece in the California Progress Report by Natasha Minsker for her take on California's election results as they relate to the death penalty FIND here

Experience is shared by many murder victim family members across California, particularly people of color. GO here

Jun 11, 2010 Just Released: The California Progress Report's Voter Guide summarizes the recommendations of leading progressive organizations on June 2010 state ballot (Yes, we know our readers here may well vote differently on various issues - still there may be some items here which relate specifically to Death Pen issues. So you may want to check this out here

Upcoming Events

Sat., June 12, 2010 - San Francisco, CA
World Coalition Against the Death Penalty
2010 Annual General Assembly

This will be a landmark event -- the first meeting of more than eighty death penalty abolition organizations from around the world to be held in the United States.

There will be one day of FREE workshops for members of the public.

Saturday, June 12th
8am - 5pm
University of California, Hastings College of the Law
198 McAllister Street
San Francisco, CA 94102

Registration Required.

Questions? Please contact: Elizabeth Zitrin at

For more information on the World Coalition Against the Death Penalty visit (AND DISTRIBUTE WIDELY) OR CLICK here

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Bereaved Israeli Mother Speaks for Bereaved Palestinian Mothers

Nurit Peled-Elhanan

Israeli mother Addresses European Parliament in 2006

"I should cry for [Palestinian women], and fight for them. And when they lose their children in strawberry fields or on filthy roads by the checkpoints, when their children are shot on their way to school by Israeli children who were educated to believe that love and compassion are race- and religion-dependent, the only thing I can do is stand by them and their betrayed babies..."

Dear Friends,

Dr. Nurit Peled-Elhanan is the mother of Smadar Elhanan, 13 years old when killed by a suicide bomber in Jerusalem in September 1997. Below is Nurit's speech made on International Women's Day in Strasbourg earlier this month. Please listen to the words of a bereaved mother, whose daughter fell victim to a vicious, indiscriminating terrorist attack. I wish her words will enter the hearts of all peace seekers in our troubled and divided world.

For better days,
Professor Avraham Oz
Department of Hebrew and Comparative Literature
University of Haifa

by Nurit Peled-Elhanan

Thank you for inviting me to this today. It is always an honour and a pleasure to be here, among you (at the European Parliament).

However, I must admit I believe you should have invited a Palestinian woman at my stead, because the women who suffer most from violence in my county are the Palestinian women. And I would like to dedicate my speech to Miriam R`aban and her husband Kamal, from Bet Lahiya in the Gaza strip, whose five small children were killed by Israeli soldiers while picking strawberries at the family`s strawberry field. No one will ever stand trial for this murder.

When I asked the people who invited me here why didn't they invite a Palestinian woman, the answer was that it would make the discussion too localized.

I don't know what is non-localized violence. Racism and discrimination may be theoretical concepts and universal phenomena but their impact is always local, and real. Pain is local -- humiliation, sexual abuse, torture and death, are all very local, and so are the scars.

It is true, unfortunately, that the local violence inflicted on Palestinian women by the government of Israel and the Israeli army, has expanded around the globe, In fact, state violence and army violence, individual and collective violence, are the lot of Muslim women today, not only in Palestine but wherever the enlightened
western world is setting its big imperialistic foot. It is violence which is hardly ever addressed and which is halfheartedly condoned by most people in Europe and in the USA .

This is because the so-called free world is afraid of the Muslim womb.

Great France of "la liberte ├ęgalite et la fraternite" is scared of little girls with head scarves. Great Jewish Israel is afraid of the Muslim womb which its ministers call a demographic threat.

Almighty America and Great Britain are infecting their respective citizens with blind fear of the Muslims, who are depicted as vile, primitive and blood-thirsty, apart from their being non-democratic, chauvinistic and mass producers of future terrorists. This in spite of the fact that the people who are destroying the world today are not Muslim. One of them is a devout Christian, one is Anglican and one is
a non-devout Jew.

I have never experienced the suffering Palestinian women undergo every day, every hour -- I don't know the kind of violence that turns a woman's life into constant hell. This daily physical and mental torture of women who are deprived of their basic human rights and needs of privacy and dignity, women whose homes are broken into at any moment of day and night, who are ordered at a gun-point to strip naked
in front of strangers and their own children, whose houses are demolished , who are deprived of their livelihood and of any normal family life. This is not part of my personal ordeal.

But I am a victim of violence against women insofar as violence against children is actually violence against mothers. Palestinian, Iraqi, Afghan women are my sisters because we are all at the grip of the same unscrupulous criminals who call themselves leaders of the free enlightened world and in the name of this freedom and
enlightenment rob us of our children.

Furthermore, Israeli, American, Italian and British mothers have been for the most part violently blinded and brainwashed to such a degree that they cannot realize their only sisters, their only allies in the world are the Muslim Palestinian, Iraqi or Afghani mothers, whose children are killed by our children or who blow themselves to pieces with our sons and daughters.They are all mind-infected by the same viruses engendered by politicians. And the viruses, though they may have various illustrious names--such as Democracy, Patriotism, God, Homeland--are all the same. They are all part of false and fake ideologies that are meant to enrich the rich and to empower the powerful.

We are all the victims of mental, psychological and cultural violence that turn us to one homogenic group of bereaved or potentially bereaved mothers. Western mothers who are taught to believe their uterus is a national asset just like they are taught to believe that the Muslim uterus is an international threat. They are educated not to cry out: `I gave him birth, I breast fed him, he is mine, and I will not let him be the one whose life is cheaper than oil, whose future is less worth than a piece of land.`

All of us are terrorized by mind-infecting education to believe all we can do is either pray for our sons to come back home or be proud of their dead bodies.

And all of us were brought up to bear all this silently, to contain our fear and frustration, to take Prozac for anxiety, but never hail Mama Courage in public. Never be real Jewish or Italian or Irish mothers.

I am a victim of state violence. My natural and civil rights as a mother have been violated and are violated because I have to fear the day my son would reach his 18th birthday and be taken away from me to be the game tool of criminals such as Sharon, Bush, Blair and their clan of blood-thirsty, oil-thirsty, land thirsty generals..

Living in the world I live in, in the state I live in, in the regime I live in, I don't dare to offer Muslim women any ideas how to change their lives. I don't want them to take off their scarves, or educate their children differently, and I will not urge them to constitute Democracies in the image of Western democracies that despise them and their kind. I just want to ask them humbly to be my sisters, to
express my admiration for their perseverance and for their courage to carry on, to have children and to maintain a dignified family life in spite of the impossible conditions my world in putting them in. I want to tell them we are all bonded by the same pain, we all the victims of the same sort of violence even though they suffer much more, for they are the ones who are mistreated by my government and its army,
sponsored by my taxes.

Islam in itself, like Judaism in itself and Christianity in itself, is not a threat to me or to anyone. American imperialism is, European indifference and co-operation is and Israeli racism and its cruel regime of occupation is. It is racism, educational propaganda and inculcated xenophobia that convince Israeli soldiers to order Palestinian women at gun-point, to strip in front of their children for security reasons, it is the deepest disrespect for the other that allow American soldiers to rape Iraqi women, that give license to Israeli jailers to keep young women in inhuman conditions, without necessary hygienic aids, without electricity in the winter, without clean water or clean mattresses and to separate them from their
breast-fed babies and toddlers. To bar their way to hospitals, to block their way to education, to confiscate their lands, to uproot their trees and prevent them from cultivating their fields.

I cannot completely understand Palestinian women or their suffering. I don't know how I would have survived such humiliation, such disrespect from the whole world. All I know is that the voice of mothers has been suffocated for too long in this war-stricken planet. Mothers` cry is not heard because mothers are not invited to international forums such as this one. This I know and it is very little. But it is enough for me to remember these women are my sisters, and that they deserve that
I should cry for them, and fight for them. And when they lose their children in strawberry fields or on filthy roads by the checkpoints, when their children are shot on their way to school by Israeli children who were educated to believe that love and compassion are race- and religion-dependent, the only thing I can do is stand by them and their betrayed babies, and ask what Anna Akhmatova--another mother
who lived in a regime of violence against women and children--asked:

Why does that streak of blood rip the petal of your cheek?


Nurit Peled-Elhanan is an Israeli peace activist, professor at Hebrew University, and is among the founders of the Bereaved Families for Peace. After the death of Elhanan's 13 year-old daughter in 1997, she became an outspoken critic of the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza.

Elhanan's daughter, Smadar Elhanan, was the victim of a suicide bombing attack Ben Yehuda Street Bombing in Jerusalem on September 4, 1997. She states that she does not blame the group of suicide bombers for the incident, but rather the Israeli oppression of Palestinians as an indirect cause of her daughter's death. She had commented the following on the death of her daughter:

"My little girl was murdered because she was an Israeli by a young man who was humiliated, oppressed and desperate to the point of suicide and murder and inhumanity, just because he was a Palestinian."

"There is no basic moral difference between the soldier at the checkpoint who prevents a woman who is having a baby from going through, causing her to lose the baby, and the man who killed my daughter. And just as my daughter was a victim [of the occupation], so was he."

Elhanan is a laureate of the 2001 Sakharov prize for Human Rights and the Freedom of Speech, awarded by the European Parliament.

Peled-Elhanan is the daughter of the late general, Arab scholar and politician Mattityahu Peled, and married to Rami Elhanan, a co-founder of the Parents Circle - Families Forum which seeks forgiveness, healing and reconciliation between bereaved Palistinian and Israeli families.

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

California: End the sentence of shame for family of executed

Janis Gay, whose grandfather was executed at Folsom Prison.


We are beginning here a series on California and the Death Penalty

Death Penalty : It is time to end the sentence of shame for family ...It is time to end the sentence of shame for family ... our grandfather's death ... the Death Penalty, a coalition project with MVFR, Death Penalty Focus and the ACLU Northern California.

It is time to end the sentence of shame for family members of the executed

By Janis Gay, whose grandfather was executed at Folsom Prison.

Imagine you are ten. Imagine your father. A black hood covers his head. A rope around his neck. His arms, tied behind his back. The floor opens. The rope snaps. He's dead. Period.

But not the end of the sentence.

It was just the beginning of the sentence for my mother. She was that ten year old. She never actually saw her father's execution in Folsom Prison, in 1924, but she never stopped seeing it. The vision grew larger and larger until it blotted out the obvious-her art, her family, her life.

My beautiful mother was so intelligent and had such an imagination--she was capable of writing a best selling novel. But she only published two books. Her implosion began when I was 10, the same age that she was when her father was executed.

The rope snapped, the sentence continued.

When I was an adolescent, I would often find my mother, after my brother and father went to bed, in her rocking chair in the darkened living room, drinking Ancient Age, smoking Merits. The red coals swung in the dark.

It was my 21st summer, 1968, before my senior year at Berkeley, when my mother told me about my grandfather's execution. My older brother was told when he was 18. The story of our grandfather's death sentence was our rite of passage into adulthood.

Strangely, two of my acquaintances at school were related to characters in my grandfather's story---the judge's granddaughter and the district attorney's grandson. I came close to sharing my family's secret with the judge's granddaughter, but held back. I felt apart and fearful, yet I told myself that my grandfather's murder and execution had nothing to do with me.

I had my first bout with depression during the middle of my senior year -- just months after my mother had confided in me. The sentence continued.

My mother and I spoke of my grandfather less than a dozen times before her death in 1997. Most of the conversations were bleak and conspiratorial. Stay away from finding out about him, from assuming the shame, she warned.

It was obvious from my mother's warnings that she still carried the burden of shame and had not reached reconciliation with her father's deed or death. After her death, I spoke with several of her closest friends about my grandfather, but no one knew what had happened to him.

I was 40 when I began therapy. With my therapist's support I began the exhausting process of learning about my grandfather. The crime had created a media frenzy, so there were plenty of old newspaper accounts of what had happened.

As I delved deeper into my grandfather's story I kept picturing my 10 year old mother in the middle of the storm; sitting in Governor Richardson's office as my grandmother begged for clemency. I imagined the teasing and taunting that she must have endured. (I taught middle school for 29 years, so I know how innocently cruel children can be to each other at that age.) Knowing my mother's imagination, I am sure she struggled to block out the image of her beloved father hanging at the end of the rope.

Until my research, I had always felt uncomfortable being against the death penalty. Our government said we needed executions to be safe. Murders would increase if we did not kill the killers. We shouldn't waste our money keeping them alive. It's justice.

When I read the petitions and letters to Governor Richardson asking for clemency on behalf of my grandfather, I began to wonder about executions as a punishment. Reading the creepy letters requesting to witness the execution, and the doctor's report of my grandfather's expiration in the gallows pushed me to explore the issue further.

In November 2000, I attended Committing to Conscious, a conference in San Francisco sponsored by Death Penalty Focus. It was a national gathering of anti-death penalty groups.

It was there that I became a member of Murder Victims' Families for Reconciliation (MVFR).

MVFR is an organization made of people whose family members have been murdered or executed and who oppose the death penalty in all cases. MVFR advocates for programs and policies that promote crime prevention, alternatives to violence and addresses the needs of victims, helping them to rebuild their lives.

I also discovered that family members of the executed share many characteristics: drug abuse (my brother died of alcoholism), family disintegration (my grandfather had 7 brothers and sisters-I know no one from that family), depression, violence, shame and silence.

Through MVFR I have gained support and recognition-and most importantly, I have learned that my grandfather's execution, his sentence, does not have to end my story.

MVFR gave me a community and recognized my legitimacy. They introduced me to others who opposed the death penalty. Most importantly, they made me realize that I did not have to deny my family's past. My grandfather murdered another human being, but he is still my grandfather. His heinous act and the government's mutual participation in the cycle of killing sent my mother into an emotional exile.

But now I know I do not have to follow in her footsteps. With the support of organizations like DPF and MVFR, I have become empowered to speak out against the death penalty and the cycle of violence it perpetuates.
END article

(Find this article at Death Penalty Focus, MVFR and other sites)

Janis Gay, a third generation Northern Californian, taught middle school in St. Helena for 29 years and is now the receptionist for a Napa Valley accounting firm. She serves on the Board of Directors for Murder Victims' Families for Reconciliation. Janis is the MVFR liaison for California Crime Victims for an Alternative to the Death Penalty, a coalition project with MVFR, Death Penalty Focus and the ACLU Northern California.

California Saturday: 80 + death pen Abolition Groups World Wide

One-Day Free - San Francisco, California

2010 Annual General Assembly and Free One-Day Conference

This will be a landmark event -- the first meeting of more than eighty death penalty abolition organizations from around the world to be held in the United States.

Free One-Day Conference
Saturday, June 12th
8am - 5pm

University of California, Hastings College of the Law
198 McAllister Street
San Francisco, CA 94102
Directions and Parking

Tentative Schedule:

8am - Registration and Continental Breakfast
9am - Opening Remarks

Plenary 1: Mike Farrell, President of Death Penalty Focus

Panel Discussions A:
1. "Voices of Victims’ Families"
2. "Law Enforcement Priorities for Public Safety"

12pm - Box Lunch Provided

Panel Discussions B:
1. "Voices of the Exonerated Innocent"
2. "The Death Penalty in the US: Constitutional Bases, Procedures and Federalism"

Plenary 2: "The Latinization of Death Row and Ongoing Issues of Racial Inequity"

4:45pm - Closing Remarks: World Day 2010 & Cities Against the Death Penalty 2010

5:15pm - Hosted Reception


Registration Required. Register Today!

View a Detailed Draft Agenda (.pdf)

Please note: WCADP meetings on Sunday, June 13th are closed to the public.

Questions? Please contact: Elizabeth Zitrin at

For more information on the World Coalition Against the Death Penalty CLICK here

Find this "brochure" at deathpenalty dot org GO here

The History of California's Death Penalty

Capital punishment is authorized in Penal Code.

California law is amended allowing for executions to take place inside state prisons only. Previous executions were conducted by county sheriffs.

March 3, 1893
Jose Gabriel is hanged at San Quentin State Prison in the first state-conducted execution. Hangings are carried out at both state prisons: San Quentin and Folsom.

August 27, 1937
Gas chamber replaces hanging as method of execution.

December 3, 1937
Ninety-second and last hanging at Folsom. All executions now take place at San Quentin.

December 2, 1938
Robert Lee Cannon and Albert Kessel are the first to be executed in the San Quentin gas chamber.

November 21, 1941
Ethel Leta Juanita Spinelli becomes the first woman executed in California.

May 1, 1942
215th and last hanging at San Quentin.

August 8, 1962
Elizabeth Ann Duncan becomes the fourth and most recent woman to be executed.

April 8, 1967
Aaron Mitchell becomes the 194th person executed in the gas chamber and the last executed until 1992.

February 18, 1972
California Supreme Court declares the death penalty cruel and unusual punishment in violation of the state constitution. 107 inmates are taken off death row and resentenced. A similar decision is rendered in 1976 and 68 inmates are resentenced.

August 11, 1977
Legislature re-enacts the death penalty. Under the new statute, evidence in mitigation is permitted. The death penalty is reinstated as a possible punishment for first degree murder under certain conditions. These "special circumstances" include: murder for financial gain, murder by a person previously convicted of murder, murder of multiple victims, murder with torture, murder of a peace officer, murder of a witness to prevent testimony and several other murders under particular circumstances.

In 1977, the Penal Code was revised to include the sentence of life imprisonment without the possibility of parole. At that time, the punishment for kidnapping for ransom, extortion, or robbery was changed from death to life without parole. Treason, train derailing or wrecking, and securing the death of an innocent person through perjury became punishable by death or life imprisonment without parole.

November 7, 1978
Voters approve a broader death penalty law that replaces the 1977 statute.

April 21, 1992
California resumes executions with the execution of Robert Alton Harris.

August 27, 1992
Lethal injection is added as a method of execution. Inmates may now choose between injection and lethal gas.

August 24, 1993
David Mason is executed after he forfeited his appeals.

October 4, 1994
Gas chamber is ruled cruel and unusual punishment and therefore unconstitutional. Lethal injection is now sole the method of execution.

February 23, 1996
Willliam Bonin is the first executed by lethal injection.

May 3, 1996
Keith (Danny) Williams is executed.

July 14, 1998
Thomas Martin Thompson is executed, despite evidence of innocence.

Febuary 9, 1999
Jaturun Siripongs, a Thai national, becomes the sixth person to be executed by the state of California.

May 4, 1999
Manual Babbitt, a vietnam war veteran with a history of mental illness and post traumatic stress syndrome, is executed.

March 15, 2000
Darrell Young Elk Rich, the first Native American to be executed by the State of California since reinstatement of the death penalty, is executed. Young Elk's request for a sacred sweat lodge, a purification ceremony equivalent to a Catholic's last rites, was denied.

March 27, 2001
Robert Lee Massie was executed by the state of California. Massie had voluntarily ended his appeals process after nearly thirty years on death row.

January 29, 2002
Stephen Wayne Anderson is executed by the state of California.

January 19, 2005
Donald Jay Beardslee is executed by the State of California.

December 13, 2005
Stanley Tookie Williams is executed by the State of California.

January 17, 2006
Clarence Ray Allen is executed by the State of California.

From Death Penalty Focus

Saturday, June 05, 2010

"All men are created equal." Really?

Some thoughts on racial discrimination during peremptory strikes in death penalty cases

1776: „...all men are created equal“ (Thomas Jefferson in the Declaration of Independence)

1954: Brown vs. Board of Education: U.S. Supreme Court bans racial segregation in public schools.

1961: On May 4th, the first of what later came to be known as the The Freedom Rides took place to test the US Supreme Court's ruling in Boynton v. Virginia (1960), which declared segregation in interstate bus and rail stations unconstitutional.

1963: „I have a dream“ – public speech by Martin Luther King Jr. in which he called for racial equality and an end to discrimination.

1964: President Johnson signs the Civil Rights Act; discrimination based on "race, color, religion, or national origin" in employment practices and public accommodations is banned.

1965: President Johnson signs the Voting Rights Act

1986: US Supreme Court rules in Batson v. Kentucky that while prosecutors may reject potential jurors without giving a reason during jury selection using peremptory challenge, they may not exclude them because of race, and may need to provide the non-racial reason for their exclusion to the judge.

2010: Study finds that blacks are still blocked from southern juries.

A new study by the Equal Justice Initiative, a nonprofit human rights and legal services organization in Montgomery, AL, found that the practice of excluding blacks and other minorities from Southern juries remains widespread. And it seems that nobody is even interested in this since most of the cases remain unchecked.

Racial discrimination during peremptory strikes is unconstitutional, nevertheless it still exists. Studies found that there are counties in Alabama where more than 75 percent of black jury pool members have been struck in death penalty cases.

The Supreme Court decided that if a pattern of discrimination emerged during peremptory strikes, lawyers must provide nonracial reasons for their strikes. The reason does not have to be "persuasive, or even plausible," the Supreme Court ruled in a later case. It is up to the judge to decide if there was deliberate discrimination.

Racial discrimination is illegal but who cares if there are other, really simple possibilities of getting rid of blacks in juries anyway? Instead of telling the court you stuck a potential jury member for his race, simply state that your decision was based on the neighborhood he lives in or because they are a single parent…

Let us not be carried away by rage, but rather, remain fair! After all, it’s not the poor prosecutor's fault that black people make inconvenient jurors in death penalty cases! Studies have shown that racially diverse juries deliberate longer, consider a wider variety of perspectives and make fewer factual errors than all-white juries. Additionally, predominantly black juries are less likely to impose the death penalty.

The needy prosecutor has to win the death penalty case at any cost or he risks his re-election. So he simply doesn’t have any other choice but try to get rid of these awful people, does he?

We don’t live in the 18th century any more, but in the third millennium.

Racial discrimination belongs to the dark times of the past. Perhaps it’s time for some people in the south to wake up and recognize the same.

"All men are created equal" – more than 230 years after Jefferson wrote these words, they should finally come true … even in the southern states of the USA.

Please read "Study Finds Blacks Blocked From Southern Juries" in the NY Times.