Thursday, December 22, 2011

Dream One World shines a light on our path

"The best things Americans are doing around the world these days is not in dropping bombs from unmanned drones, but in helping school children in places like Uganda, Kenya, and the southern Sudan. Dream One World's current Uganda School Project is one of those. It deserves wide support."
- Pete McCloskey, Jr., 2011: Co-Founder of Earth Day, Former U.S. Congressman, Global Advisor for Dream One World

Readers, you need to see the absolutely gorgeous and cheery DREAM ONE WORLD newsletter just out for November thru December:

I'm only posting a few excerpts and photos here:

The Journey of Hope October 2011 trip to our school in Uganda and beyond was a HUGE success! (The Fantastic Four) Bill Pelke, Bill Babbitt, Charity Lee, and Randy Gardner traveled to visit our school as part of "Journey of Hope... From Violence to Healing," a nonprofit organization founded in 1993 of murder victim family members, death row family members, death row survivors, and other activists for peace and healing.

Each of the four has at least one family member that was murdered, yet they are committed to love, forgiveness, restorative justice, and ending the death penalty in America and throughout the world.

See an adorable video of that day, Facebook connection to 44 photos and JOURNEY OF HOPE VIDEO AT OUR SCHOOL! (Wait till you see the smiles of "our" kids!)

Most of the 150 children had never seen themselves on camera before - ADORABLE! We thank Bill Pelke, Bill Babbitt, Randy Gardner, Charity Lee, and our Assistant Manager of the project, Katongole Ronald, for sending us films and photographs so we could compile this short video.

(end of excerpt)

So, GO READ much more on this UPBEAT newsletter - what a labor of love! HERE

I (Connie on the blog) want to put in a little plug for Edward and his family as well...what commitment, what diligence! My husband and I have two adopted sons from Uganda - so since I met Edward on a Journey in Texas - got to see his resilience and faith close up over lots of miles - I still care deeply about his radiant life and vision, of course...and pray to find a way to do something to reach out during the coming year...

Many prayers for ongoing healing of the effects of the stroke and may you, your family and supporters all feel and receive lots of support in other ways during the coming year...if not sooner.

And as always, support THE JOURNEY -- all the folk mentioned in this post and others behind the scene. May each one know a sense of fulfillment like never before. What a beautiful committed family of love.

May each reader here also experience joy-filled, whole and holy days ahead.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Rais Bhuiyan - who tried to stop attacker's execution - is honored

Texas was the state where Bhuiyan was attacked.

He led hundreds of supporters throughout Texas.

His movement World Without Hate took off September 21, 2011 --
on World Peace Day -- the anniversary of the day when Buiyan
was shot after the effort to stop the execution of Mark Stroman
had been taken to England, Germany and Denmark. While the effort
failed, the World Without Hate movement is alive indeed.

After a number of other speaking engagements and events--
including a number in Texas, Washington, D.C., California,
North Carolina and Italy--California again honored him on December 11...

...The theme of the most recent event was “Awakening the American Spirit: Turning the Tide of Hate into Love.” It was the American Muslim Voices 2011 Peace Convention.

The convention was divided into two sessions. The first session comprised of two parallel events: Conversation with Muslim Scholars and Civil Rights Panel Discussion.

Khalid Saeed, the AMV National President, presented an overview about the AMV achievements since its establishment eight years.2011 AMV Convention KS-9C

He said: “We take pride and comfort in being recognized regionally and nationally as a Muslim peace building and community building organization. We have been active in support of human and immigrant rights; we are unique as a grassroots facilitator of interfaith/intercultural dialogue. The secret of our success is practicing Islam with our actions- not just words- in the main stream among our fellow Americans- responding first to each community’s needs, serving the whole community and nation from the part of us that is rooted in the universal values of love, peace, and justice given to us through Islam.”

He went on to say: AMV campaigns like, “Share the joy of Ramadan and Eid with your fellow Americans,” “Light the night for peace and friendship,”

Rais Bhuiyan, a featured speaker perhaps symbolized the theme of the convention. A victim of post-9/11 shooting spree, Bhuiyan forgave and tried to spare the life of the man who shot him and left him for dead. Rais Bhuiyan shared his courageous story of compassion, love and forgiveness. A white supremacist shot Rais and two other South Asians. The other two innocent victims of hate died while Rais survived. He was blinded in one eye and still carries 35 shotgun pellets embedded in his face.

Just 10 days after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, Rais Bhuiyan was working at a gas station in Dallas when he was shot in the face by a man named Mark Stroman, an avowed white supremacist, who was on a shooting spree, targeting people who appeared to be Muslim or of Middle Eastern descent.

Stroman also shot and killed Waqar Hasan, a Pakistani immigrant in Dallas. Vasudev Patel, an Indian immigrant and gas station owner in Mesquite, TX, was Stroman’s third and final victim. Stroman admitted to the shootings.

The press labeled the murders Texas's first post 9/11 hate crime. Stroman himself claimed that “blinded by rage,” he killed to avenge the United States. The prosecution convinced the jury that robbery was his true motive, (even though he hadn’t taken money from his victims) and he was sentenced to death.

Bhuiyan had mounted an aggressive campaign to convince Texas authorities to commute Stroman's sentence to life in prison without the possibility of parole. He has asked the state board of pardons and paroles to make a positive recommendation for clemency to Gov. Rick Perry, and has asked Texas prison administrators for permission to meet face-to-face with Stroman for a victim-offender reconciliation process. After those efforts were met with no response from Texas officials, Bhuiyan filed a lawsuit against the state, arguing that his rights as a crime victim to meet with his attacker had been unjustly denied.

Bhuiyan’s efforts on behalf of Stroman were motivated by his Muslim faith. He says: The Koran teaches that those who forsake retribution and forgive those who have wronged them become closer to God...

READ more on American Muslim Voices home page by clicking on See AMV Peace Convention 2011 draws large crowd here and on the website World Without Hate here

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Plz Keep These Links HANDY - Bookmark perhaps?

GO here

Also for December and perhaps into January?
NC Moratorium Against the Death Penalty (On the Racial Justice Act)
GO here The News on the NC RJA from the NC News & Observer

GO here

For Democracy In Action GO here

And for the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty HOME SITE GO to -- Where you will ALSO see End of Year Report from The Death Penalty Information Center and POLITICO's (sorta) hint at a prediction: Will 2012 be the end of the Death Penalty in USA?

NC Racial Justice Act Saved for Now (Be aware of January 8th)

Also GO here Keep those letters to the editor and other items OUT there in NC~

By Sam Favate (Law Blog on WSJ December 14-16 2011)

We’ve been following the story of whether North Carolina’s Racial Justice Act would stay alive – see here and here for recent Law Blog posts – and the story may have just come to an end.

Governor Bev Perdue vetoed a bill that would have essentially repealed 2009’s Racial Justice Act, which allows death row inmates to argue that racial bias played a role in their cases. The law was passed under a Democratic majority in the state legislature, but when Republicans took control after the 2010 elections, they set about to change the law.

The N.C. House voted to nullify it back in June, and the Senate followed at the end of last month. Perdue’s veto means the law will likely stay intact, as Republicans don’t have a veto-proof majority to override it, and the bill that would have changed the law only passed the House in June along party lines.

In a statement emailed to Law Blog, the ACLU said the veto “ensures that North Carolina will not tolerate discrimination in its capital punishment system,” according to Cassandra Stubbs, staff attorney with the ACLU Capital Punishment Project. The ACLU points out that North Carolina is one of 34 states with the death penalty and has the nation’s sixth largest death row. More than half of the state’s death row prisoners are black.

In a statement yesterday, Gov. Perdue said, “It is simply unacceptable for racial prejudice to play a role in the imposition of the death penalty in North Carolina.” Republicans complained the governor put “politics ahead of policy,” the News & Observer noted.

The North Carolina Conference of District Attorneys said the veto “creates yet another de factor moratorium on the death penalty,” AP reports. As Law Blog pointed out, North Carolina hasn’t executed anyone since 2006, when execution methods were challenged as cruel and unusual. The 2009 Racial Justice Act has also been employed by many death row inmates. Anti-death penalty critics point out that state statistics show a per capita decrease of 25% in the murder rate from 2005 to 2010.

Lawmakers will have to return to Raleigh to consider an override by Jan. 8.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

NC Gov. Bev Perdue Vetoes Bill to Repeal Racial Justice Act

8 minutes ago at time of posting:

North Carolina Democratic gubernatorial candidate Bev Purdue, center, gives a thumbs up sign as she arrives for a campaign stop at the cafeteria at the United House of Prayer in Charlotte, N.C. on Monday, Nov. 3, 2008. (AP Photo/Nell Redmond)

By GARY D. ROBERTSON 12/14/11 12:59 PM ET Associated Pres

RALEIGH, N.C. -- North Carolina's governor on Wednesday halted a Republican effort to dismantle a law that gives death row inmates a new way to use racial bias as an argument for appealing their sentences.

Gov. Beverly Perdue vetoed a bill that would have essentially repealed 2009's Racial Justice Act (RJA of NC), which was designed to address concerns that race has played a role in sentencing prisoners to death.

The law says a judge must reduce a death sentence to life in prison without parole if he determines race was a significant factor to impose the penalty. It creates a new kind of court hearing where prisoners can use statistics to make their case to a judge. North Carolina and Kentucky are the only states with laws like it.

The Democratic governor had signed the 2009 bill into law. In a statement Wednesday, she said that "it is simply unacceptable for racial prejudice to play a role in the imposition of the death penalty in North Carolina."

Prosecutors who pushed the repeal said the act is clogging the courts with new appeals and, in effect, halting capital punishment. Nearly all of the 158 prisoners currently on death row – both black and white inmates – have filed papers seeking relief under the Racial Justice Act.

Perdue's veto means she must call lawmakers back to Raleigh to consider an override by Jan. 8. Lawmakers it difficult to override the veto, especially in the House, where it passed in June along party lines. Republicans are a few votes shy of a veto-proof majority in the chamber.

"I am disappointed in yet another decision by Gov. Perdue to put politics ahead of principle," House Speaker Thom Tillis, R-Mecklenburg, said in a prepared statement. He said she's let down families of victims and prosecutors "who need every available resource to crack down on violent criminals."

Perdue rejected arguments from prosecutors that the 2009 law would allow some death-row inmates to be paroled after 20 years in prison if their crimes were committed before October 1994. She also said she supports capital punishment and is committed to keeping it "a viable punishment option in North Carolina in appropriate cases."

The governor's veto came two days after she met with relatives of murder victims. Some of those relatives asked her to keep the 2009 act on the books.

"We applaud her for understanding that racially-biased justice is not justice at all and for reaffirming that she values the lives and the safety of all citizens regardless of race," said a statement from Murder Victims' Families for Reconciliation, a Washington-based group that opposes the death penalty.

RALEIGH, N.C. -- North Carolina's governor on Wednesday halted a Republican effort to dismantle a law that gives death row inmates a new way to use racial bias as an argument for appealing their sentence...

Find more on this issue/original links/and related news On Huffington Post:
[N.C. Racial Justice Act ] GO here

N.C. Racial Justice Act Revised After State Senate Vote
North Carolina Governor Bev Purdue is a signature away from permanently changing the state's Racial Justice Act. On Nov. 28, the state Senate voted to...

N.C. Racial Justice Act Revised After State Senate Vote
[N.C. Racial Justice Act ]

N.C. Racial Justice Act Revised After State Senate Vote
North Carolina Governor Bev Purdue is a signature away from permanently changing the state's Racial Justice Act. On Nov. 28, the state Senate voted to...

Around the Web:

Round Two for the Racial Justice Act? ::

The case for the Racial Justice Act - Other Views -

North Carolina Senate Rewrites Racial Justice Act; Gov Urged To ...

Perdue vetoes Racial Justice Act Repeal

NC Racial Justice Act Revised After State Senate Vote
Filed by Luke Johnson |


Who knows, one of the most important influences may have been the unity and effort of the Families of Murder Victims who spoke to Gov. Perdue. See Below:

Monday, December 12, 2011

Families of murder victims urge NC governor to veto repeal of Racial Justice Act

Groups push Gov. Perdue on death sentence bill

Families of murder victims urge governor to veto repeal of Racial Justice Act
RALEIGH — An Asheville woman whose father was murdered will be in a group meeting with Gov. Bev Perdue today to urge her to veto a bill that guts a law allowing evidence of racism to be used in overturning death sentences.

The 2009 Racial Justice Act permits death row inmates and defendants facing the death penalty to use statistics and other evidence to show that racial bias played a significant role in either their sentence or in a prosecutor’s decision to pursue the death penalty.

The Republican-controlled General Assembly voted this year to repeal the law. Perdue, who has fewer than three weeks to decide whether to veto the measure, has invited critics and proponents to present their cases as she weighs her decision.
A group of family members of murder victims says it is meeting with the governor in response to lobbying by the N.C. Conference of District Attorneys in favor of repeal.
The group also plans to hold a news conference in Raleigh following its meeting with Perdue.

Asheville resident Megan Smith’s father and stepmother were killed in Pennsylvania in 2001 by her adopted stepbrother and one of his friends, who is now on death row. She planned to attend the meeting.

“The death penalty doesn’t feel like it’s really there for all victims’ families when the system is so economically and racially skewed,” she said. “As a white person, I can’t imagine what it might feel like to be handed a death sentence by an all or mostly black jury.

“Yet, North Carolina has allowed that to happen in reverse, and repealing the Racial Justice Act is sending the message that we don’t care about racial inconsistencies.”
The law says an inmate’s sentence is reduced to life in prison without the possibility of parole if the claim is successful, but prosecutors say some death row inmates could be released because they were sentenced before 1994 when the state allowed life sentences with the possibility of parole after 20 years.

“We’re fearful that, based on case law, 119 death row inmates would be eligible for parole,” Susan Doyle, president of the Conference of District Attorneys, told lawmakers before the Senate voted to send the measure to Perdue.

A study by two law professors at Michigan State University found a defendant in North Carolina is 2.6 times more likely to be sentenced to death if at least one of the victims was white. The study also showed that of the 159 people on death row in the state at the time of the study, 31 had all-white juries and 38 had only one person of color on the jury.

Of the 163 inmates on the North Carolina’s death row, more than half are black. Only 20 percent of the state’s population is African-American.

Find original at Asheville Citizen Times here

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Rais Bhuiyan: new story just out (with older items)

Rais Bhuiyan, American

Suddenly the tow truck reappears. The driver guns the engine. He trains a bright halogen light down into Bhuiyan's face and unleashes a fusillade of curses.

GO here

I wanted to add for this site a couple of moving pieces:

June 23, 2011 By Steve Thomgate (Excerpted from personal piece in The Christian Century, online):
The most Christlike behavior I've seen in the news in some time comes from a Muslim victim of a hate crime: Just 10 days afte the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, Rais Bhuiyan was working at a gas station in Dallas when he was shot in the face by a man named Mark Stroman. Stroman was on a shooting spree, targeting people who appeared to be Muslim or of Middle Eastern descent...Bhuiyan, the only survivor of the attacks, is fighting to save (Stroman's) life...

Written June 26, 2011 By Mark Stroman (In a typewritten letter evidently composed and styled authentically like this by Stroman. This was sent to the journalist Timothy Williams who published the same in a larger article on July 18, 2011 -- found in The NYTimes -- shortly before the...execution):
Not only do I have all my friends and supporters trying to Save my Life, but now I have The Islamic Community Joining in...Spearheaded by one Very Remarkable man
Named Rais Bhuiyan, Who is a Survivor of My Hate. His deep Islamic Beliefs Have gave him the strength to Forgive the Unforgiveable...that is truly Inspiring to me, and should be an Example for us all. The Hate, has to stop, we are all in this world together. My jesus Faith & Texas Roots have Deepened My Understanding as well. Its
almost been 10 years since the world stopped Turning, and we as a nation will never be able to forget what we felt that day. I surely wont, but I can tell you what im
feeling Today, and that's very grateful for Rais Bhuiyan's Efforts to save my life
after I tried to end His...

July 19, 2011 (Again excerpted from personal piece by Steve Thomgate in The Christian Century, online):
It's worth noting...Bhuiyan didn't set out to teach Stroman that his beliefs about Muslims were ignorant and hateful. He set out to save Stroman from death at the hands of a justice system that argues...people like him are beyond redemption. It looks like he'll fail at that goal but the fact that he tried helped to effect a remarkable change of heart in Stroman -- who, of course, exists within the reach of grace just like everyone else...

Mark Stroman was killed by the State of Texas Wednesday, July 20, 2011.

Rais Bhuiyan's work of compassion goes on. You can find out more on his website:
World Without Hate here

Bloodsworth: An Innocent Man (The Project)

Sister Helen Prejean, possibly back from a whirlwind of speaking engagements all over the country wants to get out the word about this man and the film project.
To read more and to find out about this amazing piece of portrait art -- GO here

Thursday, December 08, 2011

Update Added: Desmond Tutu Urges Abu-Jamal's Freedom

Also see this BBC article found at Rick Halperin's News and Updates Saturday, Dec. 10, 2011 here

See the video at Democacy Now!
Go here

In a video statement released to coincide with the 30th anniversary of Mumia Abu-Jamal’s incarceration, the former South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu urges Abu-Jamal’s immediate freedom. Mumia "has faced years of prosecutorial and police misconduct and judicial bias," Tutu says. "Now that it is clear that Mumia should never have been on death row, justice will not be served by relegating him to prison for the rest of his life—yet another form of death sentence. Based on even a minimal following of international human rights standards, Mumia should be released." [includes rush transcript]

Sunday, December 04, 2011

Former WARDEN is Executive Director of Death Pen Focus!

Here's an interesting email newsletter from Mike Farrell with information you may not know (as I did not.) How amazing that a former warden of San Quentin State Prison who went through the pain of overseeing four executions is the executive director of Death Penalty Focus! Maybe this move will lead the way to more such experienced leaders within our movement?

From Mike (to his Friends in the Abolition Movement):

"Our Secret Weapon"

2011 has been a year of tremendous achievements, heartbreaking losses and, at last, real hope for change in California.

In March, Illinois followed New York, New Jersey and New Mexico and abolished the death penalty. Two months later, we at Death Penalty Focus were thrilled to honor Illinois Governor Pat Quinn at our Annual Awards Dinner. Governor Quinn, who had long supported the death penalty, spent two months deliberating on his decision. At our event he spoke eloquently about his change of heart. "If the system can't be guaranteed 100% error-free, then we shouldn't have the system," Quinn said. "It cannot stand."

April brought the incredible Jeanne Woodford to Death Penalty Focus as our new Executive Director. For those of you who have not yet had the pleasure of meeting Jeanne, please hear me when I say that she is our secret weapon for ending the death penalty in California - and beyond. As the warden of San Quentin State Prison, Jeanne experienced the pain of overseeing four executions. After leaving San Quentin, she was appointed to head the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. Today, the more people Jeanne has the opportunity to meet and talk with, the more support we gain for ending the death penalty. It’s almost that simple. Put Jeanne in front of a group of death penalty supporters and before long their support begins to evaporate. We are thrilled to have her on board.

I am also thrilled that, last week, Governor John Kitzhaber of Oregon halted executions in his state. In a simple but uncompromising statement, he echoed the growing distaste for capital punishment being heard in many of our courts, our legislatures, churches, and homes. "I am convinced,” he wrote, “we can find a better solution that keeps society safe, supports the victims of crime and their families and reflects Oregon values. I refuse to be a part of this compromised and inequitable system any longer; and I will not allow further executions while I am Governor." Bravo Governor Kitzhaber!

September brought the heartbreaking execution of Troy Davis. Yet, even on that most awful day, Mr. Davis himself understood that his death would galvanize support for ending this barbaric practice. On his last day he said, "There are so many more Troy Davis’. This fight to end the death penalty is not won or lost through me but through our strength to move forward and save every innocent person in captivity around the globe. We need to dismantle this unjust system city by city, state by state and country by country…Never stop fighting for justice and we will win!"

I wholeheartedly agree with Troy Davis. We will win. In fact, next November California voters have the chance to replace the death penalty with life without parole.

For more plz click OFTEN on Death Penalty Focus - see RIGHT column

The Video about Mpagi Edward Edmary and Dream One World

GO here

Here is the comment under this YouTube video about Edward who is beloved by Journey folk:

Mpagi Edward Edmary was held on Death Row under Idi Amin for nearly two decades - for a crime he did not commit. When released, he forgave his captors and concentrated on helping the children in his area orphaned by death row, AIDS, etc.

He connected with Kathy Ozzard Chism at the all-volunteer nonprofit Dream One World, and together they are building a school compound for 150 of these orphans in Uganda, with the help of volunteer workers and donors from around the world. In this video, nonprofit "Journey of Hope...From Violence to Healing" members Bill Pelke, (President and Co-Founder), Bill Babbitt, Randy Gardner, and Charity Lee visit Edward, our orphan children, and our school during their trip through Africa to help end the death penalty worldwide. Turn your volume UP, and enjoy - then... JOIN US! :) "The answer is love and compassion for all of humanity." - Bill Pelke

Here's the nice comment sent to me/thejourney blog:
@newlease7 Thank YOU for watching it! Yes, Edward is SO special... you may find more info about him and this project on our website and Facebook page, too. With Love and Gratitude, ALL of US

Friday, December 02, 2011

MARTINA DAVIS-CORREIA, sister of Troy Davis, dies

You will find the photo above and more of Martina at Scott Langley's site and with his own In Memoriam here

In this Dec. 2008 file photo - Martina Davis-Correia and her son Antone Davis-Correia sit in front of a CT scan machine at St. Joseph's Chandler Hospital. Martina has battled breast cancer since 2002 and gets CT scans every 3 months. She supports and is supported by her son, Antone Davis-Correia who was motivated to study engineering robotics and medical research because of his mother's diagnosis. Hunter McRae/Savannah Morning News - All rights reserved.

December 1, 2011 - 09:05pm

Martina Davis-Correia, sister of executed death row inmate Troy Davis, died Thursday evening at Candler Hospital after battling cancer for more than a decade. She was 44.

“I’ve thought for a long time that Martina’s fight for Troy is what kept her alive, and she must have been very tired,” Ledra Sullivan-Russell, a close family friend, said Thursday night. “She was the most extraordinary woman I’ve ever known.”

For 22 years, Davis-Correia led a crusade to stop her brother’s execution that gained thousands of supporters across the globe, including Pope Benedict XVI, the Archbishop Desmond Tutu, former President Jimmy Carter and former FBI Director William Sessions. Despite failing health, she continued to fight against the death penalty after her brother’s Sept. 21 execution.

Troy Davis, 42, died by lethal injection for the 1989 murder of off-duty police officer Mark MacPhail. MacPhail, 27, was rushing to the aid of a homeless man who was being beaten when he was shot to death in the parking lot of a Greyhound Bus station/Burger King at the corner of Oglethorpe Avenue and Fahm Street.

Davis’ execution was stayed three times as his lawyers filed appeals. Several witnesses changed their testimony and his supporters insisted that there was too much doubt in the case for Davis to be executed. Davis' death has fueled the debate over the reliability of eyewitness testimony.

Davis-Correia served as chairwoman of the steering committee for Amnesty International USA’s work to abolish the death penalty and received the Georgia Civil Liberties Award from the American Civil Liberties Union and the Frederick Douglas Award from the Southern Center for Human Rights.

“Our hearts are breaking over the loss of this extraordinary woman,” Curt Goering, chief operating officer of Amnesty International USA, said in an emailed statement. “She fought to save her brother’s life with courage, strength and determination, every step of the way... She was a tenacious fighter, a graceful inspiration to activists everywhere, and a true hero of the movement for human rights.”

Davis-Correia died at 6:30 p.m. She leaves behind a 17-year-old son, Antone De’Juan Davis-Correia, brother Lester Davis, and sisters Kimberly and Ebony Davis. Virginia Davis, Troy Davis’ mother who also fought against his execution, died in April at the age of 65.

Davis-Correia spent more than 10 years rearing her son as a single mother while fighting to stop her brother’s execution and fighting cancer.

A former Army flight nurse who served in the Gulf War, Davis-Correia was diagnosed with liver and metastatic breast cancer in March 2001.

For more on the Troy Davis case, visit

Above article found (leaving as is for easy sending)

By the way, Antone De’Juan recently spoke (along with Rais Bhuiyan) at the Southern Regional Amnesty conference in Charlotte, NC. What an awesome speaker with so much to share and with dignified humility. Respect he has for all he's learned from his mother, Martina! I was so glad to hear both he and Rais speak - they were the highlights for both me and my husband, Dale.

Martina will be missed by so so many - including a number of us activists, family and friends of death row prisoners (and former prisoners) who knew her from trips to conferences from the south and other occastions. She will inspire us forever.

(Thanx to Debbie Kearns for the heads-up on this sad/brave news.)

Find more related items (older, wonderfully descriptive blogpost) here

Amnesty International issued a statement Thursday night hailing Martina-Correia as a "Hero of the Human Rights Movement.":

"Our hearts are breaking over the loss of this extraordinary woman," Amnesty International CEO Curt Goering wrote. "She fought to save her brother's life with courage, strength and determination, every step of the way. She was a powerful example of how one person can make a difference as she led the fight for justice for Troy Davis, even as she endured her own decade-long battle with cancer. And despite the terrible blow of his execution, she remained brave and defiant to the core of her being, stating her conviction that one day his death would be the catalyst for ending the death penalty."

Thursday, December 01, 2011

NC: Simple Action: Help Save the Racial Justice Act

UPDATE Friday Dec 2, 2011: Sister Helen says: "The people know the thing doesn't work" GO here and this one: "Gov. Perdue thinking hard about capital punishment and the racial justice act" - the more or less editorial comments here, along with the stats, would seem to indicate in a round-about-way that the RJA is still needed due to Racial Bias...GO here

Sr. Helen Prejean, chair of PFADP’s Kairos Campaign, confers with Rabbi David Saperstein, director and counsel of the Religious Action Center for Reform Judaism, at PFADP’s Kairos Conference 2010 in Atlanta. (Photo by Scott Langley © PFADP)

Resident of North Carolina? If so, plz GO here

If in North Carolina, you may also want to go to the last post see November archives (Nov 30) to become aware of the NEW campaign led by People of Faith Against the Death Penalty and helped by Sister Helen Prejean who plans to speak in Raleigh this Friday, Dec. 2nd.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

NORTH CAROLINA: New Campaign - Sister Helen Prejean to Speak

"Dead Man Walking" Author Helen Prejean, NC Clergy to Speak at Launch of
New Grassroots Campaign for Repeal of NC's Death Penalty (sent Nov 30 from Steve Dear, PFADP)

RALEIGH – On Friday People of Faith Against the Death Penalty will formally launch a new grassroots campaign calling on North Carolina to repeal the death penalty. We invite all of our members to attend this press conference. Look for more information on how you can help build this campaign soon.

The press conference will take place at 10 a.m., Friday, Dec. 2 at Martin Street Baptist Church, 1001 E. Martin St., Raleigh. Coffee, Krispy Kreme donuts, and other refreshments will be served.

Speakers expected at the press conference include:

Fr. Minlib Dallh, Dominican Friars of Raleigh
Rev. Frank Dew, New Creation Community Presbyterian Church, Greensboro
Pastor Alan Felton, Salem United Methodist Church, Oxford
Rev. Lisa Fischbeck, The Episcopal Church of the Advocate, Chapel Hill
Rev. Dr. William Haley, Harris Chapel Baptist Church, Youngsville
Rev. Dr. Earl C. Johnson, Martin Street Baptist Church
Rev. Lacy Joyner, First Baptist Church, Oxford
Rev. Nathan Parrish, Peace Haven Baptist Church, Winston-Salem
Rev. Nancy Petty, Pullen Memorial Baptist Church, Raleigh
Sr. Helen Prejean, PFADP Kairos Campaign Chair and author, Dead Man Walking and The Death of Innocents

Already more than 300 congregations and local businesses in 36 North Carolina counties have passed PFADP's resolutions calling on North Carolina to replace the death penalty with life without parole and to use the funds that would be saved to help murder victims' family members.

Examples of faith communities and businesses that have passed resolutions include:

The Episcopal Diocese of East Carolina (Kinston)
Hot Rod Installations (Warrenton)
JJ Ashley Bakery (Goldsboro)
Kuttin' Up Barber Shop (Selma)
Main Street Café (Tarboro)
Yavneh: A Jewish Renewal Community (Raleigh)
Zen Center of Chapel Hill

PFADP is calling this new campaign the Kairos Campaign to Mobilize Religious Action to Repeal North Carolina's Death Penalty. Kairos is a Greek word meaning a special time. The initial goals of the campaign include more than 1,000 resolutions from faith communities, businesses, community groups and even local governments in every county in North Carolina. The campaign will also include a petition, a statewide letter for repeal from faith leaders, and the formation of denominational task forces to promote the campaign within religious traditions.

In 1999 PFADP launched the NC Moratorium Now campaign calling for a two-year moratorium on executions, a study or the state's death penalty system, and needed reforms. The campaign yielded more than 1,000 resolutions for a moratorium from faith communities, businesses, community groups, and 39 local governments in North Carolina, and 50,000 petition signatures. There has not been an execution in North Carolina since 2006 largely because of court battles involving execution protocols. The NC Racial Justice Act is one of the reforms supported by PFADP's moratorium campaign. The RJA was passed into law in 2009 but on Monday the NC Senate passed Senate Bill 9, which repeals it. Gov. Bev Perdue has not announced whether she will veto the repeal of the RJA.

"The NC Racial Justice Act is not about repealing the death penalty," said PFADP Executive Director Stephen Dear. "The Racial Justice Act is a reform aimed at addressing the historic and insidious influence of racial bias in capital cases. As long as North Carolina has a death penalty it needs checks on the system like the Racial Justice Act to make the death penalty less unfair and less error-prone.

But Racial Justice Act or not, the only way we can ever ensure people are not sentenced to death unfairly is to not have a death penalty. Even if the death penalty could somehow be administered fairly and accurately we would oppose it on moral and religious grounds."

PFADP will not stop this campaign until enough people, faith communities and institutions have taken action until the death penalty is repealed no matter how long that takes, Dear said.

"We are in this for the long haul."

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Photos and Reports from "Dream One World" Uganda

Plz keep these reports and photos coming both to FB and to us (write Connie Nash at and tell our readers EXACTLY how to support your greatest needs. Dream One World: we also need an updated report on Edward. GO here

Monday, November 28, 2011

Racial Justice Act: NORTH CAROLINA: Urgent Action Needed!

To all of you who live in NC or have people living there. Please call the
office of Governor Bev Perdue(800-662-7952, 919-733-2391) and urge her to
veto today's attempt to overturn the Racial Justice Act - which is in grave danger if indeed it will survive.

If you can, please call your local legislators also. The RJA may seem
cumbersome or unnecessary to some,but it is essential that we do everything
to ensure that justice is handed out with no racial bias.

Rais Bhuiyan: among Esquire's 2011 People of the Year

Rais Bhuiyan, American

Suddenly the tow truck reappears. The driver guns the engine. He trains a bright halogen light down into Bhuiyan's face and unleashes a fusillade of curses.

GO here

Great Suggestion from Sister Helen

Although we missed this piece earlier, this is still CURRENT and URGENT:

President Obama met with the press before his visit with Pope Benedict on July 10. He talked about how he admired Cardinal Bernardine's "seamless garment" approach to pro-life, that the cardinal included in its scope a wide range of issues- "he was concerned about poverty, he was concerned with how children were treated, HE WAS CONCERNED ABOUT THE DEATH PENALTY..." Now there's interesting fodder for a conversation with Pres. Obama. For starters: Aren't you too very, very concerned about the fact that already 135 innocent people have released from death row? How many will it take before we recognize the failed system? Not to mention the shocking, appalling racist application of the death penalty presently carried out in the Deep South states? Any ideas out there about how we might get a conversation going with Pres. Obama and his wife, Michelle about this issue? Anybody out there want to help us mount a YOUNG PEOPLE'S LETTER WRITING CAMPAIGN to the White House to end the death penalty in the U.S.? Think boldly. Organize strategically. Act quickly.

"Keep the Windown Open"

Regarding Proposed Amendments to California's proposed amendments to the lethal injection protocol, Sister Helen writes to Mr. Timothy Lockwood, Chief of CDCR Regulation and Policy Management on June 26, 2009. Sr. Prejean urges:

All of my remarks about the proposed amendments to the lethal injection protocol center around this theme: KEEP THE WINDOW OPEN

Sadly, it is the personal experience I have had of accompanying six human beings to their deaths at the hand of the state that urges me to give this testimony.

By Sister Helen Prejean

Thursday, November 24, 2011

OREGON and the Death Penalty

Bill Pelke:
Please go to this link and vote, we are losing. Thanks, Peace, Bill

Here's a real short AND positive piece I found on Rick Halperin's DP News and Updates:

NOVEMBER 24, 2011:


There is much to be thankful for in today's America. Despite its numerous economic, social, cultural, and political problems (and they are numerous), this is still a great country to live in and to work for social justice through peaceful means.

I give thanks for many things, including the fact that occasionally we see an elected official stand on principle and the moral high ground to do what is right. Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber recently announced that he would no longer acquiesce in that state's ongoing system of capital punishment. He ordered a halt to the Dec. 6 execution there as well as announcing that no further executions would occur under his watch--[see:]

Kitzhaber allowed 2 executions there to proceed earlier in his tenure, but no more. His moral beliefs and his political courage are in stark contrast to Texas Gov. Perry and his pride at having presided over 238 executions in his decade long tenure in office.

Gov. Kitzhaber and those who specifically work for a death penalty-free America are a major reason I give thanks today; it's an honor and a privilege to work peacefully for a better society that will one day recognize that truly there is no such thing as a lesser person.

(source: Rick Halperin, Amnesty International; Letter to the Editor, Dallas Morning News)

One with plenty of STATS and history here

On Death Penalty Info. Center here

A sardonic approach on CounterPunch here

Oregon Live here I LIKE this title -- Gov. John Kitzhaber: Oregon death penalty fails 'basic standards of justice'

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

RECENT JOURNEY LINKS & More (Plz keep handy)

FB Wall: where Debbie Kearns keeps current connections going & stays on top of many concerns. Also folk sometimes stop by for a comment or extra note - go here (OK to read as a non-member without fearing pressure to sign-on.)

Where Bill Pelke has been offering an occasional heartfelt diary entry and plans to add more soon here

A good page for more links with great photo of "the other Bill" and the kids. GO

RANDY's page with video and his mission site here

CHARITY's The Ella Foundation see this amazing story of healing and mission in progress. Go here

Find ANGELA's links in post just below Aba Gayle's & in Comments.

Be sure to also peruse the links offered to the lower right of our blog posts - especially Dr. Rich Halperin's "Death Penalty News and Updates" which (if he's not traveling) are often daily - much more available and noted most of the time than on most the other links.

Again remember the JOURNEY's FaceBook page (don't have to be a member of FB nor even to sign in to READ) Simply GO here

Find an older page of links and GREAT photo of "the other Bill" here

Also FIND items on a new friend's campaign "
World Without Hate" who worked extensively with Dr. Rick Halperin, another Journey friend, and with Reprieve. Rais "calling" is all about our Journey theme of FORGIVENESS...

Along with a few other posts, I'm UPDATING right now on this October post - older to new-ish items I've missed on RAIS BHUIYAN...GO here

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

From Hate to Healing (Aba Gayle, Ron Steiner, Sister Helen & Oregonians for Alternatives...)

Aba Gayle holds a photo of her daughter, Catherine Blount, at her Silverton home on Wednesday. Gayle has been able to forgive and befriend the California death row inmate responsible for killing her daughter. (More info on photo below)

Article posted Mon Oct 31, 2011

By Alan Gustafson
Statesman Journal
October 30, 2011

For years, Aba Gayle "lusted for revenge" against the California deathrow inmate who murdered her 19-year-old daughter. But everything changed when she mailed the killer a letter, saying she forgave him. Paying visits to San Quentin prison, Gayle befriended the man she once despised and wanted put to death. As hate gave way to healing, she turned against the death penalty.

Now, the 77-year-old Silverton woman is a leader of a nonprofit Oregon advocacy organization that is seeking to abolish the death penalty here. Even though condemned killers rarely are executed in Oregon, Gayle says it's time for Oregonians to repeal the law that allows state-sanctioned killing. As she tells it, the ultimate punishment should be scrapped because it sucks taxpayer dollars, undermines human values and takes revenge in arbitrary fashion.

"It truly is the ultimate violation of human rights," she said. "It is horrendous to think that when they kill somebody at the penitentiary, they do it in the name of the citizens. I don't want anybody killed in my name." As this state's first execution in 14 years draws near, Gayle and other members of Oregonians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty are waging a two-pronged campaign.

First, they are hoping to persuade Gov. John Kitzhaber to stop the planned execution of two-time killer Gary Haugen. Haugen, 49, voluntarily dropped his appeals, and he is tentatively scheduled to die by lethal injection at 7 p.m. Dec. 6 at the Oregon State Penitentiary in Salem.

Anti-death penalty activists are asking Kitzhaber to commute Haugen's death sentence to life in prison without the possibility of parole. Kitzhaber has remained mum about the execution. On a second front, OADP is planning a campaign to ask Oregon voters to repeal the death penalty.

The timing for a potential ballot measure remains "up in the air," said Ron Steiner of Salem, the board chairman of the nonprofit organization. For now, Steiner said, the group is working to "build coalitions" and circulate information about the death penalty through public forums, lectures and newsletters in the news media and on the organization's website.

"When all the facts are known, all the issues are examined, it's very difficult for reasonable people to support a failed public policy like the death penalty," he said.

Activism roots in New Mexico Steiner, 72, worked in television for more than 40 years, starting in sales. He rose to executive positions and ran a couple stations before he became a consultant. His opposition to the death penalty developed in the late 1990s in New Mexico. At the time, he has doing volunteer work at a transitional home for ex-felons.

After listening to a talk by Sister Helen Prejean, author of "Dead Man Walking" and a nationally known critic of the death penalty, Steiner delved deeper.

"I started to study it and it looked ridiculous the way it was set up, so I got involved with the New Mexico coalition to repeal the death penalty in early 2001," he said.

The campaign led to success in 2009, when New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson signed a bill repealing the state's death penalty. Steiner now lives in Salem but divides his volunteer time between causes he supports here and in New Mexico. Since 2003, he has been married to Caren Jackson, a professional photographer and former director of Salem's Riverfront Carousel.

Steiner describes Prejean as a personal hero and role model. "She's indefatigable," he said. "She just goes and goes and goes. When she was here, she was putting in 14-hour days."

Prejean recently spent about a week in Oregon, giving talks in Eugene, Salem and Portland. Steiner introduced her when she spoke to about 200 people at the Salem Library on Oct. 20. Like Prejean, Steiner said he's committed to long-haul advocacy.

Group cites growth With Haugen's potential execution in the news, Oregonians are paying attention to the death penalty, Steiner said. OADP evolved from a previous organization known as the Oregon Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty, founded in 1983. The current group has no paid employees, Steiner said.

Money for operations and expenses comes from donations and grants. Steiner described OADP's annual budget as "a low five-figure amount." "If we get on the ballot, obviously, it's going to be a lot more expensive to advertise and get our position known."

Despite limited funding, the organization's list of supporters is swelling, Steiner said. He said the number of religious and secular organizations backing the group has increased from a handful to more than 50. "We're adding them all the time," he said...


Today's report is part of a continuing series of stories about Oregon's death penalty, death row and the planned execution of Gary Haugen, whose execution is tentatively scheduled for Dec.6.

GO here and also save this URL for more...

Also see an article in same journal about Sister Helen Prejean's visit to a library audience of 200! (as well as a visit to an inmate writing group.)

GO here

And be sure to visit the compelling site with lots of info on what's happening in arena of the Death Penalty in Oregan:

Photo Info: Photographer is Timothy J. Gonzalez / Statesman Journal photographer Evidently, enlarged prints of photos for purchase are available GO here or call The Stateman Journal.

Journey Writer-Activists and Links to Their Recent Journey Stories

Angela Grobben

During the Uganda Journey, I've been quite enthralled to learn of both Angela's and Charity's writing and postings. Although I referred to both in fairly recent blogs, I want to touch upon these two here. I'm quite sure we will hear more from both in the near future.

Go see some of Angela's items for yourself First, the link to her various human rights posts here and also her link to the story which led to the most recent Uganda Journey here

Angela has expressed interest in joining this blog, I'm told by Bill. My hope is that soon Angela will be on board!

Angela also posted Charity's story. Here she is with her daughter who was later killed. Charity was with the two Bills and Randy on the recent Journey...

Find Charity's heart-breaking story along with her inspiring personal healing and mission here

Monday, October 31, 2011

FROM BILL P.: I feel like I am in the middle of the history of the abolition movement....

Bill, Marietta and Rick Photo a bit old yet representative of work abolitionists do together in front of buildings representing our US and State Law and Justice Systems.

Posted originally - Sunday, 30 October 2011 on Journey/Bill's Journal.

I feel like I am in the middle of the history of the abolition movement in the United States and around the World.

Yesterday I stood in front of the State Capitol of Texas at the Twelfth Annual March to Abolish the Death Penalty. I saw TWENTY-FIVE human beings who were sentenced to death for a crime they did not commit. Fortunately they were able to prove their innocence before the states that could kill them.

I have heard many of them say, they were not saved because of the sytem, but they were saved in spite of the system.

Folks, the death penalty system is broke and it can`t be fixed. 24 men and one woman testified how they would be dead today, if the states would have had their way.

The "Witness to Innocence" is a non-profit organization for exonerated death row inmates. Their recent events in Texas, a tour throughout major areas in Texas from Houston to Dallas and from the Valley to Austin, sharing their personal stories of what it was like for them and their families to be on death row for a crime they didn`t commit.

These folks say: Stop the death penalty!

Many of the death row exonerees that were present are friends of mine. Shujaa Graham and Juan Melendez are past Journey of Hope…from Violence to Healing board members and participants on many a Journey of Hope tours.

Ray Krone, Delbert Tibbs, Greg Wilhoit, Ron Keine have all been on Journeys.

I have long admired Kurt Bloodsworth and it was good to see him there. Kurt was the FIRST person to be exonerated by DNA evidence.

I also saw my friend Derrick Jamison and it was good to see him and once again hear his powerful voice for abolition.

I met David Keaton, the first exoneree in the growing list of ONE HUNDRED and THIRTY-EIGHT, along with Albert Burrell, Gary Stydl again.

All these men have amazing stories. This year I thought a lot about Randall Dale Adams who was exonerated off Texas’s death row who story became well known through the film “Thin Blue Line”. Randall sadly passed away last year. He is missed by me and the Journey of Hope.

Yes, at least 138 death row exonerees in this country who were sentenced to die, no longer worthy to live in our highly developed society.

When it comes to the deathe penalty there is no room for mistakes. As long as human beings are making the decisions on who lives and who dies there will be mistakes.

I applaud Scott Cobb and his efforts on the Annual March again this year. I have been on quite a few of these but this one held special historical significance.
Never have I seen so many powerful messengers on one stage at the same time.

(TO) the ABOLITION MOVEMENT: help these guys get out the message of why they want the death penalty to be abolished. It is powerful and affective and a vital key for abolition of the death penalty. Witness to Innocence will prove to be a major factor in not only the United States of America but also for worldwide abolition of the death penalty.

So thank you, Scott Cobb for having the vision and the determaination to carry this Twelfth Annual March to an historic conclusion. Thank you for drawing the attention of the world to this great moment for abolition. And I am sure "Witness to Innocence" will use this as a springboard for future tours around the country. Members have also toured through Spain with their witness.

As the president of the "Journey of Hope... from Violence to Healing" I declare that we were happy and honored to be part of this historic event, and that our prayers for continued succes in your efforts to rid the world of the scourge called the death penalty.

Thank you Scott and thanks to "Witness to Innocence".

Thanks to Gloria Rubac, Hooman Hedayati, Allison Dieter and others who continually and tirelessly work for abolition in the state of Texas. Your contribution for this march is greatly appreciated. I always feel welcome in Texas when I am with you guys.

"Journey of Hope" board members Randy Gardner and Charity Lee, two of my companions this month in our Uganda Journey of Hope, which turned into the Seattle, Dallas, Uganda, Rwanda, Kenya, Dallas, Austin and San Antonio Journey, were also on the march and rally.

Randy covered his "Journey of Hope" shirt when he put on the orange death row prison jump suit that his, brother Ronnie Lee Gardner wore while on death row in the state of Utah; before he was executed last year, on June 18, 2010.

Randy saw the four bullet holes in his brother`s chest, after he was executed.
Randy, has put a dream to action, in starting a non-profit organization called "Back to Basics Organic Farm and Ranch" in his brothers memory.

Randy took his passion for abolition to Africa and was part of the team in Uganda and Rwanda. You will learn a lot more about Randy when I talk about Africa.

Charity Lee was on the Uganda and Rwanda segments. Charity Lee is founding a non-profit organisation, called the ELLA Foundation. Charity`s beautiful daughter Ella was brutally murdered at the age of four. Not only did Charity lose her daughter, but had the double tragedy of her only son Paris, age 13, committing the murder.

Charity will be publishing her journals, a story that took her to the depths of hell and back. Love helped Charity to survive her cunconceivable journey. I will tell you more about Charity when I talk about Africa or you can go to or CLICK here

Ron Carlson drove with his wife Debbie to Austin to be with the "Journey of Hope" as we honored "Witness to Innocence" and Scott Cobb`s dedication to the movement.
Ron Carlson`s sister Deborah Thornton was murdered by Karla Faye Tucker. After a long journey Ron`s faith called him to forgiveness and he and Karla became friends. Ron held the "Journey of Hope...from Violence to Healing" banner, and walked the entire length despite having sever arthritis and back pain.

Ron had to make the drive to Austin from Houston and get a hotel for the night. He said he did the trip with his wife Debbie because he wanted to suupport me and the "Journey of Hope" as we honored the exonerees.

At one point of the program, after each of the exonerees had spoken, Ron went up and shook the hands of each death row exoneree. To Ron that was a real honor.

Can you imagine what these guys on death row have been going through, for a crime they didn`t commit? It is sad, America, that we said they should be excecuted.
Have there been any innocent people executed?

It was so interesting that as we traveled into the country side of Uganda, that teachers in the primitive schools knew about the Troy Davis case. They know around the world that the state of Georgia, more than likely killed an innocent person.

America, our death penalty system is known as a farce of Justice around world.

But of course; what do we care about what foreigners think?

Genifer Kaye wore Amnesty International`s "I am Troy Davis" T-shirt on the march and helped carry the "Journey of Hope" banner. Genifer is a human rights activist from Dallas, TX and good friends with Rick Halperin, who is a "Journey of Hope" board member.

We met Genifer and Rais Bhuyan during a lay-over in Dallas on our way to Entebbe, Uganda. Rais has been a real instrument for those who wish to rid this world of violence. We met for breakfast at our hotel. It was the second day of this life changing Journey, that began on October 2nd.

We were so happy when she was able to drive down from Dallas to be part of the march. Genifer plays the activist role that is such a big part of the "Journey of Hope".

We are three categories of people at the Journey; murder victim family members, people with death row connections and activists.

It was our great pleasure to support Scott Cobb and the Twelfth Annual March to Abolish the Death Penalty.

It was our great pleasure to support “Witness to Innocence” and encourage their great work.

It was our great pleasure to support the abolition movement in Texas.

I know that we are right in the middle of history for abolition, not only in America but around the World.

Bill Pelke


NOTE from The Journey Blog:

READERS: for more on the folk Bill mentions, scroll below where we've tried to post everything Bill's sent our way on the recent journey or google The Journey of Hope and the name which interests you. I took the liberty to emphasize some of the numbers Bill mentions by upper-case.

BILL: We are so GLAD you are in the US and are so inspired/energized. We look forward to hearing AS MUCH of your UGANDA JOURNEY (Including Seattle, Dallas, Uganda, Rwanda, Kenya, Dallas, Austin and San Antonio) you are (EACH) willing to share ASAP. (with articles from any and each of these places ASAP and photos too.)

(Not only from Bill but from you, "the other Bill", Charity, Randy, Edward and anyone else who knows about this amazing trip.

What a WONDERFULLY passionate, full and inspiring letter/journal piece from a guy with a HUGE heart. All the best to EACH of you who went on the UGANDA JOURNEY in the days ahead!

Another Story of Great Forgiveness: Richard Wayne Jones & His Advocates

Both Richard Jones and his tireless advocate, Arianna Ballotta, forgave the unspeakable...even the State of Texas! I'm so glad I found this ultimately uplifting article which fits right into The Journey experience...

Posted on October 9, 2011 as "The fight for evidence of innocence"
Written by Michela Mancini (for*)
A story of how unexpected important a penfriendship can get...

Arianna Ballotta, one of the founders and the president of the ICADP (Illinois Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty) since it was founded in 1997, started to write to Richard Wayne Jones in 1992. Richard had been on Texas death row since 1987 for a murder of which he was most probably innocent and was executed despite compelling evidence of his always proclaimed innocence.

Evidence which unfortunately was never sufficiently considered by any court in the United States. He was convicted largely on the basis of a confession obtained under coercion and duress.

Both the state and federal courts failed to protect his rights for a fair trial by sanctioning the trial court’s use of the coerced confession to convict him. State and federal appeals courts denied the legal challenge to his conviction and the evidence of innocence uncovered after his conviction.

Despite being subjected to police coercion, in violation of his constitutional and international human rights, and irrespective of evidence of his innocence, he was executed by the State of Texas on August 22, 2000

(detailed info can be found here: or GO here

When she started the correspondence with Richard Jones, Arianna did not know anything at all about the case. As a coherent thinker and activist, Arianna was not interested in knowing if he had or had not committed the crime for which he was sitting on death row.

Opposing the death penalty unconditionally, she chose many years ago to take the side in defense of life, no matter what, which includes having guilty pen-pals among her correspondents.

Yet, some time after having started her correspondence with Richard, a talland quite reserved man with a very gentle behavior and a distinct sense of humor, whom she regularly visited on death row twice or three times a year, she became curious and decided to know more. She simply could not believe that he was the real killer. Too well mannered, too gentle, too sweet, Richard was so different from all the stereotypes surrounding killers. She intensified her efforts and trips to Texas, she did her own investigations, spoke to many people, including Richard’s family and lawyers, hired a private investigator (supported by her own family and the crucial financial aid of dearest friends), appointed a new lawyer, and they came to the conclusion that he was not the man who had committed that horrible murder.

Unfortunately all of their efforts were in vain. The State of Texas never admitted having made a mistake and Richard’s life was taken in the name of justice. She and some of Richard’s dearest friends (including Michela Mancini, the vice-president of the ICADP) were in Texas with him when he was executed.

He stated his innocence again and again even before the lethal drugs were pumped into his veins. In October 2000 his name was officially included in the report released by Equal Justice USA stating that “the American system of capital punishment has taken the lives of 16 men despite compelling evidence of their innocence” (

Unfortunately, this very same American system of capital punishment continues imperturbably to take the lives of human beings in spite of serious doubt about their guilt. The last victim of this “an eye for an eye” attitude was Troy Davis, recently executed by the State of Georgia and in the name of its people. Besides the ethical and moral reasons for which capital punishment cannot be ever accepted, this is not justice.

Arianna has written a book (in Italian) on Richard’s story and, as promised to Richard before his execution, she donates 100% of the book’s earnings to the cause in defense of life, in the hope of having soon a world free from capital punishment. Information on the book can be found here:

A victim herself of wrong behaviors (her dad was killed at the age of 33 when she was only 13), Arianna knows a lot about hatred and forgiveness. After realizing that she had forgiven the man who had killed her father, sadly he had passed way and she was unable to tell him. She has equally forgiven the State of Texas for killing Richard.

Richard had forgiven them, too.

But he was so very much troubled by the fact that the people of Texas thought he was the real killer, especially the family of the victim. Arianna has tried in vain to get in touch with them to let them know that Richard was praying for Tammy and that in spite of the many mistakes he had committed during his short life, he was not a killer. Maybe one day God will make their paths cross and Arianna will be finally able to tell them more about Richard, a Richard that probably nobody had never really seen.

Last Updated on Sunday, 09 October 2011 22:19
Find here

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Tears and Flowers: Rais Bhuiyan awarded Freedom Riders award

Right-top is an Amnesty Photo See Rais Bhuiyan's website World Without Hate ** from

photo by Jonathan White of Rais Bhuiyan with the evening's MC, Susan Collin Marks (Vice President, SFCG) accepting the Freedom Rider award October 27, 2011

Condensed article:

(Bhuiyan) found forgiveness and hope in his faith. Taking the stage to a standing ovation, Rais Bhuiyan, who campaigned to have his attacker’s death sentence commuted, said, “We, in our lives, can make a difference when we move away from hate and revenge and turn to love and forgiveness.” He added, “This is not tribal, it’s not about skin color. This is a human issue.”

Emmanuel Jal brought the entire room to its feet, with a rousing rendition of his hit song, We Want Peace. Introduced by his “friend and brother,” John Prendergast, Jal was magnetic , passionate and humbly suggested he did not know how to accept an award that had previously been given to heroes of his, like Desmond Tutu. “I believe in putting light in a dark place,” Jal said. And so he accepted the award on behalf of those whose voices continue to go unheard, to hopefully be able to bring light to them...

The 2011 Common Ground Awards - October 28, 2011:

Also Awarded: Diane Nash, Emmanuel Jal, Freedom Riders, John Lewis, Ysaye Barnwellby sfcg.

Holding up his Common Ground Award, Cardinal McCarrick likened its design to both a flower and a tear. He accepted his award for his role in securing the Freedom of the American Hikers from Iran saying the design was fitting, “For along this journey there have been many tears, but there have been flowers too.” This might very well have been the official theme of the 2011 Common Ground Awards.

Each of the honorees had faced remarkable struggles, in many cases near-death experiences. They had seen the ugliest of human nature. But they remained unbowed and showed that however easy it may be to meet hatred with more hatred, there are ordinary people doing the opposite each day.“This action of showing compassion and mercy taken by the families [of the hikers] is something our governments can learn from,” Ambassador (Ret.) Bill Miller said...

*First compelling blog photo is from Amnesty I-USA blog GO here

**World Without Hate Website here Calendar of events coming:
November:- Amnesty Regional West Conference, CA- Amnesty Regional South Conference, NC- Rome, Italy -- December:- Rome, Italy- Dallas Peace Center

Commentary on Rais stand for forgiveness "We need more people like Rais Bhuiyan in America here

Article on Rais' lead in the battle to save his attacker from execution here

More on the award night here

Friday, October 28, 2011

Reflections on the death penalty in America

originally posted in The Archway

The issue of the death penalty is among the most talked-about conundrums in American society, for it attempts to determine a point at which it is acceptable to end a human life. The recent execution of Troy Davis, a man who many believed was wrongly convicted of a murder in 1989, has brought the issue once again to the forefront of public discussion.

Such an issue is inherently precarious, though practicing states seem to ignore the inherent hypocrisy of sentencing people to death. Practitioners of execution seem to want to have their cake and eat it too, in that they use a form of killing to atone for that same act.

A state-sanctioned execution is naught more than the intentional killing of a person as allowed by existing laws. A murder, by contrast, is the intentional killing of a person in violation of the law. The only non-circumstantial difference between murder and execution is that the latter is permitted by law.

This key difference, which makes one form of killing acceptable and the other intolerable, produces an interesting hypocrisy, for laws are nothing more than societal constructs set in place by humans.

To fully understand the contradiction, one must first accept the old adage that “might does not make right”, insofar as the majority does not necessarily make “right” decisions, merely popular decisions. For example, democratic elections put numerous members of the Nazi party into the German Reichstag in the 1920s.

Though the majority typically attempts to seek the greatest good for the greatest number, their attempts are not universally successful. Hence, it can be accepted that mere numbers do not make something correct in an objective sense.

This casts the concept of laws in a somewhat dimmer light. While laws can be considered honest attempts at shaping society for the better, they certainly cannot be considered to be universally infallible.

In a world where laws are not objective, laws have no more moral validity than the capricious whims of a man who commits murder, and herein lays the problem. When the motivations of the murderer are no less valid than the whims of the society which demonizes him, the majority’s use of might against him constitutes hypocrisy.

Society likes to pretend that acting under the law absolves them of the same sin they demonize by executing murderers. Unfortunately, the inherent subjectivity of these matters means that, though this may be true in the minds of believers, such a statement is syllogistically false.

There are those who may accept their hypocrisy, and instead argue the point that, regardless of the cognitive dissonance associated with execution’s logical inconsistencies, the practice is beneficial.

Such arguments stress the point that the end of a safer society justifies whatever means is necessary to achieve it, even the commission of hypocritical acts. However, the use value of execution over imprisonment is questionable.

When a person is sentenced to prison time, it is incumbent on the prison to ensure the safety of society. Some argue that, because prisons can be escaped, the death penalty is preferable to ensure that violent criminals can never reappear.

While the death penalty ensures that escape is impossible, society can be adequately protected by reinforcing the existing practices and structures of prisons. Such improvements greatly diminish the use value gap between the two methods.

The financial aspect is also a concern in this respect, and while there is no denying that keeping people alive on the taxpayer dime is far costlier than executing them, this problem lies not with the principle of imprisonment, but with the implementation.

This establishes the role of the death penalty not only as a source of hypocrisy, but as a cop-out for those who do not wish to devote time and resources to developing a better solution that does not necessitate hypocrisy.

While people are quick to draw criticisms of the financial burden placed on society by long-term imprisonment, fewer people raise an eyebrow at the societal impact of the practice of execution.

A typical point made to this end is the lack of focus on rehabilitation. Should society’s good be considered the chief goal, as is done throughout the criminal justice system, civilization benefits more from rehabilitating a man than killing him.

If felons, even murderers, were to spend years in an environment of positivity, some stand a chance of being conditioned to refocus their emotions into more positive channels, which allow them to cope with and cathartically express their negativity.

People are largely products of socialization, and this fact can be used to produce immense change, even in criminals. Though not possible in all cases, the general ignorance of rehabilitation is a gross oversimplification and insult both to the practice of psychology and to felons themselves.

The safety aspect of criminal justice is handled as well by a good prison as by a syringe of potassium solution. The cross into punishment and the disregard of rehabilitation is evidence of something more than emphasis on society’s wellbeing.

The sociological and psychological roots of capital punishment’s popularity are rather frightening. They date back to the very roots of civilization, and help to establish vengeance as a universal principle under the guise of justice.

The concept of an eye for an eye dates back to Hammurabi’s Code, and was reinforced by many later religions wherein a god figure would smite disobedient humans. In modern times, god is replaced by the state, but, hypocritically, the principle of objectively-justified vengeance lives on.

The practice of capital punishment falsely gives a majority of humans the sense of superiority over the minority and the individual. Vengeance becomes a universal principle, but bloodlust becomes synonymous with law.

A society which practices the death penalty cannot be emulated, for it is a society that accepts killing as a social norm. Death is the status quo, and disingenuous killing becomes preferable to killing which, if nothing else, has the courage to stand up for that which it truly is.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Comments to articles about Rais Bhuiyan's forgiveness of would-be killer

Comments to almost all the media stories on Rais' heroic and thorough effort to save his attacker's life show positive amazement at such a stance. So I've included here just a sample...

I am absolutely in awe of this gentleman. According to Colorlines, Stroman is a white supremacist with a long history of crimes. Apparently, he broke down when he heard that Bhuiyan is trying to save him and said, “This is the first act of kindness that I’ve ever known." This is true faith in action. God bless Mr. Bhuiyan, his family and Waqar Hasan’s family, who also support saving Stroman and who publicly support Rais Bhuiman's efforts.
Mr.Bhuiyan is showing the world the peaceful side of Islam. Something which many people refuse to admit exists.
I'm a Humanist, but was reared as a Christian, and my parents taught me over and over again that forgiveness was imperative, that revenge was not the way. I wasn't sure in the beginning how I felt about what Rais wanted for Mark Stroman, but I'm certain now. Rais is absolutely correct.
I wish Mr Bhuiyan all the best in his health and I do agree that executing his assailant will solve nothing. Better still, do away with the death penalty completely.
The ability to forgive is a necessary part of society, if we never forgave anyone for their actions society would surly never have existed.
As-salamualikum Brother Rias. I just heard this news very first time tonight’s National (News). I am very impressed to know that you wanted to save the life of someone who want to kill you. My thoughts and prayers will be with you. I wish I could be there in Dallas and participate with you and be a part of saving someone ‘life’, what is precious gift from God.
As-salamualikum Brother Rias. I just heard this news very first time tonight’s National (News). I am very impressed to know that you wanted to save the life of someone who want to kill you. My thoughts and prayers will be with you. I wish I could be there in Dallas and participate with you and be a part of saving someone ‘life’, what is precious gift from God.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

RAIS BHUIYAN (Old and New Items - continually updated here)

Hello: I plan to post older to new-ish items here because I missed many great pieces (plz keep coming back!)

Meantime, plz take a look at the site for many such pieces. (link end of this post) You are likely to be most amazed!

TX: Press conference: Victim of man facing execution
Mon Jul 4, 2011 14:14

04 July 2011

Press conference: Victim of man facing execution with European drugs campaigns to save his life

Tomorrow (Tuesday 5 July), shooting victim Rais Bhuiyan will speak at a press conference at the European Parliament on his campaign to save the life of the man who shot him and now faces execution in the US, using drugs produced by a European company. Rais was shot by Mark Ströman along with two other men he believed to be of Middle Eastern descent in the immediate aftermath of 9/11.

Press conference: 14:00-15:00, Tuesday 5 July, European Parliament, Strasbourg, room LOW S3.5
Speakers: Rais Bhuiyan, victim of Mark Ströman and advocate; Sarah Ludford MEP, Lib Dem human rights spokesperson; Maya Foa, Investigator, Reprieve

Rais Bhuiyan survived being shot in 2001 by Mark Ströman, an American with strong links to Germany who is due to be executed in Texas using the drug pentobarbital, which was produced by a European firm. Rais has travelled to Europe as part of his tireless efforts to stop Mark’s execution, scheduled for 20 July.

Mark Ströman was sentenced to death in 2002 for a crime committed immediately after the attack on the twin towers on 11 September, 2001. In the days following the tragedy, Mark shot and killed two men he believed to be of Middle Eastern descent and injured Rais Bhuiyan.

Rais believes that executing Mark will only perpetuate the cycle of hate and violence seen on 9/11. He has said that Mark's execution will only end another human life without eliminating the root cause of violence, and insists that bridges can only be built between victims and perpetrators through forgiveness. Rais is asking Texas to reduce Mark's sentence from death to life in prison.

Rais is in Strasbourg to raise awareness about the impending execution and the European trade in lethal injection drugs. He will speak as part of a seminar and press conference hosted by Liberal Democrat European justice & human rights spokesperson Sarah Ludford MEP about how to stop European drugs from being used in executions.

Rais is also speaking in the German Parliament on Thursday 7 July, asking for the German government’s support in seeking clemency for Mark Ströman; and meeting with the Executive Vice President of Lundbeck, the Danish company which produced the drugs which will be used in the execution.

Mark is the father of three daughters and a son, and was raised in Texas. He is of German descent and has close family ties to Germany.

For further information, please contact Katherine O’Shea at Reprieve’s Press 020 7427 1099.

Notes for Editors:

European death drugs

Following domestic shortages in the US, European drugs have come to dominate the execution process. Key drugs used in carrying out lethal injections produced by firms from Britain and Denmark have so far been used to execute over 20 people in the US. Several of the executions using the new European drugs have apparently been botched, with the prisoners in a number of cases either jerking or thrashing, or keeping their eyes open during the process – indications that they would have suffered severe pain. While unilateral action by the UK government and (most recently) pharmaceutical firm Lundbeck is starting to constrain this trade, EU-wide measures are necessary to ensure this is not allowed to happen again.

Who is Mark Ströman?

Mark Ströman, a man with strong links to Germany, is currently on death row in Polunsky Unit, Livingston, Texas. He is due to be executed by the state of Texas on 20 July 2011.

Mark has strong ties to Germany. His father, Eddie Ströman, was from Germany. Mark’s father’s family are originally from Lower Saxony. Accordingly, we have approached the German consulate in Texas to ask them urgently to consider whether Mark Strömancan be recognised as a German national.

Mark Ströman was born on October 3, 1969. Before he was born, Mark chose the wrong parents. Mark’s mother Sandra was a severe alcoholic. She was found in a gutter during one of her pregnancies and hospitalised. Sandra married Doyle Baker, Mark’s stepfather. They were both heavy drinkers living in their own world. Mark’s mother told him “you were just $50 short of being aborted, I wish I’d borrowed the money.” Doyle physically abused Mark throughout his childhood. Unsurprisingly, Mark had problems in school and was bullied. Doyle would beat Mark up to show him what he should do to his bullies. Mark, desperate to get away from his parents, ran away from home frequently; he would ride his bike 30 miles at the age of 8 to come to his grandparents’ house. Mark was first diagnosed as suffering from mental health problems before the age of 10 and again at age 13, but he never received proper treatment. Mark began using drugs to escape his brutal reality at around age 11. The fruit does not fall far from the tree. Mark absorbed many lessons from his mother and step-father – on violence, on racism, on paranoia, on substance abuse – none of which was positive.

Mark was sentenced to death for a series of shootings in the aftermath of September 11, 2001, which left two men dead and one man injured.

Why should Mark not be killed on 20 July?

Mark’s victims and their families have suffered a great deal from his actions; nevertheless, they all oppose Mark’s execution. Mark’s surviving victim, Rais Bhuyian, is actively campaigning for Mark’s sentence to be commuted to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole. In whose name is Texas killing Mark Ströman if none of the victims want this kind of vengeance?

While Mark Ströman would not begin to pretend that, even today, he is the person he wants to be, he has struggled to overcome some of the “lessons” that his mother and stepfather taught him. He is, today, proud of his German roots, and maintains an active correspondence with pen pals in Germany and around the world. One of his German pen pals has written to Reprieve to tell us how Mark’s faithful letters, humanity and friendship helped her overcome her depression.

Mark is deeply remorseful for his actions in September 2001, and does not know why he did what he did. It is clear that he suffered from diminished capacity at the time, because of his mental health problems, which he attempted to self-medicate by taking drugs; that alone should disqualify him from execution.

Sadly, however, this and other issues were never properly raised in court, because Mark never had the legal assistance he needed until it was too late. His publicly appointed lawyers lacked the resources properly to investigate Mark’s background and the circumstances surrounding his alleged crimes.

Mark Ströman is due to be executed by lethal injection. Texas has recently changed its execution protocol from sodium thiopental to pentobarbital, which is manufactured by Danish pharmaceutical company Lundbeck. This shift, hastily effected with no clinical or scientific testing, puts prisoners at risk of extreme suffering. Extensive research shows that pentobarbital was developed as a sedative and has no clinical history as an agent to induce anaesthesia. Should the agent not work, as is highly likely according to anaesthesiologists’ analyses, Mark will suffer excruciating pain as the next two drugs are administered.

Who are Reprieve?

Reprieve, a legal action charity, uses the law to enforce the human rights of prisoners, from death row to Guantánamo Bay. Reprieve investigates, litigates and educates, working on the frontline, to provide legal support to prisoners unable to pay for it themselves. Reprieve promotes the rule of law around the world, securing each person’s right to a fair trial and saving lives.

Clive Stafford Smithis the founder of Reprieve and has spent 25 years working on behalf of people facing the death penalty in the USA.

Reprieve’s current casework involves representing 33 prisoners in the US prison at Guantánamo Bay, working on behalf of prisoners facing the death penalty, and conducting ongoing investigations into the rendition and the secret detention of ‘ghost prisoners’ in the so-called ‘war on terror.’ here