Monday, April 18, 2011

IN MEMORIAM: Marie Deans

April 20, 2011

On April 15, 2011, Marie McFadden Deans died in Charlottesville, Virginia.

For three decades, Deans sought justice for death row inmates who had no other recourse and who had been poorly represented.

Professor Todd Peppers of Roanoke College wrote in an op-ed about her life that she brought "basic conditions of decency to the men who inhabited Virginia’s death row,... refin[ed] the use of mitigation evidence in death penalty trials, [and] struggl[ed] to exonerate factually innocent men."

Deans's commitment to repealing the death penalty was sparked after the murder of her mother-in-law, Penny Deans, by an escaped convict. Marie founded Murder Victims’ Families for Reconciliation, an organization, designed to give those who opposed the death penalty “a safe place from which they could speak out.”

She was a self-taught mitigation expert, and, largely because of her efforts, only two of the 200 men that she helped defend during their sentencing hearings were ultimately given the death penalty.

Perhaps her greatest triumph was the exoneration of Virginia death row inmate Earl Washington, Jr., a man with intellectual disabilities, whose false confession was the product of police coercion and manipulation. Washington was awarded almost $2 million dollars in damages "for the imprisonment that resulted from the fabrication of evidence against him and would become one of the compelling stories cited in the steady rise of death row exonerations across the country."

(T. Peppers, "Celebrating the Life of a Death Penalty Pioneer," April 2011). Marie's son, Robert Deans, formerly worked as DPIC's Information Specialist.

The above was entitled: IN MEMORIAM: Marie Deans - A Life of Commitment to Justice and Founder of Murder Victims' Families for Reconciliation - Posted on Death Penalty Information Center website

See info on a book about the Earl Washington, Jr. case GO here “Explores the dark side of the system of capital punishment." Criminal Justice Review.

Here's another extra-special memory or two from Abe Bonowitz Friday, April 15, 2011

Dear Friends,
Henry called a little while ago to share the news that Marie Deans died earlier this evening. R.I.P...I know that many of you have no idea who Marie was - she's been pretty much out of the loop for a decade or more. Here's a bit... Click on the URL's to see images. For those of us who were around in the 70's, 80's, and 90's (I started in 1988 or so), this woman needs no introduction. Love her or hate her, there's no denying she made a big difference.

Marie has been a friend to many men on Virginia’s Death Row and has spent countless hours with their families around the times of their execution. 34 of Marie’s habeas clients asked her to stay with them on their deathwatches and until they were killed, and she did...

I did not get around to sending a note to Marie until today. She won't get it in the mail, but maybe she'll get it anyway.... Here's the part that demonstrates just one bit of how she lives on in our movement today....

Dear Marie,

I am so glad to be able to send you this little hug. I hope you are comfortable.

And I am glad you have some time to reflect a bit on the world of a difference YOU have made in so many lives. Marie, you inspired me in so many ways. Most notably, I can still see and hear the welcome you and Henry gave to the Virginia Journey of Hope ...From Violence to Healing in 1996, when you talked about the evolution of the name to Virginians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty. [VADP started as Virginians Against the Death Penalty, then became Virginians Against State Killing, and when the annual Quality of Life poll in Virginia started asking if people preferred executions or life imprisonment and more than 50% preferred the latter - way back in the early 1990's, then went with what Virginians wanted - the current VADP.] It was on that Journey that I was inspired to start up CUADP, and it was your experiences coupled with my own that led us to take that name – Citizens United for Alternatives to the Death Penalty. Of course, now that I’m at NCADP, CUADP has become defunct. BUT, I wonder if you know just how many others have followed in your footsteps with the “For Alternatives” motif. Let me tell you...To read the full amazing list and memory from Abe GO here and to see the photo of the award banquet GO here

Read another memory about Marie Deans here

Don't fail to read Bill Pelke's touching remembrance in the post just above this one the Journey of Hope site.

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