Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Journey of Hope Board Member -- Rais Bhuiyan -- Now Speaking to Students


The Hartford Courant10:33 p.m. EST, January 6, 2012 GLASTONBURY

Annie Renaud had a very important question for Rais Bhuiyan during a fourth-period class Friday at Glastonbury High School."Do you think there is any crime that is unforgivable?" Annie, a freshman, asked."Well —" Bhuiyan responded, pausing. "On a regular basis, we ask God, 'Please forgive me.' Why you cannot pass it to others? …There is nothing you can't forgive, if I can forgive my attacker who tried to end my life. It's just a matter of practice."

See Full Story here

Forgiveness key in group’s fight against death penalty

by Brian Anderson Anniston Star
Jan 20, 2012 JACKSONVILLE — There are some images that Bill Pelke can’t erase from his memory.

For years the picture in his head that haunted him was of his beloved “Nana,” Ruth Elizabeth Pelke, a woman who taught Bible classes to local children in her hometown of Gary, Ind. In 1985 she was stabbed 33 times by a group of local teenagers who stole 10 dollars from the 78-year-old woman and let her bleed to death on her living room floor.

It was the image in his head when he sat through the trial of Paula Cooper, the 15-year-old female who ended his grandmother’s life.

“I remember when they asked me how I felt,” Pelke said Thursday at Jacksonville State University, recalling learning that Cooper was to receive the death penalty. “I said, ‘the judge did what he felt he had to do, but it won’t bring my Nana back.’”

Pelke, 64, was the first of three speakers during an anti-death penalty forum called “A Journey of Hope,” sponsored by the campus Ethics Club. More than 30 people at Houston Cole Library listened to Pelke, Callie Greer, and a representative of the Birmingham-based Justice and Mercy group, Brandon Fountain, all present their stance against the death penalty. The event doubled as the first meeting of the semester for the club.

“We’re all about dialogue,” said Scott Beckett, the faculty adviser for the Ethics Club. “Because we’re human, everybody here already has made up their mind, but we’re about dialogue.”

But Pelke hoped his dialogue could possibly persuade death penalty proponents to change their mind — much as he changed his own stance on capital punishment after his grandmother was murdered. Pelke said his Christian upbringing taught him the death penalty was an acceptable form of justice, but began to question that notion in the years that followed Cooper’s sentencing.

Over time, the image of his grandmother, the one he carried with him through the trial of Cooper, was replaced by another image he couldn’t shake — that of Cooper’s grandfather, shouting out “they’re going to kill my baby!” after her sentencing.

Like Pelke, Callie Greer lost a loved one through violence. Her son, Mercury, was murdered in Birmingham, and just like Pelke, sought for forgiveness.

“They kill this boy, give him life sentence or whatever, does that mean Mercury is going to come back?” Greer said. “Are you telling me I should put his family through this to get closure? Now I get closure? Uh-uh, I get nightmares.”

Not all the details of the two stories were the same, though.

“Black on black crime is just treated as another case,” said Greer, explaining her story didn’t “make it to Oprah” like Pelke’s more famous story.

Fountain said Greer’s claims of racial bias in the death penalty process are supported by facts. Fountain, the final speaker, presented a case against death penalty using state statistics.

“There’s not a racial issue in Alabama’s death penalty?” Fountain asked the audience, pointing out that 35 percent of murder victims in Alabama are white, while 80 percent of death row inmates were found guilty of killing a white victim.

“Now how does that work?” he said.

The audience responded with applause, however, to Pelke’s tale about his grandmother, and finding a way to forgive the teenage girl who murdered her more than 20 years ago.

Since his turnaround on the issue of justice and the death penalty, Pelke started his own foundation and talks at forums and events all over the world in opposition to the death penalty. He said he made a promise to God to connect with Cooper and her family, to tell her about his grandmother’s life and do everything he could to save Cooper’s.

And on July 1, 2013, Cooper, whose sentence was reduced thanks to Pelke’s efforts, will be able to walk out of Indiana state prison — where Pelke will be there to greet her.

Now the image he can’t forget is the drive home after meeting Cooper in prison for the first time in 1994.

“The word that coming back to my mind was “wonderful,’” Pelke said. “Because after this terrible thing that happened to Nana, this terrible thing that happened to my family, I had no hate. Only forgiveness.”

Star staff writer Brian Anderson: 256-235-3546

For original publication, Read Forgiveness key in group’s fight against death penalty here

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Why does Jim Petro stop short?

Jim Petro questions about death penalty stop short of calling for repeal

It's been a year since former Ohio Attorney General and 2006 gubernatorial candidate Jim Petro laid out his views of the criminal justice system in his book, "False Justice: 8 Myths that Convict the Innocent."

Co-authored by his wife, Nancy, the book, as the title implies, questions the fairness of our justice system and identifies flaws in how police and prosecutors handle evidence, especially in capital cases.

I was recently drawn to the book because capital cases and the procedures we use to put people to death continue to make news here and around the country. While reading the book, I kept wondering what feedback Petro, a moderate Republican who campaigned on strong law-and-order platforms, has received, especially from politicians and law enforcement officials.

Petro, who is now Ohio's higher education chancellor, told me in an interview that he's received little push back and plenty of support and praise for the book, which also examines how DNA evidence has played a critical role in exonerating convicted people and highlights the unreliability of eyewitness testimony.

"I would bet certainly well over half the prosecutors in the country looking at this book would ultimately agree with most of the issues," he says. "There is another half who wouldn't. They will say this is the work of some liberal-leaning lefty. That's not the case. I am as much in favor of punishing the guilty as anybody, but I'm advocating for a greater degree of care on the part of every prosecutor."

Reading the book, I was most intrigued by the question of whether Petro thought society should repeal the death penalty in light of wrongful convictions. Though the book is written in memoir form, he doesn't explicitly offer his opinion.

"Establishing the reliability of the justice system is equally important for advocates of the death penalty," he writes early in the book to neutralize the debate around the death penalty issue.

He touches on the issue again in Chapter 19, describing his support for the death penalty as simple and pragmatic.

"It is all about public safety," he writes.

But I wanted to know what the man, not the politician, thinks about the controversial issue.

Petro, a former Cuyahoga County commissioner from Rocky River, is a politician closer to the issue than many. He had a hand in writing the 1981 law that restored Ohio's death penalty. As a young legislator in the Ohio House in 1981, he was on the Judiciary Committee that reviewed and reworked the legislation started in the Ohio Senate.

In December, Ohio Supreme Court Justice Paul Pfeifer, who also helped write the law that year and supported it, urged lawmakers to repeal it. Pfeifer, a Republican, told an Ohio House of Representatives committee, "The death sentence makes no sense to me at this point when you can have life without possibility of parole. I don't see what society gains from that."

Pfeifer, who was chairman of the Ohio Senate's Judiciary Committee in 1981, was testifying in support of House Bill 160, which would abolish the death penalty in Ohio and resentence death-row inmates to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

The Democratic-sponsored bill has no chance of passing.

When Petro campaigned for the state legislature, he said he believed in the death penalty. And when he supported the 1981 bill, he argued that the government should not bear the expense of incarcerating the most heinous criminals when they deserve to die. In short, he said that he believed the state would save money by adopting the death penalty and that the law would become a deterrent.

"Neither of those things have occurred, so I ask myself, 'Why would I vote for it again?' " Petro tells me. "I don't think I would. I don't think the law has done anything to benefit society and us. It's cheaper and, in my view, sometimes a mistake can be made, so perhaps we are better off with life without parole."

But does he personally believe we should do away with the death penalty?

Unlike Pfeifer, Petro doesn't directly say so.

"We are probably safer, better and smarter to not have a death penalty," he says.

Petro adds that he still believes society has the right to decide.

He remains unequivocal, though, on a different and important point, one sometimes obscured by tough-on-crime politicians: The real responsibility of prosecution is to seek the truth, not just win a trial.

(source: Mark Naymik, The Plain Dealer) Found on Death Penalty News & Updates -- posted by Dr. Rick Halperin

Monday, January 16, 2012

MLK: Encouragement for our visions & dreams

Middle East Peace Quilt**

(quotes below are from a sermon entitled: "Dreams and Possibilities" given Sunday am 15 January 2012)

"Martin Luther King saved my life"

"A life of fear is no life at all."

"A man dies when he refuses to stand up for that which is right...for justice..."

"Without a vision there's no future...only repitition of the past."

"We can evolve only if we know what we're evolving to..."

"It takes no effort to despair."

MLK...had a great imagination.

These are just some of the challenging quotes Mills offered (which included Goethe, Kant, and an expert on Aphasia (used as a metaphor for that which drastically limits imagination).

I highly recommend the link below to this sermon/reflection as one of the most powerful and uplifting on Martin Luther King (or anyone else) ever spoken in my home town. Not only does this personal talk include Martin Luther King's vision for a world minus racism, hate and hopelessness - other poignant quotes from other visionaries are offered as well.

Each of the points made by Mills can be so easily applied TODAY to our nation and world and related to racism of ALL kinds whether to a person's skin, citizenship, religion, nation of origin, gender, struggle, age and so much more. (For example, Mills brings up-to-date a text King used to condemn the careless bombing in Vietnam -- by simply adding the name of our various current wars).

After a needed yet sobering couple of weeks many of us spent exposing our nation's treatment of people detained in Guantanamo -- this visionary speech offers possibilities of change and the needed energy to carry out a better future.

Ernie Mills heard a famous MLK speech in 1973 -- five years after it was first delivered...

To hear how MLK's speech "I Have a Dream" helped transform the life of one young American -- formerly a self-admitted racist -- GO here

Ernie is a longtime friend of mine and as I told him - he's spent years doing the homework which led to this superlative talk.

The opposite of a doomsday talk, at the end Ernie said with conviction, "The possibilities" for change "are infinite."

Civil Rights Memorial Museum Montgomery, Alabama

**quilt above chosen because it's a serene symbol for finding peace among groups of all kinds. I found the photo here

Let us bend our work toward peace...

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Memorial Service for Herbert D. Blake

from Kathy Ozzard Chism
Memorial Service for Herbert D. Blake
10:00 AM Saturday, January 14, 2012
Repast following
St Bartholomew Church
5100 E Broadway, Long Beach CA 90803
562/438-3826 or ♥♥♥

From Bill Pelke
‎Herb Blake's intervied me last summer. RIP Herb Blake
GO here

Kathy Ozzard Chism
From Herb Blake's wife, Diana: "Your outpouring of love and prayers have been so overwhelming. I know he feels the love from each of you. He is passing through the veil we all tremble before and is comforted in the arms of God. I am comforted by his lasting strength and deep love that all will be as it should if we'd just let God light our path. His lust for life and desire to see social justice done continue on in his legacy." ~Diana

Rest in peace, brother-in love Herb. ♥♥♥

See more on Journey FB Wall...

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

10 Years Too Many: National Day of Action Against Guantanamo:

(This notice is from Amnesty I - USA -- I got the phone call this morning from the leaders and want to be sure to get this out. I'm with several groups at once at heart and in spirit.)

Join us in Washington, DC on January 11, 2012 to close Guantanamo! To mark the 10th anniversary of unlawful counter-terrorism detentions* at Guantanamo and to call for an end to indefinite detention and unfair trials, we will be creating a human chain between the White House and the Capitol. We need 2,700 people – the number of detainees still unlawfully held by the US government at Guantanamo and Bagram. Meet us January 11, 2012 at Lafayette Square (across from the White House) at Noon. Sign up below to pledge to join us!


Here's a basic schedule for ALL groups involved in this action:

After meet-ups with various groups --
1PM: Public Witness and Human Chain connection the White House to the Capital.

3PM: Interfaith Service and Reception, sponsored by NRCAT, at the New York Ave Presbyterian Church. Here's more info and a place to lay your cot --

GO here

IF YOU QUESTION the reasons for such a Day of Action, you may want to read the post just below this one on oneheartforpeace (for Sunday, January 8th) or CLICK here.

Besides unlawful detentions, be aware of the despair-induced suicides, illnesses untreated, force-feedings, deaths listed as unknown causes. Some of these deaths under US detention have been considered "extra-judicial executions". Deaths and extreme physical and mental injury due to rights abuses can't be ruled out at Guantanamo and the same goes for US prisons or US "oversight" at various cells hidden and open world-wide.

HOWEVER, this Amnesty Action is one of many others by dozens of national and international human rights groups along with well-known speakers, and writers. What a positive unified action this is for peace, justice and the rights by which we as Americans once were said to have lived. Actions such as this one will help to restore us to the sanity of a true humanity.

Thanx for tuning in.


Consider Action during MLK Weekend

While the following is addressed to California residents, using theme of MLK weekend could be a good one for human rights and abolition actions across the nation.

"The time is always ripe to do what's right."-Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Join thousands of SAFE volunteers on MLK weekend.

Next Monday is Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, a time set aside to honor Dr. King’s passionate commitment to justice. This year, SAFE California is teaming up with civil rights leaders and grassroots activists to commemorate Dr. King by ending death sentences in California. Please join the Reverend Jesse Jackson, the California NAACP and other civil rights leaders in supporting the SAFE California “Weekend of Action” on January 14-16.

Will you honor Dr. King by helping to end death sentences in California at an event near you?This weekend, communities all across the state will gather in various events to celebrate Dr. King's life and honor his legacy of justice. SAFE California will be there working to end death sentences in California as a tribute to the tireless work Dr. King accomplished himself and inspired in others.Click here for a map of events near you, and volunteer to join us!As a dedicated supporter of the SAFE California Campaign to replace the death penalty, I hope you will join the thousands of volunteers statewide who are ready to commemorate Dr. King's leadership by joining this historic movement over MLK weekend at an event near you.

Despite losing her husband to assassination, Coretta Scott King declared: "I stand firmly and unequivocally opposed to the death penalty." Now is the time to join forces, put the death penalty before the voters and help SAFE California prevail at the November 2012 election.Please join me in making history and ending death sentencing in California this year.

Natasha MinskerCampaign Manager
SAFE California Campaign

GO here for the origin and website of this action - SEE MLK item under "Get Involved" link.

Again, consider your own action...

Tuesday, January 03, 2012

Death Penalty on the Wane: Dallas Morning News


JANUARY 2, 2012 -- found posted on Dr. Rick Halperin's News & Updates


Use of the death penalty is losing favor with more and more Americans, and for good reasons, those undeniably being (a) shaken confidence in the system and (b) the alternative of life-without-parole sentencing.

Lethal punishment is also being sought less often by Texas prosecutors and handed out less often by Texas juries, probably for the same reasons.

The year-end snapshot of Death Row, USA, offers more upsides, from the perspective of this newspaper’s opposition to the death penalty.

The number of executions continued to slide nationwide, according to the Death Penalty Information Center. And one more state, Illinois, joined the list of 16 non-death-penalty states and became the fourth to repeal the punishment since 2004.

The number of executions continued to wane in Texas, but this state held on to its position of ignominious prominence: Texas executed, by far, the most people of the 13 states that used the death penalty this year. Thirteen prisoners were put to death in Texas, 30 % of the 43 who died in the nation’s death chambers in 2011.

Texas’ distinction as the No. 1 death-penalty state remains in unseemly juxtaposition to the embarrassing developments throughout our criminal justice system.

For a 2nd straight year, a Texas murder case unraveled in spectacular fashion, this one freeing Michael Morton of Williamson County, who spent almost 25 years in prison of a life sentence for his wife’s bludgeoning murder. The case against Morton ignored evidence that pointed elsewhere and, it appears from DNA tests, allowed the real killer to roam and kill again. Morton’s exoneration produced serious charges of prosecutorial misconduct this month.

The year before — when Texas executed 17 of the 46 nationwide — the Anthony Graves murder case unraveled, freeing a man who was sent to death row in another instance of alleged prosecutorial mischief.

Add to that the continuing parade of DNA exonerations across the state, and it’s evident why people have become squeamish about the death penalty. Supporters attest to the certainty of the court system, with its many steps of review, but it so often has taken volunteer lawyers and university workshops to pry free the truth.

Are there cases where innocent people have slipped through that sieve and gone to their deaths in Texas? None have been proven, but there’s no justification for taking the chance. The justice system will never be foolproof, and, therefore, use of the death penalty is never justified.

That sentiment seems to be taking hold nationally, with a Gallup Poll showing the lowest level of support in almost 40 years, with 61 % in favor. That compares with 80 percent in 1994. A CNN poll found more support for life without parole than death for murderers.

Qualms about how the death penalty is applied caused the governor of Oregon to call a moratorium and the chief justice of the Ohio Supreme Court to convene a study commission.

In Texas, there are ample arguments for both of the above.

A welcome decline

New death sentences and executions in Texas:

2003: 28, 24

2004: 24, 23

2005: 14, 19

2006: 11, 24

2007: 14, 26

2008: 12, 18

2009: 9, 24

2010: 8, 17

2011: 8, 13

NOTE: In 2011, Dallas County sentenced no one to death for the first time in five years. The execution record since resumption in 1982 was 40, in 2000.

[sources: Texas Departments of Criminal Justice, Texas Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty]

(source: Editorial, Dallas Morning News)

Images found at or click here

Sunday, January 01, 2012

New Year Concerns and Reminders

Here is an item which pertains to all of us in the movement to abolish the Death Penalty and Human Rights Movements at large -- who see the growing and grave need for forgiveness, reconciliation, and peace and justice "for ALL humanity" here

You may also want to see the open letter to Rev. Billy Graham which I have just "reissued" for 1st January 2012 and which includes this quote from Dick Barnett:
'The biblical injunction to love one another does not rest on the idea that people are is difficult -- people are hard enough to love one by one and harder still to love by the millions. Yet the injunction is inescapable because creation cannot be sustained without it.'The choice is between love and hate, and hate is death. Hate demands an enemy. The identity hardly matters. Enemies change, but the spirit of enmity and fear remains.'The big lie behind all murder from random street killings, to the efficient ovens of Auschwitz, to the even more efficient hydrogen bomb, is that the victims deserve to die." for the rest, GO here

Last but not least, you may appreciate my post "Heart Food" which may offer a wee bit of nourishment for the days ahead. GO to this topic at the top of the entries for 1 January at oneheartforpeace blog or click here