Take Action December 2015 Campaigner

December 2015 Campaigner

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WE NEED YOU

TakeThePledge
In their powerful dissent, Supreme Court Justices Breyer and Ginsburg made it clear that they want the highest court to take another look at whether the death penalty is constitutional.

Your voice is needed now more than ever! We need supporters like you to stand for a common sense, effective approach to public safety – not the death penalty.

We want you to take a Pledge to urge policymakers to halt all executions and show the wide-spread public support for ending the death penalty.

Sign and share this Pledge today to make it clear to your friends, family, and your policymakers that repealing the death penalty is a critical step on the path toward criminal justice reform.

 

Front Burner 

 

Another Year of Mercy

By Karen Clifton, Executive Director of the Catholic Mobilizing Network
During this Jubilee Year of Mercy, Catholics all over the country are answering Pope Francis’ call to “struggle … for the abolition of the death penalty.”

Catholic teaching on human life is rooted in the belief that all life is a gift from God that must be respected from conception to natural death. We are challenged to recognize the dignity of all persons, “even in the case of someone who has done great evil” (Gospel of Life, 27). Our modern criminal justice system provides us with the means to protect society without the need for executions. When we resort to capital punishment, we perpetuate a culture of violence and deny the opportunity for individuals to be restored and reconciled.

Catholic Mobilizing Network (CMN) works to prepare Catholics for informed involvement in the movement to end the death penalty. One of the ways we share the message of our faith is through weekly podcast programming in both English and Spanish. These series explore the leadership of Pope Francis, the tenets of our beliefs, and stories of people personally affected by the death penalty.

With your help, we can end the death penalty and create a justice system that better upholds the common good.

CMN is a 90 Million Strong partner. Visit CMN’s podcast library.
Email info@catholicsmobilizing.org if you know a Catholic radio station that would like to broadcast the series for free.
Follow them on Twitter @CMNENdtheDP.

 

FEATURE STORY

 

Milestones and Anniversaries
#NCADP40: Acknowledging 40 Years of Action, a New Year of Strength

By Diann Rust-Tierney, NCADP
@zx_300@zy_175As we mark the milestone of one year into the launch of the 90 Million Strong Campaign, 17 national organizations connecting an estimated 90 million people have pledged to work together to end the death penalty. Heading into 2016, we will be stepping up our coordinating efforts to raise the issue in our combined networks, connect with lawmakers and educate the public.

The end of 2015 and the beginning of 2016 also mark the 40th anniversary of the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty. For 40 years, NCADP has led on the issue raising public awareness, changing attitudes and moving public policy. Over the years, we have built and supported the network of independent grassroots organizations and volunteers that are currently the backbone of the abolition movement and the struggle to end the death penalty.

We launched the Stop Killing Kids Campaign in 1995 to raise awareness about juvenile offenders being sentenced to death and executed. We saved the lives of two juveniles facing capital charges through our public awareness and grassroots organizing efforts. In 2004, we worked in South Dakota and Wyoming to pass legislation excluding juveniles from execution. South Dakota and Wyoming were among the states cited by the Supreme Court as evidence of a national consensus against executions for juveniles when they outlawed the practice in 2005. We played a pivotal role ending the death penalty in Illinois, New Mexico and Maryland and provided critical support to successful efforts elsewhere.

We are gratified by the incredible progress that has been made in this struggle. We are grateful for our national partners, new allies, network of state affiliates, and activists who are making this progress possible. With your continued support and advocacy, we will #haltallexecutions.

Together, let’s celebrate #ncadp40 and the power that makes us all #90MStrong!

Read Diann’s complete anniversary statement here.

 

 

TWO CENTS

 

Christmas Memories from Death Row
Forty Christmases Later: Spending the Holidays on Death Row

By Ron Keine, Witness to Innocence

It is Christmas time on the row. At night I can hear the muffled sounds of a grown man crying in his pillow. His trusty pillow which is his only safe confidant as emotions are seen as weakness in prison and can even get you killed. Everywhere in the world it is a time for happiness, a time to rejoice, but here on death row it is depression and sadness in the very souls of us death row denizens.

I miss the excitement of the mythical but harmless prevarications and fibs employed to instill the concept of Santa Claus in the quizzical minds of children. Memories that will last a lifetime. The legacy of elves and fairies.

Awkward sadness permeates every molecule of the stone and steel that surrounds us. That stone and steel that separates us from our loved ones at this solemn time of year. While the children are opening presents on Christmas morning, reveling in bliss, miles away in some forgotten dungeon cell, a tear runs down my cheek. As the family sits down, heads bowed for the meal’s prayer, I sit alone on my steel bunk and try to picture the lone bare table setting that my mother arranged in my honor. There will be no Christmas dinner for me this year. My prison issued dinner looks sickening as it defiantly slides down the windows and walls outside of my cell as if it was trying to rejoin the steel tray laying on the floor beneath it.

Why must I suffer like this? Why am I here? It will be almost another year before I will be exonerated when it is discovered that the prosecutor hid the evidence of my innocence and manufactured the case against me. I have done nothing to deserve this, but I feel helpless to change the situation. That arrogant prosecutor is probably sitting next to a beautiful Christmas tree, opening the presents with his children while I sit in despair. Who is the real criminal here?

I must fight these emotions or they will drag me down even deeper in this pit of loneliness. I must cast them off before they become too much of a burden to bear. Before I get so mired down in this hopelessness that I become like Larry, down in cell 14 who succumbed to the pressures and hung himself yesterday.  

Yes, the following year would bring both my exoneration, and that of my best friend Doc who had occupied the cell next to mine. It would also bring Doc’s suicide.

It’s 40 Christmases later now, and I still remember the pain, loneliness, and sense of helplessness of that place. I remember those who were with me on death row, often think of those there now, and never forget the families who are suffering alongside  but apart from- their incarcerated loved ones.

Ron Keine is an Assistant Director of Membership and Training for Witness to Innocence. He was convicted in 1974 and in 1976 released following a newspaper investigation. Learn more about Ron’s story and 90 Million Strong partner, WTI.

 

ACROSS STATE LINES:

 

New Report Says Use of Death Penalty Declines Sharply, Kansas Hopeful for Repeal, and Missouri Overturns Death Penalty

 

Our 90 Million Strong partner, the Death Penalty Information Center (DPIC), last week released its year-end report, a retrospective of the death penalty in 2015. The report  reveals that the practice continues to be in decline by every measure. Public support remains at an all-time low and opposition is at its highest. We saw the fewest executions, the fewest death sentences and the fewest states using the death penalty in decades. Report highlights include:

  • Twenty-eight executions were carried out by only six states;
  • The number of new death sentences for the year (49) was lower than in the preceding decade;
  • Six former death row prisoners were released from death row in 2015 bringing the total number of innocent men and women released from death row to 156.  

While citing much progress, the report found that two-thirds of the 28 people who were executed in 2015 were people with severe mental illness, intellectual disability or trauma. The findings in this report give us a strong incentive to continue our struggle. It’s working and the need is still great.

Take a minute to pat yourself on the back for a job well done—and then let’s get back to work. Share the DPIC report with your friends, family and network spread the word. #Haltallexecutions.

Kansas

It’s gear-up time in Kansas, too, as the Kansas Coalition Against the Death Penalty (KCADP) prepares for the 2016 legislative session where they hope to once again advance a bill to repeal the state’s death penalty. Many 90 Million Strong Campaign national partners are lending their support by signing on to a letter endorsing repeal and encouraging their Kansas-based constituents to get involved.

Missouri

Ten years after the Justice for Reggie Clemons Campaign was launched, the Missouri State Supreme Court ruled to vacate the conviction and death sentence of Reginal Clemmons. He was on death row for 22 years. The Court ruled he did not receive a fair trial due to prosecutorial misconduct. The court of the state, however, must now decide if it will proceed with a new trial. He currently remains in prison. In other reform news, Missouri State Rep. Jeanne Kirkton (D-St. Louis) has pre-filed HB 1402 to abolish the death penalty and to give those sentenced to death after August, 2015 life without the possibility of parole. Further, Sen. Joseph Keaveny (D-St. Louis) has pre-filed legislation (for the sixth time) which requires a state audit of the cost for administering the death penalty.

 

GO VIRAL

 

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Post, send and share these items to help educate your friends, colleagues about the need to abolish the death penalty. When on Twitter, make sure to shout us out at @90millionstrong and use #90MStrong and #halttallexecutions.

 

TAKE ACTION TODAY

 

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IN CASE YOU MISSED IT

 

ICYMI, here are a few must-read articles, blog posts and footage from across the country. Help us advocate by commenting on the articles and even submitting your own letter to the editor or opinion editorial in response. You, too, have a role in ending capital punishment. Read. Respond. Reform.

DNA Evidence Could Clear Oskaloosa Man Floyd Bledsoe of Murder Charge Tuesday

http://cjonline.com/news/2015-12-07/dna-evidence-could-clear-oskaloosa-man-floyd-bledsoe-murder-charge-tuesday

The Death Penalty in Texas and a Conflict of Interest

http://www.newyorker.com/news/news-desk/the-death-penalty-in-texas-and-a-conflict-of-interest?intcid=mod-latest

 

WE NEED YOU

 

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90m2The 90 Million Strong Campaign works under the umbrella of the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty. NCADP has been working for the past 40 years toward a vision of a world without the death penalty. We have celebrated successes in states such as Nebraska, Maryland, and Illinois which have ended the death penalty outright.

But there is much to be done. Now is the time to push this message out to more and more citizens, encouraging them to add their voices calling for an end to this barbaric practice.

We need you. Please give a generous gift at this time, as your gift will be matched by The Atlantic Philanthropies. We only need $16,885 to meet our matching grant challenge. We need to take advantage of the tremendous opportunity to end the death penalty once and for all.

We are 90 Million Strong!

 

CALENDAR

 

We Are 90 Million Strong!

December 8, Georgia, Brian Terrell – EXECUTED

December 14, Arkansas, Marcel Wayne Williams – STAYED

December 14, Arkansas, Jack Harold Jones Sr – STAYED

December 18, Pennsylvania, Antayne Robinson – REPRIEVE ANTICIPATED

For calendar updates and changes, click here

Do you know of a panel, vigil, conference or other convening that 90 Million Strong supporters would be interested in? Let us know and it will be considered for publication in The Campaigner, and on the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty and 90 Million Strong Campaign websites.

 

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The 90 Million Strong Campaign wishes you and your family a happy holiday season and an advocacy-filled New Year!


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