USA: showing the human face of the death penalty


By Tiziana Trotta, on 14 October 2015

Journey of Hope…from Violence to Healing celebrated the 13th World Day Against the Death Penalty with a two-days conference at the Southern Methodist University (SMU) of Dallas, aiming at “rejecting the philosophy of revenge that supporters of the death penalty promote”.

Journey of Hope cofounders (George White, Marietta Jaeger Lane, SueZann Bosler, Sam Reese Sheppard and Bill Pelke, who are all murder victim family members) accepted the invitation of director of the Embrey Human Rights Program at SMU, Rick Halperin, to organize a conference dedicated to death row family members around the world.

“We are joined by death row family members, death row exonerees and other activists as we show the human face of the death penalty. Our mantra of love and compassion for all of humanity touches the hearts and leads many to change their mind about the death penalty”, asserts cofounder Bill Pelke.

Texas, the leader for state killing

“Texas is the leading state for state killing, but the tide has begun to change since our first Journey of hope here since 1998. This is our 5th Texas Journey of Hope”, he adds.

During the event, it was shown for the first time in Texas the documentary There Will Be No Stay, an intimate look at the effect the act of execution has on the executioner, directed by Patty Dillon, who took part in the conference.

Next activities

The World Day Against the Death Penalty Conference concluded with the launching of a Journey speakers tour throughout the State of Texas, at high schools, colleges and churches. The organization will reach Houston (Oct. 12-17), San Antonio (Oct. 18-23) and Austin (Oct. 24-25), where its member will join forces with other abolitionists for 16th Annual March to Abolish the Death Penalty.

The Journey of Hope will be the lead organization in organizing the 23rd annual fast and vigil (June 29-July2) at the front steps to the US Supreme Court. The organization is also planning to conduct a 17 day Journey of Hope tour in Nebraska next year.

Footprints for peace

The conference organized by Journey of Hope is just one among the many activities carried out these days in the U.S. Abolitions from Ohio and beyond embarked on a 7 day walk, which started last Sunday from the Lucasville prison, where death row inmates are executed. The Walk To Stop Execution March ended up last Saturday, coinciding with the 13th World Day Against the Death Penalty, at the Statehouse in Columbus. The aim of the 83 mile walk was to call for an end to capital punishment as proposed in two bills pending in the House and Senate.

During the march, walkers engaged residents of local communities in conversations about the death penalty.

“We are living proof that the death penalty is broken beyond repair”

Witness to Innocence, the national organization of wrongly convicted and exonerated death row survivors, also called on Cleveland for an end to the death penalty in Ohio. Members of the group said 155 men and woman in the U.S. have been wrongly sentenced to death since 1973 and claimed for reforms to prevent wrongful executions.

“We are living proof that the death penalty is broken beyond repair. It’s time to end the death penalty in Ohio and in the United States”, they assert.

“We hope that we can end this atrocity today,” said one of the death row exonerees, Kwame Ajamu. “We hope that tomorrow’s newspapers would say that there’s no more death penalty. We know that this won’t happen, but this is our goal.”
Kevin Werner, director of Ohioans to Stop Execution, agreed with him and claimed for higher standards for the execution process, even if he suggested that the best reform would be to abolish capital punishment.

Ohio has carried out 53 executions by lethal injection since 1999 and last February there were 140 inmates on death row. There are 24 executions scheduled in this state for the next four years.

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