“Living with the death penalty” at the World Congress
On that evening, the powerful and moving stories of these persons who had to deal with the horrific experience of death row, either directly or through a close relative, echoed in the magnificent hall of the University of Oslo.
Just like novices who still have to learn everything about what “living with the death penalty” truly means, we listened carefully to the various stories which were displayed for us, such as Sunny Jacobs’ or Peter Pringle’s ones. These two people were victims of a miscarriage of justice which lead them to be wrongfully sentenced to death in the United States, for Sunny, and in Ireland, for Peter. Once they were exonerated, they chose to create a sanctuary meant to help people who also suffered from the injustice of the capital punishment.
Then, Suzan Kigula, another former death row inmate in Uganda, explained how she worked hard while in prison in order to become a lawyer and to be consequently able to prove her innocence. A few months ago, she finally managed to do so, and now that she is out of death row, she takes the opportunity to share her experience with others.
Afterwards, Hideko Hakamada related the harrowing story of her brother Iwao Hakamada, who happened to be the world’s longest-serving prisoner on death row.
The event was closed with the testimonies of Byson Kaula, former death row inmate in Malawi who now volunteers as a teacher in his country’s prisons, of Ndume Olatushani, former death row prisoner in the United States who became a painter and now takes part in the artistic project “Windows on death row”, and of Sandrine Ageorges-Skinner, who is the wife of Hank Skinner (sentenced to death in Texas) and also corresponded with death row prisoners.
These eclectic stories, which are yet all reflective of the same fierce will to overcome that painful experience in order to live again, allow us to grasp the reality of the death penalty from an on-the-ground perspective.