Friday, December 29, 2006

Creating more victims: Part Seven

We're back a day late because of some technical problems! Today we resume our series, based on the groundbreaking report Creating More Victims: How Executions Hurt the Families Left Behind. This series was prepared with the assistance of Murder Victims' Families for Human Rights and is running in conjunction with the holiday season. A special thank you to Susannah Sheffer who made all of this possible!

For fourteen years, Stanley Faulder’s Canadian family was unaware that they had a relative on death row in the United States. “All we knew was that he had disappeared,” explains Barbara Allen, Faulder’s niece. “He thought we knew where he was but didn’t want to have anything to do with him. When we finally found out, we were relieved he was alive but overwhelmed by the sadness and gravity of the situation. I had given very little thought to the death penalty before this. It’s just not part of the social conscience of Canada. I was aware that it occurred in the U.S., but never in my wildest dreams did I think my family would be involved.”

Barbara’s sons were 8 and 11 when the family first learned that a relative had been sentenced to death. “They didn’t know him, but they knew he was family,” says Barbara. Faulder was executed in Texas in 1999, and Barbara’s younger son Warren, by that time 16 years old, had a particularly hard time with it.

“He started to use drugs quite seriously,” Barbara recalls, “and he certainly had other issues going on in his life besides this one, but right at this time he got a tattoo on his leg that had Stan’s initials encircled by flames. The execution had more of an impact on him than I had known.”

To read Creating More Victims: How Executions Hurt the Families Left Behind, go here, scroll down to near the bottom of the front page of the web site, and click on the report.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Creating more victims -- Part Six

Today we resume our series, based on the groundbreaking report Creating More Victims: How Executions Hurt the Families Left Behind. This series was prepared with the assistance of Murder Victims' Families for Human Rights and is running in conjunction with the holiday season.

What happens when the child of a murder victim is also the child of the person convicted of that murder? Marcus Lawrie was 7 years old when his father, David Lawrie, set fire to his house in a drug- induced rage, killing his wife Michelle Lawrie, two of their young children, and a neighbor’s child. Marcus was 14 when the state of Delaware executed his father.

Marcus, now 21, says he wants people to understand that as horrific as the first tragedy was, he did not view the execution of his father as compensation for his multiple losses. "I lost my mom and sisters because of my dad, and that hurts, but you’ve got to understand – by giving my father the death penalty, you’re taking my other parent from me."

Marcus remembers hopping the back fence at his elementary school in order to escape reporters who wanted to photograph him. He remembers people setting doll babies on fire in the yard of his grandmother’s home. He remembers getting into fights with other kids at school. He remembers standing outside the prison on the night of the execution, hearing people screaming in favor of the death penalty.

For a long time, it was hard for Marcus to talk much about how either of his parents died, but as he got older, talking got easier. Now he’s hopeful that telling about his experience might make people think about how children are affected when the death penalty is imposed in cases of domestic violence.

To read Creating More Victims: How Executions Hurt the Families Left Behind, go here, scroll down to near the bottom of the front page of the web site, and click on the report.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

The series will resume when we resume


Due to a pronounced drop in blog readership attributable to the holidays, we are going to delay resuming the 10-part series "Creating more victims."

We will be back with the sixth in our 10-part series on Wednesday.

Happy holidays, all!

Friday, December 22, 2006

Creating more victims -- Part Five

Today we bring you part five of a ten-part series. Based on the groundbreaking report Creating More Victims: How Executions Hurt the Families Left Behind, this series was prepared with the assistance of Murder Victims' Families for Human Rights and is running in conjunction with the holiday season.

Part six will resume on Monday, after we take a break for the weekend.

Stanley Allridge was 7 years old when two of his older brothers, Ron and James, were arrested and charged with capital murder. “That was the first time I’d seen my father cry,” Stan remembers. “He said, ‘Your brothers are in trouble.’ But after that, it wasn’t really discussed. We just started dealing with it.”

Stan and the two other surviving Allridge brothers witnessed Ron’s execution in 1995, when Stan was 18 and had just graduated from high school. “I didn’t really believe it at all, until later,” he recalls. “When I was finally leaving the Walls Unit [in Texas] and driving home, that’s when it hit me, that’s when the tears came. But everybody dealt with it in our own individual ways. We didn’t talk about it at all, or we talked about it vaguely but not how we felt about what we had seen. How do you talk about that? We never really thought it was going to happen. It’s not like he was terminally ill. It’s a murder. You just don’t get ready for a murder.”

Afterwards, Stan says, “I felt like my life had totally changed. I would be separated from other individuals. I was forced into this state of manhood. Witnessing death, witnessing a murder, is something that’s totally different. I knew my life would be different – I didn’t know how, but I knew.”

Nine years later, Stan witnessed his brother James’s execution. Now, having seen two of his brothers put to death, he has become an outspoken activist, speaking to audiences about his brothers’ lives and about the effect of the death penalty on a family.

To read Creating More Victims: How Executions Hurt the Families Left Behind, go here, scroll down to near the bottom of the front page of the web site, and click on the report.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Creating more victims: Part Four

Today we bring you part four of a ten-part series. Based on the groundbreaking report Creating More Victims: How Executions Hurt the Families Left Behind, this series was prepared with the assistance of Murder Victims' Families for Human Rights and is running in conjunction with the holiday season. Special thanks to Susannah Sheffer, who is making it possible to share these stories with our readers.

Grace Bolden’s son Cornelius Singleton was executed in Alabama in 1992, ten years before the U.S. Supreme Court ruled it unconstitutional to execute people who suffer from mental retardation. Cornelius’s IQ was between 55 and 65, and he was convicted of murder on the basis of a signed confession that he had been unable to read.

"Even before they arrested him, the DA said they were going to give him the death penalty, and they didn’t have any evidence to connect him with the murder," his mother Grace recalls. "Neal didn’t understand what was going on."

Neal’s death sentence and execution took an enormous toll on Grace.

She lost her house trying to pay for his defense and she suffers from ongoing physical ailments in the aftermath of the ordeal. "I was all ready to go to the prison on the night of the execution," she remembers, "but in the end I couldn’t go. I gave him life and I couldn’t stand to see them take his life."

To read Creating More Victims: How Executions Hurt the Families Left Behind, go here, scroll down to near the bottom of the front page of the web site, and click on the report.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Creating more victims: Part Three

Today we bring you part three of a ten-part series. Based on the groundbreaking report Creating More Victims: How Executions Hurt the Families Left Behind, this series was prepared with the assistance of Murder Victims' Families for Human Rights and is running in conjunction with the holiday season.

When Pam Crawford’s brother Ed Horsley was executed in Alabama in 1995, Pam was working as a housekeeper in the dormitories of the University of North Carolina. Pam had been close to the students and often invited them to her home for meals, but when she came to work after her brother’s execution, she was confronted by a note on the closet door in one of the dorm rooms: “You’re a murderer,” the note said.
Pam was devastated to be treated as though she too had committed a crime.
“It wasn’t just the students, it was my co-workers too,” she recalls. “After
three weeks, it was too much. I had to leave. There were times when I felt real
guilty, like I had actually done something – but the only thing I was guilty of
was loving my brother.”

Meanwhile, Pam’s granddaughter Callie was suffering as well. Callie was 8 at the time of the execution and had been very close to her great-uncle even though she was born well after he had been sentenced to death. Today, as a young woman of 19, she is struggling with depression. When Pam spoke with Callie’s doctor, she was amazed that one of his first questions was about who had been executed in the family. “He asked me how long it had been, and I told him it’s been over ten years,” Pam remembers. “He said, ‘Did you know that she’s still affected by it?’”

Pam says that Callie has recurring nightmares and asks questions to try to make sense of what happened. “She asks, if it’s wrong to kill somebody, which it is, then how can it be right for the state to kill?”

To read the report, go here, scroll down and click on Creating More Victims: How Executions Hurt the Families Left Behind.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Creating more victims: Part Two

Today we bring you part two of a ten-part series. Based on the groundbreaking report Creating More Victims: How Executions Hurt the Families Left Behind, this series was prepared with the assistance of Murder Victims' Families for Human Rights and is running in conjunction with the holiday season.

At 14, Misty McWee was shocked when she learned that her father had been charged with capital murder. But as angry, disbelieving, and abandoned as that
teenage girl felt, she believes she could have dealt with her father’s spending his life in prison. “But to have a parent executed – knowing that he died because someone pushed chemicals into him – to me that felt like murder as well. It’s different from his dying of natural causes in prison.”

Misty was 28 when her father, Jerry McWee, was executed in South Carolina. She suffered from severe depression in the year following the event, culminating in a hospitalization after a suicide attempt near the one-year anniversary. “It felt like the two things were connected, my father’s execution and my cutting my wrists,” she recalls. “I didn’t care what happened to me. I felt like I should go be with him.”

Two years later, Misty is finding her way toward greater emotional stability, but she still struggles to come to terms with her father’s execution and the entire process surrounding it. “Why couldn’t we have had someone to help us through it?” she wonders. “When we walked in the courtroom, people gave us dirty looks, just because we belonged to our father. You wonder, what did we as kids do to deserve this? There’s so much you’re trying to understand and it doesn’t help to have people judging you. People look at it like, the whole family must be bad.”

To read the report, go here, scroll down and click on Creating More Victims: How Executions Hurt the Families Left Behind.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Creating more victims

Today Abolish the Death Penalty, in conjunction with the holiday season and with the assistance of Murder Victims’ Families for Human Rights (MVFHR), launches a new series.

We know that each execution involves and affects many people. The murder victim, though no longer present, is always part of the story. The family members of the victim are affected. The inmate facing execution is of course affected. And so are the family members that the executed inmate leaves behind.

But we seldom think about this latter group. We have had more than 1,000 executions in this country since 1976. How many thousands of people have lost loved ones to execution? Where are their stories? Why don’t we hear, see, and read about them?

MVFHR, in a breathtaking and groundbreaking report, recently closed this gap. Creating More Victims: How Executions Hurt the Families Left Behind tells the stories of dozens of family members – daughters, mothers, brothers, others – and what they endured as the result of their loved one’s execution.

Today, in the first of a 10-part series over the next two weeks, we bring you one of these stories.

“Watching my brother be executed was the hardest thing I ever had to do in my life,” says Tina Duroy. Tina’s brother, James Colburn, was executed in Texas three years ago, and Tina still has flashbacks of the event, especially when she sees a photo of a gurney on the television news.

What is especially painful for Tina is that she knows her family tried as hard as they
could to get help for her brother when he was alive. James was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia at age 14, and was in and out of hospitals throughout his teenage years. “But when he turned 18, he was no longer covered by the family’s insurance,” Tina explains. “My grandparents drained their entire savings, but when they ran out of money there was no hospital that would take him without insurance. Texas has no state-funded mental facility.”

James’s death sentence took a toll on the entire family. “My mother couldn’t face it,” Tina recalls. “She probably blamed herself, even though she couldn’t do any more than she did. She told me she couldn’t watch them murder her first-born.” Tina’s mother died two years before the execution.

Tina speaks about the death penalty’s affect on surviving family members whenever she can, and she continues to question why her brother couldn’t have received treatment that might have prevented both the murder he committed and the execution that took his life. She says, “I don’t understand how they can execute mentally ill people when they don’t try to treat them first.”

To read Creating More Victims: How Executions Hurt the Families Left Behind, go here, scroll down to near the bottom of the front page of the web site, and click on the report.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Keep an eye on the blog

On Monday, Abolish the Death Penalty, with assistance from Murder Victims' Families for Human Rights (MVFHR), will launch a two-week, ten-part series examining the death penalty from the perspective of family members who have lost loved ones to execution.

The stories we will be sharing with you this holiday season come out of a groundbreaking new report entitled, Creating More Victims: How Executions Hurt the Families Left Behind.

We would like to thank Susannah Sheffer for making this special blog series possible.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

We're winning.

Abolish the Death Penalty generally is a press-release-free zone. We prefer to engage in story-telling and explore and examine ways to discuss the death penalty through the people it affects as opposed to engaging in spin.

But there are exceptions

Today the Death Penalty Information Center published its year-end report. On so, so many levels, their press release is worth reproducing in full:


Public Now Favors Life Without Parole
Lethal Injection Challenges Lead to Fewest Executions in a Decade
Death Sentences at 30-Year Low

WASHINGTON, DC – For the first time in two decades, the Gallup Poll this year
revealed that more Americans support the alternative sentence of life without
parole over the death penalty as the proper punishment for murder. This result
is in-step with the Death Penalty Information Center’s (DPIC) 2006 Year End
Report detailing a continuing trend away from capital punishment in the United
States. In its report, DPIC notes that U.S. death sentences are now at an
historic 30-year low, executions have sharply declined, and the size of death
row has been dropping since 2000.

In the states this year, New Jersey became the first jurisdiction to enact a
moratorium on executions through legislation and joined a lengthy list of
states, including California and North Carolina, in forming a study commission
to review the fairness and accuracy of the death penalty. New York legislators
chose not to reinstate that jurisdiction’s defunct death penalty. More changes
may emerge in the coming years as a growing number of candidates who are opposed to the death penalty were elected to public office in 2006.

“The American public has turned an important corner in this debate. Support for
the death penalty is on the decline and more people are embracing the
alternative sentence of life without parole, which is now available in almost
every state,” said Richard Dieter, Executive Director of the Death Penalty
Information Center. “Capital punishment is risky, expensive, and could result in
irreversible error. Fewer people are now willing to put their faith in such a
flawed policy.”

In its report, DPIC noted that the number of executions in 2006 reached a
10-year low of 53, down 46% since its highpoint in 1999. Evidence that lethal
injections could be causing needless and excruciating pain delayed a number of
executions and led to a series of court hearings this year. Individual
executions in Arkansas, California, Delaware, Maryland, Missouri, New Jersey,
Ohio, South Dakota, and in the federal system were halted because of this

The number of people sentenced to death annually has dropped by nearly 60% since 1999, falling from nearly 300 death sentences annually in the 1990s to a
projected 114 death sentences this year. The size of death row decreased for the
fifth consecutive year after 25 years of increases, declining from 3,415 last
year to 3,366 in 2006.

The issue of innocence remained an important cornerstone of the death penalty debate in 2006 as an expanding list of judges, law enforcement officials, religious leaders, and other new voices joined in challenging capital punishment’s implementation and accuracy. Former Chicago Tribune editor and publisher Jack Fuller echoed the concerns of many when he wrote: “[N]o government is good enough to entrust with the absolute power that capital punishment entails.”

In August, the American Bar Association unanimously passed a resolution calling
for an exemption from the death penalty for the severely mentally ill. An almost
identical resolution had been endorsed earlier by such mental health groups as
the American Psychiatric Association, the American Psychological Association,
and the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Snark alert! Fifth Circuit votes 9-7 not to overturn U.S. Supreme Court

An important ruling came down from the New Orleans-based Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals this week. The Fifth Circuit, which has jurisdiction over Texas, Louisiana and Mississippi, is the worst circuit court in the country when it comes to the death penalty. (The Fourth Circuit, with jurisdiction over the Carolinas, Maryland, Virginia and West Virginia, is close to being the worst but arguably has smarter judges).

Anyway, on a close 9-7 vote, the Fifth Circuit ruled against overturning the U.S. Supreme Court's requirements regarding jury instruction and mitigating evidence. A blog by the name of Decision of the Day had this excellent snark on the court's ruling: (hat tip, Karl)

It's no secret that Texas state courts have been openly defying the U.S.
Supreme Court in affirming death sentences that were based on unconstitutional
jury instructions. Specifically, the instructions at issue did not ensure that
juries adequately considered mitigating evidence before imposing death
sentences. What were the courts were afraid of? After all, these are Texas
juries we are talking about.

Anyway, the Fifth Circuit has been complicit in the state courts’ defiance, repeatedly declining to grant habeas relief in these cases. Its stance has already drawn sharp rebukes from the U.S. Supreme Court. Most recently, in a habeas case that had already been vacated and remanded by the Supreme Court, Chief Judge Edith Jones wrote a decision that refused to reconsider the panel’s earlier conclusion that the Supreme Court’s post-1991 holdings should not be applied to petitioner Billy Ray
Nelson’s 1991 death sentence. Judge Dennis (who can typically be relied on to
follow the Constitution in more egregious cases) concurred, chiding his
colleagues for ignoring the Supreme Court but reasoning that the error was
harmless in this instance. My coverage here.

But the Fifth decided to take this appeal en banc and today, by a vote of
9-7, the Court decides to grant Nelson a new sentencing trial. Judge Dennis
again concurs, explaining why he was wrong to apply a harmless error analysis
the first time. The 161-page decision also includes dissents from Chief Judge
Jones and Judges Smith, Owen, and Clement. Interestingly, the seven dissenters
include three names that have repeatedly been mentioned as possible SCOTUS
nominees – Jones, Clement, and Garza.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

A step forward

Recently we blogged about an outstanding investigative series published by Chuck Lindell of the Austin American-Statesman that exposed serious deficiencies in the way some death penalty appellate lawyers in Texas represent their clients.

The implications of these deficiencies are, literally, a life-and-death matter. Several innocent people have been executed in Texas, and these are just the cases that we know about. Habeas review is a critical cornerstone of our criminal justice system. More than 100 people have been freed from death row after evidence of their innocence emerged; usually, this happens as a result of information that comes out during habeas appeals.

Today the Austin American-Statesman reported that the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals has adopted new guidelines intended to make sure that death penalty appellate lawyers do a decent job of representing their clients. This is a welcome step, a step in the right direction. Here are excerpts from the American-Statesman's story from today's paper:

The state's highest criminal court, criticized for tolerating shoddy appeals filed on behalf of death row inmates, adopted new rules Monday to begin weeding out attorneys whose work falls below professional standards.

When the rules take effect Friday, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals will be able to sanction lawyers who submit sloppy, lazy, inferior death-row appeals a significant shift for the nine-member court. The court previously had no mechanism in place to identify poorly performing lawyers or to remove them from a court-run list of attorneys eligible to submit, at state or county expense, writs of habeas corpus for death row inmates.

Habeas writs are considered the more important of two appeals given to the condemned in Texas, but a recent Austin American-Statesman review of the appeals system found that the court tolerated lawyers who regularly submitted writs that were incomplete, unintelligible or improperly argued.

Mandy Welch, a Houston lawyer who teaches continuing education courses on habeas law, was heartened by the changes, though she wanted to observe the court's interpretation of the rules before offering wholehearted approval. "Reviewing a lawyer's performance is critical to ensuring that people areproperly represented, and this is at least a move in the right direction,"Welch said.

The Statesman series, which ran Oct. 29 and 30, examined habeas lawyers who simply copied from their previous appeals or from other attorneys, whether the facts applied to their current case or not, or who recycled claims that have been denied time and again while ignoring obvious avenues of investigation.One lawyer submitted a writ copied almost entirely from his client's letters from death row, including this memorable passage: "I'm just about out of carbon paper. As soon as I get some more typing supplies I have about 30 more errors I want . . . in my appeal."

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

John Grisham book could become a movie

Exciting news here. Lots of people have stopped by the blog to comment on the recent John Grisham book. Now it looks like it could be turned into a movie!

George Clooney and Grant Heslov Taking On The Innocent Man: Murder and Injustice In A Small Town

George Clooney and Grant Heslov picked up John Grisham's novel, TheInnocent Man: Murder and Injustice in a Small Town for Warner IndependentPictures and their Smoke House Productions.

The book, published in October, is the true story of a gross miscarriage of justice that sent Ron Williamson to Oklahoma's death row for 11 years for a murder he did not commit, reports Variety. Among the flimsy evidence: eyewitness testimony from the man ultimately convicted of the murder.

No production schedule has been set for The Innocent Man: Murder andInjustice in a Small Town.

(source: The MovieWeb)

Innocent and Executed

Recently NCADP published a new report entitled Innocent and Executed: Four Chapters in the Life of America's Death Penalty.

We decided to publish this report after U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia opined that no innocent person has been executed in the U.S. in what is known as the "modern era" of the death penalty, i.e., 1976 to now. In his opinion, Scalia said that had an executed person been innocent, the person's name would have been "shouted from the rooftops" by abolitionists.

All of this is by way of introducing the following letter to the editor, which just popped up in the National Law Journal:

Executing the innocent
Keith S. Hampton/Special to The National Law Journal December 1, 2006

Dear Justice Scalia:
I think I am sorry that I read your concurring opinion this summer in Kansas v. Marsh, 548 U.S. (2006), in which you label all who are concerned that innocent people have been executed as "sanctimonious" and ignorant, and suggest that everyone with such a concern is merely part of an "abolition lobby." That's a pretty breezy generalization, and it is as wrong as your proposition that there has never been "a single case-not one-in which it is clear that a person was executed for a crime he did not commit." You are either blind, or you aren't looking very hard.

Texas alone has at least three such cases: Carlos De Luna, Ruben Cantu and Cameron Willingham. DeLuna and Cantu were both executed on crime-scene identification that the witnesses now repudiate. Let me quote your own court: "The vagaries of eyewitness identification are well-known; the annals of criminal law are rife with instances of mistaken identification." U.S. v. Wade, 388 U.S. 218 (1967). When we base death sentences on such evidence, why would you find it so hard to believe that we've killed one or two innocent people?

Maybe you think it just happens in misidentification cases. Then take the execution of Willingham for torching his home with his three daughters inside. He was convicted because the fire investigators in his case assumed arson when every bit of evidence was consistent with an accident. Innocent people can be just as easily executed on junk science and incompetent investigators as eyewitness misidentification. So you can see why I also can't agree with your cheery conclusion that every exoneration "demonstrates not the failure of the system but its success."

You also claim that it was "the system" that uncovered cases of innocent people, and not some "outside force." Having been part of "the system" for many years, I can assure you that prosecutors and police do not investigate whether they "got it right" after they've sent someone to prison or to the death chamber. None of these cases would ever have come to light had not newspapers looked into them. Those who are part of "the system" (notably, police and prosecutors) react with denial and hostility when confronted with proof that they got it wrong. When the district attorney in the Cantu case learned that he was innocent, she promptly announced that she would prosecute the surviving victim, Juan Moreno, of "murder by perjury" because he succumbed to police pressure to misidentify Cantu at trial. This is the same guy who was shot nine times and clubbed half to death.

And the police who exploited an opportunity to exact revenge against Cantu? The Houston Chronicle and San Antonio Express News obtained recorded conversations between the DA investigators and the cops revealing that the cops were cleared well before the DA's "investigation" ever commenced. No, this really isn't "the system" self-correcting itself.

An 'insignificant minimum'?

But I think you know this because you radically shift positions at the very end of your concurrence. Up to the end, you argue that you've scoured the country looking for proof that a single innocent person has been executed, and, finding none to your satisfaction, deduce "the system" is therefore actually infallible. Then you spring a brand new argument, not quite consistent with the former. Rather than "we've never killed an innocent person," your new argument is "sure we have, but it's a pretty small number." You wrote: "One cannot have a system of criminal punishment without accepting the possibility that someone will be punished mistakenly. That is a truism, not a revelation. But with regard to the punishment of death in the current American system, that possibility has been reduced to an insignificant minimum."

So I take it that if you became convinced an innocent person had been executed, you still wouldn't share the concerns that "the system" is in need of repair. This posture sort of undercuts the sincerity of your search for the white whale of innocence. You use the phrase "insignificant minimum" to describe the number of innocent people you imagine we've executed. How many is that? Ten? Fifty? The system: not infallible, but still the best? I bet you the family and friends of Willingham, Cantu and DeLuna never viewed them as "insignificant."

The casualness with which you sweep people into the oblivion of insignificance must be somehow made easier when the execution involves someone else's child or brother or friend. It is far worse to convict an innocent person than to let a guilty person go free. You've reversed and perverted this long-standing principle and seem to believe it is far better to kill innocent people so long as we also get a greater number of guilty ones. I think we have different sets of values. To sum up: You're dead wrong that only stupid people would oppose executing the innocent, and you're morally wrong not to care. It is wrong for the government to kill innocent people, period. I can't believe a Supreme Court Justice thinks that is debatable.
- - - - -
Keith S. Hampton is a criminal defense attorney practicing in Austin, Texas.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Stays in Ohio & Virgnia

Execution dates for Jerome Henderson in Ohio & Percy Walton in Virginia scheduled for this week are now off. The SCOTUS has upheld a stay entered last week by the Sixth Circuit for Mr. Henderson's execution in Ohio. In Virginia Governor Kaine has ordered the execution date for Percy Walton to be reset for June 2008(with the possibility of additional stays) due to concerns about whether Mr. Walton is competent to proceed.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Tis the season

Gregory Wallis is in need of a winter coat after spending 18 years in a Texas prison for a burglary and rape he did not commit. Earlier this year, the Life After Exoneration Program helped Greg get clothing for the spring because he was penniless and unemployed. Since that time, the temperature has dropped in Texas. Although the Life After Exoneration Program helped Greg with his basic necessities like identification documents, glasses and utility payments, Gregory's struggles are not over and he continues to rely on the support of the Life After Exoneration Program.

Why are we telling you about this? What does it have to do with the death penalty? We'll answer the second question in a minute. For now, let's tackle the first.

Close to 400 men and women in our country have proven their innocence and been released from prison after having been convicted of crimes they did not commit. On average, they serve more than twelve years in prison before release.

But the nightmare of wrongful conviction and incarceration does not end there. The exonerated face serious challenges in virtually every aspect of rebuilding their lives on the outside - employment, housing, financial resources, support systems, and access to medical, psychological and dental care. In most cases, exonerees are pushed out the prison door without as much as an apology, and left to fend for themselves.

I just got an email message from the Life After Exonerated program. This program helps people like Gregory Wallis -- people who need help standing on their own two feet after being incarcerated for years and years for crimes they did not commit. Today, this program is in danger of closing its doors -- and being unable to help people like Greg -- unless they receive contributions. You can help by going here.

Now, our second question. What does this have to do with the death penalty? Well, at least 123 people have been removed from death row and released from prison after evidence of their innocence emerged. They, too, need our help -- and many are receiving help from the Life After Exonerated folks.

You can read more by going here.