Sunday, February 15, 2009

Montana Senate Hearing Report

Marietta Jeager-Lane Reports:
As you may already know, MT's Senate Judiciary Committee passed our abolition bill, SB236, on to the Senate Floor, 7-5. The bill will be debated Monday afternoon, 2/16 starting at 1pm Mountain Time. Click here to listen live! In the above photo are the main speakers at the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, left to right:

Ron McAndrew, ex-FL warden, who oversaw 3 electric chair executions -- one of which men he felt was innocent and one whose execution was botched, literally cooking the poor guy to death for 1/2 hour.

Marietta Jaeger-Lane, whose daughter Suzie was a kidnap-murder victim in a well known Montana case.

Senator Dave Wanzenreid, (D), sponsor of our bill.

Jennifer Thompson-Cannino, from North Carolina; You all may have heard about her before, but I never had. In the thirty-plus years I've been speaking on this issue, she brought a very important perspective I not only had not ever even considered but had not ever heard! Twenty years ago (to the day before testifying), she was raped by an intruder she woke to find in her bed in the middle of the night. Because he held a knife against her throat, she had no choice but to submit without struggle. However, as terrified as she was, she managed to remain calm and had the presence of mind to make a concerted effort to remember all the details of his face and body that she could discern in the dark, hoping that the time and occasion would come when she could properly identify him. That time did come and she was able to positively identify her rapist not once but twice in a lineup. Although insisting on his innocence, the man was charged, sentenced and was serving his eleventh year in prison when he realized that another inmate in prison with him, had actually been the rapist. DNA evidence proved that to be the case and finally the man Jennifer had so positively identified was released. Jennifer was in anguish that, as certain as she had been that he was the "right" man, he had in fact been cheated out of 11 years of his life because of her testimony. However, she was also fearful that he would come looking for her now for "payback time". While struggling with what she should do, the man's pastor contacted her about meeting with him at the church rectory. With strong mixed emotions of repentance and fear, she did go. To her amazement, the man told her that he held nothing against her, he didn't blame her for her mistake, was not out to get even, and finally said, "I forgive you!" They have become good friends, keep in touch at least once a week and sometimes even speak together. The man's last name is Cotton and Jennifer's book about the whole experience is coming out in March. It's called "Picking Cotton" -- such a clever title! She's a very special woman, very articulate, attractive and wondrously humble to be willing to stand up before everyone and admit what her mistake cost a good man. We often hear about jail house snitches and dishonest folks who are willing to say anything for a buck, but Jennifer's honest, sincere misidentification is another facet of the possibility of putting innocent people on death row.

And lastly, to the far right, is Ray Krone, exonerated from Arizona's death row and now serving as Director of Communications for Witness to Innocence.

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