April 2012 Issue 56

Articles in this Issue:

Thomas Arthur: Will Alabama execute an innocent man?

By: Rebekah Skelton

Thomas Arthur has been on Alabama’s death row for 30 years. He was convicted of killing Troy Wicker in 1982, but has always maintained his innocence.  Recently, a federal appeals court stayed Arthur’s March 29 execution on a lethal injection technicality – but that stay could be lifted at any time.

The real question remains however; will Thomas Arthur be executed in Alabama on March 29th without being allowed to have DNA testing that could prove his innocence? 

A broken system needs fixing

A new documentary takes on the crisis of racism in the criminal justice system

By: Randi Hensley

A REPORT issued in early April told the horrifying truth of a war being waged within the U.S.: 29 African Americans had been killed by police or security personnel since January, 18 of them definitely unarmed. 

Trayvon Martin’s murder and the conspiracy by police to keep racist vigilante George Zimmerman free have brought tens of thousands of people into the streets. These people are seeking justice for Trayvon, but also for Rekia Boyd, Troy Davis and all of the other people murdered and terrorized because of racism. The need to channel that anger into a new civil rights movement is an absolutely urgent undertaking, as people’s lives are literally at stake.

Murdered by racism

Trayvon and Troy

By: Rebekah Skelton

A 17-year-old walked to a convenience store near his father’s house to buy Skittles and iced tea. A 20-year-old went to a pool party and stopped at a Burger King on his way home. Both were young men who were guilty of nothing more than living while being Black. Now, both are dead. 

Trayvon Martin was shot on February 26 in a residential neighborhood in Sanford, Fla., because he was wearing a hoodie, and George Zimmerman thought he looked “suspicious.” Troy Davis was executed by the state of Georgia last September because two decades ago, the Savannah Police Department was determined to arrest and try someone in connection with Officer Mark MacPhail’s murder, regardless of his guilt or innocence.

“I was in the clouds”

Interview with Barbara Lewis

Barbara Lewis on a recent visit with her son, Robert Gattis
By: Marlene Martin

Robert Gattis won a commutation of his death sentence to life without the possibility of parole just days before his January 20, 2012 execution date. Robert’s lawyers mounted a strong clemency campaign, focusing on Robert’s troubled childhood and showing how it impacted Robert’s behavior. Another point of emphasis was the fact that Robert had for many years expressed remorse over killing his then-girlfriend Shirley Slay during a “crime of passion.” 

Delaware CEDPers, along with other abolitionists, worked hard to win Robert’s clemency. Barbara Lewis is Robert’s mom and a longstanding abolitionist. She spoke with Marlene Martin shortly after her son won his commutation.

What was it like to learn that Robert’s sentence was commuted? 

“We have much, much more to do”

Interview with Mumia Abu-Jamal

Mumia embraces his wife, Wadiya Jamal, and his lawyer, Rachel Wolkenstein
By: Randi Hensley

Randi Jones Hensley conducted a written interview with Mumia Abu-Jamal, the former Pennsylvania death row prisoner who is now serving a life sentence in SCI Mahanoy prison in Frackville, Pa. He de­scribes life in the general population and gives his thoughts on what’s next for our movement today. 

We’ve read such moving accounts of people’s visits with you since you’ve been off death row. Can you describe what those visits have been like for you? What else in your day-to-day life and routine has changed since you’ve been off death row? How do you feel to be in general population?

From Texas death row, the case of Rodney Reed

Sandra Reed
By: Marlene Martin

These days, it’s not shocking to hear about an innocent person on death row, so it won’t be surprising to learn that Rodney Reed is just such a person.

Rodney has been caged on Texas death row for the past 14 years. He was convicted by an all-white jury in 1998 of raping and killing 19-year-old Stacey Stites in the town of Bastrop, Texas. But it seems that the only thing Rodney is guilty of is being Black and daring to have a relationship with a white woman, who was engaged to a white police officer, Jimmy Fennell. 

Early on the morning of April 23, 1996, Stacey failed to show up for work. That afternoon, her body was found in a wooded area. She had been strangled to death with a belt, and her body lay partly clothed in the grass. Several beer cans were found at the site. The pickup truck she usually drove to work, which belonged to Jimmy Fennell, was found miles away in a high school parking lot.


By: Pat Foley

For nearly three decades, Kevin Cooper has been fighting to prove his innocence from California’s death row. He is an artist, a writer and an activist who speaks on many issues. You can read Kevin’s essays by going to savekevincooper.org/pages/essays.html

Recently, Kevin wrote an article entitled “Occupy Death Row” which sparked the idea to hold rallies in different cities across the country calling attention to the plight of prisoners. The CEDP along with Occupy in Oakland established “Occupy for Prisoners” (occupy4prisoners.org).

We passed a resolution at Occupy Oakland to support this call and urged other activists across the country to do the same.

Why I am a monthly sustainer

Interview with Dave Zirin

Credit: Joe Mabel
Dave Zirin (right) speaks with Dr. John Carlos in Seattle
By: Randi Hensley

The Campaign to End the Death Penalty (CEDP) stays afloat financially through our monthly sustainer program. To join this important program, contact Lily Hughes at lily@nodeathpenalty.org or visit us here for more information about how to join the program . You can donate as little as $5 a month, or more if you are able.

To all of our sustainers, we thank each and every one of you for helping the CEDP do what it does every day.

End juvenile life sentences

Everyone deserves a second chance

Mark Clements
By: Mark Clements

In March 2012, the Supreme Court heard arguments over whether or not it is cruel and unusual punishment to sentence a juvenile to life without the possibility of parole. The court is expected to make its decision on whether or not to ban this sentence before its June recess.

The Court needs to ban this sentence, and join the rest of the world that has already done so. 

There is hope that it will. Back in 2010, the Supreme Court ruled struck down life sentences for juveniles who were convicted of homicide, but did not specifically commit the crime,