Highlights Of The Struggle

Reports From Campaign Chapters Around The Country


Marching against the death penalty in Chicago

CALIFORNIA
by Stefanie Faucher
California abolitionists will be taking the Capitol by storm on May 1, when activists will present Governor Gray Davis with 75,000 signatures on petitions demanding a moratorium in our state. The petitions have been gathered as part of an extensive statewide effort to put pressure on local legislators to recognize that more than 70 percent of all Californians now favor a moratorium on executions.

About six months ago, the Bay Area chapter joined forces with Californians for a Moratorium on Executions (CME) to collect signatures, calling for a statewide moratorium. CME is made up of many organizations and individuals, including Death Penalty Focus, the American Civil Liberties Union, American Friends Service Committee, Moratorium 2000, and Amnesty International.

As a result of growing pressure, the Boards of Supervisors for San Francisco, Berkeley, Oakland, Santa Cruz, and Santa Clara have already passed resolutions in support of a moratorium, and San Francisco District Attorney Terrence Hallihan has agreed that he will no longer seek the death penalty under any circumstance.

Meanwhile, execution-day protests at San Quentin have continued to grow, as more and more people have decided to make their voices heard. At the execution of Steven Anderson earlier this year, protesters became especially fervent at every mention of Governor Davis’s gubernatorial campaign, in which he has constantly emphasized his unrelenting support for the death penalty.

Activists are also anxiously awaiting the release of California death row inmate Kevin Cooper’s DNA test results. Cooper is the first California death row inmate to be awarded postconviction DNA testing.

Unfortunately, it appears that a prosecution criminologist tampered with the evidence. The Bay Area Campaign chapter formed the Kevin Cooper Emergency Response Network to respond with statewide actions as soon as the results are released.

BALTIMORE
by John Coursey
Maryland is set to execute death row prisoner Wesley Baker during the week of May 12. Although the case against Wesley is full of holes, prosecutors hope to use Wesley’s execution to revive support for Maryland’s death penalty.

In response to the court’s refusal to grant Baker a stay of execution earlier this year, the Baltimore chapter of the Campaign called a press conference with Wesley’s mother, family members of other death row inmates, and representatives of local anti-death penalty organizations. Speakers vowed to build the fight to save Wesley’s life.

Since then, our chapter has been actively exposing the injustices of the Maryland death penalty system through information tables, organized leafletings, and a Live from Death Row featuring Maryland death row prisoner Kenny Collins. Our efforts culminated in a march of 75 people to Super-Max prison in Baltimore, where death row inmates are locked away.

We’re also proud to say that we were able to raise enough funds to place a billboard reading "Stop Execution in Maryland" in the heart of Baltimore. This effort, initiated by our chapter, has garnered the support of numerous other anti-death penalty organizations. A new Web site, which can be found at www.StopExecutionsInMaryland.org, was created to help build support for this effort and is listed on the billboard. Plans for a rally and press conference at the billboard site are in the works.

A coalition of anti-death penalty organizations is calling for "Days of Action" to oppose Wesley’s execution on May 2-May 3. Among the groups involved in the coalition are the Campaign, the American Civil Liberties Union, Amnesty International, Equal Justice, and the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty. Activists plan to bombard Governor Parris Glendening’s office with phone calls and e-mails that demand an end to Maryland’s death penalty.

Since the execution of Tyrone X Gilliam in 1998, Maryland has essentially had a de facto moratorium. In the face of mounting criticism of Maryland’s death penalty, the state has not been able to execute anyone.

Abolitionists are committed to keeping Tyrone’s tragic death as Maryland’s last state-sanctioned murder.

CHICAGO
by Joe Moreno
The Chicago Campaign is spearheading a march for abolition on Tuesday, May 14, to call for an end to the Illinois death penalty system once and for all. This mobilization, endorsed by numerous anti-death penalty and social justice organizations, comes in the wake of the official report released by the Governor’s Commission on Capital Punishment in April.

At the march, Campaigners plan to obtain even more names to appear on a signature ad, "Time to End the Death Penalty in Illinois," that will be placed in local area newspapers at the end of May.

We have learned that justice does not come easy in Illinois. That’s why Campaigners protested a gubernatorial debate during the primaries. About 50 people picketed the debate to showcase the lack of political guts of gubernatorial candidates -- all of whom expressed their support for the death penalty.

Within the same week, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Roland Burris said that he would be willing to sign abolition legislation if he were elected governor, although he maintained that he still supports the death penalty in principle. Burris lost in the primaries, and voters in Illinois now must choose between two pro-death penalty candidates, Rod Blagojevich (D) and Jim Ryan (R), for governor. We plan to up the pressure on these two candidates to force the death penalty issue to the front of their agendas. Take heed, Mr. Blagojevich and Mr. Ryan: We will "dog" you at any opportunity during your campaigns.

Chicago Campaigners have also been busy building the campaign to win justice for the Death Row 10. Recently, activists who attended a decisive court hearing for Death Row 10 member Aaron Patterson were outraged by Judge Toomin’s decision to deny Patterson a new trial on the basis of an incompetent trial attorney. Toomin will now review Patterson’s torture claims.

At a Live from Death Row hosted by the Hyde Park chapter of the Campaign on April 30, Death Row 10 member Stanley Howard inspired people to keep up the pressure, to keep up the fight. "I’m alive, and I’m fighting," Howard said, as the Pontiac Correctional Facility’s automated operator announced that Howard had only "15 seconds left."

Activists are committed to showing the courts, politicians, and government officials that they can’t put any of the Death Row 10 in a box and forget about them. With our victory of a special prosecutor to investigate allegations of torture against former Chicago Police Commander Jon Burge and his detectives, activists are even more emboldened to fight for justice.

The fight for abolition continues... We will not retreat.

AUSTIN, TEXAS
by Matt Korn
The Austin chapter of the Campaign has been hard at work to expose the injustices of the death penalty in Texas. Recently, we’ve been organizing around the case of the Yogurt Shop Three to ensure fair trials for the defendants [see page 3 for further details on this case]. The Campaign held a press conference and rally in support of the

Yogurt Shop defendants to bring attention to police and prosecutorial misconduct in their cases. During an interrogation by the police, a gun was pointed at defendant Michael Scott’s head, resulting in a confession. Outrageously, prosecutors are using this forced confession as the only evidence to convict Michael and the rest of the defendants.

Then, on April 13, our chapter hosted the Death Row 10 tour at the University of Texas-Austin. Speakers included Jeannine Scott, the wife of Yogurt Shop defendant Michael Scott; David Bates, a wrongfully convicted prisoner who was tortured into giving a false confession by Chicago police; and Marlene Martin, the national director of the Campaign. The event was nothing short of great, with a good turnout and excellent speakers, who gave rousing, impassioned speeches.

In addition to our panel, we featured a special call from Leonard Kidd, a Death Row 10 member -- live from death row in Illinois. He amazed us all with his truly moving words. He criticized the Bush administration for killing innocent people abroad and at home, and made scathing remarks about the Enron scandal. Dozens of people who attended the event later met with Austin chapter members to further discuss the issue of the death penalty and how they could get involved.

Building a strong and vocal movement will be key to stopping the death penalty in Texas. In April, an East Texas judge set May 28 as the execution date for death row inmate Napoleon Beazley, who was a juvenile at the time of the crime. In response to international pressure, Beazley, now 25, won a stay of execution last August just hours before he was to be executed by lethal injection.

Beazley’s is one of eight scheduled executions to take place in Texas in May. We will keep fighting to stop the Texas killing machine!