Support Lawrence Hayes

Anti-Death Penalty Activist Thrown Behind Bars

By: Jackie Hanner

Former death row prisoner and anti-death penalty activist Lawrence Hayes is in jail facing parole charges that could land him back in prison for years. The charges stem from a September 24 domestic argument. Despite the fact that his girlfriend, Annette Pittman, is not pressing charges and is pleading to have Lawrence released from prison, the state is threatening to revoke Lawrence’s parole.

According to Annette, "Lawrence is a good boyfriend and a hardworking person. Everything he puts his hands on, he tries to turn into something positive. I believe they are just trying to railroad him because of his past. I don’t think this is even about me." Indeed, Lawrence would not be behind bars right now, but for that fact that he is still on parole for a conviction that is nearly three decades old.

Many anti-death penalty activists know Lawrence as a committed opponent of capital punishment. Although he left death row behind 25 years ago, Lawrence has never given up the fight to end the barbaric practice of the death penalty. He helped to found the Campaign to End the Death Penalty in 1995 and has worked selflessly with countless organizations in the fight for social justice. Over the years, he has spoken at college campuses, churches and conferences both around the country and around the world--including in front of the Italian parliament.

Lawrence has long been targeted by the state for his political activities. His original case stemmed from his involvement in the Black Panther Party. Although he was never even charged with having a weapon, Lawrence was convicted in the 1971 shooting death of a police officer and sentenced to die by an all-white, all-male jury.

After spending 20 years in prison, nearly four on death row, Lawrence was paroled from prison in 1990. Lawrence spent the next eight years working as a counselor and job trainer for at-risk youth and speaking out constantly against the death penalty. In 1998, the day after speaking at a press conference against the death penalty, Lawrence was locked up on trumped-up parole charges and given five years for minor technical violations. However, a political and legal campaign won him his freedom after 18 months.

Lawrence is a crucial voice in the fight to end the death penalty in this country. That voice should not be left behind bars. Send letters in support of Lawrence, to be used at his parole hearing, to: CEDP, P.O. Box 25730, Chicago, IL 60625.