Maryland Governor Calls Off Execution

Constant Pressure Saves The Life Of Eugene Colvin-El

By: Virginia Harabin

On June 8, abolitionists celebrated a tremendous victory after Maryland Governor Parris Glendening commuted the death sentence of Eugene Colvin-El to life without parole, admitting that he lacked "absolute certainty" as to Eugene's guilt. Eugene was facing execution the week of June 12, and the governor's decision was the result of continuous pressure built by activists in the Maryland area.

"Make no mistake - the governor didn't do this just because it was right. He was forced to do it by our movement," Norma Brooks-McRoy, Eugene's niece, recently told a crowd of demonstrators in Philadelphia.

Last fall, we began a campaign to save Eugene based upon the weakness of the state's case - which relied solely on circumstantial evidence. Along with this, Maryland has one of the most racially biased death rows in the country, with the majority of death cases coming from affluent Baltimore County.

We put on public events and held several demonstrations - with members of Eugene's family marching and speaking out as leaders in the fight.

When Illinois declared a moratorium on executions, the press was eager to cover Eugene's case and report on the activities of anti-death penalty activists. When Eugene's death warrant was signed, we ran a signature ad in The Baltimore Sun calling attention to the facts of Eugene's case. We held a press conference and a town hall meeting - attended by key Black legislators, including Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. and Maryland State Delegate Salima Marriott, the sponsor of a bill for a moratorium in Maryland.

With the arbitrariness and racism of his death row exposed, Glendening could no longer assume the silent support of antiracists in Maryland. He halted the execution of Eugene Colvin-El. And while he stopped short of granting a moratorium, people have been inspired with a new confidence to expose the reality of the death penalty. We can build a powerful movement, and we can win.

"I'm pleased to be able to write this"

Dear New Abolitionists,

I am so pleased to be able to write this letter of my most sincere heartfelt love and gratitude to so many wonderful, caring and supportive people.

The first and most important person who came to take on my case and fight for my life is my attorney and my friend, Mr. John H. Morris Jr. I will never forget the powerful light of sincerity, dedication and honesty that he brought with him. This man is truly due more respect and honor than words can express. My other attorney, Mr. Jose Anderson, is also a very great friend of mine and also remains my attorney, even today!

There is a person on Maryland's death row who I really have to give proper thanks and appreciation to - his name is Kenneth Collins.

KC has been speaking for years about racism and the death penalty and about the need for the public to become more informed about the people on death row. Year after year, I watched KC become more and more involved with groups of people that were really interested in him and what he had to say. KC and I became friends, and we began to share our ideas, opinions and thoughts. KC introduced me to the Campaign to End the Death Penalty.

I watched KC and other African Americans on Maryland's death row begin to speak out in public. When I was asked to join the Campaign, my attorneys and I studied the organization, and the more I learned from KC and from members, the more I became involved - until I found myself speaking to groups of people concerning my case, myself and the prison that I was housed in. KC deserves way more credit and dedication for his hard work for himself and for the many of us who can and will benefit from his grass-roots work from Maryland's death row!

The members of the Campaign are sincere, dedicated, relentless hard workers for the men on Maryland's death row. You have amazed me with your willingness to continuously write letters, make calls, plan events or visit anyone or anyplace that the men on death row needed you to go. New people have joined the CEDP, and these new people have taken the CEDP to new and greater heights!

Yours in Struggle,
Eugene Colvin-El