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Write, Tinker, Abolish
Rusty Nelson on Peace and War
By the time I wrote my first editorial about the death penalty, Nancy had produced several articles, including a commentary in the Spokesman Review, but Washington had not yet killed Dodd and Campbell. Lethal injection was catching on, but Nevada had resumed executions with a firing squad, Florida electrocuted a man whose crime would have been self-defense if he had not been gay, and Washington was dusting off its gallows. If I had been better organized and more careful, I could compile a book from our experiences, observations and opinions on state killings. And I have a lot more to say. More than I’ll try to cram into this space.
To paraphrase Einstein, everything’s changed about executions in the U.S. but the way we think about them. Two recent developments should affect the way Americans think about capital punishment, but thinking doesn’t change easily. Read more »
WA Governor Inslee Declares Moratorium on Death Penalty
Governor Inslee’s action in issuing a moratorium on the death penalty was a necessary step toward “equal justice under the law” which we agree should be the state’s primary responsibility. We thank the Governor for his leadership and courage with this action which has increased conversation on this important issue. We look forward to working with the Legislature to bring a bill to the Governor’s desk to fully repeal the death penalty in Washington State.
—statement from PJALS and Inland NW Death Penalty Abolition Group
A Time for Celebration!
by Shar Lichty
On Tuesday, Feb. 11th as the news of Governor Inslee’s moratorium on the death penalty reached me, I found my eyes welling up with tears of joy. While I knew there was a possibility this historical moment would come, I was completely unprepared for the announcement and the emotions it would evoke on that morning. Somewhat overwhelmed with joy, relief, and hope I scrambled to spread the good news to the amazing folks I am honored to work with on this issue, the members of the Inland NW Death Penalty Abolition Group (INDPAG). INDPAG is an affinity group of PJALS which was formed 30 years ago by Rusty & Nancy Nelson. Read more »
Welcome new intern Dom Felix!
Dom Felix joined PJALS this year as part of an internship through Eastern Washington University’s Social Work program. Dom has been a long-time resident of the Spokane area who recently chose to pursue higher education in hopes of becoming a chemical dependency counselor. Now as a senior in the program, Dom has come to the decision that working on systemic social change would be a more constructive use of his social work career. This realization lead to Dom choosing PJALS as an internship placement when he became aware of the organization during a lobby day trip to Olympia last year. Read more »
The whole history of the progress of human liberty shows that all concessions yet made to her august claims have been born of earnest struggle. … If there is no struggle there is no progress. Those who profess to favor freedom, and yet deprecate agitation, … want crops without plowing up the ground. They want rain without thunder and lightning. They want the ocean without the awful roar of its many waters. …. Power concedes nothing without demand. It never did and it never will.
TweetChat to End the Death Penalty #WARepeal
PJALS and the Inland Northwest Death Penalty Abolition Group participated last Friday in a TweetChat focused on ending the death penalty here in Washington. It was PJALS’ first TweetChat experience, and we can see the potential of this relatively easy tactic to spur conversation, raise awareness, and help people connect with important campaigns. All you need is a moderator, several discussion questions, and folks sharing their thoughts with the same hashtag. If you’re on Twitter, connect with us @pjals!
Are TweetChats important?
TweetChats are a great way for our organizations to learn from people in the movement and to collaborate with our partners. It’s also a way for you to promote what you do by offering advice, and sharing your expertise on a topic. We look forward to participating in more TweetChats around the country.
Lobby Day Trip to End the Death Penalty
By Cly F. Evans
Five Spokane area death penalty abolition supporters, most involved with INDPAG and/or PJALS, loaded ourselves in a van and made their way to Olympia to participate in the February 12 Death Penalty Abolition lobby day organized by the statewide campaign Safe and Just Alternatives. Throughout the day, by my count, members of our group interacted with three Senators (Billig, Padden, and Carlyle) three Representatives (Riccelli, Crouse, and Parker), the staff of two Senators (Roach and Padden), and two Representatives (Ormsby and Shea). Read more »
Facing Race: Coalition Calls on Legislators to Work Towards Racial & Economic Equity
by Lucia Vazquez
Our WA legislature received a D for its voting on racial equity bills for the 2011 and 2012 sessions. The grade came from Washington Community Action Network’s Facing Race: 2012 Legislative Report Card on Racial Equity, which assessed the Washington Legislature’s performance during the 2011 and 2012 regular sessions on issues that affect racial and economic equity. The report was endorsed by 52 organizations across the state, including PJALS. The goal of this report was to educate legislators about the impact their decisions have on communities of color that make up about 30% of Washington residents, but also to spread awareness of advancing racial equity within our state. Read more »
The Time Is Now: Safe & Just Alternatives to the Death Penalty
by Shar Lichty
PJALS’ Inland NW Death Penalty Abolition Group (INDPAG)has been working toward ending the death penalty for decades through raising awareness among the public. The statewide campaign Safe & Just Alternatives (SJA) could win legislation to end it soon!
The death penalty is an unjust, unfair, and irrational punishment that does not deter crime. The death penalty costs tax-payers more than life imprisonment, with majority of these extra costs being incurred during the trial phase. The death penalty is arbitrary in small part due to geography, with smaller counties unable to incur the cost, and in large part due to race. Washington’s death row currently houses 8 individuals, 4 of which are African American males. Read more »
Honor Life: Abolish the Death Penalty
By Victoria Thorpe, co-chair of PJALS Inland Northwest Death Penalty Abolition Group
Honor Life: Abolish the Death Penalty was a very successful event presented to the Spokane community July 21st, 2012. Our special guest speaker was Jason Baldwin, of the West Memphis Three, who echoed our goals beautifully in his own words, “There are those of us who will not give up until the death penalty has ended, until this country is about saving lives and not killing people and throwing them away for making mistakes.” Read more »
Honoring Life: Abolishing the Death Penalty
Learn more about the West Memphis Three and Jason’s case — join us on Monday July 9 at 6:30 at The Magic Lantern Lantern theater at 25 W. Main for the film “Paradise Lost,” the story of the West Memphis Three, from their 1993 murder convictions to 2011 release from prison. This showing is free of charge. All are welcome.
Then, on Saturday, July 21, 4 pm, on the Saranac Rooftop, 25 W. Main:
Jason Baldwin, of the West Memphis Three, will be joining us to share his powerful story of being a wrongfully convicted young man. Join PJALS Inland Northwest Death Penalty Abolition Group (INDPAG) for an evening of music, food, and education as we put a little life into our abolition work. Read more »
Safe & Just Alternatives: Campaign to Abolish the Death Penalty
By Shar Lichty
The death penalty is the issue that stirs up the most emotional responses for me. It is also the issue I have actively worked on the longest. So I am very excited about current statewide efforts to abolish the death penalty in Washington State. This year brings a new and robust campaign called Safe and Just Alternatives. Along with it comes an experienced campaign manager staffed out of the ACLU-WA office. PJALS has recently endorsed the campaign. For more information on the campaign, visit www.sjawa.org.
While this year’s goal remains bringing the bill to a vote in the Senate Judiciary Committee, there is also a longer-term goal: to achieve abolition in 2013. Read more »
Death and Life in the USA
Rusty Nelson on Peace and War
By Rusty Nelson
The death penalty in the US looks a lot like it did in 1986. In fact it looks so similar that, for the 87th time, I’m tempted to throw up my hands and give up any hope that capital punishment will be abolished in my lifetime. But, while the recent execution of Troy Davis in Georgia underscores grim similarities, it also gives us some reasons to work harder than ever.
It was amazing to have Juan Melendez in Spokane right after such a high-profile state killing, and I hope you were able to hear him speak. Unsure about Juan’s dates on Florida’s famous death row, I had to ask him about Willie Jasper Darden, seldom mentioned these days as one of the likely-innocent men tortured and killed to make it safe for states to continue to kill their own citizens.
Willie was killed in 1987. It was painful for Juan to hear the name. He said, “He was a good friend, a mentor to all of us.” We exchanged memories about Willie: his trial in which the prosecutor told the jury he wished he had a shotgun so he could blow that nigger’s head off; the defense witnesses who were never called to testify; his five times on death watch where a window made the electric chair his constant companion; calls for clemency from Pope John Paul II, Jimmy Carter, and Mother Teresa; correspondence from all over the globe, often answered in calligraphy on lined, notebook paper. Willie was our friend and our inspiration for a quarter century of tilting against executions while most civilized countries were shoving lethal punishment as far as possible into the dark past. Read more »
Change doesn’t happen from staying silent
By Alyssa Henderson, intern
For every person, there is a story meant to be told. And for some people, that story has the power to transform a life.
On September 26, I had the honor of meeting a man whose story impacted my life in a very meaningful way. I walked away with a new conviction and a fire burning under me. After hearing Juan Melendez’s speech at Gonzaga School of Law, I finally knew exactly where I stood on the issue of the death penalty: completely and utterly opposed to it.
Juan Melendez, convicted of murder in September of 1983, spent seventeen years, eight months, and one day on Florida’s death row for a crime he did not commit. Read more »