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We are Tipping into Repeal
We are Tipping into Repeal
by Shar Lichty
While I was working on the freedom to marry campaign I watched the nation reach a tipping point and a flood of states passing legislation following Washington successfully defending it at the ballot. I have been working on the death penalty for nearly 9 years and am witnessing the same thing occurring at a national level –we are tipping into repeal!
Recent National Victories include increased discussion and bi-partisan support for repeal, the Supreme Court of the US (SCOTUS) considering the constitutionality of lethal injection, Attorney General Eric Holder calling for a national moratorium pending the SCOTUS ruling, Montana passing a bipartisan bill for repeal out of committee, 9 of 15 and 9 of 12 scheduled executions for Jan. and Feb. respectively have been halted, Pennsylvania has issued a moratorium, and Florida has halted all executions pending the SCOTUS ruling.
PJALS played a key role in bringing forth the voices of Murder Victims’ Families for Reconciliation by hosting Jason Ortiz and Pat McCoy for a Spokane event and connecting them with folks in Western Washington who did the same. They spent roughly a week in Washington working with the state campaign as well to develop a Voices booklet highlighting victims’ families from Washington. This booklet was delivered to legislators and is available electronically here. Cly Evans and I went to Olympia a day early and joined with Jason and Pat for meetings with legislators prior to Lobby Day. These meetings for positive and helped advance the voice of victims’ families. Our delegation of 6 arrived later that day and we all gathered for fantastic food and conversation.
Lobby Day was a great success this year and we all left feeling hopeful. “What a difference a year makes.” “I can’t believe how different our meetings were this year.” “Even legislators who aren’t with us are listening and engaging in respectful conversations this year.” These are a few of the statements I heard more than once while I was in Olympia lobbying for legislative repeal of the death penalty.
PJALS had a delegation of 6 folks from the 3rd, 6th, and 4th legislative districts who traveled to Olympia to join with others across the state for Death Penalty Lobby Day last week. There were 61 individuals representing 18 districts participating in 26 meetings with law makers for a busy and upbeat day of lobbying. Postcards were delivered to all legislators in districts that had them. PJALS played a key role in gathering postcards in the 3rd, 6th, 4th, 7th, and 9th–we reached critical mass in some of the more conservative districts and this was the first time any were received from the 7th. Thank you to all of you who helped collect postcards and/or signed one–they really do make a difference!
We have made significant advances on the issue here in Washington with true bi-partisan support, increased conversations, and a hearing in the House Judiciary Committee before the bill cutoff date. I listened to a Republican co-sponsor of the House bill speak on the issue with the same passion I speak with and realized we are almost there. Because this is a budget year it is unlikely we will win this year but our continuation to build support will put us in a very good spot for the possibility of repeal in 2016!
Murder Victims’ Families for Reconciliation member calls for end to death penalty
Murder Victims’ Families for Reconciliation member calls for end to death penalty
by Jamie McDaniel
The night when PJALS hosted Murder Victims’ Families for Reconciliation member Pat McCoy proved to be an evening of powerful words which instilled the will to fight for the abolition of the death penalty in the community.
Pat McCoy invited us into his past to be able to see how he, as the loved one of someone who has been murdered, really feels about use of capital punishment on their perpetrators. His story having come out of Spokane made his message even more powerful because it hit literally so close to home. Pat’s sister was murdered in Spokane in 1974, a time when the death penalty was not legal in Washington.
Pat expresses that there is not a single member of his family that wishes the revenge, which the law thinks we all desire, was sought. He said, “We were satisfied that he was convicted and confined.” He expressed to us the importance of closure for the family, which is not done when a murder is put to death, but when the case itself is over so that the family can behind the healing process. With the help of Jason Ortiz, anot
her member of Murder Victim’s Families’ for Reconciliation, the audience was taught about the importance of what the death penalty really means in our society; both fiscally and personally.
PJALS Priorities for Action 2014-2015
As a collective of activists, PJALS staff, steering committee members, and committee chairs addressed the difficult task of prioritizing efforts when there are seemingly endless injustices being carried out through direct acts and perpetuated through acquiescence and silence. Prioritizing our work aids us in focusing our “hands, heart, and head” efforts for a period of time for the best possible outcomes, leaving room for rapid response to an ever changing landscape.
As the Steering Committee Chairperson, I’m excited to share with you the three PJALS Priorities for Action 2014-2015. With your support through membership, volunteering, showing up, and lending your voice, PJALS can continue the movement for peace and justice. Read more »
Another Look at the Cycle of Violence
I believe you know that support for capital punishment in this country: is diminishing; was only a foot deep when it was a mile wide; is based upon fear and ignorance rather than common sense or justice, and; is always weakened when executions are honestly examined as factors in the cycle of violence in our communities and institutions.
You should also know that Gov. Inslee’s moratorium on executions is little comfort to the men on our death row in Walla Walla, who believe they are likely to be killed when a new governor takes office. Believing this is a splendid time to ban the death penalty and that public enlightenment is the best way forward, the Inland Northwest Death Penalty Abolition Group wants Spokane to see its new production of The Exonerated on November 21 or 22, at Gonzaga University. The Center for Justice produced two performances of The Exonerated, five years ago at the Civic Theatre, and is co-sponsoring this show, which will, again, be directed by Bryan Harniteaux, Spokane’s attorney/playwright. Read more »
We need you!
PJALS Inland NW Death Penalty Abolition Group (INDPAG) is busy gearing up for the legislative session and a push for legislative repeal of the death penalty. In addition to civic engagement, we seek to increase member engagement, public awareness, and participation from the local faith communities. We need you to help advance our work! Here are a few ways you can get involved and make a difference:
Attend a house gathering in your legislative district. In Sept. we have wonderful PJALS members in the 3rd, 4th, and 6th legislatives districts who are hosting gatherings in their homes. These gatherings will provide a great opportunity to meet other folks passionate about this work, learn more about our work and ways to make a difference. Will you join us at one of these lovely gatherings?
Invite our faith panel to speak to your congregation. We want to build upon and strengthen our relationship with the progressive faith community in Spokane while building capacity in Eastern Washington for our work to repeal the death penalty. Are you a member or pastor of a church that would like to host our panel for a discussion on the issue?
Be a part of planning our work. INDPAG meets on the 2nd and 4th Wed. of each month at 5:30pm in the Community Bldg. 35 W. Main. Do you have ideas on how to advance our work, an interest in planning, or a desire to get more involved?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, please contact Shar at email@example.com or 509-838-7870.
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 »