Building a movement to end the death penalty

By Shar Lichty

Abolishing the death penalty is the issue that brought me into social justice work and ultimately working at PJALS. For this and many other reasons it is an issue I am very passionate about and excited to have it as one of our top three priorities through 2015.

With the Governor’s moratorium and increased support for abolition nationally, including from conservatives, we are at the gateway to making history through legislative repeal of the death penalty in Washington State.

Our Inland NW Death Penalty Abolition Group works toward abolition of the death penalty in Washington State through education and outreach, legislative action, rapid response to litigation and imminent executions and collaboration with other organizations. We recently combined our education, outreach, and legislative work with two performances of The Exonerated at Gonzaga University on Nov 21 & 22. The Exonerate is a dramatic reading of the actual words of six wrongfully condemned persons who emerged from death row to reclaim their lives. We were fortunate to have two professional local directors and a cast of local actors dedicate their time and talents to bring this powerful production to Spokane.

I was particularly excited to use the arts as a vehicle for increased public awareness and dialogue on the issue and it proved to be a powerful experience for all who attended!

We filled the theatre both nights providing 400 folks with a new perspective on the issue and collecting hundreds of postcards that will be delivered to legislators during the upcoming legislative session. Those whom I spoke with following the performances were deeply affected by the stories portrayed and thanked us for bringing this play to Spokane. I am honored to have played a role in this production and cannot thank the cast, crew, co-sponsors, volunteers, and attendees enough for their contributions to its success. We are building a movement in Eastern Washington to end the death penalty one event, one conversation, one postcard at a time.

To quote MLK, “The arc of the moral universe is long but it bends toward justice.” The arc is bending toward justice through repeal of the death penalty in Washington State.

As we move forward we want to speak to your faith communities, other organizations and groups, and are planning to host a national speaker from Murder Victims Families for Reconciliation. We will also be organizing a delegation to Olympia to participate in Lobby Day and help deliver thousands of postcards to legislators calling for the repeal of the death penalty. If you would like to join us in our efforts please contact me at [email protected] to find out how you can make a difference as we build our movement together.

Big thanks to our wonderful Exonerated volunteers: Mark Hamlin, Elaine and Ray Thorne, Aaron Crockett, Traci Hauser, Cly Evans, Janine Warrington, Maurina Ladich, Christy Anderson-Crosen, Candice Cullitan, Kevin Carroll, Jeff King, Christina Kamkosi, Alysha Chandra, Deb Svobda, Megan Dicken, Erin Flahive, Tim Connor

Deep appreciation for the Exonerated cast and crew: Mary Alberts, Andrew Biviano, Steven Blount, Wes Dietrick, Denise Hairston, Jeff Mooring, Rusty Nelson, Michael Reid, Jim Sheehan, A’dell Whitehead, Jack Delehanty, Bryan Harnetieaux, and Nancy Nelson

Produced by PJALS Inland NW Death Penalty Abolition Group with support from: Community Building Foundation, Mary Alberts, Janet Fowler & Tom Schmidt, Myrta & Maurina Ladich, Unitarian Universalist Church of Spokane, ACLU-WA, Center for Justice, Mary Pat Treuthart, Dennis Medina, Yak Research, Pax Christi, KYRS, Washington Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty, Criminal Law Society-GU Law School, Spokane NAACP, Veterans for Peace-Spokane Chapter, Student Awareness League of SCC, and EWU School of Social Work.

And huge thanks to producers Shar Lichty and Nancy Nelson for their wonderful work!