California Activists Hold "Live from Death Row" Forum

By: Lisa May Norton

The Campaign to End the Death Penalty's Bay Area chapters hosted a "Live From Death Row" event as a featured workshop at the Mumia Conference held in San Francisco on April 10.

The conference was a big success, drawing more than 1,200 people from all over the western U.S. More than 160 people attended the "Live From Death Row" workshop, where Kenny Collins and John Booth, two death-row inmates from Maryland, spoke beautifully and candidly about their experiences.

Audience members were invited to ask questions, and Kenny and John's answers were fed through a speakerphone so everyone could hear. Among the panelists who spoke after Kenny and John were Donna Larsen, the mother of a death-row inmate; Jodi Krammer, a community advocate for Kevin Cooper, a death-row inmate at California's San Quentin death row; Derrell Myers, whose son was the victim of a drive-by shooting; and Sonya Michelin, a member of the CEDP at San Francisco State University. Many attendees were shocked by the similarities of the issues raised - racism, police brutality, prosecutorial misconduct - with Mumia's case.

In particular, Derrell gave an emotional plea for young people in the audience to carry on the legacy of his son, JoJo White, a strong voice of opposition against the death penalty before he was killed. And people listened. Several high school and college students were inspired to try to organize their own "Live From Death Row" forums and presentations on Mumia.

The CEDP chapter at SFSU is planning another "Live From Death Row" event addressing the case of Manny Babbitt, whose execution is set for May 2. Manny is a Vietnam War veteran and was suffering a post-traumatic flashback when he attacked an elderly woman who later suffered a heart attack and died. He was on drugs on the night of the murder. And his mentally disturbed state was shown by the fact that he practiced what U.S. soldiers in Vietnam called "souveniring," taking items from the home of his victim.

The state of California is trying to speed up the machinery of death. We need anyone interested in fighting injustice and barbarity to join us in the struggle against it.