Keeping it Real

Live from death row

By: pardoned Illinois death row prisoner Stanley Howard

One of the most powerful weapons we have at our disposal in the fight to end the death penalty is the "Live from Death Row" national speaking tour, hosted by the Campaign to End the Death Penalty (CEDP).

The tour features exonerated and current death row prisoners speaking live via speakerphone to audiences around the country. I've had the privilege of participating in many of these events over the years--while facing execution, and after I was exonerated.

I love being able to call in to tell people what happened to me--how I was tortured by Chicago police into signing a false confession; my life on death row; and my thoughts on the criminal justice system and the death penalty.

But most of all, I enjoy interacting with the audience and answering their insightful questions.

The main questions I'm asked are concerning what is it like facing death for a crime I did not commit, and how did I survive being isolated in a small cell for 22 to 23 hours a day for 16 years.

Most people are totally unaware of the blatant injustices surrounding the death penalty, and some attend these events not knowing the shocking reality of the high probability of an innocent person being executed.

I try my best to clearly convey to the audience, with my deep and raspy voice, that innocent truly means innocent. It means it can happen to anyone.

I try to get them to understand that if this corrupt and unjust system was able to wrongfully convict and sentence me to death, along with over 120 other exonerated death row prisoners nationwide, it could easily be one of them or one of their loved ones tomorrow.

It is my belief that if we can get people in this country to believe that one of their loved ones could be wrongfully executed, they would no longer support capital punishment.

With death row prisoners being labeled as monsters and animals, these events put a human touch back in the process, which in turn puts the death penalty back into its proper perspective. And these events also help to dispel the myth that those who are sentenced to death are the so-called "worst of worst."

Education is the key to exposing the truths about the death penalty, and this innovative method of educating the public is something we must continue to utilize.

Evidence shows that we're on the right track to abolishing the death penalty in this country, and there's no doubt that these events are going to help speed up its inevitable demise. Kudos to all the CEDP members who make these live events possible, and thanks to Brother Mumia Abu Jamal for being the inspiration behind the "Live from Death Rows." I love you all.

You can contact Stanley by writing to: Stanley Howard #N71620, 2600 N. Brinton Ave., Dixon, IL 61021