February 2002 Issue 23

Articles in this Issue:

The Death Penalty Is Dead Wrong


By: Marlene Martin

The 99th reason to get rid of the death penalty was recently released and walked off Florida’s death row on January 3.

Juan Roberto Melendez spent nearly 18 years on death row for a crime he didn’t commit. This year, he joined the nearly 100 death row prisoners nationwide who have been found innocent and released. When he was finally exonerated -- thanks to the chance discovery of a crucial piece of evidence by a lawyer who was cleaning his office -- he became the 22nd death row prisoner released in Florida, the state that leads the country in exonerations.


Activists Take On Justice Scalia


Demonstration at U.S. Supreme Court
By: Julien Ball

Within two weeks, Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia traveled halfway across the country to speak about religion and the death penalty at the University of Chicago on January 25 and at Georgetown University on February 4.

At the University of Chicago forum, Scalia stated that the "only choice for the judge who believes the death penalty is immoral is resignation."

Scalia said that the constitutionality of the death penalty was "not a soul-wrenching question" and argued that the death penalty did not violate the 8th Amendment.


Andrea Yates Needs Treatment, Not A Death Sentence


Andrea Yates
By: Jeannine Scott

Andrea Yates drowned her five children in the bathtub on June 20, 2001. We know that she committed this crime. We also know that she is severely mentally ill.

Yet, the state of Texas is seeking the death penalty for Andrea -- a woman who suffered from postpartum psychotic depression, attempted to commit suicide at least twice, and believed that she should die for failing her children.


Judge Overturns Death Sentence For Mumia

The First Admission Of The Many Flaws In This Case


By: Lucy Herschel

On December 18, Federal Judge William Yohn threw out the death sentence of Pennsylvania political prisoner Mumia Abu-Jamal.

At the same time, Yohn upheld Mumia’s bogus conviction for the 1981 shooting of Philadelphia police officer Daniel Faulkner -- despite all the evidence of inadequate counsel, incomplete and misleading forensic evidence, witness tampering by police, and a racially biased jury selection and trial.


Kevin Cooper Awaits DNA Test Results

By: Crystal Bybee

Kevin Cooper is an innocent man sitting on the largest death row in the country, where he waits for the results of the DNA tests that could prove his innocence.

Kevin is the first death row inmate to be granted postconviction DNA testing since California Gov. Gray Davis signed a bill allowing DNA testing into law in January 2001. Though the prosecution insisted that the testing be done in an out-of-court settlement to avoid setting a legal precedent, Kevin’s case will make headlines.


Rally For Abolition

On The Second Anniversary Of The Illinois Moratorium: The Illinois Death Penalty Is Too Flawed To Fix


Jesse Jackson speaks out
By: Noreen McNulty

It’s Time To End The Death Penalty

The death penalty is too flawed to fix. That’s why the Chicago Campaign to End the Death Penalty has launched a signature ad to be printed in several Illinois newspapers.


A Year In Review


By: Alice Kim

Executions Decline
Executions in the U.S. have declined dramatically in the last two years. In 2001, 66 people were put to death. In 2000, 85 people were put to death. And in 1998, 93 people were put to death. Texas cut executions by more than half, from 40 in 2000 to 17 in 2001.

In opposition to this trend, the federal government resumed federal executions in 2001, executing Timothy McVeigh and Juan Raul Garza within a week in June. The state of New Mexico brought back the death penalty. And executions in Oklahoma increased to a new high of 18.


Highlights Of The Struggle

Reports From Campaign Chapters Around The Country


Louva Bell, mother of Death Row 10 member Ronnie Kitchen, speaks out

ATLANTA
by Cari Courtenay-Quirk
Re-energized by the Campaign’s national convention in November 2001, the Atlanta chapter began the new year with a whirlwind of activity.

During the first week of the Georgia General Assembly’s new legislative session, our chapter organized a "Welcome Back Party" press conference at the capitol. We released 123 helium balloons -- each balloon had the name of a current death row prisoner written on it.


Meet The Death Row 10: Aaron Patterson Keeps Fighting

"The State Wants To Let Him Die"

By: Noreen McNulty

The Death Row 10 are prisoners on Illinois death row who were beaten and tortured by former Chicago Police Commander Jon Burge and his detectives. In 1993, Burge was forced into taking early retirement, but he and his cronies were never charged. Burge now spends his time fishing on his boat in Florida!

In the summer of 1998, the Death Row 10 decided to become a group and asked the Campaign to End the Death Penalty to help them organize.


Mother Of Steven Oken Speaks Out

"We’ve been to hell and back"


Steven Oken with his family

Davida Oken is the mother of Steven Oken, a Maryland death row prisoner who had an execution date set for early March, but won a stay. She talked to John Coursey about her fight for her son’s life.

What is it like having a son on death row?


We Want A Moratorium

On The Offensive Against Maryland’s Death Penalty


By: Anne Thompson and Michael Stark

What a difference a week can make!

Maryland abolitionists were bracing for a tough fight this winter with the execution of Steven Oken scheduled for March 4. Steven’s case -- which is unusual because both he and the victims he is accused of killing are white -- was being used by prosecutors as a way of restarting executions in a state that has been repeatedly singled out as having one of the most racist death penalties in the country.


POINT/COUNTERPOINT: Can The Death Penalty Be Fixed?

We Can’t Stay Out Of The Reform Discussion


Lawrence Marshall
By: Lawrence Marshall

Two years after Illinois Gov. George Ryan declared a moratorium on executions, a commission appointed by Ryan is preparing to issue recommendations on what to do about the death penalty system.

Among opponents of capital punishment, a debate is growing over whether to propose measures to fix the system, as the anti-death penalty Illinois Death Penalty Education Project did in a recent report, or to insist on abolition, as the Campaign has.


POINT/COUNTERPOINT: Can The Death Penalty Be Fixed?

We Shouldn’t Tinker With A Broken System


By: Marlene Martin

Two years after Illinois Gov. George Ryan declared a moratorium on executions, a commission appointed by Ryan is preparing to issue recommendations on what to do about the death penalty system.

Among opponents of capital punishment, a debate is growing over whether to propose measures to fix the system, as the anti-death penalty Illinois Death Penalty Education Project did in a recent report, or to insist on abolition, as the Campaign has.


Don’t Just Cry For Us


I was forced the other day to reflect further on the dignity of life.

The day I was sentenced to death was the day that the public said there wasn’t anything about me worth saving. Yet there was still life within me, which means there is still the ability for change. We must start addressing the real issues. Yes, crimes against the public must stop.

Yet I would ask the question: When we give up on the ability for someone to change, are we really saying humanity is doomed?


I Couldn’t Believe The Conditions

I just wanted to get a letter to my friends at the New Abolitionist and the Campaign to End the Death Penalty to say "Happy New Year" and to update everyone on the death row struggle that Angel and I are going through.


Poet Laureate Of The Condemned

Shortly after midnight on Tuesday, January 29, 2002, the state of California put Stephen Wayne Anderson to death. He was the 10th person to be executed in the state of California since the reinstitution of the death penalty. Mr. Anderson was executed despite the wishes of the victims’ families that his sentence be commuted to life and despite the pleas of three trial jurors who no longer felt that the sentence of death was justified.


Walls That Are Designed To Break Your Spirit

Dear brothers and sisters,

I thank you, first and foremost, for your participation and prayers, and also for the Christmas card and holiday wishes. It is truly a blessing to have a collective of well-wishers, such as yourselves, in these dark and trying times.

Who would’ve ever thought of the strength one can receive from the simplest gesture?

These walls are designed to break the human spirit. Every time you take it upon yourselves to write a note of greetings and salutation, you uplift a spirit and bring a crack of sunshine into the day and the life of an inmate.