Highlights Of The Struggle

Reports From Campaign Chapters Around The Country

DENTON, TEXAS
By Laura Lamb

Students at The University of North Texas in Denton have proudly joined the nationwide struggle against the death penalty.

Last fall, we began organizing on campus in helping to end the execution of Reginald Blanton. Around the same time, about 30 people from Denton marched in the Tenth Annual March Against the Death Penalty in Austin.

After the event, we went back home and continued to fight for Reginald.  We fought until the very last hour.  While tabling, well over 40 people on campus called in to the governor’s office demanding the stopping of the execution.

Hundreds of leaflets were handed out with the governor’s information and the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles.  The events of that day were tragic, as Reginald was executed. But it was also a reminder that the struggle must continue.

And it did just that here in Denton.  In February 2010, Denton received a visit from Texas Gov. Rick Perry at a coffee shop. For us, this was a chance to let him know we exist, and we aren’t backing down. Early on a Friday morning, a dozen of us dispersed throughout the coffee shop and waited for his arrival. When Perry walked in we began chanting. In the  back, a banner was hoisted, declaring, “Those without the capital get the punishment.”

Almost immediately, we were manhandled out of the shop. It was during our removal that someone attempted to throw a shoe, yelling at the  governor, “Take this you dog!”

We continued the demonstration on the sidewalk of the coffee shop. People began to leave the coffee shop, and what we thought was going to be a harsh exchange of words turned out to be people thanking us for coming out. People next door came out and cheered us on. Perry eventually left out the back door.

We then got interviewed by the local newspaper. This allowed us to show the community that opposition does exist for the death penalty. Word has definitely been spreading quickly about what we are doing in this small town. This run-in with Perry was a success, and will not be our last.

In more recent news, our new chapter has had a lot going on. Other than tossing shoes at the governor, we have been showing films like State vs. Reed, about the case of Texas death row prisoner Rodney Reed. We recently had a forum on the death penalty and why we oppose it.

And this chapter is proud to announce we will be hosting a stop of our national speaking tour, “Lynching Then, Lynching Now.” Speakers are Alan Bean, Rick Halperin, and Roderick Reed. We will also have a live call-in from California death row prisoner, Kevin Cooper.  After this, it will be time to start looking into summer prospects, and following that we will prepare for the eleventh annual march in Austin.

These have been exciting times for those seeking justice, and they will not, without a doubt, cease to be until our goal is achieved. Meetings are held at the University of North Texas, Wooten Hall, Room 321. For more information, contact Laura at anti.deathpenalty@yahoo.com or 956-432-7991.

DELAWARE
By Sandra Jones

The Delaware CEDP chapter started off the New Year with plans to host two tour stops for the “Lynching Then, Lynching Now” national speaking tour, one in Delaware and another in southern New Jersey at Rowan University.

We faced an extremely rough winter, however, and one of the blizzards that dumped more than a foot of snow in our area interfered with our plans to host a tour stop in Delaware. We continued with our plans to host the stop planned for February 26 at Rowan University, while holding our breath about the turnout for the event. The university had been closed due to inclement weather for two days just prior to our tour stop, yet we were very pleased that approximately 50 people still came out in the snow for our event.

There were three people on the panel for our “Lynching Then, Lynching Now” event, including Dr. William Carrigan, Dr. Margaret Vandiver and former New York death row prisoner Lawrence Hayes. 

Carrigan, a history professor at Rowan University and author of The Makings of a Lynching Culture: Violence and Vigilantism in Central Texas, 1836-1916, kicked off the event with an historical overview of the racial politics of lynchings.

Margaret Vandiver, an anti-death penalty activist, criminal justice professor at the University of Memphis and author of Lethal Punishment: Lynchings and Legal Executions in the South, followed with her presentation of data that reveals the connections between lynchings and executions throughout the Southern states.

Lawrence Hayes closed the panel presentations with a moving account of his personal story, which detailed the numerous injustices surrounding his case.

The reception of the audience was remarkable, as the question-and-answer period that followed extended nearly an hour beyond the time scheduled for the event to close.

The comments of several people in attendance indicated that they were as much taken aback by the acquiescence of the numerous Southerners who stood by during the era of lynchings as they were by the actual lynchings themselves. They were responsive to efforts made by the panel to draw parallels between the onlookers of lynchings and the bystander public that fails to speak out against executions.

Our chapter is seeking to build our membership this year as we face the real danger of an execution by the end of the year. In 2006, Delaware had joined the states that enacted a moratorium on the death penalty when the Kentucky case that challenged the constitutionality of lethal injection went to the U.S. Supreme Court. This past January Delaware’s 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals responded to the challenge to our death penalty  protocols by upholding a lower court ruling in favor of Delaware’s new death penalty procedures, clearing the way for executions to resume.

Robert Gattis, the son of our CEDP member Barbara Lewis, has been named in several news articles as the first in line for a scheduled execution. At what was expected to be a final hearing on Robert’s behalf, held on April 9, his attorneys managed to secure another 90 days as they reexamine the avenues that remain for an appeal.

Our chapter is currently exploring ways to publicize the urgency of Robert’s case in the best way possible given the sensitive nature of his legal status. We are also presently planning a summer barbeque for the family and friends of Delaware’s death row prisoners. We aim to greatly increase the number of those on our chapter’s listserv, recruit sustainers, and at least double our membership by the end of the year.

MESSAGE FROM MUMIA

Mumia Abu Jamal sent this message to the “Lynching Then, Lynching Now, The Roots of Racism and the Death Penalty in America,” national speaking tour about the historic link between the death penalty and lynching in the United States.  Mumia has been locked up for over 25 years. He turned 56 on April 24th.

From Trees to Needles
Written 3/10/10, MAJ © ’10

Friends, Brothers, Sisters: Ona Move!

The anti-death penalty movement is an offshoot of the global human rights movement, as expressed by private associations, and later, by a variety of governments.  It is noteworthy, then, for us to cite the state abolition of the death penalty in Kenya, in 2009.

We should also note the fact that the rate of juries meting out death sentences has fallen to its lowest in 30 years.  And finally, several months ago, the group that was perhaps most instrumental in fashioning the present death penalty, The American Law Institute, announced it would no longer participate in formulating laws governing the death penalty.

The ALI, a distinguished group of 4,000 judges, law professors, and lawyers, were the people who initially proposed the aggravating and mitigating circumstances that the U.S. Supreme Court adopted in 1976 when it reinstated the death penalty.

And yet, despite this, the death penalty is alive and well in America. Why?  It makes no economic sense, but politicians are wedded to it.  That’s  because at its core, the death penalty derives from, and thus replaces, lynch law. Is it mere coincidence that the states, which are most active in  capital punishment, are Southern ones? This is also generally true when we examine the establishment and expansion of the American prison system. After the Civil War, when slavery was abolished by law, states in the former confederacy established the convict lease system, where prisoners worked, without pay, for the state. One man, observing the  dreadful loss of life and health for such people, called it “worse than slavery.”

In essence, these states made a private institution a public one—and both Black men and women became “slaves of the state.”  The U.S. death penalty system performs a similar function. It socialized, or made public, that which had been heretofore the province of individuals – lynchings.

Mumia Abu Jamal
#Am-8335
175 Progress Drive
Waynesburg, PA 15370