No one who knows Horace Kelly could claim he is sane, but that is exactly what a jury is being asked to say as this newsletter goes to print.
Horace Kelly is a 39-year-old man who has been on death row for 13 years. He is known to mutters to himself and does not answer questions logically. On his way to court the other day, he told his lawyer that the judge was about to decide whether he could join the Marines. Horace thinks death row is a vocational school - and that as soon as he gets his "certification," he can go home.
On April 15, 45 people attended a spirited public forum at the University of Illinois at Chicago, sponsored by the Campaign to End the Death Penalty and the Aaron Patterson Defense Committee.
Aaron has been on Illinois' death row for twelve years. Beaten and tortured by Chicago police, Aaron refused to sign a confession and maintained his innocence. No physical evidence links Aaron to the murders of an elderly couple for which he was convicted.
"I don t know anybody that deserves to be in here." These words were spoken by a man who sits on death row in Maryland. In a series of Washington, DC area panels, Tyrone X Gilliam - who may be killed in less than 60 days - spoke live via speaker phone to packed university auditoriums about what it is like to live in the shadow of death.
Illinois's Supreme Court spat on the constitutional rights of death-row inmate Willie Enoch in late April, refusing to hear his case. Unfortunately Enoch now has few legal recourses left.
Enoch's case does have compelling constitutional issues, the kind which the Court is "supposed" to hear, but for the court to consent to hear them could have called the whole justice system in Illinois into question.
In New York City, we have been able to get the backing and involvement of a number of churches in our effort to build a defense campaign for Darrell Harris. Because the movement against the death penalty must involve as broad a grouping of people who feel strongly about the issue as possible, the churches and synagogues are an important ally in this fight.
In general, we have won support through the following steps:
The United Nations Commission on Human Rights repeated its call for a global moratorium on executions following an April report which shows that the U.S. uses the death penalty in an arbitrary and racist way.
The author of the report, Bacre Waly Ndiaye, a Senegalese lawyer appointed by the commission to investigate extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions worldwide, wrote that "race, ethnic origin and economic status appear to be key determinants of who will, and who will not, receive a sentence of death" in the U.S.
Now that New York State is moving to push through its first death penalty case in 15 years, it is trying to silence a prominent critic of its efforts. Lawrence Hayes, an active participant in the Campaign to End the Death Penalty from its inception, was imprisoned for a minor parole violation in late April.
Hayes was a Black Panther in the late 1960s. He was framed for murder and sent to death row. Though his sentence was commuted after the Supreme Court suspended the use of the death penalty in the U.S. in 1972, he was still forced to spend over 20 years in prison.
The recent tragic shootings in Jonesboro, Ark., where two young boys murdered several classmates and a teacher, have led some people to call for the death penalty - for an 11 and 13 year old. This is disgusting. And although federal law prohibits the execution of anyone under the age of 16, after the Jonesboro shootings, many politicians and pro-death penalty advocates are pushing for change.
Texas Rep. Jim Pitts has proposed a bill that would allow Texas to impose the death penalty on kids as young as 11. As far as he is concerned, the age could even be set lower.
Hello, my name is John. I am sitting here in my cell on death row in Mansfield, Ohio. You have all heard what the media and the politicians have to say about crime and the death penalty. Maybe I can provide some balance to that.
There is the sense that people on death row are animals that should be kept in a cage and executed as soon as it can be arranged. I have even heard people advocate an electric chair in the courtroom to be used as soon as the verdict is rendered - never mind that the system makes mistakes.
"Mr. Gilliam is now entering a very critical and final phase of federal review. The Supreme Court is now reviewing his case, and an adverse determination from the U.S. Supreme Court would substantially increase the likelihood of Mr. Gilliam's execution this summer.