Like the Illinois moratorium on executions declared by former Illinois Gov. George Ryan three years ago, his landmark decision -- to grant four pardons and commute the sentences of all Illinois death row prisoners -- sent shock waves across the country. For abolitionists, this decision represented an enormous blow to the unjust capital punishment system.
To take advantage of this climate, the Campaign is organizing a national speaking tour -- with pardoned Illinois death row prisoners Madison Hobley and Leroy Orange -- calling for an end to the death penalty.
Despite hours of torture by the police, you never confessed to the crime. Did you think that you could be convicted of a crime you did not commit, and what are your thoughts on the criminal justice system?
No, I never thought that I could ever be convicted for a crime I did not commit. I thought the truth would come out during trial. Through my terrible experience I of course found out that during trial everything but the truth would come out. For that reason, I feel the criminal justice system is fixed to convict from the start no matter what the truth may be.
New injustices exposed in the "belly of the beast"
By: Lily Hughes
Texas is not immune to the problems that plague the death penalty system nationwide. Nor has the state been left unaffected by the national debate over the use of capital punishment. However, looking at the pace of executions carried out in Texas, some may find it hard to believe that progress is being made.
In late March, the Illinois House Judiciary committee approved House Bill 213 that would abolish the death penalty in Illinois. The legislation, sponsored by state Rep. Art Turner, comes in the wake of a tremendously successful campaign to pressure Gov. Ryan to issue blanket clemency for over 160 death row inmates.
On Martin Luther King Day, the Campaign organized a press conference, where Turner introduced the bill. "This is the first time abolition legislation is being considered in Illinois in 27 years," Turner said.
By a margin of only one vote, a moratorium bill in Maryland's General Assembly went down to defeat. The state Senate voted 24-23 against a bill that would have halted executions until further study of Maryland's death penalty.
The vote came under the threat of veto by Gov. Robert Ehrlich, who lifted a moratorium in Maryland immediately upon taking office. Some senators, including Democratic Senate President Mike Miller, felt Ehrlich's plans to veto helped justify their vote against the moratorium.
Kevin Wiggins, a Maryland death row prisoner, had his claim of ineffectiveness of counsel heard by the U.S. Supreme Court on March 24. The court heard about how Wiggin's lawyer failed to adequately defend him during the sentencing phase of his original trial. The court is in the process of making a decision.
A victory for the Death Row 10: The Struggle Continues
By: Joan Parkin and Alice Kim
This page has been reserved in recent issues for profiles of the cases of The Death Row 10 -- a group of men who were beaten and tortured by former Chicago Police Commander Jon Burge and his detectives and sent to death row in Illinois.
The New Abolitionist's regular feature highlighting each member of the Death Row 10 will return in our next issue.
I was sad to learn of the death of Dennis Williams at the age of 47. Sad and angry -- that Dennis had to die so young and that he didn't get to enjoy very much of his life.
For 18 years, Dennis "lived" on Illinois death row, sent there for a crime he did not commit. He lived to see his friends executed. He lived with racist KKK guards who shackled his wrists every time he left his cell, which wasn't very often. Dennis was locked up for 23 hours a day for 18 years. The pain and stress of this time no doubt contributed to his early death.
Fifty years since their execution as "atomic spies"
By: Julien Ball
June 19 will mark the 50th anniversary of the execution of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, a couple who supposedly sold atomic secrets to the former Soviet Union. With their trial coming at the height of the Cold War hysteria, they are the only two people ever executed in the U.S. for alleged spying on behalf of the Soviet Union.
Fighting for a moratorium in California By Cameron Sturdevant
BERKELEY, CALIF. -- The Berkeley chapter recently drew about 50 people to a public forum on abolishing the death penalty. Shujaa Graham, an exonerated California death row prisoner, laid the groundwork for a wide-ranging discussion of the death penalty where audience members raised questions about the role of racism in capital sentencing and why it is important for activists to stand up to the criminal injustice system.
Earlier this year, for the first time in 27 years, a bill to abolish the death penalty made it out of committee in the Illinois House and was headed to the floor for a debate. But there wasn't enough support in the full House to win passage, so the legislation will be reintroduced next year.
Mike Gray is an author and documentary filmmaker, whose movies include American Revolution II and The Murder of Fred Hampton. He has written The Death Game: Capital Punishment and the Luck of the Draw, a new book about the injustices of the death penalty system. Gray talked to Marlene Martin about his new book.
You say in the book that some of these prosecutors are literally getting away with murder in our name. Could you explain what you mean by that?
More death -- that's what Attorney General John Ashcroft is determined to get. Earlier this year, Louis Jones, a Gulf War veteran who suffered from Gulf War Syndrome, became the third person to be executed under Ashcroft's watch. Before Bush and Ashcroft, it had been 38 years since a federal death row prisoner had been put to death.
This commentary was written by Mumia Abu-Jamal, the Pennsylvania death row political prisoner who was unjustly sent to death row for the murder of a Philadelphia police officer. Here, we print excerpts.
By the time this is read, the flames of Baghdad may be cold; the bombing may have faded into memory.