Highlights of the struggle

California

By: Crystal Bybee

As the summer winds down in California, the CEDP chapters are gearing up for a Fall of activism. With a defacto moratorium in place, we have an overall plan to organize around the lethal injection issue. We will broaden the issue into a fight about why the death penalty is cruel and unusual punishment no matter how executions are carried out, and we’ll make connections to other issues like racism and wrongful convictions.

Our chapter work is, as always, at the heart of everything we do. The Berkeley and St. Mary’s of Moraga student chapters are ready to start up again by reaching out to new students when schools are back in session. In Los Angeles, CEDP activists are forming a group at University of Southern California, with an eye on working with the social work department. We are excited to be re-launching our Oakland chapter, a community chapter that will also work on organizing at a local community college. In Oakland and San Francisco Bay View, also a community chapter, CEDP members have received a great response tabling and petitioning over the summer. All chapters are working on lining up stops for the Eyewitness to an Execution tour.

We’re very excited that the 9th circuit court is scheduled to hear oral arguments in Kevin Cooper’s case in November. In conjunction with Kevin, we’ll come up with plans to build support around this very important court date. For more information about Kevin’s case or to find out how you can help, e-mail oaklandcedp@yahoo.com.

The coming months will be critical for us in making our voice heard on the lethal injection issue We have a new petition that we are circulating, clearly stating that all executions are cruel and unusual and calling for a legislative moratorium. A hearing on the issue of lethal injections — which was postponed last spring — has been rescheduled for September. We are attending the hearing, bringing our allies, and holding a press conference to make our position clear and put the pressure on! The state is prepared to argue that they have fixed the errors in their execution protocol, but we know that everything about the death penalty is cruel and unusual.

It is our job to educate people, and organize around this issue and connect it with other problems evident in the death penalty system. On this note, the California Commission on the Fair Administration of Justice is having its next hearing on the issue of jailhouse snitches. We know that so many wrongful convictions happen because of snitches and that unreliable snitch testimony is a common thread in many cases. We want to be there, especially to bring family members to testify before the commission. The Commission must hear from the real experts – the family members, the prisoners themselves, the people most affected by the death penalty. Moreover, we cannot limit our discussion just to each individual problem, as the Commission is organized, but call attention to the overall problems. This kind of pressure is what will result in substantial recommendations, including a moratorium on executions, not just piecemeal reforms.