March 2013 Update Newsletter

tl.gif t.gif tr.gif
Oregonians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty

Update Newsletter

Volume IX, No. 4 - March, 2013

Help Us Hire Staff

As this newsletter indicates, we are moving forward toward our goal of placing a repeal measure on the ballot. We are in great need of funds to hire an Executive Director to coordinate an ever expanding list of essential tasks.  Our goal is $40,000 in the next two months. Please consider what you can do to help us achieve this goal, perhaps with a lead donation or a challenge grant. Call us at 503-990-7060, or visit the Donate page of our website,, or mail your check to P.O. Box 361, Portland 97207. We appreciate all you do to make Oregon a death-penalty-free state!

In This Issue...

  • Repeal Bill Submitted to Legislature. First hearing is this Tuesday, Feb 26, 1 p.m., Room 343 of the Capitol.  Please attend and contact your senator and representative.
  • What Do Murder Victim Family Members Really Need?  Aba Gayle, mother of a homicide victim, explained in our last newsletter why the notion of "closure" is a fallacy.  In this article, she discusses the needs of murder victim family members.
  • Death Row Exonerees to Visit Campuses. Juan Melendez and Greg Wilhoit will discuss their stories of wrongful sentencing to death row on college campuses March 6-7.  All events are free and open to the public.
  • Documentary West of Memphis
    , opening in March in Oregon, also tells the story of wrongful convictions for murder.  Discounted tickets are available on our website, and OADP will sponsor discussions after the film on its opening showing in five Oregon cities.
  • Two new Advisory Council members, Valerie Keever and Dave Cook.
  • Frank Thompson of OADP Board urges legislators in Maryland to repeal that state's death penalty.
  • Plethora of Eugene events.  Eugene will be a hotbed of anti-death-penalty events in March.  If you live or work in the South Willamette Valley, please check out these opportunities!

Repeal Bill Submitted to Legislature

Mitch Greenlick 

          Portland Representative Mitch Greenlick (Dist. 33) has submitted a bill calling for the repeal of the death penalty, into the 2013 legislature. Rep. Greenlick stated in a meeting of organizational representatives, including OADP, “It is time to take this issue to the people. It is the right thing to do, and I want to be a part of the effort”. His resolve and commitment to this effort met with praise from OADP.
            The first legislative hearing on House Joint Resolution 1, is scheduled for Feb. 26th at 1PM, in hearing room 343.  OADP and its coalition partners are encouraging all death penalty opponents to attend the hearing and meet with their Representatives and Senators to voice their support of repeal.
            Other sponsors of the Greenlick bill are Representatives Jules Bailey (Dist. 42, southeast Portland),  Phil Barnhart (Dist.11, along the I-5 corridor from Lebanon, down to Pleasant Hill, surrounding Eugene and Springfield), Michael Dembrow (Dist. 45, north of I-84 in the area of PDX airport), Lew Frederick (Dist. 43, northeast Portland), Joe Gallegos (Dist. 30, north of Hillsboro, west to Banks), Paul Holvey Dist.8, west of Eugene and Springfield), Bob Jenson (Dist. 58, Pendleton and La Grande areas) and Alissa Keny-Guyer (Dist. 46, SW Portland). Two senators were among the original signers, Jackie  Dingfelder (Senate Dist. 23, along I-84 and I-205 areas of east Portland) and Elizabeth Steiner-Hayward (Senate Dist. 17, west hills of Portland, Beaverton and north). We appreciate the support of these legislators and need to get many more to sign on to this legislation.
Capitol Building            As supporters of repeal of the death penalty we are now called upon to become active in contacting our legislators. If you do not know your legislator or district, you can easily go on-line to “Find Your Legis-lator” at  We encourage everyone reading this newsletter to get active and contact your legislators. Tell them “you are a constituent, you oppose the death penalty and you vote”. Personal letters are best, emails are also valuable, and phone calls to their offices also count. All mail should go to their office at Oregon State Capitol, 900 State St NE, Salem 97301. If you can make a personal visit, if only to deliver your letter, that is impactful as well. Legislators' e-mail addresses are available at the website above.
            There are fact sheets and talking points available on the web site if you need help in writing your letters and making your phone calls. This is an important time and we need to act immediately. You can watch the website for updates on the progress of HJR 1, as it moves through the legislature.

Back to "In This Issue..."

What do Murder Victim Family Members
Really Need?

Aba Gayle       

  The death penalty is detrimental to murder victim families.  It focuses on the murderer, sometimes making him/her a household name.   It does nothing to help the victim's family heal and traumatizes them over and over, sometimes for years.  So what do the families of murder victims need to help them heal?
          First they need swift justice with a trial and sentence that assures them the perpetrator will not walk the streets again.   They need privacy and calm.  Attention from the media is intrusive and can be hurtful.  Grief counseling is essential.  Many families require financial assistance to get them through days or weeks where it is impossible for them to work and the unexpected expense of travel and a funeral.
          Friends, family and therapists need to know that we need to talk about our loved one over and over.  We need to know it is OK to cry and be angry.  Don’t just ask if there is anything you can do to help, offer a specific service, like grocery shopping or raking the leaves or any of the ordinary daily chores that seem overwhelming when someone you love has been murdered.
          Families of a murder victim often find themselves isolated.  We don’t deal well with death in our culture, especially a violent one.  They find friends and coworkers avoiding them.  Perhaps the most powerful thing you can offer is a simple, “I am so sorry”, and a big strong hug.  Know that there is no right or wrong way to grieve.  There is no time limit for how long it takes to heal. 
          Do not assume that healing means all grieving is over.  Lives have been irrevocably damaged.  There are scars that never go away.   The death penalty just keeps breaking open those scars and causing suffering over and over. The death penalty does not help us heal.  It is merely revenge.  I feel that an execution would dishonor the memory of my beautiful daughter. 

Note: Aba Gayle’s daughter was murdered when she was 19.  The murderer is on death row in San Quentin Prison in California.


Exonerated Death Row Inmates to Visit Oregon University Campuses

 Greg Wilhoit   Juan Melendez     
After serving 18 years on Florida’s death row, Juan Melendez walked out and into a very different world. Unable to read or write English when he went in, now Melendez will address the public, university students, faculty and staff on a tour of Oregon colleges and universities. He will be joined by Greg Wilhoit, who served eight years on Oklahoma’s death row, and was also exonerated as innocent of the crime of which he was falsely accused.       
          The tour is sponsored by Oregonians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty (OADP) and Witness to Innocence, a nation-wide organization of exonerated death row inmates who travel the country to talk about the mistakes and injustices that too frequently happen in the American judicial system when the death penalty is involved.  
          Since 1976, when the Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty, there have been 142 exonerations of innocent people, wrongfully sentenced to death for aggravated murder.
          On each of the university campuses, various organizations will co-sponsor the events. Campus chapters of National Lawyers Guild, Amnesty International, Peace Studies, ACLU and others will participate and help to promote attendance. All of the following events are free and open to the general public:

Lewis & Clark Law School    

Wed. March 6th  6PM

McCarthy Classroom 2, 10015 SW Terwilliger Blvd, Portland 97219

Willamette University   

Thur. March 7th  11:30AM

Cone Chapel, located in Waller Hall, across State St from the Capitol
Oregon State University    Thur. March 7th  3PM

Construction and Engineering Hall, at LaSells Stewart Center, 875 SW 26th St, Corvallis 97330, across 26th from Reser Stadium
Western Oregon University     Thur. March 7th 

Rm 105 of the Health and Wellness Center, on Jackson St, south end of campus.

Back to "In This Issue..."

An examination of a failure of justice:
West of Memphis coming to Oregon theaters

  West of Memphis

is an examination of a failure of justice:
West of Memphis
the conviction of three young men in West Memphis, Arkansas, for murders they did not commit. This documentary film tells the hitherto unknown story behind an extraordinary and desperate fight to bring the truth to light. Told and made by those who lived it, the filmmakers' unprecedented access to the inner workings of the defense allows the film to show the investigation, research and appeals process in a way that has never been seen before.  It reveals shocking and disturbing new information about a case that still haunts the American justice system.
          This important documentary will begin playing at Oregon theaters in March. OADP has made special arrangements for members and supporters to see it. Following the showings listed below, there will be a facilitated discussion about the film and similar mistakes made in Oregon.  

March 1 Portland Cinema 21
March 15 Eugene Bijou Art Theater
March 22 Bend Pilot Butte 6 Cinema
March 22 Corvallis Darkside Theater
March 22 Salem Cinema


          Check the website for details on discounted movie tickets and discussions that will follow the premier showings at each theater. Or call (503) 990-7060 for that information.
          Check with the theaters for show times and to verify start dates.

IMBd Critic's Review

 West of Memphis tells a true story that the world needs to hear. It's a film that I sincerely believe everyone needs to see simply so they can be aware of how cruel the justice system really can be. 

            The story of the Memphis 3 is eye opening, and disturbing. It's terrifying to know how badly the justice system can fail somebody. For nearly two decades Damien Echols, Jason Misskelley and Jason Baldwin sat behind bars for no real reason, while a murderer walked free. The crimes they were charged with were absolutely horrendous, and they were suspects purely because they fit a stereotype. That fact alone is just plain wrong. Facts were ignored, forensics were wrong, and three young men suffered due to the failure and lies of others. Stuff like this shouldn't happen, but yet it does. The worst part about it all is that the three men are still technically guilty. They may be free from imprisonment, but they're not innocent in the eyes of the law.

Back to "In this Issue..."

Two new members join the
OADP Advisory Council


Valerie Keever, of Salem is joining the Advisory Council. Valerie is the Chair of the Rotary Peacebuilders Committee and is on  the Salem Police Review Board. Upon her joining the Advisory Council, she stated,  “I do not feel that the death penalty is our moral right to impose. There is a risk that an innocent person could be executed. And, I do not feel that the death penalty is an effective way to punish someone for a crime, nor is it a deterrent for crimes in general.” 

            Also  Dave Cook, former Director of the Oregon Department of Corrections has joined in this important work. Before he was appointed to his DOC position, in 1995, he was the Benton County Sheriff. He served in the Directors post until 2002. Important to his resume is the fact that Mr. Cook had the distasteful position of being in charge when Oregon carried out the only two executions in the past 50 years.
            In a statement that Dave Cook has submitted with his application to the OADP Advisory Council, he stated… “It is my belief that the death penalty is a failed public policy for three specific reasons. First, few, if any, murderers are deterred by the threat of being prosecuted and sentenced to a penalty of death. Second,  my conversations with both Oregon death row inmates who were executed. I believe in their minds the more severe form of punishment would have been a life of confinement and not the act of execution. Finally: For me this is the most closely held belief  ….   moral and civilized societies do not execute convicted inmates when just punishment alternatives exist.”

            The OADP Advisory Council now counts 89 members, all committed to helping repeal the Oregon death penalty. The main functions of council members is to provide advice, suggestions, networking to find other like-minded people and be our voices in other organizations and groups they belong to. Their work is valuable and much appreciated.

Back to "In This Issue..."

OADP’s Frank Thompson speaks
to the Maryland General Assembly

Frank Thompson
On Feb. 14

th Frank Thompson, OADP board member and former superintendent of the Oregon State Prison, was called to testify at an important death penalty repeal hearing before the Maryland General Assembly. The Maryland legislators are discussing repeal of the death penalty as was called for by Maryland’s Governor, Martin O’Malley. Like Oregon Governor Kitzhaber, O’Malley sees the death penalty as immoral and wasteful of resources that could go to programs that deter violent crime and murder. The Maryland Governor is leading the effort to repeal their death penalty laws.
          Mr. Thompson, representing wardens and prison superintendents from across the country, focused on the ability of corrections professionals to keep the public, prison personnel and other inmates safe from harm. Proponents of the death penalty fear that a convicted murderer will likely kill again in prison. Thompson’s experience and corrections statistics do not support that argument.
          Oregon has 37 people on its death row, another 132 convicted murderers serving sentences of life without parole and over 600 prisoners serving murder sentences with the possibility of parole after 30 years. Oregon Department of Corrections statistics indicate that there have been only 11 murders inside the Oregon prison system in the 27 years that records have been kept. The murder rate on the “outside” is much higher than in prison. “Lifers” are the easiest population in the penitentiary to deal with. "They are resigned to their situation and do not want to lose the few privileges that they have,” according to the 25-year veteran of law enforcement and corrections. Thompson also said, “I was proud to represent Oregon and corrections professionals from throughout America while in Maryland.”


Back to "In This Issue..."


hora of March Events in Eugene...

Eugene will be the center of activity regarding the death penalty in March. Following several February events, including a lecture series on “religion and the death penalty” at the University of Oregon School of Law, a vast number of events will continue throughout the city as well as on the U of O campus. Art, poetry, discussions, opera, readings, films and the 40

th anniversary celebration of Sponsors Inc. will all be a part of a slate of related events.

  • ”Visions from Within”, downtown and in the Eugene Public Library, artistic insights of former prisoners……. exhibit runs throughout March

  • Prisons, Compassion and Peace, Prof. Steven Shankman, presents at the Eugene City Club, March 1st

  • “The Last Supper” art exhibit by OSU art professor Julie Green, at the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art, March 1 – Ap 7

  • Dead Man Walking, the film March 9th, 3PM at the Eugene Public Library
  • Dead Man Walking, the opera, introduction by Eugene Opera principals at the Eugene Public Library 3PM on March 9th
  • Sponsors, Inc. Open House, 338 Hwy 99 North, March 11th, 1-4PM
  • Sponsors, Inc. Gala Dinner and Fundraiser, March 16th at Ford Alumni Center 

  • UNESCO/U of O Conference on Prisons and Peace, March 14-15, U of O School of Law

  • Dead Man Walking, the Opera,  at Hult Center, performed by the Eugene Opera, March 15 and 17

  • Sr. Helen Prejean speaks at the Eugene Public Library at 2PM on March 16th
  • Poetry and Prose, March 19th, 5:30PM at the Eugene Public Library                                                         

Check the following web sites for more information:
Eugene Public Library:

Sponsors, Inc.:

Eugene Opera Company:

UNESCO Center for Intercultural Dialogue/ U of  O: 







Follow Us on Twitter


Follow Us on Google+


Watch OADP's Videos