March 2019 Update Newsletter

OADP Update Newsletter

In this issue...

Volume XVI, No. 1
March 2019

 

 

BREAKING NEWS: California Death Penalty Suspended

California Death Penalty Suspended; 737 Inmates to Get Stay of Execution.

 

Bills OADP Supports in the 2019 Oregon Legislature (as of March 9, 2019)

Three bills are being submitted for consideration into the 2019 session of the Oregon Legislature.

 

OADP Welcomes Four New Advisory Council Members

Cindy Kimball, Billy Davis, Tim Murphy, and Rev. John Kerns

 

Former Death Row Inmate Helps Others from Inside Prison

By Nancy Hill, OADP Advisory Council member

 

OADP Showcases In the Executioner's Shadow Across the State of Oregon

Op-Ed by OADP Supporter Lisa Butts

 

Briefings

Updates and news in and around the Oregon abolitionist movement.

 

BREAKING NEWS

California Death Penalty Suspended; 737 Inmates to Get Stay of Execution.


For many, the number 737 was all about the Boeing 737 which crashed leaving 189 people dead recently. The news was tragic and dominated the headlines. But for 737 people incarcerated on death row at San Quentin, this was a noteworthy day. It was also a day for many to have hope that we can finally close the chapter on the death penalty, not just in California, but the rest of the United States and Worldwide. The use of the death penalty has been rapidly reclining and is increasingly being referred to as a "failed public policy."

Oregon has had a moratorium on executions since 2011. Repealing the death penalty both in California and Oregon will require a vote of the people. We continue to support measures to reduce the use of the death penalty, and work towards repeal. Capital punishment is a failure and wastes millions of dollars that could be used solve cold cases, pay restitution to victim's family, or a host of other restorative justice causes.

We at OADP applaud the courageous and compassionate decision by California Governor Newson's decision to place a moratorium on executions. Today a work crew physically dismantled San Quentin's Death Chamber. It's past time to put this racially biased, irreversible, expensive and barbaric bed to rest.

To Top


Bills OADP supports in the 2019 Oregon Legislature (as of March 9, 2019)


Three bills are being submitted for consideration into the 2019 session of the Oregon Legislature.

This is an ALL HANDS ON DECK call for all supporters.

The bill numbers and summaries are shown below. At press time the bills have not been assigned to any committee, but should be soon. When that happens, those committees will consider first step action to hold a hearing or not. We are asking all supporters to watch your mail or e-mail and check the oadp.org web site for information on how you can be helpful and respond to the call.

The three bills are that we are supporting in the 2019 legislative session are House Bill 3268, House Bill 3269, and Senate Bill 1013. The House Bills' Chief Sponsor is Representative Mitch Greenlick. Additional Regular Sponsors are Representatives Bynum, Gorsek, Keny-Guyer, Lively, Noble, Piluso, Salinas, Senator Dembrow, Monnes Anderson, Steiner Hayward.

The brief summary of HB 3268 redefines the crime of aggravated murder. It reclassifies current manners of committing aggravated murder as murder in the first degree and renames the crime of murder to murder in the second degree. The bill specifies procedures for persons already sentenced to death to be resentenced to life imprisonment without possibility of parole.

The brief summary of HB 3269 removes "future dangerousness" as a factor for jury to determine when deciding on a sentence of death. It requires the State to prove "beyond a reasonable doubt" that the defendant should receive a death sentence. It also specifies procedures for persons already sentenced to death to be resentenced to life imprisonment without possibility of parole.

SB 1013 is sponsored by the Senate Judiciary Committee. It also removes "future dangerousness" as a factor for jury to determine when deciding on sentence of death. It requires the State to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant should receive a death sentence.

Further, the Senate bill redefines the crime of aggravated murder. It reclassifies current manners of committing aggravated murder as murder in the first degree and renames crime of murder to murder in the second degree. The full text specifies the penalties for these crimes.

Regarding both the House and Senate bills, the significant change would be to remove "future dangerousness" from the judge's charge to the jury in a death case. According to criminologists, psychologists, linguistic experts, and criminal justice scholars, "future dangerousness" is impossible to prove. Relying on "beyond reasonable doubt" is a better instruction to follow.

When a committee is assigned for one or more of our bills, we will post committee members. It is helpful to write, call or visit any of the committee members, but it is critically helpful if you are a constituent of a committee member.

As soon as committees are assigned, contact your legislators, particularly if they serve on the assigned committee. If and when a hearing is scheduled, please make every effort to attend. When we can fill the hearing room, that shows a lot of support for these bills.

If you do not know who your representative is, go to www.oregonlegislature.gov and on the lower right front page of their web site you will find the button of FIND YOUR DISTRICT AND LEGISLATORS. Enter your street address and your senator and representative will be revealed.

When addressing your representative or senator you should be prepared to explain your reason(s) for your support of these bills.

Again, when reaching out to your legislator state your top reasons to oppose capital punishment.

If and when a bill passes through committee and heads for a floor debate, we need to fill the gallery. Alerts and messages will be sent out by email, USPS mail, social media and our oadp.org website. You can follow the bills on the Oregon legislature website www.oregonlegislature.gov.

This is the most important legislative opportunity since the 1998 repeal vote. These bills will not repeal the death penalty, but they will reduce the number of death cases pursued and won. Also, of equal importance, this is a great opportunity to increase the conversation that will educate and energize voters for that eventual vote to repeal the Oregon death penalty.

To Top


OADP welcomes four new Advisory Council members


Sometimes events yield unexpected results, as was the case of the recent showing of In the Executioner's Shadow at Salem's Grand Theater in January as part of the Salem Progressive Film Series (SPFS). Sometimes new Advisory Council members come for the examples set by OADP board members.

While the goal of showing the film and the discussion that followed was educating viewers about death penalty issues, it was instrumental in three people joining the OADP Advisory Council. A fourth comes from the suggestion of board vice chair Lynn Strand.

Cindy Kimball

Cindy Kimball

Cindy Kimball, SPFS board chair, has been a social activist for 30 years. While her activism focus has been on equal rights and opportunities for women, her activism has also included the welfare of animals, the environment, and social justice. She co-founded the film series in 2007 because she felt that by raising awareness about important issues and providing information on ways to get involved in the community, it would inspire activism in others. Documentaries followed by expert speakers are a great way to do just that.

OADP approached her about showing In the Executioner's Shadow. Cindy immediately saw the connection to SPFS's goal to create "an active, informed and engaged community, concerned about making their world a better place for everyone."

"We believe the power to effect change begins with knowledge," Cindy says. "And this film examines the death penalty with honest and integrity from multiple perspectives." OADP was able to assemble a panel of experts who discussed the death penalty following the documentary.

Cindy has participated on the boards of many non-profits and has been involved in Oregon politics for nearly 20 years. "This means I have a lot of contacts, so I can reach out to others in support of OADP's mission." She is also willing to do whatever she can to help abolish the death penalty.

Says Cindy, "I think we stand a good chance of doing that in our state, in the near future."

Billy Davis

Billy Davis

The film was also instrumental in Billy Davis's decision to join the Advisory Council. In 2010, while studying at Western Oregon University, Dr. Emily Plec asked him to reserve a room for Juan Melendez-Colon to speak on campus about his 17 years on death row as an innocent man.

"The room was packed," Billy recalls. "It was the most engaged I'd ever seen an audience. Powerful, wow, and awestruck hardly seemed sufficient."

Billy is not new to social justice issues and has found creative ways to participate. For example, he composed music, wrote lyrics, and played the drums in a rock band when he was in college. "I wrote political songs and we played at concerts for non-profit causes. We sold our CDs for $1.50."

After earning a Bachelor of Science in Communications Studies with a minor in Community, he worked in front-line human services for five years before moving into construction. In this new career, he works for the non-profit Gilbert House Children's Museum as facilities and compliance lead.

His background in advocacy, his passion for social justice, and his enthusiasm for taking on projects (including web development and communication) will help advance OADP's mission.

Tim Murphy

Tim Murphy

Tim Murphy also recently joined the Advisory Council, and while he did not join as a direct result of the film, he did attend the showing, where he made a generous donation to OADP.

Tim recalls standing outside the Oregon State Penitentiary (OSP) on May 15, 1997, with dozens of other people awaiting the lethal-injection execution of Henry Charles Moore. Moore was the last person to be put to death for a crime in Oregon, and even though Tim had not yet taken a stance on the death penalty, he felt it important to be there.

He listened to the passion of others who, like him, stood outside the prison on that chilly, dark evening. Before the night was over, he believed we all share responsibility in the state's decision to end the life of someone sentenced to death.

After this experience, Tim spent several years researching and studying the death penalty from multiple points of view. Still, he could not land on a definitive position. Then he read Sister Helen Prejean's book Dead Man Walking, and he began leaning toward a belief that the death penalty is wrong. Two years ago, he met former OSP Superintendent and OADP board member Frank Thompson. The zeal OADP members and years of research and study swayed Tim to become a death penalty abolitionist.

As a mental health counselor and administrator for 35 years, Tim has witnessed people overcome mental health issues, tragedy, and destructive behavior. "Many times, I have seen radical change and redemption. The work I do has helped shape my position on the death penalty." Recently he joined the OADP Advisory Council.

For the past 10 years, Tim has served as the chief executive officer of Bridgeway Recovery Services in Salem, a treatment center for adults and adolescents with chemical dependency challenges. Says Tim, "I see my role on the OADP Advisory Council as one in which I listen and learn from board members and other Advisory Council members and to support the abolition of the death penalty both locally and nationally.

Rev. John Kerns

Rev. John Kerns

Rev. John Kerns, Pastor of Our Lady of the Lake Catholic Church, in Lake Oswego, has been opposed to the death penalty all of his life. "I oppose the death penalty on religious reasons and humanitarian grounds".

Rev. Kerns has been the pastor of Our Lady of the Lake Catholic Church since July of 2012. He graduated from the University of Portland and Mount Angel Seminary where he received his Masters of Divinity Theology. A native Oregonian and a musician he often preached on social issues.

He also puts his faith into action serving in prison ministry over the years at Oregon State Correctional Institution (OSCI). In Matthew 25:36,40 "I was in prison and you came to visit me... I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me." are not hollow words to Rev. Kerns.

He has ministered in jails in both Lane County and Washington County. He continues to minister to the incarcerated at Coffee Creek Correctional Facility, Oregon's women's prison and prisoner intake center in Wilsonville, Oregon. Recently, at Coffee Creek Correctional Facility, he discussed the book The Sun Does Shine: How I Found Life and Freedom on Death Row by Anthony Hinton, who was exonerated by DNA evidence after spending 30 years on Alabama's death row with several people in custody.

Lynn Strand, vice chair of OADP and parishioner at Our Lady of the Lake states, "Father John has supported my abolition efforts since we first attended an OADP event together in 2012. He doesn't just talk the talk, he walks the walk".

To Top


Former Death Row inmate helps others from inside prison


By Nancy Hill, OADP Advisory Council member

Oregon State Penitentiary (OSP) Adult in Custody (AIC) Michael McNeely breaks into a grin whenever a conversation shifts to dogs. He is especially proud of his contributions to Project POOCH, a program at MacLaren's Youth Correctional Facility in which incarcerated youth adopt dogs considered unadoptable. The youth then train the dogs, groom them, and find them new homes.

"We have a POOCH dog in here," Michael says. "Everybody loves him. His name is Felix. He goes and visits the guys who are in the infirmary or in one of the mental health units and cheers them up. He doesn't get to visit death row. When I found out he came from POOCH, I wanted to do something to help."

Former Death Row Inmate Michael McNeely

Michael was convicted of murder and sent to death row in November 1994. He was released into the general population when his sentence was amended to life without possibility of parole in May 2009. A mitigator worked for 10 years on his case to change the sentence.

"Death row was hell for more reasons than I can count," he says, his brown eyes growing darker at the memory, his usual smile fading. "I never knew when I would be executed. I sat totally alone in a small cell except for two hours a day. All I could do was worry and stress. I never knew if appeals would be granted or what would happen if weren’t or if they were. The only thing I could focus on was my own future because there was nothing I could do for anybody else.

"A death sentence doesn't just mean sitting and waiting to die," he continues. "It also means you're as good as dead because you are worthless. You can't do a thing for anybody no matter how much you might want to. Not for your family, not for your friends, not for anyone you have harmed, not for anyone who depended on you."

That changed once Michael was released from death row—"the row"—as he refers to it. "I like to help people. I always have. I never had a lot of money, but there are things you can do to help out that don't cost a lot. I knew how to help even when I wasn't sure where the rent would come from. Once I got off the row, I used what I had learned and found ways to do some good."

There's not a lot of opportunity for Michael to be helpful from inside the razor-wire fences topping OSP's formidable walls, but he takes advantage of the few opportunities that come his way. "One of the things I did when I got to be part of the general population was to join the Lifer's Club so I could help with the good things the club does. "Among the club's efforts is an annual event to buy 150 or so backpacks at the beginning of every school year that club members fill with school supplies for students from low-income families. The club also holds fund-raisers and donates money every month to Angels in the Outfield, a non-profit that helps children of incarcerated parents.

Michael found a personal way to help others through the dog-related items he creates at the prison's hobby shop, and in the past year he has contributed dog collars and leashes he makes for POOCH to sell at dog shows. He painstakingly paints small light-sensitive diamonds on some, one tiny diamond at a time. "I don't want anyone getting hit by a car in the dark," he explains.

"These kids need all the help they can get so they don't end up in the adult prisons." Michael says. "POOCH is helping them turn their lives around. Some of those POOCH dogs were going to be killed if the kids hadn't rescued them. I hope raising even a little bit of money making those collars and leashes will help the POOCH dogs and kids. They all deserve another chance."

Michael pays for the material for collars and leashes out of the meager wages (substantially below minimum wage) that he earns at his prison job. While Measure 17, passed by Oregon voters in 1994, requires correctional institutions to actively engage inmates in full-time work or on-the-job training, Michael says he would have wanted to work and contribute even if it wasn't mandatory.

When he was first released into the general population, he worked in the prison's kitchen. He now works in the canteen, which the Oregonian recently reported is a multi-million-dollar enterprise. Holding down a job means that the state doesn't have to hire someone from outside to do the same task, which saves the taxpayer money.

Michael doesn't mind paying for the material for the goods he donates to POOCH. Project POOCH has reimbursed him at times for the cost of materials, but Michael says that's not important to him. "What matters is helping those kids and dogs. I don't care if I break even, and I wouldn't want a nickel in profit. That's for POOCH."

Had he continued to live on death row, Michael would not be able to contribute to POOCH, he would not be able to be part of the Lifer's Club positive efforts, and his labor could not be used to help with the cost of his incarceration.

Leaving death row, Michael says, was like joining the world again. "I could see and talk to other people. I felt like I was part of a something again. I want to do what I can to help make this as a good a place as it can be considering it's a prison. I get along with people. The guards all know me. I never give anybody any problems." Instead, he looks for ways to help however he can from inside OSP's cold, bleak walls.

To Top


OADP Showcases In the Executioner's Shadow Across the State of Oregon


Op-Ed by OADP Supporter Lisa Butts

As a death penalty abolitionist and legal professional, I often ask others about the death penalty. Too frequently, I hear: "If a unanimous jury finds them guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, I'll gladly execute them myself." That uninformed response doesn't consider the impact on those who carry out executions. Donald Cabana, a former Mississippi State Penitentiary Warden, shared a glimpse of his tormented conscience in an Amnesty International interview after it was proven he had executed an innocent man: "What is my God going to ask me when it is my time to be judged?"

Similarly, a thought-provoking documentary film In the Executioner's Shadow features Jerry Givens, a former Virginia Chief Executioner who nearly executes an innocent man, one of three gripping narratives of people suffering the first-hand consequences of the death penalty.

Dr. Austin Sarat, William Nelson Cromwell Professor of Jurisprudence & Political Science at Amherst College in Massachusetts, has stated: "The filmmakers' intent [is] to get people talking, to get viewers to question their originally held positions, [and] to disrupt complacency."

In a two-pronged approach, Oregonians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty (OADP) is amping up its efforts to educate the public on the effectiveness of the death penalty and its alternatives by spotlighting the documentary across the state, as well as broadcasting it on community access cable TV outlets. The OADP website has a schedule of cable offerings, which will carry the film along with the repeat of the Jan.15th premiere discussion in Salem, featuring former Governor John Kitzhaber, retired Oregon Supreme Court Chief Justice Paul DeMuniz, retired Oregon State Prison Superintendent and OADP board member Frank Thompson, and defense attorney and OADP board member Jeffrey E. Ellis.

One primary factor pointed out in the documentary film is that race usually determines who receives a death sentence. Furthermore, for every nine convicts executed, there has been one exoneration. Former executioner Cabana, argues: "The notion that you can create a system that is unflawed to ensure that only guilty people go to death row is foolhardy." It is a tragedy that innocent people are going to death row; have already died; and more are going to die unless the public rises up and takes action.

On the other hand, regarding the guilty, author of Dead Man Walking, Sister Helen Prejean, C.S.J., states: "Maybe in some books of justice, this person deserves to die; but do we as a society, deserve to kill them?".

This is a major snag in the system. The public is responsible for sentencing people to death and executing them; yet, don't bear the consequence of those decisions. It's well known that defendants are prosecuted in the name of the State but, "We the People" are the State. In part, the State is defined as: "the people of the state in their collective capacity, considered as the party wronged by a criminal deed," Black's Law dictionary, 2nd edition.

Whether you are a hard-core death penalty advocate, an abolitionist, or avoid politics altogether, you are a collective part of the State. As part of that collective, I take personal responsibility in igniting other members with an innate responsibility to act and improve our criminal justice system. Hard facts have galvanized a social, legal, and political issue into a moral one. Educate yourself on those facts. We are all responsible for maintaining a civilized society. Executing innocents is murder; murder is not civilized. Get involved and effect change. Choose life without parole as an alternative to the death penalty – we cannot keep executing innocents in the Land of the Free.

To Top


BRIEFINGS


Aba Gayle's new video filmed by Advisory Council member Nancy Hill

Advisory Council member, international speaker, and murder victim family member, Aba Gayle, is now on YouTube with a new video telling her story in support of abolition of the death penalty. It was produced by Advisory Council member Nancy Hill.

Go to:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AtJGFDWQf9E&feature=youtu.be
and pass the link on to others.



OADP tables at Justice Reinvestment Summit in Salem

OADP had an informational table at the State of Oregon's Criminal Justice Commission's Feb. 14-15 Justice Reinvestment Summit 2019 in Salem. It provided many opportunities to engage with many of the more than 1,100 registered attendees. Our effort to conduct A Million Conversations was greatly advanced with many chats with members of law enforcement and several prosecutors. Creating dialogue, rather than having a debate about the death penalty over our table was a very successful endeavor.



Marilyn Sewell and How to Write Letter to the Editor

Rev. Marilyn Sewell, retired Unitarian Minister, noted author, prolific editor and valuable member of the OADP Advisory Council, has made a significant donation to OADP: Insights into her enormous writing skills. Her article "How to Write a Letter to the Editor and Get it Published" focuses on how to write effective letters to editors and opinion pieces can be found on the OADP website. Now that we are in the midst of a legislative session for supporters to write and be published, Marilyn's instructions will be most helpful.



Willamette University Institute for Continued Learning captivated by film.

One hundred and six members of Willamette University's Institute for Continued Learning (ICL) on Thursday March 7th to watch In the Executioner's Shadow and became totally engaged in the film and discussion that followed. The film is now being shown on cable access TV channels around the state. Comcast (Xfinity), CenturyLink, Frontier are among the cable systems.



Film events postponed due to snow

The big snow storm in Oregon over the weekend of Feb 24th caused the postponement of two In the Executioner's Shadow film and discussion events in Bend and Monmouth at Western Oregon University.

The Bend film and discussion event has been rescheduled for April 9th. The Monmouth event will be rescheduled as soon as possible.

Look for alerts forthcoming.



In Memoriam: Norma Paulus, Oregon Death Penalty Abolition Trailblazer

Norma Paulus, one of our important supporters for abolition of the death penalty, died on Feb. 28. OADP supported a ballot initiative to abolish the death penalty in 1999 and 2001. Norma Paulus, along with Dr. Bill Connor and U.S. Senator Mark Hatfield, was a chief petitioner for the initiative. She was willing to be a trailblazer (as State Senator Jackie Winters of Salem called her) on the death penalty as well as a woman without a bachelor’s degree attending Willamette University College of Law. She went on to be a legislator, Secretary of State and State School Superintendent.

To Top

Image: 

 

Follow Us on Twitter

 

Follow Us on Google+

 

Watch OADP's Videos

Vimeo