Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Connecting and Remembering

The NCADP annual conference is always a great opportunity to see in person the friends and colleagues that I'm in touch with mostly by email and phone during the rest of the year, to meet new allies in our work against the death penalty, and to be reminded again of why the work is so important.

The power of victims' voices was evident throughout the conference. New Jersey Senator Ray Lesniak, lead sponsor of the death penalty repeal bill, said in his lunchtime speech that the testimony of victims' family members was what was most effective in reaching lawmakers. In the workshop session "Family Members of Murder Victims: Stakeholders in the Debate," MVFHR board member Jennifer Bishop-Jenkins, New Yorkers Against the Death Penalty organizer Laura Porter, and Murder Victims' Families for Reconciliation board member Cathy Ansheles talked about integrating victims' family members into death penalty abolition work and finding common ground with victims' organizations.

MVFHR executive director Renny Cushing offered a quick training session on "Working with Murder Victims' Families," and New Yorkers Against the Death Penalty Victims' Outreach Coordinator Marie Verzulli held a caucus of victims' families sharing ideas and experiences. And in the workshop session on "Case Studies of Success," Derrel Myers described how his son's murder so devastated him that he began making plans to take his own life, and how connecting with other anti-death penalty victims' family members and other activists helped him regain a sense of purpose and commitment.

There was much else of interest at the conference as well, from former Texas district attorney Sam Millsap's talk about how he pursued the death penalty for a defendant, Ruben Cantu, whose guilt is now in serious question, to the activists from outside the U.S. like those from the Puerto Rican, German, and World Coalition Against the Death Penalty and the Italian Community of Sant Egidio.

These are just a few examples of many. Thanks to NCADP for another successful conference.

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