Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Reports from All Over

Renny writes that the World Coalition meeting went well yesterday and the World Human Rights Forum is off to a great start. At the World Coalition, Renny gave a report about the work of MVFHR and the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty, and gave several interviews, including one for the University of Nantes. Also, on his way to these meetings in France, Renny had a layover in London, where he was able to meet with MVFHR member Jo Berry, whose father was killed by a bomb planted by an IRA member and who now runs an organization called Building Bridges for Peace.

Last week we wrote about meeting with the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Summary, or Arbitrary Executions. The Special Rapporteur has released a statement about his findings regarding the U.S. death penalty

And there's news of another important report release: The California Commission on the Fair Administration of Justice has released its report on the state's death penalty. We posted excerpts from Bill Babbitt's, Aba Gayle's, and Aundre Herron's testimony before the Commission a couple of months ago.

California Crime Victims for Alternatives to the Death Penalty has issued this press release about the Commission's report:

Survivors of Murder Victims Applaud Report on California's Death Penalty

Commission Report Highlights Many Problems with California's Death Penalty and Encourages Californians to Consider Alternatives

Sacramento-The California Commission on the Fair Administration of Justice issued the state's first comprehensive report on California's death penalty today. The 116 page report identifies many problems with the state's death penalty, concluding that it is "dysfunctional" and quoting the Chief Justice of the California Supreme Court who said the system may "fall of its own weight" if nothing is done.

During a series of hearings around the state, the Commission heard from a growing segment of advocates who oppose the death penalty: family members of murder victims whose personal experiences with the system have lead them to become ardent, outspoken advocates for alternatives to the death penalty.

Fifteen survivors of murder victims opposed to the death penalty testified at the Commission's three public hearings in Sacramento, Los Angeles and Santa Clara. These witnesses, who are active with the coalition California Crime Victims for Alternatives to the Death Penalty (CCV), are also available for comment this week.

Many CCV family members told the Commission that funds now spent on the death penalty would be better used helping victims, solving unsolved murders, and preventing violence. Others emphasized the negative impact of the death penalty appeals process on survivors of murder victims.

Witnesses included:

* Nick and Amanda Wilcox (Grass Valley), who testified on the anniversary of their daughter Amanda's murder. Amanda was working at a mental health clinic when she was killed by a patient. The Wilcoxes have become leading advocates for expanding treatment for the mentally ill to prevent violence.

* Barbara Zerbe Macnab (San Francisco), who testified that, despite her mother's pleas for clemency, two men were executed for the murder of her father when she was just eight years old, causing even more anguish to their family.

* Aba Gayle, who testified that, despite her requests, the Placer County District Attorney continues to pursue lengthy appeals seeking to reinstate the death sentence for the man who killed her daughter Catherine. At the time of the trial, Aba Gayle supported the death penalty. Ten years later, she realized that holding on to the anger and anticipating the execution would not help her heal.

* Vera Ramirez-Crutcher (Ventura), who testified about the anguish she experienced when her son David was murdered trying to protect his girlfriend, but who has always opposed the death penalty on religious grounds.

* Dawn Spears (San Jose), who became the primary caretaker of her three grandchildren when her daughter Tameca was murdered, testified that she is opposed to the death penalty, as was her daughter.

"I am pleased that the Commission reported noted the moving testimony of the people who have personal experience with the system," said Judy Kerr, spokesperson and victim liaison for California Crime Victims for Alternatives to the Death Penalty (CCV). "Ours is an important voice in this debate." Family members of murder victims were instrumental in the persuading the New Jersey legislature to end the state's death penalty.

Aundré Herron, a former prosecutor who now represents people on death row and whose brother, Danny, was murdered remarked, "The death penalty does not help us heal; rather than honoring my brother, executing his killers would have forever tied his memory to an act of revenge."

"Californians should consider how we can best help the survivors of murder victims rebuild their lives and prevent more murders?" asked Kerr. "I believe the first step is to replace the death penalty with permanent imprisonment."

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