Upcoming Execution in MO, Vigils to Be Held to Spread Awareness

death penalty abolitionMissourians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty (MADP) will hold vigils on Tuesday, November 19 to protest the execution of Joseph Franklin, scheduled for Wednesday, November 20.”While there’s no issue of innocence, Franklin retains as a human being a fundamental right to life,” according to MADP chair Rita Linhardt. He has been diagnosed as a paranoid schizophrenic with delusions. He left a number of victims in the course of several years of murders; MADP offers condolences to the families and friends of all those victims.

Also, MADP asserts, the growing secrecy behind executions is ominous: state law forbids making known the identity of the physician, the anesthesiologist who supervises the execution, although the American Society of Anesthesiologists has spoken out strongly discouraging anesthesiologists from taking part in executions. Also, the new drug protocol for the lethal injection calls for pentobarbitol acquired from a compounding pharmacy, a type of pharmacy under much less regulation by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and thus cause for worry, but the state refuses to make public the identity of the pharmacy.

Vigils Scheduled Around the State

Springfield: Tuesday, Park Central Square, 11.30 a.m. to 1 p.m. For more information call Donna, 417-459-2960. Cancelled if a stay is issued by 11/17.

St. Louis: Tuesday, St. Francis Xavier Church at the corner of Grand and Lindell, prayer service from 7:15 p.m. to 7:45 p.m. Vigil on church steps from 8 p.m. to 9 p.m. Then, we will travel to Bonne Terre to vigil outside the prison from 11 p.m. onwards. For information call Margaret, 314-322-5159.

St. Joseph: Tuesday, The Civic Center Park at the Statue of Liberty at 5 p.m.

Kansas City: Tuesday, JC Nichols Fountain in the Plaza, 4 p.m. – 5 p.m. For information call Cathleen, 816-206-8692

Columbia: Tuesday, Boone County Courthouse in front of the columns, corner of Walnut and 8th, 5 p.m. – 6 p.m. For more information contact 573-449-4585.

Jefferson City: Tuesday, across from the Supreme Court Building at 207 West High Street, 11 p.m. to midnight. For more information contact 573-449-4585. (Cancelled: 10:30 prayer service at St. Peter’s due to renovation.)

Bonne Terre: Tuesday November 19 – Wed. No. 20, candlelight vigil outside the Bonne Terre Prison, 2727 Hwy K, 11:00 p.m. until the end of execution. Contact Margaret Phillips at 314-322-5159.

St. Louis Human Rights Event Updates

business meeting updatesIf you missed last night’s monthly business meeting, then you better pay attention! There are a lot of changes, events, and updates coming up over the next few months, so read this now to learn what’s going on. We don’t anyone complaining that they didn’t know, or that we didn’t announce it, or that they weren’t told. All the information is below for your perusal and benefit:

Dirty Wars Discussion Moved to November

If you haven’t started our Amnesty book-club book yet, then you have an extra month to read it and to prepare (which is desperately needed since our book choice is over 500 pages long). Our discussion meeting will no longer take place during our October business meeting. It will now be during our November business meeting because plans have changed for our October meeting.

Reggie Clemons Updates in October

Instead of the book discussion, our Missouri death penalty abolition coordinator, Meredith, will be presenting at our October meeting about what’s in store regarding the Reggie Clemons ruling. Even though it will be another six to 12 months before the Missouri Supreme Court addresses the Clemons case, by then, Amnesty International will have a plan of action and direction on the issue.

Midwest Regional Conference

Also at the October meeting, we will be finalizing plans for our trip to the Midwest Regional Conference in Cincinnati. This will be the last day to sign up to go, as we will be settling on a departure time and a mode of transportation. The conference is for an entire weekend, so this isn’t an easy decision, but don’t wait too long or else you will have to find your own way there if you want to attend. If you do want to attend, and you want to attend with the group, then you can let us know by sending us an email at amnestystl (at) gmail (dot) com.

Upcoming Dirty Wars Screening

Besides the conference and the death penalty abolition activities, one of our upcoming events is a screening of the documentary Dirty Wars, which is based on the current book club reading. As of now, we are planning to have this event in January, but we don’t have any further details. If you’re looking to take part in an event or to be involved with our chapter, then there’s plenty to look forward to in the coming months.

Judge Finds that Evidence was Suppessed in Reggie Clemons Case

Reggie ClemonsThe following is a statement from the Justice for Reggie Campaign.

Judge Michael Manners, the Special Master assigned by the Missouri Supreme Court to review the case of Reggie Clemons, issued his findings today to the state’s high court. Clemons is on death row for the murders of Robin and Julie Kerry in the infamous Chain of Rocks Bridge case. Over the last four years, Judge Manners had the arduous task of reviewing thousands of pages of court transcripts, videotapes and exhibits spanning three trials and the lives of seven young people. His findings are not rulings but non binding guidance to the Missouri Supreme Court who in term will make a ruling.

Of the two critical elements of Reggie’s habeas corpus, Judge Manners found that prosecutors had suppressed evidence in Reggie’s trial and his confession was forced. He further found that Reggie’s attorneys did not establish his “gateway claim of innocence.”

This is yet another phase in the journey for justice in Reggie’s case. Supporters have waged a 22-year struggle to bring the complicated case from out of the judicial shadows into the light.

Says Reggie’s mother, Vera Thomas, “This was such a derailment of due process from the very beginning so I thank the community for all their efforts that has brought us this far. I am grateful to the Missouri Supreme Court for giving us this opportunity to open up this case and for the special efforts of Judge Michael Manners in reviewing the case. I’m also appreciative of Reggie’s phenomenal legal team who has been on this case many years.”

The Missouri Supreme Court must now rule on Judge Manners’ findings. The Justice for Reggie Campaign hopes that the court will take into consideration the tainted nature of the investigation from the onset and bring the case to a just close.

“The wheels of justice are still turning, ”said Thomas, “but there are no winners in a death penalty case.”

Related Links:

Reggie Clemons Reflection

Why Amnesty International Supports the Reggie Clemons Case

Report on the Post-Evidentiary Hearing for Reggie Clemons

Reggie Clemons Decision Revealed

Reggie ClemonsJudge Michael Manners, the Special Master reviewing the case of Reggie Clemons, has submitted his findings to the Missouri Supreme Court. He finds that prosecutors suppressed evidence and writes that he believes the statement Reggie Clemons gave to police was coerced. He also writes that he does not believe that Clemons has established a “gateway claim of actual innocence.” It is a complex case and serious allegations of misconduct by prosecutors and police appear to have been affirmed.

It is now up to the Missouri Supreme Court to determine the course of justice and rule on Judge Manners’ findings. Given the deeply flawed nature of his trial, Amnesty International hopes that the state’s highest court will move to eliminate any possibility that Reggie Clemons might be executed.

Amnesty International is a Nobel Peace Prize-winning grassroots activist organization with more than 3 million supporters, activists and volunteers in more than 150 countries campaigning for human rights worldwide. The organization investigates and exposes abuses, educates and mobilizes the public, and works to protect people wherever justice, freedom, truth and dignity are denied.

Related Links:

Reggie Clemons Reflection

Why Amnesty International Supports the Reggie Clemons Case

Report on the Post-Evidentiary Hearing for Reggie Clemons

Good News on the Warren Hill Case in Georgia

death penalty in GeorgiaAs we wait for a decision from Judge Michael Manners on the fate of the Reggie Clemons case (which should come by the end of the month, although the decision originally had a June 1 deadline. Judge Manners is supposed to take a new position in Lexington in August, so he needs to make a decision any day now.), we have some great death penalty news coming out of Georgia today. The Georgia Fulton County Superior Court granted Warren Hill a stay of execution. Below is a press release from Amnesty International concerning the stay.

Georgia Court Stays Hill’s Execution on Challenge to Secrecy of Lethal Drugs

(WASHINGTON, D.C.) – Brian Evans, director of Amnesty International USA’s Abolish the Death Penalty campaign, issued the following statement in response to the Georgia Fulton County Superior Court granting Warren Hill a stay of execution based on a challenge concerning the secrecy of the lethal drugs the state of Georgia acquired and planned to use in Hill’s execution:

“Warren Hill today was granted a stay of execution because of the secrecy surrounding the lethal drugs. Amnesty International welcomes this development and the chance for the courts to address these troubling questions of secrecy and medical ethics.

“Beyond these important issues, Warren Hill has been determined to be ‘mentally retarded’ and thus his execution would have been unconstitutional, as the U.S. Supreme Court banned such executions in 2002. His petition on this important question is scheduled to be considered at a conference on September 30.

“Warren Hill’s petition undoubtedly has merit. All seven doctors who have examined him now agree that he is in fact intellectually disabled, yet federal courts have declined to hear this evidence, citing procedural bars. It is to be hoped that the Supreme Court, after considering this case in September, will take the actions necessary to permanently prevent Warren Hill from being executed.”

According to Amnesty International’s most recent yearly report on the use of the death penalty worldwide, the overall worldwide trend is away from the use of the death penalty. Five U.S. states have legislated to abolish the death penalty in the past six years – New Jersey (2007), New Mexico (2009), Illinois (2011), Connecticut (2012), and in May, Maryland.

Amnesty International continues its campaign to abolish the use of the death penalty in all 50 states in the United States and around the globe.

Although the stay is not based on the fact that Warren Hill is intellectually disabled, we welcome this news as it’s unconstitutional to execute a mentally impaired person. The U.S Supreme Court prohibited the execution of the mentally retarded in 2002. According to seven different medical professionals, Hill is considered “mentally retarded” and does meet the “beyond a reasonable doubt” standard in Georgia. Action is still needed to prevent his execution, as the County Court in Georgia can still rule that the execution is okay and ought to take place. Please take action today to ensure that Warren Hill isn’t faced with an unconstitutional execution!

Related Links:

No News is Good News

The Death Penalty in California [Infographic]

Death Penalty News Roundup

No News is Good News

human rights newsAnd We Have a Meeting Tomorrow

Even though the deadline for the Special Master’s hearing was on June 1, we still haven’t anything new regarding the fate of Reggie Clemons. The Justice for Reggie Campaign is taking this as a good sign, that Judge Manners is taking the time to review all the evidence to make the best recommendation possible. Once we hear something, we will let everyone know and then proceed to take the necessary actions based on the recommendation Judge Manners makes.

In the Meantime…

Of course, this delay isn’t stopping us from working on human rights issues. This is why our monthly business meeting is still happening tomorrow at 7 p.m. at Hartford Coffee Company. If we do get a decision by tomorrow, then we will spend the meeting discussing our next course of action. If we don’t have a decision, then we will be working on our upcoming Half the Sky fundraiser (you need to read the book and watch the movie if you haven’t yet, as both of them are amazing). We’ve been so moved by what we’ve learned that we want to do a fundraiser, even though we haven’t decided upon a specific organization or event/fundraising method yet. However, we will make a decision tomorrow.

We will also be talking about the upcoming Pride Festival at Tower Grove Park at the end of month. We’re going to have a table there, so we are looking for volunteers.

Please come if you can! We’d love to hear your ideas! Hope to see you there! Below is a recap of the meeting details:

When: 7 p.m. – 8:30 p.m.

Where: Hartford Coffee Company on the corner of Roger and Hartford in Tower Grove

Who: Amnesty International St. Louis chapter, and those interested in human rights

What: Essentially, to make plans for the summer

4 Issues You Can Focus on as an Amnesty College Chapter

human rights issuesEven as many schools wrap up for the school year (or have already wrapped up), it isn’t too late to start thinking about issues to focus on as an Amnesty International college chapter. Of course, you don’t have to spend the entire summer planning, but it you want to waste too much time at the beginning of the year getting started and thinking about what to do, then this article is for you. Here are a few issues you can focus on as a chapter come August or September. In the meantime, as your review these issues, you can keep the gears turning by going over event ideas or doing research on the issues that interest you.

Death Penalty

If the death penalty is still the law in your state, then this would be a good issue to focus on this coming school year. It’s an issue that the organization has been prioritizing for a while, so there are plenty of resources to help you get started. Also, some states with the death penalty are actively executing people, so part of your advocacy could be reducing the sentence to life in prison. Abolishing the death penalty isn’t about getting criminals off or not being tough on crime. It’s about making sure that we’re not executing innocent people, or mentally impaired people, or people who were convicted of the crime before the age of 18. It’s about the economic impact and the inconsistency of justice. All of these things merit giving capital punishment a second look.

Women’s Rights

Women’s rights covers a variety of topics: gender-based violence, maternal mortality, education, sex slavery etc. The great thing about making women’s rights the emphasis for your college chapter is that there are many directions you can take it. Women’s rights would also include a lot of other human rights issues, such as LGBT rights, children’s rights, and poverty. There’s something for everyone here, while being something that many people can get behind and that many would want to learn more about.

If this an issue that you think your chapter would be interested in, or that you would love to carry out next semester, then consider partnering with the Women’s Studies program or the feminist group on campus (if you have both or either of them). Such partnerships could bring more people to your events and more resources to amplify your message.

Security and Human Rights

This is another domestic issue, but security and human rights covers Guantanamo Bay, illegal and indefinite detention and fair trials. Security and human rights is a very timely issue, and is a good one to focus on if you or your chapter would focus on human rights in the United States or human rights having to do with war.

Prisoners and People at Risk

This issue is the bread and butter of Amnesty International, and is a good one to include as part of the agenda. Prisoners and people at risk involves anyone imprisoned solely for expressing their human rights (freedom of speech, religion, assembly etc.) and/or those who are defending human rights activists (lawyers, non-profit leaders, political leaders etc.). Actions for prisoners and people at risk are on a case by case basis, meaning that who you’re advocating for could change regularly, which is why this is a good issue to include as just part of the agenda. Spend a meeting writing letters on behalf of a prisoner, or collect signatures for a petition on another. Sounds simply, but for this issue that’s typically what Amnesty International wants its members to do.

Related Links:

How to Run an Amnesty International Meeting

Why I-VAWA is the Next Step in Stopping Violence Against Women

How to Start an Amnesty International Chapter

The Death Penalty in California [Infographic]

One of the best arguments, especially in today’s economy and fiscal status, against the death penalty is that it’s incredibly expensive. A death row inmate is more expensive, per year, than an inmate sentenced to life in prison. Capital punishment is also costly because it takes a long time to execute somebody (the average wait in California is 25 years), which increases the cost of the actual execution. Not to mention that 141 people have been exonerated from death row in the United States.

A big thanks to Terry Lenamon and his death penalty blog, where we originally found the infographic! Credit to the California Innocence Project for actually creating it.

California death penalty

Reggie Clemons Reflection

Reggie ClemonsYesterday, April 4, was the 44th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King’s assassination. It was also the 22nd anniversary of the Chain of Rocks Bridge tragedy. The Justice for Reggie Campaign has not planned any formal activities to commemorate that day. We ask that you remember the lives of the young people and their families who were impacted that day. Robin and Julie Kerry lost their lives and will never have the future they dreamed of and that their parents hoped for. As for the defendants in the case: Marlin Gray has been executed, Tony Richardson is destined to spend the rest of his life behind bars; Daniel Winfrey spent 15 years in prison; and Reginald Clemons continues to be relentless in his pursuit of justice.

Let us recommit ourselves to providing young people with all the opportunities to achieve greatness and to rehabilitate a broken criminal justice system that often fails both victims and defendants. Remember Dr. King’s words:

“the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.”

A civilized society has the responsibility of putting its hand on that arc and collectively bending it if we want to see experience a more just and peaceful world.

As for the results of the September court case and the Special Master’s decision, those are not expected to be announced until June 2013. Until then, we thank you for your support and your patience on this issue. Justice will prevail.

If you aren’t caught up with the Reggie Clemons case, then below are some related links to consider:

March Human Rights News Roundup

human rights newsIt’s Good Friday! At this point, Facebook has turned red in honor of LGBT rights and the Supreme Court case challenging DOMA right now. As marriage equality gets its week in the spotlight, we can’t forget the other human rights issues and events happening this week and that happened this month. And, we must say, that for a Good Friday, it’s actually been a pretty good month when it comes to human rights:

Delaware Senate narrowly approves bill repealing death penalty; measure now goes to House – Washington Post – Although this victory is a small one, it’s a step in the right direction. It’s unknown whether Delaware will go through with repeal all the way to the governor, but with one more state taking action, it’ll only be a matter of time before Delaware does repeal and for other states to do the same.

Malala First to Sign New Petition Calling for Protection of Teachers and Girls Who Want to Go to School – Huffington Post – Ever wondered what happened to Malala, the 14-year-old Pakistani girl who was shot for her work promoting women’s education? Well, not only did she recover from her wounds, be she is now first person (her father is the second) to sign a UN envoy petition calling on the Pakistani government to ensure the safety and security of teachers and girls who want to go to school. The petition started this week following the assassination of Shahnaz Nazli. Shahnaz, a 41-year-old Pakistani woman, was shot on her way to work at a girls’ school in Jamrud.

Buyers, Beware: UN Arms Trade Treaty will Regular Gun Ownership in the United States – Fox News – Not only did this article come out yesterday, but it IS ABSOLUTELY NOT TRUE. The UN Arms Trade Treaty will NOT regulate individual gun ownership in the United States. We repeat, this treaty will have no bearing on the Second Amendment or domestic gun ownership. The treaty reaffirms that countries have the responsibility to regulate and to control transfers of weapons that take place exclusively within its territory. The treaty will only affect trades and transfers between countries and their governments. This article in the Huffington Post does a good job outlining what’s true and not true regarding the Arms Trade Treaty.

8: A Play About the Fight for Marriage Equality – Okay, we couldn’t go this whole article without mentioning something about marriage equality. After all, it’s a monumental moment in human rights and legalizing gay marriage will be huge for the LGBT movement. Therefore, if you have 90 minutes to spare, you should watch this play about the U.S. District Court case in 2010 to overturn Proposition 8. It features an all-star cast including George Clooney, Kevin Bacon, Jamie Lee Curtis, and Martin Sheen, so if anything, you should watch the play because it’ll be downright good theater.