A National Speaking Tour of the Campaign to End the Death Penalty

Presenting the CEDP's National Speaking Tour for 2009 - 2010. Join this teach-in tour in cities around the country this fall and spring. This year's tour looks at the historic link between the death penalty and lynching in the United States. Hear from those who have been freed from death row, activists and scholars on the role of racism in our criminal justice system and why the death penalty and unjust sentencing need to be abolished.

For More Information

If you are interested in hosting a tour stop at your school or in your community, or if you have any questions please contact:


Exciting events are in the works for this spring.

Highlights include:

San Jose, California - Tuesday, May 25th at 7PM at the San Jose Peace and Justice Center. Speakers include Cephus Johnson, uncle of Oscar Grant, who was murdered by the BART police in Oakland. Also featuring Jack Bryson, whose sons were with Oscar during the shooting, and Veronica Luna, whose uncle is on CA death row.

North Carolina. In conjunction with the North Carolina Coalition for a MoratoriumTwo dates left:

NC A&T University (NC Agricultural and Technical State University), Greensboro - April 16 with Guilford County Public Defender David Clark and Rep. Alma Adams.

Campbell Law School, Raleigh - Norman Adrian Wiggins School of Law, Spring 2010, co-sponsored by Juvenile Justice Program.

Texas. One date left:

University of North Texas, Denton - April 29th. With Alan Bean and Rodrick Reed.

Rutgers University, Newark, New Jersey - April 16th. In conjunction with Rutgers Law Review 2010 Symposium: "Righting the Wronged: Causes, Effects and Remedies of Juvenile Wrongful Conviction". With Bryan Stevenson, Yusef Salaam and others.

Illinois. One date left:

Chicago - April 28th at Harold Washington Library Center. With Mark Clements, Marvin Reeves and Marlene Martin.

New York -

City College of New York - April 21.

John Jay College/Cuny - April 22

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Video from Tour stop at John Jay College in NY

100 people turned out to the Tour stop in New York at John Jay College on April 22nd. The event was videotaped and features some great speeches! Check it out:

Monday, April 26, 2010

Mumia addresses Tour Stop in CA!

Here is a reprint from the Bay View of the recent powerful taped address that Pennsylvania prisoner, activist and journalist Mumia Abu-Jamal gave at a San Francisco Bay area stop of the CEDP's national speaking tour, "Lynching Then, Lynching Now".


From trees to needles: an address to the ‘Lynching Then, Lynching Now, The Roots of Racism and the Death Penalty in America’ national tour

by Mumia Abu-Jamal

Friends, brothers, sisters: Ona Move!

The anti-death penalty movement is an offshoot of the global human rights movement as expressed by private associations and later by a variety of governments.

It is noteworthy, then, for us to cite the state abolition of the death penalty in Kenya in 2009.

We should also note the fact that the rate of juries meting out death sentences has fallen to its lowest in 30 years.

And finally, several months ago, the group that was perhaps most instrumental in fashioning the present death penalty, the American Law Institute, announced it would no longer participate in formulating laws governing the death penalty. The ALI, a distinguished group of 4,000 judges, law professors and lawyers, were the people who initially proposed the aggravating and mitigating circumstances that the U.S. Supreme Court adopted in 1976 when it reinstated the death penalty.

And yet, despite this, the death penalty is alive and well in America. Why?

It makes no economic sense, but politicians are wedded to it.

That’s because at its core, the death penalty derives from, and thus replaces, lynch law. Is it mere coincidence that the states which are most active in capital punishment are Southern ones?

This is also generally true when we examine the establishment and expansion of the American prison system. After the Civil War, when slavery was abolished by law, states in the former confederacy established the convict lease system, where prisoners worked, without pay, for the state. One man, observing the dreadful loss of life and health for such people, called it “worse than slavery.”

In essence, these states made a private institution a public one – and both Black men and women became “slaves of the state.”

The U.S. death penalty system performs a similar function. It socialized, or made public, that which had been heretofore the province of individuals – lynchings.

Above is the very well-received message from Mumia Abu-Jamal to the “Lynching Then, Lynching Now, The Roots of Racism and the Death Penalty in America” national tour about the historic link between the death penalty and lynching in the United States.

The message was first played at the Bay Area tour stop, March 24, at Laney College in Oakland, California, where speakers with personal links to the death penalty spoke. Lawrence Hayes, a former death row prisoner himself, in New York, and founding member of the Campaign to End the Death Penalty, spoke powerfully about his own case.

Kevin Cooper, an innocent man on San Quentin’s death row, called in to CEDP (Campaign to End the Death Penalty) leader Crystal Bybee’s telephone with his message of encouragement to those in attendance. His answers to questions posed by audience members were relayed by phone and microphone to the audience.

Jack Bryson, the father of two young men who were with Oscar Grant the night he was murdered in cold blood by the Bay Area Rapid Transit police, spoke about how his consciousness was jolted awake by that brutal murder, and how his life has become more meaningful through his connection with Kevin Cooper and the prisoners and activists in the death penalty abolition movement.

Jabari Shaw of the Laney College Black Student Union spoke of his personal experience incarcerated in San Quentin and how prisoners are treated there and how the prison industrial complex serves the rich and the capitalist system.

Barbara Becnel, founder of the Stanley Tookie Williams Legacy Network, spoke of her recent trip to the Senegal port through which slaves from all over Africa were shipped out to the Americas. She compared the “door of no return” there with the door to the death chamber of San Quentin. She had witnessed the torture and slow death of Stanley Tookie Williams on Dec. 13, 2005.

The purpose of the tour is to educate and recruit new activists to the movement to end the death penalty and the Campaign to End the Death Penalty organization. From all appearances, that will certainly be one result of the Bay Area tour.

Tour Stops in Houston and NY!


We are proud to have put Houston, located in Harris County - the death penalty capital of the US - on the map by being part of this year’s CEDP tour. Harris County accounts for about 1 percent of the U.S. population but has carried out nearly 10 percent of the country's executions since 1976, when the death penalty was reinstated. This event was co-sponsored by the International Socialist Organization (ISO) as well as a local anti-death penalty group called the Texas Death Penalty Abolition Movement or TDPAM.

A diverse crowd of approximately 30 people came to hear and see a multi-racial panel on April 14th at the University of Houston – Main Campus, located right in the belly of the beast. After a brief welcome and introduction, Lily Hughes, a longstanding anti-death penalty activist from Austin and CEDP board member, kicked off the discussion by giving a brief overview of the history of racism and the death penalty in this country. She was followed by Njeri Shakur, a lead organizer for TDPAM, who was delighted to see so many young people in the crowd and warned that we have to be alert and continue to fight this insane punishment. She also highlighted not only the racist, but also the classist nature of the death penalty, which predominantly targets people of color as well as poor working-class people in general.

Next up was Mark Clements, a recent exoneree from Illinois, who was sentenced to life without parole as a juvenile for a crime he did not commit. His testimony of police torture was shocking and more reminiscent of say the Argentinean and Chilean dictatorships of the 1970s as opposed to a supposedly modern democracy. Even more powerful, however, was his unbroken spirit and his will to fight. He made it clear that he was not going to bow down in front of politicians or any other form of authority if he felt he was misrepresented. He rightly reminded us that the job of these elected officials was to serve us not vice versa. Finally, Marisol Ramirez, wife of Juan Ramirez, a current death row inmate in Texas, took the stage. Juan has been sentenced under the infamous “law of parties”. Part of the law reads as follows: "If, in the attempt to carry out a conspiracy to commit one felony, another felony is committed by one of the conspirators, all conspirators are guilty of the felony actually committed." This basically boils down to: if you hang out with the wrong crowd at the wrong time, you can be sentenced to death. After briefly laying out Juan’s case, Marisol urged us to sign petitions, not only on behalf of Juan, but other death row inmates as well.

The talks were followed by a lively discussion. Lily Hughes came back and wrapped up the event by outlining how folks can get and stay involved in the struggle in the future.

John Jay College/CUNY:

I thought the tour stop was a great success for the CEDP...the room was packed, and I thought that Marvin Reeves was particularly riveting. What a tragic story, but his strength shines through.

Colleen Eren, New Yorkers for Alternatives to the Death Penalty

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Another article about North Carolina Tour stops, this one at Wake Forest University:


WFU forum to examine race relative to sentences

Murder, Race, Justice: Read the original series

By Michael Hewlett


Published: March 31, 2010

Of the 157 people on death row in North Carolina, 86 -- or 55 percent -- are black.

And according to several studies, defendants accused of killing whites are more likely to get the death penalty than those accused of killing blacks.

For some people, those statistics confirm their view that race plays a part in who is sentenced to death and who isn't, and it's one reason that supporters of the state's Racial Justice Act pushed for its passage last year.

Those issues will be discussed today at Wake Forest University School of Law during a forum on "Race, Wrongful Convictions and the Death Penalty."

Carol Turowski, a co-director of the law school's Innocence and Justice Clinic, said that the issues are closely linked.

"I think these three issues intersect on a variety of different levels," Turowski said. "It's important to have a presentation to have them all discussed in an open forum with people who have experience with the Racial Justice Act."

Wake Forest is the first of four schools that will hold forums over the next month as part of a national tour. Today's forum is sponsored by the Innocence and Justice Clinic, the N.C. Coalition for a Moratorium and the Campaign to End the Death Penalty, which is organizing the tour. The other three schools are UNC Chapel Hill, Fayetteville State University and N.C. A&T State University.

Death-penalty opponents have long argued that there is a racial disparity when it comes to the punishment. In 2001, a major study by two UNC professors found that defendants whose victims were white were 31/2 times more likely to be sentenced to death than defendants whose victims were black.

In Winston-Salem, Darryl Hunt, who faced the death penalty in his first trial but was sentenced to life, spent nearly 19 years in prison for murder before being exonerated in 2003 after DNA evidence pointed to another man. Hunt was accused of killing Deborah Sykes, a white copy editor for The Sentinel, a now-closed afternoon newspaper, in a case that was racially charged.

"Darryl was only a vote away from the death sentence," Turowski said. "You realize how closely linked he could have been to the death penalty."

Hunt will be one of the speakers at Wake Forest. He will be joined by the keynote speaker, Stephen Bright, the president and senior counsel for the Southern Center for Human Rights, and Mark Rabil, who was Hunt's attorney and is now a co-director of the Innocence and Justice Clinic.

State Reps. Larry Womble and Earline Parmon will also speak. They pushed for passage of the Racial Justice Act.

The new law, which Gov. Bev Perdue signed in August, allows defendants facing the death penalty or who are already on death row to use statistics and other evidence to prove racial bias in how the death penalty is applied.

"The passage of this reform was incredibly historically significant," said Tarrah Callahan-Ledford, the campaign coordinator for the N.C. Coalition for a Moratorium. "Our intent on this tour is to continue public education on the Racial Justice Act."

The law was hotly debated last year, with prosecutors from across the state largely opposed to it. They argued that capital cases should be decided on facts and not historical patterns and statistics. And they argued that the new law was a way to end the death penalty.

The state hasn't conducted any executions since August 2006 because of several legal challenges that have mostly been resolved by recent court rulings.

It isn't clear how the Racial Justice Act will play out in courtrooms throughout North Carolina. In Forsyth County, all capital cases have been put on hold until a study comes out this summer that looks at race and the death penalty.

Turowski said that while executions are on hold, this is the perfect time to closely examine the issue of race and how it affects wrongful convictions and the death penalty.

"Keeping it at the forefront is a critical thing for us to do as a culture, as a country, as a community," she said.



For more information, go to http://law.wfu.edu/news/release/2010.03.23.1.php
Here's a great article about the Tour stop at Fayetteville state University.


Death penalty panel says reform is saving lives
By Drew Brooks
Staff writer

Darryl Hunt was one juror away from the death penalty when he was convicted of rape and first-degree murder in 1985.

Nearly two decades later, Hunt was exonerated after DNA evidence linked another man to the crime.

On Thursday, Hunt was part of a panel at Fayetteville State University that praised the state's Racial Justice Act as a "huge step" in reforming the death penalty in North Carolina.

The panel discussion was sponsored by FSU's Department of Criminal Justice and the N.C. Coalition for a Moratorium.

Hunt, who is black, was among a group of exonerated men who advocated for the passage of the act in August. He was joined on the panel by state Rep. Rick Glazier and Mary Ann Tally, a judicial candidate and death penalty lawyer.

Glazier and Tally have represented clients in capital cases in the past.

Tally said the act, which provides an avenue for defendants to negate death sentences if they can prove racism played a part in either the decision to seek the death penalty or the decision to apply the death penalty, "doesn't solve all the problems, but is a huge first step."

The act lays out three circumstances in which, if racism is suspected of playing a role, a defendant may be eligible to have a sentence commuted to life in prison.

Those circumstances are when the race of either the defendant or the victim affects the decision to choose the death penalty, or when racism plays a role during jury selection.

Glazier said he hopes the act would lead to the state's criminal justice system earning more trust. He said wrongful convictions, especially those caused by racism, create more victims.

Hunt was an example of one of those victims.

He was convicted of raping and killing a white woman. He said he was the only black man outside of the audience in his court room.

He said DNA evidence proved that he was innocent in 1994, but he had to wait nearly 10 more years before a court overturned his conviction.

Hunt said he knows the Racial Justice Act won't completely remove racism from the justice system.

"We have to change that by treating others as we want to be treated," he said. "Until we get to that state, it doesn't matter what kind of laws we make."

Tally agreed.

"Our system is us. We have our biases. We have our prejudices. We have our misconceptions," she said. "And we all make mistakes."

Staff writer Drew Brooks can be reached at brooksd@fayobserver.com or 486-3567.
Here's a great article about the UNC - Chapel Hill Tour stop!


Event advocates against death penalty

April 9, 2010
Staff Writer

Due to a reporting error, this story incorrectly states that the state will reimburse Edward Chapman for his 15 years in prison. He must be granted a proclamation of innocence by the governor to receive the reparations funds.The Daily Tar Heel apologizes for the error.

Facing the charge of first-degree murder, Edward Chapman was exonerated from North Carolina’s death row in 2007.

Three years later, Chapman can be found advocating against the death penalty along with the North Carolina Coalition for a Moratorium and the Campaign to End the Death Penalty.

On Wednesday night, several activists and scholars against the death penalty gathered in the Sonja Haynes Stone Center for Black Culture and History for a panel discussion exploring the role of race in the death penalty and North Carolina’s passage of the Racial Justice Act.

The act’s purpose is to make justice colorblind and was passed due to findings that the death penalty is given at a disproportionately high rate to black males in the South, especially when the victims are white females.

Speakers included UNC professors Frank Baumgartner and Isaac Unah. Edward Chapman was present to share his story as an innocent man on death row for 15 years.

Jennifer Thompson spoke of her experience as a rape victim who falsely accused Ronald Cotton for the rape, which she later turned into a book with Cotton called “Picking Cotton.” Thompson said she and Cotton, who served about 11 years in prison after being falsely accused, are both victims of a flawed system.

“Picking Cotton” is the true story of the friendship that developed between Thompson and Cotton and will be the 2010 summer reading book for incoming UNC students.

Jeremy Collins, director of the North Carolina Coalition for a Moratorium, said the purpose of the event was to make people aware of the Racial Justice Act in hopes that they will get involved in such legislation and remain engaged. The next cause the coalition is pursuing is prohibiting the execution of the mentally ill, Collins said.

Thompson said 75 percent of all wrongful convictions are due to false eyewitness identification claims.

In her case, DNA evidence was able to exonerate Cotton and identify the culprit, but she said most falsely accused persons are not as lucky, as DNA evidence is not always available.

Chapman said the state is reimbursing him for his imprisonment by paying him $50,000 for each of the 15 years he was incarcerated.

Although he refers to some of the inmates he spent time with as family, Chapman said no amount of money can make up for time lost.

“You can’t give back 15 years of life,” he said.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Tour Stop at Baylor U in Waco, TX!

Read this article in the Baylor University newspaper, The Lariat, about the recent tour stop on that campus featuring Alan Bean and Mark Osler!