Death penalty opponents say system is broken, executions must end
As execution numbers rise in Texas, so does the determination to end all
executions. Families of death row prisoners and community activists joined
opponents of the death penalty on Oct. 25 for the 9th Annual March to End
Executions in Houston.
The lively percussion of the Free Radicals Marching Band accompanied the
spirited march. As they arrived at the SHAPE Community Center, there were
chants of "Death penalty? Shut it down! Huntsville? Shut it down!
Executions? Shut it down!"
Clarence Brandley, who was freed from Texas death row in 1990 after a
10-year struggle proved his innocence, was the featured speaker. "I
wouldn't be here today if it wasn't for people like you standing up and
not giving up. I came within hours of execution 2 times, but today I am
here with you. Never stop the fight! Never give up! We can win!" Brandley
said to the cheering crowd.
A revolutionary tone was set for the day by the words of solidarity sent
by those locked in steel cages. Margaret with the Rice for Peace and
Justice student group read a message from Bomani Shakur, who is on death
row in Lucasville, Ohio. A statement from Panthers United for
Revolutionary Education on Texas death row was also read.
Words written by Gabriel Gonzales with the DRIVE Movement on Texas death
row were read: "Prison issues are class issuesthe rich exploiting the poor
for economical gain. The insidious crippling of our poor, our young people
on death rows and prisons is expanding and none of this is about the rate
of crime. It is about capitalism, it is about racism and classism."
Abolitionist Ester King read a strong message to support Troy Davis in
Georgia from Kenneth Foster, who won commutation of his death sentence
hours before his Aug. 30, 2007, execution was to take place. A strong,
popular movement forced this victory. March participants signed birthday
cards for Foster.
Hearts and minds were filled with emotion as well as information when a
dozen families of death row prisoners took the stage.
Delia Perez Meyers said that her brother, Louis Castro Perez, was
innocent, and even though he had just lost a round in court, his family
continues to fight to win his freedom.
Sonya Chavez spoke for the large family of Melissa Lucio, who was sent to
death row in August. Lucio is one of 10 women on death row in Texas. Her
family, who drove from Harlingen, Texas, wore tee shirts with her photo.
Eric Cathey is scheduled for execution on Nov. 18, despite strong evidence
of innocence. His sister, Shelicia Cathey, spoke about the injustice in
Alisha Joshlin spoke fondly about her fiance Willie Pondexter and the
terror of waiting for his March 3, 2009, execution date. With tears
streaming down her face, she asked for help and support.
4 families from the Rio Grande Valley rented a van and drove to Houston
together. Their loved ones had all been sent to death row under the Texas
Law of Parties, which allows a person who was not even at the scene of a
crime to be put to death. After stopping the execution of Kenneth Foster
in 2007 and winning a stay for Jeff Wood in August, activists plan to
fight this law until it is taken off the books.
Marisol Ramirez spoke for her husband, Juan Raul Ramirez; and Sylvia
Garza, with her daughter hugging her, spoke for her son, Robert Garza.
With tears streaming, Janie Medrano said she can no longer tell her
7-year-old son that his daddy, Rudy, will be home soon. Lydia Garza spoke
for her son, Humberto Garza. All 4 families had banners with their loved
one's photo on them and a demand for the end of the Law of Parties.
Howard Guidry's appeal will be heard on Oct. 29. His spouse, Regina, urged
people to be in Austin to support Guidry, an innocent man who was sent to
death row after Harris County detectives coerced a false confession from
A highlight of the day was the participation of Kids Against the Death
Penalty, formed by Jeff Wood's daughter Paige and his nieces and nephews
last spring. They participated in a highly public campaign for Wood, who
won a stay of execution on Aug. 22. Gavin Been spoke for KADP. Speaking
for Wood was Terry Been, his brother-in-law, friend and active supporter.
The last juvenile sent to death row in the U.S., before the Supreme Court
outlawed the execution of those under 18, was Robert Acua of Houston. His
mother, Barbara, told of the relief of not waking up every day knowing
that the state was going to murder her son.
Before Joseph Nichols was executed on March 7, 2007, he had his mother
promise him that, through her, he would continue to be part of the fight
against capital punishment. Lee Greenwood spoke at the rally about Joe
being executed, even though he hadn't killed anyone. She has always kept
her promise to her son.
Death row inmate's message—-'Power to the people! Shut it down!'
The following excerpts are from a powerful, moving statement written by
Harvey "Tee" Earvin, a political prisoner and founding member of Panthers
United for Revolutionary Education (PURE), a group of inmates on Texas
death row. The statement was read Oct. 25 at the 9th Annual March to End
Executions sponsored by the Texas Death Penalty Abolition Movement.
First off, PURE expresses our gratitude. We thank you for coming out
today! There is no feeling of greater euphoria than that which arises from
standing with the peoplea people whose numbers are mighty and whose
demands are as headlong as rushing waters unable to be turned around by
We stand with you today in spirit, but, mind you, a spirit unbroken, even
though for years we have lived in the waiting rooms of the killing
chambers, where the thought of death and dying are constant and abusive
living conditions a daily reality.
In the aftermath of the Baze decision, wherein the Supreme Court approved
the protocol of lethal injection, Texas is fast back to business as usual:
snuffing out life with distressing ease. While we are here to protest
these unconscionable deeds, the end to this capitalist system is our
State-sanctioned murder is part and parcel of the overall
prison-industrial complex; the prison-industrial complex is part and
parcel of capitalism. And under capitalism we are ALL victims of some
descriptionwe may be homeless, jobless or a wage slave, a prisoner, a
worker or a borrower.
The $700 billion push to bailout predatory lenders, a.k.a. capitalist
crooks, at the expense of the working people clearly points to whose
interests are represented under this system.
Not long ago, my daughter, who is mentally challenged, single with three
children and on disability, was literally without food. Her measly
disability check doesnt carry her the full month because she's still on
the waiting list for low-income housing. So she turned to meher father on
death row with nothing! I tried to send her what food from the commissary
I had, only about $10 worth, but I was told I could not do that. Its
against prison policy to send out perishable goods, even to a needy
family. Hurt, I turned to my sister, who is unemployed after having been
laid off from work after an auto accident.
Such are the faces that we see in the news stamped "LAZY"; the faces used
when they want to cut needed programs. There are millions of dollars
available to try capital cases and to put people in prison or to death,
but not a nickel available to feed a hungry child.
"Adjustable-rate mortgage payments are going up," says Comrade Fred
Goldstein in his front-page article in the Oct. 2 issue of Workers World
newspaper. "The cost of living is skyrocketing and the economy is
shrinkingleaving workers fewer jobs and smaller paychecks."
How might this bailout money be used? Well, the comrade answers that
question, too. "It could be used to pay for universal health care,
affordable housing, affordable education, daycare, job creation, and other
basic needs." And to this, we in PURE add: For the prisoners, we too call
for education, rehabilitation and job creation for the nation within this
country of over 2 million people under lock and key. And we demand capital
help instead of capital punishment!
Freedom from the system of capitalism! Freedom for us all! Freedom for us
all! Freedom for every pauper on the street and every slave behind the
(source for both: Workers World)