Abolitionists Gather in Austin for Annual Conference

Thursday, February 19, 2009
CONTACT: Kristin Houlé, TCADP Executive Director
512-441-1808 (office); 202-494-3578 (cell)

Abolitionists Gather in Austin for Annual Conference
Austin musician and others to be recognized

(Austin, Texas) — More than 120 anti-death penalty advocates from across Texas will gather this Saturday, February 21, 2009 in Austin for the annual conference of the Texas Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty (TCADP). “Raising Our Voices for Abolition” will feature keynote speaker Celeste Fitzgerald, the Director of New Jerseyans for Alternatives to the Death Penalty, who led that state’s successful legislative campaign to abolish the death penalty. New Jersey Governor Jon Corzine signed the historic death penalty abolition bill into law on December 17, 2007.

In conjunction with the conference, TCADP will honor Austin-based musician and singer-songwriter Sara Hickman for her extraordinary contributions to the abolition movement in Texas. In October 2007, Hickman launched a year-long, statewide tour to benefit TCADP. The “Music for Life” tour – which visited 12 Texas cities and covered more than 5,400 miles — provided a forum for dialogue on the issue of capital punishment. Each concert featured Sara and other local musicians, as well as speakers who addressed various aspects of the death penalty. In recognition of Hickman’s work on raising the dialogue on capital punishment, Austin Mayor Will Wynn has declared February 21, 2009 “Sara Hickman Day” and Lavaca at 13th Street will be renamed “Sara Hickman Way” for the day. Sara attends First United Methodist Church, Austin, TX.

TCADP will present its annual Courage Award to El Paso Mayor John Cook, who performed with Hickman when the tour visited his city and then traveled at his own expense to participate in other concerts. Bob Ray Sanders, the Vice President/Associate Editor and Metro columnist for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, will receive a Media Award for his editorials on the death penalty.

The following individuals will receive Appreciation Awards:
– Deborah Michalewicz ofWater Valley, Texas, who provided significant leadership in organizing a “Music for Life” concert in San Angelo;
– Steve James and Peter Gilbert of Chicago, Illinois, the directors of “At the Death House Door,” which tells the story of former Texas Death House chaplain Reverend Carroll Pickett and profiles the case of Carlos DeLuna, who was executed for a crime he may not have committed;
– The members of St. John’s United Methodist Church in Lubbock, Texas, who drafted and secured passage by the General Conference of the United Methodist Church of a resolution calling for the abolition of the death penalty in Texas.

“TCADP’s Annual Conference is taking place at a time of unprecedented legislative momentum on the death penalty issue,” said Kristin Houlé, Executive Director of the Texas Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty. “In the past week, bills to abolish the death penalty passed the New Mexico House of Representatives and the Montana Senate; Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley has waged a personal crusade to end the death penalty in his state.”

In the Texas Legislature, Representative Jessica Farrar has introduced House Bill 682, which calls for the repeal of the death penalty in Texas. TCADP urges lawmakers to call the bill to a hearing and to engage in a fair and open debate on this important issue.

The 2009 TCADP Annual Conference will take place at the Schmidt-Jones Family Life Center of the First United Methodist Church, 1300 Lavaca, from 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM. All are welcome.###