In the struggle to end the death penalty, we can sometimes get discouraged by the challenges that we face. This year, however, we have much thanks giving to do.
In April, Connecticut became the fifth state in five years to repeal the death penalty. Governor John Kitzhaber of Oregon issued a death penalty moratorium a year ago, and it has continued to foster action towards repeal there. Though California recently failed to repeal the death penalty in a referendum, over four million Californians voted in favor of repeal. And, according to a 2011 Gallup Poll, support for the death penalty has dropped 19 percent over 17 years.
Here at home in Tennessee, we are seeing change as well. Gussie Vann became Tennessee’s third exoneree when all charges against him for the 1992 murder of his daughter were dropped. Ndume Olatushani (formerly Erskine Johnson) was released in June on an Alford plea after spending 27 years behind bars, including 19 years on death row. More murder victims families are joining TADP to let Tennesseans know that the death penalty system does not serve their needs and that the protracted process only prolongs their suffering while more fiscal conservatives are acknowledging that the our state cannot afford the exorbitant cost of the death penalty.
With our thanksgiving for these achievements comes a renewed dedication to the work that still needs doing. Former death row inmate Timothy McKinney continues to fight for his freedom as he awaits his third capital trial. Michael Dale Rimmer’s conviction and death sentence were thrown out by a Memphis judge, and now he waits to see if he will be retried. Currently there are still 85 inmates on Tennessee’s death row, including those like Abu-Ali Abdur’ Rahman and Olen Hutchison, who are in danger of getting execution dates.
TADP will continue to educate the people of Tennessee about just how broken the death penalty system is, and we look forward to holding our annual student conference at Lipscomb University on February 23, 2013. In years past, this conference has provided an excellent opportunity to bring students from across the state into the death penalty conversation, and we are working diligently to bring even more to the table next year. We are grateful to have Ray Krone, the nation’s 100th exoneree, featured as our keynote speaker, sharing his amazing story with students statewide.
Thanks to all who support this work for repeal. During this Thanksgiving season, we at TADP are truly grateful for you and your support.
(Photo from C. A. Muller)
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