Student Conference

There is no Student Conference on the Death Penalty currently planned for 2020.

2016 Student Conference on the Death Penalty

The 10th Annual Student Conference on the Death Penalty took place on the campus of Belmont University on February 6th, 2016.

The keynote speaker was Miriam Thimm Kelle, a murder victim’s family member whose testimony and leadership were instrumental in Nebraska’s repeal of the death penalty in May 2015. The conference also included a showing of the short film, “To Honor Life,” as well as two panel discussion on the changing conversation about the death penalty, featuring perspectives from conservatives, members of the media, legislators, and those who have been wrongfully convicted and sentenced to death, along with their attorneys. Register here.

 2015 Student Conference on the Death Penalty

The 9th Annual Student Conference on the Death Penalty was held at Belmont University on February 7, 2015. Over 160 high school, college, and graduate students, as well as some community members, spent their morning and afternoon listening to speakers and panelists talk about their knowledge and experience with the death penalty system in Tennessee.

The featured speaker was Stephen Owens, the son of Gaile Owens—a woman released from Tennessee’s death row in 2011. He is author of the book, Set Free, in which he shares his journey towards forgiveness and reconciliation. Gaile was in attendance, and graciously answered questions alongside her son, which many students said was the highlight of the conference. The day also included a showing of the short film, “To Honor Life,” with a panel of some of those in the film, including Charles Strobel, Preston Shipp, Brad MacLean, and Gayle Ray. After lunch, we introduced a panel of attorneys who spoke about the legal side of capital cases and the death penalty system. Panel members included Rob Gown– Shelby County Public Defender, Debbie Drew– Post Conviction, Alexis Soler and David Paschal– Federal Public Defender.

Thank you to all who helped make this year’s conference an unprecedented success!

2014 Student Conference on the Death Penalty

The 8th Annual Student Conference on the Death Penalty took place at Tennessee State University on February 22, 2014. Students and community members heard from murder victims’ family members, death row exonorees, and law enforcement professionals. We hope that this conference empowered attendees to learn more about the issue and help end the death penalty in Tennessee!

2013 Student Conference on the Death Penalty

The 7th Annual Student Conference on the Death Penalty took place at Lipscomb University in Nashville, on February 23, 2013. The year’s keynote speaker was Ray Krone, the 100th Death Row exoneree in the U.S. Ray served ten years in prison, including several on death row, for a crime he did not commit until DNA evidence finally identified the actual perpetrator.

The conference also included a Wrongfully Convicted Panel which included Ray Krone, Ndume Olatushani, and Paul and Joyce House. Students  also had the opportunity to hear from the Sharing Our Stories Panel of surviving family members of murder victims who will share painful journeys and opposition to the death penalty. Panel members included  James Staub, Patricia Earnhardt, Charles Strobel, and Cliff O’Sullivan.

It was a great conference and we hope to see you next year!

2012 Student Conference on the Death Penalty

The 6th Annual Student Conference on the Death Penalty at Middle Tennessee State University included keynote speakers, Mark Osler, a law professor, former federal prosecutor, and author of Jesus on Death Row, and Jeanne Bishop, a defense attorney, law professor, and the sister of Nancy Bishop Langert, who was murdered along with her husband and their unborn child in 1990.

The students then attended workshops before and after lunch, which included topics of mental illness and the death penalty, presented by Chris Slobogin, director of Vanderbilt Law School’s Criminal Justice Program; Sharing Our Stories with Hector Black, whose daughter was murdered in 2000; and the impact of the Troy Davis execution, which was facilitated by Ebony Brickhouse, a field organizer for Amnesty International who worked on Davis’ campaign.

Some of the attendees shared with us that the information they received and the discussions they had at this conference led them to re-evaluate their position on the death penalty.We are hopeful that they will return to their campuses empowered and inspired to educate others and work toward repeal of the death penalty!

2011 Student Conference on the Death Penalty

The 5th Annual Student Conference on the Death Penalty at Middle Tennessee State University included keynote speakers Nick and Amanda Wilcox opened the conference, addressing the nearly 180 conference attendees. Following the keynote address, students attended workshops, including Death Penalty 101, Mental Illness and the Death Penalty, and Sharing Our Stories: Murder Victims’ Families Speak . These workshops were facilitated by local experts from the field, as well as those who have been directly affected by the system, like Paul House – Tennessee’s second death row exoneree – and his mother, Joyce.

Thanks to all who participated in making the 2011 conference a big success!

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