25 Death Row Exonerees to Lead 12th Annual March to Abolish the Death Penalty at the Texas Capitol Saturday, October 22, 2011

The 12th Annual March to Abolish the Death Penalty will be held Saturday, October 22nd, 2011 at the Texas Capitol at 2 PM (on the north side of the capitol).  A rally will begin at 2 PM followed by a march through the streets of downtown Austin at 3.

The march will be led by 25 death row survivors who each spent many years on death rows around the U.S. despite being innocent. The 25 exonerees are coming to Texas as members of Witness to Innocence. Some of the exonerees are in Texas for a speaking tour across the state and all of them will be in Austin for the Witness to Innocence “Gathering” from October 20-23. Witness to Innocence is the nation’s only organization composed of, by and for exonerated death row survivors and their loved ones.

“Many people at the rally and march will carry signs that say “Perry/Willingham 2012″ to suggest that if Rick Perry becomes president of the U.S., it will be over the dead body of a person whose execution Perry allowed even though he was given information before the execution discrediting the forensic science used to convict Todd Willingham. After Willingham’s execution, Perry abused his power as governor to interfere with the investigation of a governmental body into the Willingham case. Rick Perry’s actions regarding Todd Willingham raise serious questions about Perry’s character and judgement. Perry is not ethically qualified to be president of the United States”, said Scott Cobb, president of Texas Moratorium Network.

The signs marchers will carry can be seen at the following link:

Before his execution, Todd Willingham told his parents,“Please don’t ever stop fighting to vindicate me.”

Before his execution, Troy Davis told his supporters in a letter,”There are so many more Troy Davises. This fight to end the death penalty is not won or lost through me but through our strength to move forward and save every innocent person in captivity around the globe. We need to dismantle this unjust system city by city,state by state and country by country.”

Texas has executed 475 people since 1982 (as of Oct 16, 2011). Under current Texas Governor Rick Perry, 236 people have been executed, including some with a strong case of innocence. Twelve people have been exonerated while on death row in Texas, the most recent being Anthony Graves in 2010. Since 1976, there have been 138 death row exonerations in the United States. 

A recent CNN poll showed that when given a choice of sentences between life in prison without parole or the death penalty for the crime of murder, more Americans (50%) would opt for the life sentence than for death (48%). 

“We will be urging all Texans to join us at the March to Abolish the Death Penalty on October 22 in Austin”, said Ron Keine, formerly on death row in New Mexico. 

“As they see what the death penalty really means, in my case and others, more and more Texans believe that Texas can do without the death penalty,” said exonerated death row survivor Clarence Brandley, from Conroe, Texas, who has been fighting for compensation from the state of Texas for over twenty years.

Each October since 2000, people from all walks of life and all parts of Texas, the U.S. and other countries have taken a day out of their year and gathered in Austin to raise their voices together and loudly express their opposition to the death penalty. The march is a coming together of activists, family members of people on death row, community leaders, exonerated former death row prisoners and all those calling for repeal of the Texas death penalty.

The annual march is organized as a joint project by several Texas anti-death penalty organizations and their allies: Texas Moratorium Network, the Austin chapter of the Campaign to End the Death Penalty, the Texas Death Penalty Abolition Movement, Texas Students Against the Death Penalty, Witness to Innocence, Journey of Hope … From Violence to Healing, Texas Civil Rights Project, International Socialist Organization, Amnesty International at The University of Texas, Kids Against the Death Penalty, The Austin Chronicle, NOKOA, Gray Panthers and Democrats for Life.

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