We will also hold a press conference inside the Capitol at 12:30pm in the Speaker’s Committee Room (2W.6).
Speakers at the march and/or the press conference include:
Bill Pelke, Murder Victim Family Member President and Cofounder of Journey of Hope
Bill authored a book entitled Journey of Hope…From Violence to Healing, which details the May 14, 1985 murder of his grandmother Ruth Elizabeth Pelke, a Bible teacher, by four teenage girls. Paula Cooper who was deemed to be the ringleader was sentenced to die in the electric chair by the state of Indiana. She was fifteen years old at the time of the murder. Bill originally supported the sentence of death for Cooper, but went through a spiritual transformation in 1986 after praying for love and compassion for Paula Cooper and her family. He became involved with an international crusade on Paula’s behalf and in 1989 her sentenced was commuted to sixty years in prison. Bill, a retired steelworker, has dedicated his life to working for abolition of the death penalty. He has shared his story of love and compassion and the healing power of forgiveness thousands of times in more than forty states and fifteen countries with the Journey.
Ami Lyn White, Murder Victim Family Member
Ami remembers being told that her mother, Cathy, was murdered when she was five. She speaks to the pain and despair that she felt then and in the years since. She recognizes that “those on death row and those who are executed have families too, those family members, those children experience the same kind of pain and devastation that I felt. To me, the most premeditated murder of all is the death penalty. It only creates more victims, more heartache, more pain.”
Reverend Dr. Jack Sullivan, Jr, Murder Victim Family Member
Dr Sullivan is the Senior Pastor of First Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) of Findlay, OH. He recently completed service as Executive Director of Murder Victims’ Families for Reconciliation (MVFR), the nation’s largest victims’ families-led antideath penalty organization. Dr. Sullivan’s life and leadership have been forever influenced by the 1997 murder of his younger sister, Jennifer. In the traumatic days, weeks and months that followed Jennifer’s untimely death, his family steadfastly rejected any notion that the killer(s) be sentenced to death if apprehended. No one was ever arrested in Jennifer’s death,
Delia Perez-Meyer – sister of TX DR prisoner Louis Castro Perez
Terri Been – Sister of TX DR prisoner Jeff Wood
Sandra Reed – Mother of TX DR prisoner Rodney Reed
Marie Brignac – Representing Texas Death Penalty Abolition Movement
Yancy Escobar – wife of TX DR prisoner Juan Balderas
Ty Cassell – 10 yr old abolitionist from Houston
Alisa Hernandez – President of Amnesty International – UT
Marilyn Shankle-Grant – Mother of TX DR prisoner Paul Storey
Shujaa Graham – Exonerated Death Row Survivor, Murder Victim Family Member Social Activist, Member of Witness to Innocence
As a teenager, Shujaa lived through the Watts riots and experienced the police occupation of his community. In and out of trouble, he spent much of his adolescent life in juvenile institutions, until at age 18, he was sent to Soledad Prison. He came of age, mentored by the leadership of the Black Prison movement. He taught himself to read and write, studied history and world affairs, and became a leader of the Black Panther Party and growing movement within the California prison system. In 1973, Shujaa was framed in the murder of a prison guard. As a recognized leader within and without the prison, the community became involved in his defense, and supported him through 4 trials. Shujaa and his co-defendant, Eugene Allen, were sent to San Quentin’s death row in 1976, after a second trial in San Francisco. The DA systematically excluded all African American jurors, and in 1979, the California Supreme Court overturned the death conviction. After spending three years on death row, Shujaa, continued to fight for his life. A third trial ended in a hung jury, and after a fourth trial, he was found innocent. As Shujaa often says, he won his freedom and affirmed his innocence despite the system.
George White – Murder Victim Family Member, Wrongfully Convicted Exoneree, Chairman of the Board, Journey Ambassador and Cofounder of JOH
On February 27, 1985 in Enterprise, Al, George and his wife, Char, experienced firsthand the insanity of murder when a masked gunman entered his office and shot the pair repeatedly during an armed robbery. A horrific, twisted nightmare began and lasted for more than seven years as George went from a survivor of a violent crime and husband of a murder victim, to a suspect, accused, indigent defendant facing the death penalty, convicted murderer sentenced to life, and innocent man exonerated. Convicted in1987, the conviction was overturned in 1989 but it took until 1992 to uncover and confront the prosecution with the proof of his innocence and a judge ordered that the charge be forevermore dismissed, exonerating him. George speaks of his own often torturous journey from violence and hatred to healing. “I believe society’s laws must offer relief for our pain, anger and loss and afford us protection from those who would harm us; however, I reject the death penalty as a failed solution not only to heal the wounds of our loss, but as bad public policy, morally, socially and economically. Together, let us find a better way.”
Bill Babbitt –Brother of an Executed Man
Bill Babbitt once supported the death penalty. He also really trusted in the police, but when he realized that his brother, Manny, could possibly be involved in the death of an elderly woman he was filled with anguish and fear that if he contacted the police, they or the state of California might kill the brother he dearly loved. Manny Babbitt, a decorated Marine, had brought the horror of war home with him after two tours in Vietnam. He was diagnosed as a paranoid schizophrenic and suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder. Bill convinced himself to place his trust in the justice system and that it would recognize the reality of his brother’s mental illness. Manny would be held accountable and receive the psychological help that he needed. Bill literally led the police to his brother believing that justice would be served and Manny would get the help he needed. Bill was certain the state would not kill his little brother. He was wrong. Bill Babbitt was present at San Quentin prison when at one minute after midnight on May 4th, 1999 the state of California executed Manny.
With spoken word by Houston artist Kamil Khan!
MC: Lily Hughes