Three innocent, exonerated former death row prisoners will be among the special guests today at the Tenth Annual March to Abolish the Death Penalty October 24, 2009 at 2 PM in Austin, Texas at the Texas Capitol on the South Steps at 11th and Congress. Also attending will be the penpal of Todd Willingham, Elizabeth Gilbert, who first investigated his innocence. Plus, Todd’s last lawyer Walter Reaves. Please attend the march to support the Willingham family as they fight to prove that Todd Willingham was innocent.
Speakers and other confirmed attendees at the march will include three innocent, now-exonerated death row prisoners (Shujaa Graham, Curtis McCarty and Ron Keine), Jeff Blackburn (Chief Counsel of the Innocence Project of Texas), Jeanette Popp (a mother whose daughter was murdered but who asked the DA not to seek the death penalty), Elizabeth Gilbert (the penpal of Todd Willingham who first pushed his innocence and helped his family find a fire expert to investigate), Walter Reaves (the last attorney for Todd Willingham, who fought for him through the execution and continues to fight to exonerate him), Terri Been whose brother Jeff Wood is on death row convicted under the Law of Parties even though he did not kill anyone, and Anna Terrell the mother of Reginald Blanton who is scheduled for execution in Texas on Oct 27 three days after the march, plus others to be announced.
The march starts at 2 PM on October 24 at the Texas Capitol. We will gather at the Texas Capitol at the gates leading into the Capitol on the sidewalk at 11th Street, march down Congress Avenue to 6th street, then back to the South Steps of the Capitol for a rally to abolish the death penalty.
Panel Discussion: The night before the march, there will be a panel discussion on the campus of the University of Texas at Austin at 7 PM with Shujaa Graham and Curtis McCarty. (Thank you to Bill Pelke and the Journey of Hope for helping bring them to Austin for the march.) Shujaa and Curtis will speak about what it is like to be innocent and sentenced to death. The panel is in the Sinclair Suite (room 3.128) of the Texas Student Union on Guadalupe. Call if you need more directions 512-552-4743.
Post-march Strategy Meeting: Immediately after the march on October 24, we plan to hold a networking and strategy meeting inside the capitol. Everyone is invited to attend the strategy session and help us plan how to move forward towards abolition in Texas. The strategy session will start about 30 minutes after the last speaker at the march.
Now is one of the most critical times ever to march against the death penalty.
We just learned from a state-funded report that Texas executed Todd Willingham for arson/murder even though the fire was not arson it was just a fire, so Texas executed an innocent person.
From today’s Waco Herald Tribune:
Rally scheduled for Corsicana man executed in 2004 in arson case
Saturday, October 24, 2009
By Cindy V. CulpTribune-Herald staff writer
The case of a Corsicana man executed in 2004 for arson murder will be at the center of an anti-death penalty rally today at the Texas Capitol.
Local attorney Walter M. Reaves Jr., who represented Cameron Todd Willingham during the final part of his appeals process, planned to attend the 10th annual March to Abolish the Death Penalty, along with four people who were exonerated after being on death row. The event is being organized by a number of groups that oppose the death penalty.
As part of the event, activists plan to deliver a petition to Gov. Rick Perry that urges him to say that the 1991 fire that killed Willingham’s three young daughters was not arson, said Scott Cobb, president of the Texas Moratorium Network. It will also ask for Texas executions to be suspended and for Perry to appoint an impartial body to examine the state’s death penalty system, he said.
Willingham’s case, and the role Perry has played in the execution and subsequent investigation into whether it was flawed, has been in the national spotlight. Attention started mounting earlier this month after Perry abruptly replaced four people on the nine-member Texas Forensic Science Commission, including its chairman.
The upheaval came shortly before the commission was set to hear a report from a fire expert hired by the panel. That expert said the arson finding was not scientifically supported, giving further weight to those who say the Willingham case offers the first credible proof of wrongful execution in modern U.S. history.
Reaves said he was initially reluctant to participate in the rally because it could detract from the facts of Willingham’s individual case. He decided to attend, however, because it is another forum to continue pressing Willingham’s case and rebut arguments from the governor’s office, he said.
Also highlighted at the rally will be the cases of four people who spent time on death row before being exonerated.
If Texans take time to listen to people who have wrongly faced execution, public opinion of the practice will change, Cobb said.
“We tell the actual facts about the death penalty, and the fact is that innocent people get convicted and get sentenced to death. And, in some cases, they are not able to prove their innocence before they are executed,” Cobb said.
For more information about the rally or petition, go online to www.camerontoddwillingham.com.