Join us March 15-19, 2010 in Austin, Texas for the award-winning Anti-Death Penalty Alternative Spring Break. Everyone is welcome. You can attend all events or just the ones that interest you.
It starts at 4:30 PM on Monday, March 15. The location is the Jesse H. Jones Communication Center – CMA room 3.112 on the campus of The University of Texas at Austin. CMA is on the corner of Whitis Avenue and Dean Keeton, (Google Map). The room is located on the entrance level of the building.
Special guests will be six innocent death row exoneress: Shujaa Graham, Curtis McCarty, Ron Keine, Derrick Jamison, Perry Cobb and Juan Melendez. They are attending alternative spring break to speak with participants about how innocent people can end up on death row. Altogether, the six exonerees attending the alternative spring break spent a total of about 65 years on death row for crimes they did not commit.
It’s free, except for a $25 housing fee for those who need us to arrange housing for you. We will house you in a shared room with other spring breakers in either a hotel or dorm. You are responsible for your travel, food and other expenses, but the program and most of the housing costs are on us. The $25 housing fee is all you pay. Register here.
Monday, March 15 (Jesse H. Jones Communication Center – CMA room 3.112 on the campus of The University of Texas at Austin. CMA is on the corner of Whitis Avenue and Dean Keeton, Google Map )
Afternoon: Housing check-in for people who have signed up for housing.
4:30-5 PM: Introduction to the Anti-Death Penalty Alternative Spring Break
5:00-6:00 PM “Overview of the Death Penalty Issue” with Brian Evans from Washington, D.C. office of Amnesty International USA’s Death Penalty Abolition Campaign
6- 6:30 “Live from Death Row” – Telephone Call from a person on death row, organized by Campaign to End the Death Penalty – Austin Chapter
6:30- 7 PM Snacks and socializing
7:00- 8:30 PM Panel discussion with death row exonerees Shujaa Graham (3 years on California death row), Perry Cobb (8 years on Illinois death row), Derrick Jamison (17 years on death row in Ohio), plus family members of people on death row, Delia Perez Meyer, Terri Been and Crystal Halprin. Delia’s brother Louis Perez is on Texas Death Row. Terri’s brother Jeff Wood is on Texas Death Row. Crystal’s husband Randy Halprin is on Texas Death Row. The Law of Parties will be one topic covered by Terri and Crystal.
Evening Time on your own for enjoying Austin, including the SXSW film festival.
Tuesday, March 16 Issues Day (Jesse H. Jones Communication Center – CMA room 3.112 on the campus of The University of Texas at Austin. CMA is on the corner of Whitis Avenue and Dean Keeton, Google Map)
Noon to 1 PM: “Religious Views of the Death Penalty” presented by Steven Crimaldi, National Director of Dead Man Walking School Theater Project. Steven will also explain how students can get involved by doing a production of the play at their schools or in their communities.
1- 2 PM: “Mental Illness and the Death Penalty”, presented by Susannah Sheffer of Murder Victims’ Families for Human Rights. “Prevention, Not Execution”. Read background report: “DOUBLE TRAGEDIES: Victims Speak Out Against the Death Penalty for People with Severe Mental Illness“.
2:30-3:30 Mary K. Poirier, mitigation specialist from The McCallister Law Firm. Mary will discuss her work on capital trials in Texas and elsewhere and how activists can work with legal teams. A good mitigation specialist can save someone from being sentenced to death.
3:45- 5:00 PM Bill Pelke, president of Journeyof Hope … From Violence to Healing will speak and present a film of the work of Journey of Hope … From Violence to Healing. The film documents family members of murder victims speaking out against the death penalty. Also, we will introduce and hear comments from another special guest arriving Tuesday, death row exoneree Curtis McCarty who spent 19 years on death row in Oklahoma.
5:30 PM – 7:30 PM Petition Signature Gathering Competition: We will divide into teams and fan out throughout Austin to collect signatures on a petition against the death penalty. People can collect signatures at places such as where SXSW events are taking place such as the convention center, outside certain bookstores or other stores if they allow it, on the streets in downtown Austin and wherever else the teams want to try. The team that collects the most petition signatures (with names, addresses, email addresses and possibly phone numbers) will win a prize of $100.
Evening Free time on your own for enjoying Austin
Wednesday, March 17 (Jesse H. Jones Communication Center – CMA room 3.112 on the campus of The University of Texas at Austin. CMA is on the corner of Whitis Avenue and Dean Keeton, Google Map)
Noon – 1:00 Media Workshop with Vincent Villano of Campus Progress. Workshop will give tips on communicating effectively with reporters, writing press releases, organizing press conferences and other topics.
1:00 – 2:00 PM Lobbying Workshop in preparation for next day’s lobbying at capitol, with Alison Brock, Chief of Staff to Texas State Representative Sylvester Turner.
2:00 – 2:15 Break
2:15 – 3:15 “Art and Activism” with John Holbrook, photographer of Texas death row, whose work has been exhibited in the Europe and the U.S., including at the Texas Capitol in May 2009. A selection of John’s photographs and other death penalty-themed artworks will be on display. John will talk about his experiences photographing people on Texas death row and his 17 years working as a private investigator on Texas capital murder cases.
3:15 – 3:30 Break
3:30 – 4:30 PM Campus Organizing and Coalition Building Workshop with Vincent Villano of Campus Progress. There’s so much more to working in coalition than inviting people to join you in your efforts. It’s hard work and requires skill, understanding and strategy, but the rewards for you, your partners, and your cause are endless (and fun!). Learn the importance of working in coalition, how to identify allies, how to engage non-traditional partners, where coalition building fits in with your campaign plan, and why it might be just what you need to take your issue campaign to the next level.
4:30- 5 PM Discussion of next day’s press conference, lobbying visits and rally.·
Dinner break (on your own)
7:00 Screen Printing Workshop with Garry Spitzer of CEDP, plus sign-making session for next day’s rally. Screen printing is a method of applying images to signs and t-shirts.
Free Time to enjoy Austin
Thursday, March 18: Lobby Day and Justice Rally at the Texas Capitol
11 AM – Press conference in Texas House Speaker’s Committee Room 2W.6 at Texas Capitol (Press conference will be organized, moderated and run by students from spring break).
12:30- 2:00 Death Penalty Panel with Six Exonerated Former Death Row Inmates and Bill Pelke – President of Journey of Hope … From Violence to Healing. Location: Committee Room E2.016 in the Texas State Capitol.
- Shujaa Graham, who spent 3 years of his life on California’s death-row for a crime he did not commit.
- Curtis McCarty, who spent 19 years of his life on Oklahoma’s death-row for a crime he did not commit.
- Ron Keine, who spent almost two years on death row in New Mexico for a crime he did not commit.
- Perry Cobb, who spent 8 years on death row in Illinois for a crime he did not commit.
- Derrick Jamison, who spent 17 years on death row in Ohio for a crime he did not commit.
- Juan Melendez spent seventeen years, eight months and one day on Florida ’s death row for a crime he did not commit.
- Bill Pelke, president of Journey of Hope … From Violence to Healing and former Chairman of the Board of the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty. Bill authored a book entitled “Journey of Hope…From Violence to Healing”, which details the May14, 1985 murder of his grandmother Ruth Pelke, a Bible teacher, by four teenage girls. He shares his story of forgiveness and healing, and how he came to realize that he did not need to see someone else die in order to heal from his grandmother’s death. He also helps organize Journey tours nationally and abroad. Bill has traveled to over forty states and ten countries with the Journey of Hope and has told his story over 5,000 times.
2:00 – 2:45 Break
2:45 – 3:45 PM Screening of 17-minute film about Todd Willingham and how Rick Perry recently shook-up the Texas Forensic Science Commission, followed by a discussion with filmmaker Joshua Riehl and Liz Gilbert, the friend of Todd Willingham who first investigated his innocence and helped find a fire expert to examine the forensic evidence. Gilbert’s role is explained in the article “Trial by Fire” in The New Yorker by David Grann. Location: Committee Room E2.016 in the Texas State Capitol
3:45 – 4:45 Lobbying Visits with legislators and/or their aides.
4:45 – 5:00 Set up for Justice Rally
5:00 – 7:30 Justice Rally Against the Death Penalty on the South Steps of the Texas Capitol (If you get off work at 5, you can still come, just get there as soon after work as possible)
Rally Speakers include death row exonerees Shujaa Graham, Ron Keine, Perry Cobb, Juan Melendez, Derrick Jamison and Curtis McCarty; Bill Pelke, president of Journey of Hope and past chair of the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty; students participating in Anti-Death Penalty Alternative Spring Break; a representative of Clinton Young; a representative of the Campaign to End the Death Penalty; Gloria Rubac of the Texas Death Penalty Abolition Movement; Delia Meyer-Perez, whose brother Louis Castro Perez is on death row; Cory Session of the Innocence Project of Texas, Cory’s brother, Tim Cole, was an innocent man who died while in prison and was posthumously exonerated and pardoned by Rick Perry; Regina Kelly – her story was the subject of the film “American Violet”. She was unlawfully targeted and arrested on drug charges; Ron Carlson, whose sister Debra Ruth Carlson, along with two others, was murdered with a pick-ax by Karla Faye Tucker and Daniel Ryan Garrett; plus other speakers.
After Rally: Last Supper. Food and discussion of the rally as well as the entire spring break. We will go to a restaurant (everyone buys their own meal and drinks). Fill out feedback forms.
Friday, March 19: Fun Day on your own in Austin.
This is Spring Break, so today we will have some fun and take a break after all the hard work we have done all week. Everyone is free to choose their own activities. Some things people could do are: Go swimming at Barton Springs Pool, attend a SXSW film or music event, go shopping, take a Segway tour of Austin, go jogging around Town Lake, go bike riding, visit a museum or do something else. Some of these activities cost money, so plan accordingly.