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Thursday, May 28, 2020

Kin of victims seek an option to death penalty

Chronicle  05/30/98                                      By LISA M. CHMIOLA, Staff

Carol Byars of Channelview didn't have strong feelings about the death
penalty when her husband was slain nearly 20 years ago. In fact, not
until the accused killer went on trial did she realize she opposed the
Byars saw the man's family in the courtroom, and didn't want his wife
and children to suffer her pain and anger.
"Why spend all this money to kill someone when he could be a productive
person?" Byars wondered. Her husband's killer escaped the death penalty.
Byars and hundreds of other death penalty opponents will gather in the
Houston area this weekend to kick off a statewide campaign to promote a
message of love and compassion for all humanity during the Texas Journey
of Hope .
The campaign is sponsored by Journey of Hope . . . From Violence to
Healing, a nonprofit organization led by murder victims' families who
share their stories to encourage dialogue on death penalty alternatives.
"Our stories help encourage others who oppose the death penalty," said
founder Bill Pelke, who lost his grandmother to murder. The group
started the program in 1993 and has brought their message to Indiana,
Georgia, California, Virginia and Missouri.
Members' alternatives to the death penalty include life imprisonment
without parole and able prisoners performing jobs to pay for the cost of
their imprisonment and a fund to support victims' families, said Pelke.
"We believe in accountability and holding people responsible," said
board member George White.
This weekend's events begin at noon today with a four-hour demonstration
outside the Walls Unit of the state prison in Huntsville, where death
row inmates are executed. Some members of the group will then visit
death row inmates at the Ellis Unit.
Participants will speak Sunday at local churches and other gatherings,
followed by a youth anti-violence rally from 5-9 p.m. at Houston City
Monday's activities include a prayer rally from noon to 1 p.m. outside
Harris County District Attorney John B. Holmes Jr.'s office. Later that
day and Tuesday, members will address local groups.
The journey will continue on to Dallas-Fort Worth, San Antonio and
Austin, culminating in a rally at the capitol June 13.