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Saturday, December 07, 2019

Anti-death penalty rally puts focus on children

By: Eric Berger
Houston Chronicle
June 1, 1998
    Anti-death penalty activists on a two-week tour of Texas rallied in front of Houston City Hall Sunday to call attention to the fact that children are affected by capital punishment.
    Organizers held the event in conjunction with today’s national Stand for Children’s Day.
    Sunday’s speakers included Sam Reese Sheppard, son of Dr. Sam Sheppard, the long-accused murderer upon whom the television series and movie The Fugitive were based.  In 1966 Dr. Sheppard was acquitted of killing his wife in a second trial.
    Sam Reese Sheppard was 7 years old when his pregnant mother died.
    “It’s been very traumatic and difficult to talk about, but it’s also been a healthy thing for me to do,” said Sheppard, who first went public with his childhood experiences in 1989.
    The rally was part of a two-week Texas trek by the Journey of Hope…From Violence to Healing group, which began Friday.
    This year’s journey is the fifth by the group founded in 1993 and led by board members who are family members of murder victims.
    Texas, said Sheppard, was the obvious choice for this year’s rally, even though the event was planned a year before the Karla Faye Tucker execution put Texas’ death row in the national limelight.
    Of the inmates put to death in the United States, nearly one in three are killed in Texas.
    “We’re in the belly of the beast,” Sheppard said.
    Several speakers interspersed among musical acts took the stage during the four hour rally Sunday evening.  Among them was Ron Carlson, brother of Tucker murder victim Deborah Thornton.
    “I did not ask the state of Texas to kill Karla Faye Tucker,” Carlson said.  “Please don’t do it in my name.”
    Several dozen spectators braved Sunday evening’s sweltering temperatures at least in part for the free music, which included noted country rock troubadour Steve Earle.
    “I heard Steve was going to be here and came out,” said Debbie Jones, 30, of Houston.  “But I can get into the message.”
    For his part Earle, an avowed death-penalty opponent, donated his time and even pitched in by helping lug in water for parched participants.
    “This is really important to me,” said Earle, who wrote a song for the Dead Man Walking soundtrack and has worked with Amnesty International.  “I’m a songwriter that has never rally separated politics and music.”
    Monday activities by Journey participants include a prayer rally at noon outside Houston District Attorney John B. Holmes Jr.’s office.  The activists will continue on to Dallas, Fort Worth and San Antonio before culminating with a June 13 rally at the Capitol in Austin.