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Saturday, November 17, 2018

Speakers and Presenters

Dr. Allen Ault, former warden who oversaw executions
Dr. Allen Ault is currently Dean of the College of Justice & Safety at Eastern Kentucky University.  He is a retired Director of the Georgia Department of Corrections, where he oversaw executions for the state. He has spoken extensively about the damaging affects executions can have on corrections officials.  

Rais Bhuiyan, founder World Without Hate 
Mr. Bhuiyan was the victim of a hate crime and has become a powerful speaker for peace. Ten days after the September 11th attack a man walked into the gas station where Rais worked and shot him in the face. Though losing sight in one eye, Rais avoided brain damage and actively worked against the death penalty for his assailant.  Rais has created his own organization, World Without Hate, to campaign against all hate crimes whether motivated by an animus towards those of a different race, religion, ethnicity or sexual orientation. Visit World Without Hate.

Abraham J. Bonowitz, Campaign Strategy & Tactics Consultant
"The facts changed my head. The Journey changed my heart." For nearly 25 years, Abraham J. Bonowitz has worked to educate the public about human rights problems, in particular the death penalty and the need for alternatives to the death penalty. Bonowitz, who has had a role in each of the legislative repeal victories thus far, currently serves the Delaware Repeal Project, Ohioans to Stop Executions and the Catholic Mobilizing Network as a Campaign Strategy & Tactics Consultant. Until June of this year, he served as director of affiliate support for the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty. Previously, he co-founded and directed Citizens United for Alternatives to the Death Penalty from 1997 to 2008, directed Floridians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty from 1999 until 2007, and served first as a consultant and then as a field manager with New Jerseyans for Alternatives to the Death Penalty from 2005 until 2008. In 2004 he was elected to the board of directors of the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty until resigning to take a staff position with the organization in 2008. Abe was a full participant in the original Indiana Journey of Hope ...From Violence to Healing in June, 1993, and he also served on the board of directors of the Journey.

Steven W. Hawkins, Executive Director Amnesty International
As an attorney with the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, Steve represented African American men facing the death penalty throughout the Deep South. During his six years at the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, he investigated and brought litigation that saved the lives and led to the release of three black teens wrongfully convicted in Tennessee.

Steve continued his work in social justice focused on abolishing the death penalty. He led a powerful partnership of organizations as executive director of the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty in Washington, D.C. that successfully campaigned to abolish the death penalty for juvenile crimes.

Following his tenure at the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty, Steve moved into philanthropy to advocate for human rights and social justice causes at the JEHT Foundation and later at Atlantic Philanthropies.

Returning to the NAACP as Executive Vice President and Chief Program Officer, Steve continued at the forefront of social justice often working in coalition with Amnesty International USA on abolishing the death penalty and national security issues.   Steve has now joined Amnesty International USA as its executive director, a natural step in his journey fighting injustice.  

David Kaczynski, brother of Ted Kaczynski - the “Unabomber”
Executive Director of Karma Triyana Dharmachakra Buddhist Monastery, and former Executive Director for New Yorkers for Alternatives to the Death Penalty. David Kaczynski has published poetry, short fiction, opinion pieces, and a personal narrative on growing up with his brother Ted Kaczynski, the so-called “Unabomber.” David has told his personal story in lectures at schools, colleges, and to community and professional groups, including the US Secret Service, National Alliance on Mental Illness, Amnesty International, and the US Conference of Catholic Bishops. He often shares the podium with Unabomber victim Gary Wright and with Bill Babbitt, whose brother Manny was executed by the state of California.

Musicians Charlie King and Karen Brandow
Charlie King and Karen Brandow are musical storytellers and political satirists. Their repertoire covers a century and a half and four continents. They perform with the sweet and precise harmony of life partners. They sing and write passionately about the extraordinary lives of ordinary people. For more information visit them at CharlieKing.org

Scott Langley, Death Penalty Photographer
Scott Langley’s chilling death penalty documentary photography project, which is the most comprehensive collection of original death penalty photographs available from one source. The documentary includes execution vigils, inside an execution chamber, the hours leading up to an execution, portraits of exonerated death row prisoners, celebrities opposed to the death penalty, marches, demonstrations and candid emotional and prayerful moments in the context of the death penalty in the United States. The project started in 1999 and continues today, providing images to publications, educational institutions and national organizations in the work to educate about capital punishment.  Visit the Death Penalty Photography Documentary Project.

Paula Sites, assistant executive director at Indiana Public Defender Council
Paula has years of experience working with capital defense teams throughout Indiana. She is also involved in public policy advocacy with respect to Indiana's use of the death penalty and is an expert on the interface between the criminal justice system and mental health issues. She serves on Board of Directors for Indiana Abolition Coalition.

Silent Auction
There will be a silent auction featuring artwork from Death Row Inmates.

Exonerated from Death Row

Sabrina Butler, death row exoneree, Mississippi
Sabrina Butler was a Mississippi teenager who was convicted of murder and child abuse in the death of her nine-month-old son, Walter. She spent more than five years in prison and 33 months on death row before being exonerated of all wrongdoing. She is the only woman in the United States exonerated from death row.

Today Sabrina still lives in the same town in which she was convicted, with her husband Joe Porter and three children. She speaks as often as she can to the public and media about her heartbreaking and moving story, and has recently published a memoir, The Sabrina Butler Story.

Edward Edmary Mpagi, death row exoneree, Uganda
Edward spent over 18 years on death row in Uganda, accused of killing a man who was later found to be alive. His family successfully campaigned for his release, providing evidence that the alleged victim was still alive. Sentenced to death for murder in 1982, the Attorney General proved that the man Edward was accused of murdering was still alive in 1989. However it was not until 2000 when a nine member presidential committee released Mr Mpagi, deciding he was innocent. Held for many years in the Luzira Upper Prison Edwad taught his fellow inmates to read and write. He became one of the longest serving inmates and a prison elder. Mr. Mpagi is now an advocate for the abolition of the death penalty and is a committed religious leader. A graduate from a Catholic Diocese, he regularly tours prisons providing inspiration and hope to prisoners. He connected with Kathy Ozzard Chism at the all-volunteer nonprofit Dream One World, and together they are building a school compound for 150 of these orphans in Uganda, with the help of volunteer workers and donors from around the world.

Randy Steidl, death row exoneree, Illinois
Randy Steidl was Illinois’ 18th death row exoneree. He spent 12 years on death row, and 17 years in prison for a crime he didn’t commit. Following his release, Randy was a leader in the successful effort to repeal the death penalty in his homestate of Illinois. Randy is a nationally renowned speaker and the Chair of the Board of Directors of Witness to Innocence

Murder Victims’ Family Members

Therese Bartholomew, sister of Steve, documentarian “The Final Gift”
Following the murder of her younger brother, Steve, Therese Bartholomew wrote the memoir, Coffee Shop God, which details her struggle to adjust in the weeks and months following her brother’s untimely death. A former high school dropout, Therese is now a writer, teacher, speaker and activist for victims and offenders. She holds a MS in criminal justice from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. Her newest work is the documentary “The Final Gift” which will be screened at this conference.

Jennifer Bishop Jenkins, sister of Nancy Bishop Langert, sister in law of Richard Langert, and aunt to their unborn child
Jennifer Bishop-Jenkins’ sister Nancy Bishop Langert was shot to death along with her husband, Richard Langert, and their unborn child in suburban Chicago in 1990. Their killer was 16 years old at the time and a local politician running for re-election proposed lowering the age of death penalty eligibility in Illinois to 16 to “honor your sister.” Jennifer vowed to oppose him publicly if her sister’s murder was used as the rationale for this proposal. “Nancy loved children and this is not what she would have wanted,” she says. Since that time she has worked to end the death penalty both in Illinois and nationwide. Jennifer is currently the Director at Marsy's Law for Illinois and is the Director at IllinoisVictims.org, and is a member of the Victim Advisory Group (VAG) at Advisor to United States Sentencing Commission. She has served on the board of the Illinois Coalition Against the Death Penalty, has been the state president for the Million Mom March /Brady Campaign and volunteers with the Illinois Council Against Handgun Violence. She was a featured speaker on the steps of the U.S. Capital for the Halt the Assault Million Mom March on Mother’s Day 2004.  She has testified before the Illinois Governor’s Commission on Capital Punishment and in death penalty clemency hearings before the Illinois Prisoner Review Board. She has spoken before state legislative committees and the Chicago City Council on issues of gun violence, crime prevention, and criminal justice reform. Jennifer is active with Murder Victims Families for Human Rights

SueZann Bosler, daughter of Billy

On December 22, 1986, SueZann Bosler and her father, Rev. Billy Bosler, were attacked in the church parsonage by an intruder. Rev. Bosler was stabbed 24 times. SueZann, in an effort to help him, was herself stabbed in the back and head and left for dead. While lying on the floor pretending to be dead, she heard the intruder ransack the house as she watched her father take his last breath.

As a Brethren minister, Rev. Bosler had been an opponent of capital punishment, and had once told SueZann that if he was ever murdered he would not want his killer to receive the death penalty. On her father's behalf, SueZann worked for 10 1/2 years to spare the life of his murderer, James Bernard Campbell.  On June 13, 1996, her efforts were successful and his sentence was commuted to three consecutive life terms. SueZann has traveled internationally on behalf of the Journey of Hope and is often a guest speaker for the Church of the Brethren's program "On Earth Peace."

 

Rev. Walt Everett, father of Scott
In 1987 Walt Everett’s son, Scott, was shot and killed at the age of 24. For almost a year afterwards, Walt’s emotional state moved from rage to depression. He found it difficult to even go through the motions of his work as pastor of a United Methodist Church. Eventually, Walt begain corresponding with Mike, the man who murdered his sone. This relationship led to visits and finally to Walt’s testifying on Mike’s behalf at a parole hearing. Based on this testimony, Mike obtained an early release. Walt and Mike often speak together at universities, churches and community groups about the healing power of forgiveness, healing for both the forgiven and forgiver. Walt is an ardent advocate of the anti-death penalty movement and is active in numerous abolition and restorative justice organizations. His story has been told in numerous publications including an extensive profile in Rolling Stone.  He is a member of the Board of Directors of Murder Victims' Famililes for Human Rights.

Jean Parks, sister of Betsy, member of MVFR
For twenty-five years after the murder of her older sister, Jean’s only involvement in the criminal justice system was to attend the trial which resulted in a life sentence for the man convicted of murdering Betsy and to write letters to oppose his possible parole. Through her involvement with a support group for families of murder victims, Jean discovered her opposition to the death penalty. After moving back to North Carolina where the murder occurred, Jean joined Murder Victims Families for Reconciliation. She worked actively to support the passage of the Racial Justice Act and to oppose its repeal. Two years ago, Jean learned the person serving time for Betsy’s death may not be the murderer. Jean is a psychologist and pastoral counselor in private practice and is an advocate for death penalty repeal and for restorative justice.

Bill Pelke, grandson of Ruth, President and co-founder of Journey of Hope… From Violence to Healing
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. Pelke 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 successfully involved in an international crusade on Paula's behalf and in 1989 her sentenced was commuted to sixty years in prison. Over 2 million people from Europe, mostly Italy, signed petitions that Paula be removed from death row.  Pope John Paul II called for mercy for Paula, who was eventually taken off of death row and had her sentence commuted to sixty years. Bill, a retired steelworker, has dedicated his life to working for abolition of the death penalty. He shares his story of forgiveness and compassion and the healing power of forgiveness. Pelke has traveled to over forty states and ten countries with the Journey of Hope and has told his story thousands of times

Gail Rice, sister of Bruce
Gail's brother, Bruce VanderJagt, was a Denver police officer shot by a skinhead during a botched burglary attempt. The killer then used Officer VanderJagt’s service revolver to commit suicide.  Gail began her abolition work in 1998, speaking against the death penalty to several audiences in Illinois. She occasionally voices her opposition to the death penalty as a victim-impact speaker on panels for juvenile offenders through the Cook County Department of Juvenile Probation.

Gail was a leader in the successful effort to repeal Illinois' death penalty, and she has shared her experiences as a victims' family member and restorative justice advocate all over the country.  She is a member of the board of IllinoisVictims.org and is active with MVFHR.

Bud Welch, father of Julie
Bud’s daughter, Julie Marie, was killed, along with 167 others, in the bomb blast that destroyed the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City in 1995. Bud was outspoken in his opposition to the execution of Timothy McVeigh in 2001 and to a death sentence for Terry Nichols during his state trial in 2004. Bud has testified before 22 state legislative bodies, the U.S. House Judiciary Committee, the Russian Duma, and the British and European Parliaments, and addressed groups at universities, law schools, and religious organizations across the U.S. and Europe. He serves on the board of Directors for Murder Victims' Families for Human Rights

Family members of the executed

Bill Babbitt, brother of Manny
Bill Babbitt’s brother Manny was executed by the state of California in 1999. Manny, was a  recipient of a Purple Heart for his service in Vietnam.  Manny was a U.S. Marine who served two tours of duty and was there during the 77 day Siege of Khe Sanh. Manny was a paranoid schizophrenic who suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder. He had been tried and convicted for the murder of an elderly woman who had died of a heart attack after a break-in and beating. When Bill realized that his brother could possibly be involved in the woman’s death, he contacted the police and helped them arrest his brother. In return, the police promised Bill that Manny would receive the psychological help that he needed and that they would help see that Manny would not receive the death penalty. Bill felt certain that when confronted with the reality of Manny’s mental illness, the justice system would hand down a fair sentence but avoid death. He was wrong. The Babbitt family was too poor to afford good counsel. Manny’s first lawyer took their money and then dropped the case. The second, a court-appointed attorney, refused to allow blacks on the jury, drank heavily during the trial and was later disbarred and sued for racism. Today Bill speaks out regularly against the death penalty.

Randy Gardner, brother of Ronnie Lee
Randy Gardner is the brother of Ronnie Lee Gardner, who was executed by the state of Utah on June 18, 2010, by firing squad, a first in the USA in 14 years. Randy bought 160 acres of property in northwest Box Elder County in 2002 and started Back to Basics Farm & Ranch. Its mission is to teach youth about farming, ranching and organic gardening — something Ronnie Lee had taken great interest in prison. Randy helps young people to give back to their communities and in turn to gain dignity and self worth.

Death Row Family Members

Sandrine Ageorges-Skinner, wife of Hank

Sandrine Ageorges-Skinner, a French national, is a member of the board of directors for Together Against the Death Penalty and has been an anti-death penalty activist for more than thirty years. She has corresponded with numerous death row inmates and has participated in numerous protests against the death penalty.  In 2008 she married Texas death row inmate Hank Skinner who has always maintained his innocence and fought to have DNA from the crime scene properly tested.

Delia Perez Meyer, sister of Louis
Delia Perez Meyer is sister of Louis Castro Perez who was falsely accused, and subsequently, wrongfully convicted of murdering 3 of his best friends in South Austin. It has been their family’s contention for the last 11 years that they have fought to save Louis’ life that someone else murdered the 2 women and a little girl – Michelle, Cynda, and Stacy. Louis is an innocent man on death row – he absolutely did not murder his friends and his maintained his innocence for 11 years.   Delia has been an outspoken advocate for Louis, working in conjunction with several anti-death penalty organizations in Texas and nationally.  Click here to learn more about Louis' case.

Terri Steinberg, mother of Justin
At the age of 20, Terri‘s son, Justin Wolfe, ex-high school football player and normal, average, all American, suburban kid was sentenced to death for a murder he did not commit. He has been on Virginia’s death row since 2002, becoming their youngest resident, and has had several stays of execution.  Terri has been a powerful speaker and advocate for Justin. Justin's sentence was recently vacated and he will get a new trial. Click here to learn more about Justin's case.

 

Presenting Organizations

Amnesty International
Amnesty International is a global movement of people fighting injustice and promoting human rights.
We work to protect people wherever justice, freedom, truth and dignity are denied. Currently the world’s largest grassroots human rights organization, we investigate and expose abuses, educate and mobilize the public, and help transform societies to create a safer, more just world. We received the Nobel Peace Prize for our life-saving work.

The Constitution Project

Created out of the belief that we must cast aside the labels that divide us in order to keep our democracy strong, The Constitution Project brings together policy experts and legal practitioners from across the political spectrum to foster consensus-based solutions to the most difficult constitutional challenges of our time.

TCP seeks to reform the nation’s broken criminal justice system and to strengthen the rule of law through scholarship, advocacy, policy reform and public education initiatives. We undertake original research, develop policy positions, publish reports and statements, file amicus briefs, testify before Congress, and hold regular briefings with legislative staff and other policymakers.  TCP’s work has been cited by numerous government agencies, as well as leading law and policy organizations.

Death Penalty Focus
Founded in 1988, Death Penalty Focus is one of the largest nonprofit advocacy organizations in the nation dedicated to the abolition of capital punishment through public education; grassroots and political organizing; original research; media outreach; local, state and nationwide coalition building; and the education of religious, legislative and civic leaders about the death penalty and its alternatives.

Equal Justice USA
Equal Justice USA (EJUSA) is a national, grassroots organization working to build a criminal justice system that is fair, effective, and responsive to everyone impacted by crime. Town by town and state by state, we cut through the polarization and find common ground for lasting, real-world solutions that prevent violence and rebuild people’s lives in its aftermath, so that all of us can be safer.

Indiana Abolition Coalition
The Indiana Abolition Coalitoin (IAC) works to build consensus to end the death penalty in Indiana through education, collaboration and activism. Join IAC to be connected to abolitionists throughout Indiana to create a statewide presence and a statewide voice for death penalty repeal.

Journey of Hope... From Violence to Healing
Journey of Hope...From Violence to Healing is an organization that is led by murder victim family members that conducts public education speaking tours and addresses alternatives to the death penalty. Journey "storytellers" come from all walks of life and represent the full spectrum and diversity of faith, color and economic situation.  They are real people who know first-hand the aftermath of the insanity and horror of murder.  They recount their tragedies and their struggles to heal as a way of opening dialogue on the death penalty in schools, colleges, churches and other venues. The Journey spotlights murder victim's family members who choose not to seek revenge, and instead select the path of love and compassion for all of humanity.  Forgiveness is seen as a strength and as a way of healing.  The greatest resources of the Journey are the people who are a part of it.

Murder Victims' Families for Human Rights
MVFHR is an international, non-governmental organization of family members of murder victims and family members of the executed, all of whom oppose the death penalty in all cases. We view the death penalty as a profound violation of human rights. Having all suffered a tragic loss, MVFHR members have come in different ways and times to the understanding that the death penalty does not help us heal and is not the way to pursue justice for victims.

Murder Victims' Families for Reconciliation
MVFR is a community led by family members of murder victims and the executed that advocates for the repeal of the death penalty.
Understanding that victim families are on a spectrum of recovery, MVFR identifies, engages and mobilizes its members to build communities of support that educate the public on the harms of the death penalty, the true needs of the victim families and the transformative power of restorative justice to promote a more compassionate and just society.
MVFR works with a variety of individuals and organizations that share our commitments to build a safer society and heal the damage caused by violence.

National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty 
The National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty is the nation's oldest organization dedicated exclusively to the abolition of the death penalty. It leads a national movement against the death penalty fueled by a broad-based national constituency and more than 100 Affiliate organizations.

Together Against the Death Penalty 

Since 2000, Together against the Death Penalty (Ensemble contre la peine de mort - ECPM) acts to fight against the death penalty around the world. The association promotes the universal abolition through the creation and dissemination of publications and teaching tools, as part of public campaigns and lobbies governments at both national and international levels. ECPM is supported by many public figures (Robert Badinter, Corinne Lepage, ChristianeTaubira ...). ECPM is also the organizer of the World and regional congresses against the death penalty.

Witness to Innocence 
Witness to Innocence is the nation’s only organization composed of, by, and for exonerated death row survivors and their loved ones. Through public education, direct action, and legislative and media work, our members challenge the American public to grapple with the problem of a fatally flawed criminal justice system that sends innocent people to death row. We also campaign for federal compensation for the exonerated.

World Coalition Against the Death Penalty
The World Coalition Against the Death Penalty, an alliance of more than 145 NGOs, bar associations, local authorities and unions, was created in Rome on 13 May 2002. It was founded as a result of the commitment made by the signatories of the Final Declaration of the 1st World Congress Against the Death Penalty organized by the French NGO Together Against the Death Penalty (ECPM) in Strasbourg in June 2001. The aim of the World Coalition is to strengthen the international dimension of the fight against the death penalty. Its ultimate objective is to obtain the universal abolition of the death penalty. To achieve its goal, the World Coalition advocates for a definitive end to death sentences and executions in those countries where the death penalty is in force. In some countries, it is seeking to obtain a reduction in the use of capital punishment as a first step towards abolition.
In 2002 The World Coalition Against the Death Penalty founded the World Day Against the Death Penalty on 10/10.