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death penalty news----ARK., NEV., CALIF., USA
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Rick Halperin
2017-03-30 13:03:08 UTC
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March 30



ARKANSAS:

Race to Death: A Critical Look at the Death Penalty as Arkansas Executes 8


The state of Arkansas plans to execute 8 people across ten days this April.
Arkansas will attempt to execute 2 people per day on 4 days in order to use up
their stock of execution drug, midazolam, before its expiration date.

Until now, Arkansas's mark in death penalty history was its execution of Rickey
Ray Rector: a man so unable to comprehend his surroundings that he ate his
final meal and saved his slice of pecan pie for later. Rector had shot himself
in the head after committing his crime, but survived. Legally, the state may
not execute a person who does not understand they are about to die. Yet the
courts ducked the issue, and another famous Arkansas Governor - Bill Clinton -
made sure to be present for Rector's execution even while campaigning for the
presidency in 1992.

Has the death penalty changed since Rector was executed? Yes. As noted by the
Death Penalty Information Center, the use of capital punishment is the lowest
it has been since Rector's execution 25 years ago.

States can no longer execute someone who is mentally handicapped. Teenagers
cannot be sentenced to death. And approximately 1 in 10 people on death row is
innocent, if we look at the death row exonerations since 1973.

Justice Breyer, in a dissent in Ruiz v. Texas, recently raised the question
whether solitary confinement on death row is cruel and unusual. Breyer
questioned the cruelty and psychological toll of knowing one is waiting for
death and being unable to communicate with other living people. Rolando Ruiz
lived in this solitary containment for 22 years. Breyer's consideration of
solitary confinement as a factor in the legality of the death penalty could
open another restriction on death row and executions.

In these past 25 years, the cost of litigating capital cases has risen, with an
increasing use of experts and forensic evidence. Nationally, death sentences
cost more than life sentences. In neighboring Tennessee, death sentences cost
the state 48% more to pursue than death in prison.

Arkansas is routinely one of the poorest states in the country, yet the state
pays to keep the death sentence alive. While courts vary in how they divvy up
costs for capital trials and appeals, I found in my own research that the
neighboring state of Mississippi applies these costs to the state citizens in
an obfuscated way. In Mississippi the individual counties pay for the death
penalty trials and appeals - and yet no money is allocated for these cases in
county budgets. The yearly budget for counties does not have a line item for an
expense that can routinely be $50,000 per case.

Instead, the prosecutor or the circuit clerk petitions the sitting county
commission with an individual request for funding for each death penalty case.
That request is granted. Extra costs for the court include jury costs, expert
witness fees and additional bailiffs for security. Circuit clerks who have
spoken candidly have compared a death penalty trial to the cost of a natural
disaster, depleting the county resources. For poor counties, this money is
surreptitiously going to fund capital trials, instead of repairing roads or
bridges. The money for the trial is simply taken from other line items in the
budget to make up the difference.

It is, of course, completely within the discretion of the prosecutor to seek a
death sentence, largely without financial repercussions for their individual
offices. Prosecutors normally aren't chastised for prosecuting death penalty
cases, rather for not prosecuting a case as capital. Likewise, the Governor
often has the power to commute a death sentence to life without parole. The
Governor of Arkansas receives a non-binding report from the Arkansas Board of
Pardons and Paroles to prepare for his decision whether to commute a sentence.

Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson supports the execution of eight men in April,
specifically stating "the families of the victims that have endured this for so
many years deserve a conclusion to it." Arguments on behalf of the victims and
their families are commonly invoked by governors when they refuse to commute a
death sentence.

Yet when the victims oppose the execution, they are often ignored. Henry
"Curtis" Jackson, Jr. was on death row for killing his nieces and nephews. The
surviving victims were his sisters. His sisters pleaded with the Mississippi
Governor Phil Bryant to commute Jackson's sentence to life and not to execute
their brother. In their words, "[w]e are the victims in this case, and we are
begging you not to let Curtis be killed. You can keep him in Parchman forever,
but please don't put our family through this horrible execution . . . We are
not asking you to take pity on Curtis, we're asking you to show US mercy. We
have been through enough." Their brother was executed by the state of
Mississippi on June 5, 2012.

What has stayed the same since the execution of Rickey Ray Rector 25 years ago?
Lethal injection and botched executions. For 50 minutes, executors struggled to
find a vein to inject the lethal cocktail of drugs into Rector's arm. He was
heard to moan 8 separate times. This parallels the experiences of people being
executed with the use of the drug midazolam - the drug Arkansas needs to "use
up" before it expires at the end of April. According to the Death Penalty
Information Center, no state has successfully executed 2 prisoners on the same
day using midazolam. Death penalty opponents fear inevitable botched executions
in Arkansas with the rush.

As we face these oncoming eight executions in Arkansas, there's no final word
on the death penalty and the debate continues about the humanity of death
sentences. But what is the most common last word of the people executed?
"Love."

(source: Valena Beety, J.D., is an Associate Professor of Law at the West
Virginia University College of Law. She served as a prosecutor in the U.S.
Attorney's Office for the District of Columbia and went on to become a senior
staff attorney at the Mississippi Innocence Project. She currently serves as
the Director of the West Virginia Innocence Project at West Virginia
University----jurist.org)

******************

Arkansas judge denies inmates' request to amend schedule that would see state
execute 8 people in 10 days


An Arkansas judge dismissed an effort to delay the state's plan to carry out 4
double executions over a 10-day span in April.

According to the Associated Press, a federal lawsuit on the inmates' behalf
suggests that those set for execution are not given a fair chance to seek
clemency.

Circuit Court Judge Wendell Griffen???s ruling allowed the state to dismiss a
complaint leveled by eight condemned inmates who have petitioned for a
lengthier execution process, which would allow for petition and possible
clemency.

Wendell's decision says that he has no jurisdiction over the case since the
state Supreme Court reversed his previous decision which struck down the lethal
injection law.

An attorney for the inmates plans to quickly appeal to the state Supreme Court.

Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson scheduled the executions before the state's
supply of midazolam (a part of the 3-drug protocol for lethal injection)
expires. The state has not executed an inmate since 2005, due in part to
protracted appeals and difficulty in obtaining the required drugs.

The inmates, who are seeking clemency, want all 8 executions halted because of
an "assembly-line schedule" and rushed process, AP reports.

Their lawsuit requests "meaningful review" and "individualized consideration"
for each case, which they maintain is guaranteed by state law and regulations.

Family of slain Bronx EMT wants death penalty for Arroyo's killer

The inmates are looking to amend this execution schedule by also protesting to
the U.S. Supreme Court, which had decided not to review the state's lethal
injection law. This law of note does not name the source of the state's
execution drugs, AP notes.

Another federal lawsuit has also been filed.

A state Parole Board has advised Gov. Hutchinson to deny clemency requests of
two of the inmates, and the board is currently hearing clemency requests from
the other inmates.

In his decision, Griffen wrote that he was troubled by the state Supreme
Court's decision and by the inmates' argument that the lethal injection could
result in painful executions.

Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge's office indicated that she supported
the lawsuit's dismissal.

As AP continues, no state in the modern era has executed 8 people in the span
of 10 days.

The lethal injections are scheduled for April 17, 20, 24 and 27.

(source: New York Daily News)






NEVADA:

Death penalty bill prompts hours of debate in Nevada Legislature


They spoke in cracked, grief-stricken voices, some clutching pictures of loved
ones who were murdered in Nevada.

Members of the Assembly Judiciary Committee listened to more than 3 hours of
testimony on Wednesday from the families of crime victims, prosecutors, defense
attorneys and others about Assembly Bill 237, which would abolish the death
penalty in Nevada.

One thing was clear after the hours of testimony:

Even family members of murdered Nevadans have widely varying views about the
death penalty.

The bill would change the sentence for the 82 inmates on death row to be life
in prison without the possibility of parole.

Nevada has not executed an inmate since 2006. And recently, the department of
corrections has struggled to find vendors to supply the drugs needed to
administer the cocktail used for lethal injection.

Since 1977, when Nevada reinstated capital punishment, 12 inmates have been
executed. 11 of those were essentially volunteers who could have continued
pursuing appeals, but chose the execution chamber instead. Only 1 ran out of
appeals.

The committee did not take action Wednesday on the bill, which is sponsored by
Assembly James Ohrenschall, D-Las Vegas, and Sen. Tick Segerblom, D-Las Vegas.

ARGUMENTS AGAINST DEATH PENALTY

Cynthia Portaro lost her 22-year-old son, Mike Portaro, when Brandon Hill shot
and killed him in March 2011 outside the Tenaya Creek Brewery in Las Vegas.

Thursday, she told lawmakers, is the 6-year anniversary of his death.

Ultimately, she asked prosecutors to drop the death penalty, crediting her
faith. In April 2015, Hill was sentenced to 28 years to life in prison.

"I started to think we are called to forgive," she said. "We are called to be
different if you're going to be a faithful person."

"Nothing is going to bring my son back but maybe this kid can make a difference
in this world wherever he goes because I chose to say 'no' to the death
penalty," Hill added.

Scott Coffee, a Clark County public defender, said the death penalty is "little
more than a label" that costs additional money and resources.

"Justice is not something we get with Nevada's death penalty," he said.

ARGUMENTS FOR DEATH PENALTY

Support for keeping the death penalty came from prosecutors and families of
victims of some of the most notorious murders in Southern Nevada.

Kenny "Clutch" Cherry Jr. was killed on the Strip in February 2013 when Ammar
Harris shot and killed the 27-year-old. Cherry's car hit a taxi, igniting a
fiery explosion that killed the taxi driver and a passenger. Harris is now on
death row.

"The death penalty is definitely needed for people like that," said Kenneth
Cherry Sr.

Jennifer Otremba, the mother of 15-year-old Alyssa Otremba, described how her
daughter was raped and stabbed more than 80 times by Javier Righetti, who
carved "LV" in her and later returned to burn her body. Righetti was sentenced
to capital punishment last week in Clark County.

"8 days ago, we finally received justice for her life," Otremba said.

(source: Las Vegas Review-Journal)

**********************************

Advocates call for end of death penalty


Assemblyman James Ohrenschall and Sen. Tick Segerblom, both Democrats, called
on colleagues to abolish the death penalty in Nevada.

Scott Coffee of the Clark County Public Defender's office told the Assembly
Judiciary Committee the death penalty is, "broken and it is broken beyond
repair."

"The truth is we don't execute anyone," he said.

Coffee said AB237 by Ohrenschall and Segerblom wouldn't only eliminate the
death penalty for future cases but convert the sentences of the existing 81
Nevada inmates on death row to what he called "death by incarceration" - life
without possible parole.

He said the rate Nevada DA's seek the death penalty is disproportionate. There
were 175 notices of intent to seek a death sentence in Clark County since 2005
but just four in Washoe County for that same period.

He and Segerblom told the committee the system is costing the state a fortune
because, once that notice is filed, there have to be 2 certified lawyers
defending the accused, specialists hired to review his or her mental state,
psychological stability, factors in his life back to childhood that could
contribute to the crime and other issues.

Coffee said those costs mount dramatically and that doesn't include the cost of
post-conviction appeals all the way through the federal court system that
further run up the tab.

He said the best estimate is seeking a death sentence adds not only years to
the litigation but nearly a half million dollars to the total cost.

Federal Public Defender Michael Pescetta said since the death sentence was
restored in 1977, Nevada has had 186 death sentences imposed. He said 88 -
nearly 1/2 - were reversed.

Pescetta said since the penalty was restored, only 1 of the 11 inmates put to
death in Nevada had exhausted all his appeals. The other 10 were "volunteers"
who gave up their remaining appeals and allowed the state to kill them.

Both men made it clear they in no way intend to diminish the pain and suffering
of victim families.

"There are no nice 1st degree murders," said Pescetta. "Nobody can discount the
kind of damage these victims and their families experience."

But the state's DAs came out strongly against the bill. Washoe County DA Chris
Hicks, president of the Nevada District Attorneys Association, said polls show
a majority of Nevadans - 70 % - strongly support the death penalty. He also
said prosecutors in Nevada use the death penalty "sparingly and judiciously."
He said in prosecuting some 300 Washoe County murders, his office has actually
sought a death sentence 5 times. He said he doesn't believe there are any added
costs from prosecuting and defending a death case.

Hicks said he especially objects to the fact the bill would commute death
sentences imposed by jurors in the past to life without parole.

Clark County DA Steve Wolfson said supporters who say it would save money are
essentially arguing "for placing a price of justice."

He said under his leadership, Clark has cut the number of notices of intent to
seek execution in half and despite the seemingly large number of those notices
over the years, only had 15 inmates actually sentenced to die between 2002 and
2015.

"Should saving money be a reason to abolish the death penalty? I say no,"
Wolfson said.

He said people aren't complaining about the fact Nevada has a death penalty.
"They're complaining we're just not doing it," he said.

He said the state needs to fix the system instead of eliminating it.

He also rejected Coffee's and Segerblom's statements Nevada and other states
can't get the drugs for lethal injections because pharmaceutical manufacturers
won't sell them to states to kill inmates. He said Prisons Director James
Dzurenda has told him he believes he can get the necessary drugs if an
execution order is issued.

The last execution in Nevada was in 2006.

The committee took no action on AB237.

(source: Nevada Appeal)

****************************

Lawmakers consider bill to repeal death penalty


Nevada lawmakers are considering a bill to repeal Nevada's death penalty.

Lawmakers introduced Assembly Bill 237 in the legislature last month. If
passed, the bill would abolish the death penalty in Nevada and reduce death
sentences to life without the possibility of parole.

Nevada reinstated capital punishment in 1977 and has executed 12 people since
that time. The last execution was in 2006.

There are currently 83 people on Nevada's death row.

(source: lasvegasnow.com)






CALIFORNIA:

California will seek death penalty for salon killer


California's attorney general will continue to seek the death penalty for a man
who killed 8 people in a shooting rampage at a hair salon and whose sentencing
has been delayed by a long-running scandal over the use of jailhouse
informants.

Attorney General Xavier Becerra announced the decision Wednesday, saying the
murders in the tight-knit seaside town of Seal Beach in 2011 "caused so much
harm to far too many families."

Scott Dekraai pleaded guilty to the killings. The now-47-year-old former
tugboat operator who killed his hairstylist ex-wife and seven others during the
onslaught is due to appear in court Thursday.

Orange County's district attorney had been seeking the death penalty for
Dekraai but was yanked from the case after Dekraai's attorney learned that a
jailhouse snitch had been chatting with his client even though he had a lawyer.

The discovery led to a broader probe of Orange County's use of jailhouse
informants and a federal investigation.

It also delayed the sentencing of Dekraai even though he pleaded guilty in
2014.

Dekraai's lawyer Scott Sanders has long argued that his client shouldn't face
the death penalty due to the misuse of informants and prosecutors' failure to
turn over required evidence. On Wednesday, he said he was disappointed in the
state's decision and would fight it.

"We will be bringing additional motions that based upon the egregious
misconduct the death penalty must be dismissed," Sanders said.

Dekraai had been locked in a bitter custody dispute with ex-wife Michelle
Fournier over their 8-year-old son when he entered Salon Meritage in Seal Beach
in October 2011 wearing a bulletproof vest and armed with 3 weapons.

He shot and killed Fournier before turning his guns on the salon owner,
stylists and customers and a man who was sitting in his car in the parking lot.

Police arrested Dekraai within minutes of the rampage that killed 8 and wounded
1.

(source: Fox News)






USA:

Trump's support for the death penalty puts him on wrong side of history


Our president is the same man who once paid $85,000 for full-page ads in the
top four New York Daily newspapers to loudly express his wish: "Bring Back the
Death Penalty!"

He is perhaps the loudest proponent of capital punishment to ever take office.
Yet, ironically, in the year he got elected, the total number of executions in
this country only amounted to 20 -- a 25-year low.

Further, with only 30 new death sentences imposed in 2016, America experienced
the lowest number of new death row inmates since the reinstatement of the
sentence in 1976. Will executions ramp up again over the next 4 years? With a
death penalty advocate as the leader of our land, what is happening with
capital punishment in America in these first few months?

The following is a state-by-state breakdown of current capital punishment
activity since the arrival of President Trump.

Alabama: Known as the final holdout of state's that allow judges to override a
jury when sentencing capital murder cases, Alabama passed a bill through their
Senate last month to change this practice. It is unclear what will happen to
the more than 1/2 of the 194 improperly sentenced prisoners currently residing
on their death row.

Arizona: After the state's end-of-year ban on the use of Midazolam -- the
current, but controversial, sedative of choice in executions across the country
-- they are scrambling for an alternative. In what appears to be a desperate
sidestep to save their death penalty, last month they introduced a new protocol
that invites capital defense attorneys to obtain execution drugs on behalf of
their condemned clients. As Dale Baich, from the Federal Public Defender's
Office in Arizona put it, "This is a bizarre notion that calls for actions that
are both illegal and impossible." Executions are on hold.

California: After the passing Proposition 66 in the last election, an historic
measure designed to "fix" the state's death penalty by speeding up the appeals
process, the state has hit 2 substantial snags. First, the California Supreme
Court halted the reforms before they took effect to consider a challenge
brought about by the state's former attorney general that the measure would
disrupt the courts, cost more money, and result in attorneys cutting corners to
keep up. The bigger setback, however, came from the state's Office of
Administrative law, which, in January, rejected the new lethal injection
protocol proposed by the California Department of Corrections, citing
inadequacies, inconsistency, and numerous ambiguities. Executions remain on
hold.

Colorado: Attempts to repeal the state's death penalty failed along party lines
last month. This is despite the fact that only 3 people reside on Colorado's
death row, the death chamber has gone unused in nearly 20 years, and estimates
hold that the cost of maintaining the penalty cost Colorado taxpayers $5-10
million annually. There is currently a moratorium on all executions.

Florida: One step ahead of Alabama, state legislators announced last month that
they are finally moving ahead with a measure that would require a unanimous
jury verdict in death penalty cases. This leaves nearly 400 condemned prisoners
- the 2nd largest death row population - in limbo. As this particular issue has
yet to be addressed in courts, Florida executions are unlikely to resume
anytime soon.

Georgia: Executing more prisoners than any state in 2016 -- at 9, accounting
for nearly half of all executions last year and outpacing Texas by a couple --
the death penalty in Georgia seems to be as healthy as ever. However, according
to Mark Hyden, from the Georgia Conservatives Concerned about the Death
Penalty, a Project of EJUSA, "Georgia's death penalty is dwindling so quickly
that in a few years it may exist in name only." There are currently no inmates
eligible for execution in 2017.

Kansas: In January, 8 Republican and 7 Democratic lawmakers introduced a bill
to abolish their death penalty. With bipartisan support, without an execution
since 1965, and with only 10 on death row, there may never be another execution
in Kansas.

Kentucky: Bipartisan House and Senate bills have been introduced to limit the
maximum punishment in Kentucky to life without the possibility of parole.

Missouri: In February, the state's appellate court ruled that prison officials
are not obligated to reveal the source of the drugs they use for executions,
clearing the way for executions to resume.

Mississippi: After an inability to acquire lethal injection drugs, state
lawmakers have proposed legislation that would add alternative means of
execution, including the gas chamber, a firing squad and electrocution. In
February, a state senate committee shot down the firing squad, leaving the 2
other proposed methods still up for debate. Executions are on hold.

Montana: After a bill to abolish the death penalty narrowly failed along party
lines in the last session, a Republican lawmaker introduced a new bill to
repeal the penalty in this session. With bipartisan support, no access to
lethal injection drugs, and a death row population of two, this bill seems to
have a good chance of advancing.

Nebraska: Voters approved the reinstatement of their death penalty in the last
election (by 61 %). However, without the drugs needed to actually carry out an
execution, lawmakers are considering a bill that would shield the identities of
future drug sources. There are currently no executions scheduled.

Nevada: A repeal effort is currently under consideration in the Nevada
Assembly. The state recently spent $900,000 creating a new execution chamber,
but has been unable to carry out any executions because it has not been able to
acquire lethal injection drugs.

New Hampshire: The only New England state with capital punishment still on the
books is considering a bill to expand the eligibility for its penalty that
would include anyone convicted of killing a minor. New Hampshire only has one
person on death row and has not executed anyone since 1939.

Ohio: A federal judge ruled in February that the state's new three-drug lethal
injection process is unconstitutional, citing a "substantial risk of serious
harm." Ohio is one of the few states that have enough drugs to carry out
executions. But without a legal protocol, it is unlikely that they'll be able
to use them. Eight executions have already been stayed this year.

Oklahoma: The U.S. Supreme Court cleared Oklahoma to use the controversial
sedative midazolam in executions, but due to further legal challenges, ongoing
concerns about the state's protocol and its inability to procure the needed
drugs, executions have remained on hold.

Oregon: Governor Kate Brown reaffirmed her decision to continue a moratorium on
executions in Oregon during her new term. Oregonians for Alternatives to the
Death Penalty are currently conducting a campaign to raise awareness in
preparation for a ballot measure to repeal the penalty.

Pennsylvania: Governor Tom Wolf placed a moratorium on executions in 2016
pending a long-anticipated release of a bipartisan commission report examining
the state's death penalty. Another deadline for the report was missed in
January, which is now 3 years overdue. It is unlikely that any of the 175
inmates on death row in Pennsylvania will face their sentence anytime soon.

Texas: After their fewest executions in over a decade last year (7), Texas
carried out the nation's 1st execution in 2017. However, lawmakers on both
sides of the aisle are calling for death penalty reform including the repeal of
the "law of parties," which holds defendants responsible if they were involved
in a crime that resulted in a murder, even if they weren't directly involved in
the killing. They have previously executed 5 people under this statute. Texas
is currently suing the Food and Drug Administration over impounded drugs it
needs for future executions. It remains to be seen if Trump's new FDA
commissioner appointment will stand down on the opposition to the importation
of lethal injection drugs.

Utah: Without the ability to obtain lethal injection drugs, Utah re-adopted the
firing squad method. There are bills both for and against the death penalty in
Utah's legislature to be considered this year. No executions are scheduled.

Virginia: As one of the handful of states that shield lethal injection drug
sellers from the public record, Virginia became the 2nd state to execute a
prisoner in 2017. There are 6 remaining death row inmates in the state.

Washington: Attempts to abolish the state's death penalty this year have
already failed. But as 1 of 4 states that have a moratorium on executions, and
with Governor Inslee who has vowed to not allow an execution during his term,
there will be no executions anytime soon.

The death penalty continues to suffer from the same maladies that have caused
declines in both executions and the seeking of the death penalty. With repeal
efforts ramping up across the nation and the ongoing inability to obtain drugs
in most states, along with many other problems, it does not appear that the
health of the death penalty will improve anytime soon.

Perhaps President Trump will need to purchase a lot more ad space to promote
the use of the death penalty. Or maybe it's finally time to put an end to the
madness.

(source: Bianca Clark is the director of Prison Lives, a 501(C)(3) non-profit
organization established to educate and enable prisoners to be productive
individuals while incarcerated for a positive existence both inside and outside
of prison life----thehill.com)

********************

No longer on death row but still fighting for life


Kwame Ajamu spent 27 years in prison for a murder he didn???t commit.

Exonerated in 2014, the former death row inmate is now 59 years old, and intent
on sharing his story to anyone who will listen. It is a cautionary tale, he
said, and hopefully one that will help others realize how many innocent lives
could be saved by eliminating capital punishment.

Ajamu, who lives in Cleveland, has been working with the Philadelphia-based
nonprofit, Witness to Innocence, which seeks to end the death penalty by
supporting legislation against it, while also assisting former death row
inmates who have been exonerated.

Ajamu joined Witness to Innocence shortly after his release, and shortly after
finding out about the organization.

"If there was any way I could give back by being an ambassador against the
death penalty... I wanted to be on that train," he said in an interview
Wednesday from his home in Cleveland.

When he was 17, Ajamu was wrongfully convicted of killing another man in 1975,
and sentenced to death. Decades later, he was exonerated after the lone witness
to the crime recanted his testimony.

Now, Ajamu serves as a board member of Witness to Innocence and chairman of its
emergency fund, which supports exonerated individuals as they adjust to life
outside the prison walls.

Ajamu is among several exonerated individuals and their family members, who
serve on the 10-member board, said executive director Magdaleno "Leno"
Rose-Avila. The others are lawyers and authors, Rose-Avila said, all interested
in ending the death penalty.

Formed in 2005, Witness to Innocence was the subject of a short documentary
called, "The Gathering," which was shown last month in New York at the NYC
Socially Relevant Film Festival.

Rose-Avila said he hopes to eventually make the film available to the public.

It includes stories of survival from men who have been exonerated. Men like
Ajamu, who said his time spent with Witness to Innocence "gave me wings" by
letting him share his message.

It's important work, Ajamu said, noting that he firmly believes there are still
innocent individuals incarcerated and on death row in prisons throughout the
country.

Rose-Avila agreed.

"There's a lot of people held by the courts that are completely innocent," he
said on Wednesday, at the Cherry Street office of Witness to Innocence, a
couple of blocks from Thomas Paine Plaza.

Long an advocate of the poor, Rose-Avila has worked with Amnesty International,
rallied with farmers against the use of GMOs and helped quell disputes between
gang members in Los Angeles and El Salvador.

At Witness to Innocence, he said, members travel around the country, trying to
eliminate the death penalty and help reform the criminal justice system. Recent
efforts include campaigns in Nebraska and California.

Another effort the group has undertaken is trying to get states to allow those
who have been wrongly convicted, incarcerated and put on death row access to
funding reserved for crime victims.

"When you get out of prison, you don't get any money, you don't get any
opportunities, you don't get nothing," Rose-Avila said. "Why shouldn't they
have access to these funds? They are victims of the same individual."

(source: metro.us)

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