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California: With state executions on hold, death penalty foes rethink ballot strategy

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California advocates of abolishing the death penalty got a jolt of momentum in March, when Gov. Gavin Newsom announced that he would not allow any executions to take place while he was in office.
But after trying twice this decade to persuade voters to end capital punishment, they have no plans to go to the ballot again in 2020. Rather than seeking to build on Newsom’s temporary reprieve for Death Row inmates, activists are taking their own pause.
Grappling with the legacy of their two failed initiatives, advocates are reassessing their strategy and retooling their message. Natasha Minsker, a political consultant who has long been involved with abolition efforts, said the governor’s moratorium has given advocates the opportunity to do long-term planning.
“There’s this excitement and energy in our movement that we haven’t had in a long time,” Minsker said.
Newsom’s executive order caught many Californians by surprise. Although he supported the unsuccessful ballot measures to abolish t…

Sister Helen Prejean: Starting a conversation with President Obama

President Obama met with the press before his visit with Pope Benedict on July 10. He talked about how he admired Cardinal Bernardine’s “seamless garment” approach to pro-life, that the cardinal included in its scope a wide range of issues: “He was concerned about poverty, he was concerned with how children were treated, he was concerned about the death penalty…”

Now here’s interesting fodder for a conversation with President Obama. For starters: “Aren’t you, too, very, very concerned about the fact that already 135 innocent people have been released from death row? How many will it take before we recognize the failed system? Not to mention the shocking, appalling racist application of the death penalty presently carried out in the Deep South states.”

Do you have any ideas about how we might get a conversation going with President Obama and his wife, Michelle, about this issue? Would you like to help us mount a young people’s letter writing campaign to the White House to end the death penalty in the U.S.?

Think boldly. Organize strategically. Act quickly. Please respond and let me know your thinking!

- Sister Helen, July 22, 2009

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