Texas Should Not Have Executed Robert Pruett

Update: Robert Pruett was executed by lethal injection on Thursday.
Robert Pruett is scheduled to be executed by the State of Texas Thursday. He has never had a chance to live outside a prison as an adult. Taking his life is a senseless wrong that shows how badly the justice system fails juveniles.
Mr. Pruett was 15 years old when he last saw the outside world, after being arrested as an accomplice to a murder committed by his own father. Now 38, having been convicted of a murder while incarcerated, he will be put to death. At a time when the Supreme Court has begun to recognize excessive punishments for juveniles as unjust, Mr. Pruett’s case shows how young lives can be destroyed by a justice system that refuses to give second chances.
Mr. Pruett’s father, Sam Pruett, spent much of Mr. Pruett’s early childhood in prison. Mr. Pruett and his three siblings were raised in various trailer parks by his mother, who he has said used drugs heavily and often struggled to feed the children. Wh…

Death-penalty opponents marching from Lucasville to Columbus, Ohio

Death-penalty opponents marching from Lucasville to Columbus
Death-penalty opponents marching from Lucasville to Columbus, Ohio
Cars and trucks whizzed by about a dozen people walking on blistered feet on Thursday along Rt. 23.

The group of death-penalty opponents were on day 4 of an 83-mile, weeklong journey to Columbus, where they plan to hold a rally on Saturday near the Statehouse.

Among those walking are a Texas-based Baptist minister, a previous death row inmate exonerated a decade ago and the son of Dr. Sam Sheppard, the Cleveland-area man convicted of killing his pregnant wife, whose case drew national media attention in the 1950s.

With a start at the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility, the prison near Lucasville where executions in the state are conducted, the group wants an end to the death penalty after a bout of botched executions and questions about lethal-injection drugs in Ohio and across the country.

"It's just wrong," said Derrick Jamison, 54, who served time on death row in Ohio for 20 years starting in 1985. "Shouldn't nobody have the right to say who should live or die."

Jamison considers himself a "survivor" of death row after he was exonerated for the killing of a nightclub owner in Cincinnati. Oct. 25 marks both the day Jamison was sent to and released from prison. As he celebrates 10 years since his release, Jamison admits that while many inmates on death row are indeed guilty, there are also innocent men.

"If you make a mistake with the death penalty, you can't go get a person out the grave and say 'Oh, my bad,' and they're (the state) making too many mistakes," he said.

Ohio's last execution was Jan. 16, 2014, when Dennis McGuire struggled and gasped for several minutes before succumbing to a combination of drugs not used before. The next execution is scheduled for January but as of August, the state was still trying to find drugs to use.

While lawmakers passed and Gov. John Kasich signed a bill intended to make getting execution drugs easier by keeping the source secret, a bipartisan House bill introduced this past summer calls for an end to the death penalty in the state.

"Ohio has an option, it's called life without parole," said Terry Collins, former director of the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections. During his time with the department, Collins said he witnessed more than 30 executions. He now works to educate Ohioans about the death penalty and advocates for its abolition.

"I think a nationwide discussion about the death penalty has certainly changed whether, not just Ohio, but if the United States needs the death penalty," he said.

Sam Reese Sheppard, whose father appealed a death-penalty conviction to the U.S. Supreme Court, said despite peoples' mixed opinions on the issue, he said Ohioans have been receptive to open conversation. "We've been on the road the past few days, and even if people disagree with us they're usually not vengeful or obnoxious about it."

The walkers, sponsored by Ohioans to Stop Executions and other groups, will hold a community dialogue at 7 p.m. today at 1021 E. Broad St. They also invite people to join the end of their walk Saturday at 10 a.m. from 1500 S. 4th St. The rally will take place at noon Saturday in front of Trinity Episcopal Church, 125 E. Broad St.

Source: Columbus Dispatch, October 9, 2015

Death row exonerees come to Cleveland to promote abolishing executions

After spending decades in prison and years on death row for a murder in Cleveland that he did not commit, Kwame Ajamu has committed his life to abolishing the death penalty.

Ajamu joined execution abolitionist groups and death row exonerees from across the country who gathered in Cleveland Friday morning to press their message ahead of Saturday's World Day Against the Death Penalty conference in North Olmsted.

Kwame Ajamu spent years on death row after being wrongfully convicted of a Cleveland murder.

"We hope that we can end this atrocity today," Kwame said during a tearful press conference. "We hope that tomorrow's newspapers would say that there's no more death penalty. We know that this won't happen, but this is our goal."

Ajamu, who was known as Ronnie Bridgeman, was put on death row after being wrongfully convicted in 1975 of murdering a money order salesman with his brother and best friend.

The convictions of all three men were tossed after they collectively spent more than 100 years behind bars.

"If there's anything that I would beg for this country, for this world to listen to is the heartfelt cries and pleas of myself and fellow comrades who have been exonerated from death," Ajamu said.

He stood with about 20 men and women who were once on death row and are now members of Witness to Innocence, a national group of exonerees fighting to end state-sponsored executions.

Too many innocent people have been put to death, said Ohioans to Stop Executions Director Kevin Werner.

"If the legislature is bent on keeping the death penalty, they should at least make sure there are no mistakes," Werner said.

He suggested reforming the justice system to prevent wrongful convictions and setting higher standards for the execution process.

There are 24 people scheduled to be executed in Ohio in the next 4 years, Werner said.

State Rep. Nickie Antonio, a Lakewood Democrat who also spoke at the press conference, has introduced legislation that would do away with executions.

"The best reform is to abolish capital punishment and replace it with a sentence of life without parole," Antonio said. "It is time to execute justice, not to execute people."

Saturday's conference in North Olmsted is one of many events scheduled worldwide for World Day Against the Death Penalty.

The public event will feature workshops and talks from Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Judge Nancy Margaret Russo, World Coalition Against the Death Penalty President Elizabeth Zitrin and others.

The conference is set to begin at 9 a.m. at St. Clarence Church.

Source: cleveland.com, October 9, 2015

Death row survivors meet in downtown Cleveland

In a press conference at Trinity Cathedral in downtown Cleveland, Representative Nickie Antonio, D-13, welcomed dozens of members of Witness to Innocence, the national organization of wrongly convicted and exonerated death row survivors.

Antonio joined with them in calling for an end to the death penalty in Ohio and other reforms to prevent wrongful executions. She was introduced a bill with bi-partisan sponsorship.

The event coincided with worldwide activities around the international World Day Against the Death Penalty on October 10th.

Among others peaking was Kwame Ajamu who was formally exonerated of the 1975 murder for which he was convicted and sentenced to death in Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court.

Ajamu was 17 years old at the time he was placed on Ohio's death row, and said he still harbors a lot of bitterness from 27 years of wrongful incarceration. Ajamu has dedicated his life to ending capital punishment in Ohio.

Witness to Innocence, Ohioans to Stop Executions, death row exonerees and their loved ones and supporters gathered earlier at St. Clarence Church in North Olmsted, Ohio as part of their effort to increase support for abolition of capital punishment.

Source: WTAM news, October 9, 2015

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