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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…

Canada: Wilbert Coffin's son wants to clear father's name, 60 years after his execution

Wilbert Coffin
Wilbert Coffin (October 1915 - 10 February 1956) was a Canadian prospector who was convicted of murder and executed in Canada.

On 15 July 1953, the remains of Eugene Lindsey were found in the Gaspé region of Quebec a month after his disappearance. On 23 July 1953, the bodies of Lindsey's 17-year-old son Richard and 20-year-old Frederick Claar were also found, 4 kilometres (2.5 miles) away. The three men had last been seen going into the woods to hunt. Coffin was accused of ambushing the three men and stealing more than 600 dollars. Coffin denied committing the murders, but admitting to stealing some of the men's luggage.

Coffin went through seven reprieves after his conviction where he was denied clemency by the Quebec Court of Appeals, the Canadian Supreme Court and the Prime Minister. On 10 February 1956, Coffin mounted the gallows. He was refused his final wish of marrying Marion Petrie, his partner and mother of his 8-year-old son James. Coffin always claimed he was innocent.


NB: The article below was originally published in February 2016.

James Coffin was eight years old when his father Wilbert was hanged at Montreal's Bordeaux prison.

His mother told him his father, originally from Gaspé, Qué., been killed in an accident.

Coffin never thought to question it.

"My mother kept me totally in the dark about it. I was about 15 before I knew who he really was," Coffin told Breakaway host Rachelle Solomon in an exclusive interview from his home in British Columbia.

Last week marked the 60th anniversary of Coffin's father's execution for a crime many are convinced he didn't commit.

Wilbert Coffin went to the gallows after he was convicted of first-degree murder in the death of an American tourist in the Gaspé.


'His side of the story'


As relatives, friends and residents of Gaspé continued to question Coffin's verdict and what really happened in the summer of 1953, Coffin and his mother steered clear of the media attention, carrying on with their lives in Montreal and visiting Gaspé only for summer trips.

"My mother always said to leave it be, that nothing good would come of it. She would say I would only get my hopes up, and then they would get squashed again," Coffin said.

The 60th anniversary of his father's execution prompted him to speak out and share information he believes to be essential in the ongoing efforts to re-open the Wilbert Coffin case.

Wilbert Coffin appealed his first-degree murder conviction all the way to the Supreme Court. His leave to appeal was denied. A provincial inquiry in 1964 deemed Coffin's trial to have been fair.

But Coffin never took the stand in his own defence, and his side of the story has faded with time.

James Coffin, who now lives in British Columbia, says he's eager to tell his father's side of the decades-old story. (Radio-Canada)

"I wanted to finally get his side of the story told," James Coffin said. "Nobody knows the different things that I know, that my mother told me over the years."

Coffin says he has collaborated with the Association in Defence of the Wrongly Convicted (AIDWYC) in the past, donating paintings his father did while he was at Bordeaux.

"I brought them to be auctioned off to help raise funds for the work they do, looking after my dad's case as well as cases of other people who have been wrongfully convicted," he said.

"I hope I can make a little dent into helping somebody else get out who is still alive."

Sources: CBC News, Rachelle Solomon, Julia Page; Wikipedia, February 16, 2016


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"One is absolutely sickened, not by the crimes that the wicked have committed, but by the punishments that the good have inflicted." -- Oscar Wilde

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