“What I saw set my soul on fire…”

Sr. Helen and Jayhawks for Life leaders

“They killed a man with fire one night. They strapped him in a wooden chair and pumped electricity through his body until he was dead.” …I was there. I saw it with my own eyes. What I saw set my soul on fire, a fire that burns me still. And now here is an account of how I came to be and still am.”   (Sr. Helen Prejean)

 

Sr. Helen shared first hand accounts at KU on March 5th of her journeys with murder victim families, inmates, and corrections professionals and the reality of the death penalty.  “There’s nothing like being close to the fire” she said in describing how proximity to capital punishment’s actual process teaches a person about the impact it has on everyone it touches.

 

Sr. Helen encouraged the many young adults in the audience to continue learning and dialoguing about the death penalty because they can make a difference in political dialogue.  That is especially true in places like Kansas where the death penalty is on the books but isn’t being used.  She noted the momentum building in Kansas for abolition and encouraged those in attendance to become more involved in the abolition effort.

 

The inspiring event was organized by the KU Jayhawks for Life organization.

 

To learn more about Sr. Helen’s excellent presentation, click here for the coverage in the University Daily Kansan.

 

 

‘Dead Man Walking: The Journey Continues”

Sr. Helen Prejean is coming to Kansas!

 

Monday March 5th at 7 p.m.

 

Woodruff Auditorium in the Memorial Union on the KU Campus in Lawrence

 

Jayhawks for Life is sponsoring this event which is free and open to the public.  This is a great opportunity to hear such an inspiring speaker!

 

 

photo credit:  Scott Langley

 

Retired Kansas Secretary of Corrections Werholtz: “It’s time to end the death penalty”.

 

Retired Kansas Secretary of Corrections, Roger Werholtz, has spoken out recently twice in support of death penalty abolition.

 

He served as Secretary of Corrections in Kansas for 8 years, as well as interim director in the Colorado Department of Corrections in 2013. He told the October 21st Abolition Conference that there is too much misconduct and error in the system “to be absolutely certain” we would not execute an innocent person.

 

He also addressed public safety and shared about his conversations with the families of the last 3 corrections professionals murdered in Colorado. All of them opposed the death penalty because they knew there were better ways to keep the public safe.

 

Secretary Werholtz told conference attendees “because of the drain of resources the death penalty creates in Kansas we’re not as safe as we could be.”

 

Then, in a October 31st guest column in the Topeka Capital Journal, Secretary Werholtz reiterated how the death penalty harms public safety.  He noted that studies have shown defense and court costs are significantly higher in death penalty cases.  He documented the ongoing challenges in the Kansas prison system–inability to staff the prisons, mandatory overtime, high prison guard turnover, loss of programs that do make a difference in prisoner behavior.  He went on to address the issue of a new prison and the resultant need for a new execution chamber.  Secretary Werholtz noted that consequences of moving the death chamber to El Dorado would be additional trauma for the staff there because of the well documented psychological cost for staff who know an inmate and participate in his/her execution.

 

He concluded his guest column this way:  “…There is no shortage of needs for the current Kansas Department of Corrections. We absolutely shouldn’t do anything to make the job of being a Kansas corrections officer even more difficult. With funds so scarce, and the needs so great, it simply makes no sense for us to continue to invest more in our ineffective death penalty. The opportunity is ripe: It’s time to end the death penalty.”

 

McIntyre case gives reason to pause

 

 

Rev. Thea Nietfeld and Bill Lucero

Rev. Thea Nietfeld and Bill Lucero

 

 

 

 

On Oct. 13th, after proceedings in Wyandotte County District court, Lamonte McIntyre was released from custody after serving 23 years on charges of murdering two persons.  The District Attorney agreed to the release calling it a case of “manifest injustice”.  McIntyre became the second person released in Kansas in two years due to exoneration after being convicted of first degree murder.

 

Murder victim family member, Bill Lucero, of Topeka, addressed the topic of error in our criminal justice system from a victim family perspective in a recent Topeka Capital Journal letter to the editor.

 

“…The wrongful conviction and imprisonment of Lamonte McIntyre is a sickening reminder of how our criminal justice system can be manipulated by one corrupt high-ranking police officer’s ulterior motives which, in combination with an unethical relationship during the trial, amounted to significant judicial misconduct.

 

There are many of us who have lost loved ones to murder and who oppose capital punishment if for no other reason than the fear of contributing to the execution of an innocent defendant….”

 

To read the full letter on the TCJ website click here.

 

Not in MY Name!

 

 

Dixon head shot

 

 

 

 

 

Celeste Dixon was originally a weak supporter of the death penalty. She lost her mom, Marguerite, to murder in Texas. What kept her going after her mom’s death was the promise of a trial and that they were seeking the death penalty.

 

Celeste attended the trial every day because she wanted the defendant to see the people left behind and their anger and rage. After the guilty verdict and the death sentence, her family was relieved. A juror told them he’d held out for death because it was “a comforting thing to do” for the family.

 

Over time, Celeste began to question the death penalty because of the impact of the prolonged anger it created in her. She became active in a prolife group while in college. She eventually realized that she could no longer support the death penalty. Celeste noted that once she began to oppose the death penalty, the DA in her mom’s case was less responsive to her.

 

Her mom’s murderer was executed 21 years after the crime. Despite the juror’s belief that execution would be comforting, Celeste did not experience it that way. The death penalty process ultimately did not help her with the tremendous loss she had suffered.

 

Her experience led her to conclude that capital punishment actually fails to help murder victim family members rebuild their lives.  Ms. Dixon shared her journey with attendees at the Coalition’s recent Abolition Conference in McPherson.