On the Journey (with David Kaczynski)

April 26 – Texas Journey Follow-up

Did you find Easter eggs? I certainly did! I found a wonderfully-supportive article by David Kaczynski, Executive Director, New Yorkers for Alternatives to the Death Penalty.

Although this blog was only meant to advertise and promote our  Texas Journey of Hope 2010, it keeps getting subscribers and visitors. This blog was viewed about 5,600 times between September and December 2010. It has now reached 7,000 views all-time!

Yesterday, I came across an article by David Kaczynski, originally published on October 18, 2010. At the time, we were already in Texas. David, discreet and modest as always, never mentioned it. But I found it at last and have quoted it below. Thank you for your generosity and support David!

On the Journey October 18, 2010 by David Kaczynski

“Journey” is a wonderful word that evokes notions of a story, a process, and an adventure. When we complement the idea of a worldly journey with an inward journey, then we are also talking about emotional and spiritual transformation.

As of last Friday and for most of the next two weeks, my own journey has taken me back to the state of Texas as a member of The Journey of Hope – from Violence to Healing, founded by Bill Pelke as a promise to his grandmother – a deeply religious woman who was murdered by a group of teenagers in Indiana. I agreed to go on the current Texas journey out of deep respect for Bill, who in my mind is the purest spirit in the abolitionist movement.

Bill’s motto is “Love and compassion for all humanity.” He is kind, patient, always willing to lend an ear or a hand. I learned only yesterday that he has no set funding for the Texas journey and has committed $15,000 of his own money – carefully saved from his steelworker’s pension – to pay for twelve journeyers to travel, eat and lodge ourselves in Texas until the end of the month. (With a knowing wink, I asked Bill about that number, twelve, but he assures me it came about by accident.) Our volunteer support staff includes an opera singer from Germany; two Amnesty International members from Italy; and various local chapter members of the Texas Abolition Coalition. (One thing I want people to know: someone can look and walk and talk like a Texan and still be strongly, even viscerally opposed to the death penalty.)

The Journey was originally formed by murder victim family members, but was later expanded to include death row exonerees and death row family members. Our current cast includes Curtis McCarty, a man who spent 19 years on death row in Oklahoma before he was definitively exonerated by DNA.

On Saturday, we held a vigil with about 100 people outside the Walls unit in Huntsville, where 14 executions have been carried out this year and where more than 450 executions have taken place since the US Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty in the late 1970′s. What I found most surprising was the prison’s location in a peaceful, shady residential community. How does a family – especially a family with young children – sit down to dinner knowing that someone (probably but not certainly guilty) is being strapped to a gurney and put to death near by?

In Texas, the concern about executing the innocent is not theoretical. Try googling the name Cameron Todd Willingham and see what you find. But here’s the short version: Forensic experts who reviewed Willingham’s case have concluded that the fire that claimed the lives of Willingham’s three children was accidental. But the review came too late to save Willingham, who was sentenced to death for setting the fire and executed in 2004. Now Governor Rick Perry is doing everything within his power to squelch further investigation into how and why this miscarriage of justice took place.

In San Antonio, I hope to see former district attorney Sam Millsap, whom I first met while on a Journey tour of Montana. Sam says he always believed in the death penalty. As the district attorney for San Antonio, he sent a number of people to death row, including a juvenile named Ruben Cantu who was eventually executed. Sam is now convinced that Mr. Cantu was innocent and had nothing to do with the crime for which he was put to death. Sam has the character and grace to admit his mistake.

You would think the writing is on the wall in Texas: the death penalty is a bad system and should be ended. But Texans are no different than the rest of us. It seems that the most difficult truths are always the hardest to acknowledge.

If you would like to make a contribution to the Journey of Hope, you can do so by visiting http://www.journeyofhope.org/donations.html

This is by far the best Easter egg I found last weekend! If you would like to make a contribution to New Yorkers for Alternatives to the Death Penalty, you can do so by visiting http://www.nyadp.org/content/donate-even-10-helps-keep-our-work-going I encourage you also to join NYADP’s page on Facebook.

Gilles Denizot
Journey of Hope…from Violence to Healing board member & Secretary

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