On June 1st, Jason Baldwin wrote a letter backing the state ballot initiative, SAFE California, which will repeal the state's death penalty and replace it with life without parole. The SAFE California Act qualified for the ballot after submitting 800,000 petition signatures earlier this year. The initiative is supported by innocent men and women who were wrongfully convicted, family members of murder victims, law enforcement and thousands of other advocates for justice.
Jason had this to say to WM3 supporters:
"Damien, Jessie, and I know that we are free because of people like you. You stood up and fought for us—you are the reason we never gave up and you are the reason we finally came home. Without the support of thousands of people across the country and the world, Jessie and I would still be in prison and Damien would still be facing execution."
Today we have Damien Echol's backing for the intiative:
"I spent seventeen years on death row and was scheduled to be executed by the State of Arkansas for a crime I did not commit. Please help prevent this from happening in California by joining me in supporting SAFE California's initiative to repeal the death penalty in November."
As Jason also points out in his letter, winning an initiative takes more than people power-- it takes money, and lots of it, to reach every California voter. WM3 supporters' fundraising goal is $5,000 and we've fallen woefully short so far. Please click this link in order to donate to this groundbreaking effort to repeal the death penalty in California!
An Arkansas mother is playing hardball with authorities there. She says she’s entitled to see the evidence in her son’s murder case. So she’s filed a lawsuit, to make it happen. Pam Hicks is the mother of Stevie Branch, one of the young boys killed in the West Memphis Three case, nearly 20 years ago. She’s here with her attorney Ken Swindle.
LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — The Arkansas Supreme Court struck down the state’s execution law Friday, calling it unconstitutional.
In a split decision, the high court sided with 10 death row inmates who argued that, under Arkansas’ constitution, only the Legislature can set execution policy. Legislators in 2009 voted to give that authority to the Department of Correction.
“It is evident to this court that the Legislature has abdicated its responsibility and passed to the executive branch, in this case the (Arkansas Department of Correction), the unfettered discretion to determine all protocol and procedures, most notably the chemicals to be used, for a state execution,” Justice Jim Gunter wrote in the majority opinion.
Two justices of the seven-member court dissented, arguing that the correction department’s discretion is not “unfettered” because it is bound by the federal and state constitutions that guard against cruel and unusual punishment.
“In addition, Arkansas is left no method of carrying out the death penalty in cases where it has been lawfully imposed,” Justice Karen Baker wrote in the dissent.
The 2009 law says a death sentence is to be carried out by lethal injection of one or more chemicals that the director of the Department of Correction chooses. The law also says that in the event that the lethal injection law is found to be unconstitutional, death sentences will be carried out by electrocution.
It wasn’t immediately clear what the court’s ruling will mean for the 40 men on death row in Arkansas. There aren’t any pending executions, and the state hasn’t put anyone to death since 2005, in part because of legal challenges like this one.
Death row inmate Jack Harold Jones Jr. sued the head of the correction department in 2010. Nine other inmates later joined the suit, asking that the law be struck down.
The state, meanwhile, asked the court to free up several executions it had halted because of this lawsuit.
Josh Lee, an attorney for the death row inmates who challenged the law, declined to comment Friday.
During oral arguments last week, Lee said the state would have two options if the court found the law unconstitutional.
“The Legislature could either choose to stick with the 1983 statute, which everybody concedes is constitutional, or the Legislature could decide we want to amend it.” Lee said last week.
A spokesman for Arkansas Attorney General Dustin McDaniel didn’t immediately respond to an email seeking comment.
The state adopted lethal injection as its method of capital punishment in 1983. There have been legal challenges to the way the state kills its condemned prisoners since then. In 2009, in the midst of a legal battle over lethal injection, the state Legislature passed the law that the court struck down Friday.
Joseph Cordi, an attorney for the state, told the Supreme Court last week that he thought the state would fall back on the 1983 law if the court struck down the entire 2009 statute.
Prisons spokeswoman Dina Tyler said Friday that she hasn’t seen the ruling.
Jessie is the last one to have his birthday on the outside since they were released last August 19. He's the one that's almost never in the limelight so please remember his happpiest of birthdays with a card or a letter to him c/o PO Box 1354, West Memphis AR 72303. You can also make a donation to the WM3 Freedom Fund plus there are a few items on his amazon wishlist so think about sending him a little something else if you are able!
Damien, Jessie, and I know that we are free because of people like you. You stood up and fought for us—you are the reason we never gave up and you are the reason we finally came home. Without the support of thousands of people across the country and the world, Jessie and I would still be in prison and Damien would still be facing execution.
We also know that we are not the only ones. Thousands of people are wrongfully convicted in this country and many of them sit on death row. A new report shows that Texas most likely executed an innocent man, Carlos De Luna, in 1989. We know he is one of many.
We can’t stop fighting and we hope you won’t either, not until we replace the death penalty across the whole country. The next battle ground state is California. Will you help us win this fight too?
On November 6, 2012, California voters will have the first opportunity ever to replace the death penalty with life without parole. The SAFE California Act has qualified for the ballot after submitting 800,000 petition signatures. The initiative is supported by innocent people who were wrongfully convicted, family members of murder victims, law enforcement and thousands of advocates for justice.
Winning an initiative, like winning a legal battle, takes more than just people power. It takes money. Supporters of the SAFE California Campaign need to get the message out to every California voter, online, on TV and face to face. We need to make sure everyone in California knows about cases of injustice like ours and like Carlos De Luna’s.
The only way to ensure that we never execute another innocent person is if we replace the death penalty. We have a chance to do that in California and winning California will change the world. Almost one-quarter of the people on death row in the US are on death row in California. We can change that.