As you know, Brandon Jones is scheduled to be executed at in Jackson.
If this execution goes forward, Brandon, who is 72 years old, will be the oldest person put to death in Georgia.
The Intercept published a compelling piece that I encourage everyone to read, entitled A Life on Death Row: Facing execution at 72, Georgia’s oldest death row inmate exposes death penalty’s racist roots.
Please plan to attend a vigil if you’re able. For a full list, click here.
As soon as we get word about the parole board’s decision, we’ll let you know.
Happy new year! We have a lot going on in the coming months.
MLK March: January 18, 2016
As you know, Georgia was responsible for a fifth of all executions last year, when 98% of US counties have abandoned the practice. We are expecting six additional execution dates in the coming months.
One of those people is Kenny Fults. Kenny is a Black man who has an IQ that places him in the bottom 3% of the population. After Kenny’s trial at which he was sentenced to death, it came out that at least one juror and Kenny’s own defense attorneys had used racial slurs against him, including calling him “a little n____.” This racism violated Kenny's constitutional right to a fair trial and an impartial jury. Despite this documented racism and the unconstitutionality of Kenny's jury, Georgia still intends to kill Kenny next Spring. Please support efforts to stop Kenny’s execution. Visit www.savekennyfults.com and sign his clemency petition.
This system is barbaric and cruel that makes us neither safer nor more whole. If you want to see the end of this practice once and for all, we need you.
We'd love for you to join the GFADP contingent on Monday, January 18, as we march on MLK day for the end to the death penalty and criminal justice practices that target, disenfranchise, marginalize, and criminalize people of color and the poor. We'll meet at 12:30 at the corner of Peachtree St and Ellis St. The march will commence at 1:15pm.
So we can get an idea about how many people will be marching with us, we'd love it if you send a quick email to email@example.com and let us know that you'll be joining us.
Teach-ins on Intellectual Disability and the Death Penalty: January 20 and January 21
What: Two teach-ins on the Standard of Proof for Intellectual Disability in Death Penalty cases in Georgia
When and Where:
Please Register here: https://secure.archatl.com/np/clients/archatl/event.jsp?event=4084&
Please Register here: https://secure.archatl.com/np/clients/archatl/event.jsp?event=4089&
The issue: Georgia is the only state in the country that uses the most difficult standard of proof in order to meet the legal standard of Intellectual Disability in death penalty cases “Beyond a reasonable doubt.” This standard is a fairly challenging legal obstacle to overcome, and Georgia is an outlier in requiring it. Of the 33 jurisdictions that still have the death penalty, 22 use the standard of “preponderance of the evidence.” Because of Georgia’s incredibly high standard of proof, Georgia continues to execute people with developmental disabilities, including Warren Lee Hill, who the State of Georgia executed on January 27, 2015. Had Mr. Hill been convicted of the same crime in any other state, he would not have been eligible for the death penalty.
About the PAPE Project: The PAPE Project, Proof to a Preponderance of the Evidence, a coalition led by the Georgia Council on Developmental Disabilities and Georgians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty, will be advocating for a bill during the 2016 legislative session that will change the “burden of proof” to the “preponderance of the evidence” in death penalty cases involving people with intellectual disabilities.
Who should attend: Because people with intellectual disabilities are highly vulnerable in the current state of Georgia’s criminal justice system, especially in regards to the death penalty, we highly encourage people with disabilities, family members, and other disability advocates to attend, including those who have been directly impacted by the criminal justice system and those who are interested in criminal justice reform. We will provide an overview of the topic, share stories of people who have been personally impacted and outline the advocacy work crucial to move this significant piece of legislation forward and put Georgia back on the right side of history.
For more information or to register, please contact:
Lead Organizer, Georgians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty
Lobby Day: February 9, 2016
Join us for Georgians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty's Lobby Day, on Tuesday, February 9, 2016. There, we will talk to our legislators about the many problems with capital punishment in our state. Your participation is key because it's important that Georgia legislators know that the movement to end the death penalty is growing in this state and that it will continue to grow until this cruel and inhumane punishment is no longer used. The lobby training will begin promptly at 9 am at Central Presbyterian Church. The address is 201 Washington St SW, Atlanta, GA 30303. This is a great training to get the basics on the topics we will be addressing; tips on speaking with your legislators and the legislative process. We will then meet with legislators across the street at the Capitol from 10 am to 11:45 am. We will conclude the day with a press conference at 12 pm (Noon) in the Capitol Rotunda. Please join us for all or part of the day as you are able. For more information and to RSVP please register, here. Please make sure to RSVP so we can get an accurate count of how many people will be joining us.
Thank you and we look forward to seeing you all.
I’m reeling after this morning’s execution of Brian Terrell. It is simply horrifying that the state of Georgia went forward with this execution at 12:52 AM, despite serious doubts about his guilt. The United States Supreme Court denied Brian’s final appeal around 11 PM, but it took an hour for the nurse to get IVs inserted into both of his arms. Brian’s execution marks the fifth carried out by Georgia this year and highlights the compounded tragedy of a death penalty system that prioritizes finality over fairness. The 11th Circuit Court of Appeals denied Brian’s request to stop the execution, but expressed frustration with Georgia’s lethal injection secrecy law. One of the judges said a condemned person should not have to wait for “a botched execution, or other mishap,” before being able to access information about the lethal injection process.
We extend our deepest gratitude to Brian’s legal team, Bo King, Susan Casey and Melanie Goodwill, who left no stone unturned fighting for Brian, and to Mawuli Davis and his team at Davis Bozeman Law Firm for their incredible leadership in highlighting the police and prosecutorial misconduct that plagued Brian’s case. Our hearts are with Brian’s family and friends, and with Brian’s lawyer who witnessed his execution. Thank you to each and every one of you who signed a letter, attended the press conference, and went to a vigil. While incredibly heartbreaking, it is vital that we have a visible presence on execution nights. We must continue to reject the notion that these executions are being done in our names.
Georgia is responsible for a fifth of all executions this year, when 98% of US counties have abandoned the practice. We are expecting eight additional execution dates in the coming months. This system is barbaric and cruel that makes us neither safer nor more whole. If you are outraged, we need you.
Here are a few things you can do to highlight the brutality of this system.
· Take action TODAY on behalf of Kenny Fults. Kenny is a Black man who has an IQ that places him in the bottom 3% of the population. After Kenny’s trial at which he was sentenced to death, it came out that at least one juror and Kenny’s own defense attorneys had used racial slurs against him, including calling him “a little n____.” This racism violated Kenny's constitutional right to a fair trial and an impartial jury. Despite this documented racism and the unconstitutionality of Kenny's jury, Georgia still intends to kill Kenny next Spring. Please support efforts to stop Kenny’s execution. Visit www.savekennyfults.com and sign his clemency petition. Please share far and wide.
· Join us for Georgians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty's Lobby Day, on Tuesday, February 9, 2016.There, we will talk to our legislators about the many problems with capital punishment in our state. Your participation is key because it's important that Georgia legislators know that the movement to end the death penalty is growing in this state and that it will continue to grow until this cruel and inhumane punishment is no longer used. The lobby training will begin promptly at 9 am at Central Presbyterian Church. The address is 201 Washington St SW, Atlanta, GA 30303. This is a great training to get the basics on the topics we will be addressing; tips on speaking with your legislators and the legislative process. We will then meet with legislators across the street at the Capitol from 10 am to 11:45 am. We will conclude the day with a press conference at at 12 pm (Noon) in the Capitol Rotunda. Please join us for all or part of the day as you are able. For more information and to RSVP please register, here. Please make sure to RSVP so we can get an accurate count of how many people will be joining us.
After days like today, it is sometimes hard to see the bright spots. And yet, we are in a moment when we can see a near future in which the death penalty no longer exists in this country.
Thank you for all that you do each and every day to bring this futile and brutal practice to an end. It is an honor to be in this struggle with you all.
Kathryn Hamoudah on behalf of GFADP
Please join Georgians for Alternatives to the death penalty and The Interfaith Coalition to End the Death Penalty for an educational summit and prayer vigil on December 10th, 2015 entitled “Justice and Mercy: An Interfaith Call to End the Death Penalty.” The summit will be at the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception (48 Martin Luther King Jr. Dr. NW, Atlanta, GA 30303) from 2:30 – 4:30pm and the prayer vigil will be at Liberty Plaza from 5:00 – 6:00pm. Check-in begins at 2:00pm, and a procession from the shrine to the plaza starts at 4:30.
Speakers will include Ambassador Andrew Young, Bishop Wright of the Episcopal Diocese of Atlanta, Retired Supreme Court Justice Norman Fletcher, Kayla Gissendaner, and others. Please join us for this incredible opportunity to pray and be informed and mobilized about abolishing the death penalty in Georgia. The event is free but you are strongly encouraged to register at http://bit.ly/1MXn7QU.
The Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles denied Brian Terrell's request for clemency. Please plan to attend a vigil near you. For a full list of vigils, click here.
While there is a palatable movement away from the death penalty in the United States, Georgia is in a crisis moment. We are anticipating eight executions to be scheduled in the next several months.
On Thursday, November 19th, Georgia executed Marcus Ray Johnson. Marcus consistently maintained his innocence and was convicted on the basis of unreliable eyewitness testimony from people who did not see Mr. Johnson commit any crime. We know our criminal justice system is not devoid of error: 155 individuals have been released from death rows across the United States, most often due to mistaken witness identification, since 1976.
In 2015 to date, Georgia has executed four people: Kelly Gissendaner, Warren Hill, Andrew Brannan, and Marcus Ray Johnson. In each case, Georgians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty (GFADP) provided a voice of reason, urging our state to move away from perpetuating violence. As we approach 2016, we have steeled our resolve to continue to raise our voices and publicly take a stand against a futile, brutalizing exercise that makes us neither safer nor more whole. Your financial support is critical to lifting our voices as high as possible.
These cases exemplify much of what is wrong with the death penalty and why our work to end the practice is so critical.
Non-Trigger Person and Redemption
Kelly Gissendaner was executed on September 30, 2015, despite the fact that she did not physically carry out the crime. Her co-defendant who did will be eligible for parole in seven years. This is the first time in the modern death penalty era that Georgia has executed an individual who did not kill the victim and was not there when the victim was killed.
There was much attention given to Kelly’s story of transformation and redemption - even Pope Francis pleaded for her life. The outgrowth of her journey is seen vividly in the care and support she offered other women with whom she was incarcerated. Many of them shared that Kelly was their only support during their darkest days in prison. Some who were contemplating suicide credit Kelly with saving their lives. Resoundingly, all say that Kelly challenged them to change their lives while they were in prison, offering encouragement, guidance, and love when they needed it most.
Warren Hill was executed on January 27, 2015 because Georgia requires a defendant to prove intellectual disability “beyond a reasonable doubt.” This is the heaviest burden of proof in the law, and Georgia is the only state that requires it. As a result of our coalition building, we will introduce a bill in the 2016 Legislative Session to change Georgia’s extreme “beyond a reasonable doubt” law to ensure that people with intellectual disability are protected from execution in our state.
Andrew Brannan, executed on January 13, 2015, was a decorated Vietnam combat veteran who was sentenced to death for the 1998 murder of Laurens County Deputy Sheriff Kyle Dinkheller during a traffic stop.
Andrew had no prior criminal history and long before the crime had been declared 100% disabled by the Veterans Administration (VA), due to diagnoses of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and Bipolar Disorder. The traffic stop between Brannan and Deputy Dinkheller escalated into a gun fight after Brannan erratically pulled a rifle from his car. Deputy Dinkheller died at the scene.
Andrew was sentenced to death by a jury who never heard a firsthand account of the details of his meritorious service in Vietnam – earning him two Army Commendation Medals and a Bronze Star, one of the nation’s highest awards for meritorious service in combat. The jury never heard about his debilitating, disabling PTSD or about his Bipolar Disorder diagnosis. With your support, we can continue to educate lawmakers about the impact of mental illness and the death penalty.
We will continue to face some dark days in Georgia, but as recent news including Nebraska’s abolition victory demonstrates, the thirst for death is declining across the country. While we are in a moment of crisis in Georgia, we are also in a moment of tremendous possibility. We are in a moment when we can see a near future in which the death penalty no longer exists in this country. But, it is going to take hard work, new strategies, and resources. For Kelly, for Warren, for Andrew, for Marcus, we are committed to struggle for the end of the death penalty.
We are grateful for your continued support and generosity. We wouldn’t be here without you, and for that, we’re so thankful.
Kathryn Hamoudah, Chair
GFADP Board of Directors
As you know Brian Terrell has an execution date set for Tuesday, December 8 at 7pm. Tomorrow, his lawyers will present before the Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles at 9:00am. You can read his clemency application, here.
Brian’s longtime friend has organized a prayer vigil in support of clemency for tomorrow morning. Please join us any time from 8:30 am - 10:00 am. We will gather at the front of the building where his clemency hearing is to be held. (Floyd Building, 2 Martin Luther King, Jr. Drive, Atlanta, Georgia 30334, near Georgia State MARTA). Bring signs "Clemency for Brian Terrell" if you can.
Mr. Terrell was tried three times for the murder of John Watson, but he has always maintained his innocence. There is no physical evidence or eyewitness testimony implicating Mr. Terrell in Mr. Watson’s murder, and the physical evidence that does exist does not implicate him. Shoe impressions taken from the crime scene near Mr. Watson’s body are smaller than Mr. Terrell’s feet. None of the 13 latent prints collected and tested by the GBI matched Mr. Terrell’s fingerprints, but two taken from Mr. Watson’s truck matched those of Terrell’s uncle. The GBI further identified a palm print on Mr. Watson’s truck as matching his uncle’s, and a state’s witness testified that it had been made within 24 hours of the crime.
The primary testimony against Mr. Terrell came from his co-defendant who agreed to testify against Mr. Terrell in exchange for a guilty plea to robbery that included only a five-year sentence of imprisonment. Johnson initially lied to law enforcement officers about his whereabouts on the day of the crime, but after being held in jail for over a year while facing potential capital murder charges, agreed to testify against Terrell to avoid the death penalty. It was Johnson, and not Brian Terrell, who was identified by witnesses who saw him near Mr. Watson’s house around the time of the murder.
Mr. Terrell’s first capital murder trial ended in a hung jury during the guilt/innocence phase, meaning that the jurors did not agree that he was guilty of any of the crimes. While that jury was deliberating, the state offered Brian a plea agreement to a term of straight life imprisonment (which would have meant he was parole-eligible after seven years). Mr. Terrell refused to consider pleading guilty to a crime he did not commit. Prior to his third trial in 2001, Brian again refused a plea offer to a life sentence which at that time included a contract not to seek parole for 18 years.
Please join us tomorrow for any amount of time that you’re able.
If this execution goes forward, it will be Georgia’s sixth execution in a year.
Mr. Terrell was convicted of murdering John Watson. There is no physical evidence implicating Mr. Terrell in Mr. Watson’s murder despite a considerable amount of physical evidence recovered from the crime scene. The case against Terrell rested primarily on allegations made by his then 18-year-old cousin Jermaine Johnson, who provided the only direct testimony suggesting Terrell's involvement in the crime. When questioned by police, Johnson lied about his whereabouts on the day of the crime. He was subsequently arrested and held in jail for more than a year. Finally, after being informed by police that Brian was the primary target of their investigation, he agreed to testify against Brian to avoid the death penalty. Upon providing a taped statement to police and agreeing to testify, he was allowed to plead guilty to robbery and was sentenced to five years imprisonment. Aside from Johnson, no eyewitness placed Brian at or near Mr. Watson’s house on the day of the murder.
Mr. Terrell was tried three times for the murder of Mr. Watson. In July 2008, Brian’s death sentence was reversed by the Superior Court of Butts County after state habeas corpus proceedings that included a detailed evidentiary hearing. The habeas court held that Mr. Terrell’s lawyer had been ineffective for failing to present expert testimony from an independent forensic pathologist and an independent crime scene investigator. The state appealed the habeas court’s grant of sentencing relief, and the Georgia Supreme Court reversed it in 2009.
During each of Mr. Terrell’s three capital murder trials, the major contours of the state’s weak case against him were the same. While the first jury recognized these deficiencies and refused to convict Mr. Terrell, law enforcement and prosecutors plodded on, refining the way they charged and presented their case to obtain a conviction and death sentence. They focused their sights on Mr. Terrell, ignoring or explaining away physical evidence and testimony that did not fit their theory, and in the process disregarded their duty to seek justice and not a conviction.
How you can help:
1. Sign a Letter to the Parole Board
Mr. Terrell has maintained his innocence from the day of his arrest until now and was convicted on the basis of unreliable eyewitness testimony. It has been repeatedly demonstrated that our criminal justice system is not devoid of error, and we now know that 155 individuals have been released from death rows across the United States since 1976.
Mr. Terrell’s lawyers will present a clemency petition to the Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles on Monday, December 7 at 9:00 am. The Parole Board is the entity in Georgia that has the sole authority to grant or deny clemency (either to commute, or reduce, a death sentence to life without parole). Only after a person has exhausted all appeals and other avenues of relief will the Parole Board consider granting clemency.
We could really use your help getting the clemency letter signed ASAP. We plan to send the letters in a bundle on Wednesday, December 2.
2. Join Concerned Georgians for a Press Conference
On Wednesday, December 2, 2015 at 1:00pm, Georgians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty (GFADP) will join Mawuli Davis, co-founder of Davis Bozeman Law Firm; Sara Totonchi, Executive Director of the Southern Center for Human Rights; Pastor Derrick Rice, Senior Pastor/Founder Sankofa United Church of Christ and with Concerned Black Clergy; community members and concerned Georgians for a press conference at the Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles, as we call on the Board to grant Brian Terrell clemency and highlight the issues of police and prosecutorial misconduct that permeate his case. Terrell is scheduled to be executed on Tuesday, December 8, 2015 at 7:00 pm, despite serious doubts about his guilt.
Floyd Veterans Memorial Building
2 Martin Luther King, Jr. Drive, S.E.
Atlanta, GA 30334
3. Contact Governor Nathan Deal to Influence His Parole Board
While the parole is the only entity that can grant clemency, the five members are appointed by the Governor. Please take a moment to contact Governor Deal and urge him to intervene. Please take this action until Tuesday, December 8. Below is a sample script.
Governor Nathan Deal
Office of the Governor
203 State Capitol; Atlanta, GA 30334
“Hi, my name is ______, and I am a Georgia voter from ______. I am writing to ask you to urge your parole board to grant clemency for Brian Terrell. Mr. Terrell is scheduled to be executed on December 8 and I am deeply troubled that Georgia might proceed with this execution given the real possibility of Mr. Terrell’s innocence. It has been repeatedly demonstrated that our criminal justice system is not devoid of error and we now know that 155 individuals have been released from death rows across the United States, since 1976. Again, please urge your parole board to grant Brian Terrell clemency. Thank you.
Many thanks in advance!