As I think about what I’d like to tell you about this past year in the movement to end the death penalty in Georgia, and what to expect going forward, I keep coming back to one particular moment.
It was the morning of April 26, 2016, and a van-load of people related to Daniel Lucas pulled up next to the Sloppy Floyd Building in Atlanta. They had come to plead with the five men on the Georgia State Board of Pardons and Parole to spare Daniel’s life on the eve of his scheduled execution, and they were filled with anxiety and dread.
As the family members spilled out of the van onto the sidewalk, they noticed that they were surrounded by a group of people from Georgians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty (GFADP), holding signs that read, “Stop the Execution of Daniel Lucas,” “Clemency for Daniel Lucas,” and “Not In My Name.” I, along with the other sign holders, offered warm hugs and reassurance to Daniel’s family members as they walked to the clemency hearing. Later, Daniel’s mother said that seeing those people from GFADP, and knowing they did not want her son to die, gave her the strength she needed to testify before the parole board that day.
Looking back over a devastating year that brought eight executions to Georgia – a state record – it’s moments like that one with Daniel Lucas’s family that keep me going. GFADP assumes the essential role of the organizer and disseminator of the stories that encompass capital punishment in our state, and those moments remind us that our efforts are making a difference, in both small and tremendous ways, for individuals and for our community at large.
There are so many ways that we are chipping away at the death penalty and its attendant harm, and inching us ever closer to abolition. For the second year in a row, there have been no new death sentences handed down in Georgia despite the ongoing presence of a small handful of district attorneys who insist on seeking the death penalty in their counties. Juries are clearly becoming increasingly uncomfortable with capital punishment, and knowing the stories of those involved in capital crimes has no doubt fed their reluctance to issue the ultimate penalty.
Sadly, we will end 2016 in Georgia with the distinction of being one of only four states that is continuing to carry out executions even though both state and national death penalty trends have shown a significant downturn. This is not the Georgia I want to live in. This is not the sort of attention I want this state to receive. Like you, I want to live in a state that is known for its humanitarian initiatives and not for its skill in carrying out executions without a hitch.
So how do we get there, to a place where the death penalty is no longer an option in Georgia? It starts with you and your support. GFADP has been able to sustain efforts to end the death penalty in Georgia through individual contributions, and we ask for your support through a donation today.
GFADP is uniquely positioned to continue our statewide organizing efforts, reaching across faith communities and political identities to find common ground. These are just some of the plans we have for the coming year:
I come to you now, along with Sam Gonzales and Kimberly Jackson, as the newly elected leaders of GFADP’s Board of Directors, and we are so excited to be working with you and on behalf of our statewide coalition.
Today we are asking for your continued support, first by contributing to our annual appeal, and then if possible, by actively participating in our campaigns.
We remain confident that together we will abolish the death penalty.
With hope and gratitude,
Mary Catherine Johnson, Co-chair
With Sam Gonzales, Co-chair and Kimberly Jackson, Vice Chair
GFADP Board of Directors
Mary Catherine Johnson, Co-chair; Sam Gonzales, Co-chair; Kimberly Jackson, Vice Chair;
Peggy Hendrix, Secretary; Em McNair, Treasurer; Suzanne Hobby-Shippen;
Brenna McEowen; Bill Moon; and Kathryn Hamoudah, Emeritus