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Sister Helen Prejean
Sister Helen Prejean
The U.S. Supreme Court decided Plessy v. Ferguson 126 years ago today, allowing states to enact "separate but equal" laws. Louisiana's not-too-distant past practice of silencing Black jurors through non-unanimous verdicts is part of this legacy of legalized racism.
Sister Helen Prejean
Sister Helen Prejean
Although Clarence Dixon’s history of mental illness was well-known to the state, the judge in his death penalty case allowed him to fire his court-appointed public defender and represent himself at trial. As a result, the jury didn’t hear that two days prior to Deana Bowdoin’s murder, Dixon had been on trial for assault. Then-Arizona state court judge Sandra Day O’Connor had found Dixon not guilty by reason of insanity and ordered the district attorney to civilly commit him. Nor did the jury hear that the prosecutor instead released Dixon without supervision or medical care. He killed Bowdoin two days later. Jurors did not hear about Dixon’s frequent hallucinations, permanent brain damage, and history of depression and suicidal ideation.

Instead, the jury heard from Dixon, rambling and alone at counsel’s table, about how the true reason for his charges was a sprawling government conspiracy against him. The jury sentenced him to death. A broken legal system, an unraveling social safety net, and the recklessness of multiple state officials contributed to Deana Bowdoin’s tragic death. Only Clarence Dixon was held accountable for it.
Sister Helen Prejean
Sister Helen Prejean
For more than a decade, the Texas prison system has flouted state fire safety standards by failing to address inspectors’ concerns about inadequate alarm systems. Without sprinklers to douse a blaze or functioning alarms to force guards to respond, fires in some housing areas have burned for hours. Two men died in cell fires over a recent six-month period.
Sister Helen Prejean
Sister Helen Prejean
Here's the second part of the story of The Division - about the transformative work of the recently established Civil Rights Division of the New Orleans DA's office.

By the way, The Guardian does such important work as a newspaper, digging deep into social issues. Please consider subscribing - there are US, UK and Australian editions. We badly need this type of journalism.
Sister Helen Prejean
Sister Helen Prejean
Progressive DAs are making a huge difference in criminal justice. I am so proud of my friend, Bidish Sarma, who does heroic work in the new Civil Rights Division of the Orleans DA's office. DA Jason Williams did a great thing creating this division, and Bidish and the division's head, Emily Maw, and all of the lawyers there deserve huge recognition and praise for this much-needed work.

Now we need to work on cloning this thing! Vote for progressive DAs wherever you can.

You are going to be moved and inspired reading this Guardian article:

And they've begun a four-part podcast as well:

The SCOTUS decided Plessy v. Ferguson 126 years ago today, allowing states to enact "separate but equal" laws. Louisiana's not-too-distant past practice of silencing Black jurors through non-unanimous verdicts is part of this legacy of legalized racism.

On this day in 1896, SCOTUS delivered its decision in Plessy v. Ferguson, establishing the “separate but equal” doctrine and authorizing discrimination by states. To overcome racial inequality, we must confront our history.

Opposition to the death penalty in Malawi is gathering more momentum each day.

MPs, the Malawi Prison Service, representatives of victims, Muslim and Christian faith leaders, traditional leaders and our own @AKamangila have come together to call for abolition👇🏿

Have you signed the petition to save #FrankAtwood?
Over 10,000 signatures and counting!

UPDATE: Georgia will not execute Virgil Presnell tonight. The stay issued yesterday by an Atlanta judge remains in effect pending appeal to the Georgia Supreme Court. It is not immediately clear when the execution warrant expires as it is valid for a 7-day period under state law.

At 6:15 p.m., nothing new on the Georgia Supreme Court docket on the Virgil Presnell stay. But it is important to note that the court had three cases scheduled for oral argument today, including the death penalty case, Brookins v. State. @DPInfoCtr

Last night, @nacdl presented its prestigious Champion of Justice award to @SDrizin in recognition of his life’s work fighting for children and adults who falsely confessed. Congratulations, Steve, from the bottom of my heart. Profoundly well-deserved.

HB648 by Rep. Hilferty, which makes funds for survivors more accessible, made it through Senate Judiciary B today with the help of survivor testimony (including our own Rose Preston and @lsreform)
#advocacyheals #supportsurvivors #traumarecoveryisprevention

In 1976, Virgil Presnell committed terrible crimes. There is no shying away from that fact. At the same time, we must oppose Georgia committing another terrible act, an execution, supposedly in the name of justice. Brutality for brutality is not justice, it is barbaric revenge.

While Virgil Presnell’s execution is temporarily blocked, this is not the end of the case. Georgia prosecutors are appealing the Atlanta trial court’s order. Execution warrants are also valid for a period of seven days in Georgia. Pray that the stay holds up on appeal.

After a hearing that lasted eight hours, an Atlanta judge issued an order temporarily blocking Virgil Presnell's scheduled execution. The judge found that state prosecutors violated an agreement regarding the conditions for resuming executions after a long hiatus due to COVID.

🧵 We need to rid ourselves of both, but hate and racism are not the same.

It’s easier for many to talk about hate instead of racism because dismantling racism = dismantling power and deconstructing constructs that benefit from discrimination and disparities based on race.

The death penalty skews perspectives about the criminal legal system in our society. When execution is an option, anything short of death seems to pale in comparison. There are many excessively punitive punishments imposed by the system every day. We need to reset the bell curve.

Absent intervention from the courts, Georgia will execute Virgil Presnell tomorrow. He has been incarcerated for almost 50 years. Virgil's life story is a difficult read but it is important that we face the truth about who we execute in America:

The GA Board of Pardons and Paroles just denied clemency to #VirgilPresnell, and he is set to be executed Tues. 5/17 at 7 PM EST.

GFADP will be hosting in-person vigils across the state & a virtual vigil with @DeathPenaltyAct. To register, click here:

Georgia plans to execute Virgil Presnell tomorrow. Virgil’s trial occurred in 1976, one month after the death penalty was reinstated by the Supreme Court. He was the second person sentenced to die in Georgia under the “modern” law and has seen 76 people executed over 46 years.

🧵Our clients are suing the State of Oregon for failing to give them a public defender in a timely manner. All are facing criminal charges and the State hasn’t lived up to its duty to provide them with representation.

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#GiveNOLADay is coming up — I only ask for donations to our ministry two times per year and this is one of them. You can make a contribution between now and May 3rd at the link in my bio. Thank you for your generous support! ...

Last Tuesday, April 5th, we launched the Louisiana Repeal campaign to end the death penalty at the Capitol in Baton Rouge. I was thinking about Pat Sonnier all day. He was executed in Louisiana's electric chair on April 5, 1984. I was there. I saw it with my own eyes. And what I saw set my soul on fire. ...

Ray Finch spent 43 years on death row in N. Carolina, all for a crime he did not commit. He received a full innocence pardon last year. Ray died on Monday after less than three years of freedom. This tragedy was a result of prosecutorial misconduct and long-term judicial indifference. ...

“Although I have suffered the loss of two family members by assassination, I remain firmly and unequivocally opposed to the death penalty … Justice is never advanced in the taking of a human life. Morality is never upheld by legalized murder.” —Coretta Scott King #MLKDay ...

“I do not think that God approves the death penalty for any crime, rape and murder included. Capital punishment is against the better judgment of modern criminology, and, above all, against the highest expression of love in the nature of God.” #mlkday ...

I'm being auctioned off alongside some notables! Well, not quite, but you could score a double whammy: win a private Zoom with me *and* support the dedicated work of @aclu_socal defending and preserving civil rights and liberties. It's the ACLU of Southern California's annual charity auction. Bid now on me - I'm lot 2277442. 🙂 @charitybuzz ...

On a day of sorrow as Mississippi recommenced executions after a long hiatus; on a day of mingled hope and apprehension as we wait - still wait - for Gov. Stitt to decide whether he'll abide by his pardon board's recommendation and commute Julius Jones' death sentence; on this hard day, there is cause for celebration as Henry Montgomery walks free from Angola Prison after 57 years, 9 months, 2 weeks and 2 days of incarceration.

Henry was imprisoned as a juvenile, just 17 years old, and now, thanks to committed work by the Louisiana Parole Project and others, Henry is free once more.

If you can make it, please attend the ALL HANDS ON DECK rally for Julius Jones tomorrow, 4 pm at the Oklahoma History Center in OKC. @govkevinstitt needs to see that there is a critical mass demanding clemency and justice.

On this #WorldDayAgainstTheDeathPenalty, we are focused on the invisible reality of women sentenced to death. I’m thinking about Lisa Montgomery. Lisa’s entire life was a tragedy from before she left her mother’s womb until the federal government killed her this past January. ...

Ernest Johnson should not have been executed tonight. He was intellectually disabled and categorically ineligible for the death penalty. Ernest was a human being. He committed a terrible crime and was deeply remorseful. This was not justice. ...

This is a scan of Ernest Johnson’s brain. There is a hole in his skull and more than 20% of his brain tissue has been removed. The Missouri Supreme Court thinks it is acceptable to execute this man. I don’t. ...

Troy Davis was executed 10 years ago today in Georgia. His case was an inflection point, showing the world that innocent people can be and are put to death in America. The fight for justice continues. ...