WTI News and Views

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Exoneree Damon Thibodeaux's moving story of life after death row was featured prominently in the Sunday edition of the Minneapolis Star Tribune. Read it here. (8/2/15)

Exoneree Seth Penalver's story was featured on CNN's Death Row Stories on August 2. Read a great accompanying article on life after death row for Seth & other exonerees, featuring WTI board member Saundra Westervelt, here. Saundra is one of the nation's foremost experts on the subject. (8/1/15)

 

Exoneree Kirk Bloodsworth & director Gregory Bayne will be answering your questions at a sneak preview of Kirk's film, "Bloodsworth: An Innocent Man" on August 13, at 7pm at the Charles Theatre in Baltimore. To purchase advance tickets, visit here.

 

WTI Board Chair Randy Steidl's harrowing story of wrongful conviction will be featured on CNN's Death Row Stories on Sunday, July 19 at 10pm ET/PT. See clips of the show here.

 

The Tallahassee Democrat has an informative and moving obituary of our beloved Dave Keaton. (7/8/15) Read it here.

 

It is with great sadness that we announce the passing of Dave Keaton on July 3. Dave was the first death row exoneree in the US and the first from Florida. He was a member of Witness to Innocence from the beginning, and was revered and beloved by all in the abolition movement. He was a talented poet and sonorous singer, in addition to being an abolitionist, and his story is poignantly portrayed in the famous play and movie, "The Exonerated." We will miss his quiet dignity, and never forget that Florida refused to pay him compensation. RIP, Our Brother.

 

WTI Board Member Saundra Westervelt, an expert on life after death row for exonerees, has an oped on the uneven, unfair compensation system in her native North Carolina. (6/9/15) Read it here.

 

Congratulations to Alfred Dewayne Brown of Texas, exonerated after spending 10 years on death row for a crime he didn't commit. Alfred is US death row exoneree #154, the fourth in 2015, (6/8/15) Read more on his case and exoneration here.

 

Witness to Innocence welcomes Magdaleno Leno Rose-Avila as its new executive director, effective July 1st. Leno has a long history of civil and human rights work, which led him many years ago to become involved in the movement to abolish the death penalty. In 1998, Leno joined with Sister Helen Prejean, one of the founders of WTI, to develop and launch the Moratorium Initiative, which became one of the most effective strategies to reach out to politicians and the public. While working for Amnesty International in Atlanta, he organized the largest meeting of national leaders in the African-American Community on the death penalty, including Coretta Scott King, Reverend Joe Lowery, the National Black Police Association, Congressman John Conyers, and many others. He also worked with Cesar Chavez and other leaders of the historic United Farm Workers Union. We are very excited about Leno taking the leadership helm at WTI, and welcome his energy, vision, and experience to uplift both exonerees and the national movement for abolition.

 

Read WTI's press release on the Nebraska repeal bill victory on May 27 and the difference exonerees made in ensuring its passage here.

 

Congratulations to all our allies who made death penalty abolition a reality in Nebraska on May 27: Nebraskans for Alternatives to the Death Penalty, EJUSA, and Conservatives Concerned About the Death Penalty. And a special shout-out to Ray Krone, exoneree and WTI director of membership and training, whose visits with NE lawmakers proved pivotal in the final vote that overrode Gov. Pete Rickett's veto. (5/28/15) Read more here about the final vote and its implications for repeal efforts around the nation.

 

Jesse Ventura has a rollicking, provocative conversation on the death penalty with exoneree Kirk Bloodsworth for Ventura's TV internet show, Off The Grid, (5/25/15) Listen and watch here.

 

Exoneree Ron Keine shares his story on the blog of the Franciscan Action Network of being an altar boy who grew up to be an innocenct man sent to death row. (5/1/15) Read his amazing spiritual journey here.

 

Congratulations to WTI board chair and exoneree Randy Steidl for receiving the inaugural Randy Steidl Excellence in Justice Award from Indiana State University. The award, named on behalf of Randy, will be given annually to a person who advances the cause of justice through education, activism, and civil engagement, which certainly fits Randy to a tee. (4/30/15) Read more here.

 

Exonerees Shujaa Graham and Juan Melendez spoke together at St. John's University in Queens, NY, and the student paper did a great series on their event, including an in-depth Q&A session with each them. (4/27/15) Read the Q&As here and here.

 

Witness to Innocence Director of Membership and Training Ray Krone went out to Nebraska to push the repeal bill there forward. (4/23/15) Report on his press onference here.

 

Exonerees Kirk Bloodsworth and Sabrina Butler traveled to NY's Finger Lake region, where they spoke to SRO crowds at Hobart and William Smith Colleges. (4/14-16/15) The local paper, The Finger Lake Times, had excellent coverage of both their talks, here and here.

 

Witness to Innocence Assistant Director of Membership and Training Sabrina Butler, the first woman to be exonerated from death row in the US, has a powerful oped on her case, innocence, and the death penalty in the Louisville Courier-Journal, Kentucky's largest newspaper. (4/3/15) Read it here. Sabrina is currently touring the Bluegrass State in support of a bipartisan repeal bill gaining traction there.

 

Witness to Innocece congratulates Anthony Ray Hinton on his exoneration from Alabama's death row and becoming our nation's 152nd exoneree, the second in less than a month! He spent 30 years on death row for a crime he didn't commit, because the prosecution deliberately withheld testing exculpatory evidence. (4/3/15). Read more on his case and exoneration here.

Browse our news archives for more great news and views from Witness to Innocence!

2015 News Archive
2014 News Archive
2013 News Archive

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In March, when the legislature voted to repeal our state’s death penalty, I was given only three days to make what I knew was going to be one of the most difficult decisions of my career....I’ll never forget the story of Juan Melendez who spent 18 years on Florida’s death row before being exonerated for a murder he didn’t commit and who now calls New Mexico home....The fact is people continue to commit terrible crimes even in the face of the death penalty. And what no one can disagree on is the finality of the death penalty. No one understood that better than Juan Melendez and the 130 others like him who got a reprieve from death through exoneration. Ultimately my decision came down to the realization that our system is not perfect and is, in fact, inherently defective as these exonerations prove.

– Excerpt from (former) New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson's speech at Death Penalty Focus Awards Dinner, May 2009

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Witness to Innocence

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Our Mission

 

Witness to Innocence (WTI) is the only national organization in the United States composed of and led by exonerated death row survivors and their family members. The mission of WTI is to abolish the death penalty by empowering exonerated death row survivors and their loved ones to become effective leaders in the abolition movement. WTI actively challenges political leaders and the public to grapple with the reality of a fatally flawed criminal justice system that sends innocent people to death row. WTI also seeks ways to support death row survivors and their loved ones as they confront the challenges of life after exoneration.

 

Our History

Founded in 2003 by Sister Helen Prejean, internationally renowned anti-death penalty activist, and Ray Krone, the 100th person exonerated from death row in the United States, Witness to Innocence (WTI) began as a project of the New Orleans-based Moratorium Campaign Education Fund. Two years later WTI moved to Philadelphia, PA, where it transformed itself into one of the most powerful and unique anti-death penalty organizations in the United States.

Our exoneree members have educated tens of thousands of Americans through speaking events at colleges, universities, professional associations, academic conferences, law schools, faith communities, K-12 schools, and civic groups. They have testified before state legislatures, met with government officials and world leaders, and reached tens of millions of people worldwide through the media. Witness to Innocence has shifted public opinion on the death penalty, playing an integral role in successful repeal campaigns in New Mexico, New Jersey, Illinois, Maryland, and Nebraska.

Our Vision

A country that joins more than 140 other nations in abolishing the death penalty in law or in practice. A country that grants fair and speedy compensation to the wrongfully convicted. A country that puts “justice” back into the criminal justice system.

Please visit our very special arts and culture page, where you can view video clips, artwork, and literary contributions by and about our members, including three beautiful paintings by exoneree Lawyer Johnson. View Lawyer's paintings here.

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graphicDave Keatongraphic

RIP, Dave Keaton
1952–2015

We will never forget your quiet bravery, gentle nature,
and fierce commitment to end the death penalty.
Visit Dave's poetry page here.
Read tributes to Dave Keaton's life here and here.

(Photo by Sofia Moro)

Delbert Tibbs

RIP, Delbert Tibbs
1939–2013

We will never forget your courage, wisdom, and love for humanity.
Visit Delbert's poetry page here.
Read tributes to Delbert's life that appeared in publications around the world, from The New York Times to The Economist, here.

(Photo by Edwin Tse)

Greg Wilhoit

RIP, Greg Wilhoit
1954–2014

We will never forget your courage, humor, and resilience.

Read tributes to Greg's life that appeared here and here.

(Photo by Sofia Moro)

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This video of Ray Krone, director of membership and training at Witness to Innocence, is courtesy of Atlantic Philanthropies, one of our generous funders:  

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We want to thank our funders for their generous support. We couldn't do it without them!

European Union logo Open Society Foundations logo Fund ofr Nonviolence
The Atlantic Philanthropies logo
Bread and Roses logo
United Nations Human Rights logo
 

We are proud members of:

World Coalition Against the Death Penalty logoThe Innocence Network logo
NCADP logo

To learn more about our funders and membership organizations, browse our Links & Resources page here.

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Witness to Innocence wants to thank the following people and organizations for so many of the awesome videos, photos, and artwork on our website: Ashlee O Shelton, Sofia Moro, Brian Bullock, George Gull, Marc Steinberg, Resurrection After Exoneration, Daniel Bolick, Scott Langley, Maria Telesco, David Sulewski, Talila Lewis – please let us know if we have left you out!

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This website has been produced as part of Witness to Innocence's Eyes Wide Open Project, generously funded and supported by the European Union.The contents are the sole responsibility of Witness to Innocence, and can under no circumstances be regarded as reflecting the position of the European Union.

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