Testimonials

Nate Fields

Nate Fields greeting audience members, St. Paul's UMC, Ithaca, NY

We admit we are not unbiased when praising the work of our exoneree speakers.

So here is just some of the feedback we have received on our events around the country, including folks from K-12, college, law school, faith-based, law enforcement, and professional communities.

For example, here is Sister Helen Prejean, author of Dead Man Walking and America’s most famous abolitionist, on our members:

"As I see it, nothing is more powerful than the stories of these wrongfully convicted men who take us step by step through our faulty criminal justice system as it crushed their lives. Witness to Innocence's exonerated death row survivor speakers are educational, accessible, and above all inspirational. But most amazing of all is their sheer goodness and integrity that keeps them from bitterness and a desire for revenge. Simply by being in their presence changes your life forever. Regardless of you stand on the death penalty, their unique and powerful stories should be heard by all."

– Sister Helen Prejean, author, Dead Man Walking

Sr Helen Prejean with Ron Keine

Sister Helen with exoneree and WTI staff member Ron Keine


Read on for more testimonials to the most powerful speakers you have never heard of:

Testimonials from Hosts of Witness to Innocence Events

"Powerful, life-changing, stunning, remarkable.... Our goal is to educated and stimulate. The speaker did that in a powerful way about critically important issues which raise questions about the meaning of justice in our society.... WTI staff were totally pro and a joy to work with."                                                                                                                                                 
– Dr. Kathy Smith, lead organizer of "Law and Society Week," Community College of Philadelphia, PA

"Thank you so much for your story with my [high school] students. I cannot tell you how many students have thanked me the opportunity they had to hear your story. So many of them told me that meeting truly opened their eyes and made them think about the death penalty in a very different light. Through hearing your story they had a face to put to the stories they may have heard about prisoners. They had the opportunity to see a human and not a 'criminal.' Thank you so much for your courage to tell your story."                                                                                                                                                             
Melinda Cooperman, Clinical Teaching Fellow, DC Street Law Clinic, Georgetown Law School, Washington, DC

"The speaker understood and conveyed the legal aspects of his case very clearly...captivating, moving, and extremely well-organized."
– Rebecca Kaiser, Criminal Law Society, University of Chicago Law School, Chicago, IL

"The speaker was excellent...engaging, moving, balanced, and in touch with the audience. He spoke without a written script directly from the heart of his experience. Student feedback was overwhelmingly positive."                                                      
– Br. Paul Demers, S.C., Chaplain and associate professor of Religious Studies, Rivier College, Nashua, NH

"The speaker's speech was amazing. The crowd was entranced by his spirited and soulful delivery. Anyone hearing this who was not at least somewhat moved needs to have their pulse taken. It was a moral and emotional tour de force!"       
– Al Simmons, Richmond Friends Adult Spiritual Education, Richmond VA 

"It was fantastic....Compelling... I know people in the audience were mesmerized as he spoke, especially because he is so calm and believable."

– David Harris, Charles Hamilton Houston Insititute for Race and Justice, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA

 

"Amazing, moving, inspirational! Perfect logistics and planning with WTI staff, too. We at Mount St. Mary's University LOVE working with Witness to Innocence!"

– Professor Vicki Schieber, Mount St. Mary's University, Emmitsburg, MD, and murder victim family member

 

"Powerful, thought-provoking….It was a quality educational presentation….Over the years, we have been fortunate to have heard three different Witness to Innocence speakers. They have all been excellent and generate thought and debate among our students – I would recommend this program to everyone who wishes to generate a conversation about contemporary social issues.”
– Robin Slocum, assistant director of student activities, Tompkins Cortland Community College, Dryden, NY

“(The speaker) was a dynamic person who was able to express the importance of criminal justice reform to an audience that came from a variety of backgrounds. I have already received feedback from students and faculty that he has caused them to re-think their views and opinions. One faculty member stated, ‘He taught my entire course on Prisons in an hour.’ Several members of they audience with law enforcement backgrounds spoke about the importance of doing their job to the best of their ability so that his experience is not repeated….And WTI staff did a super job from our first contact to event follow-up. Thank you for providing such a valuable service. “
– James Nawoichyk, director, Campus Safety and Security, St. Thomas Aquinas College, Sparkill, NY

“The speaker was fantastic! He tells a most compelling story in a most effective way.”
– Dr. Marla Rita Sandys, associate professor of criminal justice, Indiana University, Bloomington, IN

“The speaker was informative, moving, dynamic, and engaging…evident by the unanimous standing ovation at the end.”
– Thomas Rogers, chair of the JUSTICE Committee for the Undergraduate Student Association, Canisius College, Buffalo, NY

“Moving, inspiring, and informative. Very intense and well presented. The personal aspect of his story and his plea for action really drew the audience in.”
– Susanna Seibert, Villanovans for Life, Villanova University, Villanova, PA

“Excellent. The speaker was thought-provoking, powerful, and well-spoken.”
– Rohry Flood, director of student activities, Chesapeake College, Wye Mills, MD

“This presentation was unlike anything we have had on campus, and it was definitely one of the best events. It is a story that everyone should hear…. You could hear the gasps and the ‘wows’ in the crowd.”
– Jennifer Drechsel, Association of Campus Events, Kutztown University, Kutztown, PA (2010)

“The speaker did an excellent job! His story was riveting, insightful, inspiring.... Students said the talk was ‘eye-opening’ and forced them to think critically about something most never thought about.”
– Crystal Garcia, associate professor of criminal justice, law & public safety,
Indiana University Perdue University, Indianapolis, Indianapolis, IN

“In my humble opinion, more real education took place last night in an hour than occurs sometimes in a semester. When someone who’s spent ten years in prison, including three years on death row, says something, students sit up and take notice."
– Don St. John, professor, Moravian College, Bethlehem, PA

“He was one of the finest speakers that I've heard in my life. He spoke plainly and passionately about his experience, inviting the listener into a conversation. He responded well to questions, engaging each person and giving an informed and in-depth answer. I was most impressed with the way in which the speaker is able to use his very legitimate frustration with the legal system. Simply put, his anger doesn't scare people away; it draws them in. He wants to be constructive, not destructive, which is a rare quality these days.”
– Chaplain Peter Bredlau, Muhlenberg College, Allentown, PA

“Inviting a speaker from Witness to Innocence to our campus was an invaluable part of our Dead Man Walking School Theatre Project. He brought an often humorous but always human and personal perspective to the topic of the death penalty. My students’ understanding of this issue has been profoundly deepened by the words and experiences of this man.”
– Dr. John H. Taylor, associate professor, Adams State College, Alamosa, CO

“This was truly one of the most compelling guests we’ve brought. He made a stark case against the death penalty, judicial misconduct, and socioeconomic disparity that our campus community needed to hear. It really was a tremendous speech.”
– Jules Shen, Amnesty International, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA

"Riveting, powerful, and inspirational. He did a great job of tying his story to our organization's focus on ethics."
– Kathryn Ratino, Ethical Society Mid Rivers, St. Peters, MO

“Inspiring, sobering, hopeful….(The speaker) really captivated the audience.”
– Meredith Reese, St. Louis University Law School, MO

“Compelling, excellent….Overall (the speaker) was a great force for awareness and good. His speech was extraordinary and his personality won many people over.”
– Pittsburgh Faith in Action Against the Death Penalty

“Enlightening, powerful, eye-opening….His story was heart-wrenching, and his presence made it definitely come to life. He gave a perfect chronological, clear outline of his experience, especially of his time on death row and his interactions with fellow prisoners.”
– Emilia Truluck, Amnesty International chapter, University of West Georgia

“Professional, enlightening, educational, inspirational. We never had a speaker who has made this much of an impact. It attracted students outside of our criminal justice program, as well members of the Erie County Law Enforcement Training Academy.”
– Allen Miller, instructor, Criminal Justice Department and former law enforcement officer, Erie County Community College, NY

“Motivational, inspirational, heartfelt, captivating. The talk helped our students understand the ‘isms’ of four levels: internal, interpersonal, institutional, and ideological. It also…helped them value personal stories and oral tradition as reliable sources of knowledge.”
– Tonysha Taylor, Director of Student Multicultural Programming, Milton Academy, Milton, MA

“Incredible, brave, inspiring….(The speaker) was definitely everyone’s favorite speaker at the event.”
– Kristen Martin, Amnesty International, Boston University, MA

“(The speaker) did an amazing job….The purpose of our institution is to foster discussion on important ethical issues, and he did a fantastic job of filling the bill! His ability to relate to students was unparalleled.”
– Elizabeth Hewell, Prindle Institute for Ethics at DePauw University, IN

“Compelling, informative, amazing….The students were very responsive to (the speaker), and they found her so engaging and informative.”
– Dr. Stanley Viltz, associate provost, Bennett College, Greensboro, NC

“(The speaker) did a great job balancing the story of his life, the circumstances of his imprisonment, and current events taking place. His stories were great, and had people laughing and grasping….I would recommend Witness to Innocence to anyone looking to host a speaker.”
– Brandon Kieft, CMU Program Board, Central Michigan University, MI

“Powerful, important, dynamic, funny, provocative….This presentation brought to the table for students important ideas of justice, race, and equality. Any Friends or Independent School could benefit from this program.”
– Mark Gornto, Upper School teacher, Moorestown Friends School, NJ

“Compelling, raw….(The speaker) speaks from the heart, and his passion, humor, and humbleness comes through.”
– Rev. Robert Thompson, Epworth United Methodist Church, DE

“Being a religious group, we were moved by (the speaker’s) statement of his faith….His story is painful to hear, yet he offers it with humility and resolve….This event was the highlight of my experience at our Annual Conference. His experience deepened our resolve to be vocal and active in supporting our own denomination’s position of abolishing the death penalty.”
– Rev. Susan Wiley, chair, Board of Church and Society, Texas Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church

“Sincere, informative, well organized, excellent....Every Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church should host a Witness to Innocence event!”
– Rev. Carol McCollum (retired), Elm Park United Methodist Church, Scranton, PA

“Sincere, moving…In addition, as a result of this event we made many new friendships and networking partners, so the event helped us in community relations. And everyone loved (the speaker): 'a perfect 10'!"
– Maria Telesco, Fresno Center for Non-Violence, CA

“Compelling, compassionate, dynamic, strong….(the speaker) is a great storyteller.”
– Donna Mason, Davis Community Church (Presbyterian), CA

“Moving, informative, eye-opening, inspiring….Our goal is to educate students about issues going on in the world around them. (The speaker) did a fantastic job helping to accomplish our goal. I heard nothing but phenomenal comments and feedback from students about he event.”
– Heather Ward, vice president, Association of Campus Events, Kutztown University, PA (2012)

“Engaging, emotive, inspiring, captivating….On behalf of the UCC Law Society, I would like to thank Witness to Innocence, the speaker, and the staff….We were delighted with the event, and was one of the best attended addresses on campus….(The speaker) is still being talked about and will live long in students’ memories for years to come!”
– Aidan Burke, University College Cork, Cork, Ireland

“Excellent! (The speaker) was wonderful – engaging, personable, authentic, consciousness raising….His presentation also drew an eclectic audience to our sanctuary, bridging divides of race, class, location, and academic achievement that plague our college town. His visit gave St. Paul’s UMC a focus and inspiration for ongoing social justice work.”
– Karen Kaufmann, Social Action Committee, St. Paul’s United Methodist Church, Ithaca, NY

“Compelling, folksy, sincere, expert….(The speaker) is very personable, even humorous at times, and in touch with his audience and their needs.”
– Gary Estep, Trinity United Methodist Church, Chico, CA

“Powerful, emotional, compelling, captivating….(The speaker) gave a powerful and personable talk. He related really well to the audience and made connections with people that will remain with them for a long time.”
– Dr. Scott Vollum, professor, Justice Studies Department, James Madison University, Harrisonburg, VA

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Praise for Witness to Innocence Staff

When you host one of our speakers, no matter what the venue or audience – you will always be treated as our #1 customer. Here is a sample of what some of our hosts have had to say about their experience with our staff:

“The staff who came with (the speaker) were very helpful and organized; they knew what he needed and made sure it happened.”

“The staff was extremely on top of everything!”

“The staff was fantastic; accommodating and helpful.”

“The staff was very professional, yet friendly.”

“The staff was GREAT! Kept us on target without being a bother; very much appreciated.”

“The communication with staff was excellent.”

“All of my questions and concerns were quickly answered.”

“The staff was a pleasure to work with and was a big help on the day of the event. She communicated the needs of WTI well, while also responding to the needs of my organization.”

“Witness to Innocence is very easy to work with….All my interactions with the staff were very professional and pleasant.”

“WTI staff rocks!”

“We were very satisfied with the service from WTI staff. They were more than helpful and worked with what I had. I look forward to working with WTI staff in the future.”

“I connected to WTI staff because of their warmth and clear messages on mission, intent, and inspiration. This allowed me to be curious and more interested in the organization, as well as the speaker.”

“WTI staff was wonderful. Not only was she extremely helpful, but enjoyable to correspond with. I couldn’t have asked for a better contact person.”

“Witness to Innocence staff was always very helpful and quick to respond to my emails.”

“We found (the Witness to Innocence staff member) to be extremely cooperative, informative, and helpful. Due to her diligence and communication skills, everything went smoothly and without complications.”

“Staff was on top of everything and very professional.”

“Staff was enjoyable and easy to work with!”

“The staff was very gracious and patient with us.”

“The staff was very helpful and guided us through the process of hosting a speaker.”

“Our board member reported that WTI staff was ‘a dream to work with.’”

“WTI staff was patient, resourceful, efficient. We look forward to working together again.”

“WTI staff was helpful in every aspect of organizing this event!”

“Working with WTI staff was easy, efficient, and helpful. She was able to help us put on the event and helped make our task easy and successful.”

“We were in danger of having to cancel the event due to circumstances beyond our control, but WTI staff went to work and saved the event.”

“WTI staff was incredibly helpful and the event went off without a hitch.”

“WTI staff was extremely attentive to our questions and organizational needs, despite a multiplicity of local organizations in our coalition to deal with.”

 

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