Eugenia Willingham, mother of Cameron Todd Willingham, an innocent person executed by Texas, will lead the “10th Annual March to Abolish the Death Penalty” in Austin on October 24, 2009. The march and rally will include the delivery of a petition with thousands of signatures urging Governor Rick Perry and the State of Texas to acknowledge that the fire in the Cameron Todd Willingham case was not arson, therefore no crime was committed and on February 17, 2004 Texas executed an innocent man. The petition also urges Perry to suspend executions and appoint a balanced and independent commission to examine all aspects of the Texas death penalty system to determine what went wrong in the Willingham case and how to prevent the execution of innocent people. People can sign the petition at www.camerontoddwillingham.com.
The last request of Todd Willingham to his parents was “please don’t ever stop fighting to vindicate me.” U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia wrote in 2006 that in the modern judicial system there has not been “a single case–not one–in which it is clear that a person was executed for a crime he did not commit. If such an event had occurred in recent years, we would not have to hunt for it; the innocent’s name would be shouted from the rooftops.”
On Saturday Oct 24 in Austin, people from across Texas will gather and shout out that Todd Willingham was innocent to show the world and Rick Perry that there are people in Texas who are convinced that Todd was innocent and that executions in Texas should be stopped before another innocent person is executed.
The Houston Chronicle reported Sunday that former Texas Governor Mark White has said Texas needs to take a serious look at replacing the death penalty with life without parole. “There is a very strong case to be made for a review of our death penalty statutes and even look at the possibility of having life without parole so we don’t look up one day and determined that we as the state of Texas have executed someone who is in fact innocent,” said White.
Speakers and other confirmed attendees at the 10th Annual March to Abolish the Death Penalty will include two innocent, now-exonerated death row prisoners (Shujaa Graham and Curtis McCarty), Jeff Blackburn (Chief Counsel of the Innocence Project of Texas), Eugenia Willingham (mother of Todd Willingham), Jeanette Popp (a mother whose daughter was murdered but who asked the DA not to seek the death penalty), Elizabeth Gilbert (the penpal of Todd Willingham who first investigated and then advocated for his innocence), Walter Reaves (the last attorney for Todd Willingham, who fought for him through his execution and continues to fight to exonerate him), Terri Been whose brother Jeff Wood is on death row convicted under the Law of Parties even though he did not kill anyone, and Anna Terrell the mother of Reginald Blanton who is scheduled for execution in Texas on Oct 27 three days after the march, plus others to be announced.
Panel Discussion: Friday, October 23, the night before the march, there will be a panel discussion on the campus of the University of Texas at Austin at 7 PM with Elizabeth Gilbert (the penpal of Todd Willingham who first investigated and then advocated for his innocence), Shujaa Graham and Curtis McCarty, who will both speak about what it is like to be innocent and sentenced to death as they were. The panel is in the Sinclair Suite (room 3.128) of the Texas Student Union on Guadalupe Street.
Elizabeth Gilbert, Shujaa Graham and Curtis McCarty will be available for media interviews earlier in the day on Friday, Oct 23. Call Scott Cobb at 512-552-4743 to arrange an interview.
Schedule for the 10th Annual March to Abolish the Death Penalty, Saturday Oct 24 in Austin
1 PM – 2 PM Members of the press are invited to attend a press availability in a room inside the Capitol building. The room number will be announced. The purpose is to allow the media to ask questions and conduct interviews with the speakers listed below. (For the room number in the Capitol, call Scott Cobb at 512 552 4743 or check in the Speaker’s Committee Room 2W.6)
2 PM Marchers start to gather at the Texas Capitol on the sidewalk by the South gate of the Capitol entrance on Congress Avenue at 11th Street
2:30 or 2:45 Start to march down Congress Ave to 6th Street and back to Capitol
3:00 or 3:15 Rally on the South Steps of the Texas Capitol with speakers mentioned above
The march is sponsored by many organizations, including Texas Moratorium Network, the Austin chapter of the Campaign to End the Death Penalty, the Texas Death Penalty Abolition Movement, Texas Students Against the Death Penalty, Texas Death Penalty Education and Resource Center, Kids Against the Death Penalty, Sister Helen Prejean, Journey of Hope … From Violence to Healing, the Texas Civil Rights Project, Reprieve, Iranians for Peace and Justice, UT Campus Progress, Democrats for Life of Texas, S.H.A.P.E Community Center in Houston, the Dallas Peace Center, ALIVE Against the Death Penalty (Germany), Ensemble Contre la Peine de Mort (France) and many others.
For more information and the complete list of sponsors, visit www.MarchforAbolition.org or call Scott Cobb at 512-552-4743.