Wednesday night at the Philadelphia Friends Center was the 10th anniversary for Witness to Innocence-an organization that advocates for the abolition of the death penalty through the voices of death row exonerees. The night began with a some short films featuring the stories of the exonerees and moved to an awards ceremony honoring people in attendance such as Maddy deLone (Executive director of the Innocence Project), Helen Marino (Capital Habeas Unit Federal Defender Unit of Philadelphia), and Francois Rivasseau (Deputy Head of the Delegation of European Union to the US).
Also receiving a medal was Lethal Weapon’s Danny Glover (“I’m too old for this s***”) who has had a much less defeatist stance on the death penalty.
The night continued with a moving speech from the organization’s co-founder Sister Helen Prejean. Her passion and charisma behind the microphone could have convinced me that up was really down and that the rigid meeting house bench on which I sat was more comfortable than a leather Lay z boy. Public speaking prowess aside, I can only image that her testimony and arguments of the absurdity of the death penalty within the context of a western nation would have made the staunchest of retributionists reconsider their position on the death penalty. She has two books out- Dead Man Walking:An Eyewitness Account of the Death Penalty in the United States and The Death of Innocents: An Eyewitness Account of Wrongful Executions.
David Keaton (in blue on the right), the first person to be exonerated off of Death Row in the US, lead the meeting in song to close out the evening.
More information about Witness to Innocence can be found at www.witnesstoinnocence.org.