On the World Day Against the Death Penalty, here in the state-sanctioned-execution capital of the nation, you might expect an elaborate protest or demonstration, like in Japan or India where protesters wore black execution hoods with nooses around their necks and shirts that said “Save Me."
There wasn’t anything like that, but about 20 local abolitionists met in a classroom at the University of St. Thomas to knock out a plan to get rid of the death penalty in Texas.
Les Breeding, one of the guest speakers, lobbies for anti-death penalty legislation in Austin, and he's pushing a bill that would remove all references to death as punishment in the Texas Penal Code. Breeding gave two points of advice for the small-time activist:
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Don't focus your protest on the morality of execution, but argue against the cost. Some studies have estimated that the average stay on death row and execution costs three times as much as life without parole, Breeding said.
Sell that idea to your local state rep by attacking like a top tier lobbyist without the cash and jets and golf trips. “Just be their friend,” Breeding advised.
Clarence Brandley, who spent about 10 years on death row, also spoke about being convicted of killing a high school student and sentenced to death. Brandley was released after appeal lawyers discovered that evidence hadn't been used in the original trial, and the charges were dropped.
-- Paul Knight