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Dear friends,

Statistics often mask the human realities they represent, so I invite you to take time to reflect on the people behind each of the statistics below.

Of the 241 people that Louisiana has sentenced to death in the past 30 years:
  • 28 (12%) have been executed;
  • 127 (53%) have had their sentences reversed due to serious errors;
  • 9 (4%) have been exonerated.
That means one person has been exonerated for every three executed.

Let's add a few more Louisiana stats to this list:
  • Those who kill white people are 10 times more likely to get the death penalty than those who kill black people.
  • If a black man is tried for killing a white woman he is 30 times more likely to get a death sentence than if the victim is a black man.
  • No white person has been sentenced to death for a crime against a black person since 1752. And in that case, the crime was essentially a "property" crime against another white man: it involved the non-fatal stabbing of two black female slaves. (By the way, my friend Mike Radelet, who made a study of 16,000 executions in US history dating from 1989 back to 1608 found only 30 cases across the entire USA in which a white was executed for killing a black.)
When I think about these statistics, I think about the people they represent. Those nine innocent men who, between them, spent 108 years on death row waiting to die for crimes they did not commit. The 128 who were sent to death row following trials fatally flawed by prosecutorial misconduct or woefully inadequate defense or judges who misdirected their juries. I think of the victims' families who see the death sentence as justice or a chance for healing and who wait and wait for an execution date that almost certainly will never eventuate. And I think of all those who wake up each day knowing the scales of justice are tipped steeply against them because of the color of their skin.

What got me thinking

I was set to thinking about these things by the release of an important new paper released this week, Louisiana Death Sentenced Cases and Their Reversals, 1976-2015, by Professor Frank Baumgartner and Tim Lyman. This same pair published a paper on racial discrepencies in Louisiana homicide convictions late last year. Both papers are essential but disturbing reads. As Prof. Baumgartner says, "“We have to look the death penalty in the eye and understand how it truly does function. Not how we wished it functioned but how it really does function. And every time we do that, it really is disturbing.”

Thinking of Manuel

Those statistics also made me think of Manuel Ortiz, who has been sitting on Louisiana's death row for more than 22 years for a crime he did not commit. I have been making the trip to Angola each month for some 15 years or so to visit Manuel. Recently his case has moved into federal court where his lawyers believe he stands a far better chance of finding justice than he has in the Louisiana state courts.

You'll find more about Manuel below. I hope you will take the time to get to know him a little.

An important date

Before I sign off, I ask that you consider a donation to my work with the Ministry Against the Death Penalty. We make a public appeal for donations once a year - that's all! - and that appeal comes this Tuesday May 3. Read more about it below.

From the heart,

GiveNOLA Day is the one day in the year when my organization, the Ministry Against the Death Penalty (MADP), appeals directly for donations to our work.
GiveNOLA Day is a 24-hour online community giving event. The event starts at 12:01am on Tuesday May 3 and ends at midnight that same day.
We have a small team at the Ministry Against the Death Penalty and every dollar donated makes a real difference to the difference we can make in the world. Last year we participated in GiveNOLA Day for the first time and the donations we received were instrumental in funding our newsletter and our campaign to save Richard Glossip’s life.
I hope you will consider a gift to MADP on Tuesday May 3.

You can donate via this address:
or by clicking the button below. Remember, the donation period starts and ends on Tuesday!

Twenty-two years and counting

Manuel Ortiz has been on death row at Angola, Louisiana’s State Penitentiary, for 22 years. Manuel, originally from El Salvador, was convicted in 1994 of hiring someone to kill his wife, Tracie Williams, and of the murder of Tracie’s friend, Cheryl Mallory.

Manuel’s legal team believes he is innocent of these crimes. I am certain he is.

What makes me so sure? The case against him was riddled with inconsistencies, plagued by prosecutorial double dealing and built upon the testimony of one man, an FBI informant, who later confessed to the crime.

I have been visiting Manuel for a decade and a half and have grown to know him well. Rose Vines, who works with me at the Ministry Against the Death Penalty, has also been visiting Manuel for over a decade. Recently, Rose did an interview for Death: The Podcast, where she talked at length about visiting Manuel. Her account is simply told and both moving and profound. I encourage you to listen so you may learn something about this man who is such an important part of our work and our lives.

Manuel has always said that all he wants is a new trial. He knows that if he has a chance to present all the evidence in a fair trial a jury will find him not guilty. We have a website dedicated to his case where you can learn more. Please visit it.

Upcoming Executions

2     PA     Stephen Treiber – Stayed
3     PA     Shonda Dee Walter – Stayed
11    MO     Earl Forrest
12    AL     Vernon Madison
18    OH     Angelo Fears – Reprieve granted

2     TX     Charles Flores
21    TX     Robert Roberson

22    OH     Warren Henness – Reprieve granted

14    TX     Perry Williams
20    TX     Taichin Preyor – Death warrant withdrawn
20    OH     Cleveland R. Jackson – Reprieve granted



We’d love to hear from you.

Let us know what you’d like to see in future editions of Death Penalty Discourse, what tools and resources you’re using in your community, and how Dead Man Walking has impacted your life. Contact us by email and like us on Facebook for updates and current news.


Copyright © 2016 Ministry Against the Death Penalty, All rights reserved.

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