October 4, 2005

Amnesty holds tour against death penalty

In its Campaign to End the Death Penalty, Amnesty International has organized a panel of former death row prisoners, their family members, and activists to speak in "Voices from Death Row," a national speaking tour which will make its first stop at University Church (5655 South University Avenue) this Wednesday, October 5, at 7:30 p.m.

Stephen Bright and Monique Matthews will represent the activist portion of the tour. Bright is the director of the Southern Center for Human Rights, an organization that provides legal defense to convicts on death row, and he teaches courses on the death penalty and criminal law at Yale and Harvard Law Schools.

Monique Matthews is the sister of Ryan Matthews, an exonerated Louisiana death row prisoner, wrongly convicted at the age of 17 in a two-day trial "riddled with racism." Since her brother's exoneration, Matthews has been an outspoken advocate for Amnesty's Campaign to End the Death Penalty.

Billy Moore will be the only speaker who has spent time on death row. Moore spent 17 years on Georgia's death row for a murder he admits committing. In 1991, Moore's sentence was commuted to life imprisonment when his victim's family spoke out against his execution. This made him the only death row prisoner in history to be freed after admitting guilt.

Speaker Gloria Johnson is the mother of Illinois prisoner Montell Johnson, who suffers from chronic multiple sclerosis and is paralyzed from the waist down. George Ryan, the former governor of Illinois, recently commuted Johnson's sentence to 40 years. Gloria Johnson is still advocating for her son to be transferred to a facility where his illness can be treated properly.