Sunday 5 July 2015

An appeal to Supreme Court US: "I am here to witness my friendship with Ivan, and to call for abolish death penalty"

A member of Sant'Egidio in DC, Dani Clark, spoke yesterday of her 11-year friendship with Ivan Cantu at a Fast and Vigil to abolish the death penalty. It was on the front steps of the Supreme Court and on the anniversary when the US reinstated the Death Penalty in 1976.

My name is Dani Clark and I am with the Community of Sant’Egidio, a Catholic movement of people living and working for peace and justice, and for the poor around the world. 
We believe that capital punishment must be overcome—and we hope and pray and work for this to happen, everywhere.
Because not one shred of evidence anywhere proves the death penalty is an effective deterrent to crime. 
Because everywhere, not just in the U.S., it’s the poor and the marginalized who are condemned, those who are the most incapable of defending themselves.  
Because when the state becomes an assassin, we are all responsible. 
Because we stand for life.
And we have worked for it…
The Community of Sant’Egidio collected 3.2 million signatures for the worldwide UN moratorium on the death penalty.
We started the Cities for Life initiative, which sees each November 30, monuments in 1,900 cities lit up in commitment to life. And last night, in fact, we organized the lighting up of the Coliseum in Rome, in celebration for Nebrask’s repeal of the death penalty.
We worked to stop Hospira from using its manufacturing facility in Italy to produce a drug used for lethal injections here in the United States. 
We successfully advocated to end the death penalty in countries like Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Albania, Chile and in many countries in Africa.
We launched actions to halt executions in 90 international cases. 
And most importantly—the foundation for all this work is friendship: We have written letters, befriended, visited, and stood by hundreds prisoners on death row in the U.S. and around the world--like Dominique Green, Johnny Paul Penry, Paula Cooper, and my friend Ivan Cantu. They inspire us to act.
In fact, I stand here today to bear witness to my friendship with Ivan who was convicted in 2000 of killing his cousin James Mosqueda and James' partner, Amy Kitchens. 
For 15 years, since his arrest, Ivan has vociferously claimed that he is innocent. I have known and written to Ivan for 11 of those years. His claim is extremely compelling. 
But Ivan didn’t stand a chance in Texas:
His trial lawyer did not hire one expert and did not call one witness, despite Ivan’s repeated requests and despite recorded police tips and loads of evidence that someone else committed the crime. 
Ivan’s conviction was based mainly on the testimony of one person who claimed Ivan told her he committed the crime—a drug-addict— who prosecutors prepped for 4 hours right before taking the stand, who was visibly high when testifying, who subsequently fled the state after the trial, and whose criminal record was magically wiped clean. 
And get this: Ivan’s appellate attorney did not even spend one minute with him, wouldn’t correspond with him--despite Ivan’s repeated requests—before submitting the state habeas appeal: his only chance in the appeals process to bring up the loads of evidence and arguments not heard at trial. 
And what I described is just a fraction of the story. But the good news is that people are paying attention. Thanks to the love, support and relentless persistence of Ivan’s wife Tammy—who asked me to be here today—and the hard work of his new lawyer, in 2012 this Supreme Court vacated the decision to deny Ivan’s federal habeas appeal, based on ineffectiveness of counsel. He now waits to hear whether he gets a new trial or his case goes back to another stage of appeal.
We hope and pray that Ivan gets his fair chance, but 15 years of Ivan’s life have been spent on death row. 
Now consider the very real possibility that Ivan is innocent. Put yourself in his shoes. It’s a terrifying nightmare you don’t wake up from—living in a box day after day, every freedom and dignity taken from you. How do you stay sane?
Ivan is not alone. The poor and vulnerable don’t stand a chance against the machinery of death. Innocent people are convicted and killed. We cannot let this happen in our names!
The Community of Sant’Egidio calls for the abolishment of the death penalty in the U.S. and everywhere. 
Because life—all life—is sacred and state sponsored killing is not worthy of our humanity!

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