Friday, September 24, 2010

Grieving for Virginia's Killing of Teresa Lewis

From: National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty



Dear ones:


Today I am grieving.


I am grieving because last night, just after 9pm

Eastern time, people in the State of Virginia killed

Teresa Lewis.


I am grieving because the people who were given the

power to decide whether or not to kill Teresa Lewis

were unswayed by new evidence showing she was not the

mastermind behind the crimes, as the judge who

sentenced her to death believed her to be.


I am grieving because we live in a country where

politicians and the courts believe it is ok to use the

state's resources to kill someone.


I am grieving because we live in a country where

politicians and the courts believe it is ok to use the

state's resources to kill someone who functions at the

level of a 13-year-old.


I am grieving because my colleagues and I, Teresa's

attorneys, and many other advocates and supporters

around the country who worked to prevent her senseless

and unnecessary death were not powerful enough to stop it.


I am grieving because the alternative that I was

fighting for -- that Teresa's life be spared -- would

have meant that she would have spent the rest of her

life prison in conditions of isolation and deprivation.


I am grieving because I keep hearing the voice of my

friend Susan, who at age 19 plead to 25-to-life to

avoid the death penalty for killing the man who held

her hostage and abused her, saying, "It was exactly

like my abuser. The state said that they were going to

kill me, just like he used to tell me."


I am grieving because there are women whom I respect,

admire, and am inspired by -- like Tracee, Ellen,

Susan, Sara, and countless others -- who also faced the

death penalty and now are serving Life Without Parole sentences.


I am grieving because I am remembering Deborah Peagler,

who died earlier this year of lung cancer after being

released from CA prison after serving more than 26

years; Debbie plead guilty in 1983 to avoid the death

penalty, only to have her attorneys discover documents

in 2005 showing that the prosecutor knew at the time

that they did not have sufficient evidence against her

to pursue the death penalty.


I am grieving because I know that the men who Teresa

Lewis and her co-defendants killed didn't deserve to be

killed either.


I am grieving because today, the state of Georgia is

preparing to kill Brandon Rhode, whose execution was

postponed earlier this week after he tried to commit suicide.


I am grieving because 35 states still have the death

penalty, and there are 14 executions scheduled between

now and the end of the year, and another six already

scheduled in 2011.


I am grieving because our prisons are full of black and

brown people, poor people, queer, transgender and

gender non-conforming people, people with mental health

issues, people with disabilities, people who have been

subjected to horrors, people who have been neglected,

people who are incredibly talented artists, people who

are loving parents, people with incredible gifts,

people who deserve the opportunity to express their

full potential, people who deserve to live free of fear

and deprivation, and people who, despite all they have

endured, manage to sustain more moments of dignity and

resistance and humor and humanity than I ever would

have imagined possible.


I am grieving because sometimes it feels like too much;

too much suffering and oppression and trauma and

violence to stop.


I am grieving and I am outraged.


And I am hopeful.


I am hopeful because I know that I am a part of a

powerful movement for justice, for healing, and for

collective liberation.


I am hopeful because even in my grief, I feel

profoundly connected to all of you who share this

commitment to building another world, one where all

people have access to the material, educational,

emotional, and spiritual resources necessary to be safe

in thrive in our communities.


I am hopeful because I am privileged to work with

amazing women who join me everyday in the struggle for justice.


I am hopeful because I know that people all over the

world expressed opposition to the killing of Teresa Lewis.


I am hopeful because I have witnessed, and been a part

of, countless acts of resistance to the forces of

violence and oppression.


I am hopeful because many of those acts of resistance

have resulted in powerful, meaningful, liberatory changes.


I am hopeful because I don't have to look all that hard

to see evidence that we are doing it, we are building

the world we want and deserve.


I am hopeful because I have to be. There is no alternative.


And I am grateful.


I am grateful to each of you for being a part of the

struggle alongside me, in your own ways.


I am grateful for the ways that each of you sustain me

and my spirits, even from afar.


I am grateful for the many expressions of support and

solidarity that people sent to Teresa, her attorneys,

my colleagues, and me this week.


I am grateful to Teresa's attorney and to the countless

other volunteer attorneys throughout the country who

dedicate themselves to fighting for justice.


I am grateful that Gaile Owens, who was set to be

executed by the State of Tennessee next Tuesday, had

her sentenced commuted in July to life with the

possibility for parole by Governor Bredesen.


I am grateful for the countless organizations and

affinity groups and collectives and individuals who

work so determinedly to create the change we want to

see and to build the world in which we all deserve to live.


I am grateful for the opportunity to confront the

dissociation and fatigue that comes from absorbing too

much suffering and trauma, to tap into my grief and

outrage, to express myself, and to move, once again,

toward action.


And I am grateful for this life and the chance to be my

best self. I hope to do right by it.





PS: Today I am going to make a donation to the National

Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty in Teresa Lewis'

honor. If you want to join me in doing so, you can

donate online at


I also am feeling especially proud of the work of the

National Clearinghouse for the Defense of Battered

Women this week; if any of you want to send them some

love this week, too, you can go to


And I also am always grateful for the work and

leadership of Critical Resistance and their vision of

creating genuinely safe and healthy communities that

respond to harm without relying on prisons and

punishment. To support their work, go to:


Contact us at Please join NCADP on

Facebook or LinkedIn, follow us on Twitter, read more

on our website, blog, or at the Huffington Post, and

contribute online.



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