Jason Baldwin

Jason Baldwin

“There are those of us who will not give up until the death penalty has ended, until this country is about saving lives and not killing people and throwing them away for making mistakes,” said Jason Baldwin to more than 100 people sitting on the rooftop of the Saranac Building on Saturday.

Baldwin, one of the West Memphis Three, was released from prison 11 months ago after being incarcerated 18 years for a crime he didn’t commit. He and two of his friends were sentenced as teenagers for killing three 8-year-old boys. Baldwin was sentenced to life imprisonment, Jessie Misskelley, Jr. was sentenced to life imprisonment plus two 20-year sentences and Damien Echols was sentenced to death.

New DNA evidence was presented in 2010 and the men signed Alford pleas and were released.

Baldwin said he saw what walking the halls of death row did to Echols and his family and is determined to help the Inland Northwest Death Penalty Abolition Group (INDPAG) fight to end capital punishment in Washington.

“Since I’ve been free I’ve met so many wonderful people who are compassionate about making things different so that what happened to me doesn’t happen to me again, and what happened to Damien doesn’t happen to someone else,” he said.

Baldwin resides in Seattle with aspirations to attend law school. His story can be seen in the HBO documentary “Paradise Lost.”

Victoria Thorpe, who helped co-organized the event for the Peace and Justice Action League of Spokane, has been advocating to abolish the death penalty since her sister was sentenced to death in 1995.

Thorpe, of Spokane, recently published “Cages,” which tells the story of her sister, Kerry Dalton, who was convicted of a torture-murder. Thorpe says her sister, like the West Memphis Three,  was wrongfully convicted.

“The death penalty is an evil that devastates many lives by promoting revenge,” she said. “Now my sister is a member of the Dead Man Walking Society and one day I may have to watch the state kill her.”

The death penalty, she added, brings closure for no one.

Holly Ballard, Baldwin’s girlfriend, is optimistic that Washington will follow in Connecticut’s footsteps and put an end to the death penalty.

“The biggest thing is not giving up,” she said. “Things can change and will change and hanging onto that hope is really, really important.”

Buell Hollister attended the “Honor Life: Abolish the Death Penalty” event. He said his son was murdered in 1983. He and his family have always been against the death penalty.

“There’s no such thing as closure,” he said, adding that circle of killing has to stop.

He said people need to ask political candidates where they stand on this issue, and also urge church leaders to get involved.

“Start working within the church community. Put the minister on the spot, make him take a stand on the issue,” he said.

According to the Washington State Department of Corrections there are currently seven offenders on death row.

In January Washington lawmakers held a public hearing regarding its capital punishment policy. Not everyone wants to see it change.

“When somebody takes your life, to get rid of the possibility that they too could be executed for what they have done I think is simply wrong,” said Republican Sen. Mike Carrell of Lakewood, a member of the

Senate Judiciary Committee. “Who's speaking for the victims?”

But Hollister said he sees momentum and is hopeful things will soon change in Washington.

INDPAG meets at 5:30 p.m. on the first and third Wednesday each month in the Mezzanine conference room of the Community Building.

View more photos on our Flickr page.

8 Comments

  1. The death penalty is about saving lives, the lives of all those poor innocent victims of torture and murder by those darn “mistake makers”. The percentage of those wrongly convicted in prison is infintesimal. Killers let out to kill again happens all the time. Where is the outrage, the concern for those children, women and men murdered by these “mistake makers”. Ecclesiates 8:11 say,” Because the sentence against an evil deed is not executed speedily, the heart of the children of man is fully set to do evil.” When we don’t execute the murders that deserve it, more teenagers are emboldened to become murders themselves. Listen to God not men.

  2. John VanDerWalker

    Dennis,
    Let’s take a look at God’s response to those who murdered Jesus. When Jesus came back he annihilated those that murdered him, right? Oh, wait. That would be how we would respond. Rather the Spirit empowered the disciples to convey a message of love that infiltrated the Roman Empire and began transformation in the world that continues to this day.
    Violence sponsored by anyone begets violence. It is not the answer, and it protects no one, in fact in our society in indicts every one of us in the violence.

  3. To Dennis,
    First I wish you heart peace.
    Next, I would like to ask you what sources are you siting when stating, “The percentage of those wrongly convicted in prison is infintesimal.” The actual numbers are an average of 5 each yr have been discovered innocent since 2000, (DPInfo.org). Those are only the lucky ones who happen to get extremely expensive help (almost always from volunteering organizations).That is hardly something to laugh about to any of those who lost and average of 9 yrs wrongfully convicted (many serving 17-25 years on Death Rows), or to their loved ones.
    Secondly, where are you getting the idea for your statement, “Killers let out to kill again happens all the time.” I do not find any respectable sources for that claim, please share your source with us.
    Because many of us choose to stand up for honoring life, does not lessen the tragedy of those who have been murdered – killing is wrong. More killing is senseless.
    No one in their right mind wishes to kill. Every one who does kill must not be of “sound mind”, including the state who murders people to “teach a lesson.”
    The best humankind has to offer have always lived lives of love. A safe society does not depend on killing. A safe society becomes aware, involved, and compassionate to all.

    “The system is too fraught with variables to survive. Whether or not one receives the death penalty depends upon the discretion of the prosecutor who initiates the proceeding, the competence of counsel who represents the defendant, the race of the victim, the race of the defendant, the make-up of the jury, the attitude of the judge,
    and the attitude and make-up of the appellate courts that review the verdict.”
    -Judge H. Lee Sarokin, U.S.
    Court of Appeals, Third Circuit
    (ret.)

    May your heart feel peace. And please invest some time in real education about the justice system, especially Capital Punishment. There are many resources:
    Death and Justice is just one book with a large number of cases detailed to show the issues with the Death Penalty. That book was written by an ex-homicide investigator, Mark Fuhrman, who was pro-death penalty before his own research.

  4. Seán Pòl Ó Creachmhaoil

    People are executed in the US every year, some guilty, some not. It doesn’t seem to have dissuaded others from murdering. It wouldn’t matter if it did. It’s a hypocrisy. If it’s wrong for one person, it’s wrong for everyone. As for as quoting Yawhweh, for those who believe in Yahweh, “Thou Shalt Not Kill”. There was no footnote to the ten commandments specifying exceptions to be stated elsewhere. It is an absolute instruction. On the judgement day, you will be judged for what you did, or commissioned, or authorised, by the only judge who is competent. Everyone will be meted precisely what he deserves. When you kill in the name of god or of justice, you break faith with and deny your own god. That is what will be held to your account. That, and murder. For those who believe in Yahweh, myself not included.

  5. John,

    If you don’t think that Jesus Christ is not going to come back for punishment of unrepentant murderers someday, you are closing your eyes to part of Who He is (Rev.19:11-16). Because He is merciful and gives more time for repentance doesn’t mean He’s looking the other way. All I’m saying is give a true full picture, not a half-truth. Actually the commandment “Thou shalt not kill”, is “Thou shalt not murder”. A NT example of capital punishment being sanctioned by apostolic teaching is recorded in Romans 13: 3,4. And if you were thinking that only meant the “good” governments, remember that Rome’s emperors weren’t any too good in Paul’s day.

    I shudder when I read the post that anyone who would believe that capital punishment is right is not in their right mind. I believe that what Jesus said is true, that there’s coming a day when those who kill those standing for righteousness will think they are doing God a favor. I will stand before God to give an account of myself someday, but thankfully under the blood and grace of the Lord Jesus Christ.

    To quote some judges opinion about whether it is right or not or whether it can be carried out rightly totally ignores the God Who watches and has power to intervene or not in any circumstance.

    Capital punishment is not only about deterence but also about saving the lives of the innocent. I have seen documented cases of murderers gone free because of some judge who won’t do his job, subsequently perpetrating more grisly murders. I say that if the death penalty is abolished their blood will be on your hands.

  6. Dennis, I appreciate your position and many people hold it but in the spiritual of dialogue and debate, I would hope you would take the time to respond to Victoria’s good questions.

    Instead of being combative, how about engaging in the debate on a level that might help convince instead of condemn. Conversation often leads to greater understanding and yet it seems like your not really interested in hearing, just telling. I get that you feel it’s a matter of God over people, I just wish you could make a little more gracious room for people who you disagree with in these matters.

  7. Eric, I took to heart your post and I’ll try to make my posts as gracious as I can, but if I speak the truth with love, that is what Paul says to do in his letter to the Ephesians. I will try to attach more documentation rather than generalize.

    Victoria, I have listened to many reports that document parolees or escapees who have committed more murders, but I will try to get better with documentation. Just as an example, all I did was to google “murders by exconvicts” and I came up with the link below.

    http://www.freep.com/article/20120930/NEWS06/309300022/Lax-controls-leave-ex-cons-free-to-kill

    I’m not making this up because I hate anyone, but as least as much compassion and energy needs to be directed towards victims as there is toward murderers.

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