Fast N Vigil News

The purpose of this blog is to provide a forum for sharing news, events and people from the Annual Fast and Vigil Protest at the Supreme Court. As with any of the abolition blogs, it is primarily intended to educate people about the death penalty and contribute to the abolition of the death penalty worldwide.

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Back to the 'Nati

Hello friends!

I just got back to my beloved Cincinnati from the Fast & Vigil, an event that managed to be educating, inspiring, and fun all at the same time. Beth mentioned that some people had asked about us Ohioans, so here are some thoughts on the weekend. First, on the educating part...

Each night, I heard amazing people tell their stories. Murder victims' family members and exonerees alike shared their experiences, feelings, and hopes with us. And though these two groups of people have endured very different experiences, they shared such similar sentiments, for they have all had to overcome hatred and search for healing in one way or another. It was humbling just to be in the presence of these men and women, and it really inspired me to spread their message to more people...

which brings me to the inspiring part. In addition to these speakers, I met so many people who are dedicating their lives to the movement to abolish the death penalty. The organizers and participants of the Fast & Vigil came from diverse places in every sense of the phrase. Their unique careers, religions, ethnicities, and experiences contributed to the small but strong community formed these past few days. People have been brought to this movement for so many reasons, and that gives me hope that anyone on this earth can and will eventually realize what a broken and irreparable justice system we currently have in this nation. Though we certainly didn't receive 100% support from the passersby, I was encouraged by the moments of respectful dialogue that occurred. One man signed the petition and said, "I'm behind you all. I'm a conservative, and I totally support you." For me, he represented a growing number of people from across the political spectrum who are joining the fight for abolition.

And last, but certainly not least, the Fast & Vigil was FUN! When you and a stranger have nothing to do but hold a banner for hours at a time, you will get to know each other by the end of those few hours. It was great to meet everyone, to hear their stories, and to be re-energized by their devotion to ending the death penalty. The spirit of hope and non-violence was alive and well throughout the event, and I am so grateful for being able to spend just a few days with each of them.

A special thanks for all those who work so hard to organize the Fast & Vigil each year. Your work is already changing hearts and minds, and I await the day when we can all have the biggest party of our lives (next to Beth & Abe's wedding, I'm guessing) when we see abolition become the law in our nation.

And finally (sorry this ended up being quite a bit longer than I planned), congratulations to Beth and Abe; you are such wonderful parents, and I wish you a long life of many joys together. Eat, drink, and celebrate tonight!

Peace & joy,


Saturday, July 01, 2006

Day Three


We enjoyed another beautiful day at the Court. Despite our fears for rain or inclement weather, the weather has been very cooperative.

Our numbers swelled as weekenders joined us. However, the passerby traffic was much reduced because of the weekend.

The evening teach-in included both talks and music by Emma's Revolution. They were fantastic and energized us. You may learn more about them at: Emma's Revolution

Celeste Fitzgerald of New Jerseyans for Alternatives to the Death Penalty spoke about the "revolution" that is occurring in New Jersey. In case you didn't know, New Jersey passed the first legislatively imposed moratorium in the United States in February. The legislation also mandated a study commission. When the study commission reports that the application of the death penalty is racist, unfair and anti-poor, NJADP hopes to energize their supporters to push the legislature to vote for an abolition bill. You may learn more about them at: NJADP. Her comments tied in well with those of abolitionist of the year, Shari Silberstein. Shari said that WE ARE WINNING. She cited the fact that a legislatively imposed moratorium had been imposed for the first time in New Jersey. Not to concentrate too much on New Jersey, but she also mentioned that the current governor is openly against the death penalty and won his position in spite of it. She stressed that although we see many places where we have more work to do, we are winning and will see the abolition of the death penalty in the United States.

During her talk, Celeste introduced Larry Peterson of New Jersey. Peterson was convicted of rape and murder in 1989 and narrowly missed the death penalty. In May of 2006, he was exonerated because of DNA proof that he did not commit the crime. He spoke of his disgust with a corrupt system and the need for an end to the death penalty. You may learn more about him at: Larry Peterson

The vigil continues through tomorrow. Please come and join us here in Washington for the last day!

More Later.

Friday, June 30, 2006

Day Two

Hello All!

The day opened with a press conference at 10:30 am on the 30th Anniversary of the Gregg decision and also on the 50th anniversary of the United Methodist Church becoming the 1st mainstream church in the U.S. to take a formal policy position opposing the death penalty. In addition to the United Methodist Church's forward thinking stance, they graciously assist us with many things and give us access to their beautiful building, which is across the street from the Court. We are very lucky to be able to stage from such a convenient location. In addition to the physical amenities, the staff is wonderful, kind and helpful. We are very grateful.

We were also blessed with beautiful weather. It was sunny and 80s, which is a blessing in July!

As the day wore on, there were several lively conversations among folks in the group and passerby. One particularly memorable exchange occurred between a gentlemen who described himself as a conservative christian and Darby Tillis. Mr. Tillis was wrongfully convicted and sentenced to death for the 1977 murder and armed robbery of the owner and an employee of a hotdog stand on the north side of Chicago. It was fourteen years before he was pardoned by Governor George Ryan based on actual innocence. The passerby's first comment was that we have the greatest justice system in America. Darby immediately rose up and began to discuss his own experience with the justice system. You may find more information about his story at Darby Tillis. Although the gentlemen continued to argue and appeared not to be convinced, I believe that we have planted a seed of doubt in his mind. He won't soon forget his brush with a live "dead man walking." Mr. Tillis not only worked tirelessly during the daytime activities, he also spoke at the nighttime teach-in. I hope that you will all tune in as soon as we post the talks online. I promise to keep you updated.

I felt that this was an excellent example of the need we have to educate people on this issue. We are very blessed to have individuals, such as Darby Tillis, who, despite their pain and personal loss, are willing to speak out and educate.

Ohio Death Row Survivor, Gary Beeman also spoke. You may learn more about him by going to the schedule of events for the Fast and Vigil and clicking on Gary's name. Fast & Vigil Schedule

In addition to the Death Row Survivors, a family member of a Texas executed man, Christina Lawson spoke. She is a relatively new speaker and may not be familiar to the regulars. You may learn more about her on the schedule page as well.

More Later.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Day One

Hello All!

So What is this Fast and Vigil?

It is a four day vigil maintaining a presence at SCOTUS, the Supreme Court Of The United States. We encounter thousands of visitors to the Court and share our message that no matter how you slice it, the death penalty is BAD PUBLIC POLICY. Much of the time is spent talking to individuals and creating visibility.

So why are we doing this?

The purpose of this event is to maintain a presence at SCOTUS between the dates of the anniversaries of when the death penalty was ruled unconstitutional in practice in 1972, and when new laws were upheld in 1976. While the Court may not be in session and Congress is in recess, this presence is more than symbolic.

What Happened Today?

The Fast and Vigil began last night with a Last Supper at Taverna here in DC. There were many familiar faces and, as always, some new people decided to join us as well. Food and drink were enjoyed by all in anticipation of the fasting to come.

I was surprised at the crowd as we arrived at the Court this morning. I quickly discovered that a major ruling in reference to Guantanomo Bay had been issued. If you are interested in more about that, see the SCOTUS blog at Scotus Blog. This brought lots of traffic our way today. In addition to holding signs and giving folks an opportunity to sign a petition for a moratorium on the death penalty, we handed out flyers and discussed the death penalty with passerby. We found lots of folks who were with us on the issue and enjoyed sharing information with those who were not with us or fence sitters.

However, we do not restrict ourselves to a presence at the Court. I am staying with my good friend, Beth, who lives in nearby Virginia. After our day at the Court, we stopped at a local Applebees for dinner. As we came into the restaurant, I noticed that the hostess was reading my t-shirt. I happened to be wearing a shirt that says: "I oppose the death penalty, Don't kill for me" She asked about it and we explained that we were here with the Fast and Vigil. She asked why we were doing this. I immediately launched into my reasons: racist, unfair, anti-poor. And she said, "Wait, wait, I've NEVER HEARD OF THEM KILLING ANYONE." Beth jumped in with the fact that Virginia is scheduled to kill two men in July:
20 ­ Virginia 9:00 PM EDT Brandon Hedrick is scheduled to be killed by the people of Virginia in revenge for the murder of Lisa Yvonne Alexander Crider.
27 ­ Virginia 9:00 PM EDT Michael Lenz is scheduled to be killed by the people of Virginia in revenge for the murder of Brent Parker.
Our hostess was shocked and appalled. We gave her a bracelet and button with a website and encouraged her to get involved in the fight for abolition. If you were not able to attend but would like to stand in solidarity with us, why don't you pledge to wear abolition wear for the next three days and take the time to share with folks around you why you think that the Death Penalty is bad public policy? If you do not have any abolition wear, go to Abolition Wear and get some today. One of the strategies that I like is to wear buttons or wristbands and then when someone asks, I peel off the wristband or take off the button and give it to them. I also usually share a website. The buttons are most convenient for this because many of them have a website already listed.

In addition to our awareness raising activities both at the Court and out and about, we had an exciting lineup of folks speaking in the evening. You can see the schedule at: Fast N Vigil Schedule For each of the speakers, you can click on their names and learn more about them. I had originally planned to write about the speakers but my nearly one year old son, Isaac, decided that he was done and we had to leave early. The good news for both my readers and myself is that the talks are being captured on video and will be available online for everyone to view. As soon as they are available, I will let you know.

More Later. . .

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

But will there be any women?

Well... it was another all nighter getting ready to hit the road for DC. Last night NJ exoneree Larry Peterson (speaking Sat. night!) and I spoke to the Amnesty group in Cherry Hill. I got home at 10:30, exhausted, but couldn't work up the gumption to get started loading the trailer until after midnight. Ended up with 1.5 hours of sleep, and we hit the road at about 8:30am. The trip was perfect, with no major traffic tie-ups. Stopped in Silver Spring to pick up the PA system donated by ESP Sound, and then got the vehicle cleared by the Capitol Police bomb sniffers before finding parking *right in front* of the United Methodist Church Building. In fact, help showed up in a variety of ways right as soon as I needed it, and we finished setting up by 5 pm. Now we are ensconced in our hotel room, resting up and waiting for the time to go to the Last Supper, and thus, the subject of this post. Last year, no women showed up. It was just 13 men, an interesting number for a "Last Supper." The running joke was that no women showed up because they heard I was taken. Smile. This year, Beth and our son Isaac will be with me, so hopefully all the women are over it. hahaha! And hopefully they all will come to our wedding, see Abolitionist Wedding, at the end of this thing on sunday night... Everyone is invited! And so, after months of preparation, here we go!

Monday, June 26, 2006


Once again, it's the final days before the event, and we're just about ready. Many minor details to deal with, but we've got a great program lined up, and all we really need now is for you to show up. Check out the schedule and everything else about Starvin' for Justice '06 at


Saturday, June 24, 2006


Hello Fellow Abolitionists and Others!

Welcome to the Fast and Vigil blog. During the upcoming Fast and Vigil, I will be posting daily. I plan to chronicle various speakers, events and day to day happenings.

Beth Wood