2020-2021 state campaigns
Witness to Innocence is focusing on death penalty abolition in:
Witness to Innocence is also supporting anti-death penalty efforts in:
In Nevada, no one has been executed since 2006 and a bill was introduced in February to abolish the death penalty. Legislators are considering making life with no chance of parole the maximum sentence for first-degree murder.
In Ohio, Republicans and Democrats have been questioning the death penalty and many are calling for repeal. Executions are currently on hold there because there is no clear path as to how to obtain execution drugs. Witness to Innocence exonerees have raised awareness of the fallibility of capital convictions. Several WTI members were exonerated from death row in Ohio, and they remain active in the state’s abolition movement, speaking to legislators, sharing their stories at public events, schools, and places of worship.
In April, a bipartisan bill was introduced to abolish the death penalty in PA. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court also heard arguments to abolish the death penalty, but ultimately stated that it was the decision on legislators.
Pennsylvania is a northern state with a large death row population where a moratorium on execution has been in place since 2015. Governor Tom Wolf, who was re-elected to a second term in 2018, has the power to clear Pennsylvania’s death row through commutations before he leaves office in 2023.
With our office located in Philadelphia and a strong contingent of death row exonerees in and from PA, WTI is deeply rooted in the state. WTI will encourage and support Gov. Wolf to use his commutation powers to clear death row in Pennsylvania.
Utah has been identified by the 8th Amendment Project as a “primed” state with a realistic opportunity for legislative repeal of the death penalty in the next one or two years.
In 2016, the Utah Senate passed a repeal bill, and the House committee has twice supported repeal legislation. The current Republican governor has indicated he would consider signing a death penalty repeal bill. The Utah legislature has a 45-day session, and this year, WTI plans to play a decisive role in the 2019 legislative campaign in Utah.
Virginians are showing increased concern about the death penalty. Last year a bipartisan bill to exclude the executions of people with severe mental illness passed in the Senate with an overwhelming bipartisan majority. WTI exonerees will work with local partners on the ground in Virginia to offer our voices to the movement by influencing public and legislative opinions as support for repeal spreads across the state.
WTI has ramped up efforts in Wyoming, a state where there is an opportunity to win death penalty repeal. On January 15, 2019, State Representative Jared Olsen (R-Cheyenne) reintroduced a bill that would eliminate the death penalty in Wyoming. Though it is unchanged from a version of the bill that fell six votes short of passing in 2018, Olsen believes the outcome could be different this year.
In March, Governor Newsom placed a moratorium on executions. A petition to stop death penalty trials during the moratorium was brought to the California Supreme Court in July, but was denied. California still has the largest death row in the country.
Florida is a state in the “death belt” of the U.S. South with a large
death row that faces the continuous threat of executions.
WTI has a long history of action in the state and an exceptionally strong contingent of exonerated death row survivors in and from Florida. WTI is planning to conduct a major visibility action in Florida in 2019 to make a statement about the long-term commitment to repeal capital punishment in the Sunshine State. Several of our exonerees are working with Florida legislators, board secretary Herman Lindsey is among them.
Louisiana is a “semi-primed” state in the “death belt” of the south with a relatively large death row and a track record for carrying out executions. There has been measurable progress in recent years building political support for reforms and even repeal.
WTI has a long history of action in the state and an exceptionally strong contingent of exonerated death row survivors in and from Louisiana. WTI is collaborating with Equal Justice USA to assist the emerging anti-death penalty campaign in LA.
WTI also worked with legislators to try to get a bill to eliminate the death penalty passed.
Tennesseans across the state are lifting their voices to stop the executions of people sentenced to death where racism, intellectual disability and wrongful conviction issues are prevalent. WTI will bring powerful voices to support clemency campaigns and in support of moratoriums as the public gets more engaged in the issue.
Witness to Innocence partners regularly with state anti-death penalty organizations across the country to fight for state bans or moratoriums on the death penalty.
We also work closely with the 8th Amendment Project, which coordinates the national campaign to abolish the death
penalty in the United States, to identify target states for our advocacy work.
We collaborate with other like-minded organizations focused on social justice and human rights such as the NAACP, Murder Victims Families for Human Rights, and Amnesty International, with whom we campaigned with to stop the September 2011 execution of Troy Davis in Georgia. Each year, we participate in the Fast & Vigil in Washington, D.C. as well as the Journey, a walk with murder victims' families.