Human Rights - Facing Death Row

Fifteen SMU students, faculty members and others will travel by bus through the Deep South Aug. 2-10 to visit the people and places involved in operating, reporting on and opposing the death penalty in America. The 10-day experience is designed “to expose people to the physical and emotional aspects affiliated with our country’s use of the death penalty, the majority of which is carried out in the states we’ll visit – Oklahoma, Arkansas, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, Florida, Louisiana and Texas,” says capital punishment expert/activist Rick Halperin, director of SMU’s Embrey Human Rights Program, the trip’s sponsor.

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Equal Justice Initiative

An update from Grace C., a senior majoring in pre-law:

Today we visited two of my favorite places: the Southern Poverty Law Center and the Equal Justice Initiative. I really appreciate all of the work they do to promote public awareness of human rights issues, especially through litigation.

At EJI, we had the pleasure to hear from Anthony Ray Hinton. My jaw actually dropped when he entered the room because just 5 months earlier I was at EJI for the Civil Rights Pilgrimage and we watched his video. It gave me chills then, but I never even imagined having the opportunity to hear him speak to us today. It really hit me when I heard his story. I mean I can’t even imagine being on death row for 30 years for a crime I didn’t commit. Heck I haven’t even been alive for 30 years, I’m only 21 years old. Not alone being held there for something I didn’t do. It really broke my heart to hear Mr. Hinton’s story. I mean two years later and you can still see how much he is struggling. I got emotional seeing how much pain he was in. He lost 30 years of his life that he will never get back because of corruption. Whats even worse is that the State of Alabama not only refused to spend 1 hour relooking over his case but also to this day has not apologized to him. I mean for goodness sakes what does it take? The Supreme Court of the United States said you were wrong. You were wrong. I can’t believe the state can just take 30 years of someone’s life away for no reason and have no consequences for it.

Mr. Hinton inspired me today. His story really made me mad, and I realized something has to be done. I mean going against a state government is no easy opponent, but this can’t keep happening. This has to end. Mr. Hinton will never get those 30 years back, and nothing can ever make up for what he lost. He lost everything he had. He had no rights. I really am going to pray for Mr. Hinton. I hope he can find peace, and I really hope he can push past this pain he feels. After all of this, he deserves to be happy for the rest of his life. I hope Mr. Hinton can find true happiness. His story is one that can change America. I also want to tell Mr. Hinton that I’m sorry. I know I had nothing to do with anything that happened, but I am sorry that human kind treated you this way. We should all take responsibility for what happened. We made the society we live in. And Mr. Hinton, I will do anything I can to stop this. It’s people like you that make me realize what I can do with a law degree. I can really help people and change America. It will never be easy, but it’s something I have to do.

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