Journey of Hope…from Violence to Healing is an organization led by murder victim family members that conducts public education speaking tours and addresses alternatives to the death penalty. At least 8 of them will attend the 16th Annual March to Abolish the Death Penalty on October 24, 2015 at the Texas Capitol at 2 PM.
Journey “storytellers” come from all walks of life and represent the full spectrum and diversity of faith, color and economic situation. They are real people who know first-hand the aftermath of the insanity and horror of murder. They recount their tragedies and their struggles to heal as a way of opening dialogue on the death penalty in schools, colleges, churches and other venues.
The Journey spotlights murder victim’s family members who choose not to seek revenge, and instead select the path of love and compassion for all of humanity. Forgiveness is seen as strength and as a way of healing. The greatest resources of the Journey are the people who are a part of it.
Bill, a retired steelworker, has dedicated his life to working for abolition of the death penalty. He shares his story of love and compassion and the healing power of forgiveness. Pelke has traveled to over forty states and fifteen countries with the Journey of Hope and has told his story thousands of times.
Marietta asked that the mentally ill man be given the alternative allowed in capital cases: a mandatory life sentence instead of the death penalty. Only then was the kidnapper willing to confess to Susie’s murder, as well as to the deaths of three other young persons
in the same county. He committed suicide just hours later.
In and out of trouble, he spent much of his adolescent life in juvenile institutions, until at age 18, he was sent to Soledad Prison.
Within the prison walls, Shujaa came of age, mentored by the leadership of the Black Prison movement. Shujaa taught himself to read and write, he studied history and world affairs, and became a leader of the growing movement within the California prison system, as the Black Panther Party expanded in the community.
In 1973, Shujaa was framed in the murder of a prison guard at the Deul Vocational Institute, Stockton, California. As a recognized leader within and without the prison, the community became involved in his defense, and supported him through 4 trials. Shujaa and his co-defendant, Eugene Allen, were sent to San Quentin’s death row in 1976, after a second trial in San Francisco. The DA systematically excluded all African American jurors, and in 1979, the California Supreme Court overturned the death conviction.
After spending three years on death row, Shujaa and Eugene Allen, continued to fight for their innocence. A third trial ended in a hung jury, and after a fourth trial, they were found innocent. As Shujaa often says, he won his freedom and affirmed his innocence in spite of the system.
Shujaa was released in March, 1981, and continued to organize in the Bay area, building community support for the prison movement, as well as protest in the neighborhoods against police brutality.
In the following years, Shujaa moved away from the Bay area. Shujaa learned landscaping, and created his own business. He and his wife raised three children, and became part of a progressive community in Maryland.
Manny, the recipient of a Purple Heart for his service in Vietnam, was a paranoid schizophrenic who suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder. He had been tried and convicted for the murder of an elderly woman who had died of a heart attack after a break-in and beating.
When Bill realized that his brother could possibly be involved in the woman’s death, he contacted the police and helped them arrest his brother. In return, the police promised Bill that Manny would receive the psychological help that he needed and that they would help see that Manny would not receive the death penalty. Bill felt certain that when confronted with the reality of Manny’s mental illness, the justice system would hand down a fair sentence but avoid death. He was wrong.
The Babbitt family was too poor to afford good counsel. Manny’s first lawyer took their money and then dropped the case. The second, a court-appointed attorney, refused to allow blacks on the jury, drank heavily during the trial and was later disbarred and sued for racism.
Today Bill speaks out regularly against the death penalty.
Terri heard about a group protesting the death penalty at the US Supreme Court in Washington, DC. and decided to meet those fighting to abolish the death penalty. Terri began her own journey to save Justin’s life. She has spoken on many occasions with the Journey of Hope, including during our 2009 Germany tour.
He connected with Kathy Ozzard Chism at the all-volunteer nonprofit Dream One World, and together they are building a school compound for 150 of these orphans in Uganda, with the help of volunteer workers and donors from around the world.
Delia Perez Meyer is from Austin, Texas and has a background in Education, Cultural Arts, International Business, and Human Rights activism focusing on the death penalty. Delia earned an MBA in International Business, and a Bachelor’s in Spanish/International Business.
Delia has been employed at Applied Materials, St. Edward’s University, Texas Society of Professional Engineers, and is presently teaching Bilingual children in Elgin, TX. She is one of 5 children – David, Delia, Irene, Louis, and Ernest, Jr. One of her brothers, Louis Castro Perez is an innocent man on Texas’ Death Row. “When Louis was wrongfully convicted 13 years ago, and sent to death row, our family embarked on the most incredible journey of our lives – trying to save an innocent man from death row in Texas.”