Witness to Innocence held their annual Gathering in Tampa April 20-23. WTI is the national organization led by exonerated death row survivors and their families. The exceptional series of events was co-sponsored and co-organized by FADP. Prior to the Gathering, four exonerated death row survivors along with Alphonso Figgers (who sadly passed away April 26) travelled to the State Capitol. They met with legislators and the media and distributed FADP brochures.
The formal Gathering in Tampa included more than 20 death row exonerees and their families. Participants included local community members and national partners. With the help of Christine Henderson of EJUSA and FL death row exoneree Herman Lindsey, we were able to tell the Florida story and our challenges and opportunities. Florida has become a high priority state in the national struggle. The recent Supreme Court decisions, legislation, elections of criminal justice reform State’s Attorneys, and the ordeal of newly-elected Orlando State Attorney Aramis Ayala have created increased awareness and opportunities for progress.
New Hillsborough State Attorney Andrew Warren addressed the participants and fielded questions on wrongful convictions and criminal justice reform.
Print and TV outlets ran stories and interviews from the Gathering. FADP’s Emily Chow helped with social media coverage. There were several panel discussions and a screening of the new film “The Gathering” at a local church followed by an emotionally powerful meeting.
For a week before the Gathering, exonerated FL death row survivor Juan Melendez spoke to audiences in the Tampa Bay Area. He and FADP Director, Mark Elliott, spoke to more than 600 students and faculty at USF, UT (2), HCC and did a local PBS radio interview. Juan was also featured in print and TV stories. Many new people signed on to help abolish the death penalty.
Here are links to coverage:
“Death row exonerees, advocates meet in Tampa to discuss fight to end death penalty”
“Wrongly-convicted Death Row inmate returns to Bay Area to speak out against Death Penalty”