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Saturday, March 25, 2006

Texas Public Radio interview with spring break student Audrey Lamm

Texas Public Radio interviewed Audrey Lamm when she was here for spring break. They did the interview by cell phone while she was standing outside the prison in Huntsville protesting an execution on March 15. The interview was aired on the same radio stations that carry NPR in Texas.

Here is the link:
www.tpr.org/programs/texasmatters.html

Click on show #290, March 17, 2006. It starts around minute 16 and 34 seconds and goes for about seven minutes.

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Saturday, March 18, 2006

1924-1964: 361 Executions; 1982-2006: 361 Executions

From 1924 to 1964, there were 361 executions in Texas. There were zero executions in Texas between July 30, 1964 and December 7, 1982. Since 1982, there have been 360 executions in Texas. On March 22, 2006, Robert Salazar, Jr is scheduled to become the 361st person executed in Texas since 1982.

It took Texas 40 years to execute 361 people from 1924-1964. It will have taken Texas 24 years to execute 361 more people, if Texas carries out the execution of Salazar on March 22.

Urge Texas Governor Rick Perry to Stop the Execution of Robert Salazar, Jr.

Texas kicked off executions in Huntsville on February 8, 1924, when five African-Americans were executed on the same day. From 1924-1964, 63.4 percent of the people executed in Texas were African-American.

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A veteran anti-death penalty leader praises the new generation of activists

Gloria Rubac, who has been working against the death penalty in Texas for decades, praised the spring breakers in an email she sent to various lists. Gloria was in Huntsville on March 15 protesting alongside the group of students from spring break. You can hear her voice in the background on one of the audio blogs below.

A big hat's off to Scott Cobb with the Texas Moratorium Network and Hooman Hedayati and all the youth with the Texas Students Against the Death Penalty for their hard work this week. These young folks made an enthusiastic abolitionist statement yesterday in Huntsville outside the Walls Unit where the state of Texas murdered Tommie Hughes.

The young folks energized everyone with their continuous chants and optimistic enthusiasm for the abolition of the death penalty. They were also very respectful of the family and ended the protest right before 6:00 PM and requested that the crowd remain silent during the execution.

Tommie's family had around 60 people in Huntsville and they knew that we were all there for them. Tommie's mother and grandmother both witnessed the execution and Tommie was blessed to have two such strong women in his life. Tommie's two uncles who joined the large protest thanked everyone for being there and for supporting the family.

The students weren't only from Texas, but from several other states, including as far away as Oregon. While other students were heading to South Padre and other beaches, these young people were showing all of us the best of their generation. They are participating in all week in activities, workshops, lobbying, seminars, petition-signing and yesterday's bus trip to Huntsville. They were organized, prepared, disciplined and energetic. And most of all, their seriousness about fighting the racist death penalty was contageous.

As always, it was great to see Renny Cushing with Murder Victims' Families for Human Rights who is forever ready to lend a hand here in Texas. Renny will be speaking with the youth today in Austin. Check out the students'web site at: www.texasabolition.org.

From the Abolition Movement, we say to you young people, "You are the best! Stay serious and committed and abolition will surely be a reality, even in Texas!"

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Thursday, March 16, 2006

Huntsville wakes up to student spring breakers in daily newspaper

The Huntsville Item published a front page story on the anti-death penalty alternative spring break. We were all happy to know that people in Huntsville woke up and read about our group of young people in their morning papers. In 1964, students came down to the South during Freedom Summer to fight for civil and human rights and to build a more just nation. Now, their grandchildren are coming back to finish the job.

Published: March 16, 2006 01:28 am

Students take stand against death penalty

Matt Pederson
Staff Reporter

Many college and high school students prefer to head somewhere tropical to spend their spring break, but a few came right here to Huntsville on Wednesday, and they came with a purpose.

Students from all over the state, and a few from across the country, flocked to Huntsville to take part in a protest of the execution of Tommie Hughes. The event is part of the 2006 Anti-Death Penalty Alternative Spring Break, sponsored by Texas Students Against the Death Penalty.

...


Joel Pasley and Angela Martellaro are high school students who came all the way from Shawnee, Kan., to spend their spring break fighting the death penalty.

In attending the lectures and learning about the system, Pasley said he was most shocked to learn about the condition the prisoners live in.

“Some people have letters from pen pals about the conditions,” Pasley said. “For just minor things, their clothes were taken away and their meals were taken away and it really surprised me that in the United States that would go on. It seems like something that would go on in another era in another country.”

Martellaro said her vacation has so far been a learning experience for her in which her beliefs were even more firmly ground.

“We all had a simple understanding of the problems with the death penalty and after coming here, we’ve learned so much in detail about what goes on with capital punishment,” Martellaro said. “It’s just been so educational, because we all are in agreement that it is wrong and there are problems with the system, and this has been so specific, with so much information, that it really strengthened my beliefs.”

By listening, learning and participating, Pasley is hoping to go back home with a better understanding of how to fight what he believes to be an unjust policy.

“I want to learn how to petition to get a moratorium on the death penalty in Kansas,” Pasley said. “Even though it’s suspended right now, why wait until somebody is executed to try and save more lives.”

Read the whole story here.

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Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Audio blog from the protest outside an execution in Huntsville on March 15

this is an audio post - click to play

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Originally uploaded by niris.



The photo shows students protesting the execution of Tommie Hughes on March 15, 2006. The audio post contains a speech by Renny Cushing, executive director of Murder Victims' Families for Human Rights. Renny came down and spent three days with the students of Anti-Death Penalty Alternative Spring Break. In addition to going on the bus trip to Huntsville to protest the execution on March 15, Renny participated in a panel at the capitol on Thursday, March 16.

Thanks, Renny, for traveling all the way from Boston to Austin and to Huntsville to be a part of the 2006 spring break!

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Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Tomorrow: Audio blogging from a protest of an execution in Huntsville

One of the participants in the Anti-Death Penalty Alternative Spring Break may be one of the witnesses to the execution scheduled for March 15 in Huntsville, Texas. The rest of us will be outside the prison protesting, but one of the group may be in the witness room.

We leave at 8 AM March 15 for the trip to Huntsville, where we will meet with former death house chaplain Rev Carroll Pickett, who ministered to 95 executed people from 1982-95. He is now an outspoken opponent of the death penalty.

We will then go to the Walls Unit around 4:30 to hold a protest of the execution. We will post an audioblog from the protest.

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Monday, March 13, 2006

Positive Feed back from Australia

We recieved this email from Australia today, right before spring break kicks off.

To the folks at Texas Moratorium Network (and connected groups),

Best wishes from Australia for a successful week (March 13-17) campaigning
against the death penalty.

Thank you for your compassion and activism - your determination to act and
to help make a difference! Your work is helping to bring a better world
into fruition.

Remember that you have the support of world public opinion in continuing
your tireless fight.

Regards,

Geoff Allshorn.

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Sunday, March 12, 2006

It's time for Anti-Death Penalty Alternative Spring Break


Texas Students Against the Death Penalty has done an execellent job preparing for this year's Anti-Death Penalty Alternative Spring Break, March 13-17 in Austin.

This will be an invaluable hands-on, learning experience for students, who will plan and carry out various activities, including a protest in Huntsville. Students will gain valuable training and experience in grassroots organizing, lobbying, preparing a direct action, media relations and other skills. They can apply what they learn against the death penalty or in their activities involving other issues.

Housing is available for a fee of $25 We will house participants in rooms at a dormitory near the University of Texas at Austin. Most students will be at The Goodall Wooten, a few people will stay somewhere else. Students will share the room with one or two other people. To register, contact Hooman Hedayati at: hooman@texasabolition.org

There is no participation fee for the Anti-Death Penalty Alternative Spring Break except for those people who need housing. The fee for housing is $25, which covers the entire week. If you do not need housing, because you live in Austin or you are making your own housing arrangements, then your participation is free, but please register so we know how many people to expect. Participants are expected to travel to Austin at their own expense and pay for their meals and incidental expenses while in Austin.

Housing spaces are limited, so please register soon. Participants who register for housing need to bring towels, sheets and pillows.

Alternative Spring Break Schedule


If you have questions or need directions anytime during alternative spring break, call Hooman Hedayati at 210-601-7231 or Scott Cobb at 512-689-1544.


Monday, March 13
Monday's events will be held on the University of Texas campus in room 201 of Waggener Hall - WAG (WAG 201), which is located in the East Mall Area on the UT campus.


9AM - 3:00 PM Housing check-in for people who have signed up for housing. Meet at The Goodall Wooten Co-ed Dormitory, 2112 Guadalupe (Corner of 21st and Guadalupe). Parking is available behind the building. Students will be staying here if they sign up for housing. If you can not check in by 3 PM, then just go directly to the Wagner Building, Wag 201 where Monday's workshops are taking place and you can check in to your room after the workshops.

3-3:30 PM -- Meet at Wag 201 for snacks and socializing before the first workshop.

3:30-4 PM Introduction to Alternative Spring Break by Hooman Hedayati.

4:00 - 5:00 PM Death Row Penpal, life and living conditions on death. Delia Perez Meyer, sister of a death row inmate, will give a workshop on how to get in contact with people on death-row and become a penpal. She will also talk about living conditions on death row. Inmates are locked in a cell most of the day. They are very isolated. Friends and family often lose touch with the inmate. Thousands of forgotten men and women in federal/state penitentiaries, county jails, correctional facilities, and overseas prisons are desperately hoping for correspondence that may lead to friendship, romance, redemption or legal help.

5 Free Pizza and soda served at first night's events

5:30 PM JEB V. GEORGE. This is a Docudrama from the Awful Truth TV show by Michael Moore about the state of the Death Penalty in Texas and Florida. It was produced in 2000. The states of Texas (Governor George W. Bush) and Forida (Governor Jeb Bush) have turned capital punishment into a state pastime. They are two of the most enthusiastic proponents of the death penalty. Correspondent Jay Martel looks at the brotherly rivalry of the Bush brothers through the prism of a football rivalry, complete with a satirical pep rally outside an actual execution in Texas.

6-7 Anti-Death Penalty Organizing Workshop presented by Campaign to End the Death Penalty and including a showing of the 12 minute film "A Voice from Death Row" produced this year by Austin filmmaker Nathan Christ. The film features Shugaa Graham speaking at a forum CEDP held at UT, as well as scenes from the "6th Annual March to Stop Executions" held on Oct 29, 2005.

7-8 PM "The Death Penalty in Texas", a question and answer open discussion with Walter Long, who was one of the leaders of the effort to ban executions of juvenile offfenders. The U.S. Supreme Court banned executions of juvenile offenders on March 1, 2005. Walter Long is an attorney who represented Napoleon Beazley and Karla Faye Tucker, among others.

8 PM Evening Time on your own for enjoying Austin, including the SXSW film festival.

9 PM (Optional movie night at Goodall Wooten) -- Redemption: The Stan Tookie Williams Story Redemption tells the story of Stan "Tookie" Williams, founder of the Crips L.A. street gang. Story follows his fall into gang-banging, his prison term, and his work writing children's novels encouraging peace and anti-violence resolutions which earned him multiple Nobel Peace Prize nominations. After exhausting all forms of appeal, Tookie was executed by lethal injection at San Quentin State Prison, California; he was declared dead on December 13, 2005 at 12:35 a.m. PST (08:35 UTC). Williams was the 12th person to be executed by California since it reinstated the death penalty in 1977.

Tuesday, March 14

Tuesday's events will be held in room 1-104 of the William B. Travis (WBT) building at 1701 Congress. Here is a map.


11am- 1:00pm: Skills Building Workshop: Winning Step-By-Step: How to Organize and Win Moratorium and Abolition Resolutions presented by Shari Silberstein, Co-Director of Equal Justice USA/Quixote Center (www.ejusa.org). EJUSA is a national leader in the movement to halt executions, providing hands-on technical assistance, grassroots organizing support, and capacity building to state and local campaigns across the country.

1 - 2:30 PM -- Lunch

2:30 - 4 PM -- Workshop: Influencing the Texas Legislature with Les Breeding, former legislative director for a member of the Texas Legislature. During the workshop, participants will learn how to interact effectively with legislators or legislative aides.

4 - 5 PM -- Planning and Sign-making session for the next day's protest in Huntsville.

Wednesday, March 15
Bus trip to Huntsville
(Everyone meet at the Goodall Wooten Dormitory at 2112 Guadalupe to get on the bus)

8 AM Bus Departs Austin for Huntsville

1 PM Arrive in Huntsville, have lunch (at your own expense)

2:30 PM Tour of Texas Prison Museum

3:30 Texas Death Row, talk by Reverend Carroll Pickett, former death house chaplain at the Walls Unit in Huntsville from 1982-1995. Pickett ministered to ninety-five men on the final day of their lives and was present in the chamber during their executions. He is now an outspoken activist against the death penalty. He is the author of "Within These Walls: Memoirs of a Death House Chaplain".

4:30 PM Arrive at The Walls Unit to prepare for protest of execution of Tommie Hughes.

5-6:30 PM Protest Execution of Tommie Hughes,

7 PM Depart for return trip to Austin.


Thursday, March 16

Advocacy Day at the Texas Capitol

9 AM Start getting to the Capitol. If you drive, parking is available either at meters along the streets or a short walk away at the Capitol Visitors Parking Garage at 1201 San Jacinto located between Trinity and San Jacinto Streets. Parking is free for the first two hours and $.75 for each half hour thereafter (maximum daily charge: $6.00) Map of the Capitol Complex.

10-12 PM MVFM (Murder Victim Family Member) panel. The Panel will take place in room E2.016 in the lower level of the Capitol. Panelists include:
Renny Cushing: Renny Cushing is the founder and Executive Director of Murder Victims’ Families for Human Rights. His father’s murder in 1988 has shaped his work as an advocate for crime victims and as an opponent of capital punishment. As a victim-abolitionist Renny has been a pioneer in the effort to bridge death penalty abolition groups and the victims’ rights movement.

Audrey Lamm Audrey is a senior at the University of Oregon. When Audrey was two years old her mother and her mother's friend were murdered in Nebraska. Audrey was in the building when the killings took place. The killer was apprehended, tried, convicted and sentenced to death. Several years ago, as the date of execution for her mom's killer approached, Audrey and her father, Gus, became involved in an effort to prevent the killer's execution. The Killer, Randy Reeves, had his life spared and is now serving life in prison instead of facing execution.

Christina Lawson: Christina suffered the loss of both her father and her husband. Her father was murdered when she was a child and her husband, David Martinez, was executed this past summer, July 28, 2005. She has witnessed the pain from both sides: the loss of her father, the anger and hate felt towards his killer, the loss of her husband, the sorrow for his victim's family and loved ones, the loss of a Daddy for their child. She has realized through her pain, that the death penalty does not bring anyone back, it does not heal anyone... it brings back the pain of losing a loved one and destroys another innocent family.

12-1 Lunch

Afternoon: Visits with legislators and/or their aides.

4 PM Tour of the Capital

4:30 PM Meet in the Capital Cafeteria to socialize and exchange information about what people learned during their visits with legislative offices.
More time on your own for enjoying Austin

5 - 8 PM -- Petition Signature Gathering Competition: We will divide into teams and fan out throughout Austin to collect signatures on a petition against the death penalty. People can collect signatures at places such as where SXSW events are taking place, outside certain bookstores or other stores if they allow it, on the streets in downtown Austin and wherever else the teams want to try. The team that collects the most petition signatures (with names, addresses, email addresses and possibly phone numbers) will win a prize of $100 We will decide as a group on the workshop what size the teams can be. Options are 1, 2, 3, 4, or more person teams.

8-9 PM -- Gather at Goodall Wooten to announce the winner.

9 PM -- More time on your own for enjoying Austin


Friday, March 17


This is Spring Break, so today we will have some fun and take a break after all the hard work we have done all week. Everyone is free to choose their own activities. Some things people could do are: Go swimming at Barton Springs Pool, attend a SXSW film or music event, go shopping, take a Segway tour of Austin, go jogging around Town Lake, go bike riding, visit a museum or do something else. Some of these activities cost money, so plan accordingly.

11 PM -- UT Campus visits (optional) - Each day, UT offers two student-guided walking tours of campus for prospective students and families that begin at the Main Building ("UT Tower") and cover the center of campus from the unique perspective of a current student. This is one of the best ways to get a feel for campus and we recommend that all prospective students who are mobile take the tour. Wear comfortable clothes and walking shoes, and feel free to bring your camera.

7 PM We all go have a final meal together! (Everyone buys their own dinner. We will decide as a group where to go eat).

9:30 PM (Optional Friday night event):- At the Alamo Downtown, there will be a showing of State vs. Reed directed by Ryan Polomski & Frank Bustoz. Synopsis: Did Rodney Reed kill Stacey Stites? This documentary explores the case that landed a 28 year old Bastrop man on Texas' Death Row.

Saturday, March 18: Departure Day

Students leave Austin when they get up if they didn't leave Friday night.

Alternative Spring Break was started by Texas Moratorium Network in 2004. It is now a program of Texas Students Against the Death Penalty and is entirely run by students for students. Co-sponsoring organizations include Texas Moratorium Network, Campaign to End the Death Penalty - Austin Chapter, Texas Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty, Murder Victims Families for Human Rights, Victims of Texas, The Peace and Justice Committee of the Sisters of Charity of the Incarnate Word, San Antonio, TX and Campus Progress, a project of the Center for American Progress.

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Saturday, March 11, 2006

The Exonerated DVD Sales Benefiting TMN

"The Exonerated" tells the stories of six wrongfully convicted people who combined spent nearly sixty years on death row for crimes they did not commit. Now you can own this important movie and 50 percent of the purchase price will benefit Texas Moratorium Network when you purchase by visiting our website and clicking on the banner on the left hand side of the main page. Another portion of the purchase price will go towards the exonerees portrayed in the "The Exonerated".

One of the persons portrayed in the film is Kerry Cook, who has worked with TMN. We named Kerry TMN's "Outstanding Lobbyist for 2001", after he testifed in two legislative committees in favor of a moratorium. One day, while waiting for his turn to testify to a committee, Kerry and TMN's Scott Cobb ran into Rep Brian McCall in the halls of the Texas Legislature near the vending machines and Kerry convinced Rep McCall to endorse a moratorium. McCall remains the only Republican in the Texas Legislature who has endorsed a moratorium on executions. Visit Kerry's official website.

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Friday, March 10, 2006

MtvU wants to turn Spring Breakers into action-makers

By Ashley Richards
The University Star

The typical college Spring Break has been painted in the minds of young people for more than a decade based on documentaries from MTV’s Cancun getaways. Venturing from that stereotype, mtvU, the network’s university-affiliated station, will be following students next week as they spend their break time in Austin at workshops during the third annual Anti-Death Penalty Alternative Spring Break, hosted by Texas Students Against the Death Penalty.

“(MTV is) interested in the Spring Break alternative,” said Hooman Hedayati, TSADP president. “They were interested to come to see what other students are doing rather than spending their time at the beaches. It’s going to be kind of like a reality show.”

From March 13 through 17, high school and college students are welcome to participate in the anti-death penalty event for free, Hedayati said. However, to make organizing the event easier, he asked that participants pre-register online.

“I think a lot of students are interested in doing things that make a difference in the world,” said Scott Cobb, Texas Moratorium Network president. “They’d like to have that fun, like at the beach, but they’d like to use their time for something more meaningful. We’ve noticed there’s a demand for such opportunities.”

If students require housing for the week, they can register to pay $25 for five nights in a residence hall on Guadalupe Street, across from the University of Texas campus.

“It’s just five days where we have activities about the death penalty, workshops on media relations, resolutions, student government and how to organize direct action,” Hedayati said.

Hedayati said his organization started several months ago, so the Texas Moratorium Network, which put on the event the first two years, decided to transfer sponsorship of the alternative Spring Break to TSADP.

“It’s definitely been a successful event,” Cobb said. “We started out having just Rice University students, just as an experiment, and we’ll probably have about 50 participants this year.”

Cobb said Hedayati attended the event last year while he was a senior in high school, and shortly after he helped create TSADP, a statewide organization with about 20 local branches at various colleges.

For the first time, participants in the anti-death penalty Spring Break will take a bus trip on March 15 to Huntsville where the group will protest the execution of Tommie Hughes, Hedayati said. While in Huntsville, participants will also visit the Texas Prison Museum and listen to a talk from the Rev. Carroll Picket, a former death row chaplain who witnessed 95 executions between 1982 and 1995.

Cobb said the trip to Huntsville and the talk with Picket is going to be an important experience. He said Picket will tell stories about his experiences being in the chamber during nearly 100 executions, where he heard last minute confessions and pleas.

They will also have a panel of murder victims’ family members who oppose the death penalty.

Hedayati said the panel includes Audrey Lamm, University of Oregon senior, whose mother was murdered when she was young. The killer was sentenced to death but shortly before the scheduled execution Lamm and her father protested and stopped it. The killer is now serving a life sentence and does not face execution.

Also on the panel will be Christina Lawson, whose father was murdered when she was a child, and in July 2005 her husband was executed. Hedayati said the unrelated events that exposed Lawson to death from both angles give her a unique perspective.

After the panel discussion, participants in the alternative Spring Break will join in lobbying against the death penalty for the day.

“We hope people will go back to school to start their own anti-death penalty group,” Hedayati said. “We’re trying to grow student participation on the issue.”

Hedayati said the organization is thinking of coordinating a mock execution to take place during the alternative Spring Break as well.

“It’s to get a sense of how it feels and the process of the people that get executed,” Hedayati said.

The Anti-Death Penalty Alternative Spring Break is open to students of all ages and majors.

“They don’t have to be against the death penalty, if they want to come just see our point of view,” Hedayati said.

He said a misperception of the alternative Spring Break is that it is full of scheduled workshops and activities with no free time. Hedayati said participants will have plenty of free time to meet new friends and see the sights of Austin.

“At the same time they’re having fun, they’re doing something positive,” Hedayati said. “Take action on one of the issues that’s important in Texas.”

Cobb said while there are other noble alternative Spring Break options, such as helping clean disaster areas struck by Hurricane Katrina or building with Habitat for Humanity, the Anti-Death Penalty Alternative Spring Break is the only human rights Spring Break event known to him.

“The historical parallel is what happened in the 1960s when people came down to the South during the Civil Rights Movement to help people register to vote, what they called freedom summers,” Cobb said. “I think this is very similar to what was going on back then, but here the issue is the death penalty.”

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Sunday, March 05, 2006

Anibal Garcia Rousseau - Did an innocent man just die on Texas Death Row?

Anibal Garcia Rousseau, #942 on Texas's death row for the past 15 years and 3 months, died this morning at 1:45 of complications of Hepatitis C.

An article in The Houston Chronicle from May 30, 2005 said that

Three of the 12 Harris County jurors who sentenced Anibal Rousseau to death 16 years ago say they would not have voted to convict him if they had known about ballistics evidence that supports his claim of innocence.

But the evidence, processed by the Houston Police Department firearms lab, was never made available to the defense by police or prosecutors, who included current District Attorney Chuck Rosenthal.

The three jurors expressed dismay that Rousseau is still in prison and has yet to receive a new trial, four years after defense attorneys first discovered the evidence during the appeal process.

"Oh, that's unbelievable," said Karl Holdaway, a 67-year-old former Marine. "I thought Anibal would have been released by now."

If the jury had known about the ballistics evidence, he added, "there would have been no conviction."

Larry Youngblood, 55, an "ultraconservative" who also served on the jury, had a similar reaction: "I thought it would be over with by now. If an execution date is ever set, I'll be climbing the walls of (the prison), because I am totally convinced he didn't do it."

Another juror, chemical plant worker Barry Carlblom, said the evidence "definitely would have had a bearing on my decision."

"I would think it would be automatic that they would have a retrial," said Carlblom, 60.

A fourth member of the jury said he at least would have wanted to know about the ballistics evidence during the trial, even if it didn't change his mind about Rousseau's guilt.

"It sounds like it could have been important," said Bert Rosenbaum, 52, who works for an investment company.

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Friday, March 03, 2006

3Bubbles chat about the death penalty

Now you can chat using the 3bubbles system here and on our website. If someone else is visiting the blog or website at the same time as you, then you can chat live or you can leave a comment and when other people come along, they can see your comments and make their own comments.

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