Annual Meeting, Friday, November 10, 201

Iowans Against the Death Penalty held its Annual Meeting Friday, November 10, 2017 at the Des Moines Marriott followed by its 55th Anniversary Banquet and Governor Harold E. Hughes Award presentation.

Mark W. Bennett, Senior United States District Judge of the United States District Court for the Northern District of Iowa was the keynote speaker. Bennett is the only living judge in Iowa who has presided over two death penalty cases.The Governor Harold E. Hughes Award was presented to former Iowa Governor Robert D. Ray; former Iowa State Senator and Representative Jack Holveck; Representative David Johnson; the late Iowa State Senator and Representative Mary Lundby; Iowa State Senator Dave Mulder; former Iowa State Senator Maggie Tinsman; the ACLU of Iowa/ICLU; Tim McCarthy and the Iowa Catholic Conference; the late Paul Stanfield, lobbyist for the Iowa Catholic Conference and MICAH Corp.; the Iowa  Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church; Julie Fleming and the Office of the Iowa Attorney General; Judie Hoffman and the Iowa League of Women Voters; Lyle Krewson; and the late Jack Shaffer who lobbied for IADP and who also designed the IADP logo. 

The Hughes Award was established in 2003 to honor individuals and organizations for their advocacy work  against efforts to reinstate the death penalty. Prior award recipients include Charles E. Day and Marjorie Parris, Gov. Tom Vilsack, University of Iowa law professor David Baldus, Des Moines attorney James Benzoni, and the late Sen. John Ely. In 2012 the award was presented to Marty Ryan.


IADP to honor Marty Ryan with Gov. Hughes Award Nov. 10, 2012

Marty Ryan was honored by Iowans Against the Death Penalty Saturday, November 10, 2012 with the Governor Harold E. Hughes Award at the organization’s 50th anniversary dinner held at the Marriott Hotel in downtown Des Moines. The keynote address was delivered by Rob Warden, award winning legal affairs journalist and executive director of the Center on Wrongful Convictions, Bluhm Legal Clinic, Northwestern University School of Law .Iowa native Rev. Tricia Teater of the Illinois Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty was also spoke about her work as a spiritual director to death row inmates.

“As a lobbyist and activist Marty has worked vigilantly for more than two decades to prevent reinstatement of the death penalty in Iowa,” said IADP chair Dennis Barnum of Gowrie, Iowa.

Beginning with his work as the legislative director for the ACLU of Iowa for 18 years, Ryan helped to build the coalition organizations that comprise Iowans Against the Death Penalty. He keep track of lawmakers’ positions on the death penalty and monitored any legislative attempt to bring the death penalty back.

“Marty always kept his vote count close to the vest, knowing which legislators stood against reinstatement. His work at the State Capitol has been important in maintaining Iowa’s status as an abolitionist state,” said IADP board member Patti Brown.

Ryan has continued to keep a watchful eye on the issue at the Iowa Statehouse through his work with Fawkes-Lee & Ryan, a legislative and public policy advocacy firm founded in 2010 with his wife Stephanie Fawkes-Lee. The firm does contract lobbying legislative monitoring, legal research and writing, and publishes an on-line newsletter that focuses on legislative and public policy issues.

Ryan is a native of west-central Iowan. He was born in Carroll and raised in Vail, a town founded in 1867 by his great-grandfather. Following graduation from Kuemper Catholic High School in Carroll Ryan was drafted and served at Fort Lee in Virginia during the Vietnam War.

In addition to his work with the ACLU, Ryan has worked as a heavy equipment operator, a land surveyor’s assistant, a retail and wholesale meat cutter, dislocated worker grant administrator, a legal assistant, and a labor negotiator and organizer for UFCW Locals 440 & 271. Ryan has two adult daughters and three grandchildren.

Previous recipients of the Hughes award include former Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack, University of Iowa law professor David Baldus, Des Moines attorney James Benzoni, the late Sen. John Ely, Chuck Day and Marjorie Parris.

Death House Chaplain Speaks About the Wrongs of the Death Penalty

On October 18, 2009 Rev. Carroll Pickett, a retired Texas death row chaplain spoke to a gathering at First Christian Church in Des Moines. The event was co-sponsored by IADP and Amnesty International 277.

Rev. Carroll Pickett spent fifteen years as the death house chaplain at "The Walls," the Huntsville unit of the Texas prison system. There he ministered to 95 men before they were put to death by lethal injection. Rev. Pickett was featured in the award-winning documentary At the Death House Door and is the author of the acclaimed memoir, Within These Walls, an eloquent, unflinching look at his intensely personal exposure to capital punishment. This firsthand experience gave him unique insight to write an impassioned statement on the realities of capital punishment in America and about the dark world of prison society. Rev. Pickett is today an outspoken anti-death penalty activist. He is retired from the Department of Corrections but still preaches near Huntsville, Texas.

On day following his IADP/AI appearance, Rev. Pickett spent 90 minutes in a lively debate of the death penalty with Jan Mickelson on his WHO radio call in show. While not fully "converting" Mr. Mickelson, Rev. Pickett did get him to agree that executing innocent people was not acceptable. Following the interview, Mr. Mickelson was interested enough in the topic to ask for and obtain a copy of Rev. Pickett’s book Within These Walls and a copy of the video "At the Death House Door."

Following his radio appearance, Rev. Pickett was the guest speaker for three senior and two sophomore religion classes at Dowling Catholic High School in West Des Moines. He said that he really enjoyed his interactions with the students. One of the more compelling things he did was to ask how many in his audience were seventeen. After seeing the hands go up, Rev. Pickett then proceeded to tell the classes that the second person he accompanied to the death chamber was a young man who committed his crime at age seventeen, but that the US Supreme Court has since outlawed the death penalty for juveniles. This appeared to make the topic much more relevant and real to the young people listening to his presentation.

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IADP Marks 45th Anniversary

IADP marked the organization's 45th anniversary October 27, 2007 with an award banquet at the Catholic Pastoral Center in Des Moines. Dennis Fritz, author of Journey Toward Justice. Exonerated from a life-sentence for a rape and murder he did not commit, Fritz shared his story - made famous by John Grisham in The Innocent Man - with more than 150 people at the IADP banquet and also with groups at the University of Iowa College of Law, the Drake
University Law School, St. Catherine of Sienna Catholic Student Center in Des Moines and at the Coralville and West Des Moines Barnes and Noble

The event honored four individuals with the second Gov Harold E. Hughes Award for their advocacy work in helping maintain Iowa’s position as a non-death penalty state. The recipients were Gov. Tom Vilsack, University of Iowa law professor David Baldus, Des Moines attorney James Benzoni, and the late Sen. John Ely.

“Each of these individuals has worked valiantly to keep Iowa from reinstating the death penalty and they deserve our recognition,” said IADP president, Dennis Barnum of Gowrie, Iowa.

 In 1995 after a reinstatement bill had passed in the Iowa House, then Sen. Tom Vilsack was a voice of clarity as the Iowa Senate debated the death penalty issue. The measure was resoundingly defeated. During his eight years as governor, Vilsack’s position on reinstating the death penalty in Iowa helped take the sails out of several ill-fated attempts by a handful of legislators who, predictably, would introduce such legislation.

 University of Iowa Law School Professor David Baldus has conducted research on racial disparity in death penalty sentencing cases. His work has received national acclaim.  Working with George Woodworth, Baldus examined the death penalty rates among all death eligible defendants in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania between the years of 1983 and 1993. The results of their study proved that the odds of receiving the death penalty in Philadelphia increased by 38 percent when the accused was black. With Woodworth and Charles Pulaski, he is co-author of Equal Justice and the Death Penalty: A Legal and Empirical Analysis. 

 Attorney James Benzoni, who has specialized in immigration law, has been a long-time IADP supporter. In 1995 he provided testimony in the Iowa House of Representatives as a death penalty bill was being considered. Benzoni, who graduated magna cum laude from St. Meinard's College and who is a member of the Order of the Coif and graduated with honors from Drake University Law School, was arrested and charged with murder in Oklahoma in 1986. He credits his family and their ability to hire a private detective who uncovered evidence of his innocence, and recognizes that not everyone who is wrongfully accused of a crime has the same resources he did. His career path has been largely influenced by his experience.

Former State Rep. and Sen. John Ely was a civil libertarian and dedicated humanitarian. He served two terms in the Iowa House and the Iowa Senate beginning in 1961. A redistricting plan — that he voted for — left him without a district in 1969.

During his tenure, he fought to abolish the death penalty and even witnessed the last execution by hanging to ever occur in Iowa—that of Victor Feguer in 1963. “It was done on the Ides of March,” Ely said. “I was able to witness it because of a technicality in the law which said that any legislator can be admitted to a prison facility at any time. I used that ‘loophole’ to get in. I wanted to see it firsthand to know what I was going to be fighting against.”

 John considered his initiatives to abolish of the death penalty in 1965, to pass the Iowa Civil Rights Act of 1965, and the Open Housing Law in 1967 to be his greatest achievements as a legislator. In addition, he also sponsored the Iowa Civil Rights Act of 1965, and he was instrumental in establishing the Iowa Civil Rights Commission. He was co-leader of the Moratorium March of 1969.

Gov. Vilsack receives the IADP Gov. Harold E. Hughes Award from Marty Ryan, ACLU of Iowa legislative director.

University of Iowa law professor David Baldus accepts the IADP Gov. Harold E. Hughes Award from former law student George Appleby of Des Moines, right, and IADP president Dennis Barnum, left.

Peggy Ely accepts the IADP Gov. Harold E. Hughes Award for her late husband, former State Rep. and Sen. John Ely.

Civil rights advocate and Des Moines attorney Jim Benzoni accepts the IADP Gov. Harold E. Hughes award from former Iowa State Representative Ed. Fallon, right, and IADP president Dennis Barnum of Gowrie, left.


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