The following is offered by NEC member Kathy McGregor of Fayetteville, Arkansas. Kathy is a founder of The Prison Story Project and a fierce advocate for her brothers and sisters on death row in Arkansas. She will co-host our viewing of "On the Row: Stories from Arkansas's Death Row" this Saturday afternoon at 4:30 p.m. Eastern time. Please join us for this compelling work of advocacy, and a Q & A session afterwards with Kathy and our condemned brother, Kenneth Reams, who will join us from Death Row at Varner Prison.
There are two federal executions scheduled prior to the Zoom showing of On The Row on Saturday, September 26: William LeCroy is scheduled to be executed on September 22 and Christopher Vialva on September 24. I was particularly drawn to the death penalty case of Christopher Vialva. He arrived on death row in June 1999, just over a month after his 19th birthday.
I was drawn to Vialva's case because Kenneth Reams, one of the men our Prison Story Project served, has been on death row since the age of 18 for a crime he did not commit.
According to prominent cognitive neuropsychologist, Dr. Jason Chein, director of the Temple University Brain Reserarch and Imaging Center, the decision to execute Vialva is out of step with what science now knows about the workings of the adolescent brain.
Vialva was 19 years old when he and four co-defendants, aged 15, 16, 16, and 18, killed a Texas couple during a carjacking and robbery. In a September 17 commentary in Bloomberg Law, Dr. Chein writes that while these murders were clearly an abhorrent act, “to make a final judgment about a person’s life based on a crime he committed as a teenager is to ignore what the last 20-plus years of research has taught us about the developing brains of teenagers and adolescents.”
I have seen first-hand how age and maturity have changed Kenneth. He is now 46 years old and has spent every day of the past 26 years in solitary confinement, pushing back the walls of his cell to become a painter, a poet, non-profit founder and art event organizer – all while fighting for his life.
Kenneth will try to call in for the Q&A after the showing of On the Row if the prison will allow it. If not, he will attempt to call in through his lawyer. If that doesn’t work, he has given me permission to gather questions you may have for him to answer and post on the EPF website. So please bring any questions you may have about what it’s like to live in solitary confinement on death row for decades. You may read more of Kenneth’s story here. www.freekennethreams.org
More resources are collected below:
To add your name to the Action Network's petition:
Tell Congress: Abolish the Federal Death Penalty
Video Statement of Christopher Vialva https://tinyurl.com/yysmbd5o
Intercept Article: Trump Prepares to Execute Christopher Vialva for a Crime He Committed as a Teenager: https://tinyurl.com/y66kybv
Death Penalty Information Center News:
Psychologist Raises Concerns About Upcoming Federal Execution for Crimes Committed as a Teenager