An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind.  - Gandhi

2012 OK-CADP Annual Dinner held, abolitionist awards presented

Richard Dieter, Director of Death Penalty Information Center and award honorees featured at OK-CADP Annual Dinner

Oklahoma City – The Oklahoma Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty (OK-CADP) held its 21st Annual Membership and Awards Dinner at the Conner Center of the Cathedral of Our Lady of Perpetual Help, on Saturday, April 21, in Oklahoma City. The event featured a cocktail reception and buffet dinner.

The Coalition is committed to the abolition of the death penalty in Oklahoma. Emcees for the evening were OK-CADP Co-Chairs Lydia Gill Polley and Kenny Fikes.

Bishop-Elect Edward J. Weisenburger was honored with the “Lifetime Abolitionist ” award for his outstanding support of work toward repealing the death penalty in Oklahoma. As a dedicated OK-CADP advocate, he supported the coalition’s effort through presentations and hosting of the annual dinner. Weisenburger was the Vicar General of the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City and Rector of Our Lady of Perpetual Help Cathedral in Oklahoma City until February 2012. Weisenburger was recently appointed to the Diocese of Salina, Kansas.

OK-CADP Board member and trial lawyer for the Capital Trial Division of the Oklahoma Indigent Defense System, Jim Rowan, presented Weisenburger’s award to Reverend Timothy Luschen, pastor of St. Charles Parish, on Wesenburger’s behalf.

Bud Welch, who lost his daughter Julie in the 1995 bombing of the Oklahoma City Murray Building, is an OK-CADP board member and President National Board of Murder Victims Families for Human Rights. Welch introduced the evening’s keynote speaker, Richard C. Dieter, Executive Director of the Death Penalty Information Center (DPIC), located in Washington, DC. The Center is a non-profit organization serving the public and the media with analysis and information on issues concerning capital punishment.

With Connecticut becoming the 17th state to repeal the life ending punishment just this month, Dieter spoke of a large ship making a slow turn going away from the death penalty trend. He stated that there has been no evidence found to prove that the death penalty is a deterrent of any kind.

“While Oklahoma leads the country in per capita executions, many states are reconsidering the use of the death penalty,” said Dieter. “Across the country, death sentences have dropped by almost 75% since the mid-1990s, and executions have declined by half. Increasingly, the death penalty is being seen as an expensive program that is unfairly applied, and risks executing the innocent. The sentence of life without parole is becoming the preferred alternative.”

An advocate for issues related to human rights and the death penalty, Dieter worked as the director of the Community for Creative Nonviolence’s pre-trial release program. He was the founder of the Alderson Hospitality House for visitors to the women’s federal prison in Alderson, West Virginia, and the founder of the Quixote Center’s death penalty project.

Dieter has testified about the death penalty before numerous state legislatures and has prepared reports for the U.S. House Judiciary Subcommittee on Civil and Constitutional Rights. He has authored articles on the death penalty for magazines and scholarly journals. He has been an invited speaker at international events in Taiwan, Tokyo, Paris, London, and Beijing and recently testified at the European Parliament in Brussels. Dieter serves as vice-president of the board of directors of Human Rights USA.

An attorney and native of New York City, Dieter received his undergraduate degree in mathematics from the University of Notre Dame and a master’s degree from the Ohio State University. He graduated cum laude from the Georgetown University Law Center in Washington, DC. At Georgetown, he was one of the University’s first Public Interest Law Scholars and served as an editor of the Georgetown Journal of Legal Ethics. He is a member of the Maryland Bar, the Bar of the District of Columbia, and the Bar of the U. S. Supreme Court, and serves as an Adjunct Professor at the Catholic University School of Law, where he teaches a seminar on the death penalty.

Dieter received the Death Penalty Focus’s 2010 Abolition Award “for exemplary leadership and unprecedented commitment to fostering human rights and advancing public awareness about the fundamental injustice of the death penalty.

Richard Dieter is available by phone to members of the press who cannot make the reception. Call 301-943-1402 to speak with Mr. Dieter or to schedule an interview.

A traditional feature of each year’s Membership & Awards Dinner, the names of the 57 people executed in the U.S. during the calendar year 2011 through April 20, 2012, were read aloud by Charles “Chip” Gill and Ben Jones, who has been commuted from death, to life, to freedom.

The Phil Wahl Abolitionist of the Year Award for 2012 was bestowed to OK-CADP Co-Chair Lydia Gill Polley by board member Becky Van Pool, former OK-CADP Vice-Chair and the 21sat Annual Committee Convener. Polley was clearly surprised by the unexpected award.

“The board voted unanimously to honor Lydia with this award,” said Van Pool. This award was presented to Lydia for her tireless and dedicated work toward repealing the death penalty.

An adult educator by profession, Polley has conducted local, regional, state and national training events in many states and in Costa Rica. She has been a lifelong advocate of “peace and justice for all.” She is a renowned speaker and workshop facilitator and attracts “repeat participants” who have proclaimed her sessions as “the most rewarding you’ve ever been a part of because she creatively involves all participants in a way that will reward them with new insights, enhanced skills and renewed enthusiasm. She has worked with the OK-CADP since 2000 and has served as OK-CADP’s Chair, co-Chair, and Secretary.

Dr. Rita Newton delivered the invocation and the benediction was given by Reverend Timothy Luschen.

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