I am cycling 1km for every person executed in the US since 1976 to raise money to travel to Alabama to continue anti-death penalty research.
by Ella Kennedy in Bristol, Bristol City, United Kingdom
From May 18th to June 5th I will be cycling 1543km through England, Holland, and Germany - that's 1km for every person executed in the US since 1976, when the death penalty was reintroduced in the US.
I am doing this to raise money to to travel to Birmingham, Alabama this summer to continue work on the Post Mortem Project alongside US death row defence attorney Clive Stafford Smith. The money will go towards my flights, accommodation, and living costs.
With the generous support of human rights charities Humanade and 3DC, I have secured 5 to 1 match funding. This means that if you donate £5, I will get £25, if you donate £20, I will get £100 etc. up to a total of £2,500! So even a small donation goes a long way!
Follow my Instagram account @1543kmtojustice to see my (much needed!) training process and documentation of the journey itself.
The Post Mortem Project
The Post Mortem Project aims to expose the flaws of capital justice by identifying cases where individuals have been wrongly executed in the US. The lawyers and students working on this project are currently looking into 185 cases of potential wrongful execution, hoping to give the men and women who have lost their lives the hearing in the court of public opinion that they were denied in the courts of law.
By amassing a wealth of research into these cases, we hope to demonstrate the inherent danger in administering the ultimate punishment. This research will be used to make documentaries and podcasts about some of the cases to raise awareness of the very real risk of wrongful execution. The project as a whole will support the ongoing fight to abolish the death penalty in the US.
In Alabama, I will be working on a number of cases, including that of Freddie Wright. Freddie was a black man convicted and ultimately executed for the deaths of two white shop-owners during a robbery in 1977. Evidence pointing to an alternative suspect was suppressed by the State, only part of Freddie's alibi was presented at trial, and save for false and misleading ballistics "evidence", there was no physical evidence linking Freddie to the crime.
Initially, a mixed race jury voted 11-1 not guilty. At the re-trial, an all white jury voted guilty and for death. Since the trial, at least 2 of the 3 witnesses who testified against Freddie have recanted their testimonies. Despite significant questions over the safety of his conviction, Freddie was executed in 2000.
In Alabama, I will conduct further research into Freddie's case and others: locating court documents; interviewing jurors, judges, police, witnesses, alternative suspects - anyone who might have information about the case; trawling through news archives; and compiling all the evidence into case files.
The death penalty
The death penalty - more broadly - is a stain on a number of legal systems around the world, including the US. It has no rightful place in any society for a myriad of reasons, including that:
For these reasons, I am strongly opposed to the death penalty and wholeheartedly support the mission of the Post Mortem Project.
I am currently completing the Bar Training Course, having graduated from the University of Bristol with a law degree in 2021. I have particular interests in human rights, social justice and public law.
I have been working with Clive Stafford Smith on various projects, including the Post Mortem Project, since summer 2021.