“Enough of a flawed system that disproportionately targets minorities; that cannot prevent the killing of innocents; that doesn’t have any impact on crime rates, that is a colossal waste of taxpayer money, and most of all a system that delivers neither justice nor closure,” said Sir Richard Branson, in a speech at the Death Penalty Focus 25th Annual Awards Dinner last week.
DPF awarded Sir Richard its Abolition Award for his lifelong opposition to the death penalty, and his commitment to the efforts to abolish it in the United States. In his acceptance speech, he endorsed the Justice That Works Act of 2016, which repeals the death penalty in California and replaces it with a sentence of life without parole, and has qualified for the November ballot. The initiative is sponsored by Taxpayers for Sentencing Reform, and is spearheaded by our president Mike Farrell, who is on leave from DPF to work on the campaign.
“Ending the death penalty in California will be a signal no one can ignore,” Sir Richard said when he accepted his award. “It means that the people of America’s most populous state have had enough.”
Dolores Huerta, who received the DPF Humanitarian Award, and Jackson Browne, who was presented with the DPF Justice in the Arts and Media Award, both spoke of their commitment to seeing the death penalty abolished not just in California in November, but in the rest of the United States as well.
And Joan Baez, before presenting Jackson Browne with his award, thrilled the hundreds of DPF supporters in the room by singing, a cappella, a verse of the spiritual “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot.”
DPF was proud to welcome almost 20 exonerees. Ten of them had been sentenced to die before being found innocent and released from death row. The others had been sentenced to life before proving their innocence. Between them they served 399 years in prison for crimes they did not commit.
The evening, DPF’s biggest fundraising event of the year, was held at the historic Beverly Hilton in Los Angeles, and drew almost 350 guests, all committed to one goal: abolishing the death penalty in the United States.