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An Indiana group opposed to the death penalty will host two Columbus events involving the mother of a death-row inmate.
Wednesday’s programs in Columbus will feature Terri Steinberg, who fought for nearly a decade to get her son, Justin Wolfe, off death row.
Wolfe was sentenced to death for murder at age 20 and was placed on Virginia’s death row in 2002. Wolfe’s sentence was vacated in 2011, however, and he is scheduled to receive a new trial.
Indiana Abolition Coalition invites the public to both local events Wednesday:
A discussion and brown bag lunch at noon Wednesday in Room CC170 at IUPUC.
A presentation at the Columbus Learning Center auditorium at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday.
The organization is planning similar events in other Indiana cities this week, including Bloomington, Madison and Evansville.
“The purpose is to let people know the stories of people who are personally affected by the death penalty,” said Donna Keogh of Columbus, secretary of the Coalition’s board of directors. The seven-member board also includes a second Columbus resident, Sarah Grey.
Keogh said speakers at the event will include family members of people who are on death row, family members of murder victims, family members of people who have been executed and people who served on death row but were exonerated.
Keogh has been exchanging letters with a death-row inmate in Terre Haute for about a decade. She made the connection through a Christmas tradition at St. Bartholomew Catholic Church in Columbus.
Congregants chose an ornament from a Giving Tree, which featured wishes of the children of people on death row. Congregants then purchase gifts and send them to the family in the name of the inmate.
From violence to healing
What: The Journey of Hope … from Violence to Healing, a speaking tour featuring people affected by the death penalty
Featured speaker: Terri Steinberg, whose son was placed on Virginia’s death row in 2002
Organizer: Indiana Abolition Coalition
Goal: Abolition of the death penalty in Indiana and the United States
Information: indianaabolition.org, firstname.lastname@example.org or journeyofhope.org/indiana-tour
After Keogh fulfilled such a wish, she received a letter of thanks from the children’s father, who is serving on death row in Terre Haute. She wrote back, and he responded again, and the two have been writing since.
Keogh said that she hopes many people attend the events so that they can learn more about people who have been affected by the death penalty.
Putting human faces to the often-abstract discussion can help people better understand the negative effects of the death penalty, Keogh said.
IAC Acting President Donna Parlette said that the events also serve to combat myths about the death penalty by showing studies that indicate the death penalty does not work as a deterrent, costs more than life imprisonment and does not provide closure to many families of murder victims.
“They find more help in healing and forgiveness,” Parlette said.
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