First death-row inmate exonerated via DNA evidence will keynote Saturday rally in Germantown

A newly formed civil-rights coalition has a simple message for Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams: End death-penalty prosecutions in the city.

On Saturday, the Philadelphia Moratorium Campaign will officially launch what it expects to be a long-term effort to achieve its goal.

The coalition, in conjunction with Witness to Innocence, a city based non-profit dedicated to abolishing the death penalty, will host a rally at First United Methodist Church of Germantown.

“It’s very easy for an innocent person to end up on death row and then we as the public, basically, are guilty of executing them,” said Ray Torres, a longtime congregant at FUMCOG, which is a member of the campaign. “It seems pretty cruel and unusual.”

Why he’s advocating

For the last decade, Torres has visited a death-row inmate at Graterford Prison, a state correctional facility about an hour outside of the city.

He said the man, whose sentence has since been changed to life, struggles with symptoms consistent with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder resulting from years of isolation.

“This is hopefully one where [Williams] can use his budget for more constructive things,” said Torres.

Keynote speaker

Kirk Bloodsworth, the first U.S. death row prisoner exonerated by DNA evidence, will be the keynote speaker at the rally, which will take place at FUMCOG, at 2 p.m. Saturday.

David Love, executive director of Witness to Innocence, will also give remarks along with a collection of coalition members.

“It’s a long-term campaign, so this is just the kickoff to get it started,” said Torres.

District Attorney’s Office spokeswoman Tasha Jamerson declined to comment on the group’s request or rally when contacted Friday morning.

“It’s the law in Pennsylvania, and we uphold the law,” she said.

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