Tenth Annual Thurgood Marshall Awards Announced


  Author Michael Meltsner Offers Keynote Remarks During Awards Honoring Excellence in Coverage of Capital Punishment

Pictured from left to right: DPIC Executive Director,
Victor Teich, Jacqui Lofaro, and Renny Cushing
During its 10th Annual Thurgood Marshall Journalism Awards at the National Press Club in Washington, DC, the Death Penalty Information Center (DPIC) honored Jacqui Lofaro and Victor Teich of Justice Productions for their documentary “The Empty Chair,” as well as reporter Robert Nelson of the Phoenix New Times for his coverage of death row exoneree Ray Krone. The awards honor journalists who have made exceptional contributions to the understanding of problems associated with capital punishment.

Lofaro and Teich received this year’s Award for Excellence in Broadcast Journalism. Their documentary, “The Empty Chair,” aired last year on the Hallmark Channel’s World of Faith and Values television network. This documentary tells the story of murder victims’ families confronting the loss of their loved ones and explores whether the death penalty can address their pain. The film features the stories of Sue Norton, whose step-parents were murdered by a man she later forgave and befriended, and Renny Cushing, who chose to lobby for victims’ rights and against the death penalty after his father was murdered. It also features Suse and Peter Lowenstein, whose 21-year-old son was among the victims of the terrorist plane bombing over Lockerbie, Scotland, and tells the story of Susan Grove Ramunda, who has worked tirelessly to preserve the death penalty following her daughter’s murder. In addition to eloquently telling the stories of these four families, Lofaro and Teich intertwine the experiences of others who support the death penalty and who oppose capital punishment, including former death row warden Donald Cabana and Sister Helen Prejean. Lofaro and Teich received their award from Cushing, who now leads Murder Victims’ Families for Human Rights

Richard Dieter, Ray Krone, and Robert Nelson
Robert Nelson of the Phoenix New Times received this year’s Award for Excellence in Print Journalism. Nelson’s article “About Face” profiled the case of Ray Krone, who was wrongly convicted and sentenced to death in Arizona before he was freed based on DNA evidence. The piece explored the state’s efforts to keep Krone behind bars, as well as Krone’s life after his exoneration. Nelson received his award from Krone, who now serves as director of communications and trainings for Witness to Innocence, an organization spearheaded by former death row prisoners who have been exonerated and released from death rows across the United States and who are now actively engaged in the struggle to end the death penalty.

Acclaimed author and civil rights attorney Michael Meltsner offered keynote remarks during the awards event. Meltsner is a law professor at Northeastern Law School in Boston and worked with the late Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall at the NAACP Legal Defense Fund. His latest book, “The Making of a Civil Rights Lawyer,” includes an examination of death penalty developments since the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Gregg v. Georgia, an historic ruling that upheld newly crafted death penalty statutes and signaled the beginning of the modern era of capital punishment. This year marks the 30th anniversary of the Gregg decision. Meltsner was introduced by Diann Rust-Tierney, a member of DPIC’s Board of Directors and the Executive Director of the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty.
Richard Dieter and Michael Meltsner

The Thurgood Marshall Journalism Awards are named in honor of the late Supreme Court Justice who believed that people would see the death penalty in a new light once they understood how it works in practice. “The question with which we must deal,” Justice Marshall wrote, “is not whether a substantial proportion of American citizens would today, if polled, opine that capital punishment is barbarously cruel, but whether they would find it to be so in light of all information presently available.”

The distinguished judges for this year’s Awards were Robert Johnson, a Professor at American University, and Virginia Sloan, President of The Constitution Project.

Among the previous winners of the Thurgood Marshall Journalism Awards are the producers of the television series “The Practice,” ABC-TV’s “Nightline,” documentary film-markers Liz Garbus, Jonathan Stack, Katy Chevigny and Kirsten Johnson, and writers for The Tennessean, the Richmond Times-Dispatch, the Dallas Morning News, the Birmingham News, and the New York Times Magazine.

Entries for next year’s awards must be published or produced in 2006 and should be submitted to the Death Penalty Information Center by January 31, 2007.

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