I’d like to tell you my story.
I’d never given much thought to the death penalty until October 2009. Our church formed a group, PAAD, in 2008 which stood for Presbyterian Action Against the Death penalty. In 2009 they sponsored a Day of Witness Against the Death Penalty and invited a speaker, the Reverend Carroll Pickett, a Presbyterian minister, to come from Huntsville, TX to speak to our congregation. He’d spent 15 years as the “death house” chaplain at “The Walls,” the Huntsville unit of the Texas prison system. There he’d ministered to 95 men before they were put to death by lethal injection. Some of the men were contrite and others angry, but without doubt, some of those men were innocent. He came to discuss his personal journey from being a death row advocate to a powerful opponent of the death penalty.
After hearing his testimonial I became a member of PAAD and an opponent of the death penalty. I began attending the monthly meetings and learned of another death penalty group which met monthly at the Peaslee Center. It was part of the Intercommunity Justice and Peace Center. Sister Alice Gerdeman was the leader and Kevin Werner was the Director of Ohioans to Stop Executions (OTSE).
In 2012 I received a letter addressed to me from an inmate on Ohio’s death row. His name was Tyrone Noling. He wrote that he’d spent the last 16 years on death row for a crime he didn’t commit. He explained the situation and how he was hoping to get a new trial. He closed by saying, “I’m trying to remain hopeful, ut it’s hard. It’s hard because no one is hearing my voice. And that’s why I’m writing you – because I think that if you choose to speak out on my behalf, your voice might be heard. I hope ou’ll read the materials I’ve enclosed about my case.” He included his attorney’s name and number. He has always maintained his innocence.
Long story short: I contacted his attorney and learned that the Ohio Innocence Project was also involved with his case. At that time there weren’t any actions PAAD could take. I began corresponding with Tyrone and eventually met him on May 4, 2015. Having read his case and watched his video I was convinced of his innocence and spending time with him only reinforced that conviction. I had been visiting him montly until February 14, 2020. Due to the pandemic and the restrictions I haven’t been able to see him. I write to him weekly and he calls me.
Presently, there is a strong grassroots effort forming. Some of the groups spearheading the movement include OTSE, Ohio Council of Churches, Faith Public Life Action, and Death Penalty Action. A large component will be faith communities. They believe THE TIME IS NOW to abolish the death penalty in Ohio. Recently, I spoke to the Council of the Presbytery and they voted to recommend signing the Ohio Faith Leader Letter at the May Presbytery meeting.
I’m seeking folks who would like to support this effort. I would love the opportunity to speak with you. Contact me, just mention my name (Patty Muhleman) in the note and it will be forwarded to me. I look forward to hearing from you and will be glad to share information on the movement, give you reasons why the death penalty should be abolished, why we think the time is now, or to answer any questions.