Speaker tours

2014: Ray Krone in Germany

Ray Krone was sentenced to death for murder in the US state of Arizona in 1992, based primarily on an “expert opinion” that dental impressions found on the victim would match his dentition.

Three years later, he received a new trial, but he was again found guilty and sentenced to life in prison.

In 2002, Ray Krone was released from prison after a DNA test revealed he was not the perpetrator. He is thus the 98th inmate sentenced to death who had to be rehabilitated in the U.S. because he was subsequently proven innocent.

Since his return to life, he has told his story again and again – from his initial trust in the U.S. justice system to his current fight for the abolition of the death penalty in the United States.

The German Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty was able to get Ray Krone for a one-week visit in Germany – in connection with the International Human Rights Day on December 10, 2014.

Ray Krone spent this day in Leipzig and first opened a newly created exhibition of the German Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty on the topic at the university there:

In the evening, Ray Krone then recounted his experiences to around one hundred interested guests in a large lecture hall at the university in Leipzig.

On the evening of December 11, 2014, Ray Krone told his story to senior high school students at the Schloss Hansenberg boarding school in Johannisberg in the Rheingau region. 30 participants of the approximately 200 high school students were registered; however, in the end more than 80 interested people came, so that the room was almost bursting at the seams. And the students continued to ask Ray Krone many questions well beyond the scheduled time before thanking him for the moving evening.

On the morning of December 12, 2014, Ray Krone again visited a school, this time 35 students from the 9th grade of Taunusstein High School, whose feedback was also very positive because they found their guest extremely interesting and authentic.

Finally, on the evening of December 12, 2014, the last event with Ray Krone followed in Wiesbaden, which was held in cooperation with a local Amnesty International group.

Ray Krone as one of meanwhile more than 180 innocent people wrongly sentenced to death in the USA who got their freedom back, belongs to the organization “Witness to Innocence”.

The German Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty is against the death penalty in every case, not only in cases of innocence or reasonable doubt about the guilt of the convicted. We also clearly oppose the death penalty for guilty offenders. However, on the one hand, the obvious defectiveness of the judicial systems is a clear argument against the death penalty; on the other hand, unfortunately, it is only the innocent who can speak about their experiences as those affected…

2009: “Not in Our Name!” – Journey of Hope tour

What do Bill Pelke, Terri Steinberg and Ray Krone have in common? They all have a story to tell that is moving. One of love, death, hate and forgiveness. They have told it, their story. 32 times, all over Germany. Between April 28 and May 16, 2009, almost 5,000 people listened live. When Ray Krone spoke on Kerner TV, about 1.9 million people watched him. The Germany tour of the “Journey of Hope”, organized by the German Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty in cooperation with organizations such as local Amnesty groups and various schools, was a great success!

Bill Pelke, Terri Steinberg, Johannes B. Kerner, Ray Krone

Bill Pelke’s grandmother was murdered by four underage girls in May 1985. The ringleader, Paula Cooper, was sentenced to death by electric chair in Indiana. Pelke initially supports the sentence, but then transforms into a dedicated opponent of the death penalty. Thanks to his tireless efforts, in 1989, after an international campaign and the advocacy of Pope John Paul II, Paula’s sentence was successfully commuted to a prison term. Pelke has visited over 40 states and 10 countries with the Journey of Hope and has told his story over 5000 times.

Terri Steinberg’s son, Justin Wolfe, was sentenced to death in Virginia. Evidence pointed to Justin’s innocence, but he still had to fight for his life and freedom in court at the time of the tour. After Justin’s conviction, Steinberg began campaigning against the death penalty.

One Journey of Hope representative who particularly moved minds was Ray Krone. Ray became the 98th person to be released from prison as an innocent convict in April 2002 after being sentenced to death. He spent ten years in prison for the murder of a bartender, two of them on Arizona’s death row. Thanks to DNA evidence, he was exonerated.

Ray Krone, Terri Steinberg, Bill Pelke

The list of cities the three visited in Germany in May 2009 to tell their story is long. It begins in Göttingen and leads to Hamburg, Kirchheimbolanden, Neustadt/Weinstraße, Wiesbaden, Heidelberg, Freiburg, Augsburg, Munich, Magdeburg and Potsdam.

2006 and 2007: Germany tours with Juan Melendez

In 2004, the German Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty had the idea to bring an innocent person released from death row to Germany for a speaking tour. The idea was born not to do this on our own, but together with other human rights organizations, and at the same time to make clear that all these organizations form a common front against the death penalty.

Juan Melendez

In January 2006, the time had finally come: the first speaker tour began with Juan Melendez, a man who served almost 18 years innocently on Florida’s death row and who – as he himself says – was able to prove his innocence not “because of the system, but in spite of it” and is now a free man.

In total, the tour had 19 events and about 2800 people heard Melendez’s story. In addition to the events, media coverage was of course very important, making the story accessible to others. For example, the online edition of Der Spiegel reported on Juan Melendez’s ordeal with the article “I am a survivor“.

From June 3 to 26, 2007, the second speaker tour with Juan Melendez, who was innocently released from death row after almost 18 years, ran through Germany.

The tour was once again a joint effort of various human rights organizations, with the tour coordination itself resting with members of the German Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty.

Of the total of 28 events, the German Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty organized one event alone and was co-organizer of four other events.

In total, the tour had about 4000 spectators. In addition to these, Juan Melendez could be seen by about 2 million people in the Kerner show.