Amnesty International Group 22 Pasadena/Caltech News
Volume XXI Number 8, August 2013


Thursday, August 22, 7:30 PM. Monthly 
Meeting. We meet at the Caltech Y, Tyson 
House, 505 S. Wilson Ave., Pasadena. (This is 
just south of the corner with San Pasqual. 
Signs will be posted.) We will be planning our 
activities for the coming months. Please join 
us! Refreshments provided.

Tuesday, September 10, 7:30 PM.  Letter 
writing meeting at Caltech Athenaeum, corner 
of Hill and California in Pasadena. This 
informal gathering is a great way for 
newcomers to get acquainted with Amnesty!   

Sunday, September 15, 6:30 PM.  Rights 
Readers Human Rights Book Discussion 
group. This month we read "Behind the 
Beautiful Forevers" by Katherine Boo.


Hi All

Well we are in the throes of summer.  School 
started last week with a bang as those of us in 
the nursing office were dispatched to middle 
schools to follow up on students coming to 
school without the required Tdap vaccine for 7th 
grade entry.

Rob and I got to spend a week in Seattle with 
the cousins on my dad's side celebrating 3 
birthdays (including my own!) the last week of 
July.  I had never been there before.  The weather 
was great - no rain - and there is so much to see 
and do.

I'm looking forward to reading September's book 
selection.  It has gotten great reviews.

The violence in Egypt has escalated, with recent 
clashes between Morsi supporters and the 
security forces resulting in over 600 dead and 
hundreds wounded.  Find the latest info and 
actions at the AIUSA website:

Laura Brown has had a letter about Edward 
Snowden published in the LA Times: here's the 

Con Carino,

Human Rights Book Discussion Group

Keep up with Rights Readers at

Next Rights Readers meeting:

Sunday, September 15, 6:30 pm 
"Behind the Beautiful Forevers" by Katherine Boo
Vroman's Bookstore
695 E. Colorado, Pasadena

Author Bio
 Katherine Boo is a staff writer at The New 
Yorker and a former reporter and editor for The 
Washington Post. She learned to report at the 
alternative weekly, Washington City Paper, after 
which she worked as a writer and co-editor of 
The Washington Monthly magazine. Over the 
years, her reporting from disadvantaged 
communities has been awarded a Pulitzer Prize, 
a MacArthur "Genius" grant, and a National 
Magazine Award for Feature Writing. For the 
last decade, she has divided her time between 
the United States and India, the birthplace of 
her husband, Sunil Khilnani. This is her first 


Unnati Tripathi started working for Katherine 
as a translator and researcher in April 2008. 
Three and a half years later, Unnati had become 
Katherine's trusted co-investigator and critical 
interlocutor, helping to bring the stories of 
Annawadi residents to the page. Over those years, 
she also took many photographs of a changing slum. 
Some of the more recent photos are on this website.

Unnati has an M.A. in sociology from the 
University of Mumbai and is currently helping 
the Indian Association for Women's Studies 
establish a digital archive. Previously, she 
provided research and editing assistance on a 
short documentary film, 'Do Rafeeq Ek Chai,' 
directed by Rafeeq Ellias, and wrote a report on 
madrasas in Mumbai for the Maharashtra State 
Minorities Commission under the supervision of 
Dr. Ranu Jain. An essay of her own, 'The 
Precinct as Workspace: Snippets from 
Conversations,' was published in Zero Point 
Bombay: In and Around Horniman Circle, a 
2008 anthology edited by Kamala Ganesh, Usha 
Thakkar and Gita Chadha. Since 2009, she's 
also been filming the annual Mahim fair in 
Mumbai. Her current intent is to make a short 
documentary on the religious significance and 
raucous beauty of the fair, and how it subtly 
illuminates the tensions and possibilities of the 

Mrinmayee Ranade was the first translator to 
work regularly on this project. In the first half of 
2008, she joined Katherine in Annawadi and 
several other slums, helping to draw out 
individuals' stories with sensitivity and 
precision and remaining unflappable even in 
mob scenes. Her deepest sensitivity was to the 
domestic lives and choices of women, 
particularly those who were balancing work and 
family responsibilities, as Mrin herself does. 
Fittingly, she is now the editor of Madhurima, a 
weekly women's supplement for the Bhaskar 
Group's Divya Marathi newspaper.
Mrin earned her B.A. degree from the University 
of Mumbai and previously worked as a reporter 
and editor for many English- and Marathi-
language publications, among them the Indian 
Express, Navashakti, Maharashtra Times, and 
Times of India. As a researcher and translator, 
she's assisted journalists from the BBC, The 
National Geographic, The Guardian and 
elsewhere. She's also taught reporting and 
editing at Wilson College, V.G. Kelkar College, 
and Rai University.

Three other women also helped Katherine with 
translation in the first half of 2008. Kavita 
Mishra, an undergraduate at the University of 
Mumbai, helped interview residents of several 
slums in between the obligations of her 
coursework. Vijaya Chauhan, a veteran 
educationist, spent a single day at Annawadi 
and a second day watching Annawadi 
videotapes, and in that brief time taught 
Katherine boatloads. Shobha Murthy was an 
equally generous teacher when she took time 
from her real work, running educational 
programs for low-income Navi Mumbai children, 
to help Katherine interview parents and 


In her debut, Pulitzer Prize-winning New Yorker 
staff writer Boo creates an intimate, 
unforgettable portrait of India's urban poor.
Mumbai's sparkling new airport and 
surrounding luxury hotels welcome visitors to 
the globalized, privatized, competitive India. 
Across the highway, on top of tons of garbage 
and next to a vast pool of sewage, lies the slum 
of Annawadi, one of many such places that 
house the millions of poor of Mumbai. For more 
than three years, Boo lived among and learned 
from the residents, observing their struggles and 
quarrels, listening to their dreams and despair, 
recording it all. She came away with a detailed 
portrait of individuals daring to aspire but too 
often denied a chance - their lives viewed as an 
embarrassment to the modernized wealthy. The 
author poignantly details these many lives: 
Abdul, a quiet buyer of recyclable trash who 
wished for nothing more than what he had; 
Zehrunisa, Abdul's mother, a Muslim matriarch 
among hostile Hindu neighbors; Asha, the 
ambitious slum leader who used her connections 
and body in a vain attempt to escape from 
Annawadi; Manju, her beautiful, intelligent 
daughter whose hopes lay in the new India of 
opportunity; Sunil, the master scavenger, a little 
boy who would not grow; Meena, who drank rat 
poison rather than become a teenage bride in a 
remote village; Kalu, the charming garbage thief 
who was murdered and left by the side of the 
road. Boo brilliantly brings to life the residents 
of Annawadi, allowing the reader to know them 
and admire the fierce intelligence that allows 
them to survive in a world not made for them.

The best book yet written on India in the throes 
of a brutal transition.

Gao Zhisheng

by Joyce Wolf

Group 22's August action for imprisoned human 
rights lawyer Gao Zhisheng, our adopted 
prisoner of conscience, was a bit unusual and 
quite enjoyable. We joined Amnesty groups 
around the world to support and encourage his 
family by sending birthday greetings to his son 
Gao Tianyu, who will be ten years old on 
August 27. 

The action was initiated by Amnesty's Hong 
Kong office and brought to our attention by 
AIUSA's China country specialist. It was 
suggested that Gao Tianyu would especially like 
to receive cards from children. Huge thank-you's 
to Group 22's kid contingent (and their parents)! 
Noor, James and Lucas Romans worked at home 
and created their own colorful card with 
messages and a photo of themselves. Sylvia and 
Amber and their mom Wen made cards and 
origami and wrote greetings to Tianyu in 

It's not too late to participate in this action! 

A documentary film, Transcending Fear: The 
Story of Gao Zhisheng, was screened in New 
York on Aug 14. The trailer includes brief clips 
of Tianyu and his sister.
It's not on Netflix --we'll have to find out how 
we can get a copy to watch. 

For next month, we suggest writing letters to 
Gao Zhisheng in prison and telling him about our 
action for his son's birthday. See the aigp22 
website above for Gao Zhisheng's prison 

By Stevi Carroll

Billy Slagle

The Ohio executioner's needle was robbed of its 
kill on August 4 when Billy Slagle hanged 
himself.  Mr. Slagle was scheduled for execution 
on August 9. His appeal for clemency had been 
denied; although, litigation in the courts 

Mr. Slagle was sentenced to death for the 1987 
murder of Mari Anne Pope, his neighbor.  The 
current prosecutor of Cuyahoga County 
supported clemency for Mr. Slagle as did one of 
the Ohio Supreme Court judges earlier in 1992.  
In 2006, a federal judge issued a strong dissent 
in the case because of prosecutorial misconduct 
that had infected the trial.  One of parole 
board's members who voted for clemency July 
16, 2013, wrote, "Slagle's age and immaturity at 
the time of the offense significantly mitigate his 
sentence in this horrible crime. Evolving 
standards of decency as well as medical, 
scientific, and sociological studies suggest that a 
penalty as final and irrevocable as death should 
not be imposed upon an individual who, like 
Slagle, retained the capacity for significant 
maturation and change at the time he or she 
committed the crime. Slagle's capacity for 
maturation and change at the time of his offense 
is evidenced by his positive institutional 

Mr. Slagle was 18 years old at the time of the 
murder. By the time of his suicide, he had spent 
all but eight months of his adulthood in prison.  
He told the clemency board he was very 
remorseful for what he had done and what he 
had put the family of Mari Anne Pope through.  
He also apologized to his family for what he 
had done to them.

John Ferguson

 "The (Supreme) Court (of the United States) 
held in Ford v. Wainwright that the Eighth 
Amendment prohibits the state from carrying 
out the death penalty on an individual who is 
insane, and that properly raised issues of 
execution-time sanity must be determined in a 
proceeding satisfying the minimum requirements 
of due process."

For 40 years, government doctors recorded 
paranoid delusional behavior in John Ferguson.  
At the time of his execution this month is 
Florida, Mr. Ferguson continued to believe his 
was the "Prince of God" and would be 
resurrected after death.  Not only did the 
Florida Supreme Court and the 11th U.S. Circuit 
Court of Appeals execute a mentally ill man but 
they also have undermined Ford v. Wainwright.  
Go Florida; go Governor Rick Scott, Evangelical 

Although I am not a religious person, since Mr. 
Ferguson thought he was the "Prince of God," a 
quote from the book of Matthew seems 
appropriate:  "I tell you the truth, when you did 
it to one of the least of these my brothers and 
sisters, you were doing it to me!"

Montez Spradley

Five years ago, Montez Spradley was sentenced 
to death.  Although 10 of the 12 jurors 
recommended life without parole, the judge 
overruled the decision and sentenced him to 
death.  Through the appeals process, flaws in 
the prosecution emerged. Two of the witnesses, 
his ex-girlfriend and a jailhouse snitch, who said 
Mr. Spradley had confessed to them had serious 
credibility problems.  His ex-girlfriend had been 
paid more that $10,000 in reward money after 
she testified against him.  Earlier this year, she 
recanted and said he had not confessed to her. 

Mr. Spradley is still in prison.  He has entered 
an Alford plea. "According to University of 
Richmond Law Review, 'When offering an Alford 
plea, a defendant asserts his innocence but 
admits that sufficient evidence exists to convict 
him of the offense.'" Even though this does not 
establish his innocence, he will not face a death 
sentence and he will, one day, get to be free.

Reggie Clemons

Reggie Clemons has not given up hope for his 
survival from death row.  He has, however, 
accepted that he may, in fact, be executed.  Mr. 
Clemons' case has been reviewed by Judge 
Michael Manners, the Special Master, who has 
submitted his findings to the Missouri Supreme 
Court.  He finds that the prosecutors 
suppressed evidence.  Mr. Clemons has 
admitted his confession to the crime of rape was 
secured after he was beaten by police.  Warren 
Weeks, a bail investigator, said he remembers 
seeing Mr. Clemons with injuries on his face.  
This information was scratched out of Mr. 
Weeks' statement, and he said he did not 
remove this information.  This piece of evidence 
has recently come to light.  Mr. Weeks is quoted 
as saying to his wife,  "I think there's something 
unusual going on - nobody wants to talk about 
what happened to this gentlemen when he was 
being interviewed by the police."

In a press release, Amnesty International says it 
"hopes that the state's highest court will move 
to eliminate any possibility that Reggie Clemons 
might be executed."

For an online action, go to

To see an interview with Reggie Clemons, go to

Those pesky drugs

Inability to get drugs to execute people may be 
the end of state sponsored murder in the United 
States.  And then again, states may reintroduce 
other methods such as the electric chair.  People 
condemned to die can choose a method other 
than lethal injection.  Remember Gary Gilmore 
and the firing squad in Utah in 1977.

The drugs used to execute people in the United 
States are getting difficult to obtain.  As we 
have seen, European and American 
pharmaceutical companies do not want their 
drugs used for executions.  The prison officials 
of many death penalty states are finding their 
stash of drugs going out of date, and they are 
unable to refill their supplies.  Over the course of 
the next few years, I look forward to seeing how 
the states' politicians address this issue.


25	Andrew Lackey*			Alabama 
			3-drug lethal injection
31	Douglas Feldman			Texas 
			1-drug lethal injection

5	John Ferguson			Florida 
			3-drug lethal injection

*volunteer- an inmate who waived ordinary 
appeals that remained at the time of his or her 


UAs    22
Total  22

To add your letters to the total contact

    Amnesty International Group 22
            The Caltech Y
           Mail Code C1-128
          Pasadena, CA 91125