Amnesty International Group 22 Pasadena/Caltech News
Volume XXII Number 2, February 2014

  Thursday, February 27, 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, March 11, 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, March 16, 6:30 PM.  Rights Readers 
Human Rights Book Discussion group. This 
month we read "Mary Coin" by Marisa Silver.


Hi All

Rob, Stevi, Joyce, and I attended the Troy Davis 
event at All Saints Church this past weekend.
See Stevi's piece in this newsletter for a 
summary of the event.  Thanks to Stevi and 
Joyce for obtaining a grant from AI to pay for 
Troy's family members to fly to Los Angeles and 
to Stevi for her efforts in helping to organize 
this. See Stevi's photos in this newsletter.

Con Carino,

Human Rights Book Discussion Group

Keep up with Rights Readers at

Next Rights Readers meeting:
Sunday, March 16, 6:30 PM
Vroman's Bookstore
695 E. Colorado, Pasadena
Mary Coin: A Novel
by Marisa Silver

Book Review from the New York Times:
A Knowing Eye
'Mary Coin,' by Marisa Silver
Published: April 11, 2013

We know the photograph. A seated woman - 
hand at her jaw, skin etched with worry - looks 
into the middle distance. Children rest their 
heads on her shoulders, faces turned away; an 
infant lies bundled in her lap. By capturing the 
plight of California's Depression-era migrant 
workers, Dorothea Lange's "Migrant Mother" 
transformed a nation's attitudes toward the poor 
from the moment of its publication in 1936. 
Today, its immediacy dulled by time and fame, 
it functions mainly as a visual metonym for the 
Great Depression. We look at it, but we no 
longer see it, to borrow a distinction made in 
Marisa Silver's phenomenal new novel, "Mary 
Inspired by Lange's image, Silver's novel 
unfolds through the viewpoints of three 
characters: Walker Dodge, a present-day 
professor of cultural history who takes pleasure 
in exploring forgotten corners of quotidian 
history; Vera Dare, a polio-stricken 
photographer who ends up working for the 
Resettlement Administration, shooting portraits 
of people in poverty; and Mary Coin, an 
impoverished Cherokee mother of seven, subject 
of the famous photograph. 
For Vera and Mary, Silver appropriates 
biographical details from the lives of Lange and 
her real-life subject, Florence Owens Thompson. 
Renaming these historical figures allows Silver 
to engage in a bit of speculative fiction - 
Walker's present-day research culminates in the 
discovery of a family secret related to the image. 
But this discovery plot only provides an 
armature to lend underlying shape to an 
otherwise entirely supple work of art. In 
rendering this alternate universe, Silver is 
clearly interested not in the question "What if?" 
but rather "Who?" 
As we follow Mary from her childhood in 
Oklahoma to California through a series of 
births and deaths and couplings, we experience 
a portrait of poverty not through the dreary 
accumulation of gritty detail, but via a series of 
direct shots to the heart. Silver, author of two 
short-story collections and two previous novels, 
including "The God of War," writes with an 
unadorned impressionism that never feels self--
conscious or fussy. And she handles the passage 
of time - one of the central themes of "Mary 
Coin," photographs stopping time as they do - 
so deftly it feels like magic. Part of what makes 
this novel so good is Silver's unwillingness to 
write facts free of the people living through 
Vera's sections trace her development as an 
artist in search of a subject, from her childhood 
polio to her pseudo-bohemian life in San 
Francisco as a portrait photographer and so on. 
When she and Mary cross paths at the midpoint 
of the novel, they are divided not only by the 
significant difference in their material 
circumstances, but also by the lens that defines 
them as photographer and subject. And yet, in 
Silver's sharply humane reconstruction, we are 
privy to the concerns that bind them: survival, 
self-determination, the fate of their children. 
Near the end of the novel, a museum visitor 
says of the iconic image, "You can see it all in 
her face." But what is it we see? Silver's novel 
breathes new life into "Migrant Mother" by 
reminding us that it is only a photograph, a 
glance fixed in time, a blip compared with the 
lives behind it. Or, as Mary puts it: "A person 
was just feelings that came and went like clouds 
drifting across the sky and decisions that 
sometimes ended up to be good and sometimes 
bad. But this woman in the picture was someone 
who looked a certain way and would never 
change. Like a table or a shoe." 
History is not a succession of icons or frozen 
moments but of messy lives lived, of people 
doing what they can with what they've got. 
Therein lies the power of this novel, and the 
Novel; Silver wields it here with grace and 
devastating effectiveness. 
Antoine Wilson's second novel, "Panorama City," 
was published last year, as was his first book of 
photographs, "Slow Paparazzo."

Author Biography
Marisa Silver is the author, most recently, of the 
novel, Mary Coin, a New York Times Bestseller, 
published in 2013 by Blue Rider Press/Penguin. 
Silver made her fiction debut in The New Yorker 
when she was featured in that magazine's first 
"Debut Fiction" issue. Her collection of short 
stories, Babe in Paradise, was published by 
W.W. Norton in 2001. That collection was 
named a New York Times Notable Book of the 
Year and was a Los Angeles Times Best Book of 
the Year. In 2005, W.W. Norton published her 
novel, No Direction Home. Her novel, The God 
of War, was published in 2008 by Simon and 
Schuster and was a finalist for the Los Angeles 
Times Book Prize for fiction. Her second 
collection of stories, Alone With You, was 
published by Simon and Schuster in April, 2010. 
Winner of the O. Henry Prize, her fiction has 
been included in The Best American Short Stories, 
The O. Henry Prize Stories, as well as other 

Gao Zhisheng

by Joyce Wolf

January 31 marked the beginning of the Year of 
the Horse. At Group 22's February letter-writing 
meeting, we signed a New Year card to Gao 
Zhisheng, our group's adopted prisoner of 

2014 is supposed to be the last year of Gao 
Zhisheng's three-year prison sentence, but it is 
important to keep attention focused on his case. 
In January we wrote to Premier Li Keqiang and 
in December to President Xi Jinping, so this 
month it is probably the turn of the Minister of 
Justice. Following is a sample letter that you can 
send or use as a guide.

Minister of Justice of the People's Republic of China
WU Aiying Buzhang
10 Chaoyangmen Nandajie
Beijingshi 100020
People's Republic of China

Dear Minister,
I write regarding the case of Gao Zhisheng, a 
highly respected human rights lawyer. He has been 
subjected to enforced disappearance, torture, illegal 
house arrest and detention as a result of his peaceful 
work. Gao Zhisheng is currently imprisoned 
in Shaya County Prison in Xinjiang Uighur 
Autonomous Region in northwest China. 
I urge you to secure his immediate release and to 
ensure that, while he remains in detention, he is not 
tortured or ill-treated. Please do everything in your 
power to free this admirable defender of human 
Just over one year ago, in January 2013, Mr. Gao's 
brother and father-in-law were allowed to have a 
brief visit with him. I hope to hear soon that Mr. Gao 
was permitted to have another family visit, or better 
yet, that he has been released from prison! 
Thank you for your attention to this important 
[your name and address]

Copies to: 
Ambassador Cui Tiankai 
Embassy of the People's Republic of China 
3505 International Place NW 
Washington DC 20008

"We Are Still Troy Davis"
By Stevi Carroll

All Saints Episcopal Church in Pasadena, 
California, hosted "We Are Still Troy Davis" 
Saturday, February 22.  Author Jen Marlowe 
became interested in Troy Davis's case after 
reading Amnesty International's "'Where is the 
Justice for Me?': The case of Troy Davis, facing 
execution in Georgia."  For Ms Marlowe, the 
death penalty went from an abstract 'dinner 
table' discussion to an in-depth study of the 
impact of the death penalty on not only the 
condemned inmate but also others involved, 
including prison personnel and the families of 
the both the murder victim and the condemned 
person. Out of this developing interest in the 
death penalty came the book "I Am Troy Davis" 
by Jen Marlowe, Martina Davis-Correia, and 
Troy Anthony Davis.  Sister Helen Prejean 
(author of "Dead Man Walking") wrote the 

Kimberly Davis spoke passionately about her 
brother, Troy, and how his execution committed 
their family to work for the abolition of the 
death penalty.  She asked people not to feel 
sorry for her family but rather to fight for an end 
to the death penalty.  She believes that 
education is a powerful tool to be used.

Frankie Carrillo, exonerated after 20 years in 
prison; Ebony Davis, youngest of the Davis 
children; Patrisse Cullors, founder and 
executive director of Dignity and Power Now; 
and John Hanusz, a Federal Public Defender 
who represented Troy Davis read excerpts from 
"I Am Troy Davis."  Each section offered an 
insight into the complexities and humanity 
associated with the death penalty.

"We Are Still Troy Davis" was sponsored by 
Death Penalty Focus, Equal Justice USA, 
Amnesty International Local Group 22, All 
Saints Episcopal Church, Haymarket Books, 
California People of Faith Working Against the 
Death Penalty, and SAFE California.  As we all 
work together we can bring the death penalty in 
California to an end.  Six states in six years have 
embraced abolition and recently the governor of 
Washington has suspended executions for the 
duration of his term.  Abolition of the death 
penalty in the USA can happen.

"I Am Troy Davis" is available from Haymarket 

By Stevi Carroll

Dennis McGuire's family sues in federal 

When Dennis McGuire was executed January 
16, 2014, his death took 26 minutes.  According 
to a New York Times article, the lawsuit filed by 
his family states that "Mr. McGuire experienced 
'repeated cycles of snorting, gurgling and 
arching his back, appearing to writhe in pain. It 
looked and sounded as though he was 

Officials investigating Mr. McGuire's distress 
during his execution have said that his lawyer, 
Public Defender Robert Lowe, coached him to 
act out the difficulties witnesses observed.  The 
internal review failed to prove this allegation.  

What this case does bring to light is the efficacy 
of the drugs now used in executions.

The problems with getting the drugs

First, the European manufacturers of the drugs 
the US uses to kill our death row inmates 
refused to sell their drugs to state officials from 
states that employ executions.  Companies in 
India and Israel followed. Now home-grown 
pharmacies are following suit.  A pharmacy in 
Oklahoma that was scheduled to supply 
compounded pentobarbital for an execution in 
Missouri declined to provide the drug because 
"the substance is likely to cause 'ultimately 
inhumane pain.'"

This reality was brought to the fore with the 
execution of Michael Lee Wilson in Oklahoma 
January 9, 2014.  Twenty seconds after Mr. 
Wilson received his injection of pentobarbital, he 
was quoted as saying, "I feel my whole body 

This shortage of execution drugs and the 
questionable results of their use may cause 
prison officials and governors to revisit other 
methods of executions.  Utah retained the use of 
the firing squad.  The last use of the firing squad 
was when Ronnie Lee Gardner requested it for 
his June 18, 2010, execution.  Lawmakers in 
Missouri and Wyoming are considering the use 
of the firing squad.  Wyoming state law also 
allows for the return of the gas chamber if lethal 
injection is unavailable.

Even as the means for state-sanctioned murder 
are in dispute, California voters may again visit 
the death penalty on their 2014 ballots.

Death Penalty on the 2014 Ballot?

The death penalty may again come to California 
polling places near us.  Three former governors, 
George Deukmejian, Pete Wilson and Gray 
Davis, have begun a signature-gathering effort 
to get an initiative measure on the November 
2014  ballot to "limit appeals available to death 
row inmates, remove the prisoners from special 
death row housing and require them to work at 
prison jobs in order to pay restitution to 
victims."  While the placement of inmates 
outside the special death row housing and the 
requirement of inmates to work to pay 
restitution are positive, the abridgment of the 
appeals process is not.  

I have looked at the number of years inmates 
have spent on death row before their executions 
for as long as I've written this column, and I 
know that decades may pass before the 
condemned person is killed.  I realize with that 
passage of time the person who is executed is 
not the same person who committed the heinous 
crime for which he or, rarely, she is put to death.  
Nonetheless, shortening the appeals time does 
nothing to insure innocent individuals are not 

In 2013 alone, 87 people were exonerated of the 
crimes for which they were imprisoned. Forty of 
them were murder convictions.  Had the appeals 
process been lessened and had these human 
beings been sentenced to death, exonerated 
people may well have been executed.  This is 

Should the supporters of this initiative drive be 
successful, I am sure Amnesty International 
USA, the ACLU, and Death Penalty Focus will 
be on the forefront of the opposition.  As events 
unfold, I will present more information about 
how we can get involved.

From Death Penalty Information Center
Robert Redford's "Death Row Stories" to 
Premiere on CNN
Posted: February 21, 2014

"Death Row Stories" is a new 8-part series 
premiering on March 9 on CNN that will 
examine actual death penalty cases. The show is 
produced by Robert Redford and narrated by 
Dead Man Walking star Susan Sarandon. Redford 
said, "This series is about the search for justice 
and truth, we are pleased to ... tell these 
important stories and give a voice to these 
cases." Prior to the premiere, CNN is offering 
interested parties an opportunity for a preview 
and the ability to participate in a Google 
Hangout featuring a discussion by the 
producers and law professors John Blume of 
Cornell and Robert Blecker of New York Law 
School. The Google Hangout will be held March 
5 at 6 pm EST and is open to the public, but an 
RSVP is required. A promo for the show can be 
found at
There are more details in this article:

Stays of execution
5		Chris Sepulvado	Louisiana

22	Edgar Tamay~	  	Texas 
	lethal injection 1-drug: pentobarbital

24	Kenneth Hogan		Oklahoma 
	lethal injection 3-drug: w/ pentobarbital

29	Herbert Smulls		Missouri 
	lethal injection 1-drug: pentobarbital

5	Suzanne Basso f		Texas 
	lethal injection 1-drug: pentobarbital

12	Juan Chavez~			Florida	 
	lethal injection 3-drug:  
		2/midazolam hydrochloride

~ Foreign Nationals - Tamay-Mexico; Chavez-
f - female

UAs               13
POC                2
Total             15
To add your letters to the total contact

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

Amnesty International's mission is to undertake research and action focused on preventing and ending grave abuses of the 
rights to physical and mental integrity, freedom of conscience and expression, and freedom from discrimination, within the 
context of its work to promote all human rights.