Amnesty International Group 22 Pasadena/Caltech News
Volume XXV Number 11, November-December 2017

  Saturday, December 9, 11:00 - 3:00, WRITE 
FOR RIGHTS. Human Rights Day letter writing 
marathon at Dog Haus Biergarten, 93 E. Green 
St., Pasadena. Drop by to write a few letters 
and enjoy the food. (This event replaces our 
usual Tuesday letter writing for December.)
  Sunday, December 10, 4:00 PM. Holiday 
Potluck & Rights Readers Human Rights Book 
Discussion Group. This month we read "On 
Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the 
Twentieth Century" by Timothy Snyder.
  NOTE: This month our book group meeting 
is combined with a holiday potluck and will 
be held at Joyce's house in Montrose. For 
information, email or 
phone 818-249-4056 and leave a voicemail.

Hi everyone,
This is Joyce, substituting for Kathy this month.

You're invited to celebrate International Human 
Rights Day with Group 22 all weekend Dec. 9-
10! On Saturday you can write for rights and on 
Sunday come to my house for a holiday potluck 
and book group discussion.

People seemed to enjoy the Dog Haus at last 
year's event - something welcoming about those 
long tables in the outdoor patio - so we decided 
to return this year. As usual, we will provide 
case information sheets, writing materials, and 
postage. You can learn about the ten cases 
featured in Amnesty's 2017 campaign at

Hope to see you at one or both events!

Next Rights Readers Meeting

Sunday, Dec. 10, 4:00 PM

Holiday Potluck at private home in Montrose

On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the 
Twentieth Century

by Timothy Snyder

'On Tyranny' by Timothy Snyder
Carlos Lozada
The Washington Post

The early cautions that Donald Trump could become 
an American strongman, trampling our sad checks 
and loser balances, came in the late spring of last year 
- and they were both dire and a bit conflicted. 
"Trump is an extinction-level event" for American 
democracy, Andrew Sullivan declared in New York 
magazine, even while wondering if he was 
overreacting. And Washington Post columnist Robert 
Kagan's broadside, "This is how fascism comes to 
America," was as much an attack on a feckless 
Republican Party for falling in line behind Trump's 
nomination as a surefire prediction of what was to 

Now, nine months later, the warnings have become 
more specific and resigned, and thus even more 
believable. Trump may attract scorn and ridicule - 
think of the late-night jokes, low approval ratings 
and all that #NotMyPresident stuff - but he elicits 
ever stronger fears of homegrown authoritarianism. 
In the latest Atlantic, David Frum paints a plausible 
landscape of American illiberalism circa 2020, when 
voting is harder, self-censorship is rampant, 
Congress is submissive, graft is pervasive and truth 
is ever hazier. This is the gradual eclipse of liberty, 
"not by diktat and violence, but by the slow, 
demoralizing process of corruption and deceit," he 

Historian Timothy Snyder does not offer a corrective 
to the pessimism of this genre - he is a scholar of the 
Holocaust, after all - but begins to illuminate a path 
forward from it. "On Tyranny" is a slim book that fits 
alongside your pocket Constitution and feels only 
slightly less vital. Steeped in the history of interwar 
Germany and the horrors that followed, Snyder still 
writes with bracing immediacy, providing 20 plain 
and mostly actionable lessons on preventing, or at 
least forestalling, the repression of lives and minds.

Don't count Snyder among the American-
exceptionalism crowd, at least not as the concept is 
usually understood. "Americans today are no wiser 
than the Europeans who saw democracy yield to 
fascism, Nazism, or communism in the twentieth 
century," he writes. "Our one advantage is that we 
might learn from their experience." The U.S. political 
system, he notes, was designed "to mitigate the 
consequences of our real imperfections, not to 
celebrate our imaginary perfection."

The author dwells on "the politics of the everyday" to 
show the small ways people succumb to or fend off 
the encroachment of tyranny. Much of the initial 
power granted to nondemocratic leaders is given 
freely, via "heedless acts of conformity," long before 
popular docility is requested or required. Snyder 
recalls how, when Hitler threatened to invade 
Austria, regular Austrian citizens looked on, or 
joined in, as local Nazis detained Austrian Jews or 
stole their property. "Anticipatory obedience is a 
political tragedy," the author writes.

The early days of the Trump presidency have seen 
acts of subversion by civil servants, including 
damaging leaks and social-media rebellions, 
signaling opposition to particular policies or actions 
by the new administration. Snyder emphasizes that 
the professional classes - civil servants as well as 
doctors, lawyers and businesspeople - bear special 
responsibility when individual freedoms are at risk. 
"It is hard to subvert a rule-of-law state without 
lawyers, or to hold show trials without judges," he 
writes. "Authoritarians need obedient civil servants, 
and concentration camp directors seek businessmen 
interested in cheap labor."

Professional associations, with their codes of ethics, 
best practices and collective voices, can command 
attention, creating "forms of ethical conversation that 
are impossible between a lonely individual and a 
distant government," Snyder explains.

That hardly means there is no role for that lonely 
individual. Snyder devotes several of his lessons to 
the power of small decisions in the face of eroding 
democracy. "The minor choices we make are 
themselves a kind of vote," he argues. "Our words 
and gestures, or their absence, count very much."

Make eye contact and small talk with strangers, he 
encourages; it is part of being a citizen. ("People who 
were living in fear of repression remembered how 
their neighbors treated them," Snyder writes.) Defend 
American institutions and civil society groups by 
joining them, advocating for them or even 
supporting them financially, Snyder urges. 
("Institutions do not protect themselves.") Beware of 
loyalty symbols - be it a sticker or armband, or even a 
hat, I imagine - however innocuous they seem, 
because they are often used to exclude. ("When 
everyone else follows the same logic, the public 
sphere is covered with signs of loyalty, and resistance 
becomes unthinkable.")

And then there's this ominously concise suggestion: 
"Make sure you and your family have passports."

Snyder points to clear and recognizable actions that a 
leader or a party can take to suffocate freedom - such 
as exploiting terrorist attacks to curtail individual 
liberties or enabling the rise of pro-government 
paramilitary forces - but he is especially attuned to 
the abuses of language. Showing no compunction in 
going there, Snyder compares the rhetoric of the 
Fhrer and the Donald to highlight phrasing that 
serves the interests of the leader and no one else:

"Hitler's language rejected legitimate opposition: The 
people always meant some people and not others 
(the president uses the word in this way), encounters 
were always struggles (the president says winning) 
and any attempt by free people to understand the 
world in a different way was defamation of the 
leader (or, as the president puts it, libel)."

Snyder warns against the treacherous use of patriotic 
expressions and the mindless repetition of political 
catchphrases, whether in the news media or from the 
government. "Think up your own way of speaking," 
he challenges readers. "When we repeat the same 
words and phrases that appear in the daily media, 
we accept the absence of a larger framework," and 
permit a narrowing of vocabulary and thought that 
only empowers the strongman.

The popular understanding and interpretations of 
Trump are dominated by his words and phrases - 
"Sad!" "Fake news!" - and by his use of those words to 
rouse supporters, identify opponents and distort 
verifiable reality. "To abandon facts is to abandon 
freedom," Snyder writes. "If nothing is true, then all 
is spectacle." And Trump thrives on spectacle; 
indeed, his rise has been based on it.

A leader's constant repetition of "shamanistic 
incantations," as Snyder puts it, and the people's 
misplaced faith in an oracular strongman over 
evidence and reason - these are ways truth begins to 
fade. Throughout history, despots have "despised the 
small truths of daily existence, loved slogans that 
resonated like a new religion, and preferred creative 
myths to history or journalism."

And that elevation of mythology over truth has 
consequences. "Post-truth," Snyder writes, "is pre-

To break free of the incantations, we must loosen the 
hold that our televisions and phones have over us, 
Snyder argues. "Get the screens out of your room and 
surround yourself with books," he urges, like the 
good academic that he is. "The characters in Orwell's 
and Bradbury's books could not do this - but we still 

It is not an entirely persuasive course, as if television 
and online debates did not have the power to 
introduce new ideas or vital reporting into public 
circulation. In fact, this very book - easily the most 
compelling volume among the resistance literature 
emerging in response to Trump - took inspiration 
from a November 2016 Facebook post by the author.

Perhaps the greatest contribution in Snyder's 
clarifying and unnerving work is buried in its 
epilogue, and it shows the slippery intellectual path 
from freedom to tyranny. After the Cold War, he 
writes, we were enthralled by the politics of 
inevitability, the notion that history moved 
inexorably toward liberal democracy. So we lowered 
our defenses. Now, instead, we are careening toward 
the politics of eternity, in which a leader rewrites our 
past as "a vast misty courtyard of illegible 
monuments to national victimhood." Inevitability 
was like a coma; eternity is like hypnosis.

"The danger we now face is of a passage from the 
politics of inevitability to the politics of eternity, from 
a naive and flawed sort of democratic republic to a 
confused and cynical sort of fascist oligarchy," 
Snyder concludes. "The path of least resistance leads 
directly from inevitability to eternity."

A possible detour from that path may be found in 
"On Tyranny," a memorable work that is grounded in 
history yet imbued with the fierce urgency of what 

Timothy Snyder is the Levin Professor of 
History at Yale University and the author of the 
books On Tyranny, Black Earth, and Bloodlands. 
His work has received the literature award of 
the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the 
Hannah Arendt Prize, and the Leipzig Book 
Prize for European Understanding. He lives in 
New Haven, Connecticut.

By Stevi Carroll

Governor Brown Pardons Craig Coley

Let's all think back to our lives 39 years ago. 
Craig Coley was a night manager at a 
restaurant. Rhonda Wicht and her son, Donald, 
were murdered. After Mr. Coley's first trial 
ended in a hung jury, a second trial found him 
guilty of the murders. He is the son of a retired 
Los Angeles policeman. And he'd been dating 
Ms Wicht for two years. Some of the witnesses 
at his trial said he was like a 'second father' to 

Mr. Coley's case was reopened in October 2016 
after a retired detective raised concerns about it. 
This caused investigators to look into it where 
they found that a key piece of evidence used to 
convict him 'contained others' DNA, but not his' 
(Mr. Coley's).

After 39 years, Mr. Coley has been pardoned of 
the crime. In his statement following the pardon, 
Governor Brown wrote, "The grace with which 
Mr. Coley has endured this lengthy and unjust 
incarceration is extraordinary. It is my hope that 
any and all individuals responsible for the 
murder of Rhonda and Donald Wicht are 
brought to justice."

In a joint statement released by Simi Valley 
Police Chief David Livingstone and Ventura 
County District Attorney Gregory D. Totten, 
they said, "This case is tragic. An innocent 
woman and a small child were murdered. Craig 
Coley has spent 39 years in custody for a crime 
he likely did not commit. The real murderer or 
murderers have not been brought to justice."

Fortunately, Mr. Coley was not sentenced to 

California and the Death Penalty

Yes, the death penalty is operative in California. 
But what to use to kill people is still up in the 
air.  Governor Jerry Brown's administration has 
yet to finalize what drug protocol the State will 
use. While the Governor personally opposes the 
death penalty, he has a history of enforcing it 
when he was attorney general.

Some advocates of the death penalty thought 
executions would resume by the end of the year, 
but that now seems unlikely. Resumption may 
be a year away, but it is coming right along. 
Michele Hanisee, president of the Association of 
Deputy District Attorneys for L.A. County 
believes the finalization of the lethal injection 
protocol will be by January.  Regarding 
executions, Dean Erwin Chemerinsky of the UC 
Berkeley law school said, "it is just a matter of 

We may remember that Governor George Ryan 
commuted the death sentences of all of Illinois' 
condemned inmates, but Governor Brown is 
unable to do this unilaterally. The California 
Constitution requires him to have the support of 
the California Supreme Court for inmates with 
multiple felony convictions on their records. 
Lawyers estimate that at least half of all people 
on death row have committed two felonies. Four 
of the seven California Supreme Court justices 
would be needed to commute sentences for 
those inmates. Whether Governor Brown would 
have enough support for the commutation for 
those on death row is uncertain.


In August when Florida executed Mark James 
Asay with a new drug, etomidate, I somehow 
missed that this drug was being used. I think 
this may be because it was used in a three-drug 
cocktail: etomidate, an anesthetic; rocuronium 
bromide, a paralytic; and potassium acetate, a 
heart stopper. Etomidate replaces midazolam, 
which became difficult to get because drug 
companies didn't want it used in executions.

Even though I tried to find out what drugs were 
used in Patrick C Hannon's execution, I've 
found no information except for the detail at 
Death Penalty Information Center. What I 
wonder is if Mr. Hannon was killed using only 
etomidate. If so, will etomidate join other single 
drug execution protocols? 

A New Book

Deadly Justice - A Statistical Portrait of the Death 
Penalty by Frank R. Baumgartner, Marty 
Davidson, Kaneesha R. Johnson, Arvind 
Krishnamurthy, and Colin P. Wilson

In their new book, Deadly Justice: A Statistical 
Portrait of the Death Penalty, a team of 
researchers led by University of North Carolina-
Chapel Hill political science professor Frank 
Baumgartner uses forty years of empirical data 
to assess whether the modern death penalty 
avoids the defects that led the U.S. Supreme 
Court to declare in Furman v. Georgia (1972) that 
the nation's application of capital punishment 
was unconstitutionally arbitrary and capricious. 
Their conclusion: "A reasoned assessment based 
on the facts suggests not only that the modern 
system flunks the Furman test but that it 
surpasses the historical death penalty in the 
depth and breadth of the flaws apparent in its 
application." Deadly Justice explores an 
enormous range of issues-including, among 
others, racial, gender, and geographical bias, 
innocence, deterrence, mental health, childhood 
abuse, length of time on death row, reversal 
rates, and execution methods-to determine 
whether the death penalty is fairly and 
proportionally applied and reserved for the 
"worst of the worst." Reviewing the 
data, Baumgartner et al. find that the modern 
death penalty "is it just as arbitrary, just as 
biased, and just as flawed as the pre-Furman 
system." Worse yet, they write, "it has added to 
these flaws increased levels of geographical 
focus on the South, even more concentration in 
just a few jurisdictions, astronomical financial 
costs unimagined in the earlier period, average 
periods of delay now measured in the decades, 
odds of reversal well over 50 percent, routine 
and often successful last-minute legal 
maneuvering even while the inmate is in the 
execution room and has been prepared to be 
executed, and a medicalization paradox that was 
not even imagined in the pre-Furman period." In 
an interview with the Houston Chronicle, 
Baumgartner says "[t]he key driver in the 
system" is not the frequency of homicides or the 
nature of the murder but "the choices that 
district attorneys make.... There's really no 
rhyme or reason to it." He says the biggest 
change in public opinion began in the 1990s as 
evidence began to mount that "there might be 
innocent people on death row. ... The innocence 
argument has really shaken people's faith that 
you can count on the government to get it right 
every single time. ... The system is so tied up in 
knots, partly because of the concern of executing 
an innocent person. It's really hard to justify or 
have enthusiasm about a system so 
dysfunctional as the current modern death 
penalty, even if you're a prosecutor."

This review is from Death Penalty Information 
Posted: November 27, 2017

Recent Exonerations

Evin King - State: OH - Date of Exoneration: 
In 1995, Evin King was sentenced to 15 years to 
life in prison for the murder of his girlfriend in 
Cleveland, Ohio. He was exonerated by DNA 
testing in 2017.

Steven Odiase - State: NY - Date of Exoneration: 
In 2013, Steven Odiase was sentenced to 25 
years to life in prison for second-degree murder 
in the Bronx, New York.  He was exonerated in 
2017 when a previously undisclosed witness 
statement came to light that identified a 
different person as the shooter.

Kerry Masterson - State: IL - Date of 
Exoneration: 11/2/2017
In 2011, Kerry Masterson was sentenced to 58 
years in prison for murder in Chicago, Illinois. 
She was granted a new trial and acquitted in 
2017 based on evidence showing that the real 
killers falsely implicated her and three 
eyewitnesses had mistakenly identified her.

Keith Mitchell - State: IL - Date of Exoneration: 
In 1995, Keith Mitchell was sentenced to 30 
years in prison for a murder and assaults that 
occurred in Chicago, Illinois when he was 15 
years old. He was exonerated in 2017 by 
evidence that detectives fabricated his 

Arthur Brown - State: IL - Date of Exoneration: 
In 1990, Arthur Brown was sentenced to life in 
prison after falsely confessing to an arson that 
killed two people in Chicago, Illinois. He was 
exonerated in 2017 after another man confessed 
to setting the fire, and evidence showed that 
police forced Brown to sign a fabricated 
confession, testified falsely about it, and coerced 
a witness to lie.

Jose Maysonet - State: IL - Date of Exoneration: 
In 1995, Jose Maysonet was sentenced to life in 
prison without parole for a double murder in 
Chicago, Illinois. He was exonerated in 2017 by 
evidence that he falsely confessed to a detective 
who repeatedly beat and tortured him during a 
17-hour interrogation.

Stays of Execution

9	Jack Greene 		AR 	 
Stay granted by the Arkansas Supreme Court 
on November 7, 2017 on petition raising issue 
related to Arkansas procedures for determining 
competency to be executed.

14	Scott Dozier		NV	 
Stay granted by the Clark County District 
Court on November 9, 2017 to permit the 
prosecution to appeal its ruling barring the use 
of a paralytic drug in Nevada's execution 

15	Alva Campbell	OH 	 
Gov. John Kasich called off the execution on 
November 15, 2017 after personnel of the Ohio 
Department of Corrections failed five times to 
find a suitable vein to insert an intravenous 
execution line.

15	Larry Swearingen	TX	Stay 
granted by trial court on October 27, 2017 
because of clerk's error in serving notice of 

1	Bobby Wayne Stone	SC	 
Legally premature death warrant. The death 
warrant was issued before Stone had been 
provided habeas corpus review to which he is 
entitled as a matter of federal law. Stay 
granted by the U.S. District Court for the 
District of South Carolina on November 21, 
2017 to permit Stone to pursue federal habeas 
review of his conviction and death sentence.

14	Juan Castillo 		TX	 
Stay granted by the Texas Court of Criminal 
Appeals on November 28, 2017 and evidentiary 
hearing ordered on Castillo's claim that his 
conviction and sentence were obtained with 
false or perjured testimony from a prison 


8	Patrick C Hannon		FL
	Lethal Injection - 3-drug (etomidate) - 
	Years from sentencing to execution: 26

8	Ruben Ramirez Cardenas	TX
	Lethal Injection - 1-drug (Pentobarbital) - 
	Years from sentencing to execution: 19

Narges Mohammadi
By Joyce Wolf

Group 22's adopted prisoner of conscience 
Narges Mohammadi continues her activism in 
prison. The Center for Human Rights in Iran 
reported that she recently called on members of 
Iran's Parliament to end solitary confinement of 

"As a defender of human rights who has been 
tortured by this practice, I consider it my duty to take 
every opportunity to express my protest against 
solitary confinement, the suffering victims of which I 
continue to see in Evin Prison," wrote Narges 
Mohammadi in a letter from the prison where she is 
serving a 16-year sentence for peacefully advocating 
for human rights.

Group 22 will continue our work for Narges. 
We'll make sure to write some letters for her at 
our Write For Rights event this month.

UAs                               24
Petitions (POC and Gao Zhisheng)   2
Total                             26

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.