Amnesty International Group 22 Pasadena/Caltech News
Volume XXVII Number 6, June 2019

  Note:  We're taking a summer break and 
won't have any Thursday monthly meetings 
in June, July, or August. Letter writing and 
book group meetings will continue as usual.
  Tuesday, July 9, 7:30-9:00 PM. Letter 
Writing meeting at the Caltech Athenaeum, 
corner of Hill and California in Pasadena. (In 
summer we meet outdoors at the "Rath al 
Fresco" on the lawn next to the building.) This 
informal gathering is a great way for 
newcomers to get acquainted with Amnesty. 
  Sunday, July 21, 6:30 PM. Rights Readers 
Human Rights Book Discussion Group. For 
July we read "The Songs of Trees: Stories 
from Nature's Great Connectors" by David 
George Haskell. 

Hello all,

Hope you're enjoying the cooler June weather 
(with the exception of a few hotter days). All too 
soon the ferocious heat will be upon us...

Our July book is by a British biologist who 
teaches in Tennessee.  Listen to the tree sounds 
he recorded at his website My favorite is the sound 
of rain falling on different shapes of leaves. He 
also blogs at
posts/. You can see photos of the trees. I don't 
know if I'll get this book finished as the Jane 
Austen reading group I belong to is reading a 
book about her two brothers who were officers 
in the Royal Navy during the Napoleonic Wars 
at about the same time!  I'll have to take turns 
and read a little from both each day, lol...

A fun note - I discovered in my online search for 
information about the author that Mr. Haskell 
had a book signing for Songs of Trees at 
Vroman's in 2017!

Those who attended the annual Tiananmen 
Square memorial dinner a few years ago may 
remember it featured the activists from the 
Umbrella Movement. Remember the yellow 
umbrellas they brought? They were used as a 
protection against the pepper spray and tear gas 
used by the police.  This movement started in 
2014 and lasted for a few months.  Students and 
community activists demonstrated outside 
government HQ non-violently against the lack 
of universal suffrage. Candidates and voting 
was decided by a CCP (Chinese Communist 
Party) appointed election committee instead of 
open elections. Unfortunately the activists did 
not win any concessions from the government 
and were sentenced to prison terms of up to 16 
months. The CCP controls the Hong Kong 
government and has been violating the initial 
agreement between Britain and China when 
Hong Kong was handed over to mainland China 
in 1997, which stipulated that a high degree of 
autonomy (except in foreign and defense affairs) 
would be allowed for 50 years after the 

Now the activists (released from prison recently) 
have been demonstrating against a controversial 
extradition bill that would allow suspects to be 
sent to the mainland for trial. The government 
has suspended the bill but not withdrawn it, 
causing the protestors to call for the resignation 
of Chief Executive of Hong Kong, Carrie Lam, 
and the withdrawal of the proposal. Let's hope 
they are successful this time.

Here's a link to some actions dealing with the 
current situation:

Con carino,

Next Rights Readers Meeting

Sunday, July 21
6:30 PM
Vroman's Bookstore
695 E. Colorado Blvd 

The Songs of Trees: Stories from Nature's 
Great Connectors
by David George Haskell

Caspar Henderson, 7 Jul 2017 

In The Baron in the Trees, the 1957 comic masterpiece 
by Italo Calvino, the hero abandons the life of a petty 
18th-century aristocrat to spend his life in the boughs 
and branches of the forests of Liguria. Over the years 
his senses become ever more finely attuned to the life 
of the woodland until he hears "the sap running 
through the cells, the circles marking the years inside 
the trunks ... the birds sleeping and quivering in 
their nests ... the caterpillar waking and the chrysalis 

Trekking into the rainforest at the heart of the Yasun’ 
Biosphere Reserve in western Ecuador, the biologist 
David George Haskell enters a similar state. As the 
rain falls, he notes in the first pages of The Songs of 
Trees, botanical diversity is sonified:

"Every species has its rain sound ... Leaflets of flying 
moss tick under the impact of a drop. An arum leaf 
... as long as my arm, gives a took took with 
undertones that linger as the surface dissipates its 
energy. The stiff dinner plate leaves of a 
neighbouring plant receive the rain with a tight snap, 
a spatter of metallic sparks ... The leaf of an avocado 
plant sounds a low, clean, woody thump."

Having ascended on a ladder 40 metres to the crown 
of a giant ceibo tree, Haskell finds the sound world 
has changed: "I top the rapids' surface and the roar 
moves below me, unveiling patterns on fleshy orchid 
leaves, greasy impacts on bromeliads, and low clacks 
on the elephant ears of philodendron."

The Songs of Trees is a book of noises. A balsam fir tree 
in northern Ontario hisses in the wind "like fine steel 
wool burnishing a tabletop, a sound that is strong, 
corrosive but with a soft bite". By contrast, the 
needles of a ponderosa pine in the Colorado Rockies 
are so stiff and unbending that even a small gust 
creates a sound like a huge landslide. Specialised 
equipment reveals sounds too faint or obscure for 
our ears or other senses to detect unaided. Ultrasonic 
clicks and fizzles reveal the passage and cease of sap 
inside the trunk of a green ash. The swell of the 
growing ponderosa's roots causes shards of rock to 
click as they crack and move. Amid New York City's 
concrete, a pear tree in a sidewalk grows thicker 
roots in response to the judder of the subway.

A work about woodland bioacoustics (the sound 
world of living things) might seem charming but 
ultimately only of interest to specialists. Haskell's 
intention, however, is nothing less than to explore 
interconnection in nature across space and time, and 
to observe how humans can succeed, or fail, in the 
co-creation of networks of life that are more 
intelligent, productive, resilient and creative. "Life is 
not just networked," he writes, "it is network."

In The Forest Unseen: A Year's Watch in Nature (2012), 
Haskell chose a square metre of ground in woodland 
on the extensive campus of the University of the 
South in Sewanee, Tennessee, where he teaches and 
returned to it almost every day for a year. Informed 
by his regular practice of meditation as well as his 
professional training as a scientist, his aim, first and 
foremost, was simply to pay attention. Over time, he 
began to see the little patch of ground as a forest 
mandala, analogous to the figures in which 
Buddhists find a gateway to the universe.

The Songs of Trees is the equal of the earlier work in its 
scientific depth, lyricism and imaginative reach. This 
time Haskell expands his view to 12 trees over time 
in different parts of the world. In addition to the 
ceibo, fir, pine, ash and pear, these include: a sabal 
palm on a barrier island in the American state of 
Georgia; a hazel that is more than 10,000 years old 
and now exists as bits of charcoal in an 
archaeological facility in Scotland; a cottonwood 
sapling in a Denver park that is repeatedly reduced 
to wood chips by beavers; a venerable olive next to 
the Damascus Gate in Jerusalem, whose roots reach 
down into the Roman foundations; and a bonsai pine 
that survived the Hiroshima bombing and was given 
to the US National Arboretum in Washington.

Haskell invites his readers to listen, attend and reflect 
and in so doing develop an "ecological aesthetics" - 
"a sensory, intellectual and bodily opening to place". 
Looking up in a forest reveals wood as "an embodied 
conversation between plant life, shudder of ground 
and yaw of wind", while the afterlife of a fallen tree 
can be richer than its life. Rot is "a detonation of 
possibility". In scum, we may even find a "slimy 

But, Haskell argues, ecological aesthetics is not a 
retreat into imagined wilderness where humans have 
no place, but a "step toward belonging in all 
dimensions", and this includes an appreciation of the 
realities of a highly technological existence, urban 
crowding and political tensions. Each tree is a focal 
point for branching stories. The hazel fragments date 
from the Mesolithic when settlers across the British 
Isles depended on the species for both fuel and food. 
Near where it grew, Longannet power station has, 
until very recently, been burning petrified wood 
from a vastly remoter time in the form of four and a 
half million tonnes of coal every year, but the basic 
principle - dependence on wood - has not changed, 
and wood pellets now substituting for coal in UK 
power stations sustain the link. In Israel and the 
occupied territories, practices of olive tree 
management dating back thousands of years have 
largely been driven out by mechanisation and the 
exclusion of Arab farmers from their land and water 
sources. Among the trickles of hope in an otherwise 
arid political landscape are fair trade associations in 
which Jews and Arabs cooperate to produce fine 
quality oil.

In Calvino's novel, the hero gets over a failed love 
affair by writing nature essays and journals printed 
on an enormous contraption he has somehow hauled 
up into the trees, and which he collects under titles 
such as The Biped's Monitor and The Reasonable 
Vertebrate. Over time, however, he also becomes 
ever more concerned with the plight of his fellow 
human beings and, embracing the revolutionary 
spirit emanating from France, publishes a 
Declaration of the Rights of Men, Women, Children, 
Domestic and Wild Animals, including Birds, Fishes 
and Insects, and All Vegetation, whether Trees, 
Vegetables, or Grass. "It was," the narrator says, "a 
very fine work, which could have been a useful guide 
to any government, but no one took any notice of it."

It is time we did. There was a flutter of excitement in 
April this year when, for the first time since 1884, all 
UK electrical demand was met without coal. That 
same week, however, atmospheric concentrations of 
carbon dioxide were reported to have exceeded 410 
parts per million for the first time in millions of years. 
Places of exceptional biodiversity such as the Yasun’ 
reserve in Ecuador remain gravely threatened by 
voracious oil companies whose scenarios price in 
massively disruptive climate change.

In the very long run, a warmer planet could be good 
for the trees. Millions of years hence, even Antarctica 
could be covered in lush forests, as it was many tens 
of millions of years ago. But long before that - and 
quite soon if current trends continue - most of the 
world's largest cities may be under water if we fail to 
listen to what Haskell and his interlocutors in this 
gorgeous book are telling us.

Biography:  David George Haskell

David Haskell's work integrates scientific, literary, 
and contemplative studies of the natural world.

His latest book, The Songs of Trees: Stories from 
Nature's Great Connectors (Viking, 2017), examines the 
many ways that trees and humans are connected. The 
book was winner of the 2018 John Burroughs Medal, 
named one of the Best Science Books of 2017 by 
NPR's Science Friday, selected as Favorite Science 
Books of 2017 by Brain Pickings, and in the 10 Best 
Environment, Climate Science and Conservation 
Books of 2017 at Deborah Blum, Pulitzer 
winner, author of The Poisoner's Handbook, and 
director of the Knight Science Journalism program at 
MIT says of The Songs of Trees, "David George 
Haskell may be the finest literary nature writer 
working today. The Songs of Trees - compelling, 
lyrical, wise - is a case in point."

His first book, The Forest Unseen: A Year's Watch in 
Nature (Viking, 2012), was winner of the National 
Academies' Best Book Award for 2013, finalist for the 
2013 Pulitzer Prize in nonfiction, winner of the 2013 
Reed Environmental Writing Award, winner of the 
2012 National Outdoor Book Award for Natural 
History Literature, runner-up for the 2013 PEN E. O. 
Wilson Literary Science Writing Award, and winner, 
in its Chinese translation, of the 2016 Dapeng Nature 
Writing Award. A profile by James Gorman in The 
New York Times said of Haskell that he "thinks like a 
biologist, writes like a poet, and gives the natural 
world the kind of open-minded attention one expects 
from a Zen monk rather than a hypothesis-driven 
scientist". E. O. Wilson wrote that The Forest Unseen 
was "a new genre of nature writing, located between 
science and poetry." The Forest Unseen has been 
translated into a dozen languages.

Haskell has also written about the biology and 
human culture for The New York Times and other 

The Atomic Tree, a virtual reality adaptation of the last 
chapter of The Songs of Trees will be premiering at 
SxSW festival in March 2019. The film is directed by 
Emmanuel Vaughan-Lee and Adam Loften, with 
screenwriting by David Haskell, Adam Loften, and 
Emmanuel Vaughan-Lee.

Haskell holds degrees from the University of Oxford 
(BA) and from Cornell University (PhD). He is 
Professor of Biology and Environmental Studies at 
the University of the South, where he served as Chair 
of Biology. He is a 2014-2015 Fellow of the John 
Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation, a Fellow 
of the American Council of Learned Societies, and an 
Elective Member of the American Ornithologists' 
Union. His scientific research on animal ecology, 
evolution, and conservation has been sponsored by 
the National Science Foundation, the Environmental 
Protection Agency, the Fish and Wildlife Service, the 
World Wildlife Fund, among others. He serves on the 
boards and advisory committees of local and national 
land conservation groups.

Haskell's classes have received national attention for 
the innovative ways they combine action in the 
community with contemplative practice. In 2009, the 
Carnegie and CASE Foundations named him 
Professor of the Year for Tennessee, an award given 
to college professors who have achieved national 
distinction and whose work shows "extraordinary 
dedication to undergraduate teaching." The Oxford 
American featured him in 2011 as one of the southern 
U.S.'s most creative teachers. His teaching has been 
profiled in USA Today, The Tennesseean, and other 

By Stevi Carroll

New Hampshire

Hooray! The USA now has 21 states that have 
abolished the death penalty. May 30th the New 
Hampshire House secured 247 votes to 123 
votes to override Governor Chris Sununu's veto 
of the death penalty repeal bill. 

Perhaps the day will come when we pass a 
'magic' number of 26 states that have abolished 
the death penalty and we as a nation can decide 
that many factors including poor defense, 
poverty, race, and innocence are enough reasons 
to abolish the death penalty nationwide.

Curtis Flowers and the prosecutor Doug Evans

Curtis Flowers is African-American. Doug 
Evans is white.  They live in Mississippi.

How important is the make up of a jury when 
one is on trial? In Mr Flowers' six trials for the 
same crime, Mr Evans used his peremptory 
challenges to strike potential African-American 
jurors. During questioning of potential jurors, 
Mr Evans asked an average of 29 questions to 
each of the African-Americans and asked an 
average of one question to each of the whites. 
The juries ended up being either all white or 11 
white jurors and one African-American juror. 
The US Supreme Court ruled 7-2 that "The 
State's relentless, determined effort to rid the 
jury of black individuals strongly suggests that 
the State wanted to try Flowers before a jury 
with as few black jurors as possible, and ideally 
before an all-white jury."

The Civil Rights Act of 1875 was to eliminate 
racial discrimination in jury selection, but as we 
see with this case, people of color can still be 
excluded from jury duty. The Court wrote about 
Mr Flowers case, "A court confronting that kind 
of pattern cannot ignore it because 
the lopsidedness of the prosecutor's questioning 
and inquiry can itself be evidence of 
discriminatory intent."

Sheri Lynn Johnson, one of Mr Flowers' 
attorneys, wants the state officials to release 
him. She said, "A seventh trial would be 
unprecedented and completely unwarranted 
given both the flimsiness of the evidence against 
him and the long trail of misconduct that has 
kept him wrongfully incarcerated all these 
years. We hope that the state of Mississippi will 
finally disavow Doug Evans's misconduct, 
decline to pursue yet another trial and set Mr. 
Flowers free."

We shall see.

Christopher Price

Christopher Price had a father who was 
mentally ill and who would abuse him 
physically and psychologically starting when he 
was a toddler. He saw this man brutalize his 
mother; Mr Price saw his father hold a gun to 
his mother's head and he saw him try to drown 
her in a river. After she left Christopher's father, 
she fell in with other men some of whom also 
violently beat him. Christopher lived in 

What happened?

Under the influence of a man, Bookie Coleman, 
with a history of violent crimes, Mr Price took 
part in a robbery during which a beloved 
minister known by most of the 18,000 residents 
was murdered. Because Mr Price was poor, he 
was unable to hire a defense lawyer. His court 
appointed lawyer did little to plead his case. Mr 
Coleman pled guilty to felony murder for which 
the maximum sentence is life without parole. Mr 
Coleman did not testify during Mr Price's trial. 
Mr Price was convicted of capital murder 
without the jury's hearing any of the Mr Price's 
childhood history and his lawyer did not 
prepare for the penalty phase of the trial. His 
lawyer did not respond to the prosecutor's 
argument that executing Mr Price was 'the only 
way' to keep him from murdering again. In 
Alabama, only ten jurors need to impose the 
death sentence; a unanimous jury verdict is not 
needed. For Mr Price, ten jurors did indeed 
decide he had to be executed; therefore, he was 
sentenced to die, and die he did on May 30th.

You might remember from last month how the 
Governor of Alabama Kay Ivey is on the record 
saying that all life is precious and a gift from 
God. Christopher Price became the eighth 
person executed in Alabama during Governor 
Ivey tenure.

So Governor Kay Ivey, is Christopher Price 
another precious life that was a gift from God?

What can happen to a person on death row?

Last month Donnie Johnson was listed as 
executed on May 16. How did he spend his 34 
years on death row? Mr Johnson became what 
Pastor Furman F. Fordham II of the Riverside 
Chapel in Nashville TN called a person who led 
and served "in such a way that what he's doing 
in there is the exact kind of ministry that we 
would definitely ordain someone for out here." 

Mr Johnson murdered his wife Connie Johnson 
and did not deny that crime. As Sister Helen 
Prejean says, "People are more than the worst 
thing they have ever done in their lives."  
Cynthia Vaughn, Connie Johnson's daughter 
and Mr Johnson's adopted daughter, pleaded 
with the governor to step in and not execute Mr 
Johnson. Ms Vaughn said, "Over these past few 
years, Don has become one of my last 
connections to my mother, and his execution 
will not feel like justice to me." 

As we know, the condemned person is allowed 
a final meal that is different from the fare served 
to the other inmates. The approximate allotment 
for this meal is $20.00. Following in the footsteps 
of another death row inmate who at his 
execution asked for this money to be used to 
buy food for homeless people, Mr. Johnson 
asked to be served what the others would eat on 
his execution day and to take that money to buy 
a meal for a homeless person.

As his lethal injection began, Mr Johnson said, "I 
commend my life into your hands. Thy will be 
done. In Jesus' name, I pray. Amen."  He then 
sang for two minutes before he died.

Execution and California

In March, Governor Gavin Newsom issued a 
moratorium on executions and had the death 
chamber at San Quentin State Prison shuttered. 
He also suspended the state's efforts to find a 
constitutional method for lethal injection. This 
means that all of the State's death row inmates 
have a reprieve that will last as long as 
Governor Newsom is governor. Part of what 
influenced Governor Newsom's decision was 
"that the death penalty discriminates against 
defendants who are poor, mentally ill, African 
American or Latino. He also noted that death 
row inmates in California and other states have 
been exonerated." When he leaves office, these 
people can once again be on death row.

A recent poll conducted for the Los Angeles 
Times by the Institute for Governmental Studies 
at UC Berkeley found that 48% of the people 
asked opposed the Governor's decision while 
52% supported it (78% of Democrats supported 
the decision; 85% of Republicans opposed it).

The survey also showed that 61% of Californians 
support keeping the death penalty as a "possible 
punishment for serious crimes," and 39% of us 
said the death penalty should be abolished.

The 2020 election may have a ballot measure 
that would replace the death penalty with life 
without possibility of parole. The poll found 
that at the time the poll was taken 46% 
supported the constitutional amendment 
although 53% opposed it.

Margin of error is 3 percentage points in either direction. 
Source: UC Berkeley Institute of Governmental Studies poll 
(Los Angeles Times)

Thirty years ago, 82% of Californians supported 
the death penalty with only 14% favoring 
abolition.  The vote in the 2020 election should 
this measure be on the ballot will depend on 
how each side advertises the pros and cons. The 
2020 election promises to be quite interesting.

Recent Exonerations

Keith Bush - State: NY
 - Date of Exoneration: 5/22/2019
Keith Bush of Bellport, N.Y., was sentenced to 20 
years to life in 1976 for murder and attempted 
sexual abuse. Although paroled in 2007, Bush 
was exonerated in 2019 after a witness recanted, 
DNA testing failed to tie him to the crime, and it 
was shown that his trial attorney had not been 
told of an alternate suspect, now believed to be 
the true murderer.

Terrance Lewis - State: PA
 - Date of Exoneration: 5/22/2019
In 1999, Terrance Lewis was sentenced to life in 
prison without parole for a murder in 
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He was exonerated 
in 2019 after a witness and two of the real 
criminals said he was not involved in the crime.

Clayton "Mustafa" Thomas, Jr. - State: PA
 - Date of Exoneration: 5/31/2019
In 1995, Clayton "Mustafa" Thomas and his 
brother, Shaurn Thomas, were sentenced to life 
in prison for participating in a murder and 
robbery in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Shaurn 
was exonerated in 2017 and Clayton was 
exonerated in 2019 after a co-defendant 
admitted that he falsely implicated them, and 
the prosecution concluded that Shaurn Thomas 
was elsewhere at the time of the crime.

Terrence Haynes - State: IL
 - Date of Exoneration: 6/3/2019
In 2000, Terrence Haynes was sentenced to 45 
years in prison for murder in Kankakee, Illinois 
despite his claim that he was acting in self-
defense. He was exonerated in 2019, after a 
witness admitted that he testified falsely that the 
victim did not have a gun.

Darrell Jones - State: MA
 - Date of Exoneration: 6/11/2019
Darrell Jones was sentenced to life in prison in 
1986 for the murder of Guillermo Rodrigues in 
Brockton, Massachusetts. After a judge ruled 
that a police officer had lied on the witness 
stand, Jones received a new trial in 2017 and was 
acquitted in 2019. 

Stay of Execution
7	Tiffany Moss GA	
Legally premature death warrant scheduled 
execution for June 7-14; will be stayed by 
operation of law when counsel files notice of 
intent to appeal death sentence.

23	Bobby Joe Long	FL
	Lethal Injection
 	3-drug (Etomidate)  
	Years From Sentence To Execution - 34

30	Christopher Price	AL	
Lethal Injection 
	3-drug (Midazolam) 
	Years From Sentence To Execution - 17

20	Marion Wilson	GA
	Lethal Injection, 1-drug (Pentobarbital) 
	Years From Sentence To Execution - 21

UAs                     18
POC Narges Mohammadi    12
Total                   30

Narges Mohammadi
By Joyce Wolf

We hoped that Narges Mohammadi would be 
able to make a good recovery after her 
emergency hysterectomy in May, but against 
doctors' advice she was returned to Iran's 
notorious Evin Prison only a week after surgery. 
Worse yet, prison authorities denied her the 
antibiotics necessary to prevent postoperative 
infections, and she did indeed contract an 
Published: 18 June 2019

"... Well-known human rights activist Narges 
Mohammadi, who has suffered a range of health 
problems since she began serving a 16-year prison 
sentence in 2015, has recently developed a severe 
infection following a brief transfer to hospital during 
which she underwent a hysterectomy.
The infection shines a light upon another aspect of 
the judiciary's use of medical access as a tool of 
reward and punishment. Frequently, the targets of 
extrajudicial punishment are permitted enough 
specialized medical care to forestall death or to give 
the impression that the prisoner is being cared for, 
but not enough to permanently correct the 
underlying issues. In Mohammadi's case, the high 
risk of infection was well known at the time of the 
procedure, and doctors recommended that she spend 
a month recovering either in hospital or at home. 
Instead, the authorities returned her to her cell after 
one week.
Far from allowing her to return to hospital after the 
infection developed, those authorities have 
reportedly barred her from even taking antibiotics. 
And in an apparent effort to exert pressure on the 
prisoner's family as well as the prisoner herself, 
prison officials have provided her husband and 
children with little to no information about her 
condition, have cancelled scheduled phone calls, and 
have prevented Mohammadi from having direct 
contact with her husband.
Iran is a signatory to multiple international 
conventions that affirm these standards, and yet the 
theocratic regime has unilaterally declared that it is 
exempt from any provisions that are deemed to 
contradict Iranian law or sharia law."

One small bit of good news: @UnitedForNarges 
tweeted on June 17 that Narges was able to talk 
to her children on the phone for the first time 
since she underwent surgery.

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