Sunday, 6 January 2013

Cruel and Unusual

Cruel and Unusual

I met Terri Steinberg in front of the US Supreme Court during the 9 th Annual Fast and Vigil against the death penalty in 2002. Terri’s 20 year old son Justin had just been sentenced to death by the state of Virginia. Terri was beside herself. She did not know what to do.She read about a group of people protesting the death penalty at the US Supreme Court and came to us looking for help.

We are doing all we can to help her, and Terri has become a valuable member of the Journey family.

Terri joined us for her first Journey of Hope tour in Ohio in 2003. She has participated in Journeys in Texas, Montana, Kentucky, Virginia and even Germany.

She has become a leading spokesperson for abolition of the death penalty. Virginians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty (VAADP) has taken on Justin’s case and is working with Terri in her efforts to save Justin’s life.

Could you imagine having a son on death row even if he were guilty? We are convinced that Justin is innocent.

Justin was convicted of murder for hire. A young man named Owen Barber admitted that he had committed the murder, but was told he could escape the death penalty if he testified that Justin hired him to commit the murder. To save his own life, Owen testified against Justin. Owen was sentenced to 33 years in prison and Justin was sentenced to death. Justin has always maintained his innocence.

Cruel and Unusual

It has been a terrifying roller coaster ride for Terri. Ups and downs and ups and downs!!! A few years back Owen Barber admitted he lied in court against Justin but they could not get a court hearing to get the new evidence introduced. These were dark days.

I was with Terri in Germany on the day she saw a full ray of sunshine that brought her out of the depths of darkness. She received a phone call from Justin’s lawyers saying Justin’s appeals would be heard in court.

The hope I saw in Terri that day was more than wonderful. It was such a high for her. She cried and laughed and shook for about a half an hour. I am glad I was there to hold her. It had been so dark but she was seeing things in a much clearer light. Ray Krone, Terri and I were doing an 18 day tour in Germany in 2008 for Susanne Cardona and the German Coalition Against the Death Penalty.

On Christmas Eve a Federal Judge ordered that Justin be released by 5:00 pm on January 3, 2013 and banned prosecutors from trying him again. Terri’s response when asked how she felt about that news, said "the best Christmas present ever".


On Wednesday the 2nd the Chantilly Patch headline was "Judge: Justin Wolfe to be released Thursday" When a reporter asked Terri what would she do first with Justin? She said "feed him". Go mom.

I have never met, written or talked to Justin but I am aware that he loves the Washington Redskins. One of the few joys he has had on death row is when the Redskins win. I have come to find myself cheering for the Redskins so Justin can have some joy. The Skins have had a good year.

Terri was ready to have Justin come home. At about 3:00 PM on Thursday I saw this message sent out by VAADP.

UPDATE: Justin Wolfe Expected to Be Released Thursday at 5 p.m.

Once sentenced to death row, Chantilly man may soon be freed from custody.

The U.S. District Court and the U.S. 4th Circuit Court of Appeals have denied the Commonwealth's appeals regarding Justin Wolfe.

Without intervention from the U.S. Supreme Court, Wolfe is expected to be released at 5 p.m. today By Dusty Smith Chantilly Patch 2:40 p.m. Jan. 3

What wonderful news this had to be for Terri. She always has maintained that she will not get too excited until she walks away from the prison arm in arm with Justin. She knows the system has let her down before.

Two hours to go. When I received this news I was very happy for Terri. I began to check on Google for a link on this story to copy for our facebook page. Then I saw this headline.

Justin Wolf’s release halted after appeals court intervenes.

Terri was 2 hours away from holding Justin in her arms. You can read more about it here.

Cruel and Unusual

What Terri and her family are going through is cruel and unusual punishment. If any member of the US Supreme Court had a mother in the same situation the death penalty would be declared no longer legal. They would recognize that it is cruel and unusual punishment for the family. What did Terri do wrong? Does she love her son too much?

When will this barbaric act come to an end?

The eighth amendment to the constitution PROHIBITS the federal government from imposing cruel and unusual punishment. Someone should take this case to the US Supreme Court in Terri’s Steinberg’s name. To put a mother through this can only be described as cruel and unusual.

Terri has become a leading spokesperson for the Journey of Hope. She is pictured at a Journey of Hope event in Virginia last year hosted by VAADP and emceed by their ED Steve Northrup.

Today, January 5th is Terri’s birthday. She did not get the birthday gift she dreams of, Justin’s freedom. The state of Virginia is still trying to kill her son. Happy birthday Terri, we wish Justin could have celebrated it with you.


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