By Maria Telesco
What would you do if your sister was convicted of murder and sentenced to death? If there was no body found, no blood, no “missing person” report, no evidence that a murder had even been committed? And what if you were positively convinced that she was factually innocent? Many families and former friends of the condemned just turn their backs on them and pretend they never existed. Few remain loyal.
But not so for author and activist Victoria Ann Thorpe. This mother of four from Spokane, Wash., read and reread thousands of pages of trial transcripts, investigated her sister’s case, conferred with several lawyers and investigators, and has dedicated herself to proving Kerry Lyn Dalton’s innocence; she hopes to gain for her sister a new trial and exoneration. And Thorpe wrote a book, Cages, now available on Amazon. It covers in detail the crime that she believes never happened, the trial and Dalton’s life on death row.
Thorpe’s “Journey to Freedom” began on Oct. 14 at Chowchilla prison, where her sister is incarcerated on the Condemned Unit. The 400-mile trek, more than half the length of California, more than 200 miles on foot, the rest by car, will end on Nov. 2. She will be at the San Diego courthouse where, nearly 18 years ago, after only a nine-day trial, Dalton was convicted and sentenced to death.
Focused on the goal of saving Dalton’s life, Thorpe began the second day of her journey in Fresno on Oct. 15, when she was hosted at the Fresno Center for Nonviolence (FCNV). She spoke with FCNV members and friends, death penalty abolitionists from the Catholic Diocese of Fresno and some members of the Unitarian Universalist Church.
Thorpe strives to bring to the attention of voters the many flaws in our so-called justice system that is, she said, based on revenge, not justice and not truth. A system that is responsible for countless wrongful convictions, and in some cases, executions of the innocent, she says, is flawed and needs to be completely revised. She calls it “corrupt.” Thorpe found many errors in her sister’s trial transcripts, what she says are “intentional omissions of exculpatory evidence,” and a conviction based largely on hearsay and conjecture.
On her journey, Thorpe plans to educate the public about the death penalty and promote “Yes” on Prop 34. She is carrying flyers and booklets about the death penalty and information about Prop 34, which she gives out to people she encounters on her journey. If Prop 34 passes, that ballot initiative will eliminate capital punishment in California, substituting LWOP (life in prison without parole) as the maximum punishment for homicide.
Some individuals dislike Prop 34 because LWOP eliminates the possibility of ever leaving prison alive. This is an issue that has brought about many arguments among activists. The majority agree, however, that it’s essential to vote yes on Prop 34 in order to delete capital punishment from our state forever. When it passes, then activists can think about dealing with LWOP, but at least there won’t be any more killings. Thanks to abolitionists like Thorpe, the dream of an entire nation without capital punishment may soon become a reality.
Maria Telesco is a retired registered nurse who has volunteered in various aspects of prison ministry for more than 25 years. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.