OKLAHOMA CITY, OK, Wednesday, May 15, 2019 – The 28th Annual Oklahoma Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty (OK-CADP) Awards Dinner & Meeting will feature as this year’s keynote speaker Innocence Project’s senior attorney Vanessa Potkin. There will be a tribute to honor longtime board member and former chair, Jim Rowan.
The event will take place Saturday, June 8, 2019, at the Capitol View Event Center, 5201 N. Lincoln Boulevard, in Oklahoma City. Registration and a cocktail reception will begin at 5 p.m., with a buffet dinner at 6 p.m., and program at 7 p.m.
Potkin is Director of Postconviction Litigation for the Innocence Project. She is also an Executive Producer of the ABC documentary “The Last Defense,” which examines the case of Julius Darius Jones, who has served over 19 years on Oklahoma’s death row.
Potkin joined New York City’s Innocence Project in 2000 as its first staff attorney; it was founded by attorneys Barry Scheck and Peter Neufeld. Potkin has helped to pioneer the model of postconviction DNA litigation used nationwide to exonerate wrongfully convicted persons. Potkin has represented and exonerated over 30 innocent individuals.
“We are excited that Vanessa Potkin will be talking to us about the important work that the Innocence Project is doing,” said Rev. Don Heath, OK-CADP chair. “We also are looking forward to hearing her insights about the Julius Jones case.”
According to the Death Penalty Information Center, since 1973 there have been 165 people exonerated from death row in the United States – 10 in Oklahoma.
Oklahoma has had a moratorium on the death penalty since October 2015 after the wrong drug, (potassium acetate instead of potassium chloride, the drug approved as a part of the state’s three-drug lethal injection protocol) was nearly used to execute Richard Glossip.
In 2018 the State of Oklahoma announced that implement future executions by nitrogen hypoxia, a mode of execution that has not been used in the United States. Attorney General Mike Hunter says that Oklahoma has been unable to obtain a device that would “appropriately introduce nitrogen into an individual’s system,” and has been forced to “develop the machine themselves.”
Heath said, “It violates the Hippocratic oath for doctors to do harm, and reputable businesses don’t want anything to do with executions. Nitrogen hypoxia has the same issues as lethal injection.”
During the program, OK-CADP will elect its at-large board members and three awards will be given out during the Abolitionists Awards ceremony.
The Lifetime Abolitionist award will be given posthumously to honor attorney James Thomas Rowan (May 25,1944 – May 6, 2019), who served as an extraordinarily dedicated OK-CADP board member for nearly two decades.
Jim tried 40 capital cases in his 35 years of service as a public defender in Oklahoma County and for the Capital Trial Division of the Oklahoma Indigent Defense System (OIDS) in Norman.
In 2013, Rowan, along with former OK-CADP chair Lydia Polley and Randy Bauman, former supervisor of Oklahoma’s Federal Capital Habeas Unit, co-founded the OK-CADP Bob Lemon Capital Defense Attorney Scholarship Fund. This essential program commits financial aid for capital defense attorneys to attend national training events in order to further their professional development in the areas of trials, mitigation, appeals, and victim outreach.
Among his numerous awards, Rowan received the Oklahoma Criminal Defense Lawyers Association Lord Erskine Award in 2002 and the OK-CADP Phil Wahl Abolitionist of the Year in 2008.
“Jim Rowan cared for the least of these,” Heath said. “His life’s calling was to defend ‘the worst of the worst.’ We all owe a debt of gratitude to Jim for helping to save dozens of lives.”
Recipients of the 2019 Opio Toure Courageous Advocate award are Dale Baich and Amanda Bass, attorneys for the Federal Public Defender’s Capitol Habeas Unit in the District of Arizona, legal representatives for Julius Jones. Cece Jones-Davis, founder of Sing for Change, Inc., and tireless advocate for Jones, will be honored with the Phil Wahl Abolitionist of the Year Award.
Individual tickets for the OK-CADP 28th Annual Dinner are $50, $15 for students, and sponsorships for tables of ten are available for $500.
For more information or to purchase tickets online, visit okcadp.org. To order tickets by mail, send checks, along with guest’s names, to: OK-CADP, P.O. Box 713, Oklahoma City, OK 73101-0713. Please indicate “annual dinner” in the memo line.