John Beer, a DCODP founding member, dies at age 94

We recently learned that John Beer, one of the founders of Delaware Citizens Opposed to the Death Penalty, died on October 2, 2021. John Beer was a dedicated activist who made significant contributions to peace and justice during his 94 years. May he rest in peace. Thank you to another founder, Sally Milbury-Steen, who wrote the following eulogy for John and his wife Fran, who also worked for peace and justice and who died earlier this year:

Frances Nicholson Beer and John J. Beer

Frances Nicholson Beer, 90, died on March 25th, 2021, in Kennett Square, PA a couple of days after suffering a brain bleed during a fall in the kitchen of her cottage at the Kendal retirement community in Kennett Square, PA. She and her husband John moved to Newark, DE in 1961 when John joined the faculty of the History Department at the University of Delaware. Initially, he taught European history with an emphasis on the history of science, technology, and chemistry, but later created and taught courses on Women in Science, The Atomic Age, and Gandhi. They lived in Newark, DE for 41 years before moving to Kendal in 2002 where they joined John’s three siblings who were already living there.

John was one of the founders of Delaware Citizens Opposed to the Death Penalty which was started in 2002, a few weeks after the state had executed Steven Brian Pennell, a serial killer, on March 14. This was the first execution in 46 years, and John was among the group of twelve citizens who stood on the grounds of the Smyrna Correctional Center holding signs in opposition to capital punishment. He participated in similar vigils during the fifteen subsequent Delaware executions.

John and Fran Beer enjoyed raising their children: Jennifer, Sandy, Michael, and Matthew in Newark, and were active in campus and community life. They were a founding family of the Newark Friends Meeting in the early 1960’s and held many leadership positions in the meeting as well as in Western Quarterly Meeting and the Philadelphia Yearly Meeting.

Fran was a reliable anchor in the alto section of community choruses, especially the University of Delaware’s Schola Cantorum. She provided decade-long leadership as chair of the committee which published Worship in Song: A Friends Hymnal in 1996. She especially championed new hymns written by Quaker composers and lyricists. One of her favorite lyricists was Roberta Bard Ruby and she especially liked her hymn, “Eternal and Infinite Source of All Grace.” Its final verse is most appropriate for Fran who left us first and for John who died at the age of 94 on October 6, 2021:

From thee comes our birth and all life soaring free.

Our aging and dying returns us to thee.

All cycles and seasons flow by thy commands.

In life and in death we are still in thy hands.

We are thankful for John and Fran who worked and witnessed for peace and justice throughout their long lives and touched so many of our lives in the process. We loved them deeply and miss them, but are grateful that they are now reunited in perfect peace and much-earned eternal rest.

Letter proposing campaign to support abolition bill

April 18, 2020

Dear Death Penalty Abolitionists,

I hope this correspondence finds you and your families safe and healthy. We are all learning the importance of community and compassion in action. While my family is able to follow the recommendations to protect against the spread of the virus, we are keenly aware that many in our State are risking on a daily basis for the greater good. Let us honor their self-sacrifice by continuing our quest toward a State where capital punishment remains outside judicial recourse.

Congratulations to all who participated in the Death Penalty Educational Forum-Webinar on April 1, 2020. The panel members delivered clear and concise presentations to an engaged audience. Our gratitude to all the dedicated, talented and steadfast abolitionists who persevered resulting in a quality presentation. Thanks to all.

Given the fact that the legislative session has been suspended and we are uncertain when it reconvenes or what outstanding legislation will be considered, our specific strategy planning also remains ‘on hold’. For that reason, we are planning our next DCODP meeting on Monday, May 25 at 5:30 pm. This meeting will most likely be held on a virtual platform. The details and agenda will be sent to you as we get closer to the planned date.

At our next meeting I will be proposing that a campaign be developed with our partners for the purpose of amending the State Constitution to prohibit execution, as recently proposed by Representative Lynn and Senator Townsend in House Bill 305. Find details of House Bill 305 here.  Click here for an article describing context.

I envision this being a virtual campaign aiming at public education. Since such a campaign would be launched outside the political fray the focus might clear partisan lines thus offering some relief to our legislative supporters. I welcome your thoughts and suggestions at any time.

My thoughts and good wishes to you all. Our community remains strong and vital and depends on your unwavering commitment and energy.


Molly Keogh

Delaware Citizens Opposed to the Death Penalty

Colorado Abolishes the Death Penalty!

Today, Colorado Governor Jared Polis signed SB20-100, repealing the death penalty in Colorado going forward. He also signed an Executive Order to commute the sentences of the three men on death row to life without the possibility of parole. He stated that the commutations were “consistent with the abolition of the death penalty in the State of Colorado, and consistent with the recognition that the death penalty cannot be, and never has been, administered equitably in the State of Colorado.” Click here for details in the Colorado Sun.

This legislation brings the total number of states without a death penalty to 25, 22 states that have abolished the death penalty by legislation or judicial proceeding, and three states that have a moratorium imposed by their Governor. Click here for details.

The death penalty continues to become more unusual in its use. According to the Death Penalty Information Center, as of January 15, 2020, “executions are rare or non-existent in most of the nation: the majority of states—33 out of 50—have either abolished the death penalty or have not carried out an execution in at least 10 years. An additional 6 states have not had an execution in at least 5 years, for a total of 39 states with no death penalty or no executions in that time.” Click here to see the details.

New Delaware Death Penalty Legislation

Two new bills have been introduced and assigned to the Delaware House Judiciary Committee.

House Bill 305 proposes an amendment to the Delaware Constitution that would prohibit imposition of the death penalty under any circumstances. Sponsors include Reps. Lynn, Longhurst, Baumbach, Dorsey Walker, Bentz, Chukwuocha, K. Johnson, Kowalko, Matthews, Minor-Brown, and Seigfried, and Sens. Townsend, McBride, Lockman, McDowell, Sokola, and Sturgeon, House For details click on HB 305. An amendment to the Delaware Constitution requires a greater than majority vote for passage. It requires approval by two-thirds of both Houses in two subsequent General Assemblies.

House Bill 299, the Egregious Crimes Accountability Act, proposes to bring back Delaware’s death penalty. Sponsors include Reps. Short, Smyk, Dukes, Gray, Morris, Vanderwende, Spiegelman, Yearick, and Sens. Wilson, Ennis, and Pettyjohn. For details click on HB 299

Please contact your legislators regarding these bills. 
  • For HB 305 (prohibiting the death penalty), thank legislators who co-sponsored and urge others to co-sponsor. 
  • For HB 299 (reinstating the death penalty), tell your legislators that Delaware can live without the death penalty and urge them to oppose this bill.

To find out your legislator and their contact information, click here, then type in your address in the Who Is My Legislator? box toward the top right of the screen.


Fill Out To Send A Postcard: No “Streamlined” Death Penalty In DE

No_Death_Penalty_Delaware-01We cannot afford to delay action any longer. The Death Penalty legislation to be introduced this month will very likely pass the legislature and bring back this heinous punishment to Delaware. We CANNOT let this happen.

Fill out the form on this link and a volunteer will fill out a postcard on your behalf to send to your legislator. To know who your legislator is, we need your full address where you are registered to vote.

If you can join us for one of our postcard parties to hear about this issue and fill out your own postcard, you do not need to fill out this form. This is for only if you are unable to make it out for a postcard party.

Upcoming chances to fill out postcards in person:

ACLU-DE Guest Bartender Event: March 11th
Network Delaware/Urban League Building People Power Campaign Launch March 14th
Postcard Party: Newark March 16th 6:00 pm
Delaware United Trivia Night March 24th
Death Penalty In Delaware: An Educational and Action Based Forum April 1st
More dates to be added soon!

Death Penalty In Delaware: A Free Educational And Action-Based Forum

No_Death_Penalty_Delaware-01Join us for a free educational and action oriented forum and discussion about the extreme risks associated with Delaware’s Death Penalty Efforts

Wednesday, April 1, 2020 | 5:30 p.m. – 7:00 p.m.

Widener University Delaware Law School, Ruby R. Vale Moot Courtroom, 4601 Concord Pike, Wilmington, DE 19803

To register, click Eventbrite Registration

Panelists will explore capital punishment in general and in particular the legislative initiatives being considered in the Delaware General Assembly this year.

The purpose of this discussion is to inform the community of the serious consequences of moving Delaware back to the status of a “death penalty state”. There will be multiple opportunities for you to take direct action to help stop the death penalty. There will be an opportunity for questions.

Please bring a Pen, Paper, Envelope and Stamp if you have them available.

Panelists Include:

  • Brendan O’Neill – Public Defenders Office
  • Barbara Lewis – Restorative Justice Advocate – Personal experience with DP
  • Kristin Froehlich – Victim’s family member
  • Karen Lantz – Civil Rights Lawyer
  • More to come

Opening Statement by Kathy Jennings – Attorney General for Delaware

Sponsors include:

  • Delaware United
  • Unitarian Universalist of Delaware Advocacy Network
  • Delaware Law School American Constitution Society
  • Delaware Citizens Opposed To The Death Penalty
  • Delaware Center for Justice

To register, click Eventbrite Registration

DCODP Strategy Meeting Mon Feb 24th at 5:30 p.m.

Join us as we strategize against the two bills proposing to reinstate the death penalty and in favor of the proposed change to the Delaware Constitution that will abolish the death penalty. Delaware Citizens Opposed to the Death Penalty will meet on Monday, February 24, from 5:30 pm to 7:00 pm in the Social Room at the Wilmington Friends Meeting, 401 N. West Street, Wilmington, DE 19801. The entrance faces West Street. Ring the bell and someone will let you in. All are welcome.

Delaware state legislators prepare another attempt to reinstate the death penalty

The Delaware House of Representatives sent out an email on January 30, 2020, describing some members’ latest plan to attempt to reinstate the death penalty. The new bill, called The Egregious Crimes Accountability Act, claims to resolve the flaws that caused the Delaware Supreme Court to declare the death penalty statute unconstitutional in 2016. It also claims to “streamline” aggravating factors.

Do not be fooled. The image of the statue of blind justice that heads the video accompanying the email is a slap in the face to anyone who cares about racial justice. The new bill has made no attempt to change the extreme racial bias in the administration of the death penalty in Delaware. Indeed, some of these same legislators, in a 2016 letter responding to the death penalty being declared unconstitutional, stated that “We realize there are lingering questions about the equity of its application, but that is a separate issue.” It is not a separate issue to those who are likely to be caught in its snare or to any of us who care about the issues of equality before the law. In addition to racial bias, the new bill does nothing to correct for flaws related to wasteful spending, risk of executing an innocent, harm to victims’ family members, ineffectiveness, and failure to improve either public safety or the safety of law enforcement officers.

We urge you to contact your state legislators and urge them to oppose any efforts to reinstate Delaware’s death penalty. For talking points, click here. To find your legislators, go to Who Is My Legislator? at the top right of the Delaware General Assembly website and enter your address. Thank you!