Lawmaker behind successful drive to abolish death penalty in NH speaks in Reston on Oct. 5

By Paul O’Shea:

The leader of New Hampshire’s successful drive to abolish the death penalty – making it the 21st state to do so — will deliver the keynote at the annual luncheon of Virginians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty (VADP) in Reston on Oct. 5.

Renny Cushing is a state legislator in New Hampshire whose work as a crime victim’s advocate was shaped by his father’s murder in l988 and the murder of his brother-in-law 23 years later. Cushing, founder and executive director of Murder Victims’ Families for Human Rights, led the effort earlier this year to repeal capital punishment in the Granite State as a member of the state House of Representatives.

Also at the event, Va. Sen. Barbara Favola (D-31) will receive VADP’s Legislator of the Year Award. Sen. Favola patroned legislation in January 2019 that would have exempted those suffering with several mental illness (SMI) from execution in the Commonwealth.

It was the first time in the state’s history that one chamber of the General Assembly voted to limit the death penalty. However, the bill was defeated in the Courts of Justice Committee of the House of Delegates.

The event will start at noon on Oct. 5 at United Christian Parish, 11508 North Shore Drive, Reston. Tickets are $25 each and can be purchased online at

“We are extremely pleased to host these two prominent community leaders,” said Michael Stone, VADP executive director. “One was at the forefront of a state repeal, the other is a key figure here in Virginia in our effort to limit the imposition of capital punishment.”

Kristina Leslie was recently elected president of Virginians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty

He added, “Their appearances are especially timely since Virginians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty will lead a campaign for legislation in the upcoming 2020 legislative session that may result in the repeal of the death penalty in Virginia. Our goal is to become the first Southern state to end capital punishment.”

Tom Petersik of Chesterfield County will receive the Betty Gallagher Citizen Advocate of the Year award. He coordinated an interfaith effort to develop and distribute a petition supporting the SMI exemption legislation that generated 800 signatures. A retired labor economist with the Federal government, he studied problems associated with prison labor.

Throughout its history the VADP annual luncheon has presented prominent death penalty abolition speakers. Last year the sold-out event featured Mike Farrell of Death Penalty Focus. Previously the group heard Henderson Hill, executive director of The Eighth Amendment Project and former Virginia Attorney General Mark Earley. (See earlier story in The Blue View)

Founded in 1991, Virginians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty is a statewide nonpartisan organization dedicated to eliminating capital punishment in the Commonwealth.

The organization recently elected new leaders.

New President Kristina D. Leslie, a resident of Annandale, is an Assistant Federal Public Defender for the Federal Public Defender for the District of Maryland. Earlier she was an attorney in the Capital Defender Office of Northern Virginia. She is a graduate of the Washington and Lee University School of Law.

New directors are:
– Jayne Barnard, a retired law professor who served at the College of William & Mary;

– Todd Peppers, a law professor at Roanoke College and visiting professor of law at Washington and Lee University. He is the author of A Courageous Fool: Marie Deans and Her Fight Against the Death Penalty; and

– Jean Segner, formerly with SunTrust Mortgage, a marketing consultant and growth strategist.


Paul O’Shea is Vice President, Virginians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty and a resident of Fairfax. He had a long career in corporate communications before his involvement with social justice issues such as capital punishment.



Main photo: (L-R) Renny Cushing, who spearheaded New Hampshire’s abolition of the death penalty, will be joined by Va. state Sen. Barbara Favola, who introduced legislation to restrict judicial execution in the Commonwealth, at VADP’s annual luncheon 


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