From Gloria Johnson-Ester, CEDP
I am the mother of a former death row inmate whose death sentence was commuted to
forty years in prison by former Illinois Governor George Ryan. I have learned that my battle
is not just about my son, but that it is about every mother's son or daughter who is behind
prison walls. That is why I am writing to ask you to contribute to the Costella Cannon
( You can make an online donation at
All contributions to the Costella Cannon Scholarship Fund will help family members and
former death row prisoners travel to and attend the Campaign to End the Death Penalty's
fifth annua convention on November 12-13 in Chicago, Illinois. This year's convention,
"Fighting the Death Penalty: A New Civil Rights Struggle," will bring together family
members, former prisoners, and activists for two exciting days of discussion and debate
about our movement, our victories, and our challenges.
This special fund was set up in memory of Ms. Cannon, the mother of Illinois death row
prisoner Frank Bounds. Frank died of medical neglect while he was on Illinois' death row,
before he was able to prove his innocence. Yet, even after Frank's death, Ms. Cannon
dedicated the last years of her life fighting to win justice for other death row inmates and
to end the death penalty. As a mother I surely know how Ms. Cannon felt when her son
was diagnosed with cancer while he was on death row. While incarcerated, my son, Montell
Johnson, was diagnosed with chronic progressive multiple sclerosis in 2001, and it truly
has been an ongoing battle to get him the medical care that he needs.
It takes money to continue our fight for justice. So I am asking you to dig deep into your
pockets. I sincerely hope that you search your heart and make a contribution to our cause.
The outpouring of support for the victims of Hurricane Katrina gives me hope in ordinary
people like you and me to make a difference even in the face of indifference by our so-
On September 13th, in the wake of the hurricane, we suffered another casualty in the
southern states when the state of Texas executed an African American woman, Frances
Newton, despite overwhelming evidence of her innocence. We can't bring Ms. Newton back
to life. But we can continue fighting these injustices. I'm asking you to think about all the
men and women who are languishing on death row today. These men and women are the
sons and daughters of mothers just like me. The death penalty is barbaric -- there is no
"legal" or "illegal" murder. This has got to stop! Thank you in advance for whatever amount
that you send and may God bless you.
Gloria J. Johnson-Ester