News from LifeLines
The 2018 Autumn Conference
This year’s autumn conference marked the 30th anniversary of LifeLines – in some ways, a bittersweet occasion since, in the words of Jan Arriens as he opened the conference, ‘We would like nothing more than to go out of business because the death penalty came to an end - although we would still continue, as the friendships we have now would be sustained.’
And it was these friendships that were at the heart of the conference, which was a very special opportunity to look back over 30 years of correspondence and to think about those people, on both sides of the Atlantic, who have been an important part of the journey so far. Among these is Elisabeth Calvert, who has been a wonderful moral and practical support since Jan founded LifeLines back in 1988. Though sadly unable to be in London for health reasons, Elisabeth was able to join the conference through the wonder of WhatsApp, and sent her love and warm wishes to us all from afar.
We also had the great privilege of hearing from two excellent speakers and long-time friends of LifeLines. Renowned human rights lawyer Clive Stafford Smith was the defence attorney for Edward Earl Johnson who appeared in Fourteen Days in May, the BBC film that inspired Jan to establish LifeLines. Now based back in the UK, Clive is the founder of international human rights charity Reprieve, and patron of LifeLines. Dr Rick Halperin is one of the top academics in the death penalty field in the USA, and Professor of the Human Rights Program at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas. He produces a daily bulletin on death penalty developments around the world, which has proved an invaluable source of information to LifeLines over the years.
With typical irreverence and humour, Clive took us on a trip down memory lane, to talk about three of the men without whom there would be no LifeLines: Leo Edwards, Sam Johnson and Edward Earl Johnson.