The Stars Came out for DPF in Beverly Hills!

Posted by Elizabeth Zitrin on April 30th, 2008
Azim Khamisa and William Baldwin
Azim Khamisa and William Baldwin at DPF's 2008 Awards Dinner

I must report that we have not resolved the important question of whether Alec Baldwin or William Baldwin is more charming. Let's hope they both come to our 2009 Awards Dinner and you can all judge for yourselves.

And in the interest of full disclosure, I must also report that nothing (not even André Braugher, DPF Board member Kevin Kilner, Jordan Baker and my friend Julia Sweeney at my table!) gave me more pleasure than DPF honoring my father, Arthur Zitrin, M.D., for his work keeping doctors out of the state killing machine.

But there were so many stars -- stars of our movement to end the death penalty, stars of the struggle for human rights, and stars from the Hollywood entertainment biz all came out for Death Penalty Focus at our beautiful annual Awards Dinner in the Hills of Beverly last Thursday.

We celebrated the twenty years of great work and national leadership by DPF, and thanks to the work of all of our members, friends and supporters, we could glimpse the future where we'll put ourselves out of business by getting our government out of the death business.

Civil Rights hero Julian Bond and novelist John Grisham, who wrote his non-fiction best seller The Innocent Man about a wrongfully convicted man on death row, were among the headliners honored at the dinner at the grand Beverly Wilshire Hotel. Both spoke eloquently about the importance of this work we are doing together. John Grisham spoke about exoneree Greg Wilhoit, who was at the dinner, and how his strength and support and friendship gave Ron Williamson the will to go on when they were both innocent but imprisoned on Oklahoma's death row.

Alec Baldwin, gracious and friendly to everyone - and a lot of people wanted to talk to him, believe me - is truly committed to human rights (check out his blogging at and a great supporter of DPF. He presented the honor to Julian Bond. William Baldwin is tall and attentive, and wore the evening's most interesting plaid suit as he presented the award to Azim Khamisa.

Azim Khamisa's talk was the most moving part of the evening for me. His eloquence and grace in the face of overwhelming grief at the death of his son is inspirational. Azim has joined with the grandfather of the boy who killed his own boy, in a message of hope, forgiveness and redemption.

There were more stars.

Actor André Braugher, who works in Hollywood (think "Homicide: Life on the Streets") but lives in New Jersey, presented the award honoring our east coast colleagues who have lifted our spirits and our hopes - not to mention our expectations for 36 more states. New Jersey State Senator Ray Lesniak, who introduced the bill to abolish the death penalty, accepted on behalf of New Jersey Governor Jon Corzine, and Celeste Fitzgerald accepted on behalf of New Jerseyans for Alternatives to the Death Penalty, who have worked long and hard for their great victory.

Hollywood heroes Sid Sheinberg, and DPF Board members Ed Redlich and Sarah Timberman, all TV producers, received long deserved honors. Jane Olson of Human Rights Watch, herself a civil rights hero, honored her colleague Sid Sheinberg. Ed and Sarah were honored by a San Francisco star, District Attorney Kamala Harris, who was elected on a platform of being "smart on crime" without sending anyone to a useless, expensive and dehumanizing state execution.

Melody Ermachild, an investigator who has devoted decades to working on death penalty cases, and Henry Weinstein, who has written persuasively and courageously in the LA Times about the death penalty and criminal justice, were both recognized by our own star and hero, Board President Mike Farrell. The terrific success of the evening was made possible by DPF's exceptional staff, led by Executive Director Lance Lindsey, Program Director Stefanie Faucher, Development Director Alison Powell and Office Manager Yoko Otani-Spurlin.

As a DPF Board member I am grateful to all of these very busy and very dedicated people for their commitment to justice and the intelligence and inspiration of their work and their words.

Posted in Blog


Add a Comment
  1. Comment by Amanda Stanger, Dec 5th, 2010 4:07pm

    It's obviously WILLIAM BALDWIN!!!


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