The Second Installment of "Hidden Collections" from the National Death Penalty Archives Made Available
Jason Thomas, Graduate Assistant
Three new collections have recently been completed as part of the Building New Access Tools for the National Death Penalty Archive project and are available to researchers. The ongoing project to process and make available 10 collections from the National Death Penalty Archives is funded by the Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR) as part of its Cataloging Hidden Special Collections and Archives program. Finding aids to the Bill Pelke Papers, Murder Victims' Families for Reconciliation Records, and the Victor Streib Papers can now be found on the M.E. Grenander Special Collections and Archives webpage. Visitors may now request to see any part of these collections in the Marcia Brown Reading Room on the third floor of the Science Library.
The Bill Pelke Papers contain the records of political activist Bill Pelke and document his efforts toward the abolition of the death penalty in the United States from the late 1980s until the early 2000s. Pelke's life as a death penalty activist began in 1985 after his own grandmother was murdered by Paula Cooper, a fifteen year old girl who was subsequently sentenced to death. Pelke gained national attention for his efforts to save the life of his grandmother's killer. In 1989, Cooper's sentence was commuted to 60 years imprisonment, owing to recent changes in federal and state laws which barred the death penalty for defendants who committed crimes under the age of 16, prompted, in part, by Pelke's efforts. The collection includes materials from organizations in which Pelke was a member including Journey of Hope...from Violence to Healing, Murder Victims Families for Reconciliation, Amnesty International, and the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty.
Murder Victims' Families for Reconciliation is a national death penalty abolition organization founded by Marie Deans in 1976 which supports coordinated efforts to abolish the death penalty in all cases. The organization includes family members of both homicide victims and those executed as well as their respective supporters. The Murder Victims' Families for Reconciliation Records document the organization's fight to abolish the death penalty from 1977 to 2007.
The Victor Streib Papers contain the records of Victor Streib, a retired professor of law and recognized authority on the death penalty, especially its application to women and juveniles. The collection contains case files, papers, journal articles and other written materials about juveniles and women who were sentenced to death or executed. It also consists of materials from Streib's case work from the mid-1980s to the mid-2000s, when he was working as counsel to a handful of death penalty cases, and researching the history of how that punishment has been applied in the United States.
These collections join the previously completed Leigh B. Bienen Papers and the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty Records, both processed under the Building New Access Tools for the National Death Penalty Archive project. The David C. Baldus Papers and the Michael Mello Papers are nearly completed as well and will be made available to researchers in fall 2015. These collections document the research and legal fight against the death penalty by two of the leading experts in the field.