Catholic priest and long-time advocate for ending the death penalty, Father Neil Kookoothe, will be in Alaska later this month along with former death row inmate Joe D’Ambrosio.
Ordained in the Diocese of Cleveland, Ohio, Father Kookoothe is currently pastor of Saint Clarence Church in North Olmsted. He met Joe D’Ambrosio in 1998 while serving as spiritual advisor to several men on Ohio’s death row. His experience in theology, nursing and law drew his interest to the case and aided D’Ambrosio in bringing attention to unresolved issues that were never addressed by the legal system or the courts.
D’Ambrosio served in the US Army. In 1998, at age 26, he was convicted and sentenced to death. Always maintaining his innocence, D’Ambrosio said being on death row was the “loneliest, heart-wrenching thing that will haunt him the rest of his life.”
In 1998, he asked Father Kookoothe to read his trial transcript and assist him in bringing his case to the attention of the public and the courts. He was released in 2009 after a federal judge ruled that key evidence was withheld that would have refuted the states witnesses and pointed to other individuals as perpetrators of the crime. After a lengthy and prolonged appellate process, D’Ambrosio was exonerated on January 23, 2012 when the Supreme Court of the United States denied the states appeal of the Sixth Circuit opinion upholding the bar to his re-prosecution. D’Ambrosio is the 140th person to be exonerated from death row in the United States and the sixth in Ohio.
Alaskans Against the Death Penalty will host Father Kookoothe and D’Ambrosio for an evening event in Anchorage on Friday, July 28, from 5:30-8 p.m. The gathering will include food and refreshments. For more information, call (907) 350-2332 or email AKreece1@icloud.com