DAVID AND GOLIATH
We all know the story of David and Goliath. lt is the story of a young boy who volunteered to confront the giant, Goliath, who was terrorizing lsrael. All were afraid of Goliath, and who wouldn't be afraid of a giant measuring over nine feet and clad in armor? But we know who won. lt was the youngest son of Jesse, armed only with a shepherd's staff, a slingshot and some stones. David was the underdog. Most of us sympathize and identify with the underdog, and perhaps that is one of the reasons you support us?
We are unquestionably the underdog in our fight for justice, but we do have a slingshot and also some stones, and what's more, we are not afraid and keep coming. lt may take us a little bit, but in the end, we will slay the giant called the death penalty in Alabama.
One of our newest stones in our slingshot is our German representative, Christoph Silex and his German Information website, geared to German businesses, already in Alabama or thinking of locating in our state. Please understand that it is not our desire to discourage businesses to come to our economically disadvantaged state. Absolutely not, but we do believe that business has a moral responsibility to use its influence for justice. And its influence cannot be underestimated! ThyssenKrupp, the biggest company to come to our state, was able to wangle a $810 million subsidy deal and a 30-year capital investment tax credit which reduces state corporate income taxes by as much as 5 percent of a project's initial capital investment. An exception was made as the usual tax credit is 20 years. Please don't tell me that if it had asked for a rnoratorium on the death penalty whether for the sake of its own employees or that of its host state, Alabama would not have found ways to accommodate the request!
Nobody questions that with every privilege comes responsibility. Whether you call it 'noblesse oblige' or 'to whom much has been given, much shall be asked,' is unimportant; either way, giving back is important. Sure, these plants provide local jobs, which are sorely needed, but is that enough when it is in a state which is out of step with its own belief system?
It is ironic that the European Union denies countries with the death penalty, i.e. Turkey, membership unless they end capital punishment. Germany belongs to the European Union and shares that belief. Why then would it do business in a state that sends more people to death row than any other? Why, at the very minimum, does it not speak up on this issue and use its influence for the good and in support of what itself believes? lt wouldn't even cost it a dime!
We are David and we are not going away. We hope that with the latest stone in our slingshot we can educate those who come to Alabama to live and work so that they will help us slay Goliath!
Coming to America:
TK's Alabama lncentives
ThyssenKrupp's sprawling southern operation wlll be
its first steelmaking plant on U.S soil. Here, by the numbers are some of the financial incentives that Alabama offered in its successful bid:
* $314 million cash grant
* $67 million for employee training
* $45 million toward plant site's purchase
* $25 million for construction and maintenance of roads near the plant.
* $350 million state and local tax breaks
* $8.5 million for Port Authority's purchase of site for marine terminal that will serve ThyssenKrupp's operation.
* $3.7 billion: the total amount that ThyssenKrupp could conceivably recoup from the state's 30-year capital investment tax credit, which reduces state corporate income taxes by as much as 5 percent of a project's initial capital investment.
GREETINGS FROM THE EDITOR'S DESK
My worldly fortune, for an air-conditioner! Yes, the Deep South Dog Days of Summer give new meaning to the words hot and sticky. Many people on the street think we have air conditioning here, Well, we don't. And only getting to shower every other day, in 118 degree heat index, is my personal definition of hell : ) Since I'm indulging in a little naval gazing at the moment, I'd like to address what Esther and I call the "poor me" syndrome and how it relates to death row. I think everyone in the world, on occasion, feels sorry for themselves in a given situation, even if it is due to their own actions. Everyone does it in one form or another, and death row convicts are certainly no exception. While it may be natural to feel it, that doesn't mean people want to hear about it. I realize that it can be offensive to hear a person convicted of taking a life lamenting their situation. So, as the editor, I try to keep it to a minimum in the newsletters but please understand that to pretend we don't have these moods, to pretend we don't hate it here, would be a lie. We try to show our best face but it is possible that the recent executions and the intense heat have contributed to more naval gazing than would be usual otherwise.
It is my sad duty to report that 3 more of our brothers have been executed since our last newsletter. and 2 more have pending execution dates. Thomas Whisenhant was executed May 27th, John Parker was executed June 10th, and Michael Land was executed August 12th. I can't express how much these men will be missed. Holly Wood has an execution date set for Sept. 9th. Phillip Halford has an execution date set for Nov. 4th. Please keep an eye open for the execution alert notices and contact the Governor when the time is right. Thank you.
In closing, I would like to thank all those who participate in the execution vigils. Your sacrifice, caring and dedication do not go unnoticed.
Please, help keep Hope alive.
It's been 3 long years since the State of Alabama murdered our Leader, Friend, Mentor and Bear. My mind was puzzled as to what I would write about this quarter, but I recently received a book in the mail that has become a great read. And I say that with emphasis, because I do not like to read...but as I began to get deeper into the book, I began to think on "The Bear" so I decided to share with you, our readers, what "The Bear" was to me...He was a leader and a mentor. I canrt speak for everyone in this regard, because he was many things to different people. But I can say this, he is truly missed.
I say he was a mentor to me because of what I see a mentor as, Mentor's are not perfect people, they've just experienced life and they are capable of transferring that knowledge to you. I say to guys all the time, "Show me your mentor and I'll predict your future." The Bear was a wise man who believed in growth. He wasn't selfish with his wisdom. He had a thirst for change, and that was attractive if you wanted it also. The Bear was like a tree in the hot Summer that attracts people to it's shade. His sense of purpose attracted me to him more, to know how I could find meaning in a meaningless place. As I began to read this book, it all became more clear to me. The wisest men are those who recognize their need to change and have the courage to face the uncertainty of new beginnings, with a deep commitment to succeed. And the more I could steal a moment of Bear's time, I would learn these things also. I remember a piece of advice he gave me once like it was yesterday; he said "Don't set yourself up for failure...by demanding perfection in every area of your life." He said, "set obtainable goals, something that you can reach and grow from." He said, "A lot of people think wisdom is just amassing a lot of knowledge, but it's applying that knowledge to your life that will help you in a pivotal way."
I knew, after that conversation, that "The Bear" would gain my ear a lot. I wrote Bear a long letter the week before his murder. ".and asked him to not let the State of Alabama rob me, and if there's anything else he could pour into me or sow into my life...please give it to me. I went to his cell and reiterated my request. He just looked at me with his big bright smile and said..."You're ready, You'll be alright." I, in turn, said with tears in my eyes, knowing that this may have been my last time seeing or hearing him. I said, "I won't let you down." He then ran me off 'cause he saw how the ugly cry was about to come upon me...but that was my Mentor and Leader...."The Bear"
EDITOR'S NOTE: "The Bear" was the nickname of Mr. Darrell B. Grayson, Project Hope's Chairman who was executed 7-26-2007. He had a profound affect on all who knew and loved him.
Why I visit:
When I'm engaged in political advocacy to abolish the death penalty. whether by testifying before a legislative committee or leading an execution vigil, I'm doing so for all of the reasons with which we are familiar. I want to live in a society that does not have a death penalty because I'm convinced the penalty results in racial and economic discrimination and that the outrageous cost of the death penalty could do so much more to reduce crime and make improve everyone's lives than by spending that money to put someone to death to show that we are against killing people.
Other than family members, few abolition advocates have the opportunity to visit with death row inmates. I am one of them. When I visit, though, it's not about politics. money, or the judicial system. I visit for a very selfish reason: it makes me a better man. Of course. I hope my visit benefits the inmate. I wouldn't do it otherwise. Still, I'm convinced I get more out of each visit than the inmate.
Jesus reminded us that it's easy to love those who love us. It's easy to embrace our fighting men and women overseas and the first responders at our police and fire stations who risk their lives to protect us. It's a lot harder to befriend whom Jesus might describe as "the least of these." Yet. that is what he did with his life and what he asked us to do in his teachings.
My experience bears out the wisdom of that example and those teachings. When I leave each visit, I can't help but feel grateful for everything I have: someone to come home to and get a hug whenever I need one; watching a sunrise or sunset; or just walking out the door of my house. I also leave knowing that any of us might be in his situation but for different circumstances. He is not the least of these; he is one of us-a human being with the same human yearnings as every other human being.
My relationship with the inmate I visit enriches my spiritual life more than he ever can know.
Rev. Paul Britner
Spiritual Advisor to Project Hope to Abolish the Death Penalty
I HAVE FALLEN
I recently arrived here on death row. It's a long way from home. Before my conviction I was an engineer, I designed Electrical Systems, Lighting Systems and machines. I had three dogs. I lived in a nice house in a good neighborhood. I loved the outdoors. I hunted. I had dirt bikes. I had my hot rod projects. I went to church.
This is my first time to go to prison. Last year, I was sentenced to death. Now I have an 8'x5' cell. I have no job or trade hereso, if I want coffee or cigarettes, stamps, paper or snacks, I sell the food off of my tray. Now, I wash my clothes in the toilet. If I send them out to the laundry, more than likely, they'll be stolen. I can't afford a T.V. sor I sit in my cell sweating as I read from our limited library. Most days, I don't leave this ce1l.
Occasionally, I can go outside for an hour. I read the Bible. I pray a lot. All of my life is gone now. I can't pursue my interests. I've lost friends and family. There's really only one thing left for them to take. They'll strap me down to a tabe, they'Il give me a drug to paralyze me so I wonrt jerk or scream if the ultra-short acting anesthetic wears off too soon. They'Il stop my heart at some point.
Once my body uses up what it can in my blood, that is no longer moving, I'll die. They'll put me in the cheapest box they can find. I'll be wearing prison whites in my box. I'Il be buried as a pauper.
James Scott Largin
Have you ever felt like stopping believing, giving up on dreaming, crashing out before the start of your season, -Give me one good reason why my heart should keep on beating? Why should I continue to sacrifice my soul, when all it does is keep on bleeding? Nobody feels my pain, they're trying to shackle my brain, to keep me locked in chains; as they vindictively pursue strapping me down and then poisoning my veins. I struggle for change as I fight for change, but the thought of sunshine brings pain, so I ask for cloudy days and rain. Put yourself in my shoes, what would you do, when the demons are looking for you? I am lost and confused. Suicide seems easy for some, but it's something that I will never do. So, what should I do? Who should I pursue? God seems plausible, but all I see is you.
3rd Quarter 2010
* Thomas Whisenhunt was executed May 27th.
* John Parker was executed June 10th.
* Michael Land was executed August 12th.
* Holly Wood has an execution date of September 9th.
* Philip Halford has an execution date set for November 4th.
* A recent poll by the Birmingham News revealed 83.5% of respondents favor a moratorium and study, while only 10% opposed it.
* The American Board of Anesthesiologists has barred all of their M.D.'s from participating in executions.
* Donations can now be made to PHADP through MISSIONFISH on eBay. Also, if you sell on eBay, PHADP can be selected to receive 10% of proceeds.
* PHADP now has a German Representative! We welcome Christoph Silex with open arms and thank him for the good work he has already done as well as all future efforts in representing HOPE.
* Christoph has already put up a German Project Hope web site with statistics, execution dates, contact info. for the Gcvernor, death penalty reports, U.N. statements, Iinks, and more. / /phadp.jimbo.com/ He has also contacted German Union heads and the second largest Foundation in Germany on behalf of HOPE and our German business initiative.
* Our long time supporter, Callie Greer, has accepted a position on our Advisory Board. Welcome, Callier we are enhanced by your presence.
* PHADP Student Rep. Hannah Jackson just returned from 3 weeks in Tanzania where she was teaching and conducting research. She also turned 21 years o1d on August 18th. Welcome home Hannah, and Happy Birthday!
* Esther contacted Dr. Loening, the new German Minister for Human Rights and sent him an introduction letter along with an in-depth information pack concerning Alabama's death penalty system, and German business
interests in Alabama. Dr. Loening has made ending the death penalty one of his main objectives.
* Esther received the PURSUIT OF JUSTICE award, June 18th, from the Alabama Criminal Defense Lawyers Association, Esther doesn't do this work for recognition and accolades, but those of us who work with her
are overjoyed when others show appreciation for the amazing work that our extraordinary friend does.
*Alabama Womens Resource Network (AWRN) wants to partner with PHADP on the German Business initiative and Esther will meet with Cathrine Roden-Jones (AWRN) on Aug. 24th to plan and organize a strategy.
* We must say "So long" to our friend and activist Lina Haynes, who is leaving Alabama and getting married. Congratulations Linda! We have appreciated you, and we wish you joy and happiness! We will continue
our relationship with North Alabama Peace Project through Tom Moss.
* Esther did a conference call with NCADP and there will be a "MARCH FOR UNITY IN Washinginton D.C. on Oct. 2nd.
* Contact Esther if you would like an EXECUTE JUSTICE NOT PEOPLE bumper sticker. They are free of charge to those who will display them proudly.
* We have applied for a RESIST grant and will hear word in August.
It seems to me that Alabama has fine-tuned it's machine a bit. The execution dates are rolling in and an entire generation of men are falling beneath the wheel. with every year, the time grows shorter and it seems that the executions are more frequent.I can see my time approach in the faces of those who go before me. I hear the clock tick and the grurney calls my name. It grows harder and harder to find hope for a future as fellow after fellow walks around the corner'. (going "around the corner" refers to going around the corner to the death cell and execution. )I do not know this next generation that has arrived unannounced to me. This must be how my grandfather felt as his era passed and the next began. In truth, I find myself understanding him better as my time grows near. Like him, I have no interest in knowing these newcomers, for to know them is to lose them, to lose them is to mourn them. I have too many to mourn as it is. I will accept no greater burden. I will mourn no more friends than I have to. The machine is well tuned and as this generation passes so shall I pass with it. I am not afraid.
A CHRISTIAN PERSPECTIVE
Dear Family and Friends,
I have been contemplating what to write about this time around for about the last month. This has been an especially hard month for me as my friend Michael Land was executed on the 12th of August. He and I would pal around at night while working third shift cleaning showers or picking up and passing out the laundry. When we walked together on the walk yard we made quite the pair as I am 5 feet 5 inches tall and Mike was about 5 feet 3 or 4 inches tall. A couple people called us "Mutt and Jeff" as Jeff was Mike's actual middle name, He couldn't eat coconut so we made a deal in 1997 that I would give him anything in the Red Ve1vet range of desserts in exchange for anything coconut based he came up with. You might be surprised at how often this deal has enacted over the years since although it was generally around the holidays when the officers were more generous with their free world snacks. We were both "foodies" (prison foodies but foodies all the same). Mike collected recipes and dreamed of owning his own restaraunt. I would have eaten there for sure. He will be missed and my life is the poorer for the loss.
There are very few experiences in life that provide us with time to take an internal view of our past. Memories good and bad often highlight crossroads in our lives and the friends who surrounded us at that time. And the people we surround ourselves with say alot about us. That is why I am extremely proud of my involvement with Project Hope to Abolish the death penalty. The guys on the Board and the guys in the groups gain so much from one another and share so much with one another that you can't help but realize that you are not in the struggle alone and that you are not just fighting for yourself. I believe that God gives us not just the material things in our life that we need to survive but also the people in our lives that we need to survive. We all need to lean on someone from time to time. And some things are better said by friends than by others. Things we need to hear but won't listen to from just anyone.
I hope that my character measures up to what will be required of me from those who need me most. I also hope God continues to provide me with good friends and that I remain worthy of them. As far as this Christian is concerned there are few things in this life as valuable as a good friend. Thank you all for being friends of Hope.
Keep Hope Alive!
Ronald B. Smith Jr.
Greetings once again dear Readers. Today's topic is, as stated in the title, on Pure Thoughts. How to keep my thoughts pure when there are so many reasons to go negative. Unfortunately we, at Holman are right on the verge of another execution. In fact it is scheduled for tomorrow (Aug. 12, 2010). We hope against hope that our brother will be shown some mercy. In light of this news it is a battle to stay positive. But thank God that he has provided for us a way to beat back the storm of negativity through His word. One of the attributes that God's word develops in us is love. Love, the great equalizer of all things negative. We keep our thoughts pure and positive by meditating on the word of God. This is the fuel that drives love. So that when $te see the officers that carry out these executions, our thoughts are regulated to keeping back an emotional outburst. As we fight against this system that holds so dear to the death penalty we must have God back our play. Better yet, we must offer ourselves up as willing vessels ( like so many of you have) to be used by the Almighty in this fight. And the Almighty has to have pure vessels in which to operate. Through our supporters and us, I believe that God will use us to continue this fight in His love. We shall be vessels through which God emanates the fragrance of His love.
UntiI next time-pure thoughts! (Smile)
"There is no question in my mind at all that the death penalty has no place in a civilized society. We cannot, as human beings who are imperfect, and in a system that is imperfect, try to come out with a perfect solution."
-Former Florida Supreme Court Justice Gerald Kogan, quoted in the Florida Catholic newspaper, June 17, 2009
Life is a series of problems. Do we want to moan about them or solve them. To me a problem is the cutting edge that distinguishes between success and failure. Problems call forth our courage and our wisdom. Think about it, just as in school, why do teachers deliberately and intentionally set forth problems for the children to solve? They teach us to think. First, they give us the problems so that we can find a solution. But between the problem and the solution lies something very important. A formula or the steps to solve the problem. Those things that hurt often instruct. Fearing the pain involved alot of us try to avoid problems. We ignore them, use drugs and alcohol to assist us in avoiding them. In any case when we avoid the legitimate suffering that results from deating with our problems, we also avoid the growth that solving our problems demand from us. I guess what I am really trying to say is that it is through the pain of confronting and resolving problems that we learn.
And guess what? Death row is a problem!
The Six Million Dollar Man
I have been on death row, snared in the state's death program for 31 years. Earlier this year I read a news article where in the state of Florida, an inmate's average stay on death row is 13 years and it costs the State 3.5 million dollars to execute the inmate. Here in Alabama, no entity of the government or the State's Attorney General's office will tell the citizens of Arabama what it costs them to execute an inmate. why is that?
Is it because the State is ashamed or what? A bad policy equals a lack of humanity! Understanding that the economy is higher in Florida than in Alabama and the State's refusal to give a figure, I only have the figure of the State of Florida to surmise what it has probably cost the State of Alabama to have kept me in it's death program for 31 years. I recognize that I don't fall into the average category here. So, instead of using the whole 3.5 million as if I were an inmate on Florida's death row, I'll say give or take, it cost the State of Alabama 2.5 million for every 13 years that I have been in the death program. Since I have been here for 31 years, one can probably call me "The Six Million Dollar Man" and counting! Not to mention there is a little over two hundred men and women in the State's death program, if added up is a lot of millions of dollars being thrown away just to extinguish a life. This means the death of a citizen is worth more to the State than a whole economy. I find this totally appalling and you should too! The State is suppose to be a servant of the citizens, not a killer of it's citizens!
All this money could be better spent on educating the children and finding programs for families throughout the state. Instead the state has chosen to terminate teachers and slash public programs, but not it's death program, the bread and butter for many politicians election and reelection campaigns. Now,runderstand why the Anne and Casey Foundation a charitable organization that focuses on public poticy ranked Alabama 47th in the country when it comes to public policy and reforms for children and families in the state. There is no telling how well off the State of Alabama would be if the politicians could write those programs a check as they continue to do for the death program.
Like I expressed, a bad policy, equals a 1ack of humanity,and there is no doubt the state's death program is a terribly misguided and unjust program for all. Not only does it rob the citizens of a brighter future, but of it's
humanity. who knows, maybe one day the politicians of our state who support the death program will ask themselves, what is the ideal state? And then answer, "that in which injury done to the least of it's citizens is an injury done to all!" and for the sake of the future of our state they will end their facade of a death program.
The Six Million Dollar Man,
I recently received a letter from a friend that was sharing with me the story of Nelson Mandela, and his 2l years in prison. She shared with me how he credited the "Invictus" poem for helping him get through those 27 years. My immediate thought was that after 27 years in prison, one's heart should be hardened. Of course, upon thinking of my 14 years of incarceration, I withdrew that thought.
It does take a strong minded individual to serve 27 years in prison and maintain his/her sanity. Speaking for myself, I can't say it is a matter of a strong mind necessarily. For me it is the constant desire to once again be with my family. For once in my life to be surrounded by family, now as a mature man, having experienced many harsh realities in my life.
Though many things happen that could harden my heart, thankfully something within me and a higher power has gotten me through. There is always the opportunity for change, maturity and rehabilitation. Though Nelson Mandela was a political prisoner and I a prisoner for a crime of violence, still within the two life stories, there lies strength, maturity and most of all hope. I continue to hope for a similar outcome. To be free and offer to my family and society, the mature individual I have become.
In Love and Peace
This Emotional Life
Most men will not admit that they are emotional. Hear me out please! Before you respond to that statement with a smirk. Men sit around amongst one another and play macho or show and try to explain how tough they are.
Well, prison is a big bowl of emotions and the death penalty is an emotional punishment and circumstance. Most people tend to believe and think that the men on death row are cold-hearted, insensitive and soulless.(LOL) If only these walls could talk!
I have seen many men here at Holman shed tears. You would be surprised as to the things that make some guys cry. I know and have befriended a guy that can't read love stories because they make him cry. The reality is I do not live amongst the worst of the worst. Would you believe that officers prefer to work death row unit as opposed to population's dorm? I asked an officer once why did he rather work death row? His response, "The overall death row is serene." Shocking to you?! I know I've pointed these things out to put one thing on your mind. And it is this, to be carnal minded is death.... Because of misinformation poor positions and views are taken. To be open minded is a way of life, not an isolated circumstance.
We as people are one and the same... Humans. And guess what a situation or a particular circumstance doesn't necessarily shed true light on a person. Knowing and learning the inner man is the true essence of the person.
And yes, men are emotional !
The other day, there was a stabbing in general population that resulted in an inmate losing his life. A situation of this rnagnitude is serious. It affects the entire prison by putting everyone on lockdown. It is sad because death row is already on 24 hour lockdown. It is sad that we are the most quiet, most peaceful section of Holman Correctional Facility. I imagine at the very beginning of this article, before I had mentioned what part of the facility that this unfortunate incident had taken place, you all (politicians) were hoping it was an death row inmate who was involved. Sorry to disappoint you guys, but we are truly innocent this time. It is what it is. In their eyes I am sure we are somehow still to blame for this. But aII this situation proves is that there is no deterrent to crimes, even behind this concrete and steel. Population is a place where they need to research instead of bothering death row inmates who are coping with their situations as best as they possibly can. Human Beings play games with lives. Sadly animals have no problem following the rules in which they are created. Life is a gift from God. It is sad that we don't appreciate this wonderful gift alot more than we do.
We are the only species in which predators and prey are not defined at birth. For example, a cheetah is born a cheetah. A gazelle is born a gazelle and they will never change places with each other. But with humans you also have predators and prey but their identities and roles aren't as clearly defined. In my eyes.,. what doesn't live, can't die. As I end this article keep this in mind; "life will have a clearer meaning once you find out where you are on the ladder of life you can then move up.
One More Day
The death penalty is an end all answer to the government's trouble maker. Those convicted of killing someone, with no remorse... as they say. But Allah has already ordained that there will come a day when all men die.
The God-fearing man, religiously sound man, the divinely uplifted man feels this, understands this, most of all accepts this. As my faith tells me,everything is done by Allah's permission.If I am to live -it will be by the will grace and mercy of Allah. If I am to die -it be by the will grace and mercy of Allah. But as long as I have one more day... I can praise Allah for everything he does for me.
I have one more day to fight in these courts.
I have one more day to introduce the people of the world to Allah.
I have one more day to show the legal system is biased towards prisoners.
I have one more day to ask forgiveness of my sins.
And as long as I have Allah on my side there is nothing I can't do if have one more day to give me a chance to hear from the roof tops and prison cells sing the harm of what the death penalty brings...and say NO we don't want this anymore. If I have... one more day.
Earl Ringo, Missouri