As you, our friends know, this has not been an easy year for us and so I am pleased to be able to share some good news with you. Earlier this year I received a call from RESIST, www.resistinc.org (617 623 5110) asking for a recommendation for a sister organization, which had applied for a grant. I was more than happy to do this and during the conversation was told that they had hoped that we would apply for a grant. This came as quite a surprise because it doesn’t happen too often that someone wants to give money away!
We applied and were successful! In RESIST’s bi-monthly newsletter it states in part: RESIST’s grant of $3,000 will help PHADP continue to work on a statewide moratorium initiative, which over 850 Alabama local governments, organizations and religious groups have already signed.
I thought it would be of interest to you our supporters to understand how and why we qualified. What made us eligible for this grant from RESIST? Important to RESIST is, I believe, action and a wise use of its funds. The above quote addresses the question of our activism and why we qualified. In addition, I believe our level of communication through our website and email group enhanced this particular qualifications.
For small organizations grass roots organizing is essential and we couldn’t agree more with RESIST on this issue as well. One of our biggest assets are our sister organizations. We support them and are in turn supported.
It will not come as a surprise that it is our bare bones budget to which many of you kindly contribute, also helped to qualify us for the grant. One thing RESIST and also all of you should know; all funds go only for our work. Politicians could learn from us!
But there are two RESIST criterions, which really seemed to be calling our name. Emphasis on inclusiveness when it comes to race, sexual orientation and poverty is one of them. Our racially diverse Board, which has never asked about anyone’s sexual orientation and on which everyone is indigent, readily allowed us to meet this standard. The second criterion I am referring to is RESIST’s goal to empower those directly affected by an injustice. I am sure we don’t have to explain why this one is the most important one of all for us. It is about dignity, trust and yes, justice.
So how will we use this grant? Plans are already being formulated and you will be the first to know once they are implemented. As always, our interim goal is a moratorium on executions. In closing, we would like to thank RESIST for its faith in our small but we believe effective organization in Alabama. We will do you proud!
GREETINGS FROM THE EDITOR'S DESK ,
As you may know, the State executed Jack Trawick on 6-11-09. Also, Gerald Lewis died from medical complications on 7-25-09. Both will be missed.
In the "Don't make me laugh" category, Alabama passed a new access to DNA testing law in an attempt to not be the very last State with no DNA law on the books. However, a renowned attorney who specializes in capital law said that rather than making access to testing easier, this law actually raised the bar for those attempting to qualify for DNA testing. As they say on Saturday Night Live,"REALLY, ALABAMA?? REALLY?!?!
New Jersey, on the other hand, seems to have the right idea. Since they imposed a moratorium in 2006, and abolished their death penalty in 2007, murders there have declined each year. The number of murders has already declined by 24% in the first 6 months of 2009 compared to the same period in 2008, which was lower than 2007. 2007 saw an 11% drop when compared to 2006.
Shouldn't it be obvious to everyone that, maybe we have the wrong method of fighting murder, if, when we STOP using that method--murder rates drop steadily? Sometimes, fighting fire with fire is just the wrong way to go.
I don't usually mention specific articles in my editorial but when I read Omar D's “The Kentucky Derby, I told him I was jealous and mad at myself for not thinking to write it myself. It makes a very important and often overlooked point, and the best part, to me, is that he used Clay Crenshaw's own words to do it. I encourage the reader to take note of the enclosed article. Good job Omar D.,keep up the good work!
After our last issue came out, (20th anniversary) we received an outpouring of congratulatory responses from our supporters. It made us all feel so good, to be reminded that our efforts are appreciated, that we decided to print a couple of them in this issue. Our deepest thanks go out to all of you, our supporters, who make this work possible.
Until next time, help keep Hope alive.
JEFF RIEBER Z-540 H-8
The Kentucky Derby
I read a column recently in the Montgomery Advertiser that made me think of a greyhound racing in the Kentucky Derby. Clay Crenshaw, a prosecutor in the Alabama Attorney General’s Office, wrote it. He was commenting on a previous column written by Thomas Wells, which criticized Alabama's death penalty system.
Mr. Wells, whom Mr. Crenshaw gladly pointed out, is a Birmingham lawyer that serves as the President of the American Bar Association and whose legal practice focuses on environmental law and product liability cases.
In order for Crenshaw to set the stage, he boasted, "Because I have a front row seat in death penalty battles as a prosecutor in the Alabama Attorney' General's Office, over the past 22 years, I have acquired detailed knowledge of capital litigation law. As someone with long personal experience in this area, I feel it is necessary to offer the following counterpoint to Mr. Wells' column."
By pointing out their respective credentials, Crenshaw had two things in mind. He wanted the readers to come to the conclusion that Wells was unqualified to speak out against Alabama's death penalty system and therefore should disregard what Wells had said. But, by all means, to believe everything he was saying. I, along with my 11 and a half years of being on Alabama's death row and firsthand knowledge of how the system works, came to a different conclusion. I took it as Crenshaw saying it's wrong for non-criminal law attorneys to speak out against Alabama's death penalty system, but okay for them to represent someone facing a sentence of death.
Mr. Crenshaw is well aware of how inadequate legal representation is for indigent defendants in Alabama. He knows that lawyers whose legal practice focuses on bankruptcy, property liens, and family law often times represent us at trial and on appeals. When it comes to criminal law, they have little or no experience---plea bargains ..I found it very ironic for him to use the term "death penalty battles" when describing what he does against lawyers who, again, have very little or no experience in criminal law versus his 22 years of capital litigation (criminal law).
In no shape, form or fashion am I saying that non criminal law attorneys are unqualified to speak out against Alabama's death penalty system. If anyone cares to look with neutral eyes, they would see how unfair, unjust and racially biased this system is, as well as how elected judges abuse the State's judicial override provision. They are afraid to seem soft on crime. However, I am saying that a greyhound will never win in the Kentucky Derby.
ONE PLUS ONE?
Over the years I have read hundreds of articles and studies on deterrence and the death penalty. I’ve read how it does deter, and how it doesn't. I have yet to read about what, those who are closest to the issue have to say on the matter. For that reason, I will tell you my thoughts on the subject.
I can't speak for anyone else here but I can say that most of the guys on Alabama's death row that I’ve discussed this topic with either knew nothing of the death penalty at the time of their crime, or were not clearheaded enough at the time for it to be a factor. As for myself, I can honestly say I fell into both categories. I wasn't aware Alabama had a death penalty, nor was I sober enough to give it any thought had I. In either case, it seems to me that through ignorance or indifference, or both, the death penalty failed miserably in its aim to deter.
It also seems to have failed to deter those here who knew of the death penalty and that their actions would warrant it, from committing their crimes. There are far more than you would think. Given that there are 200 plus on Alabama's death row and hundreds more who narrowly escaped coming here, anyone with the power to reasonably add one and one, must, in my opinion, conclude that the death penalty has no deterrent effect what so ever.
Of course that's just my opinion on the matter.
The death penalty is wrong on so many levels. There is nothing more egregious than executing an innocent person. I find it appalling that our government can support such an injustice. There is no way to say for a fact that an innocent person will not be executed, or has not already been executed. The idea of anyone being executed is bad enough and wrong in and of its self. But the thought of an innocent person facing an extraordinary and obviously final injustice of being executed makes the justice system look bad. To make matters worse, Congress passes laws such as The Anti-Terrorist and Effective Death Penalty Act, which severely limit the Habeas corpus relief available to a defendant and sets time limits after which, those petitions could no longer be filed. The courts would be barred from hearing the person's claims, which could be claims of actual innocence. Paving the way for the execution of an innocent person.
There should at least be a moratorium on executions put in place to allow for an investigation of the system. Then the people, courts and the Legislature could consider whether there should be a ban on executions.
We must educate people about the death penalty so that we can come together and help put an end to State sanctioned murder. People are being tried, while justice is being denied.
Gone But Never Forgotten
As we mourn the death of five men who were executed in Alabama let us remember that anything or anyone who is loved is never lost. They shall forever live within us in all the memories we have shared. God never promised days without pain, laughter without sorrow, sunshine without rain. He did however promise strength for the day, comfort for the tears, and light for the way. The roads are rough and the hills are hard to climb for all the brothers on death row they left behind.
We will continue to fight against the oppressive machine that is called capital punishment. You are gone but not forgotten.
I was talking with a fellow member of the Board one day. And we were discussing the war and how we both didn't care or think about the war until we both had lost someone dear to us in the war. Then we cared and we secretly outed our feelings against the war. I now see the senselessness in the war. What does it do for us really. We still have airports and borders filled with security. We have gained no respect from Bin Laden or al-Qa'eda and they are not going to rise up one day and say "I give up" or "I'm sorry". Never! Our threat level will never end unless our country changes to fit the way our enemies want us to live. God forbid! So, again I say what good is the war other than killing. But, this is not why I write to you. When my fellow Board member and I looked at what we were saying, we had to admit we too have been guilty of not caring about something until it affected us personally.
That is what we see on this side of the death penalty fight. No one in my family cared or fought against the death penalty until I came here. Now they see. So, I can see how easy it is for many people to not care about it, or could vote the way of the current majority. Just because ...
Yes, we all may want that initial revenge, when we are hurt. All families probably would have voted for the war on September 12, 2001. But how many would have wanted to change their vote the day before their loved one was killed by a roadside bomb, friendly fire or a suicide bomber. Same with the death penalty. Before we carne here our mothers and fathers all of our families probably would have said, yes kill them all like the majority of this State has voted in the past. But, now that we are here, ask them to vote agin and see the difference. I was guilty too.
Dear Family and Friends,
We have experienced the loss of a few more brothers since the last newsletter. Jack Trawick was executed and Gerald Lewis passed due to medical complications. We mourn these brothers. I have also experienced the loss of my grandfather this past month. He had a long full life but I will miss him dearly. He was a veteran of World War II and was proud of his service in the Navy. Alot of letters consisted of me asking him questions about his childhood or his time in the Navy. My grandfather's generation is referred to as the "Greatest" generation for their standing up to tyranny and victory over fascism. A lot of the freedoms we enjoy today can be attributed to them. Things would have been a lot different if the fascists had won. The U.S. again finds itself in a war against people with a different ideology than ours. Their main weapon is terror. Terror can be a powerful weapon. Fear rules in the absence of reason.
As a Christian I know that fear and terror are not gifts from God. He needs neither fear nor terror as a weapon. He is the Almighty. But, He also realizes that we need protection from our fears. Comfort, solace and peace of mind in our times of trial and conflict.
Here at Holman we are in the midst of a conflict that we feel at times helpless to face and confront. We feel all but, forgotten and forsaken. That is until God uses some simple act to guide us from our fear, terror and frustration. Maybe a loved one who we haven't heard from in a while writes, or we receive a gift we weren't expecting. Sometimes it comes in the form of a friendly conversation that turns deep or silly for no apparent reason and you are given a brief respite from fear. And sometimes it comes in the form of an unanswered question being resolved.
God loves us no matter where we are. He looks for ways to share his love with us and who knows He just may use you to show his love to someone not expecting it.
Keep Hope Alive!
Ronald B. Smith Jr.
Editor "A Christian Perspective"
DETERRENT? OR NOT!
Is the death penalty a deterrent to murder ••• or even just felonious crimes in general? The obvious answer to even the most casual observer would have to be a resounding NO! This question causes me a little laughter when I think about it. It brings to mind a commercial I saw one time, for a particular headache pill. In this commercial the man who was making the pitch stated how all the other leading aspirin companies have all these analytical tests to prove and show how their particular brand is the best. But in speaking about the medicine he was selling he stated very simply that he only ran one test-- he had a headache, he took the pill and his headache went away. That's all the test he needed.
Now, why can't we (society or those in authority) use this common sense approach in our justice system, especially as it pertains to capital punishment? Capital punishment was re-instated in the late 70s and the crime statistics have steadily been on the rise since that time. Most guys that find themselves facing the death penalty have never heard of the death penalty prior to being arrested for their crime. Most of the youngsters in the juvenile facilities know nothing about capital punishment. These simple facts here show that capital punishment isn't a deterrent. Think about it, a person would have to at least KNOW about it in order to be deterred from it. Even those who believe it to be a deterrent would have to agree to that.
Listen to this quote from one of our Supreme Court Justices, while concurring in the Baze v. Reese lethal injection case. Justice Stevens said: "I have relied on my own experience in reaching the conclusion that the imposition of the death penalty represents the pointless and needless extinction of life with only marginal contributions to any discernible social or public purposes. A penalty with such negligible returns to the state is patently excessive.”
Now folks, does anything else need to be said?
Until next time--Peace.
Everyone in society wears some sort of mask. They preten to be more sure of themselves than they actually are. We as human beings fight hard not to allow others to catch a glimpse of who we really are. In truth, our egos and personalities are much more fragile than they appear to be, yet we still cover up feelings of confusion and emptiness. Alot of people due to their own insecurities, doubts and anxieties are easily persuaded to the point they can be lured to follow. We should hold a mirror in front of those who fit this category and let them see who
they really are. We must convince each other that we all can represent change, a difference, a breakup of their normal routine. Stubborness is one of the main sources of frustration. It is so hard to reach people and make them see things positively.
Most of the time, people struggle to maintain security and a sense of balance in their lives. The fight to keep some kind of order ,in life is exhausting especially when we are gnawed on by doubts and regrets. Sometimes our conversations are like noise. People may half listen as we go on about ourselves but just as often their thoughts are a million miles away. Music on the other hand, is a melody or rhythm that stays in our bloodstream for days after we have heard it. It alters our moods and emotions, relaxing or exciting us. To make music (stimulating conversation) instead of noise (meaningless conversation), you must say things that please things that relate to people's lives. If they have many problems, you can produce the same effect
by distracting them. Forcing them to focus their attention away from themselves by saying things that are witty and entertaining.
Personally, I've been blessed that my eyes are finally open. I used to wish that I would have found out sooner who I really am. Though I must admit I have so much further to go in my discovery of self. I pray everyday for the strength, faith and patience I'll need to get there. There are times when I feel as if I'm standing alone and all around me are different tunnels. Some are dark and scary but at the end of one there is a light. Halfway through the light disappears and just as in life there are obstacles to face and decisions to make. If I don't make the right decisions in life and do what is right, it will be a struggle, hard to survive, hard to live. To know who you truly are you must have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle and known loss. Only then can you have an appreciation, a sensitivity and an understanding of yourself.
ITS THE SOUTHERN WAY
Don't be fooled by the shouts from the mountain tops that "change has come." The South remains the South of old. The "Hang 'em high" mentality continues to flourish. We in the south are known for our hospitality and moral attitudes. Outside of the south, we are said to be "slow" or "green". There is a saying well known in the northern states, "Don't get "caught up" in the south, cause once they get you, they got you." It's a knock on how backwards our justice system really is.
One can argue that I am only venting because of my current situation. True, I am, but only now do I know and have experienced southern justice! The reality is, once you find yourself among the "others", your eyes are opened to how unfair our system is. The death penalty seems to be the pride of the south. I've come to realize that there are few that actually care about the fairness of the death penalty. The mentality is, as long as it doesn't affect me or my family, it's not important. Because of this way of thinking, many have found themselves with "the shoe on the other foot", now realizing how unfair this system truly is.
If we'd treat others the way we want to be treated, we'd have a better justice system. Instead, revenge fuels us and leads to more ignorance. Our laws are getting worse. The lock 'em up and throwaway the key mentality runs rampant. As a result, the good ole southern way has our prisons over crowded, education at a low and there is still a seemingly segregationist mentality of "us" and "them". And you wonder why Republicans fight against restoring voting rights to ex-felons. It's because eyes have been opened to the traps, corruption, and failure of equal justice.
I hope for the change we all deserve, and not one that's just beneficial to the few. I believe that change will come, but only when we can seek equality for all, a New South. Until then, we will continue to die a slow death, all of us.
In Love and Peace,
America the Beautiful
America the beautiful, the place where all are free. Where justice stands and love demands we treat each other equally. To my readers, please stop thinking, "Are you kidding me?" I know it seems America is quite the opposite of all I said in the above paragraph. To be honest, it isn't America that has changed. It is we, yes, we the people!
The foundation of all that America is, was and wants to become has and will always be there. We the people are the ones who have lost sight of the direction in which we, the people want to go. Not as a person, but as a people, as a nation!
Now truth be told, we struggle as a nation because we forget that we are individual people striving to live as a people. We cannot fulfill this goal as long as we alienate isolate and forsake the individual people who make a mistake or do wrong. While we all must walk our own path in life, at some point we all need or have needed help along the way. A people are only as strong as their weakest person!
Imagine if you will, how strong this nation, we the people, could truly be if pride and self-righteousness were replaced with humility and selflessness. We as people are so quick to put ourselves in a separate class or form of society due to how we view one another, usually based on what another has said, or we allow the actions of one person to paint our view of everyone else.
I'm sure we've all been in a situation where we instantly disliked or shunned someone due to something we heard about that person or due to something we saw the person do from afar. Then at some point down the road you were in a different situation with that same person and saw a whole new and very likeable side of that person. Most of us have a friend right now who we were in that scenario with. We were that person at one point or another.
I 'said all that to say, that growing as a people is no different than friendships. Think on it yourselves.
I close with this question: Just because a man or woman is in prison, why does that exclude them from a part of the people? The degrees of humanity that is placed on people is only there because we placed it there. Why?
In a Carolina swamp sunning on a log
loblolly pines, alligators make up the bog
warm sands, crashing waves on a Carolina coast Natural wonders abound could raise Black Beards ghost
Native Indians, Tuscarora and the Lumbee
On a southern heading cross waters, the little Peedee
Far inland away from the coast many miles west
out of the valley below a scenic overlook, no time to rest
Above grand trees majestic mountain views my gaze locks upon a formation known as Chimney Rock
Misty mornings, cool evenings Carolina Appalachian
To a son of the hills and all his kin
Black bear, gray squirrel share the mighty oak
Paw print on its bank flow rapids of the Roanoke
Prowling with stealth elusive panther stalking, eyes open wider
Red eared slider
In a Carolina swamp sunning on a log
Kim Van Pelt