ACCEPTANCE SPEECH OF JUSTICE FIGHTER AWARD FROM ALABAMA NEW SOUTH COALITION
I dedicate this award to my very dear friend, the Chairman of PHADP, Darrell B. Grayson.
I do not dedicate it to Darrell because he has an execution date; I do not dedicate it to him because he came from a highly dysfunctional, poor family and was a high school drop out; I do not dedicate it to him because he had an all white jury and a divorce attorney at his trial who suggested he throw himself on the mercy of the court, a court which did not know the meaning of justice, let alone mercy. I do not dedicate this award to Darrell because when I found evidence six years ago which could clear him and the Innocence Project took his case because they too believed in his innocence, the courts denied him DNA testing, no, not for any of these reasons, although they would be more than enough.
I dedicate it to Darrell because living in the darkness and the horror of death row he decided he would leave the world better than he found it. And if this claim can be made for anyone, I make it for him. Not only did Darrell obtain a two year associate degree when that was still possible on death row but he began to write poetry which has been widely published. The Birmingham Arts Review, Axis of Logic, Right Hand Pointing, The Dead Mule have to name a few, published Darrell’s works. He also became an associate writer for the East Alabama black newspaper, The People’s Voice and has three chapbooks to his credit. But this is not all, most important of all, for the past seven years he has been the chairman of our organization and the editor of On Wings of Hope. In these roles he is the mentor and father figure for our board and has touched lives, which had never experienced a caring father, let alone one who challenged them to succeed because he believed in their god given potential.
Darrell believes in justice without ever having obtained it. He believes in service to others in a place where many curl up in the fetal position and think only of themselves. When you give me this award tonight you give it not just to me but also to my brothers on death row and especially to Darrell Grayson without whose support you would not be honoring me.
I want to leave you with this challenge. If Darrell can achieve all he has, be all he is, there is not one of us here tonight who cannot also fight for justice and change. We owe it to him, we owe it to our children, we owe it to ourselves. We cannot allow darkness and injustice to win. We must, each and every one of us embrace Hope and stand up and fight for justice now!
Greetings from the Editor's Desk:
Once again the phadp/deathrow family offers its heart-felt condolences to the other family and friends of one of our own. This time we mourn Aaron Jones who was condemned and executed by the state of Alabama on May 3rd. We feel your pain.
As you should know the conclusion to my condemnation is to proceed on the 26th July, which would make this my last editorial for this publication.
What to say?
I believe there's a time and place for every eventuality and at this point, the work I've dedicated myself to should continue to be our focus. No final statements here, just outrage at the blatant disregard for justice and at the ignorance and apathy that continue to support the most egregious system in our society, the criminal justice system.
But all is not as it seems in Alabama. There are considerable forces at work, for the benefit of all citizens, helping to bring what's done in the dark in to the light. The eyes of the nation are on the request before the country's highest court to hear the case of Alabama death row inmates who lack adequate legal representation. Our state is the only one in the nation that doesn't provide attorneys for post-conviction appeals. Three former Alabama Supreme Court Justices, a former appellate judge and three former presidents of the Alabama State Bar filed a friend of the court brief in support of this claim. Who better than they to know!
Also, the lethal injection issue is before several courts and addresses more than just who is qualified to stick a needle in the veins of the condemned but also the chemicals used and their unique effect on people of differing physical characteristics.
My current status not withstanding, I intend to remain focused on phadp's mission to educate the public about capital punishment and to maintain the gains we have made over the last six years. Together, with other conscientious individuals and organizations we will continue to speak out against the injustices of Alabama's judicial system.
Much could be said about the failure of Alabama's elected officials to get much accomplished during this session. The bills, which never made it to the floor included several death penalty bills. Maybe you, the voter, will voice your displeasure at the polls.
And so I ask you to remain at your post, ever vigilant with your feet firmly planted on integrity. In this way you will help us to help ourselves. Peace!
Darrell B. Grayson
NEVER FAILS TO AMAZE:
Alabama never fails to amaze me with the things it does. I don’t mean all of it’s citizens, because a growing number of citizens are coming to see that the death penalty is wrong. I’m talking about the illusive “Them”. Some would say “the powers that be.” They always seem to be up to something that makes you just shake your head when you see it on the news.
Here’s the thing, allover America more and more state’s that have the death penalty are stopping their executions until the higher courts figure out this problem with lethal injection. But Alabama, in all it’s wisdom, has decided to execute as many as possible before the court hears the issue.
If you haven’t yet heard what it is that’s wrong with lethal injection, here it is in a nutshell. There are 3 drugs. The first one is an ultra-short acting barbiturate that begins wearing off as soon as it is administered. It is suppose to put you to sleep and keep you unconscious, but it wears off and the person wakes up. The second drug paralyzes you so that you can’t even blink an eye. It also paralyzes your diaphragm so that you cannot breathe. This drug, by the way, has been banned from use by veterinarians when euthanising animals because it masks pain and is therefore cruel and unusual to use on animals. The 3rd drug stops your heart. It is very caustic and burns like acid as it courses through your veins.
Taken together, as the protocols now stand, this is a recipe for torture plain and simple. The courts have even agreed to hear the issue and have set a date to hear it. You would think that Alabama would do the prudent thing, the same thing so many other states have done, and halt executions until this is settled. They are scared the courts will leave them without a viable method of execution so they are getting as many as possible before that happens. It’s always something in Alabama.
AMERICA - MY NEW HOME?
When people asked me why are you moving to the States don’t you like living in Germany, I often answered that I did not really feel at home in Germany and that I liked the way of life in the U.S. But what did I know?
During the past ten months I met a lot of people here and learnt a lot about their lives. I saw lost souls, surviving from one day to another, hungry and tired, but trying to come to work till the next payday. Some of them were sick, but it doesn’t matter, because no show = no job = no money.
I met people who talked very openly about their experiences with the law, being in jail for various offenses and yes, they all said that they had learnt their lesson, but looking into their eyes you know they are on their way back.
Sure there are also good moments, being at the beach, enjoying a cup of coffee in St. Augustine, but that is not the reality. The reality for me is that America creates lost souls every day. Some of them get a second chance, most of them don’t. Some of them will end up on the streets, in prison or on death row because there was nobody outside listening to their problems, fears, sorrows … After ten months I know that there is no justice once you become part of the system.
If someone were to ask me today why are you moving to the States, I would answer because I still don’t know where my home is, but I am here to listen and to give some hope.
WAR, WEAPONS AND VIOLENCE
My favorite kind of tv show growing up was Cowboys and Indians. I don’t know if it was the violence that attracted me more or the magnificent horse animals and the beautiful American frontier adorned with breath-taking canyons, cliffs and plains. This was the expected place to see an Apache Indian scouting from a naturally curved niche somewhere atop the cliffs. Once he escaped the shots echoing and zing zanging after him from the cowboy’s Winchester rifle, and providing the cowboy peeped him, I knew to sit tight because some more action was soon to follow. Just the cutting sound of the music played at that moment said something was about to happen that no viewer would want to miss. The Apache leaps down off the cliff running towards the back of his pony and jumps hands first onto the back of the animal.
A barefoot Indian, riding a barebacked horse, arrives back at camp reporting the news of this pale-face intruder who is not only felt to be a threat to his survival but his whole tribe’s also. The face of an agitated leader, wearing a crown of gorgeous bird feathers, appear outside the teepee and speaks briefly. A crowd of fighting warriors mount their horses and ride off into battle the next morning after a night of war dancing. Once the battle is over both sides suffered casualties, and most times the Indians suffered the greatest loss.
In many ways I was indifferent to the losses though it would be emotionally touching sometimes. It was just a tv show and all I really had to worry about in life at that age was getting my chores done before my mom arrived home from the Chicken House’ where she worked processing poultry. But in all honesty, this violence had once been real and was still going on somewhere then and is right now. There has never been a time since the creation of man that it wasn’t at war with each other. Peace is much better but short-lived, because we are so drawn to war, weapons, and violence.
What effort we put forth to create the most damnable arms to use against each other! Today, wars can be fought with chemical and nuclear bombs, reaching whole cities of people too far away to see with the natural eye. Just push a button and the whole world either blows up or the flesh just slides off the bone. The death penalty, too, is a damnable, mass destructive weapon created and designed [supposedly] to fight crime. It began with the use of weapons some of which are considered inhumane today– the gallows, the guillotine, the firing squad, the gas chamber, the electric chair– and now lethal injection which has been deemed the new and serenely improved way to take out the enemy.
So, we have come a long way from the rifle and crossbow and even farther from the club and spear, though some still throw rocks. It might sound comical but it’s so true because everyone can’t afford the most advanced weapons technology. I believe the saying by George S. Patton still holds true that ” Wars may be fought with weapons, but they are won by man.”
Leroy White C#II-BA Z-505
The trickle in the stream bed.
White water in the canyon.
The solid dark depth of eternity.
The silenced ocean chaos, unknown to human kind.
Too cemented to our knowledgeable world.
Can’t value variety, difference, a better source.
Yet the earth lives on, without our knowledge.
We are not the almighty.
They are not dumb.
They have a proven way of life but we cannot understand.
Look and listen.
Values we do not posses to our fullest ability
The trickle of the stream bed.
White water in the canyon.
The solid dark depth of eternity.
Free Verse by, Hannah Jackson
You are nowhere at home
You don’t know what it is to be safe.
Your home is a small room, dirty
With a bed, the windows are broken,
Empty beer bottles.
All you own is one bag and some cents
Survive till the next payday
Or tell someone some lies,
maybe you can hustle some
Dollars that way.
But you have dreams and wishes
But no chance …
But no hope …
Obscure transferences of time don’t obviate now.
From rudimentary stages onward we apprehend the
Image of perfect conception, desperate and illusive.
The truth is, this arduous journey called life makes
Hostages of us. We are ever tossed by temperamental wind
Of spring, our resolve dissipates through steins of sorrow.
It’s night! Before the eye of dawn arrives, I rewind
The gopher-wood hands of time and embrace dreams of
Relief from the ugliness of human frailty.
In spite of insight, when you’re the hue of coal
The shadowy gallows function in real time
Under the influence of evolving standards of decency.
If there is truly an I in we, why then
Do you not see what I see, through
A veil of distance my solitary passage?
And yes, even in mortification as a
Dusty raptor seeking deliverance on the
Wing of the universe, I will soar forever.
Darrell B. Grayson
A CHRISTIAN PERSPECTIVE
Dear Friends and Family,
In the midst of all the trials and tribulations the world is facing we can take comfort in knowing we serve a mighty God. Though poverty, war, famine, and disease have besieged certain parts of the globe, God has not forgotten us and still hears our prayers. Even when they are made from death row. (Psalm 102:17-20)
The past few months have been tense here, especially when word got out that the State of Alabama, is seeking for execution dates for several death row inmates, even though there are very important hearings on the horizon that could bring about some changes regarding the administration of capital punishment and the method of execution in Alabama. Among all of the problems and shortcomings in Alabama’s criminal justice system, one of the worst is that we are the only state in the nation that does not provide condemned inmates with attorneys for appeals. The fact that three former Alabama Supreme Court justices, a former appellate judge and three former presidents of the State Bar weighed in on the side of the inmates in a friend of the court brief is a compelling development that should weigh heavily against the state. Also, with the research recently released by Miami University concluding that lethal injection, as currently administered, is painful and cruel, and that the condemned suffers and could suffocate during the execution, has caused several states to pause but, not Alabama.
What is Alabama’s leadership afraid of?
How could a study of the current administration of capital punishment in Alabama so frighten Alabama's legislature? It seems a practical concern as well as a moral one. The state of Alabama can not justify its willingness to let condemned inmates go to their deaths without an attorney and with overwhelming evidence that the method of execution employed in Alabama constitutes cruel and unusual punishment. Its current policy is wrong. Dead wrong.
Change is coming and so is Jesus. And I am looking forward to both.
Ronald B. Smith Jr.
H1-6A/ Z 586