Greetings from the Editor's desk:
April 25th, 2007
The big news, in this our first issue of 2007 of On Wings of Hope is that there have continued to be numerous death penalty studies on such weighty issues as the prevalence of ineffective assistance of council for death row prisoners. The irony is that Alabama was prominently mentioned in the McClatchy report but continues to forge ahead with its usual vengeful ferocity. Sadly, the state has set an April 5th execution date for Aaron Jones, and this while he and other prisoners on death row are challenging Alabama's lethal injection methods and protocol.
The setting of this date is one more illustration of our state's head-in the-sand mentality when it comes to judicial fairness or standards of decency. And so while our state ignores these important issues, the following states are considering legislation to repeal capital punishment or to impose a moratorium on executions: CO, DEL, KS, MD, MO, MT, NEB, NJ, NM,
SD and WA.
The lethal injection concerns continue in these states: AR, CAL, DEL, FL, MD, MO, NJ, NC, OH, SD and TENN and have effectively halted executions until these issues are resolved. In NY the existing death penalty has been declared unconstitutional by its high court.
On the down side states like MO, TX, UT and VA are attempting to expand existing capital punishment statutes. Closer to home GA has asked its legislature to eliminate the provision that requires a unanimous vote to impose a death sentence. All of these issues affect Alabama's capital punishment system, but nothing is being done by the state.
In the midst of this silence, phadp will continue to work on a moratorium and support Sen. Hank Sanders (D, Selma), when he again introduces the moratorium bill in the senate this year. We also expect Rep. Merika Coleman (D, Birmingham) to reintroduce her bill in the house.
To those of you who have signed on your businesses, churches and organizations in support of the moratorium, thank you! We invite others to join with us in this struggle. Please see the Talking Points inside this newsletter for further information.
And as always, thank you for helping us help ourselves!
Keep Hope Alive,
Darrell B. Grayson
IT'S NOT GOING TO BRING GEORGE BACK!
These words were part of a statement given by Jennifer Ormond last September when she told the press that she did not want the death penalty for the individual who had shot and killed her sleeping 2 year old son, George Irving Amison Jr. in a drive by shooting. Like all murders it was a tragic, senseless killing and the statement by the grief stricken mother indicated that this had to be a very special family, one not wanting revenge.
From the article I learned that Jennifer, although now living in Birmingham, had been born and raised in Livingston and I decided that I would like to talk to the family to thank them and to let them know how much we admired them. I felt that Jennifer's statement had to be understood in context of her family.
I wish I could do justice to this wonderful family and how moved and privileged I felt by their warm welcome and willingness to speak with me about Baby George and the grief they still feel. Little George was a special little fellow and much loved. I learned how he liked to help his grandmother, Annie L. Brown in the kitchen but knew not to touch the knives; I saw the keyboard on which he picked out notes on the keys his grandmother had lovingly labeled with letters. And yes, he already knew that G stood for George! I heard all about how he would give his grandmother directions, pointing in the right direction when asked, which way to the post office? He was a little man who had a favorite blanket and a thumb that went along with that. I learned about his funeral and his headstone and that his mother when visiting Livingston from Birmingham spends hours at his grave, cleaning it up and just keeping her baby company. I saw his mementoes, but most of all I saw the depth of the loss to this family and how well he had been loved in his all too short life.
How hard it is to forgive murder! It is difficult enough to come to terms with the death of a loved one due to illness or old age. But a death that was inflicted by another, a death that did not have to be, how to make sense and come to terms with that? Those of us who have lost a loved one to the electric chair or lethal injection also know about that. It is the senselessness, the cruel capriciousness that does us in. Victor Frankl, concentration camp survivor taught us that those who had a greater meaning in their lives survived tragedy and that those who did not, succumbed to the horror of the camps. The family of Baby George is an example of giving a positive meaning to loss and we treasure their friendship and thank them for their powerful example. We struggle to follow it knowing that hate and vengeance destroy and that love endures beyond the grave.
Alabama Alone In Denying National Trend
Across our nation, this past year, fewer men and women were sentenced to death. Yet Alabama bucked that trend according to capital punishment watchdogs and state statistics. This reduction in death sentences is said to reflect the diminishing public support for capital punishment. Gallup polls show that for the first time in twenty years, more people preferred life without parole (48%) to the death penalty (47%).
Alabama, as usual, is slow to catch up with the rest of the nation. A survey conducted in 2005 by the Alabama Education Association's Capital Survey Research Center stated that 71% strongly supported the death penalty. That number dropped by 3 points in 2006 to 68%, but the overwhelming majority of registered voters in Ala~ama still favor capital punishment.
This doesn't mean that more Alabamians trust or believe in the judicial system. It can be demonstrated that the opposite is true. When people don't trust the judicial system to keep killers off the streets forever, they then tend to favor the death penalty as a sure-fire way to take care of murderers once and for all. The problem with that mind-set is that, first and foremost, innocent people will unquestionably be put to death. Many say this has already happened. Another reason is that capital punishment diminishes us as a people and country.
In the 90's about 300 people were condemned each year. Since 2000, the nation has averaged 150 death sentences, with the number dropping annually to 114 in 2006.
In Alabama, 13 defendants were sentenced to die in 2006. Ten were sentenced in 2005 and the total for 2002-2004 was 23. One of the factors for Alabama's higher sentencing rate is that Alabama is one of only two states that allow a judge to override a jury's sentencing recommendation. It is the only state that allows this without any guidelines or standards governing the practice of overrides. By overriding life without parole sentence recommendations, elected judges can appear to be tough on crime in order to get reelected but they deny and disregard the will of the people every time they do it.
Alabama has executed 28 men and women since 1990. It carried out 4 executions in 2000 and 2005, and one in 2006. The Alabama Attorney General has asked for one date to be set already this year, and that man still has appeals pending.
Jeff Rieber 2-540 HI-8A
"I am firmly convinced that the passionate will for justice and truth has done more to improve (the human condition) than calculating political shrewdness which in the long run only breeds general distrust."
Albert Einstein, "Moral Decay" 1937
A LONG, CROOKED AND RUGGED PATH
Riding on the "Wings of Hope" travels an enormous distance en route to reaching the point of stopping the executions. A trip that is derived from the darkened backrooms of death row and the outer courts of volunteerism passing through city councilmen, rural area mayors, churches and businesses, and numerous other organizations with many back and forth trips yet to make between perseverance and the Alabama congress. A trip that encompasses many obstacles and curves in the road, with steep hills, that climb across some of the worse terrain at the end of which lies hope in flying stars and stripes in the midst of prayer. No more killing in the name of vindictive retribution to call it justice.
Along the highways crossing the last prominent frontier that has yet to recognize “like the rest of the more civilized world“ that the death penalty is a man-made killing machine that is impossible to ever be made perfect. The move to gut habeas corpus will only worsen a system already so systematically flawed and crooked, to snare only the select few, that it greatly shames basic laws and principle of its own government and society. A system that is supposed to incorporate clemency, redemption and rehabilitation but does not even allow for mercy and grace. 0n the left and the right side of the road, and for as far as the eye can see are the blatant disgrace for human dignity.
Upon the "Wings of Hope" the passengers are few but room for more is plentiful. The fare is the deepest love for mankind and a determination to fight, not for what is deserved but instead for what is good and. right and best for all. Enslaved or free, no one can survive the just punishment mankind deserves! "Stand up for something or fall for everything " is a good quote of encouragement to reach and grab hold of a share of what's going on in the world around us. How much more proliferation or common goodness it is to make that stance for what is positive rather than for what negates moral excellence.
At the end of every path is a place. For us that place is hope for a moratorium. Will you get on board of the ride on the " Wings of Hope " to help us reach that place at the end of the path?
We welcome you!
Leroy White C#Il-8A/Z-505
A Christian Perspective:
Vol II issue 1
Dear Family and Friends,
The year 2007 is off and racing in more ways than one. Project Hope to Abolish the Death Penalty has gathered more than 800 signatures for a moratorium Resolution. 42 City/County legislatures have signed moratorium resolutions. And we have 25 family of victims support letters (these are letters from family members of murder victims who support a moratorium.) A lot has been done in the last few years and there is still much more left to do.
So many people in this country stand strong in their belief that capital punishment is justified. Others disregard the issue altogether in the apathetic belief that they can do little to change how justice in the United States of America is being carried out. That is until they become involved in the system they have ignored for years.
We here at Holman recently received a visit from the Browder Prison Ministry. I was given a daily meditation calendar and at the bottom of the calendar is the verse of scripture from Psalms 119:17 "I shall not die, but live and declare the works of the Lord." What a mighty sentiment! Something I myself need to put into practice more often. Speaking life, appreciating the blessings I receive, and declaring them to others. This is something we can all do on a daily basis.
As societies develop, so do their laws.
Certain practices become unconscionable relics and are cast aside as inhumane. After a generation of often reckless expansion of the death penalty, the pendulum is starting to swing back. The change did not start in 2007. But it sure looks like it is picking up the pace.
Sincerely, Ronald B. Smith Jr.
Dying is Easy
The title of my article comes from two places: my favorite T.V. show ER, and reality. After weeks of being discouraged, about what I would write about this time in our newsletter, I had been pressured by one of my Hope brothers to get busy on my article. So after seeing this title it struck something. Dying is easy. Is it? Well let's look at the reality of it all. If you polled the entire death row population, and asked "how many of you want to live the rest of your life in population, without the privacy you now have, without the convenience of things you have such as your own toilet, your own T.V., your own bunk, and your own space?" The numbers may be shocking to you the readers. If you asked James Brown, would he rather live for one day and clear up the problems with his estate, or Anna Nicole Smith to continue to go through all of the court trials and hassle of life, or Robert Kennedy to come back and answer the questions pertaining to this war, I think they would all say no! Why? Because the reality is dying is easy.
Living is where we go through all the hell that comes from a life, without the presence of God. Even here on death row men have taken their own lives, dropped their appeals, and attempted suicide. Not because they had to or didn't have a chance with their case. Most of them did it because it was easy! Easier than living without peace. Easier than living without hope. Easier than living without love. We all asked the question, why did they do it? I heard he had a good appeal going or I heard he had a really good penpal. Why would he end it all? Dying is easy! And as you know life is hard.
With God I remain,
Anthony Tyson Fl-19A Z-641
Thought for the day: "Prayer does not blind us to the world, but it transforms our vision of the world, and makes us see it, all men, and all the history of mankind, in the light of God. To pray 'in spirit and in truth' enables us to enter into contact with that infinite love, that inscrutable freedom which is at work behind the complexities and intricacies of human existence. "
True compassion is more than flinging a coin to a beggar; it comes to see that an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring.
- Martin Luther King Jr.
Scared, But Not Lost!!
As I sit in this cell I think about how I'm afraid of the direction this world is going. Just like John Meyer's song, "Waiting on The World to Change." Change for more love, togetherness, and compassion for human life. I'm so scared of this state taking my life without this world knowing who I am and what my life stands for. The most important thing to me is not being blind to the fact that this revenge called justice, (the death penalty) will keep killing the innocent and the poor if we don't protect them.
How can I not see the madness in Iraq and all those young men losing their lives because of one man's ego? How can I sit back and not notice young men not attending college at a very high rate and running from fatherhood? How can I sit back and not see that our nation still hasn't put it's best foot forward in helping hurricane Katrina victims? How can I not see all the distrust and back stabbing among Democrats and Republicans, the same people that will shape and control our future? Yes, I am locked up in this cage, but I am not lost to the reality around me. Every day I look into the eyes of someone that the state of Alabama plans on killing or silencing like they did my good brother Stanley "Tookie" Williams. I'm never lost to the point that I think this is a penthouse, because every day I wake up letting people around me know this is a death house; with men that have grown in their hearts and minds as tall as the Empire State Building.
I am so scared that we will continue to have prosecutors that will rush to judgement like in the Duke Lacrosse case. I'm so scared that the state will take someone I truly love on death row and I wouldn't know how to handle it. I'm scared my nieces and nephews will be punished for my past actions. I'm so scared that young men and women are so focused on being popular and rich that it has clouded their thought process and they will never understand that they are worth more than fame and material things. I'm so scared that this war has cost us so much we will never get back to being the country I know we are capable of being. I know a lot of you are thinking how does all of this concern me, well it concerns me because there is nothing wrong with being scared. It's an American tragedy to be ignorant to your surroundings. Montgomery Gentry sang his best, "Some People Change"
Jimmy Davis Jr. cell Il-28A
How far you go in life depends on your being tender with the young, compassionate with the aged, sympathetic with the striving and tolerant of the weak and strong. Because someday in life you will have been all of these.
- George Washington Carver
"I do not think God approves the death penalty for any crime - rape and murder included. Capital punishment is against the best judgment of modem criminology and, above all, against the highest expression of love in the nature of God."
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., 1957
The Law of Averages
Well, it's been a while since I've written an article, and it's been a long time coming. For those of you that know me, you know when I do write it's with passion, and directness. Some say my writings are a little too blunt but I say if the truth hurts, change your ways.
I'm writing now because, I feel the need to challenge an outright lie about the death penalty. Well, we all have seen the writing on the wall, and know it's not a deterrent to crime but, there's another lie being told to you by politicians, and prosecutors, a lie that the law of averages just won't allow to be true. Now, I could ramble off a bunch of numbers, and percentages to you in order to get my point across but I'm pretty sure I'm not a mathematical genius. So, I'll just use a few relevant numbers. Numbers like, there are 38 states that have the death penalty. There have been 1060 executions in the United States. Now, here's where my math gets a little fuzzy. You take 38 states with the death penalty, divide 1060 executions, add 1 man made system (that's not perfect because, it was made by man), and you have how many people murdered by the state? Of course, politicians, and prosecutors will tell you no innocent person has ever been executed. However, you and I know that's an outright lie. The law of averages just won't allow it to be true. So, the question isn't, "has the state ever executed an innocent person but, how many innocent people has the state executed, and how many more will it take before you say no more, not in my name!" If you stand for nothing you will fall for anything.
Like I said earlier, I'm no mathematical genius but, I'm pretty sure if you take those numbers I gave you to one, two, or ten mathematical geniuses they'd tell you exactly what I've told you, "It's impossible with all of those executions and the flawed system for no innocent people to have been executed."
So, now you have to ask yourself. Is revenge really a strong enough reason to keep the death penalty, knowing innocent people are dying as well? If so, then you are no better than the one you seek revenge against, and if not, stand up, speak out, and fight to stop this injustice.
Anthony Boyd Nl-9A Z-578
What is Love?
What is love in it's quintessence? It's obvious that love means different things to different people and that we all use the word love in various ways. The danger is that when a word can mean so many different things, it can end up meaning nothing at all. With an inflated sense of our own importance, we listen only for the echo of our own voice and look only for the reflection of our own interest. I John 4:8
"God is Love"
Craig Newton Hl-IA Z-727