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Letter from Advisory Board Member Judy Collins to Governor Bentley

Lanett AL 36863

November 25, 2016


Governor Robert Bentley

State Capitol

600 Dexter Avenue

Montgomery, Alabama 36130-2751


Dear Governor Bentley,

 This day following a glorious Thanksgiving celebration of family/friends connecting, I awaken, earnestly seeking  a very different but meaningful connection with someone I’ve never met personally You, the governor of my state, on behalf of another whom I have known mostly through his writings and the words of others who know him.

 Ronald B. Smith, Jr. for years edited “The Christian Perspective,” before becoming chair of Project Hope to Abolish the Death Penalty and editor of Wings of Hope, the newsletter which includes the “Christian Perspective.” Ron Smith is this moment facing the possibility of execution on Dec. 8, and I write, imploring you, Governor Bentley to stay this execution.

You, Governor Bentley, know that Ronald Smith was sentenced to life without the possibility of parole by a jury of his peers, but that sentence was overridden by a judge condemning him to death. Alabama stands alone now as the one state in which jury override is still maintained; the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling on Hurst in Florida invalidated their jury override.

Instead of our state going through the expenses of appeals which will have to be taken to the Supreme Court which must surely rule that, as in Florida, jury override is unconstitutional, you, Governor Bentley can take a great step forward for Alabama by granting clemency to Ron Smith, changing his sentence to life or life without parole. You can also note that Smith had inadequate legal counsel by a man who missed the filing deadline for Smith’s Rule 32 hearing and who was later arrested at Holman Prison for possession of illegal drugs. You and our State of Alabama would receive high praise throughout this nation by your taking such a stand for justice and for the life of a fellow human being who in fact did a terrible thing, but who, like all of us, is much “more than the worst thing he has ever done.”

I write you in the spirit of Hope this Thanksgiving season, inspired by the words of Arnold Toynbee: “The first hope in our inventory—the hope that includes and at the same time transcends all others—must be the hope that love is going to have the last word.”

May your heart, all our hearts be kindled by that fire of Love from which Justice also flows (even in the OT Ezekiel 18: I do not desire the death of the wicked but that he change his ways and live).

Earnestly with Hope,

Judy Collins