Utility Menu

Volume 16 | Issue 1 | January - March 2012

THOUGHTS ABOUT A JOURNEY OF HOPE IN ALABAMA

We have just completed a very successful Journey of Hope in our state and our thanks go to Bill Pelke and to all who worked so very hard to organize it. No small task! Certainly no state needs a Journey of Hope-from Violence to Healing more than Alabama!

Our organization is often referred to as Hope for short, although that is not our legal name. This year, whlch marks my 12th year of living and working against the death penalty In Alabama, I have to admit that this is a very dlfflcult state ln which to keep hope alive, as our chairman usually states at the end of his editorial. The wonder is that somehow we manage to do that even without the solace of that emotion. You encourage us.

I am a realist and am not comfortable with emotional voodoo rhetoric, which to me smacks of glibness and selfishness. How often have we received the news of a terminal illness from a friend and told our friend not to give up hope because we couIdn't stand the feellng of helplessness and impending loss? Yet, what our friend needed was for us to listen without injecting our personal feelings of discomfort. Not easy because the thought of hopelessness threatens us personally, reminding us of our own mortality. And so we deny reality and our friend the comfort of just listening. I am sure we are all in agreement that hope is a great motivator. However, it is also true that we can be productive without it, as in the end it is not about doing what feels good, but just about doing it anyway.

Recently my Board discussed among themselves that in terms of Ilfe expectancy they are all senior citizens. In actuality they are ln their 30s and 40s. They understand the reality of the death penalty in Alabama. They are honest and have seen too many brothers die to delude themselves that abolition will come in time for them. Do we see them giving up, kicking back or vegging out because there is so little hope? Not at all! Instead, they keep working and have just come up with a flyer, which they hope friends and famlly members will help distribute across Alabama, That is what I call working without hope, just doing it! And how about one of our sub-board members who wrote for the first edition of The Voice, a paper which serves the homeless of Birmingham? He did it promptly and made us all look good. Do you really thlnk he was motivated by hope?

And so my frlends although we all love hope, (and certalnly I hope that you do love Project Hope to Abolish the Death Penalty) we can live and work without its comfort. And wouldn't you agree that those whose journey takes them through the dark night of hope, who work without its consolation, are very special? I know they are to me!

Esther Brown


GREETINGS FROM THE EDITOR'S DESK:

Hi folks, this is Carey Grayson coming to you from the editor's desk. No one tell him my feet are on it o.k.? Well, I am out of the doghouse and back into the swing of things and I must say it's good to be back in my cell. Never thought I'd say that did ya.LOL. Me either! But it's true.

0.K., enough about me, though I admit, I am my favorite subject. We on the board have a few people we would like to give some props to. We are most grateful to Justice and Mercy (JAM) for the successful "Journey of Hope—from Violence to Healing" tour, as well as to Judy Collins for all of her hard work in making this happen. Great job people, and THANKS, from all of us here.

We would also like to announce that our Development Officer Brandon Fountain and Micah‘s House are holding another Good Friday event in Birmingham this year. Information on time and place will be posted. We would appreciate the attendance of anyone willing and able at this event. Keep up the good work guys, and know that we appreciate it.

On a darker note, especially for myself and my Project Hope brothers and adopted mom, the lovely miss Esther Brown. We have two executions set for the next two months. Tommy Arthur has a date set for March 29th, and Carey Grayson (me) is scheduled for April 12th. Keep us in your prayers and send all the happy thoughts you can. OH! and if anyone wins the lottery, let me get a loan. Hee Hee.

Aside from these aforementioned events, life at Holman remains the same and I‘m still shootin' for Chairman! Although, if it's as much work as it looks, I may change my mind. You folks have a great day and stay out of trouble. Peace! I‘m out!

CAREY GRAYSON Z-598 H—11
Assistant Editor, On Wings of Hope
Coordinator, PHADP


Journey Of Hope in Alabama

Shelley, Esther and Judy, 

Thank you, Thank you Thank you. 

l have been inspired by you and the many others I met while in Alabama. I want everyone to know what goes on in the Alabama movement and your work towards that goal. l want to promote each of you and the various organizations that helped In some way with Alabama Journey of Hope. I am sending to each of you a rough draft of what I think will be the first three chapters my next book. I want to write about lot more than Alabama, but with your help it would be a great place for me to start. You guys really helped me get out the stow of the Journey of Hope. I have been trying to tell It for years but you guys opened all the perfect doors.Please help me complete this painting of the journey towards abolition in Alabama. 

I will want the readers to know who you are. This will give me a chance to get to know you all better too. I hope that someday I will get to know the folks on the row too. You have something great going on here, something very special and I want to be involved. 

Shelley, Judy and Esther, I love you 

You have been an answer to prayer. God Bless and God's Peace, 

Bill

Bill Pelke
President, Journey of Hope...from Violence to Healing

The answer is love and compassion for ull of humanity

 

Dear Bill, 

What a wonderful idea for Alabama! What a wonderful boost! I cannot wait to tell the men when we speak a little later today. They will be as excited as I am right now! I want you to know that we are vew touched by your kindness to us here in Alabama, especially as so often we feel forgotten. 

More later, Bill, but please let me know anything we can do to help in any way. We love you too, 

Esther


*Editor's note: this article first printed in the BIRMINGHAM VOICE.

Life for me on the streets was an experience I will never forget, no matter how hard I try to get that time of my Ilfe out of my head; It’s there, and I am afraid it always will be. I have seen and gone through some of the most horrible things, things that the average human being can't even imagine. Unless one actually goes through It oneself, or just takes a walk down into the trenches that street people call home, one will never really get an idea of what it is like.  

The life I chased landed me on the streets. I decided that I would rather do the drugs, drink and basically buck the system than live a normal, productive life. lt got to where I was hiding from the law for lil' petty crimes, but I knew that going to jail I wouldn’t be able to do what I loved doing at the time when I was staying high. And so I thought I could just blend in and hide out with the homeless on the streets, when actually I stuck out like a sore thumb. 

I knew nothing about survival on the streets at that time. I thought It was just about finding a dry, warm place to bed down at night. Little did I know about the mental struggle, trying to maintain sanity and fighting off the elements of the environment you're in. Once you get into that world, everything you’ve ever known is just a memory. You are shut out of society! You see, a very large percent of society looks down on and even cusses the homeless In this country. I guess they see it as though they are not also human beings, when in reality a huge percentage of the homeless now was just as productive in society as anyone else.

I've seen entire families with children living on the street, who for whatever reason had fallen on hard luck. They have no one to hold out a helping hand because too many will think automatically, look at those lazy bums, get yourself a job, clean yourself up... 

Instead of assuming the worst of somebody, why not walk up, hold out a hand! You would be surprised at how friendly and eager to talk to someone these people are. You will probably come across some who weren't as fortunate as I was. I got off the streets before I lost my sanity. I can pretty well imagine that if I had been out there very much longer, I too would have lost it. It’s not hard to do when you are out there feeling all alone and the highlight of the day is when you run across a dumpster behind a deli store that just threw away the lunch special. How about let's work together and save the sanity of a fellow human being; walk up, shake their hand, become a friend, they want that more than anything, believe me. I know, I was there, I was one of them. 

David H Wiggins (Death Row)
Z 760 N-20
Holman 3700
Atmore, AL 36503


ALABAMA NEWS
1st Quarter 

* The Alabama Supreme Court has set an execution date for Tommy Arthur (3-29-12), and for Carey Grayson (4-12-12) who is PHADP's Coordinator and Assistant Editor for ON WINGS OF HOPE. 

* Senator Hank Sanders was the featured speaker at the Auburn Unitarian Universalist church to kick off the "JOURNEY OF HOPE...FROM VIOLENCE TO HEALING" tour. Sen. Sanders announced that he will be introducing an actual abolition Bill, for the first time, along with his usual death penalty related Bills.

* PHADP was one of the sponsors of an M.L.K. Day Peace and Justice event. 

* WITNESS TO INNOCENCE has chosen Alabama as a focus for 2012 and will be collaborating with PHADP and AL NAACP to this end. 

* The entire JOURNEY OF HOPE tour in Alabama was a huge success. Our appreciation and congratulations go to every person involved in making it happen. 

* PHADP is happy to announce and welcome Bill Pelke to our Advisor Board. 

* Esther attended the Alabama NAACP quarterly meeting in Montgomery. 

* The recent United States Supreme Court ruling in the MAPLES case exposed and enumerated many problems in Alabama's death penalty system. 

* WITNESS TO INNOCENCE sponsored Gary Drinkard as a speaker at the JOURNEY OF HOPE event held at Auburn University. Gary is an ex-Alabama death row inmate who was exonerated. 

* Esther was a featured speaker at the Auburn Ministerial Association.

* Our thanks go to Nancy Wadlington for her help with PHADP's new flier, which is being distributed through Alabama on an expanding basis. Thank you, as well, to all those volunteers who are doing the leg—work. 

* PHADP sub-board member David Wiggins had an article published in the inaugural edition of the "BIRMINGHAM VOICE" newspaper. His article is reprinted in this issue of our newsletter. 

* PHADP sent a "THANK YOU" to Oregon's Governor Kitzhaber for his moral stand on the death penalty in instituting a moratorium on executions during his time in office.


DOING WHAT YOU CAN 

I've been an active member of Project Hope to Abolish the Death Penalty for 14 years now. In those years, I have experienced many things. There have been ups and downs, as well as gains and losses. I have taken all in stride, but with the intention to grow from each experience. 

Some may say that it is the big things that they have experienced in life that have made the biggest impressions. I can say it has been the big things as well as the small things. For me it has been the small things that have made lasting impressions on me. In an environment where there is struggle every day, both mentally and physically, it can be easy to be sucked in by those struggles.  

Thankfully for me, when the struggle can seem to be too much, the small things offer me strength. 

I think about the pen friends I've come to know over the years and their emotional support, it strengthens me to keep going. These are people that have never known me before my incarceration, don't judge me, and have faith in me and for me. Recently, at one of our PHADP co—sponsored events, a young lady dug into her purse and donated all the money she had ($14) to the cause. what an impression that act had on me! An act of doing what you can, when you don't have to. 

To my pen friends, and this particular young lady, I say Thank You. Thank you for doing what you can, which encourages me in the midst of the struggle.

Keep Hope alive!

Nicholas Acklin
2-648 N1—07A


Override is legal in only three states: Alabama, Delaware, and Florida. Florida and Delaware have strict standards for override. No one in Delaware is on death row as a result of an override and no death sentences have been imposed by override in Florida since 1999. In Delaware and Florida, override often is used to overrule jury death verdicts and impose life — which rarely happens in Alabama. 

Alabama's trial and appellate courtjudges are elected. Because judicial candidates frequently campaign on their support and enthusiasm for capital punishment, political pressure injects unfairness and arbitrariness into override decisions. 

Override rates fluctuate wildly from year to year. The proportion of death sentences imposed by override often is elevated in election years. ln 2008, 30% of new death sentences were imposed by judge override, compared to 7% in 1997, a non-election year. ln some years, half of all death sentences imposed in Alabama have been the result of override. 

There is evidence that elected judges override jury life verdicts in cases involving white victims much more frequently than in cases involving victims who are black. Seventy-five percent of all death sentences imposed by override involve white victims, even though less than 35% of all homicide victims in Alabama are white. 

There are considerably fewer obstacles to obtaining a jury verdict of death in Alabama because, unlike in most states with the death penalty, prosecutors in Alabama are not required to obtain a unanimous jury verdict; they can obtain a death verdict with only ten juror votes for death. Capital juries in Alabama already are very heavily skewed in favor of the death penalty because potential jurors who oppose capital punishment are excluded from jury service.


I want to start by saying hello to all of our families, friends and our many supporters. 

Being the Information Director for Project Hope to Abolish the Death Penalty, I have access to a lot of information concerning the death penalty in the United States. Recently, I read about something that disturbed me and I would like to share my thoughts on it. 

An inmate on death row in North Carolina has recently bragged about how he has an easy life on death row. My immediate thought was that this man must be severely mentally ill. I have been here stuck inside Alabama's system for over 4 years now. Nothing has been easy for me living with this sentence of death. I believe I suffer from depression or something. I find it's hard just to get a good night's sleep. Most of my dreams consist of some of the good times I have had in the past. I hardly ever dream about the future, and when I do, most of all of them end up being nightmares, and they all end with me being murdered by lethal injection. 

As you can imagine, I wake up immediately. Then I wonder if what some say about me is true; that I must be mentally ill also. The painful realization that family members sometimes want to forget where you are. I haven't seen any of them for a visit in over two years now. 

The worst, for me, is being locked up in a cell 24 hours a day. Way too small. I'm six feet four inches tall, and my living quarters are about 5X8 tops. Animals caged inside shelters have more room than me. 

Some people think that this is what we deserve, being tortured until we leave here. To those people, I say, get evaluated by a psychologist yourself. Maybe you are mentally ill also. 

Finally, I intend to keep Hope alive, hopefully one day soon my situation will get a little better. 

Brent Martin
Z—746 N—3


WHAT TIME IS IT?? 

We don't rape the rapist, or cause bodily harm to someone convicted of assault, so why do we still use the obsolete principle of an "eye for an eye" when it comes to murder? 

The trials are unfair and important evidence is oftentimes withheld and DNA testing refused. It is a penal system for the lower class, which is why you will rarely ever see an upper class "rich" person on death row. 

The attorneys mostly don't have any experience with capital cases or death penalty appeals. When, as a society, will we step up and say enough is enough? The taxpayer's dollar goes into a system which is corrupt and has been known to kill the innocent. 

I know people in society want harsh punishment for the worst crimes, but when will society see for it's self that it is involved in these same horrible crimes? It's time to wake up.

Be Blessed,

Jason Sharp


A Christian Perspective

Dear Family and Friends,

Greetings and Salutations! Alot is happening and has happened recently in Alabama surrounding the issue of capital punishment. Some of it hits so very close to home as two more of my brothers on the row have execution dates set. One of these brothers, Tommy Arthur, is a Marine Corps veteran and a long time friend of mine. One of these brothers is a PHADP Board member. A man I have sat next on Wednesdays for the last several years. We have talked, ate, laughed and commiserated together. We also share the same law firm. We are on the same tier here at Holman and have gotten close over those years. As you can imagine, this is exactly the situation that PHADP is trying to put an end to once and for all. Personally, I am tired of saying good bye to men I have come to know and love. I am weary of the emotional and mental toll it takes on my brothers and me.

I am not known for my over sentimentality concerning much in life. I don't always get why people feel what they feel about certain things. Or why they feel so strongly about things I care so very little for. But as a neighbor of mine recently said regarding something completely unrelated to anything I have spoken of here, "sometimes even a blind squirrel will find a nut." Well that is all well and good when the squirrel in question is not in any danger of starving to death. But sometimes the blind squirrel needs a helping of kindness and compassion to get through the day. As an often times emotionally "blind squirrel" I rely on PHADP brothers to clue me in on emotional issues. My brother Boo has done this for me several times when I was uncomprehending of the passion of other peoples emotional states. Now I find myself contending with my own feelings concerning his up coming date and the loss it will bring but also figuring out how to go about not making things worse for Boo. And also continuing to lead my younger and newer to death row brothers by setting a good example when what I truly want to do in the vernacular of the row "act a complete fool" which of course will do nothing in the way of making things any better. So, I pray. For Boo. For me. For you. And I hope. And I rely on faith. After all it only takes a mustard seed, right? I wonder how long a blind squirrel can live on a mustard seed?

I'll keep you all posted. Pray for Boo. For me. For you.

Keeping Hope Alive and Growing!

Ronald B. Smith Jr.
Editor: "A Christian Perspective"
z-586/H1-6A


When death, the great reconciler has come, it is never our tenderness that we repent of, but our severity.

George Eliot


OUTLAW

I once was an outlaw,
born wild and free.
Then I met a man,
who came from Galilee.

He was a man, just
like you and me. He came
to earth to live, so that free
from sin, you and me could be.

He grew up, a lowly carpenter's
son, how were they to know.
He was really God‘s only son.

He came to pay a price
that surely set me free.
The day I met the man,
who came from Galilee.

He hung on a cross
to pay for us a price.
He was the one and only
perfect sacrifice.

I used to be an outlaw
running wild and free.
Then I met the man,
who came from Galilee.

Randy Stewart
z-524/F1-14A


Moral Neglect Equals Moral Decline

The Director of Equal Justice Iniative, Mr. Bryan Stevenson published a booklet, The Death Penalty in Alabama: Judge Override to further expose the arbitrariness, racism and tyranny by some judges overriding their juries' life recommendations. when the death penalty was reinstated in 1976, there were no upward judicial overrides, only downward from death to life. Whether Alabama had it right or not at that time, one thing for sure is the legislators changed in 1980 and turned the death penalty system on it's head. Since 1982, there have been 98 judicial overrides from life to death and only 9 from death to life by judges, which clearly shows the tyranny of some judges and their lack of respect for a jury decision and the community as a whole.

None was more evident than one in an article I read where a retired judge, Dale Segrest stated he overrode a jury life recommendation of a white defendant, because if he had not imposed the death sentence he would have sentenced three black defendants to death and no white people. In reading that one would think the judge was trying to be race neutral. I beg to differ. Instead of the judge going by the law to sentence a defendant, he was looking at the race of the defendant. which only revealed his racist side. And to cover up his evil acts he committed another evil act by making the white defendant a sacrificial lamb. Now how nefarious is that?

In the same article a juror, Mr. William Davis, who served on a capital jury and voted to spare a defendant's life, said he didn't see the point of the exercise after a judge dismissed the jury's unanimous life recommendation. Afterwards he stated in a court hearing in Montgomery, that if the judge is going to override the jury, then you don't need a jury. The jury don't serve any purpose. Mr. Davis is absolutely right. What the State legislature did in 1980, by taking the power of the jury and giving it to the judge who is just one person has allowed a few to make a mockery out of the judicial system.

The sad thing about this is that both our State legislature and Appellate Courts have long been aware of this tyranny and both have neglected to stop this evil! Moral Neglect equals moral decline. when the juror Mr. Davis began to question the system, he not only saw the injustice but also that the system isn't being governed by fair and just minded people, but by tyrants. I just pray those fair and just minded people in our State legislature and Appellate Courts will one day find the courage and strength as a collective body themselves and bring a halt to this evil. Because tyranny is an act of power beyond right. It is a pure evil.

Peace,

Art Giles ,
Z—394/01-20


Dear Friends,

I've just about reached my one year mark here at Holman. I'm clueless about where the time has gone. However, I look at it as a year closer to the blessing God has for you and me. 

It has been said that it takes twenty one days to create a habit. I have come to realize that "time" is a teacher. A person can only act as an imposter. For a limited amount of time before his true character is shown.

I, myself am not perfect. Everyday I try to be better than the day before. Life behind walls is like a whirlwind, spinning you in circles until you are sucked under, but only if you allow it to. Nevertheless we can do all things through Christ who strengthens us. If we take six months to mind our own business and six months to stay out of everyone elses business the world would be a better place.

How are you spending your time?

Courtney Lockhart
z—776/F1-6A


Let it Shine

We are born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It's in everyone and when we decide to let that light shine that is within us, we unconsciously cause other people to let their light shine that is within them.

I refuse to let my sentence define who I am and extinguish the light within me. As I see the ugly side of America where people are put to death by an bias and unjust system. That is not the actions of a civilized justice system. When the death A of a person can be applauded then something has gone horribly wrong.

I'm going to let the light within me shine. And hopefully the light within those who enforce the punishment of death will shine. And they will have a change of heart and end the death penalty which is in my opinion a crime against humanity.

If we are to be a first class nation, we should also have a first class justice system. We cannot have a first class nation with a justice system that carries out crimes against humanity.

By Your Brother in the Struggle for Justice

de'Bruce


Perspective

When I looked up the word perspective... there was a definition that I associated with what I wanted the word perspective to mean to me.(Smile) One was it is a particular attitude towards something; and an understanding of the relative importance of things. when I think about alot of our supporters and family members I sometimes wonder...how do they see us here? What is their perspective of our lives here on the row? I know alot of you all are actually thinking and praying for us alot. And I truly appreciate all of you that email the Governor, that email and send encouraging words to our main office and to us in here. So, with all that said, I'll give you all my perspective of being here and the attitude that I have toward it all.

I don't know how things will end up. But I can say without a doubt by faith how things will be. There is a story I read years ago that best describes my attitude. I'1l share it with you. It describes the difference between being "blessing conscious or problem conscious". There were these twin brothers. One was an optimist. His motto was, "Everything is coming up roses." His brother was a pessimist, who always expected the worst. Their parents decided to take them to a psychologist, hoping to balance out their pesonalities. He.suggested that on the next birthday they put each in a seperate room to open their gift. Give the pessimist the best toys you can afford and give the optimist a box of manure. The parents did as he

suggested. When they peeped in at the pessimist they heard him complaining, "I don't like the color of this toy. I don't want to play this game." Next they looked in and saw the optimist smiling, throwing manure up in the air and shouting, "you can't fool me. With this much manure, there has gotta be a pony!"

So, as you see, whatever you keep looking for, you will eventually find. Whether good or bad? If you are walking with God and with the right perspective you will be blessed. So start by looking for God's blessings! And He will bless everything you do. The world will see you are a people claimed by the Lord and they will stand in awe of you.

I remain,
Anthony Tyson
Asst. Editor/ "A Christian Perspective"
Z-641/N1—17


What is Life to You?

I think life is an experience. It can be a curse or a blessing. We go through life having different feelings about different situations. Love, hate, envy, joy and sorrow are just emotions of life. We love something or someone so much, then either it is taken away from us or we are taken away from them. It hurts so much that sometimes we don't know what to do. Sometimes people take their own life because they can't handle or don't want to deal with the hurt and pain life offers at times. It seems so unfair. Or does it?

We have the opportunity of life as a gift from God. So to live this gift of life we have to accept the good with the bad. what must we do? We must take this gift of life serious. Take advantage of every opportunity that comes our way to strengthen our minds, because the mind is a battlefield. In order to win a battle our minds need to be on point.

We never know what the next day will bring. So, it is safe to say, "Don't waste your time or your mind for that matterl" Now is the time to do something constructive. Unless you are perfect there is always something that needs to be done. If you are perfect, there is someone who is not that could really use your help.

Wakili Brown


All Flawed...

I want to die said those who gave the doctor their approval to kill them, using the same drug that is now being used to murder people who are saying they don't want to die!

It is no longer about justice. We all know this or else the death penalty would have been abolished. We are dealing with a faulty system, faulty drugs and faulty people. Being imperfect beings ourselves as whole, leaves the door open for mistakes in all we do. I mean think about it or just reread my first paragraph.

It seems that those on both sides of this issue have their justifications for why and why not. But if neither side existed and only the truth of the facts remained what would be left? If everyone were repaid for the mistakes or wrongs they've done in the same way, Lord, have mercy, where would we all be right now?

All Flawed...

Tony Barksdale
2-611/F1-24A


A Life of Leisure?

It has been said recently that we have a life of leisure living on death row. Is it a life of leisure or a life of torment? Every day we wake up on death row, one must worry if this will be the day he receives the news he no longer has grounds for appeals and a date for an execution set.

Some of us are blessed to have an attorney who works hard on our case. Some of us aren't. Those who aren't, have to worry everyday if their attorney has done everything possible and met every deadline to help save their lives. We know while living on death row an execution is very possible. It can be years down the line, but every day we wake up we face knowing one day if we don't receive the miracle blessing to be taken off death row we'll be taken to a stainless steel gurney and pumped full of a drug used for animals.

I won't get into detail of the prison conditions. I will say in Alabama we don't have air conditioned units. We burn up in the summer and freeze during winter. We occasionally receive a decent meal, but mostly get fed pure garbage. Everyday we witness the pain and struggles our families face and endure. And there is not a thing we can do because we are so far away. These are just a few of the minor struggles we face everyday.

Again I ask, "Is it a life of leisure or a life of torment?"

David Riley
Z—738/F1—22A