GREETINGS FROM THE EDITOR'S DESK
Autumn is almost upon us and it has been an eventful summer. The State set an execution date for Tommy Arthut but, thankfully, it was stayed by the Alabama Supreme court when another man confessed to the crime. Alabama Attorney General Troy King is still fighting to execute Tommy but he has grudgingly admitted that Tommy may, once and for all, escape the executioner. Let us hope that his prediction comes true.
PHADP's Spiritual Advisor, Rev. Paul Britner, attended a three day Leadership Training Conference in Washington D.C., sponosred by the NCADP. We welcoome Paul to the fold and thank him for selflessly giving of his time and energy.
In June, Professor Philip Alston, United Nations Human Rights Counsel Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or abitrary executions, came to Alabama in order to investigate our Capital Punishment system and its flaws. He also visited Texas, but our main focus is what he found in Alabama. I cannot stress enough how important his findings are; suffice it to say that his report to the U.N. made media headlines around the world. Unfortunately, as is usually the case, Alabama is making headlines for all the wrong reasons.
While in Alabama, Professor Alston met with lawyers, legislators and other Government officials. However, we are pleased to say, he had also a lengthy meeting with our own Executive Director, Esther Brown, who did an outstanding job of providing him with the facts, figures and issues concerning the flaws in our death penalty system. She would never tell you this herself but I want you all to know that Esther was amazing. She successfully and coherently crammed years worth of death penalty information into him within an hour or so. This was activism on a world wide stage, and all hats are off to our Esther for representing this cause in such an admirable manner. You are our hero. The report cam be found on this web site.
I wish you all a fine and happy Autumn and I will talk to you again in December. I hope you enjoy the newsletter, and feel free to contact us with any comments or suggestion you may have. Please help us to keep Hope alive.
Until next time! PEACE,
Jeff Rieber, Z-540 Hi-8A
YOU HAVE A RIGHT TO KNOW
Alabama ranks at the bottom of the 50 states when it comes to education and income. Schools are being closed due to a lack of funding.
Alabama Attorney General Troy King is the second highest paid Attorenu General in the natioon at $163,744 per year. That's four times the annual earnings of a typical Alabama tax payer.
Troy King had the temerity to say that if judicial salaries fall too low, the quality of Alabama justice could suffer. Pay should have little to do with taking the job of Attorney General. Would King admit that lesser pay equals lesser quality when it comes to court appointed attorneys, who are paid less money to take capital cases in Alabama than any other state in America?
Why does King pay his paralegal $94,000 annually? A man who is not only NOT a paralegal, but is basically nothing more than a neophyte who has since been promoted to Chief of Staff at $104,000?
Troy King should run his office scandal free and be scupulous in dealing with those in his emply. He can't do that by promoting a young man from unpaid student intern to executive assistant at $57,504 annually.
Although none of this is illegal, certainly it smacks of the good ole boy system. King's hiring and promoting practices should be raising troubling questions from a state whose income ranks as low as Alabama's.
Alabama' judges are some of the highest paid judges in the nation. Maybe that's why they fight so hard to be reelected. Overriding jury's life without parole sentences, imposing death instead of life without parole sentences and imposiing death instead is an effective tool in helping judges look tough on crime, thereby making them reelectable.
During election years, there are marked increases in override cases. That fact alone should illustrate to any thinking person that the death penalty is politically influenced, and as such, should be abolished. Justice in America is supposed to be blind, that's why the statue wears a blindfold. We are dealing with human lives here but the justice system has been co-opted by high paid politicians i.e. our overpaid Attorney General and overpaid elected judges. The corruption of true American ideals, of which blind justice is of one of the originals, will lead to the collapse of our society. Like the Romans, we will be nothing more than a memory if we are not careful.
Being a politician seems to be about playing dirty, having to never admit that you are wrong and making statements that are half-truths and contradictory. Alabama's Attorney General Troy King is a clear and convincing example of it.
This past Juloy 31st, an execution date had been set for Thomas Arthur. He was within hours of being murdered until an affidavit surfaced and a stay of execution was granted by the Alabama Supreme Court. In the handwritten affidavit, Bobby Ray Gilbert, who is serving a life w/o parole sentence in an unrelated murder, said that he was paid to kill Troy Wicker Jr. by Judy Wicker because he was an abusive husband. The affidavit prompted King to say that he doesn't take the words of a convicted killer too seriously. Well, that is a half-truth and a contradictory statement. King does take the words of a convicted killer seriously-------ahem, Judy Wicker, and he is bankiing on it.
In 1982, Wicker was convicted of 1st degree murder in the killing of her husband. Prior to her trial, she stated in several affidavits that she came home and found an intruder. The intruder raped her and killed her husband. She then testified at her trial on those same accounts and was convicted and sentenced to life for her involvement, after her story unraveled. In exchange for an early parole, she testified at Arthur's second trial, after not testifying at his first trial, saying that she lied the other times and wanted to tell the truth and say that she paid Arthur to kill her husband. So, not only does King take the words of a convicted killer seriously, he also takes the words of someone who has committed perjury. Perhaps what King meant to say was, "I don't tkae the words of a convicted killer seriously, unless it benefits the State.(prosecution).
I used to think that I knew everything. I used to think that no one really cared. It was like me against the world. The things I did growing up weren't by choice. I did what I had to do to survive. As I got older, I grew tired of what I was doing but society wouldn't allow or accept my change. No one cared. The world was against me. What I did became habits or a way of life.
Growing up I had two homes, the streets and lock up. I had no stable family life. When I did go home, if I coughed wrong they'd call the police. When I'd explain to my probation officer what was going on, he'd promise to help. His help was only to lock me up.
Before I say anything else, I'd like to say my heart goes out to all victims and their families. I'd also like to ask what about the victims of a corrupt justice system? I feel I'm a victim, not only me but so many more. The judicial system has no justice. It believes only in locking people up and letting snitches go free in order to get others locked up. I have a friend in England who explained their judicial system. The way she explained it made so much sense. It's something the American system lacks, rehabilitation for every person incarcerated, and it is taken very seriously.
I came to death row at a very young age. Since being here, my brothers here have taken the time to help me better myself. I'm still growing, and at times I still make stupid mistakes. I've realized in my growing process a lot of things. One major thing I have realized is I don't know everything. I've also realized there are people who care. The most amazing thing I've seen though is how education makes a difference. The learning process is just magnificent.
My brothers on the row have taught me so much, from being a better person to knowing what to look for in my case. In their most difficult time in life, they haven't shut the door in my face. I'd love to show them they didn't waste their time with me. As I said the learning process is amazing. I ask you to educate yourself on the death penalty. Do the research and not take the government's word. They don't care if they execute an innocent person, a mentally retarded person, deny people DNA testing which may prove their innocence, or provide an attorney and proper funding for a person's post conviction appeals. Instead, they'd rather spend a couple of million dollars of the the tax payer's money to execute someone with a drug cocktail that has been banned for use on animals.
If you ask someone in power about these issues, they will get all political and give a long drawn out speech with big words and try to manipulate your mind. Not only that, they're going to be lying. If you do your own research, you'll find short simple and true answers. I like saying the phrase of the Presidential candidate because it's more than truem it's real. It's time for a change. With your help in taking a stand agains the death penalty, we can succeed.
We've got work to do!
A CHRISTIAN PERSPECTIVE
Dear Family and Friends,
Greetings and salutations! Recently a neighbor of mine on the row and I had a conversation. We were discussing the necessity of change in the world and specifically in conjunction with the recent Olympics and the upcoming Presidential elections in the U.S.A. We both thoroughly enjoyed watching the athletic competitions with China, putting its best foot forward, as the backdrop for this international pageant. Along with the competitions a lot of "new" China was shown. Except for the ridiculous child singer scandal where the Chinese authorities made one small girl sing backstage while another little girl deemed "cuter" stood on stage and lip synced, which we thought was just another sad display of the current, and worldwide it seems, attitude of flash before substance. America and our European allies are just as guilty. Paris Hilton's fame comes to mind as a prime example. At least the Chinese had the good sense to show the "imperfect" little girl singer during the closing ceremonies. My neighbor and I thought she was as cute as a button.
As for the upcoming elections, I can't make myself care about how many houses each of the candidates has but I would like to hear them explain their plans for reconciling the current housing crisis and giving average Americans a chance to salvage their homes from the current financial straits caused by the sub prime mortgage fiasco. I would also like to hear about the plans to wrangle the insurance companies and financial insurance companies and financial institutions who are treating the average American household as their financial "hostage". Homeowner's and mediacal insurances are getting harder to come by. Oil speculators and oil companies are getting rich while the average American household struggles to put gas in the family car and food on the table. Commerce run amuck. Only so much flash and little substance.
Rhetoric will not save the day. Blaming others will not save the day. Arrogant pride will not save the day. In fact, Chronicles 7:14 says, "If my people, which are called by name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land." Greece fell. Babylon fell. And Rome fell. And those who do not study history are bound to repeat it. It is time for a change of heart along with our change of administration. I'll pray for both. Time will tell the tale. And you the voters will be co-authors of America's destiny. That is how a democracy works.
Sincerely in Christ,
Ronald B. Smith Jr.
America the Beautiful
America the beautiful, the place where all are free. Where justice stands and love demands we treat each other equally. (Note to my readers; please stop thinking, "Are you kidding me!") I know it seems America is the opposite of all I said in the above paragraph, but it is not 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 individuals, but as a people, as one nation.
Truth be told, we struggle as a nation because we forget that we are individual people striving to live as people. We can not fulfill this goal as long as we alienate, isolate and forsake those individuals who make a mistake or do a wrong. While we all must walk our own paths in life, at some point we all need or have needed help along the way. (A people is only as strong as the weakest person.)
Imagine how strong this nation could truly be if pride and self-righteousness were replaced with humility and selflessness! We as a people are so quick to put ourselves above the comon good. To set ourselves ahead or above those we deem a lesser class. I'm sure we have all been in a situation where we instantly disliked or shunned someone due to something we heard about that person. Then, at some point down the road you were in a different situation with the same person and saw a whole new side of them. Most of us have a friend right now that was not always a friend. I said all that to say, that growing as a people, a nation, is no different than growing into a friendship. Think on it!
I close with this question; just because a man or woman is in prison, why does that exclude them from a pack of people? The degrees of humanity that are placed on people, are only there beccause we placed them there....
Z 611/ F-1-12A
The Meaning of Love
There is a quote that goes, "any man who tries to be good all the time is bound to come to ruin." Does it really pay to show some love for your fellow man? Or is it merely lust that dominates one's perception? Lust is a physical feeling, or physical appeal that is hard to resist. Sometimes it goes along with love and that is wonderful. Sometimes it drives people crazy with jealousy and if you are weak then there can be a lot of unpleasantness. Now love is something entirely different because it should not be conditioned to external circumstances. It is a state of mind you adopt towards human beings and animals. Naturally if we make love dependent on others, then we will always be disappointed. If we really love without expecting anything in return, then we will never be disappointed and at the same time we will be able to to make exchanges on the level of the spirit and the soul.
Can Society truly find the essence of love? Being behind this concrete and steel, it is hard to see love from the outside. We as human beings rely too much on the verbal or written expression of someone's love.
When you tell someone you "love them", they automatically assume the worst. They think you are speaking from loneliness or desperation. You should guard your love as a very precious thing. The most precious thing and not express it in words. In this way it gradually creates the greatest freedom in your soul. My mom told me years ago: "Do not speak of your love and it will live in you forever..."Keep that in mind and use some caution when you hear someone say,"I love you."
With warmest regards,
A Matter of Ignorance
Whenever the state of Alabama schedules an execution, I look forward to reading the articles and commentary in the newspapers. There is always a variety of news, either concerning the person that is to be executed, or the death penalty itself. It shocks me at how some people can say the things they say. For me, it is also embarrassing how some can sound so ignorant, especially with the cliches there are about the South as it is. It never fails that I'm left thinking, "Did this person think before they said this?"
Though the majority of Alabamians believe in the death penalty, one would think we've evolved far from the days of old. The days when a sentence of death was given, and the condemned was taken out and hanged from the courthouse steps. Obvioulsy, there is a percentage of Alabamians that still believes in such swift "justice." On numerous occasions, I've read commentaries and opinions where a citizen of the good ole state of Alabama has commented that Alabama should execute its condemned immediately. So I wonder, where was this person when the same publication they've written in to, published the statistics on the 100 plus persons exonerated in the United States? Common sense tells you, if it were left to swift "justice", innocent lives would have been taken. Is this the value Alabamians place on human life? Are we that much of an angry and vengeful people, or is this a case of ignorance being bliss?
We all are entitled to our views and our feelings, but when we attach our feelings to any issue, we can stray from the facts. I've realized that anger directed at Alabama's condemned may be due to the amount of money the death penalty is costing the tax payers. This anger, in my opinion, should be directed at the State of Alabama and its officials. Our government officials know that it woud save tax payer dollars by abolishing the death penalty and sentencing its condemned to life without parole. Life whout parole would substantially reduce the cost on the tax payers, as well as eliminate the risk of executing the innocent. But in turn, they feed off of Alabamians' fears while fleecing tax payers' pockets. Alabamians have made Attorney General Troy King the second highest paid Attorney General in the nation, second only to California's. Now that speaks ignorance if nothing else does!
At Death's Door
Can anyone explain to me how man can and does do God's work? God is the creator of our world. Everything in it, you and me, the living creatures, the water and even the air we breathe was created by God. God is the one who decides all worldly things no matter what anyone does. God controls everything! How can man decide when another man is to die, knowing God is the one who owns that? I can't understand why the urge is so great to play God these days. I sit here afraid for myself and the men I have gotten to know over the years. Is it too much to ask God to make them stop? No! On the walk yard today my prayer was for God to end all killing by man.
Our country is at war losing lives daily. These men and women are also at death's door. Man has decided that the only way for peace is the death of other men. Why? Are we so evil that we must take another life in the guise of peace or public safety? The Bible tells us that God is forgiving that God will forgive those who ask Him. But how can man ask God to forgive, when they kill other men to show killing is wrong? I will never have that questioned answered because these very men hide behind man made laws that I am sure that God does not approve. Why does God allow this?
We do know placing a man at death's door is not what God planned for him. If that is correct, how can God allow this? How many deaths must come before God stops this madness? There has to be someone who can answer this for me. I only know men's lives hang in the balance. Capital punsihment has no place in our world. It is the evilest thing man can do to another man.
On the one hand you have a family who has just lost a loved one to violence. The State then puts their grief on display to aid in the killing of another man. The State says they have the right to hate because their loved one was taken from them. I hope God can soften their hearts to forgive and give them the peace only He can give. And He will but only if they ask Him. The State wants this family to hate so they can say justice is served by placing another man's life at death's door. I hope I live long enough to see God return and hold these men accountable for the laws that call for death. What would they say to God Himself? Sorry will not do it. There have been so many deaths and so many opportunities to stop this madness, But they didn't.
As God would want us to forgive these men who take upon themselves that which is God's, my prayer is that He will. I ask all of you to do the same for that is what God would want of us. Death is God's call to make. We can notcontrol when God wants us to die. We can fight, make war and capital punishment but we can never be God!