The Death Row Journal
 
Spring, 2000                              Issue 11

TABLE OF CONTENTS

Not In My Name by Linda White, Secretary-Treasurer of MVFR-Texas

Internet Update about the LHP website

Another Opportunity to Get Penpals    Human Writes Texas

An Understanding Friend poetry by Michael Lynn Blue #943

Get a Rope?  poetry by Karl Chamberlain #999241

Execution Alert as of the publication of this issue of the Journal

Advocacy  Terrell concerns can be voiced to those who are advocating for Texas Death Row

From the Robisons  A thank you note after Larry's execution

Remembering  A tribute to former DRJ editor, Billy Hughes, Jr., executed 1-24-00

A Comment on the LHP Website from 15 year old Christine

SUCCESS  poetry by John Glenn Moody, executed 1-5-99

End of the Jericho Road to Death  In memory of Michael Sharp (executed 11-19-97) by Eleanor Fitzgibbons

A Message from Randall Dale Adams  former Texas Death Row prisoner - exonerated

Not In My Name
by Linda White

Thirteen years ago my 26-year-old daughter Cathy was abducted, raped, and murdered.  If you had told me then that I would some day be writing an article for a newsletter going primarily to death row inmates and their families, I would have wondered about your sanity.  Someone once said something to the effect that “life is what happens to you while you’re making other plans” – and I can certainly attest to that!
I spent a lot of energy on my own healing in those early years, and I was helped immeasurably by caring friends and family.  Another source of help I found was reading books written by other grieving people – they helped me to experience my own profound feelings of loss and ultimately, to find meaning in my life once again. I eventually came to believe that becoming a grief counselor and death educator would help continue that healing process as well as enable me to help others I might serve.  Almost a year after the murder I returned to college to do just that.  I got my BS and MA at Sam Houston, both in psychology, and have been teaching part time for Sam in the psychology and philosophy department since then.  In the last three years I have been teaching primarily in prison (Ellis, Walls, & Wynne Units) – some psychology courses, but mostly Death & Dying.  It is without question the most rewarding thing I have ever done.  The students give far more to me in every way than I give to them, and I thank God every day that I am able to do this wonderful work.
How did I get from being the mother of a murder victim to teaching in prison, though?  It’s a long and probably boring story, so I’ll give the short version.  Obviously, violence is a death and dying issue and I began to think about it more and more as I taught Death and Dying courses.  An incident that influenced me greatly was seeing the reactions of some of my community college students to a young woman who killed her own children – there was no end to the torture they wanted to inflict on her.  I began to note how violently many of us react to the violence of others, only seeing their aggression, not our own.  I also began to take note of how our society often regards offenders, and I started to question some of my long-held views about violence and criminal justice.  I began to research violent behavior and its alternatives and happened upon a wonderful concept called restorative justice.  Restorative justice talks about harm to individuals and communities, not crimes; and seeks to repair the harms rather than simply to punish someone.  It asks what victims and offenders need and deals with repairing relationships whenever that is possible.  One of the books I read during that time talked about practicing your Christian faith in the area of criminal justice, and suggested that if you really wanted to know how it is behind bars you should volunteer to do something in prison.  I began to teach in prison just a few months later, and I’ve been there ever since.  It has been life changing for me.
Recently, some of us who share a common vision of restoration rather than retribution have been getting together to form a Texas chapter of Murder Victims’ Families for Reconciliation (MVFR).  We are a small group so far but we are growing slowly.  We hope to provide an alternative to the victim’s groups who promote vengeance and retribution.  Those reactions are understandable and natural in the aftermath of a violent death of one’s family member, but victims need more than righteous anger – they need healing too, and we’d like to help victims with more than just fanning the flames of their anger.  Though the anger is normal, it can lead victims to be used to promote more violence in our society.  Fighting violence with violence simply adds more violence, and eventually produces more victims as offenders leave prison without being restored or rehabilitated and go on to re-offend.  We are so locked into the structures of punishment that we do not examine them for effectiveness.  Somehow, somewhere, this short-sightedness has to stop.

One of the areas that we concentrate on is the abolition of the death penalty.  Those of us in MVFR know the pain of losing a loved one – we do not wish to extend that pain to more families, including the families of those on death row.  We believe the time has come to promote healing and restoration in every way possible, not to spread the violence and the misery.  MVFR is open to anyone who shares our vision, but we especially reach out to families of victims and families of those on death row, past or present – anyone who has lost a loved one to violence.

Linda White is the secretary/treasurer of MVFR-Texas, P. O. Box 1286, Tomball, TX 77377-1286, phone 28-456-7670.  Meetings are held on the first Sunday of the month at Zion Lutheran Church, 3606 Beauchamp, Houston (near the I-45 exit “North Main”) at 2:30 p.m.

 
Internet Update
by Karen Sebung, LHP Executive Director

I am finally beginning to get caught up on posting all pen pal requests on the LHP website.  I am now beginning to post web pages for death row prisoners.  Web pages can contain a prisoner’s writings, legal information on the case (be sure to check with your attorney before posting material related to your case on the internet!), etc.  I will also post links to prisoners’ personal websites.  Please send the info to me and I will get it posted ASAP.

I have noticed a disturbing trend in recent weeks on several list serves in which I participate.  Pen pals are posting the contents of prisoners’ letters without checking first with the prisoner.  I have wondered after reading some of these pieces if the prisoner would have wanted the contents of his letter available for the entire world to read.  You might want to let pen pals know what you want made public and what you consider private correspondence.
 
 
Another Opportunity to Get Pen Pals

Sue Fenwick is now working as the Texas coordinator for the group Human Writes.  If you would like to put your name on her pen pal list, write to her at:

Sue Fenwick
Human Writes Texas Co-ordinator
34 Downsview Crescent
Uckfield
East Sussex
TN22 1UB
England

 
An Understanding Friend
By Michael Lynn Blue #943
 
In our thoughts, through His Will.
We hold one another blessed journey
Ever so dear in one another tender
Loving arms also of His gift by day.

Although yet so touching through the
Vision of our imaginary mind.
Our feelings which are ever sensitive
And hearts embracing the ones so kind.

That love of His Love which is Respectful
Beyond the material or worldly things,
Though valued as His gift of life.
With the beauty of God constantly brings.

As friends may we build a relation
Such faithfulness of matter far and between
To comfort each other in times of hurt;
By caressing the hand that hold its Unseen.

Tears fall from my eyes
shiny like new pennies
Oh!  If only they were
I’d soon have enough
For all our salvation.
 

Get a Rope?
by Karl Chamberlain, #999241

A haunting oak rises above
a mound of graveyard earth,
creaking moans, weeping sighs
ghost by, riding the wind,

I see a little boy
hanging from this tree
rope constricting about his neck
like a snake slithering
across a ‘higher’ branch,

I rush to the child
as if I can save him
I do not know who
hung him; himself or another,
but I know he is still alive,

And I sweat and curse
as my grip slips
a mortal Atlas can bear
only so much of the world,

And I weep as I hold
his legs
because he is my son
                        my brother
                        my friend
                        my self
and I know I alone
am not enough
and my world slowly dies
with each quarter inch
of life slipping by,

I cry for help
but here are no lawyers
         no investigators
         no courts
         no justice
to help;
here the blade of truth
is a dull, weak thing
and I cry for at least another set of hands,

Another set of hands
to help support my son
                         my brother
                         my friend
             my love
Because, as he dies,
I die
and the world would not be
such a rich place
without each of us,
 
                   EXECUTION ALERT

                   Scheduled in 2000  (updated as of 4/20/00)

                   5-3 Caruthers Alexander #704
                   5-4 Tommy Jackson #821
                   5-9 William Kitchens #840
                   5-11 Michael McBride #903
                   5-23 James Richardson #867
                   5-31 Robert E. Carter #999091

                   6-1 Ricky McGinn #999150
                   6-12 Thomas Mason #999035
                   6-14 John Burks #949
                   6-14 Leonard Rojas #999194
                   6-15 Paul Nuncio #999158
                   6-27 Joe Guy #999123
                   6-29 Jessy San Miguel #999008

                   7-11 William Murray #999313
                   7-12 Orien Joiner #902
                   7-19 Oliver Cruz #954
                   7-26 Juan Soria #837

                   8-3 Anthony Graves #999127
                   8-16 John Satterwhite #651
                   8-23 David Gibbs #825
                   8-30 Jeffery Caldwell #938

                   9-13 Miguel Richardson #691

                   10-4 Stacey Lawton #999066

                   EXECUTED IN 2000
                   1-12 Earl Heiselbetz #999014
                   1-18 Spencer Goodman #999031
                   1-20 David Hicks #930
                   1-21 Larry Robison #748
                   1-24 Billy Hughes, Jr. #556
                   1-25 Glen McGinnis #999039
                   1-27 James Moreland #741
                   2-23 Cornelius Goss #912
                   2-24 Betty Lou Beets #810
                   3-1 Odell Barnes #998
                   3-14 Ponchai Wilkerson #999011
                   3-15 Timothy Gribble #929

ADVOCACY

All of the men on Death Row have now been moved to the Terrell Unit.  We would like to hear from prisoners regarding specific concerns.  These concerns may have to do with the move itself or they may pertain to conditions on the unit.  We would like to advocate for you but we need to know in which areas the needs are greatest.  We cannot help individual prisoners but we can advocate for better conditions for all.  Please write your concerns (medical, nutritional, noise, inadequate recreation, lack of piddling, lack of television, visitation problems, etc.) to us. These letters will be circulated to the appropriate agencies for the improvement of the living conditions.  Please send to:

The Lamp of Hope Project      HOPE of CURE           Rick Halperin
P O Box 305                           P O Box 1176             Amnesty International
League City, TX 77573           Burleson, TX 76097     121 Clements Hall
                                                                                    Southern Methodist University
                                                                                    Dallas, Texas 75257

From the Robisons
To all the prisoners on Death Row:

Thank you for caring about us during the horrifying experience of Larry's execution.  We appreciate your cards and letters and will answer them personally.  It really helped us to hear about your relationships with Larry and to know more about what his last days were like.  We have had to take out some time to grieve and rest, but we are still working on criminal justice reform and abolition.  We are still speaking out and will continue to do so.  We already have several speaking engagements planned including a tour in Europe for Amnesty International.  Next week we are representing TX CURE at a meeting with prison officials in Austin.  We will be discussing the conditions on Death Row and the indignities you endured during the transfer to Terrell.  Try to keep the faith.

We will never give up!

Love,  Lois and Ken Robison

Remembering

The Lamp of Hope Project was founded by Texas Death Row Prisoners.  Until 1999, it was also administered by Death Row prisoners.  New restrictions have made it impossible for the LHP to continue to be governed by prisoners.  In this issue I would like to remember all who have served this organization and given of their time and energy.  Next year will be the 10th anniversary of the LHP.  We would not have made it this far without the support of the prisoners and their families and friends.  I would especially like to remember Billy Hughes, Jr. in this issue.  Billy twice served as editor of the DRJ and contributed numerous cartoons for its pages.  Billy will be missed by us all.

 
A Comment on the LHP Website

Hello, my name is Christine and I am 15 years old.  I am doing a speech in my English class about a debatable subject.  I chose the death penalty.  Everyone in my class is saying that if you kill someone you should be killed.  I think differently.  I believe that yes you should be held accountable for your actions, but I feel the death penalty is wrong because killing is wrong, no matter what.

I have been looking at a lot of websites today that I could gather information from and I have seen some really scary ones too, all this information terrifies me.  Your website was the only one that made me feel as though I could do something about it.  Although I can’t pass any huge laws or anything I will try my best tomorrow for my speech and i will continue to support and work hard to put a stop to this.

Thank you for your time and for helping me with my speech
 

“SUCCESS”

Those who have achieved success have lived well, laughed often, and loved much; they’ve enjoyed the trust of pure women, the respect of intelligent men and the Precious Love of little children; they’ve filled their niches and accomplished their tasks; tey’ve left the world a better place than how they found it, whether by the loving gift of a puppy for a little hcild, a poem for a near and dear loved one, or simply to rescue a soul tih tender, caring, and loving, words; they have never lacked the appreciation of Earth’s beauty or failed to express it; they’ve always looked for the best in others and given their best in return; they’ve led a life to be an inspiration to all and left a loving memory;
TO FOREVER BECOME THEIR BENEDICTION!!!
Strive to do these things in your lives and whether or not you succeed will not matter, for simply the experience of trying will give you growth and envelope your heart and soul with a powerful pride.  With pride you will always feel success, even when failure rears its ugly head.  This will sustain you throughout your trials and tribulations in life, when I am no longer there to give a helping hand, a tender hug, or simply say the strength-giving words of “I LOVE YOU!!!”

We cannot bring the old days back,
When we were all together;
But secret tears and loving thoughts
Will lelt them live forever!!!!

Written in memory of Michael Sharp
By John Glenn Moody #933
Executed 1-5-99
 

END OF THE JERICHO ROAD TO DEATH
For Michael Sharp
Executed by the State of Texas
November 19, 1997

Fifteen years on Death Row – by then
You were utterly changed –
A new person you had become
By the recreative love and power of God.

But the Legal System did not convert,
Unvilling to see you no longer a menace,
No longer the man they sentenced to death
More than a decade and half ago.

And so, in the end, despite our prayers and petitions,
You, Michael, heavily bound on the lethal gurney, and
Jesus, nailed to a cross again, suffered together.

It’s over now and Easter has come.
You’re off the long Jericho road to death –
You’re “outta there”, Michael, Amen, Amen, Alleluia –
You’re home with the risen Jesus in joy and glory forever!

By Eleanor Fitzgibbons, IHM
 

A Message from
Randall Dale Adams

To the men and women on death row:

Having been there, I felt I had the right to voice my concerns of what I have seen going on in the past few months.  I took that opportunity and spoke on the 20th anniversary of Ray Hill’s Prison Radio Show on KPFT last Friday, March 24th.  This is what I said:

As a member of the board of the Texas Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty and as a member of the Lamp of Hope, the National Coalition and Amnesty International, I want to let you know there are people working on your behalf.  These nationwide organizations are working hard for a moratorium in Texas and across America.

This statewide lockdown is hard on everyone, but comes as a direct result of the actions of a few.  I realize the conditions at the Terrell Unit are bad, but you must leave these matters to those fighting the legal system.  Taking hostages to call attention to your plight is NOT the answer - it has the reverse effect.  Though the guard, Ms. Bledsoe, was unharmed (thank God) she was still put through a horrifying ordeal - as was her family.  That’s who the public had sympathy for and rightly so.  The public has no sympathy for death row inmates.

These actions: hostage situations and escape attempts, are detrimental to the moratorium and abolition movements in America.  It brings unwanted publicity, not to mention unnecessary retribution to you.

The only way this movement will succeed is if everyone cares about each other, the inmates, their families, the victims’ families, the public, and as hard as it may seem the correctional officers.  I ask that we all work together to stop executions in America.  Not only for the innocent, but for the guilty as well.   Please allow us to do our work.

For the victims’ families: killing for retribution is also wrong.

May God bless.
Randall Dale Adams

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ISSUE NUMBER ELEVEN

Spring, 2000

The Death Row Journal
published by The Lamp of Hope Project

Board of Directors
Patrice Camp
Priska Jaeggi
Kristin Riberg
Charles Rotramel

Executive Director:  Karen Sebung
Assistant Executive Director:  Mary Wilson

Advisory Board
Randall Dale Adams
Former Death Row prisoner - exonerated
Abraham Bonowitz
Citizens United for Alernatives to the Death Penalty
Kathy Cox
Salvation Army
Dennis Longmire, PhD.
Sam Houston State University
Jim Marcus
Attorney
Bill Pelke
Murder Victims’ Families for Reconciliation
Ken and Lois Robison
HOPE of CURE

Mailing Address:
THE LAMP OF HOPE PROJECT
P O Box 305
League City, TX  77574-0305
Tel/FAX 281-334-6543
E-mail: karen@lampofhope.org

The DEATH ROW JOURNAL is published by The Lamp of Hope Project (LHP), a non-profit service organization.  Permission is hereby granted to reprint articles appearing in the DRJ (please credit source), except those accompanied by a copyright symbol or otherwise indicated.  We freely invite readers of the DRJ to make copies of the entire DRJ issue to distribute to others who might be interested in reading it.  If you would like to write to the DRJ to contribute to our operations, get information, make suggestions, complain, or join the LHP, you may do so by writing to the address listed above.  The LHP is an incorporated non-profit organization recognized by the Internal Revenue Service as tax-exempt under Section 501©3 of the IRS Code.  All donations and membership fees are tax-deductible.