European witness to an execution
by Jean-Bernard Dahmoune
   

I am a criminal law student, a French citizen, who is finishing a Ph.D. about the death penalty in the United States and in Europe before its abolition. This is how I came to be in touch with Michael Sharp, founder of the Lamp of Hope Project. We started corresponding in May of 1997.

Michael appeared quickly to be a very special person. He was dedicated to the others and to the LHP. His concern was never for himself but always for others, inside the prison and in the free world. He never told me, for instance, that he was engaged in a program to raise money for children and their education in India and that he tried to get other inmates involved, too. Michael was too discrete and modest for this.

Then came the time of our first meeting. I was afraid, flying from Paris, France, to be in front of someone that I knew only by letters. Getting into the Ellis Unit was a real shock. This was my first time ever in any prison. And I remember this moment… Michael was just like in his letters and we discussed many subjects related to his life and to mine. At that time, I really wanted to get involved in the LHP--because of Michael, his energy , and the life that all these men and women have to suffer before this cruel end.

A few weeks ago, I learned what I always had been afraid of: Michael had received an execution date and it was a very serious one. I immediately sent him a letter, giving him all the support, friendship, and love that I could. Then, he decided to put me on the list of witnesses to his execution, to make me see what I am fighting for... the basic human right to life. I flew from Paris again to see him the day before his execution. I want to say that Michael is the one who gave us the strength to go through all of this, the one who cared about us, about his friends, about God until the very last moment of this visit that ended with a prayer. I was impressed and touched by him, his faith, his love for us.

The following day, as I entered the witness room, I saw him strapped down, trying to see us, and finally seeing us. His words were for God, Jesus, and the other death row inmates. This man, a last time gave us a proof of his love and compassion, a proof that he was not any more the same person, that it was inhumane and such a waste to kill someone like him.

You were right, Michael. I will always remember you. I will always remember this moment. I will always work more and more to make the LHP, your "baby", get bigger and bigger in the whole world. We had already begun. You left us too soon. But you knew that we are doing all of these things for you, for all the men and women on the Row.

I'll miss you Michael. And as you usually said in your letters to me, I send you my love and prayers.

Jean-Bernard Dahmoune
LHP International Coordinator
University of Paris (Center of Penal Law and Criminology)