Letters to the editor
Published 4:00 am Wednesday, July 25, 2007
Brewton resident protests execution
An open letter to Gov. Bob Riley from Lisa Thomas, sirector, Carlisa Inc. Food Bank, Brewton:
Thank you again for meeting with me during my walk from Brewton to Washington, D.C., in March 2005 when I protested our state's unfair income tax on the impoverished, hunger and for a moratorium on the death penalty. I would like to ask that you once again meet with me regarding Alabama's unjust death penalty: Specifically about the unjustified July 26 scheduled execution of Darrell Grayson who has been denied his right to a DNA test that could prove his innocence.
As an African-American woman, and like too many in our state, as one who has to exist at an income below the poverty line, I am compelled to speak out against this injustice. And I plan to do it the best way I know how - with my walking feet. And the best path I know is the one traced by the Civil Rights Movement, the greatest social movement our nation ever experienced, and by its great leader Dr. Martin Luther King.
I began my walk Saturday at 9:30 a.m. at the National Museum for Voting Rights, in Selma, then crossed the Edmund Pettus Bridge to a mass rally at Voting Rights Park. We heard from speakers that include Sister Judith Smits of Mobile's Quest for Social Justice, and from Paul Nelson, who is a leader of some 2,000 Mobile County residents still stuck in formaldehyde-laced FEMA campers without Katrina relief to rebuild their homes. We will arrive in Montgomery today and rally at the state Capitol steps and hear from speakers that include Sen. Hank Sanders and Kimble Forrister of Alabama Arise.
Do I want to walk 51 miles in this July heat … no. But I am compelled to do this because I feel that I have to try not only for Darrell's sake but for my sake, as well as yours and everyone in our state and nation.
I would like to respectfully remind you of a statement that you made when Esther Brown of Project Hope, Zack Carter of Alabama Arise, and I met with you in March 2005 on my walk to D.C. When Esther Brown informed you that Alabama inmates did not have the right to DNA tests, you strongly disagreed. You confidently stated that inmates do have that right in Alabama. You were mistaken, like most Alabamians on this issue, and I truly believe you were mistaken because deep down Gov. Riley, I know you must feel there it's a matter of basic justice and fairness to give a condemned man his requested DNA test.
We hear those three letters DNA mentioned several times a day from CNN to Court TV. We all know it to be one of the most respected, powerful forensic tools used today. So why is it that the state of Alabama is one of eight states that does not give all postconvicted people the right to test for DNA? And why isn't it recognized by the federal government as part of our Fifth Amendment right of due process? On July 26, Darrell Grayson will be executed unless you call for a stay and allow the DNA test to be done. This DNA test could possibly prove that he is innocent; and it may not. But as the Decatur Daily wrote: “Why would a state want to execute anybody when even a shred of uncertainty exists about his guilt?” Decatur Daily, July 7, 2007
Why would any state allow an execution to be carried out when there is a possibility that a man might be innocent? Don't we as fellow human beings owe ourselves and others the benefit of the doubt when it comes to life or death? Are we such a bloodthirsty state that we can't wait a few weeks to do a DNA test and be certain that we are not executing a innocent man? I can't even imagine what it's like to sit on death row for 26 years for a crime I didn't commit and know that the state has the evidence that could prove my innocence and refuses to test it because of some antiquated law that should have been thrown out a long time ago. This is a monstrous injustice. Even those who are for the death penalty want to be certain that the person executed is guilty. After all, the laws say beyond a reasonable doubt…there is certainly reason to doubt in this case.
Gov. Riley, when I met you I could tell you are a sincere person who cares for his fellow man. I feel deep down in my heart that you will give Darrell Grayson the DNA test that he has a moral right to, and should have a legal right to. Please call me and let me know if we can meet next Wednesday, or any other earlier date.