Tuesday, March 08, 2005

People change.

Joseph Ross is a former volunteer prison chaplain at the Indiana State Prison in Michigan City.

Today, in the South Bend, Indiana Tribune, he writes of his relationship with Donald Ray Wallace Jr., who is scheduled to be executed by the state of Indiana on Wednesday. Wallace is not seeking clemency from the governor.

Here are some excerpts from Joseph's fine piece:

Don Wallace was one of death row's longest residents, and during his years there, as all of us do, he changed. On death row, while some become angry or unstable, Don Wallace became holy. He spent long hours reading, meditating, drawing, and when he could, playing a guitar. When I met Don, he was not the young, foolish, addicted person he had been many years before.

Time does things to people. Its effects are never the same from person to person, but time always changes people. And time brought many good changes in Don Wallace.


This is the man the state of Indiana executes this week. A man who is nothing like the one who committed an awful crime so many years ago. Don Wallace changed. He is not the young, dangerous kid he once was.

Because of this, the lies inherent in Indiana's death penalty are exposed. People will be no safer with his execution. No one will be deterred from a future crime because of Don's execution on Wednesday night. And any governor, former governor, or state representative who tells you so is lying. And they know it.

This is one of the many tragedies built into the death penalty -- it ignores change. It forever labels a person, according to one act he might have committed. And as we all know, none of us is our past. We change. If we're lucky and holy, we change a lot.

To read the entire column, go here.


Cycles678 said...

I agree...let's do away with capital punishment and replace it with medical experimentation. after all, being killed because you did something horrible (like rape a kid or two, multiple murders, eating people, etc, etc...) is pretty easy to deal with. A quick injection, painless of course, and you're on your way to.......wherever dead dirtbags go. But, if you knew that raping a child might get you and your testicles a date with a set of jumper cables, you might think twice. Great idea!! No more death row. It's way too easy for the dirtbags.

Anonymous said...

Don Wallace was our friend. Not when he was a young drug addicted kid, but for the past 20 years he has written to my husband. Often sending artwork for birthdays, never forgetting a holiday, always insightful about life and spiritual matters. From his early 20's he grew up in prison, and he changed as almost all kids do.

It's easy to see that Don was a drug addict and that he committed a horrible crime. I remember the 1970's and there were drugs everywhere. People experimented with everything back then. I don't know what stroke of luck kept some of us from trying the wrong one, or falling in with the wrong influential crowd. I don't know why it didn't happen to me, yet happened to others. It seems to me in retrospect that it could have happened to me too, when I was young and impressionable. I would like to think that somehow "I" would have known better and "I" would have made better choices...but I can't say that really. I was just as dumb as any other person when I was young, and I can't really say that it wasn't but a stroke of luck that I ended up an upstanding member of the community, but Don ended up into drugs and committed an awful crime that was the result of a drug haze, though it was horrific.

Don was killed in my name; he was killed in your name. All these years later, I'm sure it brought no closure to anyone, I'm sure there was no feeling of happiness.

They strapped him down. He looked through the blinds at the "witnesses" and said he hoped it brought them closure and peace. Then the State put a needle in his arm and killed him with complete premeditation, and complete malice of forethought, and called murder justice...but what justice is that?

May God have more mercy on Don Wallace soul than the people of this country had. When I die and go to meet my maker, at least I will be able to say that I objected, that I spoke out, that I did not wish for any death, Wallace's victims death or Don's death.