Today we hear from a man from New Zealand, who is befriending a person on death row in Georgia as well as that person’s mother. Here is his story, split into three parts for the sake of our readers:
The Story of William David Riley, as told by Brian Bowler of New Zealand.
Trolling through the Internet one evening I came across an ad asking for “someone prepared to write to a lonely man on Death Row.” My first reaction was to hurry past, which I did. I told myself that you would write to someone, build up some sort of relationship, and then suddenly it is all going to end, and you will know the reason why, and you won’t sleep for days. Then a little voice inside me kept saying, “If you feel like this, how do you think the man is feeling?” The little voice wouldn't leave me alone and eventually I retraced my steps and sent off an e-mail. The ad was placed by a lady I assumed to be a social worker or some such. I was very surprised to receive a reply from the mother of the prisoner.
She turned out to be a splendid lady, absolutely committed to her son and unshakably convinced of his innocence. We exchanged a few e-mails and then I sent off my first letter to her son, ordinary post, no e-mail allowed in the prison. I stayed in touch with his mother and felt drawn to this lady who had dedicated her life to trying to save her son. I said to her, “I want to stand by you while you go through your struggle, how ever long it takes, whatever the pain, whatever the outcome.” At this stage I had no opinion of my own of the guilt or innocence of her son, and strangely it didn't seem to matter.
Eventually she told me the story of her son’s case. He was a 32-year-old married man with three children. He was estranged from his wife who had unquestioningly signed over full custody of the children to him. Clearly she was confident in his ability to raise them.