Friday, May 27, 2005

Dead man walking into life

There's a new mini-blog out there. Dead Man Walking into Life, a sub-blog of Project Hope to Abolish the Death Penalty, NCADP's Alabama affiliate, tells the story of Gary Davis Hart, a 32-year-old who has been on Alabama's death row since he was 17. Gary was among the approximately 72 people on death rows across the United States for crimes committed before they turned 18 years old. These people were spared by the U.S. Supreme Court's March 1 ruling in Roper v. Simmons. That ruling struck down the juvenile death penalty.

Gary is now preparing for his transition to general population and that's what his blog is all about. Here's how he got the news of the March 1 Supreme Court ruling:

March 1st, 2005, shortly after 9:00 a.m., I was returning from the death row exercise yard when an officer told me to call my lawyer. Immediately the fear gripped me, had something happened to my family? What was wrong? A neighbor said, I hope it’s good news, and I quickly replied, I just hope that it’s not bad news. He said, what’s the difference? To that I stated, bad news involves my family. He got the point and I dialed the number with speed and nervousness.

My lawyer answered excitedly and told me that the U.S. Supreme Court had affirmed the Simmons v. Roper case, which meant it’s unconstitutional to execute juvenile offenders, those under 18 years old at the time of their crimes. My heart rate slowed and the fear was leaving my body, nothing was wrong with my family and I was getting off death row. Three of my lawyers were on the phone, all excited as children on Christmas morning, and they shared how my mother screamed and praised God upon hearing the news. While on the phone, I had to pause to answer another of Alabama’s juvenile offenders, a total of 13. He yelled through the tunnels behind our cells and told me he’d heard the news on the radio. So I was not dreaming, this was really happening. The joy spread throughout death row and everyone was talking at once.

For the last 15 ½ years I have thought my name would be amongst the dead. To not be facing death by the hands of the State is a very strange feeling. The only way to describe it is relief. Since the reinstatement of the death penalty in 1976 the U.S. has killed 900+ men and women, including 22 juveniles and several of my friends. I have read about or known men that had less evidence against them than myself, surely I’d follow in their footsteps? Walking the walk of hope was difficult but I tried to follow the examples set around me, all the time thinking I was doomed—that my death was only a matter of time.

Now I awake knowing my thoughts of the future aren’t just wishful thinking. Unless my health fails me or something else cuts my life short I can live to be an old man. Such possibilities never existed on death row. I no longer have to imagine saying good-bye to my mother on the day of the execution, which was my greatest fear. I can stop worrying about my death killing my mother, who developed hypertension and depression over the years. Maybe her next trip to the doctor will show signs of improvement.

To read more go here.

1 comment:

Tom Naka said...

Cool blog you have going here, I will check in often! I have a similar site about wisconsin health and human services
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