Thursday, December 27, 2007

Will Alabama execute an innocent man?

This excellent op-ed showed up in my email box this morning (hat tip: Esther Brown)

We have the author's permission to post it in its entirety. The author is Mary Shaw, well-known in abolitionist circles, particularly in Pennsylvania. Mary is a Philadelphia-based writer and activist, with a focus on politics, human rights, and social justice. She is a former Philadelphia Area Coordinator for Amnesty International, and her views appear regularly in a variety of newspapers, magazines, and websites. You can visit her own web site here.

Will Alabama Execute an Innocent Man?

By Mary Shaw

I have written before about how we've seen more than 200 wrongfully convicted people released from U.S. prisons in recent years after proving their innocence via DNA or other evidence.

It is good that we can do this post-conviction testing, to ensure that we're punishing the right person. And, in the case of death row inmates, we certainly don't want to execute the wrong guy. Right?

Well, while most people of conscience would probably agree, Alabama Governor Bob Riley seems to have a problem with the concept.

Here is the story:

For more than 20 years, Tommy Arthur has been sitting on Alabama's death row for a crime he says he did not commit. Of course, many people in prison claim that they're innocent, and we can't just take their word for it. But those 200+ aforementioned exonerees prove that sometimes they really are telling the truth.

In Arthur's case, DNA is available that could either prove his innocence or confirm his guilt. Since last August, the Innocence Project, an organization dedicated to exonerating wrongfully convicted people, has repeatedly requested that Gov. Riley order the crucial DNA testing in this case. But, so far, the governor has refused.

Now why would a governor not want to order DNA testing that would either confirm that you have the right guy in custody, or else prove that you've been holding an innocent man and that the real killer might still be at large?

I couldn't imagine an answer. And so I decided to call Gov. Riley's office and get a firsthand perspective on the case.

I called several times from December 19 through December 21, and all I got was the runaround, and no returned phone calls.

On two occasions, I was transferred to a "Lisa", who is apparently the person in charge of the Tommy Arthur Case. On the third call, I was transferred instead to the Media Department.

Each time, I left a very polite voicemail message. I did want to come across as confrontational. In my messages, I said that I was a writer in Philadelphia, and that I was interested in the Tommy Arthur case, and was wondering what the next steps will be, and when, to do the DNA testing that will either prove Arthur's innocence or confirm his guilt. I left my cell phone number. And I never heard back.

Recognizing that I was calling during the holiday season, when many people take extra time off from work, I decided to call again to see if Lisa or the Media folks might be on vacation. The receptionist checked and said no, they were all at lunch. This was two days after my initial call. I left another message for each.

It has now been more than a week since my initial phone call. Either they take very long lunches in Alabama, or they don't want to talk about the Arthur case.


Why in the world would Gov. Riley not want to grant the DNA testing?

And why in the world does his staff refuse to talk about it?

For those of you who want to keep up the good fight, please call Gov. Riley's office at 334-242-7100, ask for the comment line, and urge the governor to order the DNA testing for Tommy Arthur. While they might not want to hear from you, and they probably won't respond, I know from my 30 years of activism that this kind of pressure eventually wears down the bad guys in a whole lot of cases.

You've got nothing to lose, and a human life hangs in the balance.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

"Newhouse/Advance Publications Are Working With GOP Operatives To Create Corrupt Public Images Of Top Democratic Politicians."

In Alabama, Bob Riley is being groomed as a potential vice-presidential candidate. Bush's/Cheney's GOP operatives are using the prison system to keep Don Siegelman from talking to the media about Gov. Riley's past and what he knows about Alabama's dirty history of campaign corruptions. When Siegelman was Secretary of State and Attorney General, he worked with all branches of law enforcement which investigated sham organizations, Contra drug trafficking, tax evasion and money laundering. The investigations found that much of it were linked to high ranking GOP campaign contributions in Alabama as well as Florida, Arkansas, and sometimes Georgia, and Mississippi. Siegelman is a very smart attorney. He holds two law degrees. He knows more about Alabama's politics than anyone, being the only person in history to have held the top four government offices in Alabama and he has first hand knowledge of how a White House backed campaign conspiracy works. This is a partial list of the skeletons that they don't want big media to know about: (a)The Bush's/Cheney's Staff (Rove) has classified information from Diebold Election Systems, Inc. of Allen, TX.) which was shared with Dan Gans of Riley's staff. This included Diebold software code and registers addresses for each candidate along with passwords and a method of accessing the voting machines. This was used for vote stuffing in several counties in Alabama in 2002. (b) Millions of dollars of dirty campaign money were used to defeat Siegelman's Education Lottery and to defeat his gubernatorial campaigns. The money came from big business clients of Jack Abramoff, Michael Scanlon, Toby Roth, Rob Riley and William Canary. (c) Several different National GOP associations along with some sham organizations ran by Robin Vanderwall, Preston Gates, Ralph Reed, Glover Norquist and William Canary laundered the money so that it wouldn't be obvious who the donors were. (d) The newspapers of big media giant Newhouse/Advance Publications (controlled by Billionaire Donald Newhouse) agreed to print articles hand fed to them by Bush appointed U.S. government officials to create a corrupt public image of Siegelman, and other top Democrat politicians.