Sunday, December 04, 2005

November 29, 2005

Dear Sis~
Just moments ago the local evening newscaster reported that our out-going governor, Mark Warner, just granted clemency for Rob Lovitt, who was scheduled to die tomorrow. This is the first clemency granted here in Virginia in my 6+ years here, and I think there's only been one other in the last 20 years or so. Governor Warner based his clemency decision, he said, upon the fact that the clerk had destroyed all of the evidence (including possibly exculpatory DNA evidence) immediately following Rob's trial, in violation of a state law which specifically mandates the continued preservation of all evidence in all capitol cases, until the death sentence is carried out. I was surprised Warner actually had the fortitude to do this. This year, 2005, will now prove to be the first full calendar year in Virginia in which no execution took place, in decades. Usually Virginia executes 5-12 people per year. So this is a milestone (it is now too late to sign a death warrant and get an execution date before 2005 ends). Hopefully, this is a good omen. But, the reality is that out of the 22 guys here on the row, about 6 of them are very close to exhausting their legal remedies and will probably be executed in 2006. I know these six guys very well (one of them is crazy as a bed bug; another is borderline retarded), and it will be depressing and discouraging for me to watch them get chained up and hustled off to Greensville where they'll be put down like unwanted stray dogs. It's not just discouraging because I'm watching people I know be executed, but also because, in this day and age, our society still views the killing of its citizens as a viable and acceptable solution. We've become so inured to killing that few people even question the underlying premise, instead accepting it as the natural order of things. Every time I watch a guy get escorted from here to Greenville it represents another failure in the imagination (not to mention the compassion) of our society. Really, shouldn't we be better than this?

The seagulls have arrived for the winter and they're chasing of all the other birds. If I throw bread out there to the little birds the seagulls, always swooping overhead, zoom in and snatch the bread. Then they all fight each other for it. In every prison I've ever been in, swarms of seagulls arrive each Winter and stay until Spring. They feed at the prison dump and from handouts from prisoners. Come Spring they disappear, presumably back to the seashore. They come and go like clockwork every year. Now, I leave the bread inside our fenced cages and the sparrows eat it after we leave. They gulls can't get into the cages so the sparrows can eat in safety.

Well, I've got a backlog of legal reading and work to knock out so this will be short, Sis. Keep your chin up, and give the puppy a hug for me.

Love & peace, Bill