Monday, June 30, 2008

June 25, 2008

Dear Sis~
Tonight the Commonwealth of Virginia conducted its 100th execution since 1974, when capitol punishment was reinstated by the US Supreme Court, putting to death Robert (Chad) Yarbrough, whom I knew as a quiet, unassuming guy. When I watched the Fox 10:00 news to see if the 9:00 pm execution had in fact occurred, the lead story was about three feral cats which were trapped and euthanized by a hired contractor. The news spent 5 minutes on that story, talking to protestors from around the country who were outraged that three wild cats had been put to death. After three more other stories, they finally spent 60 seconds covering the execution of a real, live human being (Chad). Just shows you the moral priorities of that TV station; executing feral cats = bad! executing people = good! At least the other two TV stations (CBS and ABC) covered the people protesting the execution, including Terri (Wolfe's mom), God bless her. It takes much optimism and faith to believe that this blood-thirsty state will ever curb its enthusiasm for executing its fellow citizens. But Terri, and her fellow protesters are willing to fight the good fight, against all odds and in the face of extreme apathy, indifference and downright hostility. Meanwhile, Virginia has 2 more executions scheduled for the month of July in its never-ending quest to sate its appetite for blood.
Love & Light, Bill

Monday, June 16, 2008

June 9, 2008

Dear Sis~

The Sword of Damocles no longer hangs over Percy as Governor Kaine today commuted his death sentence to life imprisonment on the eve of his execution. Percy, as always, is oblivious to how his fate was so arbitrarily decided by men he has never met, and he'll certainly be at a loss as to how and why he's been suddenly transferred to a new prison. For me, at least, this whole debate was not so much about Percy, per se, (who arguably might be better off dead than enduring the next 40 years all alone in a maximum security solitary confinement cell surrounded by staff and prisoners who will abuse him) but instead was a referendum on what our society is and should be. Today, civility won out, but I'm acutely aware of how easily it could have gone the other way. Another governor, or this one with less compassion and wisdom, would have allowed the state to kill Percy. Percy survived by executive grace, not because any courts intervened, not because society deemed it morally reprehensible to kill a crazy man. In the end, it all came down to the moral compass of one man and, at least on this day, the right thing was done. I'm more than a little conflicted about Percy's fate for I know what a miserable existence lays ahead for him (profoundly insane people in prison are caged like beasts, seldom receiving any kind of treatment whatsoever. Imagine a cowering dog in a tiny kennel for the next 40 years and you can visualize Percy's future). From a spiritual/metaphysical perspective I don't pretend to understand what Percy's soul might gain by incarnating as a totally insane person. What purpose is served by enduring such a miserable life on this earth? And again, you can't help but wonder if the more merciful thing might be for Percy to pass on and come back around the next time with a whole mind. But, that's not my judgment to make, and it shouldn't be our society's, either.
It has occurred to me that perhaps the "purpose" of the Percy's in this world is not to teach Percy's soul anything, but instead is to teach all of us how to view the Percy's with love, compassion and understanding, to teach us the meaning of mercy (Shakespeare wrote that "mercy is nobility's true badge"). At any rate, tonight I am happy that Percy will live and that Virginia's better side has won out, even if it's just a fleeting victory. We have another execution in two weeks and two more in July, including my friend Christopher Emmett. Bad times lay ahead, but for now, I will sleep well tonight.
Love, Bill

Monday, June 09, 2008

June 9, 2008 Percy Lives!

Dear Readers~
Percy Lives! Tonight, just before he was to be executed, Gov. Kaine stepped in and commuted Percy Walton's death sentence to life without parole. Percy will leave death row and begin serving his life sentence. From what Bill has told me, a life sentence would give Percy a chance to actually be treated for his insanity, not killed because of it. Thankfully, Gov. Kaine had the heart to do the human(e) thing concerning Percy. One prayer answered tonight...
Bill's sister, Lisa

Sunday, June 08, 2008

June 5, 2008 - Percy walks again

Dear Sis~
Today they chained Percy up and carted him off to Greensville for his June 10th appointment with the executioner. Percy was totally oblivious as to where he was going, and why, but he became agitated when the lieutenant confiscated his beloved, ever-present orange knit cap. I bought the cap for him some time ago and he's worn it, 24/7, ever since, until it's become a filthy and raggedy tangle of knitting, but one he clings to like a security blanket. This is the fourth time Percy has made the journey to Greensville, a trip 99% of people do not return from alive, so he's already living on borrowed time. Your guess is as good as mine whether Percy will survive this time; it is totally up to the discretion of Gov. Kaine, who has his own political considerations since he's on Obama's short list for the vice presidential slot. I don't want to believe he will allow this profoundly insane man to be put down like a dog, but my experience with the system makes it difficult to be optimistic...
On a more sanguine note, a couple of days ago they suddenly transferred Daryl Atkins to population in another prison, releasing him from death row. Daryl is the Atkins the US Supreme Court's 2002 decision in Atkins v Virginia, where the Court held it unconstitutional to execute mentally retarded defendants. In the six years since then, Virginia has re-sentenced Daryl to death two more times, and both times the courts have vacated the new death sentence. About 6 months ago, at a hearing which uncovered a lot of corrupt actions by the original detectives and prosecutor, including the suborning of perjury at the original trial, a trial judge threw out the death sentence and imposed a life sentence, but the state immediately appealed that action. So, either the state lost its appeal, or they withdrew it, fearing that further litigation would only uncover more dirt by the original prosecutors. At any rate, after 10 years on the row, Daryl is now gone, serving life at Wallens Ridge, a maximum security joint up in the mountains. It is exceptionally rare in Virginia for a condemned prisoner to get his death sentence reduced and Daryl was very lucky. Daryl is a very low-key, mild mannered, unassuming and happy-go-lucky sort of guy who will blend into prison life without incident, and society will never hear from him again...
I've got legal work to do, Sis, so I'm signing off.
Love, Bill