Monday, August 17, 2009

August 10, 2009

Dear Sis~
I'm depressed and discouraged to learn that the Commonwealth of Virginia has set a September execution date for my good friend, Larry Bill Elliott, who was my neighbor for five plus years. Bill is not only an extraordinary person, he was also a great asset to his community, including the nation's national security with about 30 years in the US Army Military Intelligence. Bill was a specialist in electronic counterintelligence and was the instructor of electronic counterintelligence at the US Army's premier electronics school at Ft. Meade. In that capacity, he instructed Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine technical officers, as well as come CIA, NSA and other "alphabet soup" agencies. More importantly, I believe Bill to be innocent of the double-homicides he was convicted of (a reputed "lover's triangle" type of thing, according to the prosecutors forced theory). The ins and outs of Bill's case are complex and many, and space precludes me from adequately describing the nuances here, but someone needs to write a book, or make a movie about it all, and defy the reader or viewer to solve the riddle. I have not given up hope yet, although Virginia is particularly fatal when it comes to capital punishment, because he still has a cert petition before the US Supreme Court, and if that fails, he still has the slim possibility of clemency from Gov. Tim Kaine. Bill's lsawyers will need to make a powerful and compelling case for Bill's innocence for Kaine to even consider clemency. Fortunately, Bill has top-shelf attorneys, the Seattle law firm of K&L Gates (that's Bill Gates' father's law firm). Unfortunately, they were not his trial lawyers (the trial lawyers botched the trial horribly, while cleaning Bill out of his life's savings). The Gates lawyers came in pro bono after Bill's direct appeal and, at that stage, most of the damage, from incompetent trial lawyers, is already done; it's extremely difficult to correct this type of damage in the postconviction stage. The Gates people have made an heroic effort, but the law regarding the postconviction process (both state and federal) is against them, especially in Virginia. These are the same near-impossibly high legal hurdles that keep innocent people in prison and ensure their execution. While you read about guys getting exonerated every day, often after 10, 20 years in prison , these are just the lucky ones. Like an iceberg, for every one of them you hear about, there are many others below the surface who cannot hurdle the arcane procedural barriers. Bill is one of those guys...

This week is the 40th anniversary of Woodstock (40 years!!!) What a time that was! How innocent and naive it seems in retrospect, yet pregnant with hope and possibility. Those of us who lived through those times have many and varied recollections and impressions, now blurred by the passing decades (and seen through the prism of 20/20 hindsight) but my overriding memory is one of hope, potential and limitless possibility, when great things still seemed possible, even inevitable. Love was in the air and on the minds, but too many of us just weren't ready for it snd it wasn't to be.

Ok, Sis, give the doggies a big hug from me.

Love, Bill

Friday, August 07, 2009

August 2, 2009

Dear Sis~
I just finished watching a great PBS program celebrating Pete Seeger's 90th birthday; the number of folk musicians who sang and performed seemed endless, from Bruce Springstein to John Mellencamp to Arlo Guthrie to Joan Baez, and many more. Pete Seeger has always been a hero to me; he speaks truth to power and, in my mind, Pete represents everything that is good and beautiful about America. What a great spirit he is! Are you familiar with Pete's River Rescue Project that he's been running for many years? He was determined to clean up the filthy Hudson River many years ago, so he hit upon what proved to be an extremely successful idea. He built an exact replica of an old wooden river schooner, a good-sized one, with all the sails and rigging. Then he began sailing it up and down the Hudson, stopping in all the small towns and large cities. At each stop, he'd go to the schools, especially the urban schools, and arrange field trips out on the ship. There, he'd teach the kids about all the aquatic life, from turtles to birds to fish to salamanders, teaching them to love the river and the environment. Many of these kids have never been to the river and never held a wild creature. Pete uses an all-volunteer crew on the ship, and the kids themselves sail on the ship. Pete's been doing this on his own dime for many years, quietly doing his part to help save the earth he loves. And it worked: he's gotten lots of publicity, brought about many changes, and today, much of the Hudson is clean again. Most importantly, he's helped to educate a new generation of future environmentally sensitive citizens, the generation that will save our planet, if it is to be saved.