Crime

When I Was on Death Row, I Saw a Bunch of Dead Men Walking. Solitary Confinement Killed Everything Inside Them.


By Anthony Graves, Death Row Exonoree #138

When I was on death row, I saw guys come to prison sane and leave this world insane, talking nonsense on the execution gurney.

I am death row exoneree #138.

There are 12 more people like me from Texas. Twelve people who spent years of their lives locked alone in concrete cages waiting to die before they were set free, exonerated for their innocence.

Eleven people have committed suicide on Texas’ death row. All because of the conditions.

When I was sentenced to death, I did not know that this sentence would also mean that I would have 12 years without any human contact, i.e. my mother, my son, my friends. All those people were stripped from my life because of this injustice. I did not know it would mean 12 years of having my meals slid through a small slot in a steel door like an animal. I did not know it would mean 12 years alone in a cage the size of a parking spot, sleeping on concrete steel bunk and alone for 22 to 24 hours a day. All for a crime I did not commit. The injustice.

For me and the 400 other prisoners on Texas’ death row while I was there, a death sentence meant a double punishment. We spent years locked alone in a tiny, concrete cage in solitary confinement, with guys going insane, dropping their appeals, doing everything they could to check out of this place before we were ever strapped to an execution gurney. All because of the conditions.

I am writing today because the ACLU has put out an important new paper about what it does to people to lock them alone in cages on death row. They found that over 93% of states lock away their death row prisoners for over 22 hours a day. Nearly a third of death row prisoners live in cages where their toilet is an arm’s length away from their bed. Sixty-percent of people on death row have no windows or natural light.

Solitary confinement is like living in a dark hole. People walk over the hole and you shout from the bottom, but nobody hears you. You start to play tricks with your mind just to survive. This is no way to live.

I saw the people living on death row fall apart. One guy suffered some of his last days smearing feces, lying naked in the recreation yard, and urinating on himself. I saw guys who dropped their appeals and elected to die because of the intolerable conditions. To sum it up, I saw a bunch of dead men walking because of the conditions that killed everything inside of them. And they were just waiting to lie down.

After I got out, I have tried to use my time to raise awareness about these conditions. I am currently working on a book and traveling the globe trying to share my message and educate people about the effects of solitary confinement. I have created AnthonyBelieves.com, which is my consulting firm that I use to help attorneys, nonprofit organizations, etc. I am asking for your support in my endeavors to bring attention to such inhumane issues by going to my website and ordering anything from my store to help offset my travel expenses. There’s also a petition on my webpage that I am asking 10 million people around the world to sign in solidarity with me as I stand up for justice.

Please help me and the ACLU get the word out about these conditions. Our death penalty system is broken in this country – it is applied unfairly against people. When you have a broken system, innocent people like me can end up on trial for their life. And subjecting anyone in prison to solitary confinement is torture. I am speaking on experience. Many of these same people are returning to our society, and when they do they come with all the baggage we put on them in the system. This keeps the rate of recidivism high.

In this country, we should be doing better than that. We should not have a criminal justice system turned into a criminal by the way we treat our citizens. Even when we do not like people or believe they have done something wrong, our emotions should not govern our society. We should be making laws from a rational perspective. We have to be above the criminal by keeping our system humane. Everyone should be treated like a human being. This is America.

Please share the new video I recorded for the ACLU to help get the word out about the double punishment of solitary confinement on death row. And make sure to read the ACLU’s new report. Also please check out AnthonyBelieves.com and give me your support while I cross the county and try to educate people about the inhumane treatment in our criminal justice system.

Thank you and best wishes.

For more on the double punishment of solitary confinement on death row, read the ACLU’s report A Death Before Dying.

Advertisements

Man walks free after serving two decades on wrongful conviction – Daniel Taylor


CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) – Jul 23, 2013

A man is beginning his redemption Monday after serving two decades behind bars on a wrongful conviction.

Daniel Taylor endured 20 years of time in a prison cell knowing he didn’t commit the crime that got him there. He was a teenager when he went into the big house, but now, he’s a free 37-year-old who will move to a place he can really call home.

“Well, it feels like I’m finally getting established and stepping out on my own and finally getting a chance to get re-acclimated with society,” Taylor says. “It’s very bittersweet, but I’ll accept this over my alternative, which is an 8 by 2 cuz those are not 8 by 9 cells.”

Taylor spent just over 20 years in that 8-by-2 cell at the Menard Correctional Center. He was 17 years old when he was arrested and charged with double murder at a North Side apartment complex.

Taylor had an alibi when the murders were committed: he was already in jail for disorderly conduct and being held at another police station. That took a backseat in the investigation when Taylor confessed to the crime.

“I have never heard anyone who had the alibi that I had,” Taylor explains. “You have people who was at a football game—with their girlfriend making love but how many people have said I was actually in your custody and they went and got certain documents from their own police station. I was beaten and tricked.”

Taylor contacted the Center on Wrongful Convictions at Northwest University, shared his story and six years later, he had another court date.

“He was in custody at the time when the murders were committed. I had to take that case. He had no parents or lawyer with him when he was dealing with the police. people don’t realize that you can admit to something that you didn’t do.”

Now, Daniel and his brother are trying to do what’s right.

David was 16 years old when Chicago police arrested him in the middle of the night. It’s a night his brother David says he’ll never forget. He missed his big brother so much that he committed crimes to get arrested with hopes of getting assigned to the same jail cell as Daniel.

“By him being by my side and letting me know everything was going to be alright…and then, when that was taken away from me, it was like woah,” David says.

Both brothers want to keep at-risk kids out of trouble and out of jail.

“You need to really sit down and talk to your parents because when it’s all said and done, your parents are going to be the only ones you have if you end up in prison,” Daniel says.

While in prison, Daniel Taylor earned his GED and says he read the dictionary from cover to cover. He has now been free for six months, living in the two-bedroom apartment. Many people are rooting for him and a number of people are trying to help him find a job.

Death penalty Focus


Today, in the United States, we celebrate freedom. At DPF, we are celebrating the freedom of exonerees like Obie Anthony, who spent 17 years in prison for a crime he did not commit.We also remember that there are thousands of other wrongfully convicted people, still sitting behind bars, trying to prove their innocence. We will keep fighting for their freedom, and for a criminal justice system that is more fair and just.

We hope you have a great Fourth of July, and thank you for joining us in the fight for justice!

Why Is The US Still Executing Teenage Offenders ?


June 11, 2012 Source : http://blog.amnestyusa.org

Texas is preparing to execute Yokamon Hearn on July 18th. If his execution is carried out, he would become the 483rd person put to death since Texas resumed executions in 1982.

Yokamon Hearn was 19 years old when he and 3 other youths set out to steal a car. They ended up shooting and killing Frank Meziere, a 23-year-old stockbroker. All four defendants were charged with capital murder, but the other three plead guilty and received deals. One got life imprisonment, the other two got ten years for aggravated robbery.

Yokamon Hearn was a teenager at the time of his crime, but not a juvenile. Article 37 of the Convention on the Rights of Child lays out the international standard for not executing juvenile offenders, defined as those who were under 18 at the time of the crime. (The U.S. is the only country except for Somalia that has not ratified this treaty.)

Likewise, Part III of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (to which the U.S. isa Party) also calls on states to prohibit the execution of offenders under 18. Upon ratification of the this treaty in 1992, the U.S. explicitly reserved for itself the right to ignore this provision and continue to kill these young offenders. But finally in 2005, with the Supreme Court decision in Roper v. Simmons, the U.S. put an end to executions of anyone under 18 at the time of the crime.

None of this helps Yokamon Hearn. Yet eighteen is an arbitrary age. There is no magic age at which one suddenly becomes a responsible adult, fully capable of making smart, informed decisions and not acting on impulse. Recent science tells us that brain development continues well into one’s 20′s, as does psychological and emotional maturation. 18 and 19 and 20 year-olds are not considered responsible enough decision makers to drink legally, yet they can be held fully responsible for their crimes and sentenced to the ultimate, irreversible punishment of death.  On he one hand, we seek to protect our youth from their immaturity; on the other we punish (and even kill) them for it.

The fact that their development has not been fully realized also means that young offenders who may have carried out impulsive, thoughtless actions as teenagers are more likely than their adult counterparts to successfully change and redeem their past mistakes. Executing people for crimes committed when they were teenagers ignores the fact that, in prison, they can grow up and become productive, functioning members of society.

Despite extensive scientific evidence of the differences between youth and adults related to culpability, decision making, and susceptibility to peer pressure, U.S. states continue to execute people for crimes committed when they were teenagers. Since 1982 Texas alone has killed at least 70 people who were aged 17, 18 or 19 at the time of their crime. This practice needs to stop immediately.

FLORIDA – Photos : Evidence from the Trayvon Martin case


Source : http://edition.cnn.com

Georges Zimmerman Injuries : see the photos here 

Demand “Justice” But Beware The Rush To Judgment In The Trayvon Martin Case


march 31, 2012 source : http://fairandunbalancedblog.blogspot.com

There are many disturbing questions surrounding the shooting of Trayvon Martin, many of them outlined here.  A rigorous independent investigation geared towards answering these questions and determining the extent to which George Zimmerman committed criminal acts is essential.  But as rallies today by civil rights groups and others “demand justice” and call for Zimmerman’s “immediate arrest,” I want to urge caution.

I remain very uncomfortable with the demands and petition drivescalling for Zimmerman’s prosecution (not to mention the vigilante response) based only on the selected facts to which we, the public, have become privy.

There are very good reasons to doubt the good faith of local law enforcement and the prosecuting agencies in this case, and we should certainly be demanding justice.  But we can’t know yet what a just response is.  We should await the findings of the special prosecutor — which may very well spur more legitimate questions and demands — rather than rush to judgment now based on the limited information filtered down to us from the media.

Far more often than not, in the wake of a tragic death it is the suspicious-looking African American in the hoodie for whom there is this kind of clamor for “swift justice.”