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Saturday, July 21, 2007

Imagine You're On Death Row...

By Leonard Pitts, Jr.
The Detroit Free Press
Saturday, July 21, 2007

You don't know what it's like and neither do I. But we can imagine.

I've always thought it must feel like being buried alive. Lungs starving, lying in blackness, pounding on the coffin lid with dirt showering down, no one hearing your cries.

Or maybe it's like locked-in syndrome, a condition where you lose muscle control — can't move a finger, turn your head, speak. Your body entombs you. You scream within, but no one hears.

Something like that, I think. Something where you're trapped, claustrophobic, unable to believe what is happening, unable to make anyone hear you. That's how it must feel to be an innocent person on death row as execution day draws close.

Tuesday was Troy Anthony Davis' scheduled execution day, though I have no idea if he is an innocent person. I do know that he was convicted of the 1989 killing of a police officer, Mark Allen MacPhail, in Savannah, Ga. And I know that he was on the scene, a Burger King parking lot, that fateful night.

But I also know that Davis has always maintained his innocence. And that no physical evidence — no gun, no fingerprint, no DNA — ever tied him to the crime. And that he was convicted on the testimony of nine key witnesses. And that seven of them have now recanted.

They lied, they say. They were scared, they were bullied and threatened, and they said what the cops wanted to hear. Of the two witnesses who have not recanted, one is a fellow named Sylvester (Red) Coles; some Witnesses claim he's the one who actually shot MacPhail when the officer tried to break up a parking lot altercation.

Monday, one day before Davis was scheduled to die, the state parole board issued a 90-day stay of execution.

You and I have no idea how that must feel, either, but we can imagine. The buried man gets a sip of air. The paralyzed man moves his toe.

And then back down into the coffin, back down into the tomb of your own skin, back in line to die.

Surely Davis' lawyers have explained to him the 1996 federal law, signed by President Bill Clinton, that is throwing roadblocks in his way. Designed to streamline capital cases, it restricts the introduction of exculpatory evidence once the state appeals process is done. But just as surely, Davis, if he is innocent, must wonder how he could have presented evidence he didn't yet have. And he must wonder, too, how there can be a time limit on truth — especially when a human life is at stake. How can you execute a man when there remain serious questions about his guilt?

That's barbarism, not justice.

What's fascinating is that, though 67% of those polled by Gallup pollsters approve of capital punishment in murder cases (and 51% say it's not imposed often enough), 64% admit it does not deter murder, and 63% believe an innocent person has probably been executed since 2001.

In other words, the system doesn't work, we "know" it doesn't work, yet we want it to continue — and, indeed, expand. What kind of madness is that? It's an intellectual disconnect, a refusal to follow logic to its logical end.

It is, of course, easier to countenance that madness, ignore that refusal, when the issue is abstract, when death row is distant, theoretical and does not involve you.

But what must it feel like when it is not abstract, when it is "you'' sitting there in the cell watching the calendar move inexorably toward the day the state will kill you for something you absolutely did not do? Is there a suspension of belief? Do you tell yourself that surely people will come to' their senses any minute now? Does the air close on you like a coffin lid? Does darkness sit on your chest like a weight?

You and I can only imagine. Some men have no need to try.

LEONARD PITTS JR. is a columnist for the Miami Herald, 1 Herald Plaza, Miami, Fla. 33132. Write to him at

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Keys to Success: Seven Pearls for 07/07/07

by Efren 'Tlecoz' Paredes

The following are seven keys to success I employ in my daily life. I thought I would share them in hopes that they may be useful to others as well. I have found them to be very effective.

1. Aggressively pursue knowledge and work to expand our consciousness each day. Ignorance is tantamount to mental incarceration, and choosing ignorance is synonymous with insanity. We are constantly evolving. And, in order to effectuate that process so it achieves its maximum potential, it must be properly fueled. The moment we desist the process of growth and development we commence the process of deterioration.

2. Advocate the value of expression and conveying truth to those around us. It is important to be genuine and candid with people. We perform a disservice to ourselves and others, and arrest people's growth and development, when we lie to them. People may not always be fond of your openness, but they will respect and appreciate it later on. Through our rejection of truth we create illusions and falsities that are counter-productive. We also foster the same in others and perpetuate a cycle that consumes even more people.

3. If people don't support your beliefs and creativity re-evaluate what you are doing or saying. If after careful analysis you still feel strongly about things don't allow others to deter you from pursuing what you deem to be worthy. We are the masters of our destiny and we can never be afraid to forge new paths and exercise our creativity. Attempting to avoid this is akin to escaping freedom. It's also important to know that people judge us based on our convictions. The less serious we take them and more whimsical we are, the less serious people take us as individuals. It demonstrates instability.

4. People should never disrespect themselves by trying to conform their lives to the satisfaction of others. We can never please everyone and should never seek to attempt it. If we spend our lives trying to satisfy others and make them happy we will be stifling our growth process and chasing ephemeral illusions of happiness and success. In the end people will regret having lived their lives for others. No one can tell us what will bring us happiness. It is only conjecture on their part. We each are unique and only we know what is best for us, and how we want our lives to be. No one can live our lives for us. Only we can.

5. People should exude fortitude, courage, and confidence, and never acquiesce to injustice or oppression in any form. We should also never reward people for mistreating us by allowing them to exhibit offensive behaviors towards us. It is essential to combat forces designed to destroy the human spirit and incarcerate people physically, mentally, emotionally, or spiritually. We succumb to defeat when we refuse to challenge it. It isn't the acts themselves that destroy us, it's our acceptance of them that does.

6. We possess within each of us the power to achieve any objective in life we set out to accomplish. We assign a degree of value to all things in life and empower them through our thoughts and feelings. Our perception of each situation determines our response and how it will affect us. It is predicated on our vision, strengths, and weaknesses. Our strongest opposition to success is our refusal to believe in ourselves and boundless potential.

7. If we don't like the results we see in our lives we simply have to change how we arrived to the thoughts that precipitated the trajectory of discontent. Dissatisfaction should always bring about change. We exhibit an addiction to abuse when we accept dissatisfaction in our lives and integrate it into our being. It reflects an acceptance of failure and rejection of success. By doing so we relinquish authority over our lives and bestow it upon others.