Thursday, June 05, 2008

Some voices on stay of execution

Victims’ family reacts to delay
By Meagan Ducic - Item Correspondent - The Huntsville Item

Protesters arrived outside the Texas Department of Criminal Justice’s Walls Unit shortly before 2 p.m. Tuesday to rally against the execution of Derrick Sonnier. Sonnier, convicted of the 1991 murder of his neighbor, Melody Flowers, 27, and her 2-year-old son, Patrick, was scheduled to become the first Texas inmate to be executed since September 2007. But the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals gave Sonnier a reprieve from execution less than two hours before he would have received the lethal injection at 6 p.m. His lawyers questioned whether the state’s lethal injection procedures were legal.

While protesters waved signs outside the Walls Unit, the victims’ family members were present, but they stayed far from the group.

“He is a cancer to our family,” said Celma Mcellan, sister of Melody Flowers, of Sonnier. “We wanted to hear him appolgize for her kids and her family."

“We wanted to hear him say ‘I’m sorry for what I did and I’m sorry for the pain I have caused y’all.’ We don’t even know what kind of kid Patrick would have been. He might have been the president for all we know or the mayor of this city.

“We don’t know, he never had that chance — he was only a baby. I can’t believe he’s still breathing and they’re not.”

Gwen Price, Melody Flowers’ cousin, was also devastated by the news of Sonnier’s stay.

“He had no right to go in and do what he did to her and my nephew,” Price said. “Now they’re going to let him stay? We lost.”

At the other end of the street, a group of protesters quietly stood or sat on folding chairs holding up signs.

One of the 15 protesters Tuesday afternoon was David Atwood of Houston, a member of The Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty.“I’ve been up here quite a few times,” Atwood said. “We’re just here as a protest against the death penalty. We don’t think that we need it.

“There’s life without parole now, and you can have a safe society without executing people. It just doesn’t make sense to do it anymore. I think there are a lot of people even here in Huntsville who are against the death penalty, even though you have the execution chambers here and you have all these prisions around.”

“We have 370 people on death row now, and a lot of us feel that the death penalty is being driven now more by the politicians instead of the people, because most people want safety but they’re not into killing people,” Atwood said. “The majority of people would choose life without parole instead of the death penalty, according to polls done by Stephen Klineberg who’s a professor of Sociology at Rice University.”

Andre Latallade, better known nationally as Capital “X,” left his home in New Jersey and walked more than 1,700 miles to date in support of the abolition of the death penalty. He is the visionary behind the WALK 4 Life campaign. He was also present for the protest. “This is my first time to acutally be at an execution, but I definitely feel I need to be here,” Latallade said.

Kristin Wood, wife of death row inmate Jeff Wood, was also present during the prostest. Currently a Norwegian citizen, Wood splits her time between the States and Norway, so she can fight the death penalty on her husband’s behalf.

“I really feel for the victims and the victims’ families,” Wood said. “I wish that these things would never happen, but it doesn’t do any good, you know. Murder doesn’t justify murder."

“All it does is create more victims. They want to take away a father, a brother, a son; the whole law of parties has got to go. Over here in Texas, they all go by ‘an eye for an eye,’ but how many eyes are they going to take for one pair of eyes? I don’t get it.”

On Feb. 3, 1998, after then-Gov. George W. Bush denied her request for clemency, Karla Faye Tucker became the first woman to be executed in Texas since the American Civil War. Tuesday, her victim’s brother, Ronald Carlson, stood outside the courthouse protesting the death penalty.

“We as human beings do not have the right to destroy what God has created,” Carlson said. “A lot of the pro-death penalty people look to the Old Testament, and say ‘eye for an eye,’ and I’m like, ‘that’s what God said.’ But we live in the New Testament days.

“The day that Daniel Ryan Garrett got the death penalty, my words to the prosecutor were, ‘I guess they got what they deserved.’ But at that point I was for it; as time went on I had to really decide where I stood because I found that all the anger and hatred I felt wasn’t going away, it was getting worse.

“Before all this it wasn’t an issue for me; it was just news. But when it happens in your own backyard, you have to live with in – you have to decide.

“I witnessed the execution of Karla Faye Tucker here at the Walls Unit; she was pronounced dead at 6:45. I made that walk, and actually saw the execution — it’s the real deal.”

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