At speaking events, I frequently get appeals from concerned people who have loved ones on Death Row. Some of them have driven hundreds of miles to give me volumes of copies of the paperwork from the case.
They cry and implore me to help free their innocent death row denizen. Some of these people pull my heart out with their stories. I wish I could do more but all I can do is connect them with a anti-death-penalty group in the state in which they live or in which the inmate is incarcerated. In each of these cases I invariably find that there are already lawyers and local anti Death Penalty people working on the case . It is sad to see these people, in there desperation, looking for help. They hope that maybe a minister, death row exonoree, social worker or MFFM can find some magic way to accomplish what the lawyers and others cannot. Some are still in shock with the sudden realization that the United States justice system is flawed or corrupt. They now understand that their loved one will not be released because of a just system, but in spite of a unjust one, and it is going to take a lot of work. Some of these victims do not yet know the struggle that awaits them. How do we tell them that they will have to mortgage their homes, sell everything they have, and begin an indefinate struggle (the average is 11 years), dedicating all their free time to this Quest of exonoration and freedom.
I used to lay awake at night tossing and turning, trying to think of a way to help these teary eyed mothers, fathers, wives , girlfriends and relatives . I had to realize that I cannot do much more than make sure that they get in contact with the proper people to help them. I steer them in the right direction, check on them once in while for a follow up and then go on in my life speaking out and writing against the death penalty. It is what I do to do my part. I cannot be a lawyer, social worker minister, counselor, psychologist, or a shoulder to cry on. We have some wonderful people in our groups who can do these jobs, and we must let them do what they do. We must each do our part and try not to punish ourselves by feeling guilty about not doing more. We do what we are qualified to do. That is our part. No one is going to single handedly abolish the death penalty, but colectivly we can and will.
I realized a long time ago that I cannot carry the sorrows of all these people and still keep my sanity. At current count there are over three thousand people on the Row. Statistics have it that one out of ten will be murdered by the state. For every eight executions there will be one exonoration of an innocent man. Although no one can say for sure how many, some of the executed will be innocent. We know these things to be true.
All we can really do is to do our job with the same devotion and dilligence we have always demonstrated.