Saturday, September 19, 2009

NORTH CAROLINA Edward Chapman: Finally Free, Upfront and In Charge

Alexandra Cury with Edward Chapman

Published in Hendersonville Times News - Thursday September 17, 2009
(in Community Section)

Edward Chapman: Free, Upfront and In Charge

By Connie L. Nash

When Edward Chapman described death row last Thursday at Transylvania County Library, he said he liked to be “upfront from the git-go”. Attention around the table grew and folk leaned further in while Chapman told of his troubled past and struggles to survive a corrupt environment where some guards had more to do with a prostitution ring and bringing in drugs than the prisoners did.

Chapman was also candid about his inner struggle and success to inwardly become and stay free along with his regrets as a son, a husband, a father and more. His mother and common-law wife died during his imprisonment. He watched his beloved son’s anger toward him grow over the years – especially after his wife’s death. Chapman’s eyes filled with tears a few times in the telling. Still, he said, through all those years he prayed and “never gave up - if you throw in the towel," he said, "no one wants to hear you cry."

Daily conditions? Food was terrible. “Floodlights twenty-four seven - THAT was torture and we had to take our shower five minutes max or pick up cigarette butts. Sometimes punishment was to move us old guys where the younger play rap music all the time." Classes and the arts? These were discontinued. “We were told,” Chapman said, “You're not here to learn - you're here to die.”

Behind bars for fifteen years, Chapman said he liked to think for himself and to learn from others who did the same - like the inmate who "visited" a different country every day via maps and knew facts and figures as if he’d been there. Chapman didn't mind being alone. He liked reading deep poetry - looking for the "story within the story". He got interested in writing his own poems and asking others to decipher his own hidden meaning. People began calling him “The Philosopher King” – they still do.

Chapman wrote letters daily and kept records of "every act of kindness" – he wrote with the faith that someone – somewhere would help him get free. Eventually he got to know the Chair of the Psychology Dept. at UNC-Asheville, Dr. Pam Laughon, who looked under every legal rock - for years – even after a string of state-appointed lawyers had failed.

Finally, Attorney Frank Goldsmith and Professor Laughon (become Mitigation Specialist) put together a winning case.

On April 2, 2008 Glen Edward Chapman became the seventh inmate freed in NC due to wrongful conviction . In summary, he was erroneously charged with the murders of two women by sloppy lawyers, ineffective counsel, and numerous other roadblocks. In the case 'State v. Glen Edward Chapman' NC Superior Court Judge Robert Ervin found that each of the lead detectives assigned to the case had covered up exculpatory evidence inconsistent with the State’s theory of his guilt.

Chapman said, "I hit the road running." Alexandra Cury, head of the North Carolina Coalition for a Moratorium , added “He works harder than anyone else at the Asheville hotel where he's been recently promoted from dishwasher to the most popular staff member of Housekeeping and has lots of friends. He works extra every chance he gets. He never drinks. Chapman said that he wanted to do everything possible to stay clear-headed.

According to Chapman and the legal team, racial discrimination may have played a strong role in the false charges. His testimony was added to many other such statements spoken on behalf of “The North Carolina Racial Justice Act” which Governor Beverly Perdue signed the Act into law August 11, 2009. Over 60% of those on NC Death Row are black.

Since 1973, nationwide 135 people have been exonerated and freed from death row –. including five people in 2009.

Percentage-wise, for every six people executed in North Carolina – there’s been one person freed from death row. There are nine stories of the wrongful conviction of people with strong innocent cases posted at the “ North Carolina Coalition for a Moratorium” website under “Wrongful Convictions”. There may well be more such cases.

What’s next for Chapman? Asked - “Why don’t you sound bitter?" Chapman said, "I'm in control of my life now. I’m free. It's like winning the lottery… When you're bitter, other people have power over you." “Edward’s dad’s a chef” Cury added “and one day Edward would love to be one.” There is one more goal, Cury told the group: like most released prisoners, Chapman was sent from prison minus resources to help start a new life. He and his supporters are seeking a “Pardon of Innocence” from Governor Bev Perdue so that he may receive the compensation he is due, "from the State of North Carolina for his unjust and unlawful incarceration."

Along with many cheering supporters, I pray Glen Edward Chapman will succeed. GO Edward and god-speed - stay free, upfront and in charge each day for the rest of your life!


Anonymous said...

Great article. One can only wish him the best. He has been through tough times and come out stronger. May God richly bless him.

Connie L. Nash said...

PLEASE ADD YOUR COMMENTS about this article. Returning Newspaper Article Writer - the Co-blogger of The Journey of Hope Blog here would love your feedback!

The Saint said...

I don't know what it would be like to go through such an experience; I can't imagine it. And then to come out 'strong'.

That's a genuine hero for you right there.