Saturday, July 23, 2011

Crime victims’ rights “...symbolic, says Texas

Stroman's last words reflect Bhuiyan's campaign message: "Hate is going on in this world and it has to stop. Hate causes a lifetime of pain." (Director of the SMU Embrey Human Rights Program and former Amnesty International, Chair Rick Halperin, Ph.D., became involved in Bhuiyan's campaign...)

Crime victims’ rights “essentially” symbolic, says Governor

By Patricia Boh


Published: Friday, July 22, 2011

"Arab slayer" turned peace seeker, Mark Stroman, was executed by the state of Texas on July 20th for shootings that killed two men and seriously injured a third in 2001.

His death sentence has garnered intense media coverage due to the aggressive campaign for life in prison without the possibility of parole instead of the death sentence.

Stroman's main defender is none other than his only living victim, Rais Bhuiyan.

Stroman's last words reflect Bhuiyan's campaign message: "Hate is going on in this world and it has to stop. Hate causes a lifetime of pain."

Following the 9/11 attacks, Mark Stroman went on a Dallas-area shooting spree with the intention of gunning down people of Middle Eastern descent "as a patriotic response to terrorism."

The shootings took place in the Dallas area during September and October 2001.

Stroman, an alleged member of the Aryan Brotherhood, was free on bond for a gun possession arrest at the time of the shootings.

All three of Stroman's hate crime victims were South Asian convenient store workers. Both Waqar Husan, a Pakistani immigrant, and Vasudev Patel, a naturalized U.S. citizen from India died. Bhuiyan was critically injured. He survived the shooting, although he is now blind in one eye and still has 35 shotgun pellets embedded in his face.

During his recovery, Bhuiyan, a devout Muslim, pledged to "dedicate his life to the poor and needy."

Embodying this new resolve, Bhuiyan, as well as the families of Husan and Patel, took legal action to dispute the death penalty sentence.

Under the Texas Code of Criminal Procedures, article 56.02, crime victims have the right to seek mediate with their attacker. Bhuiyan claims that this right was violated. The plaintiffs claim that the prosecutor never consulted regarding the death penalty charge. Members of the jury also claim that they would have honored the families of the victims and not agreed on the death penalty charge.

Bhuiyan appealed to have the death penalty charge changed to life in prison on grounds of clemency. Gov. Rick Perry and other Texas officials ignored Bhuiyan's campaign.

In response, Bhuiyan filed a lawsuit against the state, claiming his rights were violated. Unfortunately, all efforts failed to prevent the state's decision to execute Stroman.

Director of the SMU Embrey Human Rights Program and former Amnesty International, Chair Rick Halperin, Ph.D., became involved in Bhuiyan's campaign a year ago. A well-known human rights activist and advocate for abolishing the death penalty, Halperin is "not surprised but […] extremely disappointed in the callousness that the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles and Gov. Perry have taken toward these specific pleas for mercy and compassion and life from both the survivor and the victims' family members."

"The governor of the state is an enemy of human rights, apparently no friend of crime victims, and [presents] a fraudulent picture of himself as a champion [of crime victims' rights]," said Halperin.

Perry has been a strong advocate of crime victims' rights in the past. In response to Bhuiyan's claims of his violated rights, Perry's legal team stated, "the ‘right' [guaranteed to crime victims] is essentially symbolic . . ."

This is the eighth execution in the state of Texas this year. During his tenure as Governor of Texas, Perry has overseen 233 executions.

Bhuiyan, a native of Bangladesh, became a naturalized US citizen last year. This fall, he will attend SMU to study journalism and human rights.

GO here

Also see the ACLU blog for July 23 or Go to the preceding posts on The Journey of Hope blog


Nike Chillemi said...

This is such a complicated case. On the one hand, the perpetrator certainly earned the sentence he got and deserved it. He did very bad things.

On the other hand the surviving victim and the other victims' families all seemed to have come to some level of forgiveness and a desire to give good for bad. That is entirely commendable and is necessary, IMO for healing from a viscious attack. One of the things the victim of any type of crime has to do is forgive and let go. The foregiveness isn't for the benefit of the perpetrator, necessarily. It's so the victim can go on with life unencumbered.

CN said...

Mr. Chillemi:

thanx for your very thoughtful comment. Yes, it's quite a complicated case. Also, a very unusual response as far as the length the surviving victim, Rais Bhuiyan has gone to - a kind of rare calling. YET, perhaps one which if we emulated the purity of this forgiveness, may go a long way to help heal our little worlds and the worlds at large. What do you think?

Nike Chillemi said...

I'm Ms. Chillemi. :)

I'm conflicted. I've done quite a bit of research on violent criminals and most of them are not rehabilitated, ever. Many are truly sociopathic.

I'm not a hard core death penalty fanatic, yet there are some criminals who have committed such terrible acts that they deserve the death penalty. What I'd never want is for a horrific murder who was given life without parole, through a glitch or a change in prison politics, to somehow get parole. That is frightening to me.

Whether the murderer is a true psychopath or not, for the victim to be free and to go on, it's likely the victim or the family will have to forgive on some level.

I'm much more interested in justice and healing for the victims than for the perpetrator. Although I would like to see prison anti-violence programs available to the most hardened crimials. Of course, my gut feeling is that most hardened criminals who would register for these programs would be looking for a way to manipulate the program.

Nike Chillemi