Both Richard Jones and his tireless advocate, Arianna Ballotta, forgave the unspeakable...even the State of Texas! I'm so glad I found this ultimately uplifting article which fits right into The Journey experience...
Posted on October 9, 2011 as "The fight for evidence of innocence"
Written by Michela Mancini (for fittedin.com*)
A story of how unexpected important a penfriendship can get...
Arianna Ballotta, one of the founders and the president of the ICADP (Illinois Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty) since it was founded in 1997, started to write to Richard Wayne Jones in 1992. Richard had been on Texas death row since 1987 for a murder of which he was most probably innocent and was executed despite compelling evidence of his always proclaimed innocence.
Evidence which unfortunately was never sufficiently considered by any court in the United States. He was convicted largely on the basis of a confession obtained under coercion and duress.
Both the state and federal courts failed to protect his rights for a fair trial by sanctioning the trial court’s use of the coerced confession to convict him. State and federal appeals courts denied the legal challenge to his conviction and the evidence of innocence uncovered after his conviction.
Despite being subjected to police coercion, in violation of his constitutional and international human rights, and irrespective of evidence of his innocence, he was executed by the State of Texas on August 22, 2000
(detailed info can be found here: http://www.lairdcarlson.com/grip/Jones%20Case%20Summary.htm) or GO here
When she started the correspondence with Richard Jones, Arianna did not know anything at all about the case. As a coherent thinker and activist, Arianna was not interested in knowing if he had or had not committed the crime for which he was sitting on death row.
Opposing the death penalty unconditionally, she chose many years ago to take the side in defense of life, no matter what, which includes having guilty pen-pals among her correspondents.
Yet, some time after having started her correspondence with Richard, a talland quite reserved man with a very gentle behavior and a distinct sense of humor, whom she regularly visited on death row twice or three times a year, she became curious and decided to know more. She simply could not believe that he was the real killer. Too well mannered, too gentle, too sweet, Richard was so different from all the stereotypes surrounding killers. She intensified her efforts and trips to Texas, she did her own investigations, spoke to many people, including Richard’s family and lawyers, hired a private investigator (supported by her own family and the crucial financial aid of dearest friends), appointed a new lawyer, and they came to the conclusion that he was not the man who had committed that horrible murder.
Unfortunately all of their efforts were in vain. The State of Texas never admitted having made a mistake and Richard’s life was taken in the name of justice. She and some of Richard’s dearest friends (including Michela Mancini, the vice-president of the ICADP) were in Texas with him when he was executed.
He stated his innocence again and again even before the lethal drugs were pumped into his veins. In October 2000 his name was officially included in the report released by Equal Justice USA stating that “the American system of capital punishment has taken the lives of 16 men despite compelling evidence of their innocence” (http://truthinjustice.org/prob-innocent.htm).
Unfortunately, this very same American system of capital punishment continues imperturbably to take the lives of human beings in spite of serious doubt about their guilt. The last victim of this “an eye for an eye” attitude was Troy Davis, recently executed by the State of Georgia and in the name of its people. Besides the ethical and moral reasons for which capital punishment cannot be ever accepted, this is not justice.
Arianna has written a book (in Italian) on Richard’s story and, as promised to Richard before his execution, she donates 100% of the book’s earnings to the cause in defense of life, in the hope of having soon a world free from capital punishment. Information on the book can be found here: http://www.coalit.it/pagina.asp?sezione=22&cat=10
A victim herself of wrong behaviors (her dad was killed at the age of 33 when she was only 13), Arianna knows a lot about hatred and forgiveness. After realizing that she had forgiven the man who had killed her father, sadly he had passed way and she was unable to tell him. She has equally forgiven the State of Texas for killing Richard.
Richard had forgiven them, too.
But he was so very much troubled by the fact that the people of Texas thought he was the real killer, especially the family of the victim. Arianna has tried in vain to get in touch with them to let them know that Richard was praying for Tammy and that in spite of the many mistakes he had committed during his short life, he was not a killer. Maybe one day God will make their paths cross and Arianna will be finally able to tell them more about Richard, a Richard that probably nobody had never really seen.
Last Updated on Sunday, 09 October 2011 22:19