News Update 08.14.08
A truly stunning profile of North Carolina death row exoneree Glen Edward Chapman appears in this month’s Details magazine. Chapman spent nearly 14 years on death row for two murders he did not commit (one of which was not even a murder). He was released with less than $200 to his name, no apology, and nowhere to go. Four months later, Chapman has a job, a house, and an inspiring perspective on the time he served and the road ahead.
The article begins:
The sergeant says, “Pack up.”
Glen Edward Chapman has no idea what’s going on. It’s a sunny afternoon in April, and he has just come in from playing basketball with some of the other inmates at the maximum-security state penitentiary in Raleigh, North Carolina. He’s still drying off from his five-minute shower—if you let the water run too long, they extract 10 bucks from your prison account—and he’s confused. He knows that a judge has ordered a new trial, but nobody’s said anything about when it will be.
“I’ve been packed up for a long time,” Chapman says to the sergeant. As one of his small gestures of mental independence, he’s never gotten around to arranging his personal items in a neat space under the bed—that would suggest he plans on sticking around. Instead, he’s kept everything in a bag for close to 14 years while he’s gradually morphed from a wiry and wide-eyed 26-year-old into a stocky, bespectacled 40-year-old. A guard leads him out of Unit III. Chapman expects the two of them to turn right, toward Safekeeping, where prisoners are housed when they’re awaiting trial, but they turn left, toward Shipping. The guard is as nonchalant as a shopkeeper telling a late-night customer that it’s closing time. “See you later,” he says. “You’re going home.”
(As a side note, DW encourages folks to pick up a paper copy of the mag; there are incredible photographs of Mr. Chapman which do not appear in the online version.)
Reactions to the State’s decision to seek death for Demario Atwater are here and here. From the Charlotte Observer article: “If my loved one were murdered, my gut would tell me to find the person responsible and exact some old-fashioned, Biblical vengeance, “an eye for an eye.” Then, I would hope and pray that some other emotion took over, one that rejects legal as well as illegal violence in a world that has always had more than its share of both.”
Amnesty International and StandDown reflect on the predicament of Raymond Riles, a Texas inmate who has languished on death row for 33 years because even Texas agrees he’s too mentally ill to execute. Still, Texas will not allow Mr. Riles to be moved from death row, the restrictive conditions of which only exacerbate his paranoia and delusions, to a psychiatric prison facility.
From the company we keep department, Iran is taking steps towards ending the practice of stoning condemned prisoners. Relatedly, SLAP links to this article, which notes the decline of the death penalty in Asia, even in China, which executes more people than any nation on Earth.