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Su invito della Comunità di Sant'Egidio Desmond Tutu, Premio Nobel per la Pace, ha incontrato Dominique Green, nel braccio della morte. All'incontro hanno preso parte anche lo scrittore Tom Cahill, Dave Atwood della Coalizione Texana e Sheila Murphy, che coordina il collegio di difesa di Dominique.

Al termine dell'incontro si è tenuta una conferenza stampa durante la quale l'arcivescovo Tutu, che da anni ha posto accanto al suo impegno contro l'apartehid, anche quello a favore dei diritti umani, ha espresso in maniera appassionata la sua contrarietà alla pena di morte.


On the invitation of the Community of Sant'Egidio, Nobel Peace Prize laureate Desmond Tutu visited Dominique Green on death row. Writer Tom Cahill, Dave Atwood of the T.C.A.D.P. and Sheila Murphy, coordinator of Green's defence team, participated to the visit.


The Shorthorn

MARCH 26, 2004

TEXAS: Tutu speaks against killing

A senator expresses his admiration for Tutu despite their differing views on the United States' use of capitol punishment.

Royce West sounded awestruck as he presented Archbishop Desmond Tutu with a Texas flag flown from the state capital.

With a beaming Tutu standing at his side, the state senator from Fort Worth said the flag was a keepsake to commemorate the archbishop and human right icon's three-day tour of the state including a stop here Thursday night at Texas Hall.

"I feel like a little child," said West, who spoke to a gushing crowd at his own alma mater. "I'm going to go right home and call my mama."

Later, he added: "I think the thing we all need to take away from this is that we're all family. You're white and I'm black, but we're brothers. The archbishop's message is that we may have great differences, but we're family whether we like it or not."

One such difference between brothers went unmentioned by everyone: Tutu's impassioned condemnation of capital punishment one day earlier.

As Tutu embraced and encouraged the hundreds who waited to meet him, West said the issue was one with which he departed from a man he admires.

"I support the death penalty," West said and declined to discuss the issue further.

Indeed, the remarks were made literally at death's door outside the Terrel Unit in Livingston where death row inmates are held. The bishop spent nearly two hours there meeting with Dominique Green, who was sentenced to die for the slaying of a man during a robbery outside a convenience store more than 12 years ago.

"I come away deeply enriched by my encounter with an extraordinary young man," Tutu said, calling capital punishment an "absurdity that brutalizes society."

He noted that the United States is the developed world's only democracy that employs the death penalty.

"I am very concerned for a people that I love very much. You are one of the most generous peoples in the world, Americans ... but I find that very difficult to square with a remarkable vindictiveness which doesn't square with your incredible generosity," he said.

In choosing Texas to denounce capital punishment, Tutu chose the Lion's Den.

About 450 are awaiting death in Texas, where 321 convicted killers have been executed since the state resumed carrying out capital punishment in 1982. The total is the highest in the nation among states that allow the death penalty.

Even progressive leaders such as West say capital punishment is a necessary evil, an ultimate punishment reserved for the most heinous of criminals.

"American politicians tend to keep their eyes on the American public," said Thomas Porter, an English professor whose emphasis include religious studies. "A good many of their constituencies are willing to see value in execution. Politicians will tend to go with that."

Americans - and by extension, their religious leaders - often see no conflict between execution and their faith, Dr. Porter said.

"I think, by and large, the world's religious institution tends to indicate that it is pretty difficult to justify that penalty in a Christian context," Porter said. "I'm not sure if we, in general, have not ignored the international community in that regard."

The penalty is often seen as barbaric and inhumane in many other developed nations, a contrast highlighted this week with Tutu's comments.

This week's comments are reminiscent of the pope's criticism of capital punishment in 1999 during a visit to Missouri. Acting on the papacy's request, Gov. Mel Carnahan later commuted the death sentence of Darrell Mease, who had been convicted of a brutal triple murder and was scheduled to die during the pope's trip.

"I renew the appeal I made most recently at Christmas for a consensus to end the death penalty," the pope was quoted as saying at the time.

Political science professor Mark Cichock said such criticism from respected world leaders on U.S. soil is often meant to draw attention to their cause.

"Certainly, those are 2 very prominent leaders with enormous influence in international society," said Dr. Cichock, who studies international comparative law. "I think, in large part, they want to bring to attention of the American public that we're not all alone. [We're] part of a greater entity in terms of international relations. It hits a chord in the American public."


Tutu: Condemned Texan an 'advertisement for God' - Convicted murderer, backers allege racism, hope to win new trial

Nobel Peace Prize laureate Desmond Tutu said his passionate opposition to the death penalty brought him to Texas' death row Wednesday to meet with a condemned inmate who says the writings of the retired South African archbishop have changed his life for the better.

Bishop Tutu spent nearly 2 hours inside the Polunsky Unit of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice where he met Dominique Green, sentenced to die for the slaying of a Houston man during a robbery outside a convenience store more than 12 years ago.

"I come away deeply enriched by my encounter with an extraordinary young man," Bishop Tutu said. "It would be one of the greatest tragedies if someone like Dominique would be executed."

Mr. Green does not have an execution date. He was 19 in 1993 when a jury decided he should receive lethal injection for the fatal shooting of Andrew Lastrapes Jr., 41, who was one of 10 people robbed during a 3-day crime spree.

Mr. Green was described during his trial as a drug dealer with an extensive juvenile record for weapons and drug offenses and burglaries.

His supporters say that his trial was marked by racism, that his court- appointed lawyer was incompetent and that he was the product of a dysfunctional family that jurors did not consider.

Mr. Green is black. An all-white jury decided his fate. His case is being appealed.

"It's definitely been an experience," Mr. Green said of his session with Bishop Tutu. "It definitely gave me a lot to think about."

He said he was inspired by Bishop Tutu's book about his experiences as president of South Africa's Truth and Reconciliation Commission, in which participants in apartheid-fueled violence were encouraged to acknowledge their past and victims, and their families were encouraged to forgive their attackers.

"I look at him as a person who has been able to make a difference, and I can make a difference on other people's lives," Mr. Green said. "The goal is to get a new trial. My hope is to just inspire people to want to make a difference."

"He is a remarkable advertisement for God," Bishop Tutu said of Mr. Green. "This is not the monster that many would wish, or think, that is on death row."


Condemned Man Impresses Tutu - The retired South African archbishop says it would be a tragedy if the Texas death row inmate were to be executed.

This is a town (Livingston) of pine forests, bass fishing and near the end of a winding road - a cluster of low-slung concrete buildings that house 451 convicted killers on Texas' death row.

Nobel Peace Prize laureate Desmond Tutu visited one of the condemned men Wednesday, pressing his hand in greeting against a glass partition. Dominique Green, 29, pressed his palm to the glass in return. It was part of a 45-minute meeting that accomplished what 11 years on death row had not: The high-profile visit gave Green a public face and, his supporters hope, a chance at life.

"I have met quite a few people in my time, but I have not been as impressed by someone I met very briefly through a glass partition," Tutu said later at a news conference. "He is a remarkable young man. It would be one of the greatest tragedies if someone like Dominique were to be executed."

Green was 19 years old when a jury sentenced him to death for the fatal shooting of Andrew Lastrapes Jr., 41, during a robbery in the parking lot of a Houston shopping center. Lastrapes was one of 10 people robbed during a 3-day spree in 1992.

Although Green's case is not so different from others on death row, what makes him stand out is the unlikely set of circumstances that led Tutu, South Africa's retired Aglican archbishop, to an isolated prison in East Texas.

Thomas Cahill, a historian and best-selling author, earlier had visited Green at the suggestion of a friend, who happened to be one of Green's appeals lawyers. During the encounter, Cahill said, Green told him that one of Tutu's books had changed his life for the better.

Cahill said he was struck by Green's determination to share with inmates Tutu's belief that people should "ask forgiveness from everyone we've hurt and to forgive everyone who has hurt us."

After talking to Green, Cahill said he e-mailed his friend Tutu and asked the human-rights advocate to visit Green. Tutu obliged, taking a detour during a trip to Dallas.

"He is like a flower opening, and you see the petals come up," Tutu said of Green. "He could have felt self-pity, but he was nothing like that. This is not the monster that many would wish, or think, that is on death row."

Tutu called capital punishment a perverse way to show respect for life, an "absurdity that brutalizes society."

"You are one of the most generous peoples in the world, Americans but I find that very difficult to square that with a remarkable vindictiveness which doesn't square with your incredible generosity," he said.

"It's definitely been an experience," Green told Associated Press of his talk with Tutu.

He showed Tutu a long rosary that he made, one bead for every inmate who has been executed since his arrival.

"He told me enlightening and inspirational things. It definitely gave me a lot to think about.

"I don't really know how to describe it. It's just one of those moments in life you refer to," Green said.

"I look at him as a person who has been able to make a difference, and I can make a difference on other people's lives," Green said. "The goal is to get a new trial. My hope is just to inspire people to want to make a difference. It's something I didn't have till I got here. But it doesn't matter if it's in here or out there."

Green's case is before the U.S. Supreme Court, his lawyers said Wednesday. His supporters believe Green's trial was marked by racism, that his court-appointed trial lawyer was incompetent and that he was the product of a dysfunctional family, which jurors did not consider. An all-white jury decided the fate of Green, who is black.

Former Texas legislator Frances "Sissy" Farenthold, who came to hear Tutu speak at a nearby church after the prison visit, said that executions are so common in Texas that the public hardly notices.

"You read about them in 3 paragraphs on Page 8 of the local newspaper," she said. "At least now this case is getting some attention, even if the focus is only for a few minutes. In Texas, all you can do is try."

Green does not have an execution date. So far this year, 9 Texas inmates have received lethal injections. The state has executed 321 inmates since it resumed capital punishment in 1982, the highest number in the nation.


ARCHBISHOP ADDRESSES THE MEDIA - Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Archbishop Desmond Tutu discusses his opposition to the death penalty during a press conference Wednesday at St. Luke's Episcopal Church. The press conference was held following Tutu's visit to  Texas Death Row to visit Dominique Green , a 29-year-old inmate. (1-r) Thomas Cahill, noted historian and best-selling author; Tutu; Retired Judge Sheila M. Murphy, who is providing Green with legal assistance; David Atwood, president of Texas coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty; and Rev. Karl Choate, interim rector at St. Luke's Episcopal Church.

 

ARCHBISHOP VISITS DEATH ROW

By EMILY BANKS

News Editor

  LIVINGSTON - "I was very humbled to be in his presence because I felt I was in the presence of God. This is not the monster that many would expect or think, but a human being, a human being who has grown," Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Archbishop Desmond Tutu said of Dominique Green, an inmate on  Texas' Death Row who Tutu visited Wednesday at the Polunsky Unit.

"He's like a flower opening and you see the petals come up, particularly when you see him speaking about his concern for others," Tutu said, adding, "He wasn't self-pitying„

Tutu held a press conference at St. Luke's Episcopal Church following the death row visit, to discuss his opposition to the death penalty and to bring attention to what he sees as injustices in Green's trial.

Green, 29, was convicted of the 1992 robbery and shooting death of Andre Lastrapes in  Houston .

Green first learned of Tutu when he read his book, "No Future Without Forgiveness," about the archbishop's experience as president of South Africa's unique experiment, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, during whose sessions perpetrators of political violence were encouraged to tell the truth about what they'd done during the apartheid era and the victims of that violence (and their families) were encouraged to forgive those who repented their violence.

Tutu learned of Green through a mutual friend, noted historian and best-selling author Thomas Cahill, who teamed of Green from Retired Judge Sheila M. Murphy, the former presiding judge of the  Sixth Municipal District Circuit Court of Cook County in  Illinois , who believes that Green did not receive a fair trial and is providing him with legal assistance.

Cahill met Green during a 2003 visit, calling the opportunity "so different from what I expected"

Cahill said Green spoke of how his life had been changed for the better by the other inmates on death row and by a book by Desmond Tutu.

"I realized this is a kind of transformed death row right here in Livingston ," Cahill said, who then invited Tutu to visit death row and meet Green.

Tutu's impressions "I'm glad I came. I come away deeply enriched from my encounter with an extraordinary man. He is a remarkable young man and it would be one of the greatest tragedies if someone like Dominique were executed," Tutu said.

"I came because of Thomas (Cahill). I came, too, because I have a passionate opposition to the death penalty," Tutu said, calling it "perverse" and "not a deterrent. I think it is an obscenity that brutalizes.

"You are a very generous people, Americans, and it is very difficult to square with your remarkable vindictiveness, which doesn't square with your remarkable generosity," Tutu said.

"As a believer, it is the ultimate giving up, because our faith is a faith of ever-new beginnings. You execute them, you say, `I close the possibility of them ever being able to repent and to change,"' Tutu said.

"Dominique spends 23 hours of a day in solitary confinement, with one hour for exercise, alone. Now that is torture," Tutu said.

"The punishment begins the moment you come into death row. The deprivation. Can you imagine not being able to be touched?" Tutu asked, adding, "We did a high-five through the glass as it was anyway.

"He is very sorry and would like the wife of the victim to know he is sorry for the role he played," Tutu said of Green. "But for him, it was a very crucial kind of turning point because it changed him.

Having recently spoken to Mrs. Lastrapes, the wife of Green's victim, Tutu said, "She said she is pissed off. Those are her lady-like words. She is pissed off because (Green's) white accomplice got off scott-free.

"That really has riled her and she thinks the other three should have the opportunity to being again. She doesn't want Dominique Green executed," Tutu said. "I hope we can correct what has been a gross miscarriage of justice."

Tutu said Mrs. Lastrapes said that during the trial she saw Green's mother asleep on a bench and couldn't imagine that. He said Mrs. Lastrapes said she wondered what kind of home he could have had if his own mother was asleep on a bench during his trial.

"The wife of the victim felt this compassion for the one that killed her husband. So let's do something about it," Tutu said. "Don't dehumanize yourself as a society by carrying out the death penalty."

Tutu said he is not saying that Green is innocent, nor is Green.

When asked what would be an appropriate punishment, Tutu said, "I don't know. He's already been in jail 11 years. That's a huge slice of someone's life.

"I wouldn't like to be in there," Tutu said, when asked his impression of the conditions of death row "I was concerned also for the personnel. They were some lovely people, but I just wonder what effect working in that environment can have on people. It's so destroying - for everyone there.

"I hope that the attention will make other people involved so that it becomes a groundswell and people know this is not what we should be doing," Tutu said, when asked what he expects to be the effect of his involvement in the case. Green's case is currently before the United States Supreme Court. Murphy, the retired judge presently providing legal counsel, said some of the issues

involved in the case include litigation not properly performed; incompetence of counsel; mitigating issues; racial bias; and conduct of the prosecutor.