Letter to Mickey

This is the letter that Aba Gayle wrote to her daughter – Catherine – murderer, Douglas Mickey, it is featured on her website

(She has kindly allowed me the permission to use this letter – please see full interview for this permission.)


Dear Mr. Mickey,

Twelve years ago, I had a beautiful daughter named Catherine. She was a young woman of unusual talents and intelligence. She was slender and her skin glowed with health and vitality. She had long naturally wavy hair that framed her sparkling eyes and warm bright smile. She radiated love and joy!

Catherine was living with her friend, Eric, on a fifteen-acre pear ranch. Catherine’s greatest love was her animals. She was raising two milk goats, her German shepherd with a new litter of ten puppies and an Arabian mare. She had tried to live with her father and his wife on their property (where there would be room for all her animals) but her stepmother’s emotional illness made that impossible and she had just recently moved back with her friend Eric.

Two months after her 19th birthday Catherine left her earthly body and her spirit transitioned to her next stage of life. I know that Catherine is in a better place than we can ever know here on earth. I did not know that when Catherine died. I knew that I had been robbed of my precious child and that she had been robbed of growing into womanhood and achieving all of her potential. The violent way she left this earth was impossible for me to understand. I was saddened beyond belief and felt that I would never be completely happy again. And indeed my loss of Catherine became the point of reference for my entire family. All family history was prefaced as happening either before or after Catherine’s death. 

I was very angry with you and wanted to see you punished to the limit of the law. You had done irreparable damage to my family and my dreams for the future.

After eight long years of grief and anger I started my journey of life. I met wonderful teachers and slowly began to learn about my God-self. In the midst of a class studying A Course in Miracles I was surprised to find that I could forgive you. This does not mean that I think you are innocent or that you are blameless for what happened. What I learned is this: You are a divine child of God. You carry the Christ consciousness within you. You are surrounded by God’s love even as you sit in your cell. There is no devil; there is only the goodness of God. The Christ in me sends blessings to the Christ in you.

Do not look to me to be a political or social advocate in your behalf. The law of the land will determine your fate. Do not waste your last days on earth with remorse and fear. Death as we know it is really a new beginning. Hell does not exist except in our conscious minds.

I hope that this letter will help you to face your future. There is only love and good in the world regardless of how thing may appear to you now. I am willing to write to you or visit you if you wish. I send blessings to you and to your children.

Gayle, Mother of Catherine

Radiotopia

Change in program choice.

After much research into the program my documentary would be most suited for, I initially wanted my documentary to be the type of feature to appear on the BBC, more specifically either the BBC world service or BBC 4’s why factor. However, I listened to several of their features in great detail and after much consideration I felt as if my feature and the vision I have of it would be more suited towards another program.

I came across Radiotopia. Launched by Public Radio Exchange (PRX), they describe it as “somewhat like an independent record label”. It is in fact an American podcast network that incorporates 16 shows, which have become insanely popular within two years of the station launch. Their podcasts are downloaded over 13 million times each month. It is hugely popular both in America and here in the UK, as it is fiercely independent and allows  an established platform for sustaining quality, story- driven public radio shows. 

Since the shift in technology and media, audio programs and features no longer have to be for just the radio, there has been a huge increase in the listenership of online podcasts and this is just one of the reasons why I have decided that my feature would be better suited for Radiotopia

Around the time of Radiotopia‘s launch in 2014 the network’s podcasts received around 900,000 downloads per month. This figure had increased to 7.5 million by May 2015 , 8.5 million in September 2015 and 13 million as of June 2016. 

The particular show hosted by Radiotopia, that I would see my feature being hosted on would be ‘Criminal‘. “Criminal is a podcast about crime. Stories of people who’ve done wrong, been wronged, or gotten caught somewhere in the middle.”

My documentary is about the death penalty – and although Criminal have created Episode 45: Just Mercy – which tells the story about a student lawyer who was working on a death row clients case, my documentary is based on the entire topic and whether or not it is a just punishment for a murder, closely looking at those affected. Therefore I can see my documentary fitting in with their recurring theme and Radiotopia as a whole. 

Another reason why I wanted to choose Radiotopia and Criminal, is because of the way they create their episodes. The use of music and sound effects and the way they let the people tell the stories is exactly how I envision my feature to be.

I found that although the documentaries on the BBC World Service and BBC 4 were compelling in the stories they had to tell, the execution of them were not to my taste, the lack of music, actuality and sound effects, in my opinion made me as a listener bored and switch off. This is something that I do not want happen with my piece. Although my interviewees and the stories they tell are deep, dark and utterly compelling on their own, by the clever use of music, actuality and sound effects I can bring what they say to life, with the aim to always keep them on their toes and intrigued about what is coming next. 


The ethics of Criminal for me to consider:

I decided to contact the creators of Criminal directly to find out the ethics and guidelines that they follow when creating their shows, in order for me to understand what I have to abide by for when I am creating my piece under their brand. 

Lauren Spohrer is the producer for Criminal and this is what she said:

“Each show in the Radiotopia collective is independently owned by its producers, and each show makes their own editorial choices. Before we started Criminal, we all worked in public radio and adhere to those principles: http://ethics.npr.org/. Most decisions regarding violence, language, pseudonyms etc, we talk them through on a case by case basis and typically we explain to the listener why we’ve made the choice we made to ensure transparency. You will also notice how we use disclaimers to warn our listeners of some of the content we have, when discussing violence etc. We have the creative freedom and platform to do what we want as long as we justify why we have done it.”

Check out Radiotopia and in particular Criminal for a feel of what my documentary will be similar to. 

Rod Edwards – Nebraskans for the Death Penalty

Rod Edwards is the State Director for the pro-death penalty organisation ‘Nebraskan’s for the Death Penalty‘ and last week in the US elections, the people of Nebraska spoke; they have brought the death penalty back from the dead.

In 2015 Nebraska became the first conservative state in more than 40 years to abolish the death penalty, voting to eliminate the death penalty by passing the Legislative Bill 268 (LB 268) and defying their Republican governor, Pete Ricketts, a staunch supporter of capital punishment who had lobbied vigorously against banning it.

Soon after Nebraskans for the Death Penalty launched a petition drive aimed at both blocking the enactment of LB 268 and putting the future of the death penalty to a vote of the people.

The petition drive in the summer of 2015 was a tremendous success – more than 166,000 signatures were gathered from Nebraskans in all 93 counties in 86 days using hundreds of volunteer circulators.

The Secretary of State’s office and county election officials determined that more than enough valid signatures were gathered to block the law and allow a public vote at the 2016 general election.

So fast forward 16th months and it brings us to last weeks presidential elections, where there was an incredible pivotal turning point Nebraska with a 61% vote to bring back the death penalty and legalise it once more.

With 10 inmates currently facing execution on the death penalty, Nebraska hasn’t executed anyone in 20 years – and the last time they did they used the method of the electric chair.

New execution drug for Alabama inmate

On December 8th this year, Alabama inmate Ronald Smith will be executed by a never-been-used-before drug. 

00z586The death row inmate suggested several alternative ways to be put to death next month. The Alabama Department of Corrections says it’s willing to try one of them. 

On Wednesday, a federal judge asked inmate Ronald Smith to decide by next week if he will agree, providing Smith consents the alternative drug suggested could be used to end his life. 

Smith is among a group of Alabama death row inmates who have been challenging Alabama’s three-drug lethal injection protocol for executions. 

Alabama’s current lethal injection protocol calls for three drugs to be administered. The first is midazolam: A controversial sedative used in several botched executions. The second is a drug that paralyzes the inmate. And the third is a drug that stops the heart; it is undisputed that the drug causes severe pain to a conscious person.

Death row inmates in Alabama have argued that the risk of pain is too high to use the third drug, and offered up a few different ways they could be killed. If death row inmates want to challenge their method of execution, the Supreme Court has said they have to propose better alternatives.

One of the options they proposed is to use a single dose of midazolam, the controversial sedative, and no other drugs. In previous executions throughout the United States, midazolam has always been paired with other execution drugs.

A “one-drug protocol using midazolam has never been tested, and thus, the ADOC reserves the right to administer further doses of midazolam as required.”

 

An Executions Timeline

Images sourced from: deathpenaltyphoto.org 

Prison barbed-wire fencing.

American Justice.

 

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timeline04The prisoner is taken from the death row population.

timeline06Prisoner has the last meal at this table…

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final contact visitation with friends and family…

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and the last opportunity to use the phone.

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The warden brings the prisoner to death watch.

The door leading to "Cell C" on North Carolina's death watch area.

Cell C is where the prisoner is kept.

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Inside of Cell C.

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The last bed to be slept on.

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Prisoner is placed on the gurney, IV lines are started.

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Warden instructs the witnesses…

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in the witness viewing room

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Gurney is wheeled into the death chamber…

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and is placed at the viewing window.

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A curtain is pulled to hide the execution team.

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Photo of an art installation about executions.

(2:05 am or 2:17 am)

The prisoner is pronounced dead.

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Family and witnesses exit the prison.

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The State announces the time of death…

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Meanwhile a prison van takes the body…

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A death certificated is issued.

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The manner of death listed as homicide.

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and another body is laid to rest.

 

Changes across 3 states for the death penalty

Yesterday America went to the polls in voting for a new President. Alongside that in three states across America changes towards the death penalty were also being voted for. Today the results are in. 
California

As discussed in a previous article written: California Proposition 66 vs 62 I outline the two opposing new laws that were to be voted on yesterday in America alongside the presidency election. 

One was to abolish the death penalty (proposition 62) and another to speed up the process (proposition 66).

Result? California voted ‘no’ to abolish the death penalty and ‘yes’ to speeding up the time to make appeals. California hasn’t put anyone to death since 2006.


Oklahoma

The Oklahoma Death Penalty Amendment, also known as State Question 776, was also voted on yesterday. Question 776, known as the Allow Any Execution Method, protects the death penalty in the constitution, blocking it from being declared cruel or unusual punishment. 

Voting yes supported amending the Oklahoma Constitution to guarantee the state’s power to impose capital punishment and set methods of execution – therefore vote yes to make changes to the current death penalty system imposed.

Voting no opposed amending the Oklahoma Constitution to guarantee the state’s power to impose capital punishment and set methods of execution – therefore vote no to make no changes and keep the current death penalty system imposed. 

Result? With a 66.37% majority of ‘yes’ Oklahoma passed a measure to reaffirm the state’s commitment to the death penalty after the state attorney general suspended executions last year.


Nebraska 

Despite having only 10 male inmates on its death row, the issue has been hotly debated across the state of Nebraska to bring back the death penalty. 

The petition drive in the summer of 2015 was a tremendous success –  with more than 166,000 signatures gathered from Nebraskans in all 93 counties in 86 days. The people of Nebraska strongly believe that the death penalty is the best form of punishment for certain crimes committed. 

Result? The death penalty will now be reinstated after a win in voting yes to bring it back.  The vote is a big loss for opponents of capital punishment given that Nebraska was the first conservative state to repeal the death penalty in more than 40 years.