rn: follow-up: death penalty/salvation/drugs


Jan Slakov

Dear RN,

The subjects of these postings go "du coq à l'âne" (from cock to donkey) as
they say in French.... but they are all linked and I did not want to
inundate you with too meny messages. Anyhow, there is lots of material for
reflection and discussion below.

all the best, Jan
Date: Thu, 03 Feb 2000 17:13:20 -0800
From: Ron Rowe <•••@••.•••>
Organization: Rowe Communication Services
To: •••@••.•••
Subject: Re: Carolyn Ballard: Executions in a Civilized Society?

Two years ago as this is being transmitted, Karla Faye Tucker had just
been put to death by the state of Texas.

Most of the world heard of her only as the "convicted ax-murderer who
claimed to have found Jesus," but thanks largely to a reporter on Pat
Robertson's "700 Club" of all places, many people around the world had
the rare opportunity to see the human being behind the media sound-byte,
and came to know Karla not as a cold-blooded killer but as a warm,
compassionate person who had transformed her life and was no longer a
danger, but an asset to society.

Karla Tucker had been sentenced to death 16 years ago for her part in
two brutal 1983 murders, but those of us who looked deeper into her case
found other information that raised very disturbing questions about the
propriety of her trial and sentence, her appeals and the clemency
process.  Important mitigating evidence was not permitted to be heard by
her jury, a key prosecution witness admitted to lying in her trial, and
her jury was not given proper instructions about their options for her
sentencing.  Evidence that would have qualified her for a life sentence
was also not permitted to be considered in her appeals.  In an interview
with Larry King, she asked "If I was in here still messing up, still
hurting people or trying to kill people, I know that the Parole Board would
strike that against me in a major way, so if there is a change for the
positive, ...
why can't that be considered?"

Supporters of commuting Karla's death sentence included a former member
of her jury, two relatives of the victims, the detective who solved the
case, former prosecutors, prison guards, and the European Parliament. 
Houston detective J.C. Mosier stated "she never really had a chance as a
kid."  The daughter of a prostitute, she was using marijuana by the age
of 8, heroin by 10, and at 14 was being "schooled" in prostitution by
her mother.

Under Texas law, the death penalty can be imposed only for premeditated
murder, and only if the murderer poses a continuing threat to society. 
Although brutal, the murders for which Karla Tucker had been convicted
were not premeditated.  They were committed during a robbery following a
3-day drug binge.  The victims were not expected to be there.  Nor was
Karla a danger to society.  Some questioned her "conversion," but the
evidence of her actions over the last 14 years of her life attested to
her sincerity.  A model prisoner with a virtually spotless disciplinary
record, she had worked actively with the prison outreach ministry,
married a prison minister in 1995, and had been committed to trying to
help others change their lives.

Death penalty opponent Sister Helen Prejean said that if Karla was put
to death, "what we are saying is that ... the changing of a person, the
redemption of a person doesn't matter."  Even evangelist Pat Robertson
stated "I believe in the death penalty, no question about it, but I just
think it's totally inappropriate here."

The Governor of Texas knew all of this information supporting the Parole
Board's option of commuting Karla's death sentence to life in prison.  I
know he did, since I and many others had transmitted this information to
his office, as well as to the media, in the weeks and days leading up to
her execution.  As he broadcast his announcement that he was declining
to grant her a stay of execution, the fax machine in his office was
running non-stop with appeals for clemency from around the world.  After
Karla had been killed, that Governor -- Gov. George W. Bush, who is now
a candidate for the Republican nomination for President of the United
States -- sent a form letter to those who had contacted his office,
stating: "I sought guidance through prayer.  I have concluded that
judgements about the heart and soul of an individual on death row are
best left to a higher authority."

In one of her final interviews, Karla shows a wisdom that is sadly
lacking in so many of those we elect to run our world.  Although her
words are in the context of her own religious beliefs, Karla's message
applies equally to us all, regardless of our religious background --
from a convicted ax-murderer, the simple key to transforming our world:
"Out there before I knew the Lord, I always said I had to look out for
number one, which was me, or nobody else would.  But we know ... that
number one is Jesus, and number two is OTHERS, and THEN us.  And if we
can really live our lives that way, our world would be changed." 
[Emphasis in original interview.]

Let's make it so.

Ron Rowe
Simi Valley, California
February 3, 2000
NetZero - Defenders of the Free World
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Date: Mon, 07 Feb 2000 10:57:43 -0500
From: Hans Sinn <•••@••.•••>
Subject: Re: rn: death penalty follow-up: overcoming divisions that
  separate us

Dear Friends,

As I debated with myself if I should respond to Carolyn's correct assertion
that "Christ was not about religion", Ed' s reference to Reform as "a
Western Fundamentalist movement" persuaded me to enter the discussion. For
ironically, it is the Fundamentalists, of all stripes, who in their "revolt
against the modern age" are reminding us what religion is about: salvation
"a place in the world to come" (Erich Fromm).

I believe we will not understand the attraction of politically reactionary
movements, such as Reform, until we appreciate that religious
fundamentalists offer their members something which the secular left does
not: immortality. The secular Left may scoff at the notion of salvation in
its pursuit of a caring and compassionate society. However, in the final
analysis the secular left which is its focus on "survival" is at a decided
disadvantage in its competition with Right's cause of "salvation".

I am saying here nothing new. This problem of the Left was appreciated some
time ago by Religious Socialists (or more precise Prophetic Socialists)
such as Leonoard Ragaz, Karl Barth, Paul Tillich and Martin Buber. Agreeing
with Carolyn, Leonard Ragaz (Swizz Pastor and Religious Socialist) asserted
 around 1925 " Jesus did not want religion but the Kingdom of God".

After WW I  Paul Tillich and friends tried hard time to find a balance
between their involvement in the struggle for peace and social justice in
"this world" and at their desire to deliver the message about the Kingdom
of God (or as Tillich called it "a New Being"). In the end, the pressing
needs of people in "this world" tended to get the better, and the message
about salvation got left behind. Paul Tillich (in his US exile) had an
ongoing friendly debate with Reinhold Niebuhr about the relative merit of
the Social Gospel as a means to convey the belief in a world to come. 

I suppose, what I am suggesting is, if the Canadian Left wishes to mount an
effective response to the Western Fundamentalist Reform movement it (the
NDP) will have  come to understand the degree to which its own origins are

With best wishes,


Brooke Valley Road 687
Perth, Ontario
Tel: 613 264 8833
Fax: 613 264 8605
Civilian Peace Service <http://www.superaje.com/~marsin/cps.htm> 
Date: Fri, 04 Feb 2000 08:32:00 -0500
From: Hans Sinn <•••@••.•••>

Hi Jan,

Our (Peace Brigades International) Colombia Project continues to grow. Some
of our volunteers are scheduled to speak later this months in your part of
the country. I have
recently begun to read up on international crime and crime networks in
order to get a better understanding of the militias and armed gangs our
volunteers are dealing with. Apparently, there has been an explosive growth
of intl. crime since the disintegration of the Soviet Union. Many of the
un-and underemployed former members of the KGB and Soviet Armed Forces have
joined the ranks of international criminal organizations or formed their
own and are using the skills in drug dealing, extortion, prostitution,
smuggling etc. I have know this all along in a general way, now I am
becoming familiar with the details and the reach of this new development.

One of the best books on the subject I have read so far is "The Merger -
How Organized Crime is Taking over Canada and the World" by Jeffrey
Robinson, McClelland and Stewart Inc, Toronto, 1999, 385 pp. ISBN

It seems, the street value of the drugs smuggled into the US in 1998 alone
was one hundred billion dollars. Robinson contends that if it were not for
these illegal transactions the economies of many nations in South America,
Central America and Eastern Europe would collapse. An interesting thought.
Robinson also contends that the Russian economy after the collapse of the
USSR was largely rebuilt from the chaos by people in the criminal world,
since they had the connections, organizational skill and drive, which was
absent among the unimaginative bureaucrats and general population.

For now I am taking Robinson's conclusions with a grain of salt. However,
there is a strong suggestion that future clashes will be less and less
between the armed forces of a given nation but between a world of openness
and transparency and a kind of global underworld - and in between these two
worlds appears to be a large, grey area.

As always, best wishes and kind regards,

Date: Tue, 08 Feb 2000 15:06:15 -0500
To: •••@••.•••
From: Hans Sinn <•••@••.•••>
Subject: Ira and the War on Drugs

Hi Jan,

For a better understanding of what happened to Ira [Zbarsky](and others)
read "Smoke
and Mirrors - The War on Drugs and the Politics of Failure" by Dan Baum,
Little Brown and Co, 1996. The War on Drugs and the extra-ordinary powers
of US Immigration and other US law enforcement agencies evolved as a
strategy to get Nixon elected. Ostensibly the laws were meant to curb
organized crime but have since become an instrument in the war against "the
young, the poor and the black" and their liberal supporters.