With the other exonerated death-row survivors I work with, we often talk about our mutual feeling of never feeling really free. Death row is a special hell for innocent people. We were going to be murdered as punishment for crimes we did not commit. And we were the lucky ones who were exonerated. Others were executed who were as innocent as we were. Think about that.
So I have the deepest respect and admiration for people like Juan Melendez, Ray Krone, Gary Gauger, Freddie Lee Pitts, and the others who travel around our country speaking about our experiences on death row to anyone who will listen. We are black, brown, and white, conservative and liberal, rural and urban, but we have all dedicated our lives to sharing our stories with our fellow Americans, so that the United States will join the rest of the civilized world in abolishing the death penalty.
But just before a speech or an interview, we gather together. We lend support to each other for the next small step in our journey as death row survivors. We’re vigilant about each other’s psychological state, because we silently know that even though the audience will not see it, every time we talk about our experiences it puts us right back on death row. The cruel and unusual Groundhog Day we relive every time we publicly speak at colleges, churches, and civic organizations won’t end until the death penalty does.
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