Doing Justice

Doing Justice

O' mother of mine: The past seems to come alive for me ["Justice for Some," by Scott Nowell, October 3]. I have a son on death row in the Oklahoma state prison. When I think of him, the past is all I have.

I believe that the justice system, though flawed, is the best there is in the world. And I always believed in the death sentence for those that have taken a life. If you take a life, you should forfeit your own, but in a civil manner.

Since the conviction of my son, I have had reason to change my belief in that the person who suffers is not the only one who is put to death, but also the family of that person.

Since my son has been on death row he has found a new way and a new life. He has found God and unlike many jailhouse conversions has become a minister to others and has started to console me and his family. He says that the thought of spending a lifetime in the prison is more frightening to him than his death. He says he knows where he is going and is looking forward to it.

The only regret he has, besides for his victim, is the pain and suffering his death will leave behind. His father and I and his siblings are the ones condemned to a life sentence of suffering and grief. He will be at rest and in the forgiving arms of God.

He told me that when God forgave him for the life he had taken, he -- on his own -- wrote to the family of his victim and told them that he knew they may never forgive him and he well understood that, that he just wanted to tell them how sorry he was. He said that the only way he could expect God to forgive him was for him to ask for the forgiveness of the family of his victim. He felt he owed the family of the victim his profound remorse, and just feeling it was not enough; he must tell them.

I understand that, but I need to ask a question: Who tries to ease the pain for the parents of the condemned? Who tells us that they are sorry and remorseful for the death of our child? Does the state consider us, the parents, siblings and family of the condemned, as victims? No, they do not. But as surely as I live and breathe, we are the victims who have all the grief and none of the closure.

The death sentence should be left behind as cruel and uncaring. To say the death sentence is a deterrent to others committing the same crime is simply moronic.

For a country as great as the USA to carry on an outdated and cruel practice is also moronic. I feel that the system must be changed and enlightened and move forward, not backward as the death sentence has taken us.

When the date for my son's execution arrives, I will be there, and the last face he sees will be mine, the first face he saw at birth. Will I ever get over the injustice, grief and sorrow my own country condemns me to live with for the rest of my life? No. And it will carry over unto the next generation.

Lyndia Faihtinger
Mother of Norman R. Cleary

Stockton, California

In the open: Thank you for your courage in writing about this issue -- it is long overdue for exposure.

Linda L. White

Compare and save: Justice For All is not a victims' rights organization, it is an advocacy group promoting conservative causes. If the conservative approach to law enforcement made a city safe, Houston would already be the safest city on earth, because Harris County is certainly the most conservative jurisdiction in the developed world.

Perhaps Justice For All should study what is done in those cities that are relatively safe, cities like Minneapolis, Toronto, London and Tokyo.

Jacob Wissler Jr.

Yates is no victim: The bias of this story is easily seen in that approximately 600 words were devoted to the alleged mistreatment of Rusty Yates by victim groups.

If this was a story about crime victims, Yates didn't even belong in the story. He does not see himself as a victim of crime. He does not believe a crime was committed. His grievance is against the state for prosecuting his wife for murdering their five children. His complaint is diametrically opposed to the goal of the victims' groups -- they want murderers locked up or executed.

John Wilson

Kahan, JFA are great: Andy Kahan and Justice For All is the best thing to happen to Houston crime victims since the surrender of Santa Anna. My child was the victim of a sexual attack by an HISD teacher, and with the tender, loving help and support of Kahan, we were able to get through this ordeal. JFA welcomed me as a member before I was a victim.

Reporter Scott Nowell obviously set out to disparage the nation's foremost crime victims' organization. He used lies, half-truths, innuendos and contradictions. Kahan is criticized for not identifying himself as the mayor's advocate at executions, yet the article quotes others as saying they didn't want him taking a stand publicly. Professor Dow is quoted saying JFA's hard line hurts its credibility, but the article points out the tremendous success JFA has had in getting tougher laws.

Why in the world would the Press have a convicted violent offender on parole write a story on a victims' organization? With descriptions like "big hair" for Pam Lyncher and "crunching ice loudly" for Dianne Clements, Nowell should be writing for the National Enquirer. I have never heard of MVFR, a crime victims' group against the death penalty. Nowell engaged in overkill. He even seemed to be in sympathy with such evil murderers as Robert Fratta and child-killer Rex Mays.

As a dedicated reader of the Houston Press, and even more so as a crime victim, I expect more from Houston's wonderful alternative newspaper.

Wanda Schultz

Appreciative: Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Good job, guys.

Carol Byars

Redirect the goals: This is a great article for so many reasons. First, it sheds light on the multifaceted victims' rights movement which is growing and changing. Like so many other social movements, members eventually have to decide whether they will have their hearts filled with revenge, such as the Justice For All group, or the reconciliation and healing efforts of Murder Victims' Families for Reconciliation, to direct and achieve their policy goals.

It was good to know that although politicians may be occasionally bullied by the fear tactics used by Justice For All, they also rate their overall credibility as something less than desirable for the public good. Hopefully politicians will read this article and direct policy to the more desirable goal of social healing and not revenge. Mr. Nowell did a great job and he is to be commended!

Peggy Connally

Job search: I am pleased by your choice to stand by writer Scott Nowell. Too many times, newspapers and public opinion in general have been intimidated by Justice For All.

Mr. Kahan's attitude is so despicable that I can't find words to express my outrage. He should be sent looking for another job -- one where the use of a brain is not a requirement.

Incidentally, I also loved the accompanying article by George Flynn ["About the Author"].

Alessandra C. ShisInday

Full choices: Thank you for publishing this insightful article. Mr. Nowell clearly reveals that the "victims' advocacy" group Justice For All cares more about vengeance than ministering to the needs of victims of crimes and their families, with very little regard for the possibility that judicial mistakes can be made.

Additionally, he reveals that the city's crime victims' advocate is not offering options for support to the victims. Why are families of murder victims not offered literature describing the services of Murder Victims' Families for Reconciliation?

Is Justice For All making all the decisions these days?

Nancy Bailey

Olympic Bid

Curled out: I remember a time when the Olympics were made up of events that required physical prowess, hard work and determination ["Trumped Out," by Craig Malisow, October 3]. It provided children with heroes and role models they could aspire to be like.

And then curling came along. The object of the game? Sweep ice and get a big block in a target. That must take years to master, I'm sure. American heroes (are ya hearin' the sarcasm?)!

Bridge is not a sport (and what child aspires to be like grandma and her group of friends?). If bridge makes it into the Olympics, how long do you think it will take for the "Go Fish Alliance of Kindergartners" to ask if they can join?

Sara Jo Dunstan

Allah 1, Christ 0

Be consistent: I found your apology to Muslim readers amusing after they rightfully took offense at an ad for a movie that demeaned the central figure of their faith [Letters, October 3]. Would that Christians rate such sensitivity.

Your Web Extra "Jesus of the Week" feature with "humorous" takes on the central figure of my faith is consistently offensive -- but hey, one can only be so tolerant. And, it would seem, only so consistent in one's editorial policy.

Name withheld by request

Paris Is Burning?

Private persona: Okay, now you guys have really opened a can of worms [Best of Houston, September 26]. Bertha, Danielle and Brian (wife, daughter and son) are enamored with the distinguished "Paris Eley" cited in your Best Radio Personality. And they are looking to trade you for the one they've got -- who sleeps all day, can't keep up with his keys and has no idea how to operate the remote control with all the thingamajigs.

In a market rife with great radio talent, you had a distinguished list from which to choose. I'm humbly honored to have been chosen. The guys who help me keep the midnight mayhem moving are "Dr. Z" and Vel Locks with a collection of blues, soul and funk to no end.

On behalf of Mike Petrizzio, Travis Gardner and my co-workers here at KCOH, we thank you.

Paris Eley

Staying Attached

Good therapy: I am a mother of an adopted child with RAD ["Holding On," by Wendy Grossman, September 19]. I disagree with the holding therapy that is too restrictive and appears more like smothering than caring and security. Other types of holding techniques have been very effective with my child. I hold her like a baby and yes, at times need to hold her hands to keep her from hurting me, but mostly from hurting herself.

The improvements in her have been incredible. She no longer hurts the dogs or cat and also stops herself from hurting us. She has developed a conscience, one she doesn't always listen to, but it is there and she does eventually reconcile herself with it.

Fassler doesn't agree with holding and says it is a modern day exorcism. I say my child who hated closeness with both my husband and me now craves it.

I believe you did a disservice to attachment therapy by not including any contribution from Daniel A. Hughes, one of the better authorities in this field.

The treatment and parenting of RAD children is a cross between being very loving, boot camp and logical consequencing with the most important thing being consistency. You leave the public thinking that the diagnoses and treatment of RAD is a crock of shit. There is more that needs to be done to raise awareness of this disorder, to help these children, and to help the brave parents who make the commitment to help these deeply troubled children.

My daughter still has a very long way to go but she would not be where she is today without the reactive attachment therapy and parenting that she has had in the last two and a half years since she has been with us.

Juanita Mercure

Snakes Alive!

Pagan praise: Thanks to Bob Ruggiero for his accurate and unbiased coverage of Houston's Pagan Pride Day event ["Witch Way Is Up," September 19]. We do want to be free to practice our own spirituality without persecution. And we believe that one of the primary keys to reducing that prejudice is accurate information about who we are and what we practice.

We also appreciate a sense of humor that doesn't come off as flippant, which yours didn't. And I loved the line about snake handlers! Thank you for your journalistic integrity.

Cecylyna Dewr


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