Without Money, There Is No Justice


Terry Sims and Anthony Bryan, friends of mine, were the first two men executed by lethal injection in the state of Florida, and it was done in the name of God, Justice and the American Way.

In the name of justice? What kind of justice exists for a poor man assigned a public defender or low-budget state-paid attorney to go up against the state’s top-notch prosecutors? There’s nothing fair about it. Nor is there any justice in it.

The attorney they assigned to my case had never handled a capital case. Yet they assigned him to my case, to fight for my life. Four years later, he’s a trial judge and has sentenced at least two people to death that I know of. This is the same man that sat next to me during my trial and said that he didn’t believe in the death penalty. Typical politician--they only believe in something when it’s convenient for them.

Check out the following facts: William Kennedy Smith beat a rape case with high-powered attorneys. Marlon Brando’s son Christian received 10 years for killing his sister’s boyfriend. Ray Lewis, linebacker for the Baltimore Ravens and MVP of the Super Bowl, was involved in a double homicide and avoided prison time. Ray Aaruthe, wide receiver for the Carolina Panthers, was convicted of killing his pregnant girlfriend and avoided the death penalty, receiving only a 17-year prison sentence. O.J. Simpson, guilty or not, was accused of a crime where the death penalty would usually be sought, but the prosecution didn’t ask for it.

The catch: To avoid death row, one must be rich! All of these cases represent money and power, and they clearly show a miscarriage of justice.

The attorney in my friend Tony Bryan’s case was drunk during his trial. The attorney even admitted this, yet the appellate court turned down Tony for a new trial. They won’t let this man operate a vehicle while intoxicated, but it’s okay for him to go into a court of law and fight for a man’s life under the influence of alcohol.

This was a clear case of ineffective assistance of counsel. Where is the justice in that?

My friend Terry said he was innocent all the way to the end. I can’t say whether he was or not, but this is a fact: America has executed at least 23 innocent people this past century. Maybe Terry was the 24th, and if evidence does prove it later, then what? You can set an innocent man free, but you can’t bring a dead man back to life.

Clearly America has made mistakes with the justice system and the death penalty. New technology such as DNA is helping eliminate some of the mistakes, but unfortunately, most cases do not have DNA evidence. There have been 98 men exonerated over the past two decades--together, they spent 789 years on death row before being released.

And there are a lot of cases in question. Look at the case of Frank Smith, who spent 18 years on Florida’s death row and died of cancer in 2000. His family had DNA work done after his death and found out that he was an innocent man--an innocent man that wasted away in a 9-foot-by-6-foot cage for 18 years. And they call this justice?

Please open your eyes and see this for what it truly is, and let’s stop executing the poor and underprivileged in America.

Ronald W. Clark, #812974
Florida State Prison
P.O. Box 181
Starke, FL 32091