Don't cover up the truth

An open letter to Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan from a member of the Death Row 10

"I can promise that as attorney general, I will never cover up the truth and stand in the way of justice."
-- Lisa Madigan, September 23, 2002

The above statement is one of many by Lisa Madigan during her campaign to become Illinois attorney general, and I think it's time we as citizens of this great state of Illinois hold her to this promise. Some months ago, Judge Paul Biebel, chief of Cook County's Criminal Court, said that the Cook County state's attorney's office would no longer be allowed to prosecute the cases of the Death Row 10 because of a notable conflict of interest. A U.S. district court judge has said that it is common knowledge that in the city of Chicago there are detectives trained by former Commander Jon Burge that used torture to force people to sign false confessions--admitting to crimes they had nothing to do with. Medical records exist that show torture occurred while suspects were in the custody of Chicago detectives. Also, court records show that the Cook County state's attorney covered up these facts, no doubt for the purpose of getting career-building convictions against the Death Row 10, who are in prison under a natural life sentence after having their death sentences commuted.

"Ronaldo Cruz spent seven years on death row despite overwhelming evidence of his innocence, but Joe Birkett [Madigan's opponent in the 2002 election] continued to prosecute Cruz using coerced testimony," said a Lisa Madigan campaign ad. Well, Attorney General Madigan, it's common knowledge that the Death Row 10 were tortured into signing false confessions and that the Cook County state's attorney covered up these facts up to gain convictions.

"Joe Birkett is asking you to judge his integrity and his leadership on the basis of his past record," Madigan said at a candidate's forum. "It's the record of a prosecutor who has been unencumbered by conscience." Well, Attorney General Madigan, since it's common knowledge that members of the Death Row 10 were tortured by Chicago detectives, and that Judge Biebel found the state's attorney's office to have a conflict of interest, will you now show everyone the integrity you've brought into the office of the Illinois attorney general?

Grayland Johnson, #A-08109 P.O. Box 112, Joliet, IL 60434-0112

Thanks to Madison Hobley

The Campaign to End the Death Penalty wants to extend a warm thank you to Madison Hobley for his participation in the national speaking tour to end the death penalty. Having only been free for a matter of weeks, Madison agreed to come out and help spread the message of why the death penalty is wrong and to tell of his own tragic dealings with death row -- where he was wrongfully incarcerated for 16 years before being pardoned by former Governor Ryan this fall. Thank you, Madison -- and thanks also to Kim, Madison's wife.

We recently heard from Madison that he is doing well and working part time for a company that assembles radio systems. He and Kim plan to move to Pennsylvania in the fall. We wanted to also share with everyone a thank you note that the Campaign received from Madison and Kim just one month after he had been freed:

Campaign to End the Death Penalty Staff and Volunteers,
Thank you for spearheading the efforts to free me. It's hard to imagine that people who didn't know us would hold demonstrations, hand out flyers in the cold Chicago weather, attend hearings in my behalf and get others to do so. For your efforts, we are deeply indebted, and without you, we would not be free. Continue the fight.
Love, Madison and Kim Hobley

A man working hard to maintain his sanity

My name is Johnny Yahya Harris, and I am being held on death row at SCI-Graterford, Pa. Do allow me to give a brief summary of the darkness that has surrounded my state of being for the last 11 years.

I will commence by stating that I am engaged in a battle to overcome the death sentence imposed upon me by this bloodthirsty state. I am a man sentenced to death without any physical evidence linking me to this crime. This state, through zealous prosecution and persecution, managed to attain a conviction on their third try; two prior trials resulted in mistrials. When dealing with an unjust system of oppression, you are faced with many evils that will not stop until they have you imprisoned.

It's an ongoing struggle for life each day in this environment, as it was when I was a free young man on the streets of Philadelphia. However, I offer these words, because a human heart can only be torn asunder for so long before it is hardened, and the fighting posi-tive spirit deteriorates to the point where a human being becomes someone other than himself. The psychological torture I am forced to endure can only be sustained but for so long, before it starts taking you under. As a man working hard to maintain his sanity, I am reaching out to you (those who are caring and willing to help save a good heart) for whatever support that can be given to a man in my position.

As a mature man, I must keep fighting against this system in order to maintain a sense of balance in my life. This way, I won't fall victim to this diabolical place. I don't want to fall into the deep dark waters (ignorance, hatred, lies and deceit) that besiege my vitality. This is why I am reaching out to you, in order to keep my mind where it should be--on productive matters.

It is my sincere hope that you will take the time to engage in some serious dialogue with me. My words are not sent to garner sympathy, because the light of truth shall shine, one day, over my head.

Long live the struggle that we all must ENDURE!

Johnny Yahya Harris, #CF-5206, Box 244, Collegeville, PA 19426-0244

Climbing a beanstalk right out of here

I'm not quite sure how I should introduce myself. I understand the value of first impressions. But I am in prison: more so, I am on death row. One has to be able to get beyond the stigma associated with this place before they can consider a man confined here.

My name is Howard Guidry. This is my eighth year behind the wall. I came to prison a child. Since then I have grown into a man. An extraordinary man reared on solitary confinement and prison knowledge. On pepper gas. On books. On tears. However, in many ways, I am still a child at heart. I have childish dreams -- like running free across cloudy skies or climbing a beanstalk right out of this place. It is all in my way of rebelling these oppressive four white walls I'm confined to.

Everything has been taken from me, even the basic interactions human beings usually share between each other. Despite being deprived, I still have a desire for the confraternity of friendship. I miss sharing my innermost feelings with people, and in turn, having them share theirs with me.

Solitude has brought out the artist and poet in me. But my poetry goes unread; neither do I have anyone to share my artwork with.

I have the strength to sustain myself. I am fighting my conviction. I fight every day to preserve my sanity. But that isn't the underlining purpose of this letter. I simply want to matter in someone's life. That is the void I hope to fill if I do befriend someone. Thanks for your time.

Howard Guidry, #499226, Polunsky Unit, Livingston, TX 77351