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February 12, 2003
Federal Prison Camp
Oakdale, Louisiana


A number of inmates joined me around the T.V. set last Thursday night for the 10:00 news. A Baton Rouge station, WAFB (Channel 9) had been promoting an exclusive interview with one of the jurors in my trial. She was, according to the station, to give candid comments of whether justice was served with my conviction.

It was a long interview for television. A female member of the jury talked of how the jury was kept in the dark about key information that would have set me free.

"We requested to see the notes," she said. "We were not allowed to have them."

Would the notes have made a difference in the result? She made her feelings quite clear: "I wish we could go back and change our verdict."

Following the trial and after the handwritten notes were finally made public, she said: "I never thought he would go to prison."

The reaction by the inmates and the staff who were there watching the interview was pretty much the same. As one inmate said: "Man, I've heard some really terrible unfair things happening, before, but I never heard of anything that wrong. They really stuck it to you…"

The juror's change of heart, now that she knows the truth about the notes and how the FBI agent gave false testimony, really doesn't make any difference legally. There is no recourse for me to open back up the case. There would be if I lived in just about any other place in the country. As I've said repeatedly, I'm the first person in the history of this country who was convicted in a federal court for making false statements, yet was not allowed to see the handwritten notes of the FBI interview that was the basis of the charges against me.

I am still grateful to the juror for going public. The thoughts she expressed on T.V. are echoed in the hundreds of e-mails and letters I receive each week. But despite the second thoughts from a member of the jury and the strong support from so many people throughout the state, here I still sit…in federal prison.

The U.S. Supreme Court handed down bad news for me last week. They refused to consider my appeal. I wasn't particularly surprised. If you follow what the Court considers, it's generally cases involving national issues with either other states or major corporations involved. There are several thousand appeals filed to the Supreme Court each year and they might hear eighty. The unjust conviction of a small state public official apparently didn't strike the Court's fancy as important enough to consider.

I can ask for a rehearing, and have until the end of this month to do so. The odds against me grow longer, but I will consult with my lawyers as I consider my options in the weeks to come.

It has really been inspiring to me to receive encouragement from so many readers throughout the country. I try my best to answer as many of your e-mails and letters as possible. I received a nice letter from my longtime friend and law school classmate, Hardy Parkerson, a prominent Lake Charles attorney. He wrote me the following poem:

Just give it up!
Just give it up!
My mind keeps sayin'
"Just give it up!"
But I'm a fighter
And I won't quit;
I'll fight right down
To the end of it.
And when I get out,
You'll hear me shout,
"I'll make it yet,
For I won't quit!"

Did you see my wife, Gladys, on T.V. the night the Supreme Court decision came down? She was unbelievable. She aggressively talked about how unfair it was that I was not allowed to have the evidence that would have cleared me. She said flat out how wrong the court decision was, and could not have done a better job. I was really proud of her.

* * * * * * *

Valentine's Day is almost here. I hope you haven't forgotten. Do you know the history of Valentine's Day? I can tell you a few things about this special day's patron saint.

First of all, Valentine was a Roman priest who went to prison just like me. During the third century in Rome, Emperor Claudius II outlawed marriage for young men. He wanted all potential soldiers not to be constrained with a wife and family obligations, so as to be better able to wage war. Valentine thought this was unfair, and continued to perform marriages for young lovers in secret.

When the priest's actions were discovered, he was sent to prison where, legend has it, he sent the first "valentine" greeting. He was befriended in prison by a young girl who visited him during his confinement. He was eventually put to death but wrote the girl a letter, which he signed "From your Valentine." The legend of the sympathetic, heroic and romantic priest grew during the Middle Ages, and he eventually became a saint.

When I was at Cambridge University back in 1962, I remember we had to memorize an English verse printed in Poor Robin's Almanac in 1757:

Oft have I heard both youth and virgin say
Birds choose their mates, and couples too, this day;
But by their flight I never can divine,
When I shall couple with my Valentine.

Valentine's Day comes on a Friday this year…visitor's day for me. So I will have the chance to share the day with Gladys and other friends. Something special. I hope you remember your Valentine.

* * * * * * *

I received some words of wisdom this week about dealing with time in prison, and it makes good sense. The sage in this case is one Charles Jacobs, an inmate from New Orleans, better known here at the prison as "Grill." He has six months to go to finish serving a ten-year term for distribution of marijuana.

Grill is an outgoing fellow who oversees the recreational area here at the camp. He enthusiastically talks of his plans to get back to New Orleans and rebuild his life. I asked him how he has kept such a good attitude and seems to deal well with prison life.

"Don't misread me," he says. "No day in prison is a good day. But you've got to deal with it and make the best of it. And I'll tell you how I do it. You put your brain where your rear end is."

I asked him what he meant.

"In other words, don't worry about what's going on in the outside. Your rear end is here in prison. So put your brain here. Focus on what's going on here. If you moved tomorrow to China, you would start focusing on Chinese people, the language, the food, the people…what's going on there. You wouldn't worry about what you might be missin' back home.

"You know, that might help Gov. Edwards. I read where he's not too happy where he is in Ft. Worth. He said most of the inmates there speak Spanish and he doesn't understand. Well, maybe he needs to learn to speak Spanish. You're stuck there. Make the best of it. You're not going anywhere. So put your brain where your rear end is.

Other inmates find various ways to deal with day in, day out living in prison. Some seem to never get out of their bunk except to go to work and to eat. Others intensively work out each day to pass the time and let out their frustrations. Another inmate sits down each evening and draws Disney characters on handkerchiefs to send home to his kids and family. Each, in their own way, finds some means to get by each day.

It's fortunate for me that I don't have to deal with this frame of mind. My sentence was short to begin with…six months. With less than two months to go, I am planning each day my return to an outside life. But for most of these fellows, the best they can do is like Grill says: "Put your brain where your rear end is."


* * * * * * *



The first time I read William Faulkner's "The Sound and the Fury" was in an American Literature course at the University of North Carolina in 1959. After reading the first 30 pages, I felt lost and just didn't understand. So I went back and started from the beginning. It made no difference.

I approached the English instructor for some guidance. "I'm having a hard time making any sense out of what I'm reading. Why is this so hard to understand?"

She told me: "Go to Shakespeare. 'Macbeth' where Macbeth learns of the death of his queen. That's the clue that will bring you back."

And there it was. Macbeth says:

Life is a tale/told by an idiot,
full of sound and fury/Signifying nothing.

Faulkner's novel, "The Sound and the Fury," begins with an extended tale narrated by an "idiot," Benjy. Faulkner was writing through Benjy's eyes -- through an idiot's eyes.

The lesson here, of course, is that sometimes a novel is straight-forward and direct, but at other times it makes you work.

The book is a simple story of an august, eccentric old Mississippi family whose ups and downs are a representation of the experience of the South over the previous 200 years. Faulkner deeply dramatizes key moral issues of Southern life with characters who want to look towards the future, but are self-destructively driven to recall a fatal past.

Three brothers each describe the same story of their sister Caddy, from three different perspectives. The difficulty with the book is the abrupt, unannounced time shifts. But once you understand the time frame, it becomes easier to understand Faulkner's innate ability to identify the internal dialogue of Southern culture that really encompasses the fundamental problems of mankind.

In other words, this just ain't no local story of a messed up Southern family. It's pretty heavy stuff, but you don't have to get overwhelmed. If you are a serious reader, you have to read "The Sound and the Fury." Pick up a reader's guide, or buy an edition of the book that has a full introduction. Even Cliff-notes will do. And another suggestion, start with Jason's chapter (#3), the Disley (#4), then go back to the beginning. The book will fall into place more this way. A little advanced study will pay big dividends in understanding what some critics say is the most important novel of the 20th century.

I have written before of the quotations I have taped on the side of my locker here. One is by Faulkner. When he accepted the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1950, he said that:

"man will not merely endure, he will prevail."

That's how I am approaching this terrible and unjust wrong that's been done to me. I'm not going to let this tragedy get me down. And I'm going to do more than survive.

I'm going to, in Faulkner's words …"prevail."

"The Sound and the Fury" is a challenging book, but worth the effort. I read it again last week, as I do every now and then.


* * * * * * *


The things a man has to have are hope and confidence in himself
against odds, and sometimes he needs somebody, his pal or his
mother or his wife or God, to give him that confidence.

Clark Gable

My inmate friend "G Town" wrote a poem for Valentine's Day and asked me to share it with you.

Peace and justice to you and your family.

Jim Brown




Falling in love can be a quest.
For most people it's the ultimate test.
Falling in love is dejavu!
It's more like, your dream come true.
Somewhere in life this can happen to you.
Love is from the heart, it's about two lover's
that will never part. Love is such a strong emotion,
it can cross any sea or ocean. Love can make you happy,
it can also make you sad. For most people, it's a grim
reflection of their past. Fortunately I'm one that
will make it last. Unconditional love should be true,
and should always not be about you. Love is like
the hands on the clock. Just think what the world
would be, if it would stop. Love is you and Love is me.
This is something I wish the whole world could see …….


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