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.
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.
requested to see the notes," she said. "We were not
allowed to have them."
the notes have made a difference in the result? She made her
feelings quite clear: "I wish we could go back and change
the trial and after the handwritten notes were finally made
public, she said: "I never thought he would go to prison."
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…"
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.
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
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.
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.
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!"
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.
* * * * * *
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.
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
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.
I was at Cambridge University back in 1962, I remember we had
to memorize an English verse printed in Poor Robin's Almanac
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.
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.
* * * * * *
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.
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
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."
asked him what he meant.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?"
told me: "Go to Shakespeare. 'Macbeth' where Macbeth
learns of the death of his queen. That's the clue that will
bring you back."
there it was. Macbeth says:
is a tale/told by an idiot,
full of sound and fury/Signifying nothing.
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.
lesson here, of course, is that sometimes a novel is straight-forward
and direct, but at other times it makes you work.
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.
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.
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.
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:
will not merely endure, he will prevail."
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.
going to, in Faulkner's words …"prevail."
Sound and the Fury" is a challenging book, but worth
the effort. I read it again last week, as I do every now and
* * * * * * *
The things a man has to have are hope and confidence in
against odds, and sometimes he needs somebody, his pal or
mother or his wife or God, to give him that confidence.
inmate friend "G Town" wrote a poem for Valentine's
Day and asked me to share it with you.
and justice to you and your family.
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 …….
HAPPY VALENTINES DAY!