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25 Mar 2004 09:27
Nobel Peace Prize laureate Desmond Tutu visited an inmate on Texas’s death row, saying it would be “one of the greatest tragedies” if the man was executed and describing capital punishment as an “absurdity that brutalises society”.
The South African Archbishop spent nearly two hours on Wednesday with Dominique Green, sentenced to die for the slaying of a man during a robbery outside a convenience store more than 12 years ago.
“I come away deeply enriched by my encounter with an extraordinary young man,” Tutu said.
“I have met quite a few people in my time, but I have not been as impressed by someone I’ve met very briefly through a glass partition ... He is a remarkable young man.
“It would be one of the greatest tragedies if someone like Dominique would be executed.”
Tutu called capital punishment a perverse way to show respect for life and an “absurdity that brutalises society”.
“I am very concerned for a people that I love very much,” he said.
“You are one of the most generous peoples in the world, Americans, ...
but I find that very difficult to square that with a remarkable vindictiveness which doesn’t square with your incredible generosity.”
Green was 19 in 1993 when a jury decided he should receive lethal injection for the fatal shooting of Andrew Lastrapes Jr (41) who was gunned down while parking his truck in Houston.
Lastrapes became of one 10 people robbed during a three-day crime spree authorities said Green was involved in.
Two other men received lesser prison terms for robbery.
During his trial, Green was described as a crack cocaine dealer with an extensive juvenile record for weapons and drug offences and burglaries.
Green’s supporters include historian and best-selling author Thomas Cahill, whose friendship with Tutu helped expedite Wednesday’s session with the Archbishop. The supporters believe Green’s trial was marked by racism, that his court-appointed lawyer was incompetent and that he was the product of a dysfunctional family that jurors did not consider. Green and two of his companions are black. The man who was not charged was white. An all-white jury decided Green’s fate.
Appeals in his case have been filed to the US Supreme Court, his lawyers said on Wednesday. No execution date has been set.
“It’s definitely been an experience,” Green said of his session with Tutu.
“He told me enlightening and inspirational things… It definitely gave me a lot to think about. I don’t really know how to describe it. It’s just one of those moments in life you refer to.”
Green would not discuss his case because it is on appeal.
Green was inspired by Tutu’s book about his experiences as president of South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission, set up after the country’s first all-race elections in 1994 to help heal the wounds of decades of oppressive white-minority rule. Tutu won the Nobel Peace Prize for his nonviolent resistance to apartheid.
“I look at him as a person who has been able to make a difference, and I can make a difference on other people’s lives,” Green said.
“The goal is to get a new trial. My hope is to just inspire people to want to make a difference. It’s something I didn’t have till I got here.”
Green said he had enrolled but never attended the University of Houston, hoping to study law or psychology.
“Unfortunately, I came here,” he said, speaking from a small cage in the visiting area outside death row. “In my opinion, this place has given me more than college could, except the price for this college is not one I would like to pay.”
“He is like a flower opening, and you see the petals come up,” Tutu said, describing Green. “He could have felt self-pity, but he was nothing like that. He is a remarkable advertisement for God. This is not the monster that many would wish, or think, that is on death row.”
Although they were separated by a glass partition, he and Green exchanged a high-five against the glass.
Green is among about 450 men awaiting death in Texas, where 321 convicted killers have been executed since the state resumed carrying out capital punishment in 1982. That total is the highest in the nation among states with the death penalty. - Sapa-AP
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