Sunday, October 9, 2011

Kerry Lyn Dalton was convicted by the disreputable words of criminal informants; No forensics to suport, and so now there are No forensics to disprove.

Blog letter October 6, 2011
This work takes me into difficult places, it takes up my energy, it drains my emotions,  I’d say it does all the things a good job should do.
This is a particularly isolating work though; the subject does not exactly make me the life of the party. Like the evening at my friend’s Pirate theme party at their boat club, when the handsome young man, whose dancing we’d been admiring, came over to introduce himself and compliment our dancing. The initial easy chatting was quickly extinguished when he asked, “What do you do for a living?”
 Though I left room for escape, “Oh, I’m a writer these days,” he pursued the subject.
 “Oh yea, what are you writing about?”
 I tried again to allow him a graceful exit, “I prefer fiction, but currently it’s a biography.”  His brown eyes looked interested beneath peaked brows, “about who, if I may ask?” He hadn’t stopped swaying to the band that continued to play classic rock loudly.
 I had to speak up and leaned in closer to answer, “It’s about a woman living on death row,” I pulled back to catch his expression.
“Wow, do you know her?”
There it was.
“Yes, it’s my sister.”
He lost any remnants of the charming smile he’d begun with. “Wow…wow…” His eyes dropped, he rubbed his face and hands went into his pockets, “That’s, wow, I’m sorry, I hope I didn’t make you uncomfortable…” He rubbed his face again, and darted his eyes to look in mine then looked toward the band.
 I assured him it was all right, I’m used to the subject, but he clearly wasn’t. We had an awkward moment or two of silence as we watched the band finish another Led Zeppelin tune. Then he excused himself to catch up with his friends, he looked in my eyes once before he left and trailed back to the carefree party a few tables over.
I felt the burden of my work and my message, I felt bad I rained on his party. I was sorry it ended our conversation; we never did dance. Mostly I was sorry to be the bearer of sorrow into his world. Even that slight insinuation to another’s pain gave him pain. He must have been a sensitive man. I never saw him again.
Maybe that nice young man will think about Capital Punishment a little differently next time it’s on the news?
The Christmas I was visiting Kerry and our memories sparked her heartache, one of the Deputies pulling visitation duty was suddenly unlocking the door to our little cinder block room. She hadn’t  loosed her key from the bolt in the metal door so was fidgeting with its chain connected to her belt as she blurted, “What did you say to upset her? Is she going to be okay?” And handed me a fistful of tissues. Kerry didn’t speak from behind her tears and looked away. I accepted the tissues and assured the guard my sister was all right.
After bolting us back inside, the deputy returned to her duties.
“They never seen me cry,” Kerry whispered, “I do that back in my cell.” She blew her nose and collected her emotions.
I looked out the window of our room across the packed auditorium of visitors moving about this strange Christmas day and caught the deputy glancing over again. She still looked concerned.
 It was the first Christmas in 18 years that Kerry had family with her. It was a good Christmas for both of us, there was even the smell of a real pine tree filling the usually rank dirty room. Someone had donated trees to the prison and one was decorating the large room where regular visitors mingled.
The prison guard went home with her husband and family after the shift to spend the rest of Christmas with them, but was compassionate to a Death Row inmate before joining her family festivities. By proxy, some unknown donor had sprinkled fresh pine smells from real Christmas trees onto family visits at the CCWF.
As a result of a wrongful conviction for Kerry, I sometimes meet the nicest people.
Because of my lessons through Kerry’s trial, I work to educate about the Death Penalty and towards abolishing it. Recently working on Juan Melendez’s  visit was a big focus. Meeting Juan, hearing his story, learning of his path and choices, and feeling his compassion for those he left behind (but does not forget and continues to fight for) was such a benefit on its own, but I also got the opportunity to meet a friend of Juan’s. A long time human rights activist came to Spokane to speak at the race conference at Gonzaga. He brought two young men to the conference. I was blessed to share a meal and some conversation with them one evening. I heard about a 17 year old being held on a drive by shooting in Kent, without any cause other than race and location, and their plans on what they personally will do to save this boy from a possible train wreck. I listened as four men discussed Troy Davis’ tragic killing by the state of Georgia, Juan sharing his personal friendship with the family. These activists asked about Kerry’s case and listened intently while encouraging me not to give up.

I meet the nicest people on this journey.
Today I had the opportunity to visit with another law student, seems I’ve started collecting them recently. She’s active in her developing career already, in many areas, one of which was arranging for Juan Melendez recent visit to Spokane. The young law student has a full scheduled life and it wasn’t easy for her to squeeze in the hour at the coffee shop for us to meet up so she could pass on a copy of Juan’s speech to me. After the greeting niceties I moved onto my thoughts since I knew she was anxious to get into her afternoon study session.
I looked across the uneven circular wooden table between us at her kind dark eyes and dove in. I figured spill the story quickly, not only was her time limited but she’s a law student: she’ll appreciate just the facts, right?  I expected questions to interrupt my repertoire, that was usual, but when I’d pause she was speechless, never taking her eyes off me. I tried to read her thoughts; bored or stunned? I worried she was bored, because I assumed this sort of story was old news for her, so I rushed on into more details while I still had her attention. I finally stopped for another breath, she blinked from behind her glasses and asked calmly, “what would you like done?”
I ran on about justice, freedom, life, truth, “I want someone, anyone, everyone, to take an interest - whatever time they have, and help get attention on Kerry’s case.”
By the time I was finished the eager young law student blinked again, her eyes were wet, she licked her lips before she spoke, “ I’m sorry you’re going through this…”  We talked some more, quite somberly. She reached for her laptop, after placing it on the table and typing in Kerry’s name she wished us both luck and said she’d think about the case. She told me they don’t have much exposure to actual trial transcripts in schooling, usually doing research for professors on projects, like she was currently wrapped up in.
I had taken her by surprise. I’m sorry, this time I hadn’t been prepared for that. I was surprised too, surprised she didn’t know how many bad cases there were out there, surprised she hadn’t already worked on old cases, surprised this case would elicit personal conflict and pain. I felt I’d invaded enough of her day and her thoughts, so excused myself, with apologies for having laid that on her so abruptly - it’s just that I saw a possible opportunity and know I have to reach out to all of them – just hoping one day one time it will stick - and stick good ,on someone who catches fire for this case and spreads the enthusiasm until we become a statistic like Juan, like Anthony Graves, like  the other 136 exonerated ; and not a statistic like Troy or Cameron, or Jessie…
I meet the nicest people while delving into the harshest, brutal, ugly side of human nature. While digging for truth and searching for people to listen, I meet the nicest people. Like this sweet young law student who has hopes of helping the world and maybe even changing it. This law student who has a love for the law and for people – People first. This work has given me the chance to meet the nicest people.
The young woman swallowed before she shook my hand, wished me luck, and said we’d keep in touch. I cut off her uncomfortable feeling, “I’m gonna take off so you can get in a good afternoon of study in.”
“I doubt it now,” she puffed a small laugh, but her eyes were serious. I left her gentle eyes saddened by my story.  Sorry I had brought gloom to another’s day my steps hurried me through the café to give her space. Just as I reached for the door handle I heard, “Excuse me, miss?” from a woman on her cell phone.
As I stepped outside I checked if I’d dropped something or left something behind, since the woman addressing me didn’t appear to be someone wanting to bum some money.
She put her phone in her purse, “I’m sorry, but I was sorta eavesdropping on your conversation, I just wanted to say something-“  she looked me steady in the eyes and with compassion, my anxiety about the other option; confrontation,  lowered.
This stranger quickly, but eloquently, expressed genuine sympathy with my sister’s  situation and encouragement for my continued fight for her. This person I’d never seen before offered her prayers and advice for my family. She took a chance, she put herself out, and she gave me what I needed: hope in the eyes of a stranger. I gave her Kerry’s and my names, my contact info. She gave me kind words and an honest heart that cared about to strangers’ lives.
I may never see this person again, I hope I do though, but my day was blessed by her willingness to reach out to me. She shared that she has a youth ministry of some sort, and she’s made a CD with encouraging music for them. She said she was going to name it “Sink or Swim,” but decided there wasn’t an option: she calls it “Swim,” and offered to send me a copy.  Before she said good bye she hugged me and said, “Swim. You have to,” and  keep fighting for your sister and what you know is right.
 I meet the nicest people because of this work.
She said my sister was blessed to have me on her side; I am blessed to have Kerry and this life we share, because of her I meet the nicest people - and sometimes she does too. Because of this tragedy I have had to learn and grow and change - I would never wish for this and can’t wait for this nightmare to be over!!  Don’t get me wrong, but because of this travesty in our lives, I have been blessed with the nicest people.
I love and support you Kerry. Many people, some you've never met and some who you don’t even know, love and support you too.

1 comment:

  1. Keep up the good work, and keep writing these great blogs. I am sure your hard work will be rewarded with Kerry being freed!.

    All the best,