Posted by: deerharas | November 19, 2007

The Innocent Man at UCO

Earlier in the year my attendance was required at an on campus conference for everyone under the umbrella of Administration and Finance, of which Housing had recently become a part.  One of the main objectives of the conference (other than “inspiring” us via “ispirational” speakers) was to have us intermingle with the various departments on campus, as was evidenced by our assigned seating at tables with complete strangers.  During one particularly cheesy inspirational speech, we were told to go around our table and share an experience that had greatly impacted our lives.  My cynicism soon turned to pure fascination as one of the ladies at my table volunteered her story.  It turned out that back in the 80s her brother had been wrongfully convicted of murdering his wife.  Greg Wilhoit was sentenced to death, and lived on death row five years before his appeal was heard and conviction overturned.  The death penalty had always fascinated me, and I was shocked to meet someone so deeply affected by it.  My curiousity prompted a long discussion between the two of us later that day, and Nancy even gave me a DVD with the 20 20 and American Justice news stories about her brother.  John Grisham’s non-fiction book, “The Innocent Man, Murder and Injustice in a Small Town,” chronicles the conviction and near execution of Ron Williamson, another Oklahoma man wrongly convicted.  Ron’s cell happened to be just accross from Greg’s, whose story also finds a place in Grisham’s book. 

The death penalty concerns me for many reasons, the possible execution of innocent people being one of them.  Add to that the astronomical cost of death penalty litigation and the fact that minority convicts are more likely to get the death penalty than whites, and my concern grows.  And then there’s the question of whether or not it even deters crime.  Even if the state has legitimate authority to put a person to death, should it?  I know I’m a little Derek Webb obsessed, but there’s another quote that fits.  “How can I kill the ones I’m supposed to love?  My enemies are men like me.  I will protest the sword if it’s not weilded well.  My enemies are men like me.  Peace by way of war is like purity by way of fornication.  It’s like telling someone murder is wrong and then showing them by way of execution.”

Last week I was thrilled to notice a blurb in Centralities (the daily UCO faculty/staff campus news email) about Greg Wilhoit speaking at UCO tomorrow night.  Sadly, I’m already in Texas for Thanksgiving, but I thought I’d pass along the info for anyone else interested.  Seriously, someone needs to go and tell me all about it!  From Centralities:

‘The Innocent Man’ Greg Wilhoit Visits Campus, Nov. 20

The College of Liberal Arts Speaker’s Series welcomes “The Innocent Man” Greg Wilhoit for a lecture on his five-year death row experience and life after exoneration at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 20, in Pegasus Theater, Liberal Arts. Wilhoit was the first person in Oklahoma to be exonerated from death row.

Wilhoit’s story was told in last year’s novel “The Innocent Man” by John Grisham. For more information, visit .

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