Tuesday, 11 December 2007

Please don't let them kill me

Dec. 9, 2007


For my sins, pun intended, I am very rarely in agreement with most Vatican
standpoints on certain issues, particularly divorce, women priests and
celibacy. But when the president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and
Peace, Cardinal Renato Martino, said last month that the resolution
adopted by the United Nations General Assembly calling for an
international moratorium on the application of the death penalty is a
"relevant step" in the defence of life, I could not help applauding.
Although it only has symbolic value since it is not an agreement that
binds countries, the resolution was still a step in the right direction.

According to Cardinal Martino, the resolution, which was supported by 99
countries, with 52 voting against and 33 abstaining, "is very important,
and it is gratifying that so many Catholic organisations have worked for
this and thus they have the right to be pleased". There were of course a
lot more lay, non-religious and non-Catholic organisations backing it too.

"I am very happy," Cardinal Martino added, and you can't blame him. He was
the Holy See's representative to the United Nations for more than 16 years
and during that time it is known he collaborated in two efforts during the
1990s to achieve this moratorium. "We worked very hard and we were
discouraged when the votes were tallied and the project had to be
withdrawn because the numbers were just not there," he said. This time the
numbers were happily there and for this reason I am personally very
pleased on 2 counts: 1. The emerging new trend against capital punishment
all over the world, from China to the United States; and 2. The resolution
brings hope to thousands of people awaiting execution, one of them my
namesake, Charles Flores, a Death Row inmate since April 1999 at the
Terrell Unit in Livingston, Texas.

I was incredulous when a friend, either by cruel jest or a keen sense of
observation, forwarded me the Internet link to the Charles Flores website
which the Hispanic inmate runs from his Texas cell. As an avid
anti-capital punishment supporter, it was eerie, to say the least, to find
one's own name associated with such an awful and barbaric system of
punishment. Had my mum stuck to her original baptismal branding of
"Carmel" perhaps the individual effect would have been much less.

But she didn't and here I was trying to see what my Texan namesake was
going through.

This is his introduction: "My name is Charles Flores. I am a 29-year old
Hispanic male. I am 6ft 1in tall, heavily built with black hair and eyes
and I'm from Dallas, Texas. I am also an innocent man who has been
maliciously charged, prosecuted, found guilty and sentenced to die for a
capital murder I did not commit. The only thing I am guilty of is being a
poor, Hispanic male. I have been prosecuted by the Dallas County District
Attorney, who was willing to go to any lengths to convict me of this
crime, regardless of my innocence. The presiding District Court judge did
not care about justice, he was only concerned about appearing to be tuff
on crime and so he allowed this travesty of justice to go on in his

I admit that the vast majority of death row inmates, wherever this inhuman
law is still active, would plead the same cause, screaming out their
innocence and claiming miscarriages of justice, but I must believe Charles
Flores. It is both an emotional assessment and another effective way of
furthering the anti-capital punishment campaign.

Flores insists there is no physical evidence that links him to the crime.
No fingerprints, no footprints, no DNA evidence (he gave blood for this
purpose), no hair samples, no clothing fibres, nothing at all. There is no
eyewitness to the murder and the murder weapon was never found. The rest
of this poor man's story is one whole series of judicial fiddling, Gestapo
tactics aimed at making witnesses, some of them facing criminal charges
themselves, change testimonial versions and blatant threats against his
own family, including his wife, mother and father, who were arrested on
separate occasions. On the day the crime was committed, a witness who
lived next door to the deceased is known to have told homicide
investigators she had seen someone at the residence of the deceased before
the crime took place. She gave them the following description: white male,
6ft tall, medium build, long dark hair, and dark eyes. But for the long
dark hair and an inch here and there, it could easily have been Charles
Flores from Malta, but certainly not Charles Flores from Texas. Only 3
days after the crime, the witness was shown a 6-photo line-up that
included an image of Flores but she did not select it. She was then
hypnotised "to refresh her memory" and shown the photos once more. Again,
she did not pick the Flores photo.

Now if such things can happen in what is purported to be the democratic
sanctuary of the United States, one shivers to even think what goes on
with regard to similar cases in places like China, Saudi Arabia and Iran.
Hence, all the more good reason for the UN moratorium resolution. The vote
last month was historic because it is, in essence, very strong moral
pressure and it points to a standard that has become important for all
countries that do not use the death penalty and hopefully have an impact
on laws in individual countries.

Incidentally, Charles Flores is an artist and, perhaps even more uncanny
from a personal perspective, writes poetry, all of which he shares with
anyone interested from his prison cell. If any reader would like to make a
donation to his campaign to raise world-wide recognition of his case and
to find enough funds to finally obtain a competent appeal counsel, or to
just offer moral support, his address is: Charles Flores #999299, Polunsky
Unit D.R., 12002 FM 350 South Livingston, Texas 77351, USA.

Please don't let them kill me.

(source: Charles, Flores, Malta Independent)

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