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March 14, 2000

Editorial

Savage Justice in Alabama

Once again Alabama is in the news, and once again the news is not good. Death row in Alabama is growing faster than in any other state. Although Alabama provides lawyers for appeal -- Georgia and Mississippi do not -- the compensation is laughably small. A lawyer who devotes the proper amount of time to a case will earn as little as 10 cents an hour. Not surprisingly, lawyers who cannot avoid being assigned capital defense cases, such as those in small, poor towns where the pool of lawyers is small, are often unfit to represent their condemned clients.

Last week Alabama attorney general Bill Pryor, a Republican, left thoughtful people dismayed by dismissing any concerns about court-appointed defense counsel for death row cases. According to a front-page story in the New York Times Pryor remarked, “My judgment is that at both the trial and appellate level we face very experienced and competent opponents.”

Since Pryor knows better, his motives must be purely political. His remarks are designed to convince voters that he is tough on criminals. Governor Don Siegelman, a Democrat, has also tried to score with such tactics, publicly supporting the use of the electric chair. Alabama's voters respond well to these messages.

What has all of this snarling done for us? Crime rates in Birmingham, Mobile and Montgomery remain well above the national average, according to the Relocation Crime Lab Index (Homefair.com). Mobile's rate is more than twice the national average. Discrimination against the poorest segment of the population flourishes in our justice system. We are reluctant to pay for adequate educational programs that can provide hope for young people, and we are unwilling to give condemned prisoners adequate representation.

Once again Alabama is in the news. Sadly, in the eyes of the world, we are little better than savages. ?

Dan Silver


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Letters to the Editor

Dear Editor:

It's the people versus big spenders. Again this year, Rep. Phil Crigler's initiative and referendum bill (HB407) asks legislators to provide Alabama voters similar powers as enjoyed by half the states: i.e., to overturn bad laws and petition for good ones. Right of referendum got defeated last session. AEA President Paul Hubbart convinced the House Elections Committee it would bring "the same chaos here as in California," so Rep. Walter Penry moved to table the measure. Why mention only one state swamped by illegal aliens, where one judge temporarily overrules the people, their lawmakers and constitution? What about those other states having right of referendum? And, if it were a choice today, Californians would overwhelmingly reaffirm I&R.

The text of HB407 is available at http://www.gulftel.com/homefree/ for immediate perusal. Read it and convince yourself. Then tell your delegates to cosponsor Rep. Crigler's bill in the Alabama House and Senate. There's no time to waste. If you want to be in Montgomery for its first hearing, or if you need a hardcopy, let me know.

Olaf Childress
Coordinator, I&R Committee
P.O. Box 385, Silverhill, AL 36576
945-5130
March Against Crime 957-2218
10650 Beverly Road, Irvington, AL 36544


Dear Editor,

My name is Johnny Ardis and I am an organizer with the Green Party of Florida. I live in Pensacola, FL, which is about a one-hour drive from Mobile, AL. As you may know, Ralph Nader is a candidate for the Green Party presidential nomination. There are three other candidates. All have web page links at http://www.greens.org/. Ralph Nader was the Green Party presidential candidate in 1996. We weren't able to get him on the ballot in Florida or Alabama that year. It's almost a given that he will be the Green Party nominee this year too. Since the 1996 elections, Florida's ballot access laws have changed for our benefit. He will be on the ballot this year in Florida. Alabama's ballot access laws are the same as in 1996. In my opinion, the reason we didn't get him on the ballot last time is that we waited too close to the deadline to begin gathering petitions. If we start gathering petitions soon, I'm convinced we can get him on the ballot in AL. I have already been in contact with the AL Department of Elections. I'll quote you the law:

General Election Ballot Access

1. Political Party ... (this does not apply to us since there is no state Green Party in AL)
2. Petition

An independent presidential candidate must file a petition containing the signatures of at least five thousand (5,000) qualified electors of the state who must include their addresses on the petition to be valid.

All certificates and presidential petitions for independent candidacy must be filed with the Alabama secretary of state no later than August 31. 2000."

I'm writing to ask that you join with other fellow Alabama citizens and get Ralph Nader on the ballot. I have a copy of the petition ready to be photocopied and distributed to volunteer petitioners. I'm willing to help in any way that I can, but it is up to you all to make it happen. If you are interested in helping to make it happen please contact me either by email, jdardis@earthlink.net or by phone, 850-474-1495. Please distribute this message to others that you think might be interested.

One last note. Does anyone know Gene Hunter in Opelika? He has all of the materials from the 96 AL petition effort. He has moved to Germany, and I can't seem to get in contact with him to try and get those materials.

In solidarity,
Johnny Ardis
Green Party of Florida


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