Wednesday, 3 June 2015

Letter to Claudia

Hi Claudia,

Thanks for the email.

I don't know the whole story yet and may never in its entirety.

It is quite sad.

She did have good support, but something went wrong and she didn't reach out to the tons of people who would have helped her, including Monica Foster, who was Paula's appeals attorney while she was on death row.  Monica was with Paula on Friday at the Indiana's Federal Public Defenders Office and everyone said she seemed to be happy.
On Tuesday morning she killed herself.  EVERYONE who knew her and was in contact with her said she was doing well.  It is a total shock to everyone who knew her or knew of this case. It has been billed as the case that brought worldwide attention to the United States treatment of juveniles.  The United States certainly at that point did not look like the human rights leader they proclaimed to be to the rest of the world. 
The United States looked very backward and uncivilized by many.

That attention and its momentum led to the United States Supreme Court ruling that states can no longer execute anyone for crimes committed under the age of 18.  Those same human rights activists have used that same momentum that carried our friend Brian Stevenson to eloquently argue 2 cases on the same day in front of the US Supreme Court about Life without the possibility of Parole for Juveniles. They ordered favorable decisions.  I had the privilege of sitting in on both cases.  Paula Cooper's case started a lot of that momentum.
Hers was a big case.
Her life was spared, because of millions of people signing petitions, mostly in Italy, but throughout Europe and some from the US.

Amnesty International got involved. That was important.   It was Paula’s case that got our friend Carlo Santoro of the Sant Egidio Community in Italy involved in the issue.  As a high school student he signed a petition to spare Paula’s life and he has been involved ever since. He is now a great leader in Italy’s abolition movement.   Carlo called me several times the day Paula died.  He met Paula once while she was in prison, and once since she was released.

I have heard from so many people, mostly by Facebook, but it is hundreds and hundreds.  And I try to respond to each comment.  And a lot phone calls.  Two especially heartwarming calls were from Diann and Renny.  I was in tears as they talked with me.  The beautiful Bishop Sisters both called and scores of others. Sister Helen called…and I cried some more.  My breaking heart has certainly been smoothed by many, many people and yet, pain is still there.

So many dreams: such a great shattering.  I just need to find a better dream.  I know I will mourn for a while.  As a Christian I can picture Nana and Paula together wrapped in the loving arms of Jesus.  I think this will help the mourning process.

I wonder what they would want me to do next?

I am determined to make something good of this.  I believe a person with shattered dreams can dream again.

We have been friends for many years because of the abolition movement.  I have met some of the most wonderful people in the world doing this kind of work including to Nobel Peace prize winners, celebrities and thousands of people I consider friends, like you and Rich, and friends I have met along the journey.

This is all because the state sentenced a fifteen year to die in the electric chair. Because she was sentenced to death, human rights organizations grew and began to work together.  So something good may have happened because of the death sentence. 
But what damage did that do to the mind of a person who was already deeply troubled?  Damage that led to her last act?

It was wonderful to visit your home in Colorado last fall.  Hope to see you on the Texas Journey of Hope’s World Day Against the Death Penalty Conference in October.
Thanks for letting me vent,

Since November 2, 1986 it has been a wonderful, remarkable, beautiful ride.  And now this.  I am still in shock, waiting to hear more about what might have gone wrong.

Love to you and your wonderful husband Laird,