tv A History CSPAN January 4, 2015 11:34pm-12:01am EST
or health. keeps getting distorted in other ways this is one other way of redistributing from one section or one category of people to another but also to the change to further pervert the insurance to something that is a public utility scheme. >> this book haa wealth of ideas and about this matter and you will get a much fuller systematic accounting of the issues in the book. let's break for lunch but let's join and go up to the second-floor to the conference center for lunch. before we do a warm round of applause for the speakers. [applause]
mo infamous crimina in t histor of texas and certainly in austin. he almt single-handedly broughabout one of the lgest construcon in the hstory o thefre word. changedhe cminal justice system becae he became e ce of what everyone thught was wrong with texas criminals. >> he was a serial killer who first committed murder in 16 and was sentenced to death for the brutal murders of three teenagers in the fort woth ea. 23 years laterhe as aroled even though he h been on death row. the stry i long and sordid but in thend after he got paroled he banurdering peopl in t wa and austin area a got capted aingot evited again and sent back a second
time so he ione of ony two people in the history of the united states but has had two different members. whene was imprisoned in the first time for his murderous back in the 1960s the texas prison systemdidand -- did not grow the popation did so the 1970s an80s federal judge rud that thepriso system ws unconstitutionally overcrowded. the state of texas at the time chose not to spend an awful lot of money building more prisons and so instead resulted to throwing some of hem to me room for the newprisoners coming in, andso n thend they got downto sme of the violt criminals like kennth allen. he was polednder the perfectly gal pocesafter having served 23 years me of
which was on deth row. when he was paroled in the late 1980s, my best estimate is that he tarted klling alover agn probably within a couple of days after ettg out. wenow ofat east nine eple that he murdered wh her a good chae that there wereany more out the that we have yet to find. his crimes were so horfic that the reaction of everyone, the slature, governor richards the people of texas was such that before we begin trolling people ever again again wha makes sense that they serv thtime. e only way to do that is to build a ison. an tx engaged in that prison building spree that is almost unrivaled in the history of the free world. and so in the end we ended up with a very, very large prison system that had the support from
the governor and the conservative legislator and the people of texas that voted overwhelmingly to approve the bond and the taxes. the texas prison system could ho40 t 60,000 inmates. the state of xas could incarcere nearly 200,000 people. i was interested iwriting a ok about how one peron cold bring out or become the catast of such an enormous investmnt in the building of prisons andhe it is in the capacity to do evil thingso other peole just don't longer surpses me because was jut beast.
he shed notears. if we wantto be itrspective about all ts, we want to look abt whher or not we respond to what he d in the best way. but hebecame the post child for the capital punishment because in that case, you n gue the fact that if he had been executed in the 1960s he wouldn't have be around to kill at least nine people in the 1990s. now tht desn't ea we should have t death penal, bu it is somethg thatreally cannot bergued that he been executed earlier he had been spent on death row for a second time. the question isn't whether or not we have a lot of executions as much as it is whether it is good public policy. is it good public policy to
execute a person lacks and you can throw in the arguments on both sides of that. is it just us is it moral. should a state pay an employee to put another citizen to death? those are very tough questions that have no easy answers. i want people who read the bad boy to understand this is more than just a story about a terrible person and a vicious heartless brutal criminal. this is the stry about what one individual can do to a population that is really a high impact on public policy and the law in general. >> on the visit and the others
visited by the local content vehicles, go to c-span.org/local content. now we >> now we want to meet and talk with brian stephenson. first of all, i want to learn a bri little bit about you. i what is the equal justice you initiative? >> it is a private nonprofit organization of legal services mostly to incarcerated people in huma the south.n that we have been aund for 25 years we reprent children prosecute individual and conditions of confinement and we are trying to chldren change the way we talk aboutre rape and povty in the countries we hagve a pretty broad agenda that we focus mostly on criminal justice reform and particularly people in different. >> you are headquartered in montgomery alabama. how many people? >> alabama has 200 people on death row. it is the largest per capita in the country. we also have te highest death sentence rate in the country. alabamas unique in that it is
one of the -- it is the only state that has a provision that allows our elected tribal judges to override the jury voting alike which really inflates the number of death penalties. if we have and we have got 200 people on death row in a state with only 4.million. >> we invited you want to talk about the book and this is the first book. >> the story focuses on an innocent african-american man living in monrovia alabama. there was a serious murder a young white woman was murdered. the police couldn't solve the crime and after seven months and put a great deal of pressure talking about the sheriffs and the gun sales that had risen dramatically rethink that to arrest sometng even if they were not guilty coming at fault macmillan became that man. he didn't have a prior prayer crime and wasn't the kind of person you would suspect of committing a brutal murder but
was having an interracia affair with a white woman brought into the attention that brought him to the attention of law enforcement and so he was arrested and actually put on death row for 15 months before the trial. the only case i ever worked on was the crime was someone was put on death row before being convicted of a crime and i -- when i met him i was shocked by that fact. when i talked to the family i was shocked by the fact that e type of the kind he was 11 miles away. about 20 people from his church raising money so all these people knew that he was innocent and they would come up to me and see mr. stephenson would have been so much better if he were out for himself because at least then we could entertain the possibility because we were there with him we feel like we have been convicted, too. the third thing that got me really put into this case is that i decided to take him and us soon as i filed a notice of the appeals, i got a call from the judge whose name was robert
e. lee told me that he didn't want to be involved in the case and after he was convicted and sentenced we got invoed after he'd been sentenced and the book is about our effort to kind of expose the wrongful convictions. and i talk a lot about the irony of the case because this community is the same community where he grew up in wrote to kill a mockingbird d it's a beautiful book with an incredible place in american literature and the people there love that story, but there was this kind of tragic irony they were so enamored of the story and yet so unwilling to recognize the wrongful conviction of the african-american man. >> host: he came to the attention of the police because he was having an affair with a white woman? how would the police know about that? >> well, o things for the woman he was having an affair with the husband found out about it and initiated custody
proceedings for the children where he tried to bra her as a bad mother because she had an affair with an african-american man and we have the history of this country of not dealing with our racial inequality and particular in the south there is a long-standing fear and presumption of things that gets assigned to particularly men of color thatget involved with white women we have the decades of whingeing around the same issue until the 1970s was donated by this fear in fact 80% of the peopleexecuted for african-american men convicted of raping white women sometimes under very weak evidence. so that narrative was part of the context but i think it made it possible for these law enforcement officers. >> when you look at the 200 plus death row in alabama are you
fighting to end thedeath penalty? is that one of your goals? >>or me it is a question that has to be answered by trusted people deserve to die for the crimes they commit. we have to ask to be deserve to kill and in my view in the united states we do not have a cruel justice system sufficiently reliable or fair to be carrying out the death penalty so yes i would like to stop the eath penalty in all cases. have a cruel justice system if youre rich and guilty is innocent and compromised by race we make a lot of mistakes. mr. mcmillan is not the only person convicted nd sentenced to death. we now have one innocent person exonerated for every ten people to look at the rate of error. it is a death penalty context so
i don't think we should be executing people in this country with the kind of system of unreliability and unfrness that we have in him also morally opposed but for me don't have to be morally opposed for the death penalty to determine that it's not appropriate here. >> host: >> who said pital punishment means men without v. pnishment? >> an amazing lawyer who actually is the director for human rights and i wasn't sure i wanted to be a lawyer i was a philosophy major in college and it took me a while to realize when i graduated and i was ally struggling. i didn't know what to do. i as uncertain until i met a passionate lawyer providing legal services to people on death row and it was the beginning of an education that changed my view and my sense of
what's important and my prerelease. yes he's had been without v. punishment because we do have a system where wealth matters more than culpability and i think that that this tragic we see it playing out in death penalty cases time and time again. >> how long has equal justice and around? >> we started in 1989 and filed filed threport and we've now got 116 people off of death row after being wrongfully convicted or unfairly sentenced. but there's a lot more work to be done. i talk about children in my book. the u.s. is the only country in the world that can convict children to buy in person some as young as 13 or 14 years of age so that is a project that we are working on and then we also have some confinement in the prison population 300,000 in the early 1970s, 2.3 million of today. that is a tremendous increase we look at these conditions of confinement in many states and
the u.s. has the highesrate of incarceration in the world so we have a million people in jail and prisons are not a threat to public safety that are there for drug dependency or some low-level nonviolent crimes of we think that it's just a horrific waste of money and way to implement justice. >> host: tell us about the case walk us through that. i'm not going to bring up what if anthing happened but walk us through a case. >> actually just yesterday we got a ruling in the case of a man named anthony. he was convicted of two workers in birmingham in the 1980s and he was innocenbut couldn't get the legal help that he needed and the states found a gun in his mother's home attached to the two murders because he was poor, he needed a gun experts that could reflect the pulse of
it is but he couldn't get one. so his lawyer found the guy that was a civil engineer who was was ind in one eye and never looked at a gun before, had never been that kind of testimony before. he'd been on death row for 28 years. what we do is challenge the convictions. we presented evidence from the nationally recognized experts. we put up new evidence that shows he was locked in a warehouse and checked in and they were security guards and other people there and we had been fighting to get the release. it was a treendous challenge. the courts have really shifted and what you see in a lot of cases is the court saying too te. we are not going to look at this evidence. we want to get to the fnal
outcome. that is what really corrupted the capacity to impose the fair and reliable punishment and that's why we worked so hard to expose that. in the case we got he grant and it's one of the old kind of ork that we were doing. but we are also doing work in the cases involving children for 13 14-year-old kids and the u.s. now has 250,000 people in the adult prison cells for imes they committed on children. we he 10,000 children on any given day some even yunger in the adult jail or prison where they are five times more likely to be the victim of sexual assault is more likely to commit suicide in the 3,000 children condned to die in prison. so we want to have the supreme court on that issue but a lot more work. >> estate of a bama is up to them now whether or not to retry
him? >> the court has been entitled to the new trial and the state has to make a decision whether to provide try or not. we are hoping that they will but we do not think there is any question. so we are going to be calling on them to dismiss the charges. if we have prosecutors the prosecutors and the judges and law-enforcement offices to own up to the political culture in the country where they feel like they give away too much power because ey acknowledged they made a mistake i think that this tragic. it's vulnerable to the error after error. it's for the prosecutors of alabama to make an informed responsible position to say we made a mistake. we are going to let him go home. we will see what we will do. >> there are people watching this interview saying people deserve to be more. there's something there.
>> i wish that were the case but the truth of it is we've gone through 150 and it's really hard to prove somebody innocent off because they are not innocent but because we have a system whe if you don't get the lawyers and the resources that are very cycal and dismissive so in this case the evidence was quite dramatic and overwhelming and i wish i could tell pople this isn't as bad i think it is worse. i don't think tre's ever been a time in american history where we have more innocent people in jail and prison including on death row than we do today. because the procedures into the regard that we have is actually lower than it was in my opinion than when i started my career 30 years ago. you see things you didn't see
back then. so these are men and women just like anybody in the program who don't have the resources to protect themelves if they are ever wrongfully accused. they were accused of something they did and do and it turned into a nightmare because most people don't think that it's possible. >> the story of justice and redemption is the name of the book. how has the equal justice initiative? >> we rely on private donations and individual donors. we have a website tji.org and we look for people that share concerns about the justice and rely on their support for the work. >> ivar on the macarthur rant for what? >> that's a good question. we were really interested in changing so we did a lot of work on the racial history that this
family would come down people in the strategy and try to do our work in a way tat is client centered where we could meet the needs of the clients that i've been very encouraged by some of that recognition. >> we have over 100 death penalty cases that we re actuallyworking on. we have about 200 kids as a result of what we are currely representing and a couple dozen of others reform cases that we are managing at this point. >> what is the significance of being headquartered in montgomery alabama? >> they have a very rich history. it's the cradle of the confederacy and its also the place where many of the battles of the civil rights movement have displayed great but it is also a place where i think it could be a really important turning point in our conversation about race. i'm really concerned we haven't done a better job of confronting
the history. this country never actually dealt with the legacy of slavery. at the end, slavery in america wasn't just about this. it ended and just turned into something else. it was a reconstruction of the world to offer them dominated but we dn't talk about that and that terrorism supportedthe humiliation on a dalia basis. i couldn't go to public school as a little boy on a regular basis by the law to the racial hierarchy and we haven't talked about that. the result of that help people and make it easier to have them
convicted and so we have to do something in montgomery as a greater place to do that work. we were there in the civil rights and i'm hoping that we will be there in the current area where we get to change these issues and create some truth and reconciliation for the healthier environment. that is my hope that we can do better than to overcome this inequality. >> a lot of others because isabel wilkinson, try, desmond tutu in the back of the bok from nelson mandela. >> i feel encouraged that people ike that. i have been really energized by some of the responses i've gotten after writing thisut i was very ambivalent and i wasn't sure that it would be a good use of time.
>> we have john grisham on the ont of the book. the county that i worked in every day in my career. >> bryan stevenson just mercy is the name of the book as far as justice and redemption. we won't tell the ending about walter mcmillan if you want to see it you can pick up the book for yourself. >> ..
what is the proudest moment of your career so far? >> guest: wow. i don't mean to sound snarky or snippy here, but i hope it is yet to come. i feel very fortunate in just a few days we'll start our 12th season on pbs. i'm now on 15ears in public radio. i feel very blessedt start of thisear to do all we've de so far. i hope the proudes moment is yet to come. if iad to y try t pick something, i guesst would be i'm still here. so many people bet against me in so many moments of my life. when itaed on npr someears ago, i remember, rememberell,