tv Burton and Anita Folsom Discuss Death on Hold CSPAN October 29, 2016 7:20pm-8:01pm EDT
both sides, and i learned a lot more about that actually than i learned at gabriel high school and the principal and we have long conversation and he told me like oversee two population of people hoar. e see people who go who change them, and that's it. and this is a high school principal, i mean, one of the more optimistic people in -- [laughter] but i think -- nubble [inaudible] funny thing about cops is that they want to tell you how much the criminals love them. they always want to tell you i treated that man well and he bought me beer eight years later. everyone has that story -- everybody has that story type of
[inaudible] you're watching booktv on c-span2 television for serious readsers here's prime time tonight we kick off with hills dale college professors discuss their long friendship with a former death row inmate. and at 8 suzanne quin reports on 30-year relationship between first lady eleanor roosevelt and associated press reporter lour at 9 p.m. eastern james rosen talks about a torch kept lit. essays written by f. buckley and at 10 on booktv afterwards program, tim wu provides history of advertising and its current use. we wrap up booktv in prime time at 11. andrew scott cooper look into the history of iran and the role of the last shaw.
that all happens tonight on c-span2 booktv and first up it's burt anita if you fullson. >> what do you do here at hills dale college? >> i direct the free market forum which is a college for professors all over north america not just hills dale and we work with economic and history an political science. >> what's your goal with that? >> our goal is to give faculty members, college professors at other campuses more information about free market and current events. and give them material for their classrooms. >> how long have you been here? >> ten years. >> and how many books have you written or cowritten? >> i've cowritten three books with my husband burt, and happy to be hered today with burt to talk with you about death it shall >> burton -- what do you usually write about? >> i usually write about economic hirings.
i'd be interested in entrepreneur rise of the united states becoming a world power. what profelled the united states to achieving that greatness? >> and if you have to narrow that down into the semisoundbite what would be that? >> i'd say -- the rise of the united states and the ability of entrepreneurs in a free market setting with property rights. so establish tremendous economic development. >> where did you two meet? >> we met actually at murray state university in kentucky when burt came there to work, and he was a very young fellow then, and i was a lot younger. [laughter] but i graduated and then was -- working in the department and he was there as a very young teacher and we met and began it daing. >> are you from kentucky? i hear just a little bit of a -- >> i'm originally from may kentucky and burt is from nebraska. >> best students in the first
class i ever taught at murray state university. i did not date her until actually after she had graduated but i had my eye on her. >> so prior to coming to hills dale were you? >> we were in -- houston, texas sugarland actually and burt worked for a foundation in houston. we lived in the houston area for four years and before that, burt was at the center for public policy here in michigan. and before that he taught for 18 years at murray state. >> what's your connection to washington d.c.? to the heritage foundation to the young american foundation? >> right, i often speak at events at those groups sponsor web and especially the young america's foundation. i do a lot of events, but they do for college students is. they speak that they have conferences for high school students and college students. teach them principles of the united states. >> why are you conservative?
>> i'm a conservative i believe principles that conservative or free market thinkers think work best for people. we studies the economy, studied the economy all through industriess u.s. history and the principle that free markets follow work. if you studied administration of franklin roosevelt and we've done that in-depth he came up with some ideas but they don't work. policies of franklin roosevelt actually prolonged the great depression. >> yes, freedom works, and the voluntary exchange of people working with one another, businesses, competition incentive to do well. all of that works well and freedom creates not only happiness. but it creates more prosperity in a society and more the united states has moved in that direction. the better we have become until we in the late 1800s 1900s
became complete world leaders in economic development. what's the process like for you two to cowrite a book? >> burt is smile smiling it's difficult. it's difficult writing a book with your spouse. i don't -- [inaudible] we've done three. we've done three. somehow we've survived it. part of it is we each have expertise in certain areas. and so we leave the other one alone in that area and so we're writing chapter hads. we're each writing chapters. then the other one edits the chapters, and so that sometimes stirs up some controversy. but we have done well the lord has guided us, and we have produced three books together. >> uh-huh. >> your most recent book is not on economic history or on free markets. what's it about? >> it's the story of a prisoner we got to know in 1983 for the
first time and he was on death row then. and he was under the death sentence he killed a man in alabama. and he was in a prison in alabama on death row, and in 1983, "time" magazine published an article on the death penalty a large cover story because the death penalty was much debated in the 80s. it had just become used e again in the united states. and "time" magazine wrote article and we read it, and really burt we both were struck by mitchell's story. but burt was one who took action on that. >> right. i had i read this story, and they had described el as being retarded they said he couldn't read or write and nobody visited him except his lawyer. the thing that struck me about the story in "time" magazine you remember a cover, yi story is that mitch wases only person in
the article admitted what -- i did it and it was wrong and i apologize for it. and here's a guy who couldn't read or write subject to the death penalty and the author of the -- piece in "time" magazine concluded that his life was not worth anything. that he was a disposable person, and so i was shocked that he would draw that conclusion because he was the only one who actually showed refor what he'd done. here he was in a prison and i couldn't sleep that night. thinking about this -- and especially from a christian are standpoint i thought he's about to be executed maybe a year away from being executed. and because he's sorry for what he has done the lord can forgive him and still go to heaven and receive jesus as savior but why e-how can i ever commute with him? if god is in this, good things will happen so i wrote him a
letter in block letters. [laughter] >> where it you write it? >> the article said he was in home in prison so if i looked at an atlas and no home in alabama so home in alabama and then picked a zip code in alabama. it turns out i picked one in northern and eastern alabama so it was off and i where a letter in block letters saying you will write to forgive to be -- sorry for what you did. but you could be forgiven and still go top heaven. and just a short letter -- and signed it and he -- i wasn't sure he was going to get it but i thought if he doesn't i charge my duty. i think the lord wanted me to do something and i felt the need to do this and i did it. and a couple of weeks later, a letter came back in the mail. and it was from mitchell that turns out, of course, i had the wrong stipcode and i didn't have his prisoner number either and
mail is hard to get through with that. but somebody somehow that letter did get through to him. it turns out out found later that he had another prisoner readed letter and then he was able to compose because he couldn't read he was able to compose a letter to me in broken english that thanked me for my letter and said he wanted to continue to communicate with me and sorry for what he'd done. so i wrote back and anita became involved too and that began our correspondents and relationship. >> how many letters were written back and forth over the years? how many visits? >> i think hundreds. hundreds and hundreds we don't even have the early letters the first letters now many our education because we turned them in at one of the upcoming court hearings mitchell has gone through. but hundreds and hundreds we visited him the flolings year in
1984 and needed to go down to florida anyway and he's in southern alabama so we wrote and said would you like to have a visit. >> first time you've ever been at a prison? >> no i've been at two others. i had been one time years before at a prison in western kentucky where a church group, and then in the early 1980s burt and i were in the philippines and went to a maximum security prison in the philippines also with another christian group where there was an active christian ministry to maximum security prisoners. >> but there was incidental. >> these were not long-term ongoing ministries. this was just -- one for place, and so with mitchell with all of these lertds we thought well we'll go to visit him, and -- >> what was your biggest concern?
>> my biggest concern i think would be just communicating with him. i had been in two other prisons so i knew a little bit but this was a sit down visit with one man. >> uneducated african-american prisoner -- >> yeah, and his letters were still very is hard to understand because his written english was so bad. he went all through public school never graduated from high school, didn't learn to read. mainly went to high school when he was 14, 15, 16 because he could get a free lunch and often that was his only meal of the day he was on the street much of the time so he would get a freep lunch and leave and never learned anything so i was concerned but you know what would we speak about it? but we drove down to alabama, outside at more southern town i was familiar with that because i had grown up really in a small,
southern town, and we pulled up to the prison then early one morning to visit him, and it was your typical maximum security prison guard towers, guards in the towers. raise your wire all around the fence and push the button didn't know how to get in. button they buzzed us through and we went in. at that time with death row inmates, i believe we were the only visitor it is in the visiting room that day. so we sat there for -- ten or 15 minutes after they searched us they always search you when you go in to visit prurses and sat down at a table with stools around it, all attached to the floors so no one can pick up a stool or -- it was a very, very -- somber environment. and in a few moments we heard noise outside the visiting room and they opened the door and they were taking handcuffs off this very tall, black man. and he looked at us and i thought that was mitch because he tends to picture, and he
backed in and we shook his hands and that was our introduction to mitchell. that was obvious that mitchell was extremely nervous when he walked in. this was his first time in the visiting room. here were two white people he didn't know. he never had a visitor. and the thought immediately occurred to me, why is he so nervous? we're the ones that should be nervous. but -- >> what that door shuts behind you realize i'm locked in this room. is it quite an eerie feeling. go ahead. >>but mitchell you know he realy wanted this visit to work. he wanted to have some friends and he wanted it to have someone who could communicate with on the outside so suite down and talked. and he was very surprising. here was a very -- interesting young man. his grammar and way he spoke weren't what we were accustom
but articulate in his own way. >> smart that surprised me. >> college professor used to deals with young people in their minds. he was above average in intellect i thought emotional intelligence and related to the world way above average. how did the prison administration, the guards treat you two showing up at this maximum security prison? >> over the years they have been -- because we came back regularly, they've been very friendly, and they have as i say they recognize how important these visits are to prisoners. there's an element we begin to understand later over the years they're incredible element of status to prisoners because if you have somebody on outside who cares about you, then that el elevates you that means you're somewhat important. it also means that it sends a signal to outsiders you can't
really mess with this guy too much because he actually has people who care about him. keep in mind they probably have over half of the people that no visitors. at all -- and so that, that separates mitch from the others. and he had no friends going into that and lawyer only one who ever visited him. no one on the outside would even take a call from him so this was very special for him and it was significant in our lives as well. >> what year was this 1984? >> 32 years ago. >> visiting every year since? >> virtually every year. >> i had to go back and count -- multiple times and anita visit him on saturday going down to alabama. >> this saturday. >> you can only visit once every four weeks. >> why is that rule in place? >> because of overcrowding because of the state rule. every state subpoena is different and you could visit every two weeks if you could get down there. now we couldn't do that because
we lived away but he had lots of visiting daying available. number of years ago they changed rule to lots of other states did too and now we can only visit once every four weeks and that's the only day you can go. and you have to be there at a certain time. so you have to set your time up to make that day and if i don't go visit this saturday, we may not see him again until december because of the way the days fall. >> so anita, what's the -- is it just overcrowding is that the purpose of the rule? >> that's what we understand. but mitchell says he believes it's he thinks a process it try to separate the men from the outside. but i think it's simply overcrowding that's my opinion. he's in donaldson prison 1600 men. they have a visiting yard will will seat probably 40 family and they have visiting on saturdays
and visiting on sundays and mitchell's day is saturday. >> so you're flying down to birmingham. >> i'll be down there and yes i have to go the night before to stay over and then you have to be in front of the prison at 7 a.m. the next morning. >> scholl have to get up 4 or 5:00 to drive to the prison. >> 7, 7:30 to go in because they take cars in order visitors in order so if you're one of the first three you can get in and have extra time with your prisoner. so it's important to be there somewhat early. >> so you have to get in line with your car. people get in line 6 a.m. but they start letting people out -- through the fence at 7. and then -- you just -- get as long as you can to get too crowded you have had to leave after a few hours. visiting i think goes till 2:00. so -- >> you read that article in "time" magazine in 1983 and still visiting him in prison.
remarkable man. >> death row what happened to death row? >> he managed to -- be removed from death row because of two trial it is that he had. and anita and i i was there for both of them. anita was not able to make the first one and son has been just born. second one she was there for and we were character witnesses for mitch to show that we cared about him and believed in him, that we believed that his life was worth preserving. and we made that argument to the jury. there was some others who mitch had contacted mitch as well. a woman named lilian had become interested in him. and so we had a few people there that are lawyer dennis, his lawyer who is hired by the southern poverty law center brought in there to help mitch and be his lawyer he did a great job and all of us went in there and did our best to make the case.
person should go from being executed life without parole. >> uh-huh. notably won the case 1989 so that was five years of our first visit we won the case that he was off death row. >> still in prison, though. any chance of parole? >> well, his sentence reduced to life without parole, and then alabama that they had passed laws in the meantime, the pardons that were done by president clinton in the 90s really affected the life without parole sentencing because of many states after the midnight pardon of bill clinton as he was leaving office he pardoned dozens and dozens of people some of those were, of course, i think more for political favors and even for money involved. but that's another o story. but it affected states because many legislators were very concerned that a future president or future governor might try the same thing.
they change the laws. so now in alabama, without parole only way mitch can get a pardon by act of the state legislature. so it actually has to pardon him specifically. >> and we've been visiting state legislature -- legislators, the minority leader clint and cam ward the republican leader in prison reform. we have talked with
with and both of them sympathetic ready to listen to our case and we're working through some of the legislators hoping it that mitch listen able to receive that pardon. he's been in for 30 actually a total of 36 years and never had a violent offense. he's a leader in the prison. he would be -- our society, much better served having mitch on the outside working to help young people prevent them from going into prison or working with prisoners been released to help the rate. >> at what point were mitch's
letters become bsh back to you coming in poetry storm? how did that happen? >> fairly early on. one of the -- other friends if his life a catholic sister from california who eventually after about ten years moved -- >> she literally moved so she could visit him more regularly. j and then she was teaching in
the the area. lilian encouraged him to ride his poetry. and i think mitchell is a very -- he's a very talented man so he began writing poetry early on about -- just about his cell and about his condition. about how small the bed was. he's 6'3" on a very short bed i think 6 feet long, two feet wide and that touched me about how hard it was to rest when you're that large on a small bed. things about getting a pack of cookies to eat on weekends how important that was.
his poetry was very primitive. but very touching and when we wrote the book we put the poems in the book just he wrote them in about the time he wrote them and they meant a lot to us and we kept his letters, of course. and sister lilian made a point to keep all of his poems eventually had them printed and bound in very informal way but to keep them together so when we wrote the book we went back and looked at those poems and tried to pull out the best ones that showed mitch as he was and what he was thinking at the time. >> 1983 were you a supporter of capital punishment? >> i think this is something in '83 burt and i differ on in a little bit. even for one couple. i was very hesitant about capital punishment. although i could see i thought it might be a deterrent.
and i believe burt was much more actively a supporter of it. >> yes. what about today? >> still am. really -- still believe this does work as deternght and that the penalty for for murdering another person that at least a consideration of the death penalty is very appropriate. now in mitch case he did win that pardon, that pardon was available to him. and he was able to demonstrate to a jury that his life was worth preserving so within legal system mitch did win his case but i think capital punishment needs to be considered still. >> there's several groups, several conversations going on in the country today about prison reform. and whether or not these are correctional institutes or if there's just penal institutes. what are your views on that? >> well there's no reablation that takes place. mitch makes that point. mitch says you have to reable at a
reable at a rehabilitate yourset they're locked new a state of nature inside the prison. mitch talked about seeing knifings when he first came in, and you see people in owning them a virtual slave system and this kind of survival of the fittest you see within the prison setting. now mitch was once he became a christian he converted he said i want to live that kind of life. so the challenge to mitch and others who converted as well is how to practice your faith in this atmosphere that is so dreadful for someone to practice his or her faith in. so that's the kind of difficulty that mitch faces. and the way he's done it over the years the way he's dealt with hostile people is fascinating we talk about a lot of that in-depth on hold. how people who want to confront
him who want to fight him. how he deals with them how he talks with them and maneuvers them in a different direction it is qiets impressive. mitch's actions in the way he's able to stand up for himself and it's a model for others. that's why he was elected for honor the select as a teacher to be teaching other prisoners. he didn't learn to write and received college credit. his men started ill literal and now college credit he was on death row. and was elected by the other prisoners as being their leader he's in honor dorm, he's a model for others. err prisoners who have read his book have -- almost uniformly said mitch you have told my story as well. your life, your hard background is my story as well. and many of them are amazed at what he's done to overcome that.
>> at within of his trial you two are are accused of supporting him to write a book and profit off of his experience. >> the prosecution accused us of that. >> printing a book -- >> this was 30 years later. wrote the book not our intention at the time. >> prosecutor and he was doing his job. he was very good. he had looked the background at that time on burt. i can't doanl any writing and burt had written three history books, and he came right at us you're doing this for profit because why -- what other motive? >> i had an article on wall street journal he was convinced that somehow we were -- we were ringer that the defense had gotten in there because it was too much to be true. but this fellow is politically conservative qowb would be coming into the setting arguing for the release or at least the --
removal of a prisoner from death row and must have at tier your motive and didn't understand that we were captivated by a man's story and believed in him and fighting for him because we believed in him and god was guiding our relationship. >> exactly. >> when the book came out, did, was mitch able to do any interviews or correspond with anybody in the press to talk about this book? >> not a great daily as you can imagine it's very limited. there is a website death on hold book.com, death on hold book.com that our publisher nelson publishing has put together. and they actually have mitch's voice on that website talking about his experience quietly. but it's limited access. we do have a friend in california who is working on a small documentary on mitchell
and he's been able to get permission from the state of alabama and he went in and set up an interview. but interviewing mitchell takes a lot of red tape to get in. >> anita fullson are there too many people in prison in america today? >> i believe there are. i don't think every -- anywhere need everyone who is in prison should be in. but we have seen, there are a lot of people particularly men who i would -- i'm no expert but i would call them clinically insane. like have to be separate from the public. they are dangerous. and mitchell will tell you that. and he's been in cells with some of them, and it's frightening. some of them have to be removed from society. but there are people in prison i think, who are in there who can get out and do well, and there are many people, many ministry groups working with prisoners when they get out.
it is hard to sometimes identify everyone. and as mitch says men have to rehabilitate themselves in this place they have to get themselves together. the sad thing is that so many of the men in prison have no one on the outside. they have no support group. their parents are probably dead just as mitchell's are and died when she was 29. she gave birth to mitchell when she was 13 and 16 years old when his mother died and then on the street and so many of the men said mitch this is my story too. they don't have parents or parpt have died in drug shootout. drug overdoses and the main problem that leads to all of this is the break down of the family l. that is the national disaster that we are dealing with. >> anything to add? >> if you look at the rise of the prison population it
followed the big rise in birth f rise unwed mothers giving birth to children where the father was not present. the father was very significant here, and we always know their hope for prisoner when is we go on visiting yard to visit mitch, we will see a father which we don't often do. we see a father coming to visit that child that's in prison. first of all we don't see too many in the prison that have fathers active in their life. when we do, we know that that prisoner has more hope than those without that male figure. >> what was it like for a former republican county chairman to work with the southern poverty law? >> that was very interesting. yes dennis who was a hero in this story too -- >> he was. he is -- mitch's lawyer. : yeah, still in touch with him. >> and he's defended mitchell in
the first trial and then in the subsequent two hearings retrial hear technician to get a sentence reduced. and dennis is from ohio originally. he went to the poverty law sentence to work down there practically free of charge and help men like mitchell in sovereign poverty law center would only take desperate cases. and mitchell was pretty desperate so dennis took it to defend him and statistic with him all through the hearing it was pretty interesting. dennis being very practical attorney and a good one. he was glad to have character witnesses. he just simply said i never expect two republicannings to show up to testify for mitchell and we teased him back. i said, because there were number of people pro and con at the second hear resentencing hearing for michels. sister lilian was there. we were there.
and -- >> in the story as well? a woman from virginia. >> yeah. admirable daughter or wife? >> yeah. she was supportive yeah admirable daughter. she could not attend the trial but she was at home rooting for everyone to do their best. and mr. lilian was there, and dennis wefn his background he was funny because he put sister lilian on the stand for the defense first. because sister lilian was a jengts person and thought everyone shob let out and then they do much better the next time. and he didn't want her ruining the whoat thing or saying that. he gave her a lot of coaching. and then he put me on the stand and then burt on the stansd because he couldn't faint burt as a bleeding heart liberal you aren't going to get away with that. so dennis delighted that we were there but i did have to folk him dennis a few times i said now, dennis i want you to know your two star witnesses are arng republicans here, and he said i
know that. [laughter] he was happy and discuss political issues and can't be done with people on different sides boat of us we have respect for one another and helped one another and we both enjoy being in the company of one another. now, on hold much of it is in mitch's voice. >> it is. is it. is there a limit to proceed that he can receive from this? >> yeah, and i think some people have wondered why we're listed as the authors we put it in mitchell's voice because we thought that was much more effective. but -- >> mitchell wrote it was an interaction to never see and mitch writing letters we would edit letters, send them become and edit our edit and then go forward. it took years to write that book. >> and the other thing is mitchell basically had to give
us the fact. smflt sentences in the book are mitchell's sentences. much of it is our taking the facts of mitchell's life and then putting them together but we did all of the interviewing with -- we called all of the -- characters involved. we interviewed dennis. we interviewed the sisters, pam, pam's sisters who are in the book. we interviewed, of course, sister lilian we knew her personally very well, and so we tacked tiewfl these people to put it together. so we put it in mitch's voice baa he didn't write the book it is his story he gave us the facts and then we had to fit it together and his speech and his grammar still -- you be when you're writing a book you have to use a write a certain way. use certain words think about paragraphs and that's not what mitchell is thinking about. but it definitely is his story.
this is a story similar from montgomery alabama. >> correct he worked with death prisoners, and he's been very effective and he backed into it also. he didn't necessarily start wanting to do that. but he stumbled into it. and that is correct. >> death on hold. a prisoner desperate prayer in the unlikely family who became god's answers the name of the book. burt and full sml and anita fulsome are two authors that worked with mitchell on this website one more time. >> at the time on hold book.com. >> this is booktv on c-span2 at college. >> on booktv afterwards our week author interview program former goldman sachs president, talked about her experiences as an
undocumented immigrant. universities professor sarah gold rick described possible solutions to rising college tuition costs. and former state department official mary thompson jones discussed her investigation of thousands of leaked diplomatic cables in the coming weeks on afterwards, bane capital cofounder edward will argue that income inequality contributes to economic growth. gary young editor at large for the guardian will discuss his investigation of gun violence in america. and this weekend, columbia university law professor tim wu explains the way society has been affected by advertising. well this is a great point. if with amos and andy people gathered around the radio able to outcompete the dinner conversation or other even people playing music at home before that radio have been sort of a background thing.
some maybe there was somebody music in the background. jazz or classical music quietly playing. this was something different, and this suggestion nbc and later cbs said we have the audience in their home listening and utterly opening the portal of judgment to you. this is a perfect way to reach your customers. >> afterwards airs on booktv every saturday 10 p.m. and sunday at 9 p.m. eastern. you can watch all previous afterwards programs on our website, booktv.org. ...