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An Innocent Man on Texas Death Row
By Michael Toney <innocentmanintx@yahoo.com>
Prisonersolidarity.org
Aug. 1, 2006

I have recently realized that even though I am consciously opposed to capital punishment, I MAY be subconsciously in favor of it. This "theory" may seem ridiculous or illogical, but I believe mental health professionals may very well see the logic in it.

I respectfully ask that you read and contemplate this writing with an open mind and heart. I'm sure you have heard the old maxim about "walking a mile in someone else's shoes." Well, I'm not asking that of you. I'm just asking that you step into mine briefly, to imagine life as I have experienced it. If you do this, I believe you will understand why the the simplest and seemingly most harmless of statements about the death penalty affect me, and why I feel as if a scab is being torn from my heart, exposing a gaping wound. Statements such as, "Don't worry, soon there will be no more death penalty," stir so much emotional turmoil within me that I can barely function. They cause me to have "anxiety attacks" that can be incredibly debilitating. I feel as if I'm having a heart attack. My heart rate soars to 150+, I get nauseous and quite literally feel as if I'm dying. In fact, sometimes when I am in the midst of an attack, I find myself wishing for death, just so the misery will come to an end. I suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder coupled with depression and severe anxi! ety. Writing about the subject is my way of venting and self-evaluating, and hopefully of correcting the problem.

It may be difficult for most to understand, but I am against capital punishment for anyone other than myself. If I cannot be exonerated and freed, then I prefer to be killed. Death, in my opinion, is less of a punishment than life in prison for a crime of which I am unequivocally innocent. Also, I am a Christian and therefore I don't believe in death. I know that "non-believers" (especially my French intellectual friends) will think that this statement illustrates that I've gone off the deep end. I assure you that I have not (though I imagine that's what all insane people think and say). I know that the physical body dies, but have absolute faith that the soul is an eternal energy.

I am against capital punishment for exactly two reasons, the first being my religious beliefs. I believe that being in favor of capital punishment runs contrary to everything that Jesus taught. I see being for the death penalty as having a vindictive heart, and I strongly believe in the necessity of forgiveness. I don't believe we must reconcile, but we must forgive. If we refuse to forgive, who
are we hurting? We are hurting ourselves. I understand that we must not only follow God's law, but also man's law, and that this doesn't mean that man's law is correct. Man's law is something that is slowly and constantly evolving. One day humanity will reflect upon the history of the death penalty and will be shocked at how barbaric we once were.

The second reason I am against capital punishment is that I know first-hand and without question how fallible our justice system is. I was convicted of a crime that occurred in 1985 despite the fact that I only first heard of this crime in 1997 and am in no way whatsoever connected to it. I was convicted due to nothing but lies. People always tell me, "There must be some kind of evidence against you." But there isn't. There is no evidence, because in my entire life I have never been to the place where the crime occurred. I didn't even know the place existed until just before my so-called trial. The entire situation is so ridiculous that it is unbelievable. If I could be convicted and sentenced to death in this situation, then anyone could be. As long as this is true, the death penalty cannot be morally justified.

Still, I do my best to avoid the debates about the death penalty because it would be hypocritical for me to be involved in the controversy when I am in favor of it for myself. I'm sorry, but as a Christian I cannot possibly see "death" as punishment. As a Christian, death is a reward. I understand why it might be the most severe of punishments for a true murderer who fears God's judgment. But he knows the truth, knows that I am innocent, and knows my heart. Before the end of this writing, I hope you will understand why it hurts me so badly to be wrongfully judged and labeled a "murderer."

Can you imagine that there is a minority of us here on Death Row that fear that the death penalty may be abolished before we are proven innocent and freed? Is that so difficult to imagine? I may be the only one willing to admit it, but it is true. If capital punishment were declared unconstitutional, it would effectively destroy our chances of being exonerated. That may seem unreasonable, but I assure you that if we were not sentenced to death our convictions would not be subject to anywhere near the scrutiny, and we wouldn't have so many people helping us in our fight for justice. We would be forgotten.

It's highly unlikely that the death penalty will be declared unconstitutional anytime soon. While there is a distinct but growing minority in this country who are strongly in favor of capital punishment, the majority rarely consider it and couldn't care less about the death penalty. It's not difficult to understand who the people are who staunchly oppose or in favor the policy. The majority who staunchly oppose capital punishment know or are related to someone who has been sentenced to death or are legal professionals who know just how fallible our justice system is. The majority who strongly favor it have been affected by murder. Because there are so many murders in this country each year (24,703 in 1991 and 16,174 in 2004), simple mathematics explain why those who are strongly in favor increases ever so slightly, while the number of those opposed remains stationary.

Keep in mind that I'm referring to Americans, not Europeans. Europeans have very little, if any, positive influence over American opinion regarding capital punishment. In fact (and this will offend some), in a way European involvement in the debate is counter-productive. Before you become outraged by what I have written, let me explain. While it is counter-productive in one way, it is extremely productive in another. It's counter-productive because Americans (especially Americans from the South, where most executions are carried out) are angered by European involvement. They're only slightly less angered when Americans from northern states interfere in southern justice. Many southerners hate the fact that the "Liberal Yankee Supreme Court" interferes. When a European tries to tell an American, especially an American from the south, that he or she is doing something wrong, the American will do it almost every time just for spite. European involvement is count! er-productive in this way. However, if it were not for the European support many persons who are sentenced to death, myself included, would be rushed through the courts and to the gurney without any chance of correcting a miscarriage of justice. If not for having French support, in my case, I would have already been killed, because I wouldn't have been able to pay for the lawyers and investigators that are fighting for me.

"Innocence" should be the most important factor in the capital punishment debate. Some people who staunchly favor the death penalty say, "We're not perfect but it's better to execute a few innocents than to let the guilty go free to kill again." Their opinions may waver when confronted with individual cases. But convincing this minority (usually loved ones of murder victims) is not nearly as critical as getting the disinterested majority involved. And the easiest way to do this is by demonstrating that innocent people are often convicted and sentenced to death, and sometimes even executed.

I believe it is absolutely critical that "abolitionists" know the details of the crimes so that they can have an intelligent dialogue or debate with the opposition. When abolitionists don't know the facts of individual cases they appear apathetic to the loved ones of the victims. The loved ones of the victims are the ones who continue to suffer. Again, before you finish reading this you will understand that I am writing this from unfortunate experience. It is absolutely necessary that we understand why each other feels the way we do and has the opinions he or she has. If we understand these things, we are more likely to have a productive dialogue. When we don't take the feelings of those with different opinions into consideration, we cannot expect anyone to be receptive. We can't expect them to even listen to what we have to say. The instant someone says, "The details of the crime aren't important, the death penalty is just wrong," is the instant they lose credibility with the loved ones of murder victims. I believe that if everyone were more empathetic and understanding of the perceived opposition, both
sides would realize that they are feeling the same pain. That's a common ground that cannot be denied.

It frustrates and angers me when the people who supposedly support me say, "If you no longer have a death sentence, we will have won." That is an outrageously absurd statement! How is that winning?! Is it justice for an innocent person to have a life sentence? No, it's not! I prefer death over a life in prison and being wrongfully labeled a "murderer." It is predominately Europeans who wrongfully think that obtaining a life sentence would mean winning the fight. While their logic is based on a lack of information, it hurts no less. I avoid using the appropriate words, "ignorance" and "naivety" here, because I have unintentionally insulted a few dear French friends in the past, and the relationships never recovered.

Perhaps they don't realize just how unpleasant and dangerous American (and especially Texas) prisons are. Would you want to spend the rest of your life sleeping with one eye open, fighting for your existence and property and to keep your rectum intact? That's exactly what daily life in a Texas prison is like. I'm reminded of what an expert on prison life testified to during the trial of Thomas Lenart, who was convicted and sentenced to death for the brutal robbery and murder of my Aunt Oberta Toney. He testified that "inmates learn to take what they need or want by force, not reveal even the slightest emotion lest they appear weak, and to join racially segregated gangs." This so-called expert didn't paint an accurate portrait for the jury. Prison life in America and certainly in Texas is the most violent and racially charged atmosphere anyone can imagine. If you don't know how to fight, one of two things will happen. You will either be killed or used in ever! y way imaginable, including sexually! I know how to fight, but I'll be damned if I want to spend the rest of my life doing it. That life is not "living," just as life on Texas Death Row is not living. I see going from Death Row to prison for life as going from the frying pan into the fire. I'm not suicidal and I'm certainly not homicidal, but I can promise you that if my death sentence is overturned and not my conviction, I'd terminate my own life before they could get me out of this Death Row cell. That's just fact!

If a person is guilty of the crime for which they have been convicted and sentenced to death, I can understand why a "life sentence" might be preferable, or why death might be feared. They've already been judged by man and death would mean being judged by God. I can understand that fear. If I were in that situation I would accept responsibility for my actions and do everything I could to make peace, and then I would take my own life. Had I ever taken the life of another, I know I would not be able to live with the remorse. There is no greater punishment than remorse. I find it very disconcerting that I don't witness more remorse on a daily basis, but psychopaths don't have consciences.

For 28 years I have lived with a constant aching in my heart, because of the murder of my precious childhood friend, Annette Selix. You may think that 28 years is long enough for the pain to subside, but I assure you no amount of time will alleviate it. Some of you may think that a 12-year-old boy is incapable of feeling this kind of love for anyone other than his mother, father, siblings or perhaps grandparents, but that is not true. My love for Annette is stronger than any love I have ever known other than the love of my children. I don't believe it is possible for love to be any stronger. You'll notice that I wrote "is" rather than "was" in describing my love for her. That is because love does not die. My love for Annette has continued to grow in my heart even though her life was taken 28 years ago. It's impossible for me to describe just how special Annette was. She was just a little girl, but she was also an angel.

My childhood wasn't a good or even normal childhood. From the time I was six or seven years old, I was mostly without adult supervision. I was mostly alone except when I was caring for my brother, who is five years younger than I. My grandparents and my Uncle Joe and Aunt Cindy were the only people who really cared for my brother and I, but they weren't always around. I grew up having to beg or steal food for my brother and I. I won't go into detail regarding the constant physical abuse. It's not necessary to make my point.

To this day being "outdoors" gives me a sense of safety, because I would escape the abuse by hiding and sleeping outside. Unless you were there or have experienced a childhood like that, you cannot understand how awful it was. On top of all the physical and emotional abuse was the embarrassment. I come from a very small town where there are no secrets. I was incredibly ashamed of the way we lived. Everyone knew how we lived and that I had to beg or steal for food. To this day I vividly recall watching one of our neighbors cutting the barbed wire fence that separated his peach orchard and vegetable garden from where we lived. He cut the wire and said: "You don't have to climb over the fence anymore." I didn't know that he knew that I was going over there and taking melons, tomatoes, cucumbers and peaches for my brother and I. He obviously felt sorry for us, so he made access easier. I was still so embarrassed that I only went into his garden at night. Sometimes it wasn't easy to resist the temptation to go in the daytime, but I always waited. I can remember my brother saying, "I'm hungry, peaches, peaches."

There was another orchard across the railroad tracks and down by Cottonwood Creek where these beautiful shiny orange fruit grew. At the time I didn't know what they were, but hunger motivated me to walk all the way down there with a sack to pick some for us. I picked one off a tree, wiped it off and took a big bite, but it was the most terrible tasting thing I had ever tasted. It tasted like poison. I remember thinking: "It doesn't make sense for something so beautiful to be so terrible." I learned years later that they were persimmons and that they are not edible when not completely ripe.

Cottonwood is an old western town that still has the hitching posts for horses along Front Street. There are two hamburger places. One is called "Roger's Frosty," which is owned by a one-armed man named Adolphe. My youngest aunts worked there when they were in high school. The other place is called "The Kreme King" and is owned by an old friend of my mother. The Kreme King was located on Front Street next to the Holiday Market and Roger's Frosty is just around the corner on Main Street. Since then the Kreme King has been moved south of town on Main Street near the stockyards.

Sometimes when I would sell enough soda bottles, mow a lawn or somehow get a dollar or two, I'd go to one of these places to get my brother Rick and I a hamburger. Usually I'd just buy a large basket of fries and a drink, because I knew they'd give me enough for both of us. That was only a dollar. Sometimes when I didn't have any money, they would give us food. On the side of Roger's Frosty there's an old wooden bench that I'd stand on to look through the window into the deep fryer. I would always stand on the bench and watch the fries cooking in the boiling oil. In 1989 I went to Cottonwood to visit my family and while I was there I went to the Frosty and ordered a hamburger and some fries. As I stood there in front, waiting for my order, I thought about the bench and how when I was a small child I would stand on it to look in the window. I sat down and looked around and thought about how things had changed. My mind was flooded with memories, some good and some bad. I turned around and looked down into that deep fryer and couldn't control my emotions. Like some kind of idiot, I sat there crying. I'm writing about this now, because it will help you have a little understanding about just how bad things were for my brother and I.

Annette was the only person that didn't look down on me. Even though she was just eleven years old, she understood and did everything she could to help. She would always sneak food out of her house to give to Ricky and I. She was so precious and caring. She understood my embarrassment and always went out of her way to make me feel better, but most importantly she didn't judge me.

Twenty-eight years ago she walked from her house to mine, which was just a few short blocks away, and asked if I wanted to walk to the Holiday Market with her to get something for her mother. I can't remember exactly why, but I told her I'd see her when she returned and that I'd walk her home. I waited and waited, but she never came back. The next day the whole town was looking for her. I didn't really understand what was happening. In my mind, she somehow had gotten lost. But that didn't make sense because it's such a small town and she and I knew every inch of it. In my childish mind I was thinking that maybe I had hurt her feelings by not walking with her to the store and that maybe she just kept walking and walking. As everyone was looking for her, I started looking in all the special places that she and I had. Places like under the old train depot and behind the old buildings and in the walkways between them. I looked all over the town, and the next day I wal! ked down the train tracks to the train trestle, and then down the creek all the way to where it runs into the Sacramento River. It was almost dark by the time I reached the river. I crossed the creek and started searching my way along the opposite bank, back toward town, but it was slow going because I had on leather boots without socks. The water caused my feet to get soft and the leather rubbed them raw. I eventually took off the boots and walked in the creek on the rocky bottom all the way back to the trestle. It was too dark for me to walk in the woods along the bank anyway. As long as I walked in the water, I knew I was going in the right direction and my bloody feet didn't hurt near as bad. I made it back to the trestle and eventually back home, but by then serious damage was done to my feet.

Annette was found near Lake Shasta where she was thrown from a bridge
while alive and left to die on the rocks below. Her body was sexually mutilated. Sometime later a mutual friend of her family and mine, named Derrell Rich, confessed to her abduction, sexual molestation, mutilation and murder. He thought she was dead when he threw her from the bridge, but she suffered until she died, lying naked on the jagged rocks. He confessed to everything, including telling Annette that he'd give her a ride home because he was going to her house to see her stepfather, David Tidwell, anyway. Derrell Rich was convicted of raping and killing four, including Annette, during the summer of 1978. He was executed on March 15th, 2000.

Every single day, for 28 years, my scarred and painful feet with missing toenails have been a reminder of the fact that, had I walked with Annette to the Holiday Market, she'd probably still be alive today. I know it's not my fault and that I had no way of knowing anything like that could happen, but it doesn't prevent the guilty feelings. There is much more to this story, but it's just too painful to write about.

Needless to say, my life, even though it wasn't good up until that point, would never be the same again. From 1978 on, my little hometown was a form of hell, because everything reminded me of Annette. She was there one day and gone the next, but she still lives in my heart. As I write this I can barely see the screen on which I am typing because of the tears blurring my vision. If I had a penny for every tear that has flowed from my eyes since that day in 1978, I'd be very wealthy.

Cottonwood was never the same. It was a town without police and without any major crime, but everyone who lived there was affected by Annette's horrendous murder. Her murder became one of those things that nobody would talk about, because they wanted to forget it ever happened. It happened and I'll never forget.

It seems my family and I may be cursed. Twelve years after my precious Annette was murdered, my Aunt Donna Rae Toney Branson was raped and murdered. My Aunt Donna, who was my father's twin sister, lived just a few blocks from Annette and her family on the same road. To this day my Uncle Jim and my Cousin Patty and her children live in that same house on Balls Ferry Road, across the road from the mill where my Uncle Jim, Annette's mother and Derrel Rich worked. When I went back there in 1989 and 1995, I couldn't find the courage to even drive on Balls Ferry Road. I feared I wouldn't be able to control my emotions. Even though I couldn't gather the strength to visit those old familiar places, I would always go to the cemetery and sit in the grass at Annette's grave. To this day, her grave is only marked by a small brass marker, because her family couldn't afford a headstone.

In 1990, my Aunt Donna left the Anderson Lounge with a man by the name of James David Tulk. Anderson is another small town about five miles north of Cottonwood. On April 7th, my Cousin Patty reported her mother missing and on April 10th a fisherman found her body on the bank of the Sacramento River, about 10 miles north of Anderson. That same day Tulk was arrested for the rape and strangulation murder of my aunt. He confessed to murdering her, but denied raping her. He didn't admit to raping her, because that made the difference between a life sentence and a death sentence. There was biological evidence and other forensic evidence that she had been raped, so Tulk was convicted and sentenced to death. He is currently on California Death Row awaiting execution.

As you can imagine, my family and I were profoundly affected by this murder. Have I described enough murder to justify my strong opinions on the subject of murder, rape, child molestation and the death penalty and forgiveness? No! I'll continue.

Let's move forward to July 15th, 1993 and go back to the Anderson Lounge. Yes, the same place where my aunt Donna was on the day she was raped and murdered by James David Tulk. My Aunt Oberta Toney was a bartender there. A year after Tulk was convicted and sentenced to death for the rape and murder of my Aunt Donna a man by the name of Thomas Lenart robbed the Anderson Lounge and killed my Aunt Oberta. Her body was found in a closet at the Anderson Lounge, lying face down with her hands crossed at her chest underneath her. Lenart kicked her in the head, leaving horseshoe shaped lacerations on her head from his cowboy boots. Then as she was lying on the floor, he fired two bullets into her head. The evidence against Lenart was overwhelming. He was confronted by Eleanor Gallard as he was leaving the lounge with a bundle under his arm. He tried to shoot her, but she wrestled the gun away and ran down the street and called the police. When he was arrested, he still had some of the Lounge's money and had my aunt's blood on his boots. After the robbery and murder of my aunt, he went and paid his delinquent electric, phone and cable television bills. Ballistics, fingerp! rints and eyewitnesses also connected him to the murder and robbery. On May 7th, 2004, the California Supreme Court upheld Lenart's conviction and death sentence. Justice Joyce Kennard wrote: "Given the brutality of Oberta Toney's murder and the seeming callousness with which it was committed during the course of a robbery, the death penalty is not disproportionate for the crimes."

Now we fast forward to 2001. My girlfriend's (Denise) niece, Bethena Brosz, and her boyfriend were murdered in the course of a robbery. Bethena was a 19-year-old college student with a very promising future. After a night in Dallas' Deep Ellum, Bethena and her boyfriend were followed by two young men who shot them both on the side of the road. Despite multiple gunshot wounds, Bethena refused to die. Because they feared leaving a live witness, one of the men grabbed her by the hair and cut her throat. She still clung to life long enough to make it to the hospital where she later died. One of the young men convicted of killing her is here on Death Row. On two occasions, the prison staff have moved him into cells near me. The first time they moved him just two cells away, but because the sight of him immediately brought on a severe anxiety attack, they moved him away about 30 minutes later. The next time I found the strength to have a conversation with him about the crime. I'm still not certain what the truth is, but I have to admit that I saw some logic to his side of the story. There was some good that ca! me from having the conversation with him. I no longer have panic attacks when he comes near me.

Denise was a very close friend for many years. Because the State of Texas was looking for any negative information they could find to ensure that a death sentence would be handed down, they hounded Denise for information. For a year she refused to speak with them, but finally she broke down and agreed to be interviewed. During my trial, she was a witness for the state, but during her testimony she realized that the trial was a complete sham and they were using her to help convict an innocent man and cause him to be sentenced to death. Immediately after leaving the witness stand, she comforted my mother, who was sitting alone behind me in the courtroom. I was very grateful for this, because my mother was scared to death and had no idea what was happening. She had traveled from the very small town of Gasquet, in far northern California. Gasquet has a population of about 200, so being in the big city of Fort Worth was terrifying for her. She sat behind me trembling and wringing her hands. I will be forever grateful to Denise for being t! here to comfort my mother. My mother died 10 days after her 56th birthday on October 31st, 2004. I'm certain my situation played a major role in causing her death.

After I was wrongfully convicted and sentenced to death, Denise was the first one to visit me. She did everything she could to help me, but the investigators and prosecutors continued to harass her. At one point they met her at the post office when she was picking up mail from me. They told her: "Don't you have five children? It's not in your best interest to keep helping Michael." They insinuated that they could cause her children to be taken away by the state. She wasn't intimidated, though. She continued to do anything she could to help me and drove the nearly 300 miles to visit me as often as she could. She helped me right up until her niece was murdered and one of the convicted young men was sentenced to death. Denise was my best friend for many years. We endured a lot together. She was one of the few people who truly understood me. She loved me and probably still does, but things will never be the same. Murder cost me another best friend.

Then in February 2005, a friend, her 7-year-old son, Jayden, and her unborn baby were murdered. Lisa was 34 years old and almost 8 months pregnant when a man that is now on Death Row smothered her and Jayden to death. At one time this man was a reserve police officer in the very small hometown of Blue Mound, Texas. Once again my heart and mind were shocked into what I can only describe as "turmoil and pain."

There's a small part of me that understands why the death penalty is appropriate for heinous murders, but then the more rational part of me realizes that death is too easy. Perhaps, it's not really "death" that is the punishment. Maybe the execution is just the method by which people are sent before the true judge. I don't know, but I do know that I can't understand how "death is punishment." It doesn't hurt the one being punished, unless you count the brief pain and suffering caused by the execution itself. Just like murder, it only hurts the loved ones that are left behind to live.

On March 25th, 2006, when Tammy and Jessica came to visit me, we had a wonderful visit. I had some fresh strawberries and a salad and we laughed a lot. They enjoyed watching me get so much pleasure from the fresh fruits and vegetables. We had a really good visit. I refused to allow the fact that the man who was convicted and sentenced to death for the murder of Bethena was sitting directly across from me in my line of sight ruin our visit. However, after my visit was over and I was sitting there waiting for guards to escort me back to my cell, the guards working in the visiting room began playing a game. They had post-it notes with our names and cell numbers written on them stuck to the front of the visitation cages.

They were there so that the escort guards would know what cell we were in, if they didn't recognize us by face. The visitation guards were switching them from visitation booth to visitation booth to confuse the escorts. When they were doing this, they switched the post-it note with my name on it with the one of the man in the next booth. I looked down at the name and was immediately sent into an anxiety attack. It was the name of the man who had recently been convicted and sentenced to death for the murder of my friend Lisa, her 7-year-old son, Jayden, and her unborn baby. He was in the booth next to me during the entire visit and I didn't even know it. I'm glad I didn't know, because the one convicted and sentenced to death for murdering Bethena was directly across from me within eyesight and knowing that the other one was beside me would have been more than I could cope with. Is it a strange coincidence that the three of us were right there together or was it divine intervention telling me I need to work on changing the condition of my heart in regards to these men? Don't answer! I'm just contemplating as I write.

I could go into much more detail about everything I have written about and much more, but frankly it is very painful to write about and I don't really think anyone can appreciate the intensity of my feelings unless they have experienced the unfortunate things I have. I wouldn't wish that on my worst enemy, if I had one.

Can you somewhat understand why I recently came to the novel conclusion that I may be subconsciously in favor of capital punishment, but consciously opposed? I'm sure most will think it is a ridiculously unfounded theory. Maybe it is. I don't know. I'm just trying to understand why I get so upset about certain things that are written to me. The more people write to me about capital punishment and those sentenced to death, the more I think about the victims and the more the subconscious part of my mind that is in favor of the death penalty grows. It's the same as I previously wrote. The more you tell someone that they are wrong for having the feelings or opinions they have, the stronger those feelings become.

It's not just the rhetoric about the death penalty that irritates me though. The politics is another element. I get especially disturbed when people tell me things like, "I was surprised to learn that you are pro-Republican Party, because you are opposed to capital punishment." What does capital punishment have to do with the Republican Party? I get the impression that many Europeans wrongfully believe the Democratic Party is opposed to capital punishment. That's simply not true. In fact, it's absurd! Are there more Democrats who are opposed to capital punishment than there are Republicans? Probably, because there are more minorities in the Democratic Party. However, there are very few politicians who are opposed to capital punishment. It is political suicide for a politician to be opposed to capital punishment. The very few that voice their objection to the death penalty are laughing stocks. I most certainly don't base my political ideals on my personal opinions concerning capital punishment.

The same person that said they were surprised that I favor the Republican Party told me, "You must remember that John Kerry received half your country's popular vote." I'm perplexed by this statement, because I'm not certain what bearing that has on anything. This country is politically divided and I'd hate to see it if it weren't, because we'd have a majority of idiots who just follow the leader without forming their own opinions. Unfortunately, that's probably true anyway. She also wrote, "But you were against the war before it started." Of course, I was! What kind of person is in favor of war? A warmonger! I am neither for nor against the current war, because that makes no sense at all. However, I know wars will be waged. My country is currently at war and will more likely than not be fighting another in the near future, and as long as my country is at war I will side with my country. What would I be if I were against my own country? That doesn't mean I agree with the war or the reason we are at war, but I am fully supportive of our troops. Most of them come from poor families and military service is their way of overcoming poverty by obtaining an education. They don't like being at war, but most of them are proud to be serving their country. Most of them enlisted before the war and certainly didn't expect to be fighting a war. I have even more respect for those who enlisted during the war. Many members of my family have fought and died in wars. My grandfather, who landed on the beaches of Normandy, France on June 6th, 1944, always taught me that military service is not only our duty, but also something to be proud of. He also taught me that "War is never something that we should be proud of and we shouldn't glorify the tragedy of war by making war heroes." He said: "During war men do what they have to do, not what they want to do." My grandfather was a very wise conservative southern Democrat. No, the terms "conservative" and "Democrat" do not contradict each other. I know that's what you are thinking, but the terms "liberal" and "conserv! ative" are relatively novel terms wrongfully assigned to the major political parties.

In a letter I received just a few days ago, someone very dear to me wrote, "When you get out of there you'll probably rush off to Iraq." Another completely absurd statement! Why would I rush off to Iraq unless of course I was offered a very good job? It will be difficult for me to find a good job after being in this situation and being in this place, of course. But I couldn't and wouldn't be a soldier. The person who wrote this to me has obviously forgotten that I had that opportunity many years ago.

This same person is constantly harassing me because I am against abortion, except when the baby is conceived by rape or when the birth will place the mother's life in danger. I can't comprehend how someone who is against the death penalty can be in favor of abortion! If you are pro-life, you are pro-life and if you are pro-death you are pro-death. That just doesn't make sense to me. You have to understand that I sit here day after day, week after week, month after month and year after year reading and researching and contemplating these things. I'm locked in this closet size room for 23 hours a day alone and a lot of the time I have nothing to read or otherwise occupy my mind, so I sit here and read almanacs and encyclopedias. Statistics provoke a lot of contemplation.

It disturbs me that there are an average of 1 and a half million abortions in this country each year. It bothers me that the founder of "Planned Parenthood," which is the organization that performs the majority of abortions.murders, was a eugenicist. People can debate when an embryo or a fetus becomes a life all they want, but it has no bearing on my opinion.

I hadn't thought much about abortion until 1988 when I saw something that provoked my interest. My neighbors had a little boy, who was 2-1/2 years old at the time. He was very intelligent and cute with big dark eyes and big dimples. He knew I was frequently fishing bass tournaments. When he'd see me come home with the boat, he'd run over to the fence and ask, "Did you catch a lot? Are some of them big?" I'd lift him up into the boat and he'd rush over to the live well and open it to see the fish. His mouth would fall open and his eyes would get real big when he'd see the fish. He loved to talk about fishing. I imagine I was the same way when I was his age. One time when he came over to see the fish he had on a little t-shirt that had the words: "I was almost aborted" printed on it. I don't think I have to explain why this provoked my interest in the subject of abortion. I'm sure glad that intelligent and beautiful child wasn't aborted.

There is one aspect of abortion statistics that intrigues me, but it is somewhat controversial. It concerns abortion's relationship to capital punishment and the people who are sentenced to death. Many of the men here don't have any idea who their fathers are. Many have mothers who are or were drug addicts and prostitutes. Many have a mother who was or is in prison. Don't take my words out of context, because regardless of what the statistics demonstrate, I do not condone abortion. This is definitely something to think about though. How many murders would have been prevented if the prostitute or drug addicted mothers had had an abortion? The statistics always bother me. There are one and a half million abortions and an average of 19,500 murders in this country each year. I don't have to explain what thoughts these statistics provoke when considering the average age of those on Death Row and in prison for murder. Statistics like this are very disconcerting.

I'm sure I have already written more than you cared to read. Some of those who wrongfully think of me as a "murderer" will ridicule what I have written and have previously written about the necessity of forgiveness, and will say that I am motivated by my own desire for forgiveness. We all need forgiveness, but I do not need forgiveness for the offense of murder. I have never taken a life. However, I have done much in my life that I would like people to forgive me for. Every living person has. I know God has forgiven me, but I would like for people to do the same. When we do things that cause people to refuse to forgive, it is our fault that they are separated from God because of their refusal to forgive. We should do everything in our power to correct that.

I hope you can somewhat understand why I'm such an opinionated man. As I wrote at the beginning of this essay, my opinions are formed out of personal experiences that I wouldn't wish on even my worst enemy, if I had one. Please know that I am interested in the opinions of others, but rather than just telling me what your opinions are, and that mine are wrong, tell me what is the basis for your opinions. I'm receptive to learning and I'm sure many of my opinions will evolve as life becomes less cruel.

I'll close this writing by telling you about something pleasant. You may not see it as a pleasant, but it is to me. You may recall me writing about being outside in the recreation area when it was raining, awhile back, and how nice it was to stand with my face turned up to the sky. I was swaying in the rain and feeling it cleanse my soul, as I thought of a better time when I was dancing in the rain. This time as I was standing out there in the thunderstorm alone, I realized why I like the rain so much. When it rains I don't mind the pain, because I cry right along with the sky.

Michael Toney
"An Innocent Man"
3872 F.M. 350 So. #999314
Livingston, Texas 77351

Michael Toney's Bio

Michael Toney is currently on Texas Death Row. In May of 1999, he was wrongfully convicted of a triple fatality bombing that occurred in Lake Worth, Texas on November 28, 1985. The 1985 "Blount Bombing" was the longest, continuous investigation in the history of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms. Michael Toney did not become a suspect in this crime until the summer of 1997. Since his indictment on December 4, 1997, he has been steadfast in maintaining and proclaiming his innocence. In 2001, desperation led him to bring attention to his plight by attempting to auction off the five positions to witness his execution (Witness the Murder of an Innocent Man) on eBay. The auction was terminated after three and a half hours due to pressure from the BATF and the Texas Department of Criminal Justice. Three and a half hours was long enough for the extremely controversial nature of the auction to attract the attention of worldwide media. Michael says, "T! he auction was a success, because it brought attention to my fight to prevent a miscarriage of justice from becoming a grave miscarriage of justice."

It seems he was correct. Most recently lawyers from the Texas Innocence Network and investigators hired by his support group have miraculously located records that undoubtedly support Michael's claim of "actual innocence." They found records that illustrate the fact that the two witnesses against him not only lied, but also had the government's assistance in creating the lies. Michael's defense counsel had a constitutional right to these documents prior to his trial, because they are without question "exculpatory," but the prosecution withheld them. The documents prove that the government (the prosecution) sponsored the perjured testimony that resulted in Michael's wrongful conviction and death sentence. In late May of 2006, the Texas Attorney General filed a "non-opposition response" to the requests of Michael's attorneys. In their response, they wrote something to the effect, "The Director believes that justice would best be served if this Court would grant Toney's motion to stay and abate these proceedings, so that he may return to state court to exhaust his new Brady claims."

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You may contact Michael Toney directly by writing to him at the address listed above. The following link offers tips for writing to prisoners: http://prisonersolidarity.org/TipsForWritingPrisoners.htm

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