Innocent Man on Texas Death Row
By Michael Toney <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Aug. 1, 2006
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.
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.
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.
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,
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.
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.
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."
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
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.
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
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.
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,
sides would realize that they are feeling the same pain. That's
a common ground that cannot be denied.
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
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!
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.
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.
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.
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,
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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."
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
"An Innocent Man"
3872 F.M. 350 So. #999314
Livingston, Texas 77351
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."
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."
You may contact Michael Toney directly by writing to him at the address
listed above. The following link offers tips for writing to prisoners: