Alabama, Walter Mcmillen, Waldwick Mcmillan discussed on The Axe Files with David Axelrod
You went to Alabama. To establish a center, a Death Penalty Defense Yeah center that evolved into the equal justice. Initiative, but you tell a story about the first execution. Witness I. Mean You know I was in Alabama, because Alabama didn't instill doesn't have a public defender system. There's no statewide public defender system. There were no resources allocated for people on death row. there are a lot of people getting execution dates, and so We open up this office with the hope that we could recruit some people to help us meet the needs of the legal, poor and. As soon as I got there, call from a man who was scheduled to be executed in thirty days, and he begged me to take his case, and I said look I'm sorry. I can't take cases yet. We don't have books. We don't have staff. We don't have computers and I. Never will forget him just. Stay on the line, and not saying a word, and then he hung up. And I was so unnerved by that that I didn't sleep much the next day he called me back. He said Mr Stevenson Annoy. You don't have your books in your computers, I. You don't have tell you can stop the execution. You don't have to tell me you can keep them from executing me. He's a please. Tell me you'll represent me so i. don't think I can make it these next twenty nine days. There's no hope at all. And when you put it like that, it became impossible to say no so I, said yes. We worked really hard. But couldn't stop that execution, and it became a defining moment for me because being with him on the night of the execution when he told me about how all day long people were saying. What can we do to help? You can get stamps to mail. Your letters can get you the phone. Do you want water? Do you want coffee and him? Finally? Saying Brian it's been so strange. More people have asked me what they can do to help me in the last fourteen hours of my life than they ever did in the first nineteen years of my life. It became really clear to me that we were not. We were failing people in some pretty profound ways, and I didn't want US continue failing, and that was kind of really important, because you can't do the kind of work that I do representing people were condemn without being prepared for some setbacks and some heartbreak. The central story in your book is about a case involving a man named Walter mcmillen. who was? Convicted and sentenced to death in. In a shocking way, yeah! overtly. Unjust. talk talk a little bit about that well, it was you know in some ways. I focused on that case because it's sort of a microcosm of all wrong. With our criminal justice system, including our collective indifference. Because water, McMillan was actually accused of a crime that took place in Monroeville Alabama. And MONROEVILLE. Alabama is of course where the famous Knob Hill Mockingbird Harper. Lee grew up, and that's where she said her novel to kill a Mockingbird and that community. has this just romantic relationship to that story? They've renamed streets after characters in the book. They closed the old courthouse. In Gregory Peck came to mobile to shoot one of the scenes for the movie. They've turned it into a museum. It is the thing about which the community is proudest of. And yet there was complete. Hostility to the idea of providing a fair trial to this black man accused of killing a young white woman. And, it was one of these outrageous cases where the crime takes place in downtown Monrovia. The police can't solve the crime months go by. and there's a lot of pressure on law enforcement which we frequently see. And, so they arrest Walter mcmillen, I think most of the new then that he wasn't guilty, and there were witnesses who had him in a completely different play. That's the really painful part on the day of the crime. He was actually with his family, raising money for his church. There were dozens of black people who were with him eleven miles from the crime scene and so. So when he was arrested, they all went to the sheriff. In the Popkin said look you've got the wrong person and they were ignored. They actually put Mr Macmillan on death row pretrial so for fifteen months before the trial, he was on death row until the the press would say deathrow defense. Walter mcmillen will be arraigned deathrow defendant Waldwick McMillan and you create this environment. and. Black folks would say to me. They'd say Mr. Stevenson it would have been so much better if he'd been out in the woods, hunting by himself in this crime took place. Because, at least then we could entertain the possibility that he might be guilty, but because we were there with him, because we know he's innocent. We feel like we've been convicted to yeah, and that sense that it's a that a community accusation that it's a community conviction community sentence was very palpable, and notwithstanding the romance of Tequila mockingbird. MOCKINGBIRD was just complete hostility to confronting the overwhelming evidence of his innocence. We found kind of evidence. The man who they got testify against him, admitted that his trial testimony was false. We tapes of him acknowledging that we had other witnesses, a police officer had been to his house on the day of the crime buying from the fish fry where he was selling money. Who could confirm is innocent, and still everybody just resisted in fought. I got more death rats working on that case, an.