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STATEMENTS BY ABE BONOWITZ AND JUAN MELENDEZ FOLLOWING THE STATE-ASSISTED SUICIDE OF NEWTON CARLTON SLAWSON
Also provided is the verbatim statement of one of the victims’ family members.
Statement of Abe Bonowitz Director Floridians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty (FADP)
First let me say that we who oppose executions, we say, “Remember the victims, but not with more killing.” Today we remember Jennifer, and Glendon, and Bradley, and Peggy, and Gerald Wood, the victims of Newton Slawson.
Now, before they trot out the murder victims’ families, I would simply like to say that it just seems strange, the torture that the Governor’s office keeps putting victims’ families through each time they have one of these ridiculous last-minute stays for the sham competency examinations that they seem to be doing. Today’s killing is the sixth or seventh mentally ill person that they’re executing in this state under Jeb Bush’s watch. It’s sick. Maybe it is Jeb Bush’s moral competency that should be examined.
We are being watched, the world over. People are just shocked at how Florida continuously schedules executions, takes the victims’ families and the death row families and the rest of us up to the last second, and then says, “Wait, we need to go through a new process to see if it’s appropriate, and then we’ll kill him.” It’s sick.
Every time there is an execution, they say they’re doing this “for the victims’ families.” But when you tell a victims’ family member that “you’ve got to wait 6 or 8 or 20 years before we kill the guy, and then you’ll feel better,” what that is really doing is setting these people up for a lifetime of pain and suffering and inability to begin a healing process. There is no such thing as closure. There is no such thing as justice when it’s your loved one who has been murdered. For the Governor to use this as a political tool the way that he does, and to dangle on a yo-yo the victims’ families and also the families of the person being executed — Newton Slawson’s mother and other family members are just miles from here — they too suffer. They too are dangled on a yo-yo by the Governor of this state. It is sick.
And as the legislature sits in a special session to deal with the budget, it is sick that Governor Bush insists upon spending millions of dollars suggesting that the death penalty is a commodity for victims families. If the death penalty is a commodity for victims’ families, then why are we using it so infrequently? And what is the Governor saying to the more than 99% of victims families for whom there is no execution? “Your loved one wasn’t valuable enough.” It’s sick.
Staging the occasional dog-and-pony show of an execution while slashing the budget for education and other programs that prevent violent crime is NOT being “tough on crime.” Executing the mentally ill, the weakest of our society, is not going to stop crime. And allowing the tail to wag the dog, like today’s assisted suicide, makes a mockery of the execution process. It is startling that the only time that the state is willing to bend over backwards for a prisoner is when that prisoner says, “Go ahead and kill me.” It is hypocrisy, and frankly, it is criminal. It’s sick.
Statement of Juan Roberto Melendez Colon.
Melendez became the 24th person exonerated from Florida’s death row when he was released on January 3, 2002. While he was in prison, he had some encounters with Mr. Slawson.)
I want to say that it is a sad day in this state, that we have a Governor who is able to assist a condemned man to commit suicide. I have to say about the death penalty, that I am also a victim. My momma and my family are also victims. I was convicted, wrongfully convicted, in 1984 for a crime I did not commit. I stayed 17 years, 8 months and 1 day in Florida’s death row, and I have to say to, the facilities there are built to break a spirit. They are there to make the condemned man loose the will of living, and that’s where you’re going to see them dropping their appeals and ready to die. It’s sad to see that Jeb Bush is willing to assist them to kill themselves. And I have to say that I feel sad for the victims’ families, but I have to say that killing is not going to bring them closure. All the death penalty does is open wounds, even scars that have been closed, wide open again.
(Question: could you tell us about Newton Slawson?)
I didn’t remember that I knew him until I saw a picture of him in the newspaper. I met him when we were in the same floor, I guess for about 2 years. He never went to the yard. He just was not right in his mind. He kept to himself all the time. He never wanted to talk too much. You could tell, just by looking at him, that something was wrong with him.
(Question: when did you see him last?)
I saw him around ’96, ’95.
VICTIMS’ FAMILIES STATEMENT The following is a verbatim transcript.
My name is Donna (indiscernible), I am Gerald’s sister, and I am talking on behalf of myself only, not of my sisters or the rest of my family. These are my feelings, and my feelings only.
The justice system really kind of baffles me. I’m not quite sure who the justice system is for. I believe that it’s more for the criminals than it is for the victims. You can wipe out an entire family and stay alive for 14 years. There wasn’t any question as to who committed these horrible crimes. There was a question if the individual was sane at the time the crimes were committed. He was proven that, many years ago. Yet, we paid to have him live and breathe for 14 years.
Let me mention again, that he was convicted of these crimes, and yes, there was mention of drugs at the time these crimes were committed. This was not a drug deal gone bad, and I understand that the press is printing that at this time, and I ask that you stop printing that accusation. That is not what happened. If that were the case, perhaps my brother wouldn’t have been murdered at that time, and not that it would have been easier to deal with, but perhaps it would have been more understandable. But that’s not what happened. He wiped out an entire family.
It amazes me that Newton Slawson was entitled to a last meal. He requested whatever he desired, and received it. My family didn’t have that option. Newton got a last phone call. My family didn’t have the chance to call family or friends before their sentence was carried out. Newton could make a last statement before dying for anyone to hear who was given the chance to be there. Again, it wou
ld have been nice to hear from my family for one last time. Perhaps there was something we wanted to say to him, but no, we couldn’t. We had to sit, and be quiet, were not allowed to speak at all. And the dress code. I don’t agree with it, this is an execution, not a funeral. I should be able to attend this however I so please.
Newton had his choice of execution, the chair or lethal injection. [NOTE: This is inaccurate – Florida on has lethal injection –fadp] Again, my family did not have this option. Their lives ended within minutes or hours, not days, weeks, or years, and certainly not 14. He was convicted of cold-blooded murder, and he should have died, a long time ago.
(Reporter Question: how do you feel today?)
I feel wonderful. Absolutely.
(Reporter Question: Donna, I was out that night 14 years ago & indiscernible & Can you juxtapose the way he died with how your family died?)
It’s certainly not fair. He went for (indiscernible) last night, put to sleep, it was too easy for him. It’s not justice. It’s a closure to a certain point because he’s no longer breathing, he’s not living, he’s not eating, he’s not watching TV, he’s not doing all the things my family that doesn’t have the chance to do anymore. Their lives ended, done. Were done, for 14 years.
I am happy he’s gone. I’m thrilled. Ecstatic. (Indiscernible) Execution, I agree with that, one hundred percent, and it should have happened. But my feeling is, he should have suffered, a lot more. (Indiscernible) & in the population, he should have been kept to the side & (indiscernible) Thanks.
Click Image to View Full Size
Juan Melendez speaks to the gathering
The protestors before
the stay is announced
A smaller crowd turned up
at 7:00 the next morning
“We remember the victims…
but NOT with more killing!”
Victim’s family member
gives her statement
“We look like someone just died”
“Someone just did”
Floridians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty
2603 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Hwy
Gainesville, FL 32609