Many moons ago I read a story about how to catch a monkey. That story stuck with me, not because I ever wanted to catch a monkey, but because of its metaphor and application to many other aspects of life in general.
Here's basically how it went..generally monkeys are not too bright. But they can be pretty clever. If you're out in the jungle you can't just walk up to a monkey and grab it as their instinctive nature is to run away especially if they see you as a threat. People who live in parts of the world where monkeys are common often see monkeys as a source of food or income. So how do you catch a monkey?
The beauty is in its simplicity. No you don't build a monkey trap or try to chase them through the jungle as the monkey will pretty much win every time. Rather, all it takes is a common jar and a piece of fruit. You take the jar and attach it to a rope or chain, then fasten it to a tree or whatever. Then you take an apple or other round fruit that barely fits through the opening of the jar and place the fruit in the jar and walk away. Simple enough.
The monkey is going to want that piece of fruit. In fact, they'll often fight each other for the opportunity to be the one that gets that delicious piece of juicy fruit. Then the one that wins will put his hand into the jar to retrieve that fruit, only to discover that he 9or she) cannot extract the fruit as once the monkey wraps his hand around the fruit to pull it out, his hand is too big to fit through the opening of the jar.
The monkey now has a choice...let go of the fruit to allow his hand to get out, which would mean that another monkey will quickly move in to take the fruit, or hold fast and never let go. Most monkeys will become so fixated on the objective of getting the fruit - and not letting another monkey get it - that this simple jar becomes a monkey trap. This poor monkey simply doesn't have the basic, common sense to just let go even when the starving natives walk up and bash his head in with a stick or club.
This is a really good metaphor about how the death penalty in America is now administered. The death penalty politicians and our society as a whole have become so blinded by their narrow minded objective of killing the condemned that they cannot let go even though the fundamental failure of this death penalty experiment now threatens to take down the whole system.
Putting society's apparent need for vengeance aside, objectively speaking can anyone truly say that the death penalty works? In Florida, those of us on death row are now more likely to die of old age and natural causes while spending decades in continuous solitary confinement awaiting the uncertainty of our fate than face actual execution. I have personally been on Florida's death row since early 1984 - going on 28 years - despite the fact that I have consistently pushed for speedy review, even filing legal actions against the state arguing my right to a timely review. Politicians and the courts want to blame the condemned for dragging out appeals when they know that is not true - its just a lot easier to blame the condemned as we have no voice and are pawns of the system.
The actual truth is that it’s the pro death penalty politicians and judges who cause the delays by repeatedly frustrating the process itself. Blinded by their own zeal to kill, they constantly tinker with the appellate process trying to figure out ways to kill more of us a lot quicker. But each time they play these political games it actually slows the process down as new rules means a whole new round of constitutional challenges to these draconian rules.
Worse yet, each time they play with the rules governing appellate review of death penalty cases, it recruits in eliminating a level of appellate review and substantially increases the inevitable likelihood that innocent people will be put to death. But these politicians can not see that. They are so fixated on the fruit in the jar that they can not see how their actions will have irreparable consequences upon the integrity of our judicial process itself – and actually lead to having the death penalty declared unconstitutional, as it should be anyway.
Although the majority of Americans continue to favor capital punishment, support has substantially decreased in recent years as more people learn that the rate of wrongful convictions is substantially higher than anyone previously thought possible. DNA exonerations have proven that fact. But these DNA exonerations actually account for a very small number of the wrongful convictions in the country. In Florida, at least 26 inmates have been exonerated since the death penalty was reinstated after being previously declared unconstitutional. That means that for every two people Florida has executed since 1979, one person was wrongfully convicted and condemned to death. But of that alarming number only 2 have been exonerated through DNA evidence. The inconvenient truth that nobody wants to talk about is that very few of those at death row who are innocent have DNA evidence to prove their innocence. Most of those – including myself – who were wrongfully convicted and condemned to death in spite of innocence were convicted upon specious circumstantial evidence; without any eyewitnesses, no physical or forensic evidence, and no confessions. (Read my entire capital case, including trial transcripts, appeal briefs, etc at www.southerninjustice.com
Then there’s the political corruption of the courts themselves. Most of the judges on American courts are either publicly elected or politically appointed. Either way, these judges must publicly declare their support for the death penalty or they will stand no chance of being elected or appointed. Most judges are political cowards and lack the moral courage or integrity to do what’s right and would rather send an innocent man to his execution rather than risk political retribution for being too ‘liberal’.
Truth and justice have become irrelevant in the face of this insidious cancer of the “politics of death” No matter how convincing and even irrefutable the evidence is that the fundamental flaws of today’s death penalty is eroding public confidence in the judicial system as a whole, they will justify their actions and blindly continue on their journey of self destruction as their need to kill blinds them to all logic or reason.
So how do you get the monkey to let go of the fruit? The answer is really very simple – just don’t put the fruit in the jar in the first place. Take the death penalty off the table and join the rest of the civilized world by declaring the death penalty unconstitutional. This is not about letting the guilty go, but protecting the innocent from being executed. The simple truth is that if we as a society put even one innocent person to death, then we as a society become guilty of an act of deliberate cold blooded murder of an innocent man. Monkey traps only work if we refuse to let go of the fruit, so just let go!
Florida State Prison