Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Voices of Families of the Executed - Part 1

Today we begin our series of excerpts from the MVFHR panel of families of the executed at the Third International Women's Peace Conference in Dallas this past July. See the original post announcing this series, the current issue of our newsletter with more about the peace conference panel, and MVFHR's report about families of the executed.

Remarks from Lois Robison:

We’re just an average family, except we have a son who was executed by the state of Texas. Larry was every mother’s dream: he was in the band, he was a good student, he did church work, had a paper route, he would have made Eagle Scout if he hadn’t got sick.

We realized he had a problem and took him to the University of Kansas Medical Center in Kansas City, where we lived at the time, but he wasn’t diagnosed until after he got out of the Air Force when he was 21. Unfortunate timing: we took him to the hospital, he was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia, but our insurance didn’t cover him because he had just turned 21, so they discharged him and told us to take him to the county hospital. We took him there, and they kept him for 30 days and then told us they were discharging him and not to take him home. I said, “He has no job, no place to stay, no car, you can’t just put him on the street.” They said, “You’d be surprised, we do it every day.”

We got him into the veterans’ hospital; they kept him for 30 days and then told us the same thing: “We don’t have the money, we don’t have the beds, and he’s never been violent so we can’t keep him for more than 30 days.” They told us to take him to the county MHMR (Mental Health and Mental Retardation) for treatment, but they forgot to have him sign a release of records, so MHMR would not treat him or give him his medications. Consequently he disappeared and he ended up not getting treatment for four years.

The first violent thing he ever did was to kill five people, very brutally. We were horrified, and we felt terribly for the families that lost their family members. We thought that Larry would probably be sent to a mental hospital for life. We were wrong: he was jailed for a year, tried, and given the death penalty – found sane, by the way, despite his record. I collapsed outside the courtroom and was hauled to the hospital in an ambulance, screaming all the way, “They’re going to kill my son.”

I was in the hospital for four days. When I came up out of it, I got angry and I said, “This is not right. They told us if he ever got violent they would give him treatment, and instead they gave him the death penalty.” I determined that I was going to tell this story to everyone in the United States. I haven’t told them all, but I’ve told quite a few of them! Larry was on death row for 17 years and was executed on January 21, 2000. The day that he died I promised him I would spend the rest of my life working to help the mentally ill and people on death row.

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