The Abolitionist New  
Vol. 1, No. 11
November 2013
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A Pastoral Report
From The 
Valley Of Death 


The Reverend Joseph B. Ingle


          For almost eighteen years, I served as Paul Reid's spiritual adviser.  From our first meeting in the Metro jail, where he was incarcerated pending the first of three trials for seven murders, it was a remarkable relationship.


          Paul took great pride in his physical appearance.  He was always neat, clean and in good shape.  He was meticulous about his appearance.  The orderliness of his outward appearance stood in stark contrast to his inner world.  He had come to Nashville to make it in the country music world.  He could not carry a tune.


           As I came to know Paul over the months, it was clear he dwelled in a delusional world populated by institutions--"the government/military", "scientific technology" and people--, that simply did not exist. 


          His delusions had been going on since his imprisonment in Texas, where he believed the "government/military" submitted him to tests via "scientific technology", which consisted of his brain being bombarded with transmissions that actually caused his head to ache.  He believed he was promised $25,000,000 for this torture upon his release, which they did not pay. 


          These same forces had videotaped his every move since his release from the Texas prison system, which would establish his innocence of any crime in Tennessee. All we had to do was to obtain these tapes from the government.


          His "fiancée" was named April, who later became Susan, went to Vol State Community College with Paul.  He was there studying to be a corporate lawyer and she a paralegal. She moved to Denver and Paul paid for her paralegal training. They were to be married upon his release.


          The release date (remember Paul was under seven death sentences) was arrived at by calculating the time served from his hearing before Judge Blackburn in Nashville.  (This hearing was to determine his right to drop his appeals and ascertain his mental competency.  While awaiting to go into the courtroom, one of Paul's lawyers visited with him and Paul was focused on the names of the children he and Susan were going to have.  He asked the lawyer how to pronounce Chloe.  He liked that name for their first child).  


          Paul claimed that at this hearing Judge Blackburn told the state he had twelve years to serve before his release.  Of course, the twelve years went by with no release but Paul invented another reason to recalculate the time.  This went on until the time of his final illness, as did my instructions from Paul on how to find Susan.


          I was "Brother Joe" to Paul. We prayed at the end of each visit.  He was deeply religious.  Although religion, like the world, was askew for Paul, he was sincere in his efforts to be a Christian. 


          The most notorious death penalty case in Tennessee's modern history came to a close with Paul's death at General hospital from a chronic lung disease on November 1, 2013.


          He was sedated, while on a ventilator, and died a peaceful death. 


          The "mass murderer" was a deeply disturbed individual due to organic brain damage and a childhood from hell.  He dwelled in a world of delusion, of madness, by which he tried to negotiate reality.  His illness was so profound the state's psychiatrist found him to be incompetent. 


          Yet the state of Tennessee was unrelenting in its efforts to execute Paul.  Tennessee literally spent millions of dollars trying to execute an insane man.


          I will leave it to others to draw lessons from this morality play.  For me, Paul was my Christian brother.  He was a broken man trapped in a broken system. 


          I believe it was Mr. Jesus who said: "What you do to the least of these, my brothers and sisters, you do unto me."  
Editor's Note:  Rev. Joseph B. Ingle is a United Church of Christ minister and former director of the Southern Coalition on Jails and Prisons. He has been one of America's most prominent opponents of the death penalty since beginning his work in 1973. Born in North Carolina, Ingle is a graduate of Union Theological Seminary in New York City and was a Harvard Fellow in 1991. He is the author of two books,  Last Rites: Thirteen Fatal Encounters With The State's Justice and The Inferno-- A Southern Morality Tale. 


Gallup Poll: Support For Death Penalty Declines


          The number of Americans favoring the death penalty for convicted murderers has dropped to the lowest level in forty years, according to the latest Gallup poll. Sixty percent of those polled favor the death penalty compared with 57% in 1972. People favoring the death penalty have declined annually from the high of 84% in 1994.


          Gallup has polled the American public on the death penalty since 1936 and only in 1966 has opposition outweighed favoring.  Legal challenges to the death penalty and social upheaval-including the Vietnam War-helped lower the support for the death penalty in 1966.


          After the four year hiatus caused by Furman v. Georgia, support began growing in the late 1970's until it reached 80% in 1994, the year crime was identified as the number one problem facing America.


          The current decline in support for the death penalty is the result of states killing people who were later found innocent of the crimes for which they were convicted. Also, since 2006, six states have repealed the death penalty, with Maryland being the most recent.


          The poll also revealed:


          Political party affects view of the death penalty: 81% of Republicans currently favor it, compared with 47% of Democrats. Independents' 60% support matches the national average, 60%.


          Death Penalty Applied Fairly: 52% believe the death penalty is applied fairly, while 40% believe it's applied unfairly.


          Use Of The Death Penalty: 44% say the death penalty is not imposed often enough, 22% say it's imposed too often, and 26% believe it's used the right amount of time.


          Many of the Supreme Court's recent rulings related to the death penalty have been on technical legal grounds, rather than a reexamination of the constitutionality of state laws. Opportunities will, no doubt, be afforded the court to review the entire concept of state-sponsored killing, but meanwhile the deaths will continue.


          The information for this article is from the Gallup poll.

A Baker's Dozen: 13 Suggested Stocking Stuffers 


          The literature on capital punishment  increases exponentially as authors continue researching this unresolved social ill. The list below is only a sampling of the titles issued in the last few years that give a general overview of the death penalty debate. 


Cruel and Unusual: The American Death Penalty and the Founders' Eighth Amendment by John D. Bessler


Execution's Doorstep: True Stories of the Innocent and Near Damned by Leslie Lytle


The Death Penalty On Trial: Taking A Life For A Life Taken by Roy Gleason          


Grave Injustice: Unearthing Wrongful Executions by Richard A. Stack


Exile and Embrace: Contemporary Religious Discourse On the Death Penalty by Anthony Santoro


Anatomy of An Execution: The Life and Death of Douglass Christopher Thomas by Todd C. Peppers and Laura Trevvett Anderson


Hidden Victims: The Effects of the Death Penalty On Families of the Accused by Susan F. Sharp


Choosing Mercy: A Mother of Murder Victims Pleads to End The Death Penalty by Antoinette Bosco


150 Classic Writers On the Death Penalty, From the Code of Hammurabi to Clarence Darrow by Susan Ives


Peculiar Institution: America's Death Penalty In An Age of Abolition by David Garland


America's Death Penalty: Between Past and Present edited by David Garland, Randall McGowen, and Michael Meranze 


The Death Penalty In America: Current Controversies by Hugo Adam Bedau 


The End of Sacrifice: Capital Punishment Writings of John Howard Yoder edited by John Nugent

The Human Cost Of Capital Punishment Examined 


Reviewed by Colman McCarthy 
          Ingle, a United Church of Christ minister whose pastoral work has brought him into death rows throughout the South, describes in Inferno the "collateral damage [the death penalty] inflicted on people like me who drew near it." Throughout his ministry, he has suffered severe bouts of melancholia.

          In prose that is often lyrical while also being scrupulously fact-based, Ingle recounts his 17-year close friendship with Tennessee death row inmate Philip Workman, sentenced to death for killing a Memphis policeman in August 1981 during a robbery gone wrong.

          Ingle ably details the contradictions, cover-ups and deceits that led to Workman's capital conviction, one he labels "an utter and complete fabrication." Others, including Workman's appeal lawyers shared that belief. Workman could well have been one of the wrongly and maliciously sentenced.

          Ingle recalls that in "seminary I had taken a course on death and dying. Although it had been valuable, nothing in that course prepared me for working with someone who was being officially murdered, which is a completely different dynamic. There is nothing natural about the process. Death is a natural process, a winding down of the body, but killing is coerced and unnatural."

          Ingle continues, "Rather than a gradual depletion or sudden heart attack, state killing is a tormenting process, both mentally and physically. The healthy person is informed how he will be killed and when he will be killed, and then several dry runs occur (five in Philip's case) when the process is stopped by the courts or governor, only to be resumed again. In a phrase, state killing is simply civilized torture."

This review was originally published in the National Catholic Reporter, October 11-24, 2013, under the title 'Books Reveal Human Cost of Capital Punishment. Our thanks to NCR for allowing The Abolitionist to reprint it.