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.