It’s 3 p.m. and I have been busy all day but as my day winds down my thoughts return to death row. Don’t get me wrong they never actually escape but as long as I stay busy I can hide from them. You see my husband is on death row and every day every minute I live that sentence with him.
I am the victim that society would like to forget about because I have no rights. I don’t have the right to hurt because after my husband committed a crime. The courts said they had no alternative but to sentence him to death. Was there an alternative, and if there was, would they have shown mercy? I have always felt the death penalty is a way for society to purge itself of its own failures because had someone intervened earlier would my husband be on death row today? The crime that brought Abdullah to Delaware’s death row was an accident. No one cared or wanted to hear that, because my husband’s past is not unblemished. He was the perfect sacrifice, the perfect candidate for death in the name of justice.
Abdullah led a very fast life style, and got caught up in the games of the street. He was someone who few people wanted to cross; because of their fear, his life had been on the line more than once. Abdullah was forced to carry a gun for his own protection, and on that fateful night, what he had for protection cost two people’s lives: the victim’s and his own. I can’t go into the details of his case, because of where he is in the appeal process. I will say that if the courts had cared, they would have found that what happened was indeed accidental. But why should they care? After all, as the prosecutor put it, he was a prior convicted killer and he deserved death. The prosecutor didn’t bother to explain that the charges from the first conviction were not first degree or intentional murder. He did not bother to explain that my husband was a juvenile at the time of the prior crime. No one looked into why this man was who he was or how he got there. Their only concern was death for death in the name of justice. What I find ironic is my husband was not alone, and his co-defendant only received fifteen years; Abdullah received two death sentences, forty-five years and six months in a half-way house.
He was charged with felony murder and intentional murder, but was never charged with a felony. His co-defendant was only charged with first degree murder and was given leniency by the court. There appears to be an injustice there, but who am I to say that? After all, I have no rights.
Society is so quick to judge, so quick to want revenge, so quick to want blood. Capital punishment is an appropriate name because those with capital don’t receive the death penalty. If you take a look at the many nameless faces on death row, you’ll discover that not one of them was able to afford a dream team. I’m not saying that all their attorneys were incompetent, because at the moment my husband has an excellent attorney. Unfortunately, he didn’t get him until now, and we are in the last stages of his appeals.
How have we as a society come to the point that we can kill our citizens? We cannot anticipate a perfect society, but have we forgotten that we need to make the effort? Society has erected the gallows at the end of the lane, instead of guideposts at the beginning. We’ve saturated our communities with guns and drugs, and we refuse to accept part of the responsibility for the high rise in crime. Our families have fallen apart, and it seems that each day we care less and less about one another. We don’t see people as human beings anymore; we’re just statistics.
I met Abdullah through my work, and I knew instantly that there was something good and decent about him. I saw a spark that others refused to see. I sensed in him a quiet strength and determination that instantly drew me to him. Over time, I gained a tremendous amount of respect for him because he is unselfish in his fight for life. He not only fights for himself, he fights for everyone on death row.
The man I love and the man I know is active in the Muslim community, and in Project Aware, a group that works with juveniles in the hope of deterring them from a life of crime. He is co-editor for Just Say “No” To Death Row, a bi-monthly newspaper. He is a caring father and grandfather, and he is a supportive husband and friend. He is, as society says, rehabilitated. Abdullah chose to change. No one forced him, and no one encouraged him.
When I visit with Abdullah, I don’t see a monster. I see a man who has had a lot of hurt and rage in his lifetime. I see a man who is struggling to maintain his relationship with his family. I see a man who deserves a chance to live, because he can give so much back to society. He can continue to help at-risk kids through Project Aware not make the same mistakes he made.
His sixteen year old son constantly asks if his father is going to be put to death. How do I prepare him for that? How do I prepare myself for that? I go through each day trying to keep it together, and trying to stay strong. There are days that all I can think about is my husband being executed. There are times when I don’t know which way is up, and how I’m going to get through another day.
I sometimes feel like I am walking with death, and that it’s going to jump out and attack me when I least expect it. Abdullah is a breathing, healthy young man that the state may escort to his death one day. How do we, as a family, prepare for that? Please know that we have not forgotten the victim or his family. We feel their pain, and we wish that what happened could be reversed, but it can’t.
I don’t want to lose this man, and neither does his family. We cannot bring back the victim, but is creating more victims the answer? I ask you to let my husband live so you can see the spark in him that I see. Know him as I do and you will know his life is worthy to be saved.
Let’s eradicate the death penalty and seek justice not revenge. Stop the death penalty so healing can begin and pain can stop. Let’s find a way as one to stop the killing. Killing is wrong, and killing in the name of justice is not justice. We do not help the victim by giving them blood, and we have truly failed, as a society, when we use the death penalty.
Please let’s stop this walk with death.