This is the first part in a 2 part blog sharing about my correspondence with Ray Jasper, who was tried, convicted of Capital Murder and executed on March 19, 2014.
I first read Ray Jasper’s letter to Gawker on March 6th. I saw it on my facebook, and took the time to read it. After I had finished reading it, I put everything else on hold and immediately found myself writing him a letter. I’ve spent a lot of time asking myself tough questions about why I did this. In fact, when I posted on my facebook that I had written and mailed a letter off to Ray Jasper, I received many opinions of anger, but also of support.
I can understand why some people would ask why I chose to write a letter to the perpetrator of the murder, and not to the family of the victim. I can also understand people asking me what I wanted to accomplish by writing a letter to Ray Jasper, and these are fair questions.
I want to be clear from the start that I am in NO way glorifying what Ray Jasper was convicted of in the murder of David Alejandro. I have nothing but the deepest sympathies for the family and friends of Alejandro, who have grieved his loss to this very day. I am not glorifying a murderer or giving his heinous act against a fellow human undue press or attention. Ray Jasper was executed on March 19 for his part in the murder of Alejandro and he has paid his debt to society and he’s square with what he owed.
I also want to be clear that I do not feel sorry for Ray Jasper for what he had done, his conviction and subsequent execution. The laws state the consequences of murder, and we all know what they are.
Instead, what I hope to accomplish in writing and covering this, is a story in which we can all collectively understand and gain some insight.
I want to begin with the quote from the movie The Shawshank Redemption. The character of Ellis Boyd Redding, (or “Red” as we knew him) who was played by Morgan Freeman, had his final parole hearing after committing murder and serving 40 years of a life sentence. Red was asked if he felt that he had been “rehabilitated.” Below is the dialogue from that scene.
1967 Parole Hearings Man: Ellis Boyd Redding, your files say you've served 40 years of a life sentence. Do you feel you've been rehabilitated?
Red: Rehabilitated? Well, now let me see. You know, I don't have any idea what that means.
1967 Parole Hearings Man: Well, it means that you're ready to rejoin society...
Red: I know what you think it means, sonny. To me it's just a made up word. A politician's word, so young fellas like yourself can wear a suit and a tie, and have a job. What do you really want to know? Am I sorry for what I did?
1967 Parole Hearings Man: Well, are you?
Red: There's not a day goes by I don't feel regret. Not because I'm in here, or because you think I should. I look back on the way I was then: a young, stupid kid who committed that terrible crime. I want to talk to him. I want to try and talk some sense to him, tell him the way things are. But I can't. That kid's long gone and this old man is all that's left. I got to live with that. Rehabilitated? It's just a bullshit word. So you go on and stamp your form, sonny, and stop wasting my time. Because to tell you the truth, I don't give a shit.
And with that, they released a convicted murderer back into society. Of course, this was only in a movie, yet as we watched Red’s character evolve throughout the story, we are on his side. I’m quite sure that there were very few people who watched that movie who were upset that Red was released from prison. We knew that Red had moved on from being the person he was 40 years ago who had “committed that terrible crime” and saw his transformation into an old man who befriended Andy Dufresne. We became elated at the end of the movie when these 2 felons who were both convicted of murder, were re-united in a wonderfully scripted happy ending.
So, the best way I can describe my feelings of wanting to reach out to Ray Jasper is that when I read his letter, I felt his transformation. His post was an intelligent, calculated and articulate reply in conveying what most of us people on the free side of prison may spend our entire lives seeking, and still not understand it.
What baffled me was here was a young man sitting on death row, knowing that he was scheduled to die, and yet he was doing more reading, and soul searching than most people I know living in freedom. In many ways, I believe that Ray Jasper was the freest man in prison and certainly more empowered than some of the people I know in society. Certainly, he demonstrated courage and dedication to what little time he had left on this earth by preparing his soul for his inevitable demise.
As it occurs to me, we spend our entire lives refining our character in learning, growing and expanding as human beings so that we can better ourselves and raise a family to do the same. Perhaps sitting in jail, Ray Jasper didn’t have to deal with the life of accumulation that we are all caught up in, so he could spend more time on learning and growing wiser. I’m sure the 15 years that he spent in jail, he did a lot of growing and maturing. So I’m clear that he was not the same man at the end of his life that he was when he first arrived in prison.
I know that I am certainly not the same man that I was 15 years ago, nor would I want someone to relate or refer to me now as if I was. In fact, I believe that none of us would want to be judged now by what or who we were 15 years ago.
Yet the act of murder is something that defines that, isn’t it. It’s not like the same title as being a thief, a liar or a cheat now is it? Just because you were a thief, a liar or a cheat 15 years ago, doesn't mean that you are those qualities now, does it? But we hold murderers to a different accountability of judgement. Once a murderer, always a murderer.
There will be people who read this post and applaud my actions and call me brave. There will also be people who will spew venom out of their mouths calling me names, trying to defend their point of view which is contrary to mine. I want to say that I’m fine with both. Whichever view you chose to judge me by, I’m ok with that. I don’t require support or negative feedback to feel validated in what I did. What I do hope you get is a new perspective that works for you inside of this story. Whatever that is for you, I hope you find it.
So let’s get back to why I wrote Ray Jasper, and in the next post, I'll talk specifically as to why I wrote him.... To be continued.