The guy on the right is Mark Stroman, and the Great State of Texas plans to murder him on Wednesday.
This post is not about him, except incidentally.
The guy on the left is Rais Bhuiyan.
This post is pretty much about him.
On September 21, 2001, the guy on the right shot the guy on the left in the face, hoping to kill him. Just as he'd killed Waqar Hasan on September 15 and as he would kill Vasudev Patel on October 4 of that year. His death sentence is for the murder of Patel. It was a hate crime. All three shootings were. Stroman, a white supremacist, was targeting men he believed to be of middle eastern descent in revenge for the September 11 acts of terrorism.
Except Bhuiyan didn't die. And in the last few months, he's undertaken a truly daunting task.
He's trying to save Stroman's life.
I wrote about Bhuiyan's astounding capacity for forgiveness back in May. That post was occasioned by a press conference at which Bhuiyan announced his efforts. It will be no surprise to anyone, I don't think, to learn that so far Bhuiyan has not succeeded. As I said, Texas intends to murder Stroman on Wednesday. It still intends to.
But where press conferences and a website and a fair amount of publicity (and a lonesome blawgger in Ohio) haven't achieved anything what can you do.
Bhuiyan wants to meet with Stroman. Stroman wants to meet with Bhuiyan. They both want to engage in a process of mediation leading, perhaps, to reconciliation. The Texas Department of Criminal Juistice (the state prison folks) have a mediation program in place for violent criminals and their victims. Just as soon as Stroman's legal efforts to avert his execution next week, the TDCJ can begin deciding whether to allow mediation for the two of them which could begin as soon as 5 or 6 months after Stroman is dead.
Oh, that won't work.
Texas, of course, like Ohio, like other states, like the feds, is deeply committed to ensuring the rights of crime victims. Their voices will be heard. Their needs will be met. They will be offered support and comfort and help. As long as they seek vengeance. The rights of victims don't extend to seeking mercy. At least, not so far.
Bhuiyan's rights have been violated and are being violated. He wants Stroman's execution stopped so that they can engage in mediation. Wednesday he filed a lawsuit. He explained why in an op-ed for the Austin American-Statesman.
I love the great state of Texas, but it makes me mad that some of the state's elected and appointed officials want to kill Mark. He shot and tried to kill me, yet I have never wanted him to die. The family members of Mark's other victims support my personal battle to stop his execution.
So why do some of the state's elected and appointed officials think we should execute him? In whose name is this going to happen?
That is why I am taking Gov. Rick Perry to court. Perry decreed that April 10-16 would be Victims' Rights Week. "I encourage all Texans," he said, "to join in this effort by learning more about victims' rights and supporting victims of crime whenever possible. We can help our fellow Texans on the road to recovery with compassion and respect."As a victim of a "hate crime," I had hoped to see a little of that compassion and respect. The Texas Victims' Bill of Rights says I am entitled to dignity. I have been bitterly disappointed by the legal process, which only causes me more suffering. Nobody told me what was happening at the trial; the prosecutors told the jury, "This man needs to die."
Why? Mark Stroman is no saint, but he is not the man who shot me. I met a lady recently who described to me how Mark had saved her 78-year-old mother's life; even today he writes to her every week, helping to encourage her out of her suicidal depression.
I have no recollection whatsoever of ever being asked if I wanted the death penalty; I have never been allowed mediation with Mark, which would help me to understand my ordeal, and recover from it. Instead, the state officials want to kill my attacker. It may buy them votes, but it will only cause me more pain.
You'll notice that it's not just Bhuiyan. The spouses and children of Hasan and Patel fully support what he's doing. The government of Texas, at least so far, not so much.
Bhuiyan says that he was raised in a loving, supportive family that stressed forgiveness.
Only then can you heal.
Stroman's family took a different approach.
When he was a kid, about the kindest thing his mother told him was that she was $50 short on aborting him. His stepfather ordered him to hate people who were different, and beat him every time he refused to get into a fight.
Each clearly learned something from home. Which brings Bhuiyan to his final thought.
I guess my question, governor, is what lesson do you want to teach your children?
I wish I could say that I expect the Texas courts to side with Bhuiyan.