Smile for Tomorrow
By Michael Perry
My future is gone like a flower in a storm
My past seems changed like a drop in the ocean
And now I am not sure if past and future matters
But I hope tomorrow will bring some happiness and fun
Or just a smile...
A smile for tomorrow.
Letters I Have Received
I would like to share some of the letters I have received.
Thank you for taking the time to read them.
I would like to hear from you.
Please take a minute and write to me.
"A Life Worth Saving"
by Corey Jennings
They say the eyes are a window to the soul. Most might disagree but I think that is because they've looked into cold eyes. They have looked into eyes that have long since lost the sparkle of youth and bright futures. I actually had someone tell me this about myself, but I did not believe it until I met my new friend, Michael James Perry. Can you really look into one's eyes and see their soul? Well, let me share a story with you that I hold dear to my "alleged" hardened heart, and you decide. But before I continue, it is important that you know who I am. My name is Corey Jennings and since April, 2001, I have been an inmate at the infamous Polunsky Unit on Texas Death Row. I am innocent of the crime for which I have been sentenced to die. When I say innocent, I mean actually innocent, not just claims based on procedural errors or absence of evidence.
I have been through some bad times and seen things I would not wish on anyone. I have faced lots of pain, some self-inflicted, most not, but all was real. Most of this happened before I was even eighteen. I don't have enough paper to tell you all I have faced and all I have seen, but it has left me jaded. It was not enough to keep me from dreaming of the future and setting goals. One goal was to start my own family, and March 31, 1997, I married my long-time love and mother of my three month old son. Of all the dreams I had, that was my biggest one and it came true-"sorta". In 1999, my wife and I made plans to have another "blessing". She became pregnant, only I was arrested for this crime before the birth of my baby girl. So, you can imagine with all that I have been through, that at times, my outlook on life had become somewhat pessimistic.
Years later I was in my cell doing some legal research and I heard this kind of loud voice. I looked down into our dayroom- a cage we are allowed into one at a time for one hour a day. I saw this lanky kid with big ears laughing and making jokes. Not being in a festive mood, I went back to my studies with my headphones on, as the sound of laughter truly was irritating to me. I thought to myself, "I'm glad this kid's cell is no where near mine, because he would drive me crazy!" Just to show you how life works, maybe a week or two later, they moved him to the cage (cell) below mine.
Well, not realizing how much I was allowing this place to get to me, I decided I wasn't going to like that kid. Pretty stupid of me, if I do say so myself. (I am twenty-nine years old man, and that's childish!) So, day after day, I would hear him laughing and telling jokes and I'd think, "What's so funny?" I said to myself, "bet he wouldn't laugh if he knew how I ended up here". Well, slowly we began exchanging pleasantries and he didn't seem so bad. I exercise a minimum of five days a week, including running twenty minutes three to four times a week. One day when I came out to the "cage" to exercise, I saw this kid leaning up against the side of the wall in his cell looking out at me in the dayroom. I tried to ignore him at first, but I turned and looked him in the eyes and had to turn away again. Why? I had to turn away because I recognized the look in his eyes-the look of pain, confusion, and suffering. I had no idea how much this (I later found out) twenty-two year old "white kid" and this twenty-nine year old "black man" had in common. Well, I began running because. It was all I could do to contain all the emotions that rushed through me. I knew that look because I felt the very same way that he looked that day. A day or so later, we began to talk about working out, which was our way of breaking the ice. The next time we spoke, we talked about some of the places we have lived. It was discovered that we both lived in Iowa for a short while and when I mentioned Nebraska, it came about we both had lived at Boys Town in Omaha, a youth home that is world famous. He asked, "When were you there?" When I told him 1989, he nearly died from laughing when he said, "1989, that's ancient. You kinda getting old, ain't you?"
As time went by, we talked more and discovered that we both have "little ones", who we miss dearly out there and both have had troubled childhoods. Just about any common ground that could help form a bond was there. Now what really made me feel for Michael is that he, just like me, is innocent of capital murder. We took the time to establish trust enough to share our innocence issues with each other, so we could be sure that we are what we said, "innocent"! Why would it matter to two death row inmates if each other were innocent, you ask? It matters because what Michael and I learned about each other is that we are not murderers. We are not "future threats to society". No, we learned that with our similarities and differences that we are both young (he begs to differ and calls me "Sir"), articulate, and intellectually stimulated. We are young men with futures that once were bright, now cast with darkness. Michael and I won't have it! We are going to shine and we know that there are people who will help us.
Michael has helped me to remember my quest for Peace and Love that I nearly forgot, due to injustice. It is good that I didn't completely close my mind off from others or I may have missed out on a good friend. Michael has re-inspired me. He has reminded me that this fight isn't just about our freedom, but for all that are innocent. It is for our "little ones" and parents. This fight is for all of our comrades in the fight against the barbaric practice of the Death Penalty. I would encourage anyone...everyone...to get to know Michael as I do. If you don't, I guarantee you'll be missing out. Oh, and before I forget, he and I agreed that we would remind each other of something my former mentor told me: People are like oceans. We either see rough waves or calm waters on the surface. There is so much more under the surface! There are things of beauty and excitement as well as things of danger. It is up to us to decide to explore those deep waters, instead of merely focusing on the surface.
I don't say the things included in this article very often, almost never, but Michael is truly a special person and a loyal friend. No matter how our situations turn out, I am blessed to have met someone as special as the young, white, lanky, big-eared comedian who I thought would drive me crazy. Those of you who know Michael know what I am talking about. Those of you who don't should. His life is no better than yours or mine, but it is certainly worth saving.
As much as I want my freedom, if one has to sacrifice our life to save the other, I would volunteer mine with no hesitation. That sounds crazy, but I would! Why? Because I know he would take the opportunity to do great things with his life. Michael has reminded me of the one person I try to model my life after...the great Reggae musical prophet Bob Marley. He said, "My life is no important to me, other people life important. My life is only important if me can help plenty people. If my life is just for me and my own security then me no want it. My life is for people, that who me is."
Please! Get to know Michael as I do, you won't regret it. He's only one letter away. JOIN US IN THE FIGHT FOR THIS YOUNG MAN'S LIFE!
My Response to "Inhumanity in a Humane Society"
I happen to agree with you Michael. I don't agree with the death penalty. It is murder whether or not they see it that way. And god will punish them for it. If I did I would never have been able to write to you in the first place.
The only time I ever recall wanting someone to be killed because of their actions was when I was a child and my father was murdered. What do you expect out of a seven year old little girl who just lost her father. Now that I think about it, I would much rather have him look into the eyes of the three little girls he left fatherless. Lets see if he would have regretted what he had done. To grow up like I did was horrible and because of him it was worse. Yes, I did want justice but at what price? The price of a human life; it would never have brought my father back.
Doesn't the constitution object to "cruel and unusual punishment"? I really do feel that the death penalty is "cruel and unusual." How can they say to test products on an animal is cruel because they are defenseless, but yet they are killing people each year for crimes committed in the United States. So what are humans if not creatures of God's planet. He created life. Only he should take it away!!
Then there are the people who are innocent. How do you make it up the families who have lost someone, due to the death penalty, who happens to be innocent? It has been proven that they have indeed murdered innocent people. Why? It reminds me of the movie "The Green Mile." John Coffey (a black man) was convicted of the rape of and murder of two young girls in the 1930's. He was sentenced to death for a crime he did not commit. He was found next to the body of the girls and apparently he had a gift to heal. Only he could not heal the girls. They found him with them and assumed it was him.
Well sweetheart that's what I have to say. Just letting you know I agree with you. Take care and God bless.
Thoughts on "Inhumanity in a Humane Society"
When I read "Inhumanity in a Humane Society" written by my comrade in the struggle for justice, to prove we are actually innocent and not just claiming innocence based on procedural errors, it touched a nerve. Why did it affect me in that way? I myself just wrote an article for the Coalition for Truth and Justice that was placed on their website May 11, 2004, and this article I felt coincides with Michael's. He spoke on "What more can we do, what more can we say?" My article, "U.N.I.T.Y.," asks more about why can't we do more. Why can't we say more?
My article was born from my frustrations because I fell that "we" as a whole here on Death Row can speak our more addressing "our" people here in the United States of America. As I mentioned earlier, like Michael, I fight to prove my innocence and all of my supporters (minus family) are from other countries. That raises my eyebrows because this "system" is an issue that should be addressed by "our" US citizens, or at least more of them.
I see the underlying issues as to why it is this way as:
Our justice system is supposed to be fair and unbiased and we so badly want to believe it is, but it is not! Don't get me wrong, part of me holds on to the idea that because I am innocent, the appeals process may actually work for me. Most here say, believing that, is being naive, but what is naive about wanting our system to work?
It is true. The general public believes that if you are on Death Row, you deserve to be there. (I will touch more on that later.)
I have learned so much more about the Death Penalty in here as an innocent man than I ever would have learned as a "free" man. So, I understand with all the troubles and heartache that occur in the lives of someone in the "free world," that our situation here is overshadowed.
I am now finding out that there are more people here in the US that care about "fixing the flaws in the justice system, but were/are uneducated on how capital punishment works and the many avenues left open for error. That's what made me address the fact that we here on Death Row, who have more knowledge about how the system is working, should continue no matter how frustrating the task is.
I said I would elaborate more on issue #2. Those who practice religions, and even those who don't, teach their children that murder is wrong. If it is wrong, it's just that. I know this is a sensitive subject, because you are dealing with victims' families who are grieving the loss of a loved one, but there are victims' families that do not want those who are convicted in the death of their loved ones to die. Why? Because they are aware that even through one's mistakes, the system can make more victims in what they perceive as "carrying out justice." I agree with Michael.
Not all here are innocent, but if it is not right for one to kill, it is not right for anyone to kill, even under the guise of "justice." I have children, and though I did not murder anyone, even if I had, I would teach them that, "Daddy was wrong and there are consequences for him being bad." Murder is wrong, but death as punishment for murder is definitely a contradiction when the Death Penalty is supposed to be a deterrent. Although the alarming rate of those sentenced to death here in Texas alone, has not decreased the rates of capital murder in a way to prove it works.
Without a doubt, the Death Penalty is a barbaric practice no matter how you explain it, but I can't talk down on anyone that supports it. I do have a question and it is not meant to be funny. Do you remember what it was like when your favorite childhood myths were exposed as "myths"? Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, Tooth Fairy, etc. are all myths that most believed in as children, (excluding myself). I remember telling kids at school that none of them exist, that it was our parents who hid eggs, took our teeth and left money, and put presents under the tree. Well, some refused to believe me period, some said they didn't care as long as they got theirs. Most were upset that their parents would allow them to foolishly believe in something that was not true. Different, but in a way, the same.
How can anyone support a system that is so flawed, that innocent people die? You must believe that it is not flawed, not care as long as you "get yours" or discover for yourself the truths of the Capital Punishment System and be angry that our "political parents" (some of them) have allowed you to believe in a myth. Unfortunately, it appears the first of the three choices is most often believed. Show me a man or woman that believes our system is 100% effective with no flaws and we here will show you a man or woman who has an illusionary overall view of the world.
Though it may seem easy for Michael and I to collaborate in our struggle because we are both innocent, it isn't all that easy. Two grown men, no matter how similar, have different ideologies. Despite our differences, we are attempting to show and prove how much more can be accomplished unified as one voice. Sure, it will benefit our personal causes, but we will also help to show how flawed our system is and, in turn, benefit all of us. We also, in turn, educate those who don't feel ignorance is bliss.
I, like Michael, am many things, and just like Michael, AM NO MURDERER. I am Corey James Jennings, four years in the "justice" system. I am a poet, musician, artist, but above all, a son, a father, and a husband. I do not want to die. I do not want Michael or anyone for that matter to die in this manner. So, I will continue to speak. I just pray that I will find supporters for my individual cause, but how individual is my cause if it has a profound impact on many people? My cause is Michael's and his is mine.
I am twenty-nine-years young, a few years older than Michael. I came into this system just as naive and just as jaded. I do not like our situations but am appreciative of the wisdom attained during this fight. I will not attempt to manipulate anyone by speaking about our conditions. It is called Death Row - use your imaginations.
As my comrade, no, make that my Friend Michael, has asked, I ask the same. Will you help me? Will you help us?
"To take a life when a life has been lost is revenge, not justice. Justice allows for mercy, clemency, and compassion. These virtues are not a weakness."
Reverend Desmond Tutu
"With swallowed pride, open hearts and minds, we can create a world of Universal Oneness. That consists of One Love, One Life, and One Mind filled with L.U.C.C. Love, Unity, Caring and Consciousness."
Brother Ras Benjamin, Sept. 9, 2004
Corey James Jennings #999382
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Did you know...
On average, Texas prisoners spend 10.43 years on death row awaiting execution.