Tag Archives: Florida

Purple flowers, guest collection #38

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8 May 2017
Carolyn Cuff


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Free Marissa Alexander

I signed a petition asking Florida Governor Rick Scott to free Marissa Alexander. Marissa acted to defend herself from her abusive estranged husband … she fired a warning shot … she hurt no one … and now she is in prison. Here is how the organizers of the petition describe the situation:

In August 2010, Marissa Alexander defended herself from further violence by her abusive estranged husband in their home by firing a warning shot toward the ceiling. No one was injured by the shot fired to save her life. Without bond to care for her premature nursing daughter, in May 2012, Marissa was wrongly convicted of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon. Under Florida’s mandatory minimum sentencing law, Marissa was sentenced to a minimum of 20 years in prison. Marissa had a restraining order against the serial abuser, a legally licensed gun and permit, and no criminal history. Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law did not work for her in the way it worked for Trayvon Martin’s killer which raises serious concerns of discrimination against Marissa. It appears that stereotypes about Black women project them as aggressors even when defending their lives upon deadly attack. Something has to be done regarding all women who defend themselves against their abusers. Too often they receive little understanding and sympathy from the systems charged with demonstrating justice.

I signed. Will you?

See you along the Trail.

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What it is about

Anger fills me, sorrow overwhelms me as I think of the violation and murder of Christine McGowan. In 1990, at the age of ten, in Apopka, Florida, she was raped and strangled. My heart breaks for this precious child of God. I grieve for all who love her.

Elmer Carroll was convicted of the crime. The Orlando-Sentinel reports that “Carroll had two previous convictions for lewd and lascivious assault of a child – in 1980 and 1983.”

The crime is horrific. There is no question of Carroll’s guilt. His execution is scheduled for May 29

As horrifying as his crime is, I oppose the decision of the state of Florida to execute him.

My opposition is not based on what Elmer Carroll did. It is about who I am and who we are. It is about what I do and what we do.

And we can do better than to execute even in the situations that offend us most deeply.

I join Floridians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty who suggest three actions in relation to this case:

  1. Write letters and call Governor Rick Scott. Ask him to convene the Board of Executive Clemency to commute the death sentence of Elmer Carroll to Life in Prison Without the Possibility of Parole. Ask Gov. Scott to suspend ALL executions to conduct a thorough, balanced, and public investigation into Florida’s wasteful government program for the Death Penalty that has wrongfully convicted and sentenced more people to death than any other state.
  2. Sign up to receive future action alerts and news from Floridians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty (FADP) at www.fadp.org/esubscribe.html.
  3. Forward this action to a friend (or five!) and have them contact Governor Scott too!

Gov. Rick Scott
The Capitol
400 S. Monroe St.
Tallahassee, FL 32399
Phone: 850-488-7146
Email: Rick.Scott@eog.myflorida.com

See you along the Trail.

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Act now to prevent the execution of John Ferguson

Contact Florida Governor Rick Scott and ask that he convene the Board of Executive Clemency to commute the death sentence of John Ferguson because he is incompetent to be executed. The sentence can be commuted to life in prison with no possibility of parole.

Here’s how to contact Governor Scott:

Gov. Rick Scott
The Capitol
400 S. Monroe St.
Tallahassee, FL 32399
Phone: 850-488-7146
Email: Rick.Scott@eog.myflorida.com


Here’s why:

The execution of John Ferguson by the state of Florida has been scheduled for 6:00 PM on October 23.

Ferguson was sentenced to death for a 1977 mass murder in Miami Dade, which he committed shortly after the state released him from a mental hospital against the warnings of several state-appointed psychiatrists. During his incarceration, state appointed experts have continued to diagnose him with paranoid schizophrenia.

The crimes of which Ferguson was convicted are horrific:

Posing as a power company repairman, Ferguson entered a home where he and two others shot to death six people in an execution style line up. Back then, the Miami Herald called it “the worst mass murder in Dade history.” Ferguson was also convicted of the 1978 murder of two teens from nearby Hialeah.

His role in these crimes is not at dispute. His mental condition is. Among his delusional thoughts, Ferguson believes he is the “prince of God.”

The Florida Supreme Court has found that Ferguson is a paranoid schizophrenic. A decision by the U.S. Supreme Court, Panetti v. Quarterman, ruled that criminal defendants sentenced to death may not be executed if they do not understand the reason for their imminent execution.

Despite the Panetti v. Quaterman decision and despite their finding that Ferguson suffers from schizophrenic paranoia, the Florida Supreme Court has ruled that Florida may proceed with the execution. The decision will be appealed to the US Supreme Court.

There is no excuse for the crimes of which Ferguson is convicted. They are heinous. I grieve for those who died – I grieve that I cannot find their names.

But, as an editorial in The Miami-Herald concludes, nothing good will come from executing a man with a documented history of mental illness dating back to 1965. A 1975 report noted that Ferguson was dangerous and should not be released.

Executions by the state serve no purpose but revenge and diminish our society. Executions of individuals who are not competent diminishes us even further. The solution is to enact the recommendations of that 1975 report and make certain that Ferguson is never released under any circumstances.

Contact Governor Scott. Ask him to replace the death sentence with a sentence of life in prison with no possibility of parole.

See you along the Trail.

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An action, a liturgical reflection – Trayvon Martin

The NAACP offers an opportunity to sign an open letter to Florida Prosecutor Angela Corey who will handle the case of the death of Trayvon Martin. The letter asks her to “to pursue this case with the energy and gravity that it warrants.”

Michael W. Waters acknowledges that:

Symbols have long been important for religious and spiritual reflection. These symbols have been employed to provide greater understanding to transcendent truths, to provide comfort amid chaos, and to inspire the faithful to put their faith to action towards the common good. Many times, these symbols have emerged from rather mundane objects closely associated with a historical event

He goes on to reflect about the symbols contained in Trayvon’s death: Skittles, iced tea, and a hoodie.

Let Skittles, iced tea, and the hoodie become symbols of truth, inspiration and comfort for a new generation of protesters against the on-going crucifixion of innocent flesh at the hands of a corrupt system of oppression and marginalization that has for too long tortured the masses and tainted our country’s legacy.

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An intriguing beauty

Walking to and from the Presbyterian Office of Public Witness, this intriguing tree caught my eye and the eyes of many others.

Catherine, Peng and I stopped and looked at it for a time. None of us had seen anything like it. The pink-purple flowers grow directly on the bark – almost like moss.

“I wonder what it is?” mused Catherine. I pulled out my BlackBerry preparing to do a search when, out of the corner of my eye, I noticed a small sign on the tree. “Bet that will tell us,” I said.

We walked, some of us stumbling, across the sidewalk and on to the grass where we could read the sign.

Eastern Rosebud (Judas Tree) said the inscription. That really did not tell me much. Maybe Peng and Catherine went on their way with a deeper understanding, but no insights shimmered for me. A few minutes ago, ensconced in my hotel for Compassion, Peace and Justice training day and Ecumenical Advocacy Days, I Googled and learned several things:

  • The Eastern Rosebud is native to eastern North America from the southern part of Ontario to northern Florida.
  • It is the state tree of Oklahoma.
  • It has a number or family members scattered around the world.
  • Legend says that Judas hanged himself from a species of the rosebud.
  • The flowers are magenta in color – various shades of magenta.

My picture fails to do it justice – but it points to its intriguing beauty.

See you along the Trail.

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Trayvon Martin

From ColorOfChange.org. I took the action. Will you?

Read this moments ago from the Huffington Post: The U.S. Department of Justice and the FBI have opened an investigation into the “facts and circumstances” surrounding the killing of Trayvon Martin, the unarmed teenager shot and killed last month by a neighborhood watch captain in an Orlando suburb.

I think the action remains important as a way of reminding the Department of Justice that we are watching.

Three weeks ago, 17-year old Trayvon Martin was gunned down by self-appointed neighborhood watch captain George Zimmerman. Despite Zimmerman admitting to following, confronting, and killing Trayvon, he has yet to be arrested or charged with any crime.[1]

Just minutes before Trayvon was killed, Zimmerman had called police stating that Trayvon looked “suspicious.” Trayvon was unarmed and walking back to his father’s home in Sanford, Florida when Zimmerman accosted him.

At the crime scene, Sanford police botched their questioning of Zimmerman, refused to take the full statements of witnesses, and pressured neighbors to side with the shooter’s claim of self-defense.[2] As it turns out, Sanford’s police department has a history of failing to hold perpetrators accountable for violent acts against Black victims and the police misconduct in Trayvon’s case exemplifies the department’s systemic mishandling of such investigations.[3] And now, the State Attorney’s office has rubber-stamped the Sanford police’s non-investigation, claiming that there is not enough evidence to support even a manslaughter conviction.[4]

Trayvon’s family and hundreds of thousands of people around the country are demanding justice.[5] Please join us in calling on the Department of Justice to take over the case, arrest Trayvon’s killer, and launch an independent investigation into the Sanford police department’s unwillingness to protect Trayvon’s civil rights. It takes just a moment:


Walking home from the store shouldn’t cost you your life, but when Black youth are routinely assumed to be violent criminals, being randomly killed is a constant danger.[6] Before Zimmerman decided to get out of his parked car — gun in tow — to pursue Trayvon on foot that night, he called the police to identify Trayvon as a “suspicious person” — apparently because he was wearing a hoodie and walking too slowly in the rain for Zimmerman’s liking. Despite being instructed not to follow Trayvon, Zimmerman proceeded to confront and fatally shoot the boy in the chest within a matter of minutes.[7]

The case has been compromised from the beginning. When Sanford police arrived on the scene, Zimmerman was first approached by a narcotics detective — not a homicide investigator — who “peppered him with questions” rather than allowing him to tell his story without prompting. Another officer “corrected” a witness giving a statement that she’d heard Trayvon cry for help before he was shot, telling her she had heard Zimmerman instead.[8] And beyond the questions of professional competence or even the police’s disregard for the facts, Florida’s notorious “Shoot First” law takes a shooter’s self-defense claim at face value — incentivizing law enforcement not to make arrests in shooting deaths that would lead to murder charges in other states.[9]

Sanford has a history of not prosecuting when the victim is Black. In 2010, the white son of a Sanford police lieutenant was let go by police after assaulting a homeless Black man outside a downtown bar. And, in 2005, a Black teenager was killed by two white security guards, one the son of a Sanford Police officer. The pair was arrested and charged, but a judge later cited lack of evidence and dismissed both cases.[10]

Please join us in calling on the Department of Justice to arrest Trayvon’s killer and launch an investigation into the Sanford police department’s mishandling of the case and when you do, ask your friends and family to do the same:




1. http://www.miamiherald.com/2012/03/15/2696446/trayvon-martin-case.html
2. http://abcnews.go.com/US/neighborhood-watch-shooting-trayvon-martin-probe-reveals-questionable/story?id=15907136#.T2QwBWJWrQI
3. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/03/14/trayvon-martin-sanford-florida_n_1345868.html
4. http://www.wesh.com/news/30692415/detail.html
5. http://abcnews.go.com/US/trayvon-martin-family-seeks-fbi-investigation-killing/story?id=15949879#.T2aTkZggugE
6. http://www.democracynow.org/2012/2/8/ramarley_graham_nypd_slays_unarmed_black
7. http://articles.orlandosentinel.com/2012-03-14/news/os-trayvon-martin-beth-kassab-031512-20120314_1_orlando-police-block-captains-zimmerman
8. See reference 2.
9. http://www.tallahassee.com/article/20120316/OPINION05/203160343/Teen-s-death-suggests-review-Stand-Your-Ground-Law-needed?odyssey=mod|newswell|text|frontpage|s
10. http://www.tampabay.com/news/publicsafety/crime/article1128317.ece


Filed under Human Rights

Execution in Florida

An execution took place in Florida today.

Debbie Kammerer was brutally beaten, raped and killed 32 years ago in St. Petersburg. Robert Waterhouse was convicted of the crime. He had previously been convicted of raping and strangling a 77-year-old woman in New York in 1966. I have not been able to find her name in any of the postings. He served eight years behind bars before being paroled for that conviction.

Today, the state of Florida executed Robert Waterhouse. He maintained his innocence in relation to the murder of Debbie Kammerer as recently as 1995. Through the years the courts disagreed.

Nothing can justify these crimes. I grieve for the unnamed victim and for Debbie Kammerer. I grieve for those who love them. I wonder at the system that allowed his parole.

Yet for all that, I cannot condone his execution. Violence feeds violence. There has to be another way.

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Execution scheduled in Florida

I grieve today for Joan “Jo” Rogers, 36, and her daughters Michelle, 17, and Christe, 14. They were visiting Tampa Bay from Ohio in 1989, when they were murdered. It was a horrific crime. They were bound, tied to concrete blocks and thrown into the water. Reports indicate that they were probably alive when they entered the water. The horror of watching the violation of your children – watching the violation of your mother – numbs my mind and makes my skin crawl. I grieve for Hal Rogers, husband and father, and all who loved the three women.

The State of Florida is scheduled to execute Oba Chandler for this crime today. It may have happened. It was scheduled for 4:00. I have not been able to find news stories to confirm that. Chandler was convicted in 1994. Chandler says he is innocent; appeals have been filed, and denied.

Heinous. Brutal. Reprehensible. These are the words that come to mind pondering this crime.

But – the state killing people to prove that killing people does not make sense. It reinforces the idea that violence is an acceptable response. It brutalizes our society. There are alternatives. We can protect ourselves by keeping people imprisoned.

See you along the Trail.

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Four executions scheduled in next ten days

Until recently the next ten days were scheduled to bring five executions. One has been stayed. Four more loom.

November 15 – Reginald Brooks in Ohio (includes a petition)

November 15 – Oba Chandler in Florida

November 16 – Guadalupe Esparza in Texas

November 18 – Paul Ezra Rhoades in Idaho

More details will follow as I find them.

See you along the Trail.

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