Thursday, May 10, 2007

Justice Wasn't Served, but Pizza Was

This is Philip Workman. As The International Justice Project meticulously reported, on August 5th, 1981 in Memphis, Tennessee, he robbed a fast food restaurant at gunpoint. Unbeknownst to him, a silent alarm had been triggered, and police were on their way. Unfortunately one of the officers, Lt. Ronald Oliver, had been shot in the chest and died. Mr. Workman admitted that his drug addiction had led him to the crime, and on March 30th, 1982, he was convicted and sentenced to death for first degree murder.

In addition to The International Justice Project, CNN has reported an overwhelming amount of evidence and doubts raised by how this case was handled. Everything from eyewitness accounts to ballistic tests suggested that Lt. Oliver was killed by friendly fire, but not even an appeal to the US Supreme Court would allow Mr. Workman the justice he deserved. Make no mistake - he committed a crime, and he paid for it, but under NO circumstances was a death penalty warranted.

At 2AM Eastern Time on Wednesday May 9th 2007, Philip Workman was executed at Riverbend Maximum Security Institution in Nashville, Tennessee where he was incarcerated. He requested that his last meal be a vegetarian pizza, but here's the thing that's going to mess you up - he requested that the pizza be given to any homeless person near the Riverbend facility. They refused his last wish because according to Riverbend spokeswoman Dorinda Carter, "We can get some special things for the inmate, but the taxpayers don't really give us permission to donate to charity." The limit for a last meal at Riverbend is $20.

Later that day, homeless shelters across Nashville had received a windfall of pizza. Donna Spangler, a 55-year-old woman, had called some friends and bought $1,200 worth of pizza and they deilvered them to the Nashville Rescue Mission. People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) had stepped up to the plate and ordered 15 pies to be delivered to the Rescue Mission. The first 17 pies to come to the Oasis Center in Nashville were donated by a radio station in Minnesota.

Philip Workman's case is a nauseating travesty of justice. I am disgusted and far angrier than I've been in a very long time. While Philip Workman was incarcerated for over 26 years, justice was NOT served. One of the eyewitnesses later admitted to perjury having never been anywhere near the scene of the crime. The Medical Examiners have backgrounds peppered with incompetence, unethical professional behavior, and even indictments of illegal possession of a bomb and lying to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco , & Firearms. You couldn't make up shit like this if you tried.

In spite of it all and knowing full well what was going to happen to him, Philip Workman's last act was one of humble generosity. While he more than paid for his crime, his life will have the impact of helping out far more than he could have wished for.   While I am saddened by the way our legal system has callously failed him, I am overjoyed that so many random people would want to honor his last wish.

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