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Fund for Life - NEWS & NOTES III

Spring 1996


Greetings Friends & Supporters

This is the premiere issue of the Fund for Life News & Notes. Its been a long time coming, but we have finally been able to get everything done and present you with our first issue. We have yet to determine how often we will publish the newsletter.

It is possible that many urgent and important things will be taking place in the coming months, so we will at least send out periodic updates. We would certainly appreciate any comments or suggestions that you may have for future issues. We would also be happy to receive any short articles for inclusion in future issues.


THE FOUNDING OF THE FUND FOR LIFE

The Found for Life (FFL), was the brainchild of Beatrice Strobel. Being the Co-Founder of the pen pal organization "Lifespark" of Switzerland, she has always lent her time and energy to the fight for human rights.

Beatrice and I met while I was serving on the Board of Directors of the Lamp of Hope Project and acting as a coordinator for their pen pal program. A mutual friendship formed and during her first visit here in 1993, the idea of founding the Found for Life and supporting me in my efforts to stay alive and to be a free human being became concrete.

Accordingly, the Fund for Life Switzerland was founded with Beatrice and the help of three of her friends on February 16, 1994. It is recognized as a charity organization in accordance with the Swiss Civil Code. Only the Switzerland location is officially recognized. The Forth Worth location is only used as a clearinghouse to receive mail, craft orders and donations.


AN OPEN LETTER FROM A SUPPORTER

James V. Allridge III, became my pen pal when he answered an ad for people who had dreams of God. His first letter explained his Death Row status, and his sensitivity caused him to offer me an "out" in case he wasn't the type of person with whom I wanted to correspond. His honesty and sensitivity were major factors in my deciding to continue.

Since that time we have had a rich relationship that made me realize that he is a remarkable young man who deserves a second chance. I have no way of judging his guilt or innocence regarding his sentence, but I am convinced that he is sorry for his past actions and would like to make amends by becoming a productive member of society, even if it involves long term incarceration rather than immediate freedom. I not only admire his art and his writing, but his positive attitude and wonderful spirit.

Folks, here is a young man who knows he went astray, who not only wants to pay his debt to society, but wants to enrich it with a productive life that can serve as an example to other prison inmates. I am not soft on crime, but I sincerely believe James truly deserves a second chance. I am a retired, 76 year old aerospace engineer who helped put men on the moon. Working together, perhaps we can make "one small" step for James, and "one giant leap for mankind!"

L. Macon Epps, Dover, N.H.


OVERVIEW OF CASE

On March 25, 1985, I was arrested for the robbery/slaying of a Circle K convenience store clerk. I was convicted and sentenced to death in Criminal District Court No. 4 of Tarrant County, Texas, on March 10, 1987. My judgement of conviction were confirmed on November 13, 1991.

I was intially represented in state habeas corpus proceedings by David L. Richards of Fort Worth, Texas. On November 14, 1994, Mr. Richards field a Petition for Post Conviction Writ of Habeas Corpus on November 28, 1994. After becoming justice-elect to the Second Court of Appeals, Mr. Richards filed a Motion to Substitute Counsel on December 12, 1994. The same day, the court allowed Mr. Richards to withdraw and appointed Mike Ware as counsel of record. However, due to a conflict of interest, Mr. Ware was unable to act as my attorney, and on December 15, 1994, the court issued an Order appointing Robert Ford to represent me.

On February 6, 1995, Mr. Ford filed a Second Amended Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus on my behalf. The Court of Criminal Appeals denied the writ on September 13, 1995. On September 21, 1995, the trial court set my execution date for November 13, 1995.

Mr. Ford stated that he would be unable to represent me on the federal habeas corpus and withdrew for the case which left me without attorney representation. I filed a Motion for Appointment of Counsel and for a Stay of Execution on October 24, 1995.

The court granted a Stay of Execution on November 8, 1995, and reappointed Robert Ford (against his wishes) to represent me on federal habeas corpus on November 9, 1995.

On December 1, 1995, Mr. Steven Losch was hired to review the trial record to see what grounds, if any, could be pursued on the federal habeas corpus.

I spoke to Mr. Losch in the early part of January, after his review of the case and he wasn't too optimistic about his findings. After all the legal jargon was said and done, the bottom line (in Mr. Losch's opinion) is that the two previous attorneys failed to do some very important things when they filed the State habeas corpus. As a result, its possible, but not probably, that we will be able to prevail in Federal Court.

The issue of the Jehovah's Witnesses is a good issue. However, Mr. Losch explained that the previous attorneys failed to allege in the state petition that the research was available at the time of the trial. Had they alleged this in their petitions, then we could have proved an ineffective assistance of counsel claim because my trial lawyers didn't present this at trial.

The issue of my involvement in the Jehovah's Witnesses will still be raised in the federal writ that has to be filed by March 15th. We will be seeking a formal hearing on the issue. It is possible that relief can be granted if the judge issues a Certificate of Probable Cause. There are also other errors that were found in the record, but it is believed that they might have less merit than the Jehovah's Witnesses issue.

Of course, Mr. Losch's services aren't free. Intially, he charged $6,000.00 to read over the entire case transcript in order to make the above determination. This fee was paid by the FFL Switzerland. He is charging a fee of $10-20,000, with a minimum of $10,000 down, with a cap on the latter to remain on the case.

Through the generous contributions of friends and supporters, the majority of this money has already been raised.


WHERE WE'VE BEEN ...
WHERE WE'RE HEADING ....


Since the FFL was founded, there have been numerous actions to gain support and to help save my life. We have had a perpetual petition drive since 1994. To date, we have over 2,500 signatures, asking that my sentence be commuted to life.

Our goal is to collect at least 10,000 signatures. We have collected signatures from the United States, Norway, Finland, England, Denmark, Luxenbourg, Belgium, Italy, France and Switzerland. We have just gained new supporters in Canada with the help of Bob Gaucher. I would like to thank all of you who sent for your copies of the Journal for Prisoners on Prison which included my art on the cover and articles inside. If any of our readers would like to help in circulating petitions, contact me or Beatrice to obtain the forms.

What actions that will have to be taken from this point onward will be determined by whether or not we prevail at the hearing. I will need everyone's help and creativity in finding additional support. There are several things that can be done:

* Share or make copies of this newsletter to pass along to those who might be interested;

* Organize a fundraiser (this should be coordinated with Beatrice). Beatrice, Fritz and Andreas Schneider have an art exhibit/auction planned for April.

* Help organize a Support Group in your area and get churches and the public involved. Our Canada Support Group is planning an Anti-Death-Penalty Evening, where they will get public figures to speak out against the death penalty.

I will be launching my new line of all occasion greeting cards very soon. These cards will be made of handmade Japanese papers with metallic accents, available in assorted colors and designs. A catalog will be completed soon. We will also be selling the Notelets again, using some of the old, as well as some new designs.


DEADLY EXECUTIONER by Ronald K. Allridge is the title poem of my forthcoming book. The book is dedicated to the numerous men that have been executed by the State of Texas since the reinstatement of the death penalty here in the United States. You are also given a personal glimpse into my thoughts and some of the friendships that I've formed during my incarceration on Death Row.

The book is a collection of poetry and prose and features contributions of poetry by Patrick Rogers-El, writer of A People's Poet; Ted C. Cole, the 1991 Golden Poet Award winner for "Silence" (included in the book), and Ronald Allridge, writer of A View of Love.

If you would like to know more about the Fund for Life or would like to become a member of this support group, please contact one of the addresses listened here. If you care to send donations to help in our efforts, they can also be sent directly to one of the addresses listened there. If to the address in the States, make checks or money orders payable to: James V. Allridge. If to the Switzerland location, make payable to: Fund for Life.

For accounting purposes, please specify if your donation is for the lawyer's fund, the FFL or for payment of craft purchases.

If you wish to transfer money directly to the FFL's account, go to any bank where you have an account and give them the order to send the amount you want to pay on our account. The following information will be needed:

MIGROBANK, Guterstrasse 180
4053 Basel Switzerland
BC Number 8413
SIC Number 084139
Fund for Life Number (Sparkonto) 2.159.613/01



I would like to close by thanking everyone who contributed so gernerously to enable me to hire Mr. Losch to continue my appeal. He assures us that he will do all that is humanly possible to get some positive results on the case. Again, the most determining factor will be the hearing. We will have to push for the hearing.

On a personal note. With all that's been going on in the past few weeks, I haven't been paying that special attention to some of my close friends like I normally try to do. I would like to wish a HAPPY BELATED BIRTHDAY to: Missy, Margery, Macon, Andreas, Eric, Jonathan and Cornelia.

I sincerly and wholeheartedly thank everyone who has even had a small part in helping to save my life. It is only through all our combined efforts that we have reached this point. Thanks for caring.

Until next time ...

Spring 1996