[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----GA., NEB.
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Fri Nov 7 23:51:28 CST 2008
'Lesson' worth learning----Death-penalty drama set in Jim Crow era remains
THEATER REVIEW: "A Lesson Before Dying"
7:30 p.m. Wednesdays-Saturdays; 2:30 p.m. Sundays; 2 p.m. Saturday and
Nov. 22. Through Nov. 23. $30. Theatrical Outfit, Balzer Theater at
Herrens. 84 Luckie St. N.W., Atlanta. 678-528-1500, theatricaloutfit.org.
In Ernest J. Gaines' 1993 novel "A Lesson Before Dying" a young black man
named Jefferson is falsely accused of killing a white merchant. When his
defense attorney calls him a "hog," Jefferson is rendered sub-human and
condemned to a deeper kind of psychological purgatory.
Jefferson shuns a maternal visitor's baskets of fried chicken and tea
cakes, getting down on the floor to gnash at the food and grunt like a
pig. But over the course of the story, he achieves spiritual
rehabilitation and rebirth, thanks to the ministering of a schoolteacher
and preacher recruited by his aunt.
Jefferson's journey - his capacity to love and forgive in the face of
brutality - is on display in a strong production of Romulus Linney's
adaptation at Theatrical Outfit. Delicately directed by Jill Jane
Clements, the action moves painfully and methodically toward its
Set in Jim Crow-era Louisiana, "Lesson" recalls such morally complex
material as "To Kill a Mockingbird" and Horton Foote's "The Chase," both
produced recently by the Outfit, the city's major producer of Southern
At first glance, the plodding play can feel a little creaky, preachy and
loaded with stock characters (the bigoted sheriff, the sensitive warden,
the idealistic teacher). But as long as the criminal justice system is
exacting the death penalty (in the state of Georgia, no less) and as long
as America flaunts disparities of color and class, Gaines archetypal tale
remains as ripe for debate as headlines and talk TV.
Here designers Jamie Bullins (sets) and Rob Dillard (lighting) create a
mood of spot-on realism for the parish courthouse, where Jefferson lurches
in from a nearby cell to receive visitors: His godmother, Miss Emma Glenn
(Veronica Redd), never without a picnic basket in hand; the Rev. Moses
Ambrose (Gordon Danniels); and plantation schoolteacher Grant Wiggins
(Johnell J. Easter), who comes with his own set of troubles and conflicts.
Like some directorial angel, Clements takes great care in coaxing
sensitively crafted performances from her company. Miss Emma's nerves are
a source of good comedy. William S. Murphey, solid as always, struts like
a rooster as Sheriff Sam Guidry. Rich Remedios, as the quiet deputy Paul
Bonin, is almost always onstage, and though he says very little, he
provides an aura of calm.
If Easter's Grant Wiggins seems a little flavorless, Eric J. Little's
Jefferson is appropriately sullen - a little broad at first but ultimately
affecting. As Jefferson finds his peace in a twisted, bigoted world, time
hangs. As he becomes a Christlike figure who is kind to children, his
destiny transforms him. On opening night, so many tears flowed that the
show felt like a lesson before crying. A somber, reflective and brutal
story, yes, but one pinned to a crucible of grace and hope.
(source: Atlanta Journal-Constitution)
Judges To Decide Fate Of Child Killer----December 19th set for panel to
ponder penalty for Roy Ellis
The man accused of killing 12-year-old Amber Harris couldn't bring himself
to go to court Friday. Roy Ellis refused to attend a hearing in which a
judge moved forward with scheduling his sentencing.
According to corrections officers, Ellis refused to leave his jail cell
for a court hearing about his competence. Ellis is eligible for the death
penalty after a jury convicted him in April, determining there were
aggravating circumstances to put him to death.
Judge Gregory Schatz set December 19th as the day a 3-judge panel will
convene to look into mitigating circumstances. Schatz, Judge Patrick
Mullen and Judge Michael Coffey will hear the case. They've cleared the
whole day to determine if there's anything that should keep Ellis from the
Judge Schatz said he had no other option than to move forward with the
Ellis criminal background is extensive. He's a habitual criminal, a sexual
predator and a killer. His DNA was on Amber Harris' jeans found along with
her book bag and other personal effects in a trash can close to where she
got off the school bus to head home 3 years ago, but never made it.
Even though Ellis refused to come to court, Amber Harris family wanted to
see him anyway. "To have Ellis see us," said Amber's mother Melissa
Harris. "To know that we haven't forgotten since his sentencing."
Melissa doesn't understand why it's taking so long for 2 psychiatrists on
the defense's behalf to put together reports about Ellis' mental health
"I'm not a doctor, but we've had doctors look at him in prior cases who
didn't find he was mentally retarded, said Douglas County Attorney Don
For the family, it's been a long and troubling road putting Ellis away.
Theyre trying to be patient for the final step. "You never know what's
going to throw a wrench in there," said Melissa.
"Theyre going to do everything they can. Hes not going to get away with
anything. When it comes down to it, he did it and he's going to be
punished for it."
If the doctors reports come back between now and December 19th, another
hearing will be scheduled and that could delay the three-judge panel.
(source: WOWT News)
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