Diocesan works to save life

on Florida`s Death row

 

Springfield

 

In 1978, Paul William Scott moved from California to Florida hoping to escape from a past that included sexual abuse when he was a child. Scott fell in with the wrong crowd and befriended Richard Kondian, an 18 year old drug addict.

In an effort to get drugs, Kondian asked Scott to accompany him to James Alessi`s home, a prominent florist in West Palm Beach who reportedly exchanged drugs for sexual favours from young men.

Alessi allegedly gave Scott and Kondian laced marijuana, which made Scott dizzy, and forced him to lie down in another room. In the meantime, a scuffle ensued between Alessi and Kondian, and Scott was awakened and became involved by throwing a vase at Alessi to get him away from Kondian. Frightened by the escalating violence, Scott claims that he ran from the apartment to a hotel several miles away.

Scott`s defense states Kondian also went to the hotel and then returned to Alessi`s apartment with two other men, who have only recently been identified. James Alessi was murdered that night.

According to Scott and his attorneys, it was after Scott had left the apartment. In the original trial, the prosecution claimed that Alessi was killed when hit by the vase. Newer evidence suggests that it was a champagne bottle that killed him, and according to Scott, wielded by Kondian when he returned to the apartment.

Kondian struck a plea-bargain with the prosecution and served a 15 year sentence gaining release in 1995. Paul William Scott received a death sentence and has been living on death row since his conviction.

Scott`s case has received quite a bit of attention from several different directions. A song titled " A Prisoners Lament" was written by Robert Pauley and performed by country singer Susan Stryker to raise nearly 100000 for Scott`s defense fund between 1979 and 1980.

Pauley has worked to free Scott since the original trial. He has been joined by several people, including Sissel Egeland, A Norwegian specialist in treatment and rehabilitation programs for serious criminals, who has been working for international involvement in the case, and Martin McClain, A Capital Collateral Representative ( CCR) attorney in Florida who has represented Scott until recently.

Sr. Helen Prejean, active opponent of capital punishment and author of " Dead man walking", has also lent her support. Recently Sr. Prejean wrote a letter stating her belief that not only should Scott`s life be spared, but her conviction of his innocence.

"I believe he`ll be executed by the state of Florida this year unless there is such a public outcry on his behalf that state officials will have to halt the execution and grant him justice" wrote Sr. Prejean.

Interest in saving Scott`s life has also reached the Springfield-Cape Girardeau Diocese, Tim Noonan, a member of Immaculate Conception Parish, Springfield, is also working tirelessly to save the life of Paul William Scott.

Noonan has been spending his summer break from Notre Dame University interning at Strong Law Firm, and spending at least two hours every evening in front of his computer corresponding with others via email to help Scott.

Noonan first learned of the case in a very roundabout way. During his freshman year at Notre Dame, where he is working on a degree in Government and International Studies, a friend signed him up as being interested in Amnesty International.

After attending a couple of meetings, Noonan determined that with time constraints and other activities it would be difficult to get motivated with Amnesty`s cause. However that did not remove him from frequent phonecalls, mailing lists, and bulk e-mails.

Normally deleting most of his e-mails unread, one message happened to catch Noonan`s eye in early April. It was from Professor Joe Incandela at St. Mary College, located near Notre Dame.

He mentioned Scott as well as one of his classes that had been studying social justice issues. During that time one student had become aware of Scott`s case and Incandela became alarmed at some of the details.

The e-mail was sent to several different lists asking for people to help in any way possible.

Noonan replied immediately citing his ongoing interest in the death penalty. About three years ago I saw " Dead man walking" and read the book, he said.

Before that time I had been proprosecution, inclined to get crime off the street, Noonan continued.

"Dead man walking did not necessarily change my mind. It just really opened up the other side for me. It wasn`t only a right versus wrong issue. For the first time, I recognized it was more than that."

Noonan stated that over the past couple of years, the more he thought about the death penalty, the more he found himself in opposition. Taking the chance to find out more about the case, he requested information from Incandela.

Some of the specifics Noonan received were startling.

For example, the prosecution in the original trial claimed the murder was committed by a left-handed person, and that Scott was the only left-handed person in the room. It was omitted that Kondian is also left handed. It is currently being alleged that the public defender`s office was in collusion with the prosecution.

One of the main concerns that has Noonan and the others involved is that time is running out for Scott.

Having gone through all of his state and federal appeals, a clemency hearing has been set, which indicates that a date of execution has also been decided, although not publicly announced. It is currently being speculated among Scott`s supporters that this execution date could be sometime later this month.

"At this point, the legal appeals are over," Noonan said

Over the past several years, execution dates have been set for Scott four times, and each time new evidences has surfaced, such as Kondian`s willingness to testify that Scott was not present at the time of Alessi`s murder, it alone is enough for a new trial.

The urgency of the group working to save Scott is well-founded since in November there will be a governatorial election, and the death penalty has always been a hot topic in Florida`s elections.

Since 1976, Florida`s execution rate is third in the country, accounting for 43. With four of the 39 executions nationwide so far this year happening in Florida another round before November is anticipated by many.

Political motivation is a point Sr. Prejean agrees with in the letter she recently wrote. " When I first started working with death row inmates back in 1982, I presumed everyone on death row was guilty. Now, 16 years later, I know that politics drives the death penalty and that innocent people occupy death row cells along with the guilty."

It isn`t just Scott`s case that motivates Noonan, but to better learn how the system works and opposition to the death penalty as a whole. Although he has never met Scott personally, he has exchanged a couple of letters with him.

" I don`t write him often. My purpose is not to keep him company while he is there." Noonan said.

"It is to remove him from that place"

 

Text and photo by Melissa Gray

"The Mirror"

September 4 1998