Thanks to the efforts of three ND/SMC students, death row
Inmate Paul Scott is
Condemned, but not forgotten
By COLLEEN McCARTHY
Assistent news editor
Paul Scott sits in a bleak cell on death row in Florida, far away from the noicy football stadium at Notre Dame and the scenic green campus of Saint Mary`s College.
Yet Scott has strong connections on both campuses.
While sophomore Tim Noonan studies the case`s legal aspects - the details, the appeals, the agony of waiting - Candice Janiczek and Greta Zandstra of Saint Mary`s kept Scott connected to the outside world through frequent letters to the death row inmate.
Though they each relate to Scott in their own way, the experience of writing to a prisoner on death row helped each develop a unique relationship with the man.
He calls us " his angels", Janiczek said. "And I`m somewhat in denial about the fact that he will be gone."
Scott was convicted of first degree murder in 1979 and sentenced to death. According to the case files, Scott and a friend went over to a man`s house on the night of the alleged murder. When the man - a homosexual - began coming on to Scott`s friend, the latter allegedly hit the man over the head with a champagne bottle, and left him lying on the ground, passed out.
After Scott and his friend left, two other men supposedly attempted to rob the same person and those close to Scott`s case believe the robbers killed the man that Scott and his friend left unconscious.
The case drew the attention of Sister Helen Prejean, whose work to free death row inmates was documented in the movie " Dead man walking"
Prejean wrote a letter in June expressing her belief in Scott`s innocence.
" I believe he is innocent and will be executed by the state of Florida unless there is such a public outcry on his behalf that state officials will have to halt the execution and grant him justice." Prejean wrote.
Noonan became interested in Scott`s case after he received an email message in the spring about the case from Saint Mary`s professor Joe Incandela, who asked for people to help with the case in any way possible.
Noonan began devoting time to the case at the end of the school year and continues to put in at least two hours per night. He also devoted this summer to distributing information about Scott`s case to the media.
"It`s just one of those cases that strikes you and motivates you to do something about it," Noonan said.
Working from his home in Missouri this summer, Noonan communicated with Scott via letters and kept in close contact with others working on Scott`s case.
Noonan mailed between 75 and 100 letters to television news magazines, print magazines and newspapers, including journalists and media organizations in four or five different countries.
"I`d get the reply that they agreed the case needed to be looked into. But many times they probably just put a letter in a file cabinet with everyone else`s," Noonan said.
He did get a reply from the Jim Lehrer News Hour, a news program on PBS, but in light of the presidential scandal, Noonan said, the producer responded they would not do a program on Scott`s case at this point of time.
However a large television show in London is doing a show on the Scott case this fall, Noonan said.
Noonan admits that the end is near for Scott. In 15 years in Florida, no death row inmates have had their death warrants overturned by the Governor.
" Some say Paul could be executed as early as October or as late as January," Noonan said. " All the legal appeals have been exhausted."
Last February Zandstra and Janiczek knew Scott as nothing more than a death row inmate.
Today they consider him a good friend.
Both women were students in Incandela`s Catholic Social Though class last spring. The class examined the death penalty - among other issues - and included a project with the option of writing to a death row inmate.
"I did not know that much about capital punishment, so I thought it would be interesting to do that project." said Janiczek, a junior.
"I looked on the Internet and came across a Website that featured a format similar to personal ads with names of death row inmates looking for pen pals.
I chose a name randomly. That`s how it all started."
Little did Janiczek know that what had begun as a project for a class would become a deeply emotional experience.
Since she began corresponding with Scott in February - sometimes writing and receiving letters from him every week - Janiczek estimates she has written him 25 to 30 letters.
But their correspondance almost ended after day one, when Janiczek received her first letter from Scott.
"The first letter I wrote him was just a generic letter, telling him more about myself, where I was from, my interests and where I went to college," she said. When he wrote back, I was really offended. I took what he had written as harsh and rude. He made assumptions about me because I was a student, at a Catholic, private, all-women`s college. He thought I was just "daddy`s little girl."
In that letter Scott wrote to Janiczek and ended the letter writing: "How come I always get the good girls writing to me?"
Janiczek decided to lay down some rules before the correspondance continued.
"I told him that if he wanted to keep corresponding, he had to drop his stereotypes about me if he didn`t want me to stereotype death row inmates," she said.
In their letters Scott`s case is rarely mentioned. Janiczek said the letters focus on everyday things such as how her classes are going or events taking place in other aspects of her life. But even she remained sceptical of Scott`s innocence - until she read the letter Prejean wrote.
It won her over; Janiczek now believes Scott is not guilty.
"I haven`t written a lot concerning his innocence or the case," she said. I try to write about everyday things in the outside world."
Zandstra, a senior who also corresponds with Scott, said they discuss the shared interests, they discovered, such as art and literature. They rarely discuss his case.
And like Janiczek, Zandstra receives and writes letters to Scott frequently.
"A lot of these inmates just want someone to talk to because they don`t see their families or have been abandoned by them." Zandstra said.
Initially Zandstra was leery about corresponding with a death row inmate.
"I was nervous," Zandstra said. "I only gave my first name in the letter and I didn`t give him my own address. I had him send the letters to Professor Incandela."
But now, both women have a close relationship with Scott. Zandstra said that in her letters, she refers to Scott often as her brother, an indication of the closeness of their relationship.
"He calls me his little girl and his sister," Zandstra said.
"I consider him to be a good friend. He`s very protective of me, too."
Zandstra said she has "definitely become emotionally involved with Scott ."
"It`s very sad," Zandstra said. " he wrote to me and said that if he dies, he wants me to call his mother and tell her that he loved her."
Janiczek is experiencing the same feelings.
"It is just heartbreaking," she said. "I consider Paul a friend and I`ll be very sad when he goes. I`ve gotten to know him as a human being and as an individual. I`m now able to look past what he`s done."
Janiczek said in the last letter she received from Scott he seemed "very down and upset." In May, Scott wrote Janiczek a letter in which he suggested that he needed to "retreat" for a period of time.
"He told me that I was too innocent to go through what would lead up to the execution and the execution itself," she said. " I wrote Paul back and told him that he is my friend and I wont give up on him, and he shouldn`t give up on himself."
Working on the case has left Noonan jaded.
"It has to make you cynical about the whole legal process," he said. " I knew it wouldn`t be a trip down a rose garden.
But I knew all along that my goal was that if he was executed that when he was strapped down for his execution that he would know people had tried to save his life"
September 11th 1998