According to George White, guest speaker for the Montana Abolition Coalition, “We’re just trying to bring good from the bad. Education is the goal.” White, of Enterprise, Alabama, will be visiting Rocky Mountain College on February 1, one speaking date of many across the state of Montana, to “raise awareness and get people thinking” about the Death Penalty. This event will be held in RMC’s Fortin Auditorium at 7pm.
White’s wife, Charlene, was murdered during a robbery at the business in which they both worked in Enterprise, Alabama. White was shot three times and taken to the hospital, and Charlene died upon being shot twice. After an investigation, White was indicted and charged with the murder of his wife.
White’s method of education is to provide his life experience for consideration by his audience. White, after a two week trial by an Alabama court, was convicted of murder in 1985 and sentenced to life in prison. “A life sentence was simply me dying day by day,” White said.
However, this conviction was overturned upon the first appeal by a unanimous court decision on the ruling of an unfair trial. The court declared White remanded for pursuit, and continued to carry the label “accused murderer” for three years as his trial continued to be delayed against all requests by his court-appointed lawyer.
In March of 1992, the Alabama Supreme Court ordered a lower court to grant White his right to a speedy trial within 30 days. Although, as the trial date approached, previously unavailable witnesses and evidence were brought to light including an eye-witness who had reported and described a man leaving the crime on the night of the shooting who matched the description White had given.
Upon talking with the District Attorney, a request for dismissal was drafted and a judged ordered the charges be dismissed with prejudice on April 8, 1992, there-by acquitting White and saving him from further pursuit. “What had started with a bang, ended with a whimper,” White said to describe the finality of his experience.
White said that prior to his court battles he had given little thought to the Death Penalty or where he stood on the matter. However, after his own experience, for many years he wanted to believe the Death Penalty was one way to serve justice. “Before that night (the robbery) I didn’t know what hate was. I thought I did. I wanted the man who killed my wife found and dead.”
By 1993 White had rethought his new-found stance on the Death Penalty and began to speak publicly on his encounters with hopes to educate his fellow citizens to take a stance on the matter. White is firmly against the Death Penalty, however recognizes the need for each person to decide on the matter for themselves.
Kristi Foster, Chaplain for Rocky Mountain College, is working with the Montana Association of Churches, one of four groups which make-up the Montana Abolition Coalition, is working to bring White to the students.
Foster says she is “most looking forward to providing students with the opportunity to ask questions and enrich whatever position they currently have on the Death Penalty. No matter what our convictions, I believe it is difficult for us to truly understand an issue if we have not examined it from the perspective of a person who has experienced the impact of policy.”
The public is invited to this event and encouraged to ask questions. Refreshments will be provided.
For more information on the Montana Abolition Coalition’s efforts, visit mtabolitionco.org. Other organizations involved included Montana Association of Churches, American Civil Liberties Union of Montana, Murder Victims’ Families for Reconciliation, and Montana Catholic Conference.
For further information on or questions about this event, contact Kristi Foster at firstname.lastname@example.org.