Friday, January 9, 2015

A Reminder from Doug Walters

As Shane has entered his 21st year of wrongful incarceration, I think these words from our investigator Doug Walters serve as a powerful reminder of what this case is all about. Doug wrote these words as part of his superb summary of the case back in 2012:

My conclusions about the case of Shane Watson are that this case represents a complete and deliberate miscarriage of justice. This is not a case of a witness misleading the authorities, but of the authorities willingly suborning a witness. The actions, and inaction of the NYPD and the Bronx District Attorney in this case go far beyond negligence, and constitute actual malfeasance. The NYPD and Bronx District Attorney showed an obvious contempt for Shane Watson and his family by fabricating a case against him in order to lock him up for life. They showed a complete disregard for Mark Johnson and his family by treating his murder as merely an occasion for obtaining a false conviction with a base minimum of work. They showed a contempt for the professional standards which are supposed to govern everyone in the criminal justice system. And they showed contempt for the constitution they were sworn to uphold and the society they were supposed to protect by disdaining to make the slightest effort to look for the person who actually committed this brutal murder in the midst of a neighborhood suffering the repeated trauma of senseless violence.

When the sordid and unjust dealings of the guardians of law and order in this case become obvious to us, our response should be to “let justice roll down like waters”, but the American criminal justice system is a calcified institution, often consumed by an obsession with process and procedure to the exclusion of weightier matters like justice and compassion. However obvious the right thing to do might seem, we still have a long and difficult road with many institutional obstacles to overcome before any of the victims in the Shane Watson case can be made whole.


As a postscript, I am happy to say that my involvement in this case has been a blessing and an inspiration to me, and what I take to be a revelation of God’s grace in Shane Watson’s life. While imprisonment has certainly had a corrupting and degrading effect on many lives, Shane Watson has truly been turned into another man. He has an unblemished disciplinary record in prison and has been on the “honor block” at Green Haven for many years. He got his G.E.D. in prison (by the wisdom of politicians, college programs in New York State prisons were discontinued many years ago) and has worked in the upholstery shop with an excellent record. He was baptized in 1996 and attends church services regularly. He is a faithful student with a better knowledge of the Bible than almost anyone I have ever met outside of an academic setting. Shane is devoted to his wife Paula and to his two small children, Diana and Zion. In the midst of terrible circumstances I have never heard him utter a word of bitterness against anyone, and he leads a life of quiet witness to his faith. Truly can Shane Watson say to his persecutors, as Joseph said to his brothers, “As for you, you meant it against me for evil, but God meant it for good.”

Douglas Walters

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