Note: "Although SPR is not explicitly mentioned in this article from
The Advocate, SPR is a co-plaintiff (along with CCADP and Citizens
United for Alternatives for the Death Penalty) in the Arizona lawsuit
mentioned in the text."
Brett Barrouquere, Inmates on Death Row Share Their Stories Via the Internet, The Advocate, August 20, 2002.
Like many single men, John Francis Wille is out on the Internet, looking
to make a connection.
Wille acknowledges his place on Louisiana's death row in his Web posting
and says he likes camping, sports, collecting postcards and listening to
various types of music.
"I enjoy learning about people & their cultures. I love to travel, but
have not gotten a chance to do that in a long time," Wille wrote in his
What the description omits is that Wille doesn't have a computer and why
he's on death row -- for the 1985 rape and murder of 8-year-old Nichole
Lopatta in LaPlace.
Wille's page is one of five by death-row inmates at Louisiana State
Penitentiary at Angola and many around the country on a Web site sponsored
by a Canadian anti-death penalty group.
The group, Canadian Coalition Against the Death Penalty, posts Web pages
for inmates, using writings, pleas for pen pals, photos, court records and
even artwork mailed to them by the incarcerated.
"They are sentenced to death, not to silence," said Tracy Lamourie, one of
the directors of CCADP.
But the way Lamourie is allowing the inmates to speak out rankles some
"I think they are just misguided individuals," said East Baton Rouge
Assistant District Attorney John Sinquefield, who has prosecuted death
Sinquefield said the people running the Web site aren't related to the
victims of "the people slaughtered by some of the worst, most heinous
"These are people … who are intervening in something that's not really
their business," Sinquefield said. "I think they should stay in Canada.
I'm sure there's plenty of criminals up there to keep them busy."
The Internet site (http://www.ccadp.org) features access to Death Row
inmate Web pages from around the country.
Some inmates ask for pen pals, others write about prison life. Few make
direct reference to what they were convicted of, unless, like Elzie Ball,
it is to plead their innocence or accuse police and prosecutors of
Ball was convicted of killing Ben Scorsone Jr., 44, who tried to stop the
armed robbery of a bar in Gretna in May 1996.
On his Web page, Ball, on Death Row since August 1997, pleads for help in
overturning his conviction and claims he was set up by deputies in
"I have been falsely accused, tried and convicted for a crime I did not
commit," Ball wrote. "I am a living witness, there are innocent people on
the death rows of America."
Lamourie also posts photos of executions and memorial pages to people
executed by various states, including Feltus Taylor of Baton Rouge, who
was executed in June 2000 for the 1991 murder of Donna Ponsano during a
robbery at a Baton Rouge fast-food restaurant.
The idea, Lamourie said, is to give a voice to a section of society that
is often written off by the public and to remember those who were
"It isn't glorifying anyone to allow them a voice before they are executed
-- to allow them to send us reports of abuses going on in the prison,
legal issues in their cases, even writings and poetry detailing life in a
cage waiting to be killed," Lamourie said.
Family members and friends pass along the opportunity to go online to
interested inmates, Lamourie said. From there, the inmates or their
supporters can directly mail the materials that they want online, Lamourie
The only restrictions on the Web site are ones set by Lamourie and Dave
Parkinson, who operates the page with her.
The pair say they won't post anything that is "blatantly racist,
misogynistic, homophobic, pornographic or glorifies the crime the person
is accused of committing."
"This has never become an issue," Lamourie said.
It's all legal and doesn't violate rules about contacting inmates, prison
officials here said.
Angola prison has no prohibition on inmates contacting outside groups or
people with letters or photos of themselves, officials said.
That's not the case everywhere. Lamourie's group is locked in a legal
battle with the Arizona Department of Corrections over a law passed
punishing prisoners who take part in Web pages put up by advocacy groups.
But for one anti-death penalty group, the Web site and some of its graphic
images -- including photographs of botched executions -- may not be the
best route to take.
Kathy Gess, co-director of Louisiana CURE (Citizens United for the
Rehabilitation of Errants), said the Web site appears to be a way to raise
awareness about the use of the death penalty in the United States.
Yet Gess said the entries by the Death Row inmates don't reflect the
seriousness of the issue.
"We personally would not use this Web site, but we see it as another
reason to not use executions to solve our social problems," Gess said.
Sandy Krasnoff, executive director of Victims and Citizens Against Crime,
a victims' rights group, said so long as no one is getting hurt by the Web
site, he has no problem with such projects.
He said the Canadian group has the right to post the Web pages.
"We might not like some of the things they do," said Krasnoff, a former
New Orleans Police officer. "But, we have no problem with those people."