It’s kind of like a dirty secret no one wants to spread: We’re making money off illegal immigrants.
I’ve heard it from reverends, lawmakers, attorneys and colleagues. “Just follow the money, Vallery.”
So I did.
I’m sure it’s upsetting to some. And the irony isn’t lost to the intelligent ones–We are making money off people many want out of here as quickly as possible.
The rate? About $54 a day (if they’re locked up on immigration-related charges) and $19 an hour for driving them to and from jails, according to county sheriff’s department officials. It results in millions in revenues for many counties in the state.
But at its purest form, this story was just way for me to shine a mirror on ourselves.
It’s a little more complicated, perhaps, than we’d like to think.
On Thursday baseball star Cal McLish, 84, died. McLish pitched 15 seasons in the majors and coached many more. And than as a scout and instructor, likely gave many players a start in their careers.
And while he probably never knew, McLish was my first journalistic interview. It was back in sixth or seventh grade and we probably had some type of assignment to interview somebody noteworthy. I believe it was for English class, but those details are vague in my mind.
What I do remember is thinking how much I didn’t want to interview somebody. That was until my dad suggested McLish. My dad, and also my little league baseball coach, knew I was baseball crazy. And he knew McLish from the golf course.
I don’t remember everything McLish told me during that interview, but I do remember how he made a wide-eyed, baseball-crazy boy feel at ease.
I remember what he told me when I asked him how he pitched Ted Williams: “Throw him low fastballs and hope he just got a single.”
I remember thinking how hard it was going to be to spell his whole name, Calvin Coolidge Julius Caesar Tuskahoma McLish.
I remember him telling me how he pitched in an all-star game and retired Hank Aaron, Willie Mays and Ernie Banks, among others.
I remember making an “A” on the report.
And I remember what a nice man he was. I’m pretty sure I left with his autograph that day.
I probably would have gotten into journalism even if I hadn’t interviewed McLish all those years ago.
But what I do know is that when I’m getting ready to do a difficult interview, I often flashback to that first one. And for a moment I smile.
So, thanks Mr. McLish for making a young boy an experience he never forgot.
On Tuesday I attended the “Stand for the Silent” anti-bullying vigil at the state Capitol. I was doing so as part journalist/part father.
I’ve covered this story for more than four months, since I first wrote about the May 13 death of 11-year-old Ty Field. Ty reportedly committed suicide after being bullied at his school in Perkins.
So even though I had no plans to write about the event, I felt a strong enough connection to want to attend and see what was going to happen. I figured I could shot some video and probably blog about the event later.
When I told my wife about my plans to attend, she was quick to want to go and take our 10-year-old daughter. I don’t usually take my family along when I’m doing work. In this case, I felt it was OK to make an exception. My wife truly wanted to show her support for the anti-bullying effort and thought it could be a learning experience for our daughter. I couldn’t argue.
When we arrived I was happy to see about 500 people at the vigil. It’s been amazing to see how this group of high school students have grown this “Stand for the Silent” movement. For anybody that questions the youth of today, they should take a hard look at the passion this group has shown in fighting for this cause.
Similar anti-bullying vigils were conducted Tuesday in at least 21 states and six foreign countries after students involved in the program promoted it over Facebook, organizers said. The idea of “Stand for the Silent” was formed earlier this summer during an Upward Bound summer session at Oklahoma State University-Oklahoma City, a college preparation program for first-generation college-bound students. The 60 students in the program were inspired after hearing of Ty’s story.
At the vigil, Ty’s dad, Kirk Smalley said he was going to take a step back and work on healing along with his wife, Laura. Mr. Smalley said he always considered himself a private person and wants to retreat somewhat and take some time to be with family. Mr. Smalley said he is confident that the Upward Bound students have a good handle on spreading the word. Mr. Smalley’s courage in fighting for reform in schools and spreading the anti-bullying word is certainly amazing. He and his family have certainly earned a break.
And to judge by the turnout on Tuesday and the students who have helped grow “Stand for the Silent,” I certainly think the movement Mr. Smalley has spurred forward by telling the heart-wrenching story of Ty’s death is left in good hands.
Update: On Tuesday, Aug. 17, a federal judge granted a third stay of execution for Jeffrey Matthews. This time the stay was based on a substitute sedative being used in Oklahoma’s lethal injection method.
A hearing has been set for Oct. 15 and a new execution date, if one is allowed, will be determined after that hearing.
In Thursday’s (Aug. 12) Oklahoman, I had an article on a clemency request of death-row inmate Jeffrey David Matthews, who is set for lethal injection on Tuesday. Since then the request for an unprecedented second clemency hearing has been denied. The state Attorney General’s Office laid out their argument against such a hearing in a letter to the pardon and parole board.
I first wrote about Matthews’ case in July with the article “Los Angeles actress, model fights for Oklahoma death row inmate’s freedom.” That article has links to many videos and documents that can give you background on the case, as well as a link to Victoria Redstall’s website. I have not been in touch with Redstall since that article.
But, I have received numerous inquiries from national media outlets about the case. I’ve been happy to help other journalist cover this story. I’m a firm believer that an execution must be covered. It’s the highest form of punishment the law allows and should receive the media’s full attention.
An unexpected response to that first article came from the condemned man himself. In a letter, “response to article by Michael Baker of Oklahoman,” sent to both The Oklahoman and The Tulsa World, Matthews compares himself to the tag line for the movie “Absence of Malice,” “Supposed you picked up this morning’s newspaper and your life was a front page headline… And everything they said was accurate… But none of it was true.”
I guess this comparison would make me Sally Field. Hmmm… Maybe we shouldn’t take the comparison too far.
If you read his letter, linked to above, you should make sure you also read the AG’s letter to the pardon and parole board and a letter the prosecutors sent to the Gov. Brad Henry. And remember the the two victims, Otis Short and his wife, Minnie, whose throat was slashed during the robbery and was forced to lay motionless next to her dead husband as her home was robbed.
I think as citizens, and certainly as a journalist, it’s important to know as much as possible about a case before the state’s harshest punishment is carried out.