Part of convincing the Governor to grant clemency is building public support. We kicked off the public campaign on November 20 at the Broken Eagle Eatery in Kinston, North Carolina, where Rose worked. Over thirty of Ernest’s family members and friends greeted John and I. We asked for their help to get the word out about the injustices in Ernest’s case, to write letters to the Governor in support of clemency, and to get others to do the same.
Rose and her daughter Sonya were Ernest’s best spokespeople. Rose could tell the story of the injustices in Ernest’s case like no one else. Though she had no public speaking experience, Rose agreed to embark on a speaking tour of Eastern North Carolina.
Rose never declined an opportunity to talk about Ernest’s case. At each stop, she would rise, introduce herself, and begin the heart-wrenching story of her brother’s case, pushing through the tears streaming down her face. Her audience was always spellbound.
Sonya, who looked considerably younger than her eighteen years, would comfort her mother and provide the much needed tissues. She would then stand and speak. Sonya was amazingly poised as she described her friendship with her uncle and why she thought he should not be executed. She had visited her uncle since she was ten-years-old and only knew him as a death row inmate. Sonya told one reporter, “‘He’s the best uncle in the world,’ . . . recalling the way they tease each other because she is a Duke sports fan and Ernest roots for UNC. ‘I believe in him so much. He’s just a good man.’”
The letters poured into the governor’s office in support of clemency for Ernest.