For thirteen years, I represented a group of men and women on North Carolina’s death row – all of whom I first met between 1993 and 1995. Over the thirteen years, I had six clients die. The first died in January 1997 of “natural causes.” His death was, strangely, a victory for us both. The other five were executed, with the last being killed in 2005. I witnessed all but one of these executions. For the fifth, I buried him.
Lawyers are our clients’ storytellers. All the while, often unnoticeably, our clients become the shapers of our story and, often, the revealers of our character. My story is intertwined with my clients’ stories in a way that I could have never imagined when I entered the work. Thus, as I record my clients’ stories so that history will not forget, I also record the story of a little girl from the poor side of the tracks of Rome, Georgia who became an advocate for society’s most despised during one of the darkest times of criminal justice in North Carolina.
All our journeys are shaped by those who join us along the way – for ever how short a time. I am keenly aware of the many people who have left a patch — or more — on my life imagined as a quilt. I am thankful for these people, but realize that not all of them joined my journey voluntarily. Ultimately, the truth I tell can only be my truth, from my perspective. I am open, though, to contributions from others whose journeys have crossed mine.