The law professors seem to dislike my book; the poets seem to love it. \(If I had to choose between the poets and professors, give me the sis of my book was that non-lawyers must seize the national conversation about capital punishment from the lawyers specifically, the lawyer/professors like Dow. In the weeks following publication of reviews by professors like Dow, including Steve Bright of Harvard and Yale, I received two phone calls. The first was from an attorney involved in recruiting and training other attorneys to take on death cases. He asked me whether, now that Steve Bright had spoken, I planned to “fold my tent” and retreat from the position I’d taken in Dead Wrong. I told him, Nope: I’m really not a tent-folding kind of guy. The other phone call was from a lawyer who has been a capital public defender longer than I or Professor Dow has been. He told me that he was calling to thank me for writing Dead Wrong and that I had spoken out loud what he, and many, many other deathworkers have been thinking about in uncomfortable silence. Unlike Professor Dow, this public defender understood that reasonable people can disagree about these intractable issues of conscience. But that has always been the difference between lawyers like Dow and I. He believes only an idiot could support capital punishment; I believe reasonable minds can support death as a punishment. Dow believes any abolitionist defense lawyer whose conscience leads him to become a conscientious objector in the deathwars must be a traitor or a fool. I don’t. For Professor Dow, all of these issues are easy and simple. For me, nothing about capital punishment is easy or simple. Michael Mello Vermont Law School, South Royalton Michael Mello is a professor of law at Vermont Law School, and the author of Dead Wrong and Against the Death Penalty: the Relentless Dissents of Justices Brennan and Marshall numerous death-row prisoners in Florida, Georgia, and Texas, for many years. LAS AMERICAS The Battle Crosses the Border BY RICHARD BOREN Last March well over a thousand people about half of them students, marched up the main street of Ciudad Judrez to one of the international bridges that connects the city to El Paso. Carrying hundreds of white balloons and huge banners, the marchers were protesting Texas’ plan to build a nuclear waste dump in the town of Sierra Blanca, ninety miles away Just a couple of weeks later, an estimated 3,000 school children from the ‘ Juarez Valley, a rural area east of Juarez, blocked an international bridge for twenty minutes. The demonstration against the dump was the largest yet on either side of the border. The struggle over the state’s efforts to site a nuclear waste dump in Sierra Blanca is now entering the home stretch a final decision could come this summer. In the U.S. press, the predictable battle lines have been drawn between the twenty politically weak Texas counties which openly oppose the dump, and the politically powerful combination of the Legislature and the Governor, and their Washington allies. However, in the last few months, Mexican opposition to the Sierra Blanca nuclear dump has grown, putting this tiny West Texas town at the center of now an international controversy. Mexicans have long been sensitive to the siting of toxic waste dumps near their border. Two South Texas dumps, both within twenty miles of the Rio Grande \(the Sierra Blanca scrapped several years ago in large part due to opposition from the Mexican people and government officials. The former mayor of the Mexican border town of Ciudad Aculia, Dr. Emilio de Hoyos, was instrumental in mobilizing opposition to those dumps. This culminated in a bridge blockade, in which the Mexicans were joined by officials and citizens of Del Rio, Texas. After those victories, de Hoyos became one of the leaders in the Sierra Blanca fight. Two years ago he organized a caravan of 500 elementary and middle school students, who rode to Austin to protest the dump. De Hoyos later requested legal standing as a party to the controversy, in the formal hearings conducted by the State Office of Administrative Hearings. The S.O.A.H. judges refused de Hoyos, as well as the legislatures of the Mexican border states of Coahuila and Chihuahua. Only representatives of Ciudad Juarez and Greenpeace-Mexico were granted standing in the hearings. Greenpeace-Mexico which the judges admitted only because one of its members owns land near Sierra Blanca has been a constant thorn in the side of the U.S. embassy in Mexico City. Through its frequent anti-dump protests in front of the embassy, the group has made the dump proposal well-known in Mexico. Jose Luis Rodriguez, a member of both the Juarez City Council and the Mexican Green Ecologist Party, has been one of the most active Mexican politicians in the fight against the dump. On April 16, Rodriguez began a twenty-four day hunger strike to JUNE 19, 1998 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 23
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