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Surviving Crime Victim Sues Governor, TDCJ for Violation of Rights

For the past few months, Rhais Bhuiyan has been speaking out in opposition to the death penalty for the man who shot him, blinding his right eye and leaving bullet fragments in his face.  Texas death row inmate Mark Stroman faces a July 20 execution date for the racially-motivated killing of Vasudev Patel, an Indian of the Hindu faith who owned a gas station and convenience store in Mesquite.  The murder occurred during a crime rampage by Stroman in the wake of the September 11, 2001 attacks in New York City – a rampage that left two people dead and Bhuiyan severely wounded.

Now Bhuiyan is suing Texas Governor Rick Perry; Brad Livingston, executive director of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ); Angi McCown, director of TDJC victim services division; and Rissie Owens, chairwoman of the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles.  The civil suit alleges that his rights as a victim have been violated.  According to the Dallas Morning News (“Dallas shooting victim sues to stop attacker’s execution,” July 14, 2011):

His three attorneys argue that Bhuiyan’s equal protection rights under the U.S. Constitution were violated when he wasn’t allowed to speak before the sentencing jury in the case tried in Dallas in 2002. There is also a victim-offender mediation process in Texas that should have been used in the case and wasn’t, said his Miami-based attorney, Khurrum Wahid.

Bhuiyan has sought unsucessfully to meet with Mark Stroman. He asserts that the state has not recognized his right as a victim to mediation with the offender.  As reported by KUT:

Bhuiyan said the other families are supporting his request and explained that Stroman wrote letters to the families. But Bhuiyan said there hasn’t been much communication or a path to healing, because officials of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice told them they could not contact each other. …

Lawyers anticipate a hearing on Monday. The Governor’s Office says it has not received the lawsuit and would need a favorable recommendation from the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles to grant clemency.

Here are excerpts from an op-ed by Rais Bhuiyan that appears today in the Austin American-Statesman (“Forgiveness teaches us the value of life,” July 15, 2011):

Mark wrote me a letter from prison. It was full of anguish and regret for his actions and the pain he caused me.

I did not expect to be moved, but I found myself crying. And I thought, perhaps for the 100th time, that the execution of this man would be a terrible and pointless exercise. I want more than anything for him to stay alive, not because I am convinced he is a good person, but because I want him to learn more about the world, more about why his actions were wrong — and to help to teach others these important lessons.

I love the great state of Texas, but it makes me mad that some of the state’s elected and appointed officials want to kill Mark. He shot and tried to kill me, yet I have never wanted him to die. The family members of Mark’s other victims support my personal battle to stop his execution. …

As a victim of a “hate crime,” I had hoped to see a little of that compassion and respect. The Texas Victims’ Bill of Rights says I am entitled to dignity. I have been bitterly disappointed by the legal process, which only causes me more suffering. Nobody told me what was happening at the trial; the prosecutors told the jury, “This man needs to die.” …

I have no recollection whatsoever of ever being asked if I wanted the death penalty; I have never been allowed mediation with Mark, which would help me to understand my ordeal, and recover from it. Instead, the state officials want to kill my attacker. It may buy them votes, but it will only cause me more pain.

Read the full op-ed.

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