Mad Hatter Johnny Depp Interrupts Promotion of Alice to Fight Against Execution and Free the West Memphis 3

Johnny Depp is getting lots of media play due to his upcoming debut as the beloved Mad Hatter in Tim Burton's version of "Alice in Wonderland" next month. 

However, Johnny Depp won't be talking movies this Saturday when he appears on CBS-TV's "48 Hours. "  Instead, he'll be adding the power of his fame to the fight to stop the execution of Damien Echols and to free the West Memphis 3

Good for Johnny Depp. 

There are those, like Depp, who believe the three boys (now men - it's been 17 years) are innocent of the crimes.  There are others that argue it's not a matter of guilt, it's a matter of the system failing to follow proper protocols, and the need to correct improprieties that cannot be ignored. 

The "West Memphis 3" are Damion Echols, Jessie Misskelley, Jr., and Jason Baldwin, who were convicted of murdering three 8-year-old boys in West Memphis, Arkansas, back in 1993.  Only Echols was sentenced to death; Baldwin got life imprisonment and Misskelley was sentenced to life in prison plus 40 years. 

Other celebrities lending their support to the West Memphis 3 campaign include Wynona Ryder and Demi Lovato. 

Can celebrities really impact executions in this country?  Of course they can.

We can all look to the case of Georgia's Troy Davis as an example.   Famous names lending their clout to the Free Troy Davis campaign include The Pope, Desmond Tutu of South Africa, and former President Jimmy Carter. 

Right now, a federal hearing is pending in the Troy Davis case, and there's a big fight between the attorneys on why all the witnesses have recanted.  The state is implying witness tampering, and the defense lawyers have taken to the media, incensed at the implication.  Meanwhile, Davis's execution by the State of Georgia remains stayed by federal order. 

Death Row Inmate Troy Davis' Defense Attorney Tom Dunn Gives Up Law, Starts Teaching Career

Troy Davis is a name you probably recognize because of the international movement to free him as an innocent man, wrongfully convicted and sentenced to death by the State of Georgia. We've posted about Troy Davis here, and support the efforts to free him.

Who is Tom Dunn?

The name Tom Dunn probably isn't one you recognize, however. Tom Dunn is a criminal defense lawyer with over 20 years experience in the defense of capital/death penalty cases -- and Mr. Dunn acted as defense counsel for Troy Davis.

As the head of the Georgia Resource Center, Tom Dunn worked tirelessly as the nonprofit group sought justice for Troy Davis and many others. Now, Tom Dunn has apparently had enough.

Tom Dunn isn't going to be a lawyer anymore.

Beginning this year, Mr. Dunn is a middle school teacher. Specifically, he's teaching students at Martin Luther King Jr. Middle School -- an Atlanta school within walking distance from his old law firm, and where 97& of the student body qualifies for free/reduced lunches.

Why the career change?

You might be thinking burn out, or disillusionment with the current system of justice in this country.  Who could blame Tom Dunn if these were his reasons?  Death Penalty defense is the hardest job for a defense attorney -- you've literally got someone's life in your hands.  Passion, tenacity, and a strong moral commitment are just three necessary components to doing this work.   With Troy Davis being stonewalled time and again, it would be easy to understand throwing up your hands, throwing in the towel in frustration....

However, none of that applies.  Tom Dunn changed careers for health reasons:  he's got heart problems and the stress of Death Penalty defense doesn't jive with a condition that has left him with the heart of an elderly man.  

Death Penalty Defense Work Doesn't Lend Itself to "Gone Fishin'"

Obviously, Mr. Dunn could have retired and just "gone fishing."  Many do when faced with health crises like his.  And that's fine.  But what does one do with all the zeal, the knowledge and compassion, with the warrior that still has the need to right wrongs? 

It's one thing to resign your position, but being a Death Penalty defense attorney isn't something that you can just quit.  It's a field of work where the boundaries get blurry, and part of what you do becomes part of what you are. 

Today, Tom Dunn is taking all those years of experience and the wisdom culled from a Death Penalty Defense career, and he's helping young people see their potential, teaching them things that are not just in textbooks.   Tom Dunn is still in the fight, just on a different battlefield. 

And our hats are off to brother Tom Dunn. 

 
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