Friday, May 14, 2010

Help save the life of a death row prisoner



I got a request to try to save the life of a prisoner on death row.  See below and in the attached letter for an understanding of what is being sought.  Let me know if you have any suggestions as to what can be done,






Thank you for agreeing to help with this case, Max. 


I’m a professor of psychology at Goucher College.  My brother-in-law is a lawyer in Tennessee whose firm is handling the appeal process for a capital case.  The appeals have actually been  pretty nearly exhausted, and it’s possible Billy Ray Irick will be executed. They are now preparing an  application for a commutation, to be sent to the Governor. They’ve asked if I would help in this process, and I told them I would or that I would try.  I clearly told them, also, that the only way I’d be able to be much help is if one or more of my colleagues in the clinical psychology and the broader humanistic arenas were willing to advise me, and perhaps help me locate the right person to do what’s needed.   So, I’m emailing you to ask your help, since your name came up in the context of my soliciting help from Fran  Donelan.


If you have time at the moment, would you take a careful look at the letter Paul sent me, and see if you would be able to give me some advice about how to proceed with his two requests? 


One possibility is to recommend someone for me or Paul to consult.  An extensive psychiatric evaluation has already been conducted, and I have the full reports and I have permission to pass them along, as necessary.  My interpretation is that at the very least, Billy Irick led a very sad, traumatic, and troubled childhood and life, has a very troubled mind, was almost certainly profoundly mentally ill at the time of the crime, and should not be held fully responsible for his misdeeds. 


Paul is hoping that we can find someone, or the best someone, with professional stature, and knowledge of mental illness and its relevance in DP litigation, who would be willing to look over that report, and write a letter commenting upon the inappropriateness of executing someone with this degree and duration of mental illness and challenges.  They have support within the capital litigation community in Tennessee, but they’re looking for a perspective from outside the region that might combine expertise with mental illness,  a broad humanistic framework , and extensive experience making these sorts of professional + legal/humanistic judgments. I believe what Paul is looking for is someone “outside of the box” who might capture the Tennessee governor’s attention and imagination in a way that the major and familiar legal and mental health professionals in Tennessee—folks the governor hears from all the time—may not. And I believe he’s thinking this way exactly because the commutation decision is political, and I would add, a bit individualistic, too, so that the governor might need a slightly different angle from, or window through which, to consider this case in order to be able to conceive that approving the application might be so apparently “the right thing to do” that it would become also a politically safe thing to do. 


Would you be able to help in this capacity?  Any thoughts or suggestions? Any contacts you’d recommend?  Would you like to see the evaluation?


I would value any help and input you can provide. 


I am giving you permission to distribute this email and Paul’s attached letter, as necessary, and I would be happy to send along the related mental health reports as  well. Just let me know what you need.  


Thank for your help. 


Rick Pringle

Professor of Psychology

Goucher College

(410) 337-6341

(410 828-9228 (home)



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