By Jim Robles
Victoria Ann Thorpe, author of Cages, to speak in Walla Walla January 14-17, 2013
Ms. Thorpe is an activist and author with a very personal stake in efforts to repeal the death penalty. In 1995 her sister Kerry Lyn Dalton was convicted of an alleged murder allegedly committed in 1988. I write “alleged murder allegedly committed” for two reasons: in this case the purported victim’s body was never found, and she had, on a previous occasion, “disappeared,” only to resurface much later. The State of California also failed to produce either forensic evidence or eyewitness testimony to support Kerry’s conviction, which primarily rested on the hearsay testimony of rather unsavory witnesses who had much to gain from the testimony they gave.
In J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, a line of dialogue between Aragorn and Éowyn illuminates on another aspect of Kerry Lyn’s case:
Aragorn – What do you fear my lady?
Éowyn – A cage. To stay behind bars until use and old age accept them and all chance of valor has gone beyond recall or desire.
Aragorn – You are a daughter of Kings! A Shield maiden of Rohan! I do not think that will be your fate.
Aragorn knows that Eowyn’s chances of ending up in a cage do not result from her actions or merits, but rather on her status as a child of wealth and privilege: A Shield maiden of Rohan. Tolkien poignantly captures the anguish of one whose fate is to end up in a cage.
I do not doubt that the prosecutor who tried Kerry Lyn Dalton and the jury who convicted her have their story. Nonetheless I find Ms. Thorpe’s innocence argument compelling. I find it hard to conceive that Kerry Lyn Dalton would have ended up on California’s death row if she had been a child of wealth and privilege.
For an alleged murder without a body, forensics, or eyewitness testimony, Kerry Lyn Dalton’s being on California’s death row seems to me to be irrefragable evidence that we lack the capability to administer the death penalty fairly or reasonably. I can only hope that by the time Ms. Thorpe speaks in Walla Walla we will be celebrating the passage of California Proposition 34, the End the Death Penalty Initiative. Either way, we still have much work to do in the State of Washington.
This painfully moving account of an actual death penalty case is remarkably written. Victoria Thorpe engages the reader on all levels, drawing them into the courtroom drama, along with inviting them into both her sister’s and her own personal life. Whichever side of the fence you are on, Cages is a must read that exposes the complexities and faults within the system, while going deeply into the moral issue of capital punishment. The story of these two sisters will capture your heart. –Sister Helen Prejean, Author of Dead Man Walking
Victoria’s speaking schedule for the week of January 14-17, 2013*:
Tuesday evening, January 15, Whitman College.
Wednesday evening, January 16, Walla Walla University.
Thursday afternoon, January 17, Walla Walla Community College.
There will also be a book signing at Book and Game during the week.
*Please note that these dates are tentative and will be confirmed in January.