Equal Time: ‘The other Robert Waterhouse’ says don’t execute

02/02/2012 5:00 AM |

He hasn’t asked me, but I have written to tell my namesake and friend Robert Waterhouse that I will not be at his execution if it takes place as scheduled on Feb. 15.

In my book, capital punishment is murder in cold blood. I will not be party to that.

I’m a British journalist who happens to carry the same name as the man convicted of murdering Deborah Kammerer at St. Petersburg, Fla., in January 1980, the man also convicted of murdering Ella Mae Carter at Greenport in 1966.

I have known my namesake for 11 years since I “discovered” him on Google. I’ve visited him several times, regularly exchanged letters with him and met his wife. I have tried to help him.

Throughout our friendship I have accepted his story — which he maintains to this day — that he did not murder Ms. Kammerer.

But forget about the guilt/innocence issue for a moment. Let’s look at what my namesake has been through since he was arrested.

He was first put in a county jail cell with many others, where he was alleged to have incriminated himself. He was then tried and convicted by the press in advance of court procedures. At the trial his defense offered no credible support for his story. Prosecution evidence was flawed. It was a circumstantial case. No hard proof linked him to the killing.

Convicted of first-degree murder, he arrived on death row in September 1980. An initial death warrant was stayed at the last minute in 1985 when pro bono lawyers established that mitigation issues had not been raised at his sentencing. At a second sentencing trial he was again given death.

Since then my namesake has worked his way through a variety of appeals, always attesting innocence, appeals denied by the Florida Supreme Court. Several years ago he exercised his right to have DNA testing of the case serology only to discover that all physical evidence had been inadvertently destroyed.

Testing might have established his innocence, but the court would not accept this blunder as cause for retrial. Think of it. The serology could also have been very damning. So why did he wish it to be tested?

Life on death row is no fun. Recent photographs show Robert Waterhouse as a man suffering hugely from his 31-plus years there. Incredibly, 27 others have been there longer than he. Currently, Florida is executing its 395 death row prisoners at just one or two a year. My namesake, again, won the wrong lottery.

I once visited Greenport and met Troy Gustavson, among others. I understand why there is little sympathy for my namesake in your community. However, for Mr. Gustavson to claim that he has “decidedly liberal tendencies” but approves of capital punishment makes little sense.

I suspect his “eye for an eye” is a nod in the direction of his readers. No doubt the event will give him another story.

Executions are ritual murder in cold blood.

I will not be there.

Mr. Waterhouse is a freelance journalist who lives in France. To read his reporting on the Florida Waterhouse case, visit justicedenied.org/robertwaterhouse.htm.