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A Response from Johnny Pippins
Last week, I published an update from Johnny Pippins, a reader who is presently incarcerated and seeking early release. Johnny wrote in again to respond to some of the comments from the previous post and to clarify any misunderstandings about the details of his case. I present that (very lightly edited) response here without further remarks.
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Dear Dr. Loury,
Thank you for yet again sharing my story with an audience that I do not have ready access to. I would also like to thank that same audience for both their support and dissent. Some of the words of support were truly moving.
One of the things—among many—that I have rid my life of is argumentation. I wish that I could say that I have done so out of some profound or noble reason, but that is not the case. I have left such activities off because one of my beloved statistics professors told me, “Johnny, we are scientists; data needs only an analyst, not a cheerleader. Report the facts, explain concepts to the novice, and let the ill-informed argue about what they feel.”
It was easy for me to apply this to the present issue in my personal life, because I have nary a leg to stand on in order to argue. Sure, even the most unlearned person would agree that there are factors that influence any decision that is made by the human being. However, those factors do not absolve us of responsibility for any harm done by the decision. The person, not the factor, made the decision to act, and most times without any mitigating factors. Thus, it was an easy decision for me to leave off debating with naysayers, as I would be easily overtaken.
That said, I do reserve the right to correct erroneously reported facts. There really is no cause for even an adversary to color the facts. The truth is bad enough on its own, leaving no need for any embellishment thereof, nor for the presentation of untruths as reality by way of omission.
I did all of that qualification to say that an audience member made mention of another one of the drug dealer robberies, and his wording suggests that he knew that I would take exception to it. And I do, but only with facts.
I did not play an active role in the robbery in which the writer reports that people were pistol whipped and dragged by the hair. Nor have I ever carried out any other act of violence beyond the one that is my conviction. I was charged in the jury instruction of the aforementioned robbery as an aider, abettor, and co-conspirator, because I made known to the persons who carried out the crime the amount of cash and drugs that were on the premises and how to get inside. I was actually, in spite of my reduced role, handed a sentence that was two and a half times greater than the persons who carried out the abhorrent acts that the writer found noteworthy.
There is one other fact that I would like to freshen from the writers comments, and it concerns the person whose life I took, even if by accident. There is no need to speculate about what the prosecutor or the family might say, I can aid you. At my sentencing hearing the prosecutor said:
All the jury did was they decided, I think they might have been right, there was no intent to kill Mr. Campbell, that they went there to steal his drugs, steal his money, and that is the essence of felony murder is that the felony they attempt to commit is the intent...
That, of course, is publicly available information. What is not public information is the letter from the mother of the person that we called “Bolo.” I betrayed her once, obviously, because her son and I had been friends at some point. I will not betray her again by divulging what she wrote to me in confidence. Suffice it to say that I was overwhelmed with its beauty and full-throated forgiveness. Again, even though unintentionally, I took something from this wonderful woman, yet she did not think that I was the person who I appeared to be that evening at age 26. She contended that who I was was yet to be determined. I hold those words near and dear, because even in her pain, she refused to define me by the act that had caused the pain.
If someone is of the opinion that I am not worthy of the opportunity that has been afforded to others, that is fine. However, facts are static, and while they are sometimes open to interpretation, they should never be edited to bolster an opinion.
God bless you, Dr. Loury. It takes a special person to do for others what you have no obligation to do, especially when that thing is beyond the current whims and vicissitudes of the powerful and boisterous. I know that it does not count for much, but I appreciate you and thank you.