For many weeks I've communicated with Antoinette Franks through correspondences and telephone calls, and finally scheduled a visit on death row to meet with her in person.
Many of you may have heard of her case, but to those who haven't, here is a brief synposis of her case and conviction. Antoinette Franks was a New Orleans Police Officer (now 37) that was convicted of robbing the Kim Anh restaurant in eastern New Orleans, while a cop, on March 4, 1995. Through that robbery, she killed a cop by the name of Ronald A. Williams, who was working as a security guard, (who she had prevoiusly known and worked with) and two workers who were siblings. She and another man (also convicted and sentenced to death) by the name of Roger La Caze was in on the robbery ( Google her name and/or go to wikipedia to view her picture).
Later, after her arrest, an investigation revealed the body of a man buried underneath her house, thought to be her father, who she had earlier reported as missing, hence... some have labeled her a serial killer! She was convicted and sentenced to death September 12, 1995, and is presently on death row at the Louisiana Correctional Institute for Women, in St. Gabriel, Louisiana (just outside of Baton Rouge, Louisiana).
In the beginning, she and I entertained the possibility of writing a book together, and to my knowledge, I was the only journalist/writer that she's spoken with in 13 years after many requests by others. The reason why she said she contacted me was because she believed that I would "tell" her side of the story accurately. Later, after our visit, we both decided that this was impossible, and I'll share with you why later.
On a cold and rainy day, I arrived at the prison compound and needless to say, had to endure a lot of security measures. Searches, questions, and re-searches. One's background must be investigated in detail before allowed to see a death row inmate. As I entered the special holding cell of Antoinette, we exchanged pleasantries and eventually got down to business...what would a potential book be about. Our visit lasted a few hours, and we covered much about her life, as well as my life.
Now to why we couldn't write a book together. Antoinette's position to me was ambivalent. On the one hand, she left me with the impression that this book would be a confession, and she wanted the world (and God) to forgive her, especially the victim's family. But then on the other hand, she steadfastly refuse to give up her appeals! Why did that matter to me, the appeals? Why did I asked her about her appeals? Well, my position is if you're guilty before God, why appeal? An appeal in essence is still stating that you're innocent!
My position was that if you're guilty, admit it (did I mention that there was actually two eyewitnesses to the entire crime and she originally confessed, but later recanted). And I really believed, according to her many letters, that she found God, and was ready to "come clean", and that I would write about her repentance. Why else would we write a book?
As many of you know, I was once a rogue cop, and surrendered to law enforcement in 2001 because I truly repented of my past and desired to pay the price and become a citizen of the world again. I repented not only to God, but to all I've hurt through the years.
One may ask, but Robert, she's on death row, scheduled for lethal injection, why wouldn't she appeal? I was also scheduled to die! In 1979, when I became a fugitive, I ran because the word out of Angola prison (and this was common knowledge) was that I would be raped and killed the first day! A cop cannot survive in general prison population, especially a prison population that contains some prisoners that the cop placed there!
I was still looking at the same prison time and DEATH upon my surrender! And if for some reason I was placed in solitary comfinement, I still had to do what's call a straight 30.
Do the math, 30 years "without" parole, at 45 years of age,means I'm 75 upon release (if I'm alive after 30 years). That is a type of death, and some would even argue that death is better than essentially life in prison (30 long years). If not for my belief in God, and my desire to repent, I believe the judge would have given me that time. And to me that's the key to freedom... repent to God, apologize to your victim (s), and remain crime free. Don't believe in God? Okay, that's your right, then apologize to your victim and remain crime free!
After some weeks after our visit, I can understand her fear though. She's caught in a catch 22: admit you're guilty, drop your appeals, and possibly receive death much earlier. The other catch, use up your appeals (average time 12-15 years of appeals) and extend your time living, if you call sitting in a cell living.
What did I get out of that visit, the many letters, and knowing Antoinette?
I'm thankful that the Lord eventually gave me the strength not to fear death or 30 years, and gave me faith to know that He is real. I'm happy I was obedient to his commandment to surrender... first to Him, and then to law enforcement! My admonishment...please don't hurt others! (Dear Lord, I am soo sorry for my past sins).
Update: One of my reviewers on this article has stated in his review that he or she was disapointed that I don't speak more about Antoinette as to what we discussed. The point is " After that visit I felt soo disgusted about my past that I was not in a position to judge her". Even though I didn't murder anyone and she did...a sin is a sin.