One of the best things that has happened to me in my work for kids is collaborating with Stephen Sydebotham, a juvenile justice advocate who is smart, relentless, and dedicated in his defense of young people.
Two of the causes I write about here—James Prindle and Blade Reed—while not parricides (and the center of my target), were cases Stephen had taken on before we began working together. I have been helping Stephen with James and Blade because I believe so strongly in Stephen and his judgment—and from the outpouring of your support for these two kids, apparently you agree.
Stephen has just returned home from Indiana with news of developments in Blade Reed’s case which must command our urgent attention, and I have asked him to provide today’s guest post. I hope you will please open your heart to his appeal for assistance for Blade. Thank you. ~ Dan
This past Tuesday, November 22, I was able to spend the day with Blade Reed at Wabash Valley Correctional Facility. Each visit we have is special, but to spend it with him at the beginning of the holiday season, it’s that much more meaningful. Blade is in every sense a wounded bird. Each and every day there at Wabash is a struggle for him, and it is sucking the life out of him. He suffers from very low self-esteem, and is a constant target for other older juveniles to bully. He also is ground zero for predatory inmates and some power hungry correctional officers to attack on occasion, both verbally and physically. For me to give Blade a break from that, for even just a few hours, has a positive effect on him. Plus, to see Blade’s eyes light up when he sees me, and those monster hugs he lays on me, I am truly a blessed soul to have him in my life.
The only thing that Blade had to break much of the monotony and that enabled him to sort of “get away” from everything there is gone. I’m talking about Blade’s TV. His ex-roommate broke it when he was packing, preparing for his move to the adult housing unit. This kid accidentally hit Blade’s TV with some of his property, knocking it off its perch. The TV does turn on, but only gets a blue screen, so it’s basically shot. After the incident, Blade and the other individual got into a heated argument. All Blade wanted was for this other kid to make it right, but the other kid is indigent and there is no recourse except to buy Blade a new TV through the prison commissary. Without that one enjoyment, I worry about Blade all the more. That TV had a constructive effect on him and kept Blade calm during many tense days and nights. Without it, everything surrounding him will become heightened and bad situations will become even worse for him.
I had been led to believe at this time of Thanksgiving, that we would see the beginning of the healing process, with Mrs. Voland, the widow of the man Blade’s brother killed, saying publicly that she forgives what happened during the early morning hours of November 15, 2008. That didn’t happen. After all this time, Mrs. Voland and the rest of her family still feel that Bennie and Blade received proper sentences. The Voland family and much of the Brown County community have chosen to close their minds to the facts about Blade. Blade never would have been involved in this if he hadn’t been forced into it by his older brother’s death threats. Blade is developmentally disabled, and at the time of the crime Blade had the mental capacity of an eight-year-old. He now still only functions at the level of a twelve-year-old. Knowing this, how can the Volands and most of the community feel good about placing a damaged child in adult court, then giving him a 30-year adult prison sentence? Blade has been told that he is beyond rehabilitation and that the key has been thrown away for decades. What has happened to Blade is appalling, and should be rectified. To tell a child who was severely abused by his biological parents, one who had never been in any trouble before, that he can’t be rehabilitated is dead wrong. They have sold short Blade and the rehabilitative powers of the Juvenile Justice system by sentencing him as an adult. Blade could achieve so much if he were given the opportunity. What chance will he have if made to spend the rest of his time in an adult prison, where he will continue to learn only from hardened criminals in an environment where he will continue to be subject to more attempted assaults, rapes, bullying, and physical warfare by predatory inmates and guards?
The worst part of my trip was to find out that our pro bono attorneys, who have helped Blade so much since their involvement, have opted to drop Blade’s case due to my efforts to publicize his case and bring it to the public’s attention. To have disagreements with me over public awareness issues is one thing, but to just quit and leave Blade vulnerable and without representation is another. They had been essential to leveling the playing field with rights issues at Wabash, and had been instrumental in initiating the writ of habeas corpus. After Blade had recently been in an altercation, he called his attorneys and they refused the call. They then wrote to Blade and told him they weren’t going to help any longer under any circumstances, and listed their reasons for dropping the case. This showed an insensitivity to Blade’s developmental capacity, as well as a lack of integrity, conscience, commitment, and heart to help Blade in his hour of need and see matters through to their conclusion.
I was at first very upset about this abandonment and said some things that I shouldn’t have said, but after cooling down and thinking about it rationally, I came to the conclusion that, as civil rights attorneys, they weren’t the defense attorneys we need at this time. We need a legal representative who has trial and appellate experience. There is one who has expressed interest in becoming involved, but she is an out-of-state attorney and must first be approved pro hac vice (a legal term usually referring to a lawyer who has not been admitted to practice in a certain jurisdiction but is allowed to participate in a particular case. The right to appear pro hac vice is not guaranteed. Rather, the attorney wanting to practice in a jurisdiction within which he or she is not licensed must specifically request permission from the court to be able to appear as an attorney of record. This is accomplished with a motion to appear pro hac vice, in which it is requested that the non‐licensed attorney be admitted to practice in a particular case).
If she is approved, she will represent Blade at a reduced fee, and we will have what Blade’s case has always cried out for: a defense attorney with extensive experience in the field of law we need to properly argue the habeas writ and give Blade the best chance at winning in court.
I will never stop this struggle and am I determined to see it through to the end.
This is not only a fight for someone about whom I deeply care, it’s about giving a youngster a second chance in life that he deserves. Blade is a child in every way, a juvenile. The court should realize what a depraved, immoral, catastrophic mistake it made by trying and sentencing Blade as an adult, and giving him a long term sentence in adult prison.
Blade has nothing but us. He hangs on, hoping for a brighter future.
Your financial support is urgently needed to help defray Blade’s legal expenses. These will probably total about $10,000-$12,000.
US residents wishing to make tax-deductible donations to Blade Reed’s appeal please use this link: http://www.juvenilelawsociety.org/Support-for-JLS.html, and enter “Redemption-Blade Reed” in the memo line.
International contributions may be made through PayPal to email@example.com; again, please enter “Redemption-Blade Reed” in the memo line.
You can reach us and learn more at http://believing-in-blade.org, or via snail mail at: Blade Reed-UGMA / PO Box 742 / Spring Green, WI 53588
The greatest journey is the one that leads you home. Please help us lead Blade home. Thank you.
~ Stephen Sydebotham
Groove of the Day
“At first do what is necessary, then do what is possible, and suddenly you are doing the impossible.”
~ St. Francis of Assisi