Black Utahns united Saturday to break their silence and send an angry warning: If William Andrews is put to death following the 160-day stay of execution, Utah will never live down a reputation as a barbaric, racist state.
"Utah, a pretty, great state? Yes, it might be, if you are white," quipped Alberta Henry, president of the Salt Lake Branch of the NAACP, at a Saturday press conference.Decrying the betrayal of the "white justice system," Henry scoffed at the idea that the five-month stay provides hope that Andrews will ultimately receive "fairness" in a system "corrupted by prejudice."
Across the nation, leaders of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People have expressed shock, hurt and horror at the deliberate way the state has plotted to kill Andrews, a black man "who didn't kill anyone," she said.
"We are being held hostage and (are) at the mercy of those who have the power to pick up any black person and put them on death row and execute them only because they are black."
The black community did not speak out against Pierre Dale Selby's execution in August 1987 because Selby was guilty of murder. The execution of Andrews ignited outrage because Andrews didn't commit the murders himself, she said.
"We watched and waited for fair and just treatment for William Andrews. The Utah Board of Pardons had the power in their hands to show the world that Utah was not the negative state as it has been portrayed as. But only one person stood out and said, `Let's be fair,' " said Henry.
She commended board member Victoria Palacios for her courageous stand in trying to right a serious miscarriage of justice. In her dissenting vote Friday in the pardon board's 2-1 decision to deny clemency, Palacios said the racial overtones of the case particularly troubled her.
But Board Chairman H.L. Haun and panelist Edward Kimball decided that although Selby shot the victims, Andrews' help in forcing them to drink liquid Drano and his knowledge they would be killed made commutation impossible.
Andrews, 34, has been on death row for nearly 15 years for the slayings of two women and a man during a robbery of the Hi Fi Shop in Ogden. Five victims were bound, forced to drink liquid drain cleaner and had their mouths taped shut. One woman was raped, and all were then shot in the head. Two men survived.
Co-defendant Selby admitted he shot the victims after Andrews left the store.
Utah's record of killing blacks and sparing white murderers tells the world that "hatred for all black people runs deep and there is no place in hearts for equal treatment under the law," Henry argued, shaking her head in anger.
She compared Andrews' death sentence to the life sentences received by two notorious Utah murderers:
-Mark W. Hofmann, serving a life sentence as a result of a plea bargain for the murder of two people in Oct. 1985 with handmade pipe bombs. Hofmann confessed to the killings.
-Avowed racist Joseph Paul Franklin, serving several life sentences after convictions of killing two black joggers. The killings occurred near Liberty Park in Aug. 1980.
"Did the two black joggers deserve to die? Did the people cry for the death penalty? Do the press and television fill their papers and screens each anniversary to make sure no one forgets?
"No. Only in the Hi Fi story, because of the prejudice in the minds of an entire state," Henry asserted.
The NAACP leader urged "decent Utahns" to join in prayer at 7 p.m. Sunday at the Calvary Baptist Church, 532 S. 700 East, to pray for "those who think it is all right to kill blacks for any reason."
Andrews' complex case and the recent stay of execution has elicited international response.
Because of the racial implications, Amnesty International, a London-based prisoner-rights organization, has targeted Andrews' case as crucial in "eradicating injustice and prejudice," Buckley Jeppson, Utah coordinator for Amnesty International, told the Deseret News.
"People worldwide are baffled about how someone could possible get this far toward the death penalty without being the trigger man," he said.
The Board of Pardons received thousands of letters pleading for them to spare Andrews' life.
Amnesty members have maintained a relationship with Andrews during the past few years by visiting him at Utah State Prison.
"Bill exhibits remorse for what happened. He has a disbelief that he was even ever involved in it.
"He has believed - as we have believed - that he will not be executed."
While NAACP and Amnesty International applaud the decision of the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to stay Andrews' execution, both groups say they are not insensitive to the suffering of the Hi Fi victims' families.
During the clemency hearings, Sherry Michelle Ansley's mother indicated her daughter wasn't given a chance to live so neither should the Board of Pardons spare Andrews' life.
Orren Walker, who was forced by Andrews and Selby to drink caustic liquid drain cleaner and had a ball point pen kicked in his ear, testified Andrews should die for murdering his son, Stanley. Walker's son died by his side in the basement of the Hi-Fi Shop.
Walker told the board he believes Andrews' execution could help his wife, Joyce, who has been emotionally debilitated by their son's slaying.
"The stay of execution prolongs the whole issue for the victims," said Jeppson. "But having Andrews killed is not going to bring their loved ones back. The families' pain will not be diminished by Andrews' death. They will just have another body on their hands and another family will be caused to suffer."