(Copyright © 1999 Al Aronowitz)


[Born in Detroit on January 30, 1969 to an Irish mother and a Jewish father who had survived the Holocaust, Alex Zola finds it ironic that his birthdate marked the 36th anniversary of the day Adolf Hitler came to power.

After beginning his career as a music critic for SPIN in 1990, he has branched out to write articles such as this piece as well as articles about baseball and other political and cultural events that he says "are occasionally defining a generation that has no energy left to take the last step into the existential unknown."

Zola is also the author of two forthcoming novels: I BLAME LOU REED and ABDICATION.]

". . .except that someone, somewhere wants us to believe that human beings don't matter much anymore. . ." ---Lester Bangs in Growing Up True Is Hard To Do.


OCTOBER 21, 1997, 5:15pm EDT.

The switchboard of the Potosi Correctional Institution, Mineral Point, Missouri was routing my call to Alan Jeffrey Bannister, 39, on death watch for the contract murder of Darrell Reustman in Joplin, Missouri. AJ, as he liked to be called, had been on death row for 13 years.

"Holding Cell," the voice said.

"May I speak with Alan, please?"

"Sure. May I ask who's calling? In the Midwest, even the death row guards are polite.

"Alex Zola."

"It's an Alex Zola."

"Hello, Alex."

"Hey, AJ. . ."

"I'm afraid that I have some bad news for you Alex."

"Jesus, no," I mumbled.

"Yes. Carnahan denied clemency. I found out about 15 minutes ago."

"I'm. . .sorry. . . Is there anything that I can do ""

"Well yes, Alex, there is."

"Anything. You name it. Anything."

"Well Alex, I'd like you to write an article and tell everyone that I wasn't that bad a guy."

"Sure. Sure. Anything else?"

"Well, you could say some prayers, too."

"I started on Rosh Hashanah."

"Early start?", he laughed.

"No. I just thought well, it couldn't hurt, you know " I'm so sorry, AJ. . ."

"We gave 'em one hell of a run, Alex."

He's too calm, I thought.

"That we did. Not good enough."

"It was good, Alex. Believe me."

"Well, look, I should let you go. Probably a lot of other people that you want to talk to."

"Thanks for everything, Alex. Thanks for being my friend."

"Have a safe trip, okay?"

"You've got it."

"Take it easy, AJ."

"Be well, Alex."

Then he was gone.

His appeals had finally run their course. In an isolation cell, AJ Bannister was awaiting his final meal, contemplating his final words, which will be reported by the Associated Press and then filed away and forgotten. He will take his final walk, be strapped to a gurney and then will die. Witnesses (including his father, mother, brother and wife) will watch until the pronouncement of death. Then, they will go home. Life will go on. Soon, another man will be in AJ's place and he will go through the same procedure.

Putting the phone back in it's cradle, I felt like my Kindergarten teacher was in front of me pounding on top of my head with a fraternity paddle that she keeps in her black matronly dress.

"Dear, that looked like it hurt. Are you okay?"

WHAM. Then she does it again. And again.

You always wonder what you are going to do in a situation like this. What your reaction will be. Personally, I wanted to find the first bottle of Maker's Mark I could and start a slow crawl to the bottom so that when I put my fist through a wall in my apartment, I wouldn't feel it. Not the brightest of responses, admittedly, but definitely the most genuine. I was naive. I thought that writing letters to the governor and telling him about the crime and why it wasn't a Capital Crime would put an end to this nonsense. Eight hours and 49 seconds later, at 12:06am CDT, Alan Jeffrey Bannister was declared dead in the death house, hospital wing, Pots Correctional Center.

Bannister wasn't an abused child. He didn't commit his crime of drugs or during a drink-induced blackout. AJ was a unique resident of the exclusive death row community insofar as he was white and from a middle class family and articulate. The things that he did have in common with his neighbors were a horrible defense, bad luck, and a terrified populous that is willing to believe that the death of this man has made us all somehow safer.


Alan Jeffrey Bannister was not a good kid. By the time he was 21, he had a record that would have branded him as a "Repeat Offender" in the Gingrich Law-and-Order '90s. Unlawful use of weapons, assault, statutory rape, possession of marijuana, obstruction of justice. A busy childhood for the white middle class kid from Chillicotte, Illinois.

"I left prison with the wrong attitude" AJ told writer Gary Goldhammer. Each time Bannister was released, he followed the well known cliché and reverted back to crime.

After his last stint in an Illinois lockup, AJ decided to go straight, find a real job, get a real life so to speak. A convicted felon, he found it near impossible to find a job. A gentleman named Indian offered him the chance to make some cash, and AJ didn't turn him down. The man who would have been a good citizen was given a sizable amount of cocaine to sell. A sort of wake-up ensued. AJ decided to go with his sister to Phoenix, Arizona to pursue any sort of legitimate employment. He returned the drugs that remained unsold to this Indian fella's partner.

The man that AJ returned the drugs to proceeded to have himself a little party. By the time the drugs were back in this Indian fella's possession, there was a contract out on the life of Alan Jeffrey Bannister.

In Phoenix, Bannister found work in construction. After a night of celebration in a local bar, AJ walked out and was jumped by three men. They stabbed him six times in the back. AJ was taken to a local hospital where he was in ICU for three weeks. Once he was released, he made it back to Illinois to confront the man who he believed had him stabbed: Indian.

Indian claimed that it wasn't he who had him accosted but a gentleman named Darrell Ruestman who lived in Joplin, Missouri. He also gave Bannister $4,000, and a gun to get there and take care of the problem. AJ wanted at first to kill the guy, but thought the better of it. He decided to go to Joplin and confront Ruestman.

"I was going to kill him. Then I thought, no I'm alive, so I was going to cripple him. But then, after finding him and thinking that he didn't look like a drug dealer, I decided to go up to him and just tell him who I was and ask him why he had me stabbed."

When Bannister got up to the trailer that Reustman shared with his girlfriend, and the door opened, all he could get out of his mouth were the words "I'm from Illinois and I want to know why. . ."

Reustman tried to slam the door on AJ. He failed. They struggled. Darrell Reustman outweighed him by more than just a few pounds.

Bannister: "The biggest question in my life is did my thumb flick the trigger or was it his forearm? His grip lessened and he had a deadpan expression. He then turned and got back into his trailer."

Soon after, AJ was arrested and charged with Contract Murder. Missouri claimed that he was paid $4,000 to kill Darrell Reustman.

As it turned out, Reustman's girlfriend was the estranged wife of Indian's drug dealing partner. He had been paying people to harass the couple for months. He was the one who put out the contract on this man.

Bannister: "It was the worst case of Mistaken Identity imaginable."

The case was moved to an adjoining county that could handle the impending Capital Litigation. That county assigned a Public Defender named Joe Gordon for AJ's defense. Gordon spoke with Bannister just once before the trial and when a deal was offered (Life without the possibility of Parole in exchange for a plea of guilty), Gordon sent over a form letter with three boxes; Yes, No, Would Like To Discuss.

With the local District Attorney up for re-election, he went after a guilty verdict and death sentence with extreme vigor. During the trial, it was brought out that the fatal bullet entered Reustman's body at a 60 degree down angle. The prosecution witness claimed that AJ was ambidextrous even though Bannister told Gordon that he was strictly right handed. Still, no objection was lodged, no cross-examination was pursued. Police officers testified that Bannister had made incriminating remarks to them, although no record of these remarks was ever produced at trial.

Bannister put it best when he said to Stephen Trombley, in an interview in his book The Execution Protocol, "But who's the jury going to believe?! Their local law enforcement officials or a long haired criminal type from another state!"

Bannister was found guilty of First Degree Murder. As in all potential death cases, the trial is bifurcated; there is a guilt phase and a penalty phase. It is the penalty phase which allows for a death sentence. Public Defender Gordon called no character witnesses in Bannister's behalf. Gordon later said that he felt that because he went to Church with two of the jurors that they wouldn't come back with a death sentence.

It took the jury 30 minutes to decide that Alan Jeffrey Bannister should die in the Missouri gas chamber. After the sentence was pronounced and the jury discharged, the foreman came over and shook AJ's hand.

The A.P. listed this as the punishment for the man who gave AJ the $4,000:

"Bannister admitted killing Ruestman, but said the gun went off accidentally during a scuffle. He said he should have been convicted of nothing worse than second-degree murder, which isn't punishable by death, but a bungled defense led to a guilty verdict.

An Illinois businessman was indicted on murder solicitation charges a month after the 1982 slaying. Ruestman was living with the man's wife.

The man eventually was convicted of lesser charges, served 90 days in jail and paid $10,000 to Ruestman's estate to settle a civil lawsuit."

Once a sentence of death is imposed, the state Supreme Court must automatically review the case to make sure that all appropriate procedures were followed, that sentence was just etc. Most Public Defenders are not required to represent their clients on this next step. Once again, that burden falls to the state, since 97+% of these newly convicted criminals are indigent and cannot afford an attorney or any representation at all.

The new advocate that was chosen by the state of Missouri for Alan Jeffrey Bannister was a very good friend of Joe Gordon. He raised none of the obvious issues with the Missouri Supreme Court. In death litigation, if an issue isn't raised in the first round of appeals then the litigant, otherwise known as the condemned, loses the right to raise that issue AGAIN. This is called a Procedural Bar. AJ waited and waited while his petitions were filed, sure someone would look his trial record, his defense and realize that something had to be done. He felt it would happen. Danger was nowhere in the vicinity. No one had been executed in Missouri since the early '60s. Death sentences were being carried out VERY SLOWLY and then in states like Florida and Texas.

In 1989, George "Tiny" Mercer was put to death by Lethal Injection. He became the first execution in Missouri in 23 years.

Bannister: "When Tiny was executed, it woke everybody up. They took a keener interest in their appeals. For years and years. . . we had spent years, killing time, fooling around down here, when in reality we were like lambs being led to the slaughter."

AJ began to wonder when his time was coming. Court after court turned down his appeals. No one, it seemed, was looking at the facts of the case.

Luck, it seemed, swung over to Bannister's side when in 1990, a film maker named Steven Trombley arrived at the Potosi Correction Center to begin the research for his documentary The Execution Protocol. AJ was one of the on camera interviews and in the companion book named The Execution Protocol, he became one of the most compelling characters. This brought a huge amount of international attention.

Shortly after the release of that documentary, Trombley made the companion to that film; it was titled Raising Hell: The Fast Life and Times of AJ Bannister. It not only centered on the facts and discrepancies of AJ's case, but in the final scenes, we got to see what was to be that last day of his life, December 7, 1994.

The film itself ends with the announcement, outside the prison, that at 9:49pm that evening, the Supreme Court of the United States of America had determined that it would take no action to remove a Stay of Execution that had been entered by the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals earlier in the day. What was really shocking was that it was Clarence Thomas that both fielded the petition by the state of Missouri and refused to vacate the state.


I elected to wait out the hours before the inevitable in Molly's Shebeen with my friend Jimmy. He buried his head in the Times and I kept standing up to get a better view of the antique clock.

"Alex, sit down. Midnight will come."

"Not if I keep watching the clock."

"Clichés do not remove one from natural law. Sit."

He moved my chair back. I flopped in it.

"Another Guinness, lads?" Pete the bartender and owner asked.

"Sure," I said.

"Alex, like the clock? I finally got it fixed. We can tell the right time now."

"He read that complaint you wrote him," Jimmy said, looking up at me

"Yeah, he did. Bastard."

"What are you two arguing about?" the guy slurred. Jimmy looked over at me.

"Do you know this guy?"

"No, Alex. I've seen him in here before."

"I have too. He's one fucking nasty drunk."

"I said what are you two arguing about?" His Steam Fitters Union jacket, blue with spots of yellow here and there, slapped against the bar for emphasis.

"The Death Penalty," I said.

"A friend of Alex here is going to die tonight," Jimmy said.

"Good. They should all die."

"Everybody on Death Row?" I asked.

"Yeah. Everyone in every prison in America should fucking die. Especially the fuckers on Death Row." He lulled from side to side.

"Hey, friend, this guy was. . ." Jimmy started.

"He was found guilty, wasn't he ""

"Jimmy and I looked at each other.

"Yes he was," I said.

"He had a fair trial and the courts found him guilty. Fry the fucker. BARTENDER. BARTENDER. . .GET ME A FUCKING BUD!"

"The trial wasn't fair. He had poor representation. Terrible fucking lawyer."

"But the courts found him guilty," he slurred.

"What do mean 'the courts?'"

Jimmy grabbed my arm so I would shut up.

Sure, sure. I thought. I'll let him deal with the deranged lush. I'm here to get good and drunk before I grieve.

"The Supreme Court found him guilty, right " They found all those fucks guilty. Fry 'em, gas 'em. I don't give a shit. Just kill the slime. WHERE'S MY FUCKING BUD!!!!!!!!!!"

"Take it easy, Terry, take it easy. Here you go."

Pete handed him a Bud. He quieted down for a moment. It was at that moment that I could smell this guy. I mean really smell him. That sort of stench of hard labor mixed in with alcohol after the day is over. I remember that smell, I remember it very well. My Great Uncle Harry used to have it all the time when he came into the house after getting off work at the Van Dyke Chrysler plant. I could see him there that night, with his faded Navy tattoo. It was a light, ugly green.

The Supreme Court only decides on whether a persons' claims or a piece of legislation etc. is Constitutional. That is the function of the Supreme Court.

"The Supreme Court. . . did he get to try the case in front of the Supreme Court?"

"Did they ever give cert to this case?" Jimmy asked me.

"No, but even Clarence Thomas had his doubts."

"No shit. Even Clarence Thomas?"

"He's the one who granted the stay back in 1994."

"We may have some hope yet," Jimmy said sipping his bourbon.

"Well, did they find him guilty or not ""

Jimmy shook his head and smiled. All that law school and then to have to deal with this after hours. It was all too much to bear.

"Do you want to explain the Appeals process to him?" I asked.

"What good would it do? He thinks that the cases are tried several times.

"I think that most people do."

1:07 A.M.

"Here you boys go." Peter put two bourbons in front of Jimmy and me and poured another one for himself.


"Yeah. It's over."-

I leaned back into my chair and slumped down.

"Here's to AJ." Jimmy held up his glass.

"Safe trip, pal."

"We'll do better next time," Jimmy said.

"I hope there's never a next time."

"Amen to that!"

Peter threw his shot back with Jimmy and me, then refilled the glasses.

"Cheers, boys."

DECEMBER 1, 1997

AJ Bannister was murdered by the state of Missouri because he had intimate knowledge of Mel Carnahan, Governor of Missouri, in a corset and high heels taking it up the ass from a dyed blonde bitch pornette goddess while he screams out his Swiss Bank Account numbers to the tune of The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald.

Ah, if only such grand sweeping statements were not the sole domain of rock stars.


According to the latest straw polls, 75 out of every 100 Americas support the death penalty. The issue is so huge that no strawmen can be found any more (The sole exception to this rule is Governor John Engler of Michigan but Michigan outlawed the death penalty in 1848 and I'm sure that, able vote getter that he is, if he needed to he would switch sides on the issue to retain his seat at the head of the Great Lakes State.) on the con side of the issue. People seem to want a death penalty. Out of some sick admiration for a God Complex gone awry, we actually vote for the bastards that sign death warrants. It's as if the death penalty has become a sort Invade the Small Bad Country and Win Over The People Issue for state politicians.

The man who started all of this was Senator Bob Graham of Florida. When he was elected Governor of Florida for the first time in 1979, he promised that he would sign death warrants and execute criminals. Many found this laughable because Graham was a member of the left wing of the Democratic Party. Floridian politicians watched as Graham presided over the execution of John Spenkelink in May of 1979. This was the first involuntary execution in the United States in nearly 15 years and the first since the U.S. Supreme Court had reinstated capital punishment in 1976. Frankly, they were shocked when Graham actually stood by his promise and Spenkelink was electrocuted. This opened the door for many more warrants and a few more executions.

It's a good thing that Graham was successful on the death penalty issue because by all other accounts, the state legislators were having their way with him and his liberal programs. When he ran for re-election in 1982, his Conservative Republican opponent even had the popular President Ronald Reagan come and campaign for him but found himself on the losing end of the electorate. Graham ran what amounted to a one issue campaign: he was tough on crime. Just look at his handling of the death penalty. In the early '80s, with drug cartels in vogue and the death or near death of such major cities as Detroit and Miami as well as an all-time record crime and murder rate (Florida having the highest in the nation), people wanted to be protected from the crime that was rising and feel safe in their own homes again.

Reagan was elected for the first time in 1980 by promising to take us back to a safer, more innocent time: the 1950s. Part of this idea of back tracking was that we could all sleep without our doors locked at night again. In order to accomplish this end, Reagan usurped the Nixonian ideal of a "War On Crime" and the major weapon in this war was the renewed enforcement of the death penalty. Graham, as if to hammer home that he was tough on crime, signed a bushel full of death warrants. He was elected in a landslide. It mattered not to him that the Supreme Court was considering a claim that had a hold on all executions in the country. A Federal Court judge in Tampa scolded him publicly for this tactic. Graham was concerned with one thing only, however---his re-election.

When he ran for the seat in the U.S. Senate that he currently holds, Graham used the same tactic. Over the 9 months of his campaign, Bob Graham had no less than 4 active death warrants in any month. Once again, the Florida death penalty was under federal review. As one member of the state prosecutors office put it "nine months of Bob Graham running for Senate almost killed me."

All politicians were taking notice of how Graham was handling himself and what he was doing to get elected. It was a trick that they all picked up on. Then Arkansas governor Bill Clinton used this ploy to divert attention away from the Gennifer Flowers scandal in January, 1992. He presided over the execution of Ricky Lee Rector; presided is too pedestrian of a term. He broke off from his campaign schedule in New Hampshire to fly back down to Arkansas just to give the illusion that he was going to make sure that justice was carried out with compassion. Rector, however, was a dead man. It mattered not that he was a retarded and didn't understand what was happening. He saved his Pecan Pie from his last meal to eat after his execution.

This may have been enough in the past to throw public opinion away from a candidate but in the neo-conservative '90s, Clintons' action garnered hardly a blip on a screen.

Under these harsh conditions, Mel Carnahan ran against the popular but "beatable" Republican Governor of Missouri John Ashcroft in 1988. Ashcroft won rather handily and used Carnahan's opposition to capital punishment against him like a hot, poisonous sword. Four years later, Ashcroft was running for one of the available Missouri Senatorial seats and Mel Carnahan was once again in the race. This time, he declared himself for the death penalty and lo and behold, he was elected in a landslide.

Since his election to the governorship of the Show-Me State, he has let more men go to their death than any of his predecessors, even the conservative Republican John Ashcroft.

AJ Bannister and his supporters had done a lot of work in getting his "message" out. There was a website, petition droves and even the arresting officer had written to Mel Carnahan demanding a reduction in sentence.

AJ even wrote a book about his plight and managed to get it published even as the Prison lost pages and read his mail in an attempt to stop him from gaining more publicity.

The old adage among attorneys that do death work is that it is easy to kill a criminal but it is hard to kill a man. Bannister had managed to turn the eyes of the world onto the state of Missouri and it's practice of capital punishment. Actor Ed Asner who was a high school classmate of Bannister's father, began to get the word out in Hollywood and beyond.

Then in early 1997, it was discovered that Potosi Correctional Institution was withholding mail from AJ. Many letters that were mailed to him were received by the prison and never passed on to him and many letters that were written by him were never mailed. His wife was followed and harassed by the Mineral Point and Potosi Police Forces.

It became painfully obvious to many that Missouri wanted Bannister dead. As if to drive this point home, before the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals (the federal court that is responsible for the Great Plains area of the United States) denied the final appeal of Bannister in June of 1997, the State Supreme Court of Missouri signed his death warrant for October 22, 1997.

Carnahan had yet to commute a sentence and this seemed like the perfect case. There were too many questions surrounding the crime for this execution to proceed. (It is important to note here that no one was asking for AJ to be released from prison, this was no innocent man, what was asked of the Governor was to commute to 2nd Degree Life. That's 25 to Life. Bannister would have had at least 12 more years until his first parole hearing could be held.) Obviously there were worse murderers on death row in Missouri. The man scheduled to die the next week was a man named Elroy Preston. He was known as the Fried Chicken killer in St. Louis. He dipped his fried chicken in the running blood of his victims and then ate it. There was also strong evidence that he committed a rape and murder in 1980 with his cousin Tom Battle. Battle claimed that he jumped out of the window as Preston raped and murdered the 80 year old woman. Battle was convicted for this crime and executed in August of 1996. A last ditch DNA test failed to connect Battle to the crime and supported his version ie: Preston did it.

October 21 came and Bannister and his supporters rallied and gave final support and evidence to Carnahan to support him commuting the sentence. At 4:00pm CDT, Mel Carnahan announced "I believe that Alan Jeffrey Bannister is guilty of First Degree Murder."

The next week Preston had his sentence stayed because of brain damage.


"I do not see how we can offer life as a prize for one who can stall the legal process for a given number of years. . . We are told of his agonies on Death Row. True, it would be hell for most people. But here is no ordinary man. I think he has heckled his keeper long enough."---Judge Richard Chambers of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals commenting on a petition for a Stay of Execution from Caryl Chessman in February, 1960.

In order for the death penalty to remain a punishment that holds any significance, the public has to believe that the state has a real deterrent on it's hands. Those of us in the know, that is anybody who has watched the crime rate in the US in the past 30 years, see that the deterrent issue is a fraud. There are cases of executioners that have been hung, sons who were taken to watch their fathers hang and then were hung in the intervening years.

It is said that the man who built the California gas chamber was executed in it. An inmate built better clamps for the Ohio electric chair in the early 1900s, got his parole, walked out and murdered someone. He went right back and was put to death in the same chair he made more efficient.

In the 1870s in New York, we have letters from a man that watched a botched hanging and was destroyed by it. So destroyed, it turns out, that he killed his family and was hung on the same gallows within the same calendar year. I'm sure that a defense attorney who watched a client die was also put to death. A scary, stern deterrent the death penalty isn't.

A literate erudite man, AJ understood that his best chance of saving his own life was to let the populous in general know why he was on death row. That his execution would be a very large injustice. The way he chose to do this was through the media---papers, television, anywhere that anyone might hear of his plight. However, it was this very strategy that landed him on the coarse gray blanket that covers the Missouri gurney.

Mel Carnahan, actually, may have been moved by the idea of a commutation in the case of Alan Jeffrey Bannister. On paper, Bannister was the kind of man that the penalty of death was designed for. A repeat offender with a history of violence. Theory, once again, butted up against reality. Bannister was a perfect candidate for mercy.

With so many people in so many walks of life petitioning for a review and Gubernatorial intervention, those Death Penalty pundits in the country were giving two to one that Bannister would be Carnahan's first act of mercy.

In a way, it made sense. Both Trombley documentaries were shown in heavy rotation on the Discovery Channel, Bannister's arresting officer asked for a new sentence of Life Without Parole and Ed Asner himself had a private audience with Carnahan's people.

I watched the episode play out in a darkly cynical mood. (Admittedly, AJ wasn't as much of a cause célèbre as Caryl Chessman 38 years before. In the '50s and the early '60s, it was unusual to find a death row inmate that was around for more than a couple of years. Two other factors played into Chessman and his campaign to save his life: the times had swung to a more liberal plain. The vast majority of Americans favored the abolition of the death penalty. Secondly, the heyday of inmate memoirs was upon us. The public was curious and buying.)

Bannister had everything going against him. Not only couldn't he find a large publishing house to put his book on the market, but the public believed that if he got the death sentence, he deserved it.

The Modern Death Penalty (A phrase coined by David Von Drehle, author of Among the Lowest of the Dead) is a morass of litigation. Laws change daily and over 3,500 people are now on death row in the United States. Some have been there more than 20 years.

AJ's media campaign, meant only to save his life, focused attention on the flaws in the death laws. He proved, once again, that capital punishment is eroding confidence in our system of justice.

To quote another Missourian, President Harry S Truman, about power and where it resides "The Buck Stops Here" and Mel Carnahan understood that. All the press that Bannister had focused on the conservative Bible Belt Missouri proved to be on thing only: embarrassing. When Elroy Preston was the next man on the death list in Missouri, I knew it was over for AJ.

(Preston was, in the common vernacular, nuts. The men on death row in Missouri knew this. AJ described him once as "Out There" in a letter to me. He suffered from a disease that made his brain larger than his skull. It causes all kinds of dementia, among other problems. Apparently, in some, it also causes homicidal tendencies.)

Although the it may seem as though this man didn't mean much, he had posed a very real threat personified in the appearance of Ed Asner. If a famous and popular native son would take an interest in the case of this murderer, then the rest of the country was going to pay attention. The documentaries would be watched by others aside from information freaks. Articles and national support would follow.

(International support is nice but no State level politician cares about the international. As a matter of fact, the more the international wants to interfere, the more the state politician looks strong when he stands up against it.) People were going to want to know the truth. You can't always be a cold hearted bastard and you can't have a critic of your Corrections System from the inside. Preston was the safety valve and Bannister the sacrificial lamb.

The easiest way to make sure that Alan Jeffrey Bannister and his coterie of supporters would go away was to eliminate the problem at the source.

After the execution of AJ Bannister and the Permanent Stay granted to Preston, I wrote and e-mailed Mel Carnahan expressing my displeasure at his handling of both affairs. Each time, he never saw fit to answer me. The backlash against his actions, if there was any, was something Carnahan was prepared for. He ignored it.


"I bet you'd like to do that to the critic of this article or your next novel," Jim told me as he finished listening to my thesis.

"No. That would be wrong."

"Alex, that is the largest load of bullshit I have ever heard coming out of your mouth." He opened his book and resumed studying for the New York Bar.

I got up to stoke the fire. I love this bar, what with the real working fireplace and all. But, Jim's right. I'd love to knock off my critics but civility (sorry Friederich) prevents me from doing so.

I turned around and another Guinness magically appeared.

"Thanks, pal."

"No problem. Alex."

"So have you decided what sort of law you intend to practice?"


"Corporate? CORPORATE!!!!!!!!! Yuppie piece of shit sell out. Be a man. Take on a death case."

"No. Call me smart The stakes are way too high. I'm just going to follow the advice of Justice Blackman. I will never tinker in the machinery of death. Plus the hours are better."

"So much for the Supreme Court."

"Ah, they don't have wheelchair access any way."

He went back to studying and I went back to pondering and looking at this monstrosity. What a strange fucking trip. The melancholy of writing about a dead friend. The anger over the method of death and the wonder if anything constructive can come from this homicide. Jesus. What does it all mean?


AJ Bannister will live on in the memories of his family and friends.

Carnahan will move up in the political structure of America. He will be revered as a man who can get things done. Why? Because he killed many bad men. Mel Carnanhan wears the white hat.

Who says the Frontier mentality is dead?

By way of closing, I'd like to address AJ's daughter:

"Honey, as you go through life, people are going to tell you that your father was a horrible person, that he got what he deserved. And although it is true that in the vernacular of our times he wasn't a 'good' man, he was far from the worst."

"The state of Missouri is committing as premeditated a murder as possible."---The final statement of Alan Jeffrey Bannister, Wednesday, October 22, 1997.  ##



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