Muslim Victim Asks Texas to Stop Execution of Man Who Shot Him
AUSTIN (CN) - A Muslim man who was shot in the eye by a man whose sister died in the Sept. 11 attacks wants Texas stopped from executing the man on Wednesday. Mark Stroman is scheduled for execution for killing two other people after the 9/11 attacks; Rais Bhuiyan, a U.S. citizen, says he "wishes to seek reconciliation with Mark Stroman and to pursue full mediation with him."
Bhuiyan sued Gov. Rick Perry and three other Texas officials in Travis County Court, claiming Texas is violating his right to mediation and reconciliation with his attacker, who shot two other people to death in separate attacks.
Bhuiyan, a U.S. citizen whose family is from Bangladesh, says he "feels this way because his parents raised him with the religious principle that he is best who can forgive easily. He believes, as a Muslim, that human life is precious and that no one has the right to take another's life."
Mark Stroman shot Bhuiyan in the eye in September 2001 as Bhuiyan worked at a Dallas convenience store.
"Mr. Stroman shot three people in three different incidents in the wake of his sister's death in the World Trade Center attacks. He is currently scheduled to be executed on July 20, 2011 for capital murder," according to the complaint. "Plaintiff wishes to seek reconciliation with Mark Stroman, and to pursue full mediation with him."
Bhuiyan says he seeks legal relief because he "also seeks solace for the widows and children of murder victims Vasudev Patel and Waqar Hasan, who are also victims in this tragedy, and who support plaintiff in his efforts to seek reconciliation.
The complaint continues: "Plaintiff is strongly motivated by his religious beliefs. Forgiveness is a long standing mechanism within many faiths, Islam being one of them, towards the healing of the soul. As a Muslim, plaintiff is of the belief that when he forgives or promotes mercy for his attacker, the government should no longer have a duty or a right to exact the ultimate punishment upon Mr. Stroman."
Bhuiyan says no Texas official informed him of his right to pursue mediation with Stroman. He says he called the Texas Department of Criminal Justice after "Stroman wrote to the TDCJ authorities asking for the opportunity to meet with plaintiff and initiate mediation as soon as plaintiff's comments in the media suggested to him that plaintiff might be open to it."
Bhuiyan says he "made a specific request" on June 29 to appear before the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles, and ask the board set the matter for a hearing at which he could state his case.
But "Defendants have made no response to any of his requests as the time ticks towards Mark Stroman's execution date," Bhuiyan says.
The Texas Department of Criminal Justice has a "victim-offender mediation" program, but Death Row inmates are excluded from the process, Bhuiyan says. He says the exclusion is illegal.
"The TDCJ has established a rule that violent prisoners can only engage in mediation with the victim after their legal challenges to their conviction and sentences are concluded," the complaint states. "This means in effect that capital defendants and their victims (or the families of the deceased victims) - the instances where reconciliation would bear the greatest benefits - can effectively not benefit from the rights under the law.
"While in theory a victim could go through their office's victim-offender mediation/dialogue program to meet with Mark Stroman, plaintiff knows of no occasion when this has been done with Death Row inmates, however, because the TDCJ policy is not to allow victim-offender mediation/dialogue so long as the offender's case is on appeal, and Death Row offenders' cases are always on appeal.
"In addition to the offender, both the offender's attorney and the AG would have to consent to the dialogue. Even if plaintiff, Mark Stroman, and Mr. Stroman's attorney all consented, the Attorney General can block the process without giving public reasons." (Parentheses in complaint.)
Bhuyian says the defendants "have made it impossible for essentially one class of victims to benefit from mediation - those whose firm religious beliefs prompt them to seek mediation and reconciliation in capital cases where the defendants want to execute the prisoner."
He adds that he "understands to a certain extent where Mark Stroman obtained the racist beliefs that partially drove him in 2001 - now that he has seen evidence of Mark Stroman's terrible childhood and background. Plaintiff understands that Mark Stroman has, to a certain extent, been able to rehabilitate himself even while on Death Row. Plaintiff is glad that this has been the case. However, plaintiff understands that Mark Stroman has a long way to go before he will properly understand the reasons why he acted the way he did, and fully comprehend the tragedy of the racial beliefs that he inherited from his stepfather.
Plaintiff's own ability to reach a cathartic point in his own recovery depends very much on his being able to make full efforts to help Mark Stroman to reach his full potential, and to overcome the very negative lessons that he was taught as a child."
In addition to suing the governor, Bhuyian sued Texas Department of Criminal Justice Executive Director Brad Livingston, TDCJ Victim Services Division Director Angie McCown, and Board of Pardons and Paroles member Rissie Owens.
He claims the defendants violated his state and federal constitutional rights, and discriminated against him on the basis of his religion, in not responding to his request for mediation with Stroman.
Bhuyian is represented by Khurrum Wahid of Margate, Fla.