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RC Speaker Addresses the Death Penalty

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Christy Blevins

In 1981, a man named Philip Workman walked into a Wendy’s in Memphis Tennessee with intentions to rob the fast food restaurant. He held a gun, and stole the cash, and casually walked out of the restaurant. Minutes later the police cornered him and shots were fired. A policeman had been fatally shot, and years later in 2007, Workman was executed for the shooting.

Rev. Joe Ingle is a strong advocate of the anti- death penalty movement. On Wednesday November 7, he spoke to students and faculty at Roanoke College of his view on the death penalty. This talk was given in the Antrim Chapel and circled around his recent book entitled “The Inferno: A Southern Morality Tale.” In his memoir, Ingle details his research and tragic tale from when the moment guns went off to Workman’s execution 26 years later.

“The problem is,” stated Ingle, “Workman’s gun is not the one that killed the officer… [They] later discovered it was that of another cop’s that killed the other cop, but blamed Philip anyways.”

Workman, who was framed by Memphis police and prosecutors, had evidence discovered after his first trial showing that the victim was accidentally shot by another police officer. A fake eyewitness was created who then later recanted his testimony and admitted he was not at the scene of the crime. Even with the evidence, Workman was continually sentenced to death. Ingle was Workman’s spiritual adviser throughout his sentence.

Ingle became introduced to the “in justice” of the justice system and prisons when he volunteered in Harlem jail in his last year of seminary.  He discussed how the meeting with those men “changed [his] life” and he soon chose to become a self-supporting prison chaplain.

“We are taught that by being in prison or jail that [the prisoners] are less than human… but meeting those men changed my life,” said Ingle.

Ingle learned many lessons from the prisoners but took away the most important, which was his introduction to the death penalty.  In 1974 he became the executive director of the Southern Coalition on jails and prisons, until 1983, and its closing in the early 90s.

The prison chaplain dove deep into the aspects of the horrible economics, and injustice of the death penalty.  His book dances around the idea that “our political system rewards killing its citizens,” and the south is a “death belt.”

Ingle has spent decades working with other inmates on death row, and served as Workman’s pastor, and close friend.  “The Inferno” follows his own view point in the mental and psychological effects of the death penalty, as well as those involved in this specific case.  He advised Workman through six death sentences and watched him crumble due to anxiety and Post-Traumatic-Stress- disorder.

A native resident of North Carolina, Ingle is currently a United Church of Christ minister, and continues his fight against the death penalty and the justice system through his written word and influential speeches.