Merrilyn with Edward’s grandmother Jesse Mae, Walnut Grove, Mississippi 1989

I was working as a journalist when I first met the British lawyer and human rights campaigner, Clive Stafford Smith. I interviewed him when he was visiting Britain following the screening of the BBC documentary about the death penalty in the USA, Fourteen Days in May. Clive was the attorney who represented the young black man, Edward Johnson, whose execution and the 14 days leading up to it were documented in the film.

I wrote Life on Death Row as a result of that meeting. I stayed with Clive in Atlanta, Georgia then travelled to Mississippi where I visited prisoners on Death Row. I also went to Edward’s rural home town where the murder had taken place and spoke to his grandmother who had brought him up.

Merrilyn with Clive Stafford Smith, Atlanta Georgia, 1989

One of the results of the film and articles I wrote about its impact was the formation of a British anti-death penalty group, Lifelines . This has grown into an organisation of several hundred people who support Death Row prisoners by writing to them. I have remained in touch with Jan Arriens, the founder of that group, and with Clive over the years. The use of the death penalty remains a major issue in the USA and around the world.