Free Paul Scott!Mature

Paul Scott has been on death row for more than 30 years now. He lives in an 8' x 10' cell of steel and concrete in the tiny town of Raiford, Florida. Florida's Death Row is unusual in that more inmates have been proven not guilty and set free in the past few years than have been found guilty. It's a southern thing - you can be convicted for too many tattoos in the deep south; sometimes for the color of your skin. The assistant public defender came to me in tears with the incredible story of Paul

It was a cold and wintry night in Palm Beach, Florida. The wind was howling unmercifully outside as the temperature dipped down into the low fifties; unusual for South Florida. In '77, just last year, a few flakes of snow even hit the ground in early January but that only happened once. I had moved here from Kentucky a couple of years back to get away from such depressing weather.

A crowd had gathered inside the neighborhood honkytonk bar known as the Plush Pony Lounge. They called me Bob the Bartender, as I managed an upscale hotel in nearby Boca Raton by day, and my mother had named me Robert for her daddy's hero, General Robert E. Lee. I was a songwriter as well, and had written a few tunes that made the country charts. For a quarter you could hear one on the jukebox.

A black BMW circled the drive, looking out of place as it pulled into a parking spot outside the busy pub. As the driver stepped out it was plain he was not your typical Plush Pony customer. Dressed in a dark blue suit, white shirt and red power tie he looked like he had just emerged from the downtown court house. Later on that night we learned that was exactly where he came from. He walked in and asked for me by name. I smiled as he ordered, "CC and Coke."

"Joe's the name," he told me, "Joe Wyckoff." "Bob Pauley," said I, "folks 'round here just call me Bocabob." I was 40 years of age at the time, had all my hair and could see without reading glasses, contacts and such. Joe was more like 30, but had years of experience inside his weathered body, resulting from a tour of duty in Vietnam.

Joe introduced himself as the assistant public defender of Palm Beach County. He and I became fast friends that stormy night, talking well into the night between drinks and pauses to greet and serve the occasional redneck. I don't mean that in a bad way; I'm kind of a hooligan myself - equal parts redneck, cowboy and barkeep. I had managed oceanfront hotels, resorts and clubs long enough, however, to pass myself off as a refined gentleman if the occasion arose.

"I have a story to tell you," said Joe as the tears welled up in his eyes , "about an innocent man about to be sent to the electric chair. My boss, the public defender, met with the prosecutor and the judge on the golf course and decided how the case is going to go. The guilty man, a guy named Rick, confessed but he has money, $45,000 in fact, to spread around. The scapegoat's name is Paul Scott, a drifter; he just came in from California. The bottom line is this: The man has way too many tattoos."

Joe told me he came to the Plush Pony because he knew my reputation as a semi-successful songwriter. A country boy named Mel Tillis recorded one of my songs and it was on the Billboard Chart at number 4 that week. "Would you," asked Joe, "consider writing a song to get the attention of the public? It's the only way since this kangaroo court is already in its final days. Paul Scott will be sentenced to death any day now. Nobody can stop that from happening."

I was dumbfounded. Could this be actually happening here in these United States? How could anyone be callous enough to send a man to his death simply to protect the guilty? Are capital cases really tried on the golf course then played out in the courtroom? I couldn't believe it but the tears in Joe's eyes told me it was so. I agreed to write the song. I called it A Prisoner's Lament and it goes like this:

It's been two years since I felt the light of day
When that judge said you've a lifetime boy to pay
The view here from my prison cell is but an empty wishing well
For me to wish this wasted life away

Cause I'm here for murder in the first degree
And yet a spark of hope still flickers inside me
For with that jury's final word I swear the truth was never heard
Do I die tonight or will they set me free

Oh I could climb these walls to freedom and escape this deathly place
But then I'd know no one would listen as deaf ears still haunt my case
Past the guards' eternal rounds; the barbed wire and barking hounds
But what's the good of freedom if I can't show my face

I was guilty in their eyes before my plea
Yes the governor's made it clear with his decree
The lights grow dim they test the chair; the smell of death is in the air
But I'm innocent! And that's what's killing me

Oh I could climb these walls to freedom and escape this deathly place
But then i'd know no one would listen; deaf ears still haunt my case
Past the guards' eternal rounds; the barbed wire and barking hounds
But my name would still be whispered and I couldn't show my face

It's been two years since I felt the light of day
When the judge said you've a lifetime boy to pay
The lights grow dim, they test the chair; the smell of death now fills the air
But I'm innocent! And that's what's killing me

I'm innocent! And that's what's killing me
Repeat tag and fade...

Words & Music by Bob Pauley, Copyright ©2010

A good friend, a pretty little country singer named Susan Stryker agreed to sing the song. She even helped me write it as we made trips to the county jail to meet and learn more about the infamous Paul Scott, the man with "too many tattoos." We met with country bands and Susan practiced the song as we finished writing it. As Paul was convicted and sent off to Florida's death row we planned a trip to Nashville to record our song.


The End

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