Two Christian leaders from opposite ends of the political spectrum have formed an unlikely alliance to try to win a new hearing for condemned murderer Donald Manuel Paradis.
Death penalty supporter Dennis Mansfield, executive director of the conservative Idaho Family Forum, and Episcopal Bishop John Thornton, a death penalty opponent, have teamed up with Paradis’ spiritual adviser.
Tom Blackburn told the two about his weekly visits to Paradis, a Spokane man who was convicted of strangling 19-year-old Kimberly Ann Palmer in June 1980 outside Post Falls.
The three will launch a public campaign today on Mansfield’s Boise radio show to try to convince the Idaho Supreme Court to give Paradis another hearing based on new evidence.
Mansfield, Thornton and Blackburn say they believe the evidence could prove Paradis did not kill Palmer.
“I think it’s great that people from such diverse backgrounds can come together,” Paradis, 46, told The Idaho Statesman on Wednesday from the Idaho Maximum Security Institution. “I’m innocent, and I can prove I’m innocent. I’m not asking for anybody to open the doors and set me free. I’m asking for a new trial.”
Mansfield says he is not yet convinced Paradis is innocent, but he does support a new hearing.
“We’re joining arms with some rather unusual characters,” Mansfield said. “These are people who are usually across the table in opposition to everything we believe in. I am personally pro-life. Not only is it important to save life in the womb but also to save innocent life from execution.”
Mansfield and Thornton, who battled last year over the Idaho Citizens Alliance’s failed anti-gay rights initiative, now are forging a friendship.
“We had breakfast in one of those avant-garde, earring-wearing, new-age music, foo-foo muffin and European coffee kind of places,” Mansfield said. “And you know what? It was fun being there. John Thornton is a man of integrity and someone that I’m already growing to admire.”
“We’d probably disagree on most things,” said Thornton, “but we do agree on this. … He (Paradis) is probably not guilty of this crime.”
Both men credit their alliance to Blackburn, who has been visiting Paradis for about 11 years.
“We all agree that no one should be executed until we have removed every shadow of a doubt, and that has not happened in this case,” said Blackburn.