My friend Robert Talib Douglas, an inmate on death row in Pennsylvania, died last Friday without realizing what he spent much of his life fighting for -- a fair trial.
Ironically, it was not death by electric chair, Pennsylvania's original sentence for him, but pancreatic cancer that killed him. He was 55 years old.
Twenty-eight years ago, Robert was convicted of two crimes committed seven months apart -- the murder of his close friend Donald Knight (Aug. 28, 1980) and the robbery of TV salesman Harry Feldman (March 11, 1981).
The odds were against Robert from the outset. He was a black man with a criminal record from an isolated, crime-ridden community in northern Philadelphia. But in his fight for a fair hearing, he inspired many people, myself included.