Home | About Us | Subscriptions | Advertising | El Centinela
Catholic Sentinel | Portland, OR Thursday, May 5, 2016
CYO Football 2015 2015 Priest Reassignments, Archdiocese of Portland Cardinal Francis George dies Mothering with faith Sisters of the Holy Names, 2015 Live Nativity at St. John the Baptist 2014 Fall CYO results Catholic Charities Donor Lunch 2014 Year of Consecrated Life opening Mass Holy Spirit Sisters Jubilee 2014 Seaside youth conference Mount Angel 125th Northwest Hub Furlow at papal Mass 2014 Rosary Bowl NW Brother André 2014 Fall 40 Days for Life 2014 Inauguration of Fr. Mark Poorman Coffee shop at abbey First day of school, 2014 Regis High School 50th anniversary 2014 Crooked Finger Pilgrimage Mass with migrant farm workers Maronite Ordination Consecration to "Immaculate Heart of Our Lady of Fatima" CYO track Southern Oregon Evangelization 2014 Priest Ordination Christ the King youth 2014 priest reassignments Our Lady of Lavang Confirmation, 2014 Memorial Day 2014 2014 Transitional deacon ordination Padre Foster Granados visits Albany Bishop Smith ordination Canonization of Pope John Paul II, Pope John XXIII Bishop Peter Smith 2014 Easter Vigil 2014 Walk of Cross 2014 Chrism Mass CYO basketball 2014 St. Patrick of the Forest 150th Catholic Charities Celebration of Hope, 2014 Boys2Men Archbishop visits Oregon State Penitentiary 40 Day Vigil for Life, 2014 Pope Francis creates new cardinals St. Henry shelter 2014 CYO swimming Funeral of Fr. George Wolf Travel on a budget Lunar New Year, 2014 Tech in Catholic schools 2014 Right to Life Rally Archbishop visits Santiam Prison First Mass in Oregon Milwaukie Posada St. Francis, Sherwood, Toy Drive Central Catholic football Typhoon Haiyan Deacon Ordination/ Kresbach, Schmitt A Catholic fisherman St. Cecilia Centennial Southern Oregon Welcome Mass Shepherd of the Valley, Central Point, dedication Grotto Anniversary 2013 Champions of Faith Dinner Gardenripe farms Coleman hop farm Corvallis Year of Faith Archbishop Howard at St. Rose Hitchhiking priests Franciscan Spiritual Center Sacred Heart, Medford Migrant Mass Tanzanians' jubilee World Youth Day 2013 2013 Blessing of the Animals 2013 Freedom Mass Albany school closure Fabric art Megan graduates from Catholic school St. Vincent de Paul Hillsboro 2013 Deacon ordination Sister Theresa Lamkin St. Helen Mission, Brownsville Marist Brainiacs St. Mary, Eugene St. Francis eighth graders Ascension confirmation 2013 Pastoral Ministry Conference St. Joseph Salem — Year of Faith Archbishop Sample's Installation Mass 2013 Archbishop Sample Chrism Mass 2013 2013 Young Catholics Pope Francis inauguration Celebration of Hope Vlazny Farewell Mass Archbishop Vlazny Farewell St. Paul Church in St. Paul Valley Catholic Green Building Rite of Election 2013 Water summit 2013 Lunar New Year Alveda King in Eugene New Monsignors, 2013 2013 Right to Life Rally MLK Mass, 2013 St. Henry, Gresham, Centennial Jesuit High drama School uniforms Friar in the mall Holy Trinity food ministry January Book Covers St. Andre Bessette food Year of Faith Mass Nestucca Sanctuary Hillsboro Choirs Father Betschart installation Salem Religious Freedom Rally Year of Faith Vespers, Awards Roy's Catholic School Adelante Mujeres 10th anniversary New Blanchet House Missionaries of Holy Spirit Priest, religious photos Providence Nursing Schools Pioneros Fortnight for Freedom Mark Bentz Deacon Ordination OLL School Walk Through Gaga over science St. Philip Neri Centennial Ordination of Bishop Cary SVDP, Grants Pass Holy Cross School centennial Confirmation - Mount Angel Holy Land Pilgrimage Blanchet Watershed Chrism Mass, 2012 Bishop-designate Cary Pope in Cuba, 2012 SSMO 125th Jubilee Mass Pope Benedict in Mexico 2012 Catholic Charities Celebration 2012 Madeleine Mardi Gras Centennial Rally for Life, 2012 Martin Luther King Jr. Mass 2012 Day Laborers-Guadalupe Guadalupe 2011 Christ the King, Milwaukie, 50th Sesame Doughnuts Central Catholic Volleyball St. Peter Centennial Deacon Ordination, October 2011 St. Agatha Centennial Rosary Bowl 2011 St. Wenceslaus, Scappoose, Centennial Filipino celebration Polish Festival 2011 Holy War Football 2011 World Youth Day 2011 Sun Gold Farm Our Lady of Victory's New Church Freedom Mass 2011 St. Mary Church Steeple Removal Priest reassignments, 2011 Old Catholic Buildings Paige Rice, St. Mary's runner Graduation 2011 Easter vigils 2011 Pastoral Ministry Conference Basketball Holy War 2011 Search for Peace 2011

Pacifica Senior Living - Calaroga Terrace

Home : News : Local
4/3/2014 10:04:00 AM
'God can get you out of anything'
Former death row inmate says faith saving him from resentment
Catholic Sentinel photos by Ed Langlois
Gregory Wilson walks down Commercial Street in Salem to buy groceries for his family.   
Catholic Sentinel photos by Ed Langlois
Gregory Wilson walks down Commercial Street in Salem to buy groceries for his family.  
 
A symbol of Gregory Wilson's experience in prison — a ring made from prison blue jeans.
A symbol of Gregory Wilson's experience in prison — a ring made from prison blue jeans.
Ed Langlois
Of the Catholic Sentinel

Gregory Wilson, once an inmate on Oregon's death row, felt like a "cave man" when he was released last year after 21 years in prison.

A steadfast Catholic faith has helped Wilson manage the rocky re-entry process, including complicated cell phones, grocery store scanners and skeptical employers. Prayer has allowed him to grapple with the crime and ever-evolving punishment that left a young woman dead and his life stalled for decades.

No one denies that Wilson, now 47, was present around the time a Portland street kid named Misty Largo was slain in 1992. But there is contention over what role he played.

At first convicted of murder and sentenced to death, in 1996 he was acquitted of homicide by the Oregon Supreme Court. But kidnapping and assault convictions remained. Wilson resolutely refused plea deals for decades, insisting he did not take part in the crimes.

A model prisoner from the start, he eventually pled no contest to manslaughter on the eve of a third trial, saying his wife had waited for him long enough. Though it irked him to stop fighting to proclaim his innocence, the move saved an estimated five years of trials and got him a set release date.

Wilson grew up in North Portland and was an altar boy at now-closed Queen of Peace Church. He attended Peninsula grade school and Jefferson High School. He entered the Navy and was assigned to the submarine fleet.

He was 25 at the time of the Largo murder, running with a bad crowd and causing trouble, he admits. But killing people was not on his agenda.

In his first trial, his lawyers simply put up no defense, even though the prosecution's case relied on accomplices to the murder who exchanged testimony for greatly reduced sentences. The prosecution also shifted the reported date of Largo's death to make it look more like Wilson was guilty.   

"I couldn't blame the jury," Wilson says.

In 1994, while on death row, Wilson had what he calls "an epiphany." He had been watching his fellow inmates lapsing into mental and spiritual decay. With nightmares beginning to haunt him, he knew he could not let his own anger at wrongful persecution drive him mad.

"I decided I didn't want to be that guy lying down," he says. "I had to confront my demons."

He honestly assessed himself — the bad along with the good.

"I got right with God," he says. "I was seeing what I could become and I wanted no part of it."

On death row, Wilson learned not to judge others, deciding to leave that up to God.

Because of his good behavior, he was appointed liaison between penitentiary staff and death row inmates. He was president of the African American prisoners' club. In the prison yard, inmates asked his advice on all kinds of matters.

It was then Wilson felt confident that he would some day be released.

He had met attorney Richard Wolf, who took over the automatic death sentence appeal. After only a few years, Wolf knocked out the state's murder prosecution.

"It's another example of the justice system in which it depends on who you get for your lawyer," Wolf says. "It also illustrates the danger of using snitches."

Now serving life for the Largo murder is Grant Charboneau, also convicted of ordering the death of his own double-amputee father and a 15-year-old boy. Charboneau later gave an affidavit saying Wilson was not part of the killing, as did one of the witnesses for the prosecution.

Wilson admits that he hated the witnesses who testified that he was guilty. But he has moved past that now. He credits his faith for saving him and is especially thankful to his father, Jim Wilson, sacristan at Holy Cross Parish in North Portland. During incarceration, Wilson spoke with his father and his step-mother almost daily. His own mother had died when he was a toddler. Wilson calls his childhood with a big group of siblings "wonderful."

After the murder acquittal, he was transferred to Santiam Correctional Institution. There, he helped the prison chaplain's office, serving as the subject of an intake training video for inmates. He spoke to youth panels and set up holiday dinners for inmates.

Wilson also worked in the law library, researching for his own defense and gaining experience as a legal aid. He helped fellow inmates with their wills and other legal matters.

He's hoping to find work in the field now, but is having the same trouble getting hired that most ex-cons have. He argues that his death row experience gives him a unique perspective. He hopes to take formal legal assistant classes and will be speaking out against the death penalty.

He calls capital punishment a waste of time.

"The state does not issue life to the state should not be able to take it away," he says.
Catholic leaders, including Portland Archbishop Alexander Sample, have spoken up in opposition to the death penalty for similar reasons.    

It irks Wilson that crime websites pop up and show his mug shot and call him a murderer. He is trying to have those pages taken down, but also is praying his way through the resentment.

On the middle finger of his left hand, Wilson wears a ring fashioned out of a button from a pair of prison blue jeans, the ones he wore on death row.

"It reminds me of strength," he says. "It reminds me of the ability of God to get you out of anything."

 



Reader Comments

Posted: Tuesday, April 8, 2014
Article comment by: Lynn Strand

I appreciate the courage Gregory Wilson had to fight for his innocence. I can't imagine spending decades on death row rather than take a plea deal (as the murderer did in this case). I'm inspired by his persistence and his willingness to take responsibility for the part he did take in this crime. He has served his time. He helped more people in prison than many help in their everyday lives. He didn't give up on God we cannot give up on him. I pray an employer will step up and give him a job. I'd personally like to meet this man and hear his perspective, he's learned in his journey from death row to freedom.
I'm proud of Pope Francis and ArchBishop Sample for speaking out against the death penalty. "The Death Penalty is a blight on the State of Oregon." (Sentinel Oct, 2013)
If the state executes someone, there is no opportunity for reconciliation/salvation. Furthermore, when the State executes someone, the cause of death is officially listed as "homicide.' How can we, as a society, ask a state employee to take part in a homicide? I pray and work hard towards repealing the Death Penalty in Oregon.
Respectfully submitted, Lynn Strand





Article Comment Submissions
Submit your comments, please. 
 
Comments are reviewed before being posted to the site. Comments must use respectful language and address the story. Comments are not posted immediately to the site. The site editor may edit content for appropriateness. There may be a delay of 24-48 hours. Comments may also be considered to appear as letters in our print edition, unless the writer specifices no.
 
Note: All information on this form is required. Your telephone number is for our use only, and will not be attached to your comment.
Submit an Article Comment
First Name:
Required
Last Name:
Required
Telephone:
Required
Email:
Required
Comment:
Required
Passcode:
Required
Anti-SPAM Passcode Click here to see a new mix of characters.
This is an anti-SPAM device. It is not case sensitive.
   


Advanced Search






Mary Jo Tully ~ The Path to Resurrection

News | Viewpoints | Faith & Spirituality | Parish and School Life | Entertainment | Obituaries | Find Churches and Schools | About Us | Subscriptions | Advertising
E-Newsletter | RSS Feeds

© 2016 Catholic Sentinel, a service of Oregon Catholic Press

Software © 1998-2016 1up! Software, All Rights Reserved