One month before he was declared innocent in the Duke lacrosse rape case, Collin Finnerty came to the breakfast table of his family's Long Island home. "You have to read this," he said to his mother, Mary Ellen.If time allows, please read the balance of the story here.
He pointed her to the family computer, where she found stories about Eric Volz, a 27-year-old American imprisoned for murder in Nicaragua.
She read about the shaky case against Volz, about prosecutors ignoring evidence that cast doubt on his guilt.
She thought instantly about the young man's mother.
The fear. The powerlessness.
She wanted to reach out.
"I knew," she says.
Like Mary Ellen Finnerty, Maggie Anthony is a decorator. The start of 2007 brought promise of exciting projects, but Anthony could focus only on her son's February trial 1,600 miles away. Eric, worried about local anger toward him, urged his mother to stay in Nashville, Tenn.
Maggie Anthony went to work. She teamed with her husband and Volz's father to raise defense money and contact media, senators and the State Department. She visited Eric in prison frequently, providing updates on the case and bringing him stacks of supportive e-mail.
On one visit, Eric handed an e-mail back to her. It was from Mary Ellen Finnerty.
On April 11, N.C. Attorney General Roy Cooper dismissed rape charges against the three Duke lacrosse defendants. Mary Ellen Finnerty was in North Carolina for the announcement, and her Blackberry soon filled with congratulatory messages.
During a free moment, she scrolled through the well-wishes and stopped, surprised, on one e-mail. Maggie Anthony, unaware of the good news, was writing to thank her for e-mailing Eric.
The two spoke by phone when Finnerty returned to Long Island. They talked about their sons' cases, and about their lives, their fears. Sometimes, there was simply silence.
"There was this instantaneous connection of the heart," says Anthony.
Says Finnerty: "She's a woman of incredible strength."
There is, each says, much that is different in their sons' experiences, but much to share. Each talks about trying to stay strong for their families, and about the importance of showing the world the sons they know. Collin is shy and quiet, says his mother, not the egotistical athlete some painted him to be. Eric, says his mother, is thoughtful and socially conscious, an advocate for women's rights.
Each also talks about tunneling their worries into work for their sons -- but knowing, ultimately, the limits of that work. "It so frightening because you have lost control," says Finnerty. "That's what's so scary."
After that first conversation, Finnerty contacted journalists she met from her son's case to tell them about Eric Volz. "It was frustrating that Eric's case wasn't getting the same press," she says. Perhaps in part from that assistance, the story has gained national attention, led by frequent updates on CNN.
A three-judge panel will hear Volz's appeal at an undetermined date. The U.S. Embassy in Nicaragua is monitoring the case, says consul general Marc Meznar. "We are afraid the judge's decision was influenced by sentiment on the street," he says.
Says Anthony: "We're just waiting."
Says Finnerty: "I think about her every day."
This week, sometime before Mother's Day, the mother from Long Island will call the mother from Tennessee. There will be no updates needed -- Mary Ellen Finnerty checks Eric Volz's Web site regularly -- so the conversation probably won't be long.
It won't have to be.
"You just know that she knows," says Anthony. "She understands."
Thursday, May 10, 2007
A touching article by Peter St. Onge in today's Charlotte Observer details the recently forged bond between Mary Ellen Finnerty, the mother of Collin Finnerty, and Maggie Anthony, the mother of Eric Volz. St. Onge writes: