Death row inmates award $10,000 scholarship

Recipient is rewarded for forgiving father's killer

October 26, 2003|By KNIGHT RIDDER/TRIBUNE

FORT WORTH, Texas - Brandon Biggs offered something rare to the woman convicted of killing his father: forgiveness.

Now, death row inmates are doing something that would seem equally unusual: thanking Biggs for daring to be kind to a murderer.

A $10,000 scholarship generated through Compassion, a newsletter written and edited by death row inmates, is being awarded to Biggs to help him continue to study for the ministry.

"His overwhelming desire to forgive this woman, it's not something that you generally hear from the public," Dennis Skillicorn, a Missouri inmate who is the newsletter's editor, said during a telephone interview from prison. "The message that he was trying to give was far more valuable than any amount of money we could ever give him."

During an emotional victim-impact statement at the murder trial in June, Biggs said he forgave Chante Mallard, the Fort Worth woman sentenced to 50 years in prison for striking his father, Gregory Biggs, with her car and leaving him to die entangled in her windshield.

In the essay that accompanied his application for the scholarship, Biggs reaffirmed the feelings of compassion that he felt toward Mallard, whose case drew extensive publicity and was labeled the "Windshield Murder."

"The loss of my father has affected me in many ways, but I can't afford to live in unforgiveness and anger," Biggs wrote.

Biggs, 20, a sophomore pastoral ministry student at Southwestern Assembly of God University in Waxahachie, Texas, said he is thankful and grateful for the scholarship that will help pay his tuition. He said he is gratified that his words made an impression on the inmates.

"That's really what I want to see happen," he said. "I want to see this turn around for good. I want people to be inspired. I wanted people to be encouraged and know that there is forgiveness for the worst of crimes."

Biggs said he agreed to apply for the scholarship after he reviewed the Compassion newsletter and found it to be a credible publication. The newsletter focuses on positive contributions by death row inmates and is not a forum for complaints about prison or opinions on the death penalty.

Biggs said he was asked to apply for the scholarship by Fred Moor, who oversees the publication. Moor is a member of the St. Rose parish in Perrysburg, Ohio, and the newsletter is a project of the Catholic Church's Peace and Justice Committee.

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