Allan B. Polunsky Unit

TEXAS -Brandon Daniel transferred to Death Row

March 11, 2014

AUSTIN  — A week to the day that a jury sentenced Brandon Daniel to death by lethal injection for the April 2012 killing of Senior Austin Police Officer Jaime Padron, officials transferred him to Death Row.

Texas Department of Criminal Justice officials confirmed Daniel is in the Polunsky Prison in Polk County, Texas, after authorities transferred him on Friday.

Jurors — 10 women and two men — found Daniel guilty of capital murder after more than eight hours of deliberations and nine days of testimony.

“You are a coward and I hope you rot in hell,” Johnny Padron, Jaime’s older brother, said in a brief statement to Daniel following the sentence.

Amy Padron, Jaime’s ex-wife, also took the stand after the sentence was handed down, giving an emotion-packed speech where she read letters from her 8 and 12-year-old daughters.

“You made me cry,” one of the letters read. “Now it is your time to cry in prison for the rest of your life.”

“There are so many things you took away,” Matt Baldwin said to Daniel. Baldwin was Padron’s old partner in San Angelo. “I don’t know why you did it. I don’t care. So many lives were destroyed by what you did.

“Any moments of fame you may think you had, I want you to know that you lost,” Baldwin added. “You confirmed Jaime was the winner. Jaime was the hero.”

The weight of the jury’s life-or-death decision was not lost among those in the courtroom.

“You guys had a very difficult task. Your lives will never be the same from here on out,” Linda Diaz, Jaime’s sister, said to the jury. “You were doing your job. Please don’t carry this on your shoulders. You followed the instructions you were given.”

Daniel was remanded into custody to be transferred to The Texas Department of Criminal Justice.

Prosecution’s closing arguments

“He is a future danger, and there is not one good reason not to sentence him to death,” said prosecuting attorney Bill Bishop, ending his argument.

Before closing, Bishop told jurors everything that can be considered to Daniel’s benefit came from him — adding that all of the defense experts only got their information from Daniel himself.

“It cannot be trusted. It is all his grand design,” said Bishop, referencing Daniel trying to find a Xanax and Ambien defense while in jail. “He laid out the clinical words he was supposed to say but he could not explain them.”

Bishop went on to say that Daniel gets his self-worth by taking pictures of himself with a gun, blowing a hole in his ceiling and taking a picture of the damage. Yet, Bishop pointed out that Daniel’s motive for having that gun on April 6, 2012, is still a mystery.

“For 22 months, he has pondered upon that and still cannot give an explanation as to why he took a loaded .380 to Walmart,” said Bishop. “You take a loaded .380 to Walmart to kill somebody, and that is what he did.”

Bishop said Daniel’s intention was not escape or to run away the morning of April 6, 2012.

“His intention was far more sinister,”-said Bishop, describing Daniel readying his weapon as he ran. “This is someone who gains his self-worth through evil that he has done.”

Bishop went on to describe Daniel’s fascination with Columbine and the Boston Marathon bombings.

The life of Jaime Padron was remembered by Assistant District Attorney Gary Cobb.

“In our society, we are critical of police until we need police,” said Cobb who reminded the jury about Padron’s military service in the Marines and his desire to serve the community.

Cobb called the shooting “A cold-blooded assassination” and said Jaime Padron’s two daughters already will be paying a price for the rest of their lives. He said a sentence of life in prison would force them to pay again. In a letter from jail, Daniel wrote he was “living the dream, retired at age 25.” In the patrol car ride after the shooting, he said he at lease would not have to work or pay for food.

“The man murdered your father in cold-blood and you will, as an adult when you start paying taxes, will pay for his room and board,” said Cobb as he posed the scenario. “If that is what passes for justice in this community, we should tear that flag down and blow up this courthouse, because it is wrong.”

Defense’s closing argument

Brad Urrutia took the floor for defense, talking about the Texas sentencing law.

“The next time he leaves prison will be in a coffin,” he said.

Urrutia said Daniel is going to a place where hardened criminals go to do time, not a club with a pool or tennis courts. In addition, Urrutia told the jury there is a pattern of the state trying to deceive the jury.

“They aren’t lying to you,” he said. “They are just trying to hide the truth.”

Urrutia said the alleged list that Daniel kept with jailers’ name on it doesn’t exist or else it would have been introduced as evidence. He continued to say that with all the talk about coded letters, the state never disclosed that, decoded, the letter said, “I love you, mom.”

Urrutia continued on during closing arguments to tear into inmate informant Louis Escalante’s testimony.

“You can’t trust a word that man says,” said Urrutia. “He is a liar … They [the prosecution] got in bed with Mr. Escalante and had to live with his fleas.”

He questioned: “They [the state] wants you to take a man’s life, and they bring you that kind of evidence to do it? … You really, really, should demand better evidence from your DA. It should not be half-truths and innuendo.”

Russell Hunt said Daniel’s life can still produce positives even behind prison walls. He mentioned Daniel’s intelligence and potential that allowed him to become a software engineer at Hewlett-Packard and develop programs still being used today.

“Brandon Daniel has expressed remorse and has responded to psychiatric medication in jail,” Hunt said about the prospect of Daniel’s future in prison.

Daniel’s sister has been sitting two rows behind the defense table for the entire trial and has spent much of it crying. His family may also be considered a mitigating factor.

“This person has value. He has value to others and is loved by others for  a reason.”

Texas town where detention and death is a way of life

Texas town where detention and death is a way of life

With 7 prisons, a cemetery for dead inmates and its infamous execution chamber, the business of detention and death is a way of life in the Texas town of Huntsville.

In this neat and tidy city north of Houston, prisoners recognizable by their white uniforms, maintain public green spaces under a blazing sun and the gaze of a guard, sitting on the edge of a car.

“These are trustees,” says the corrections officer. The inmates in question are low-level criminals convicted of crimes such as car theft or burglary.

Out of Huntsville’s population of 38,000 people, 14,000 are prisoners while a further 6,000 are guards or employees of the Texas Justice Department.

Instead of tourist signs pointing out antique shops, the tomb of famous Texas Governor Sam Houston, or other places of interest, a visitor is guided to the various prisons: the Wynne Unit, the Byrne Unit, Hollyday Unit.

“Prison, it’s an industry here,” says Kathreen Case, executive director of the Texas defender service. “It is their industry, it is amazing how many people can earn their lives out of it.”

Prisons generate 16.6 million dollars in wages per month, while nearly 200 educators from the Windham School District contribute another 740,000 dollars each month to the local economy, according to the local Chamber of Commerce.

“It’s a prison town, everybody knows somebody that works in the prison system,” says Gloria Rubac, an activist who campaigns for the abolition of the death penalty in Texas. “It’s a very prison-oriented town.”

Prisoners are put to work in a number of schemes, doing everything from manufacturing their own clothes or the uniforms of prison guards to feeding and raising chickens.

“If we didn’t have the prison system and if we didn’t have the university, I don’t know if you’d even have a traffic light in this town,” said Jim Willett, former warden and commissioner at the Walls Unit, the oldest of 7 prisons.

An imposing building guarded by high red brick walls, the Walls Unit is set just a short distance from downtown Huntsville.

In the northeast corner of the building, topped by a watchtower, is the execution chamber, reveals Willett, who gave the green light to 89 executions in his 30-year career.

The clock on the facade of the building is the usual gathering point for anti-death penalty activists ahead of each execution.

They will gather again here Wednesday for the 500th execution scheduled since the reinstatement of the death penalty in the United States in 1976.

Previously, those sentenced to die were also imprisoned at the facility, but due to over-crowding amid soaring convictions, they were transferred to the Ellis Unit and later to the maximum security Polunsky Unit.

A few hours before execution, the prisoner is taken from death row, a concrete fortress topped by razor wire where narrow slits are the only openings to the outside world, and transferred to the Huntsville execution chamber.

The condemned prisoner’s final journey is a scenic route along the shores of Lake Livingston, surrounded by cedar forests. The precise route of a prisoner’s final journey is never revealed for security reasons.

Since his retirement, Willett has taken over responsibility as curator for the Huntsville prison museum, one of the most popular stops on the tourist trail, where exhibits include the final words of those executed.

Pride of place is given to “Old Sparky” the nickname for the electric chair, which was responsible for sending 361 prisoners to their deaths before its use was discontinued in 1965.

Large syringes and straps on display reflect Texas’s transition to the use of lethal injection as the preferred method of execution.

A gift shop sells mugs and T-shirts with death row symbols as well as novelty items notable for their black humor, including “Solitary Confine-mints.”

A couple of blocks away is Hospitality House, a charitable organization run by 2 baptist pastors which aims to offer support to the families and loved ones of those who are condemned to death.

“The families shouldn’t be punished,” says Debra McCammon, the executive director of Hospitality House, describing them as “the other victims of crime.”

It is also here that the prison chaplain prepares families in order to avoid “hysteria or panic” during executions.

A guided tour of the city’s jails ends with the cemetery of prisoners, situated on a green hill shaded by sycamore trees.

Some 3,000 concrete crosses have been erected at the site since the 1st burials in the 19th century. Many graves are anonymous, while some are identified only by their prisoner number.

Others carry a single 1-word epitaph: “Executed.”

(source: Global Post)


Death Row Inmates Writing On Death Row

“THIS PLACE [Death Row] will teach you how critical it is to have hope in your life when all is lost. If you have hope, if you have hope for a better tomorrow, for better things to come, then, when there is nothing else to live for, you have that. But, here’s the thing about long suffering: it is our most persuasive teacher.The lessons we learn while suffering we never forget.”
– Charles Flores. Mr. Flores is currently incarcerated on Texas death row.

“YOU CAN TAKE AWAY our names and replace them with numbers, cage and store us in conditions not even fit for your family dog, and exterminate us at your whim, but we are still human beings, capable of everything from love and beauty to violence and hate.”
– Thomas B. Whitaker. Mr. Whitaker is currently incarcerated on Texas death row (#999522).

“I HAVE ALWAYS HEARD that places such as this [death row] breed insanity, I never truly believed this before. I always though that one could hold insanity at bay by force of will alone. Then when one is in the position of coming within days of execution you realize that insanity creeps into you without you ever realizing it. How can I look into my mirror without seeing the insane person staring back at me? I had spoken to others that have stood here and lived past it, they told me that this would change a man. I always thought that I would remain constant whether they executed me or not. I have changed this point of view as I have now stood here and I have stared into the abyss, and I can honestly now say unequivocally that something has looked back from those dark depths. If I walk away from this date I am forever changed.”
– Kevin Varga. Kevin Varga was executed by the state of Texas on May 12, 2010. He kept a diary, “Death Row Journal”, during the last 80 days before his execution.

” I THINK THAT AS the day draws closer I will find myself thinking darker and darker thoughts. I want to wake each day with the news that I have been granted a stay, and each day that I do not is just another disappointment to my mental well-being. The only thing that one in my position looks for is those simple words, “You have been granted a stay of execution.” Without them I am just a corpse that hasn’t the sense to lie down and pull the soil over its head.”
– Kevin Varga. Kevin Varga was executed by the state of Texas on May 12, 2010. He kept a diary, “Death Row Journal”, during the last 80 days before his execution.

“I HAVE BEEN THINKING back on these past 14-years and I am trying to remember how many men have been executed, but it’s been so many that I have lost count. I know, at least, 250 men, some who were my friends, or most who I had met over the years. It was a sombre experience to be speaking to these men, knowing that in only a few days, sometimes the next day, they would be dead. Some accepted it, some didn’t. One man, whose image stays in my mind, I will never forget. As they were taking him out of our wing to be executed, he stopped at my cell to tell me “good-bye”. It was his eyes, his eyes were wide open with fear. I felt his fear (if that is possible to explain) it was so overwhelming. That, took place in 1997, and more than 5-years later, I still see his eyes.”
– John Alba. John Alba was executed by the state of Texas on May 25, 2010.

“I DON’T REMEMBER much of the first afternoon after my arrival at the Polunsky Unit [Texas Death Row]. There were strip searches, questions, more questions. The long walk down the central hallway which divides the six pods housing nearly 400 condemned men. The long slow walk through c-pod, all eyes on the new guy. I don’t know what I expected. Maybe lots of bars, and big burly tattoo-covered forearms connected to scarred, meaty palms. Shanks, cigarettes, etc. What I found was silence. Silence, broken at last by the sound of my door to 12CC-42 slowly sliding shut behind me. I had been hearing metal doors slam shut behind me for over 18 months in the county jail, but this door sounded different, almost silky-smooth. I had never been able to escape the thought that the echos of those doors had become an allegory for my life. My cell door, though, that noise resonated deeper within me. If a person could still hear the sound of their own coffin being closed over them, that’s what it would sound like. I remember clearly standing at the door, taking in for the first time my new 6 by 10 foot home, the cage that would become my retirement home where I would spend my golden years, to continue the metaphor.

I am twenty-seven years old.

I remember hesitating to take a step into my cell, as if moving inside would be acknowledging the horrible truth, and therefore somehow make it all real. The haze that had been hovering inside my head since before the trial was omnipresent. The headaches, oh the headaches, they felt like some massive screws at the center of the world were constantly grinding down, twisting, twisting, twisting down into the bedrock. I finally moved to my bed, and sat down. Four steps, I remember thinking. It took four steps. I felt myself go flat, that’s the only way I can describe it. To my shame, I let myself fall into that place I hate more than any other – that deep, safe place, where I am untouchable. My constant and only friend since my youth, my constant enemy that strips me down to nothing and leaves me there. You probably know the place; we all have one.”
– Thomas B. Whitaker, Texas Death Row inmate. Thomas Whitaker’s journal, “Minutes Before Six” can be read here.

“I ALLOWED MYSELF TO BE fingerprinted and then I was placed in the death watch cell. After I gained my composure I surveyed the room. It was one of the most intensely cold and numb places I had ever seen. It was a narrow room with about 4 other cells.

I was in the very first – just a few steps away from the death chamber. In front of my cell was a long table with drink containers and several Bibles. Straight up – it was like a funeral home. I couldn’t help but to again look towards the death chamber. It was a big steel door with a square window at the top. It was a one way mirror, so one could not see in. I just stared at it. I couldn’t help but to think about my good friend John Amador that was just executed hours before. I felt his presence with me. I thought of his last words which were so profound. I was in the Texas catacomb.”
– Kenneth Foster Jr., after his death sentence was commuted to life in prison without the possibility of parole in August 2007.

“THEN MY THOUGHTS are broken when the warden comes into the death house [Huntsville Unit, Texas] to tell me what will be taking place when the time comes. He points to a door I can see from my cell and tells me behind that door is the execution chamber. When the time comes they will come and get me. If I can’t walk, they will carry me, but either way I’m going. He tells me the chaplain will be here soon.

The chaplain comes and tells me, while I’m on the gurney he will be there holding my ankle to offer comfort.

As these people talk to me, I know they’re people, but at the same time I think of them as something else or, in a bad way. As these thoughts just seem to hang there and it seems to be getting dark but it’s the middle of the day and there’s lights everywhere. Then I see the door that the ambulance will back up to, to pick up my body and that’s when it strikes me all over again, “this is it”. There’s no way to describe the pressure I feel as I pray they’ll hurry up and get it over with.

Every time the walkie-talkie bursts to life, a door slams, the phone rings, I nearly jump out of my skin. This is almost constant for six (6) hours. The chaplain tells me that if I hear rustling and movement in the back, he says It’s just the execution team getting ready and for me not to be “alarmed”, (they’re just coming to kill you. Don’t be “alarmed”! H.W.S.). They kept me “alarmed” for those long hours of torture.

I talk to the chaplain some while pacing the cell. I’m thinking I’m going to have a heart attack before they get me onto that horizontal cross with needles in my arms instead of nails. I’ve been broke out in a cold sweat for 2 hours. Can’t think. Just pace, pace, pace. Back and forth, back and forth. 3 ½ steps [The full length of the holding cell]. I can’t remember the subjects or details of anything the chaplain said, just a bunch of words.

I eat some of my last meal but I can’t taste a thing. I just look down and see that some of it is gone.

Six o’clock comes. Nothing. Pace, pace, pace those 3 ½ steps. Seven o’clock. 8 o’clock. Same thing. My mouth is so dry no amount of water can wet it. I know they’re going to open that door any minute and confront me with that gurney and those needles. This is it. This is it. Every time I blink the sweat out of my eye I see it open, I think, that door.”
– Billy Frank “Sonny” Vickers. Billy survived an execution date on December 9, 2003. He waited until midnight (time when the death warrant expires) in a death watch cell next to the execution chamber at the Walls Unit in Huntsville. Billy Vickers wanted to share his experience with as many as possible. Billy and Hank Skinner were in cells next to each other and Billy no longer had the strength to write. He asked Hank to transcribe their conversations about the last weeks of his life, between two execution dates. Billy was executed on January 28th, 2004. The full text of Billy Vickers’ narration, “Three and A Half Steps”, can be read on Hank Skinner’s blog here (Death Row News).

“WHEN I GOT TO the Walls unit everything changed. They were exceedingly humane to me and I was grateful for that. I had issues with Chaplain Hart but we talked about it and settled it amicably. I’m not convinced that my concern about their practices weren’t valid but the solution he offered suited me fine and otherwise he was a very helpful and calming presence there in the domaine de la mort (domain of death).

They’d told me I could get in my last meal only what they had on hand in the kitchen (…) Chaplain Hart told me prisoners prepare the last meals. I asked him to be sure and tell them how much I truly appreciated that food. I ate as much of it as I could and if I had gotten another hour or two, I’d ate it all. I was hoping the Supreme Court wouldn’t rule until about 8:30pm-9:00pm. Then either way, I’d a really been fat and full. That was the best spread I’ve seen since I went on bench warrant in 2005. Even at that, what I ate in 2005 came out of a restaurant on the way to Amarillo and this last meal was all homemade. It was the best food I’ve had in 13+ years, hands down. My eternal thanks to the convicts who cooked it. (…) ’m told that most guys who go over there can’t eat their last meal. Too nervous. I was calm as a cucumber. I truly felt like I had God’s hand on my shoulder. I can’t say why but I also had the idea that there were thousands of prayers being said for me, all over the world. Like I said, I had God’s hand on my shoulder and all the love and support in the world to back me up, so I was ok. I think some of the guys who’ve died over there all alone and it makes me want to cry. There is definitely a spiritual pall, an ethereal darkness over that place. I can “see” shades and remnants. I brought their psychic spoor back here with me. For the past 3 days I’ve slept a lot and dreamed of many who died there; all of whom I knew and whom I called an associate or friend.”
– Henry “Hank” Skinner. Mr. Skinner’s execution has been halted by the US Supreme Court minutes before he was to be put to death by lethal injection in Huntsville, Texas. Mr. Skinner is currently expecting a court decision on whether he is entitled to have DNA testing performed on evidence used at his trial. Mr. Skinner has always maintained his innocence. Visit his website for more information on his case.

“IT’S STRANGE when they near your cell. You lose all your strength and you are like this. You lose all your strength as if a rope is dragging it out of you. Then the footsteps stop in front of another solitary confinement cell and when you hear the sound of the key turning you feel relieved.”
– Sakae Menda, who spent 34 years on Japan’s death row before he was found innocent and exonerated.

“FROM THE MOMENT you are in that cell, when they tell you you’re going to be electrocuted, you contemplate it all the time. It never leaves your mind, and they never let it leave your mind.”
– Jay C. Smith, who received 3 death sentences for a triple murder he did not commit, acquitted after spending 6 years on Pennsylvania’s death row.

“SOME CAN’T STAND being in the tank where deathwatch is kept. You see your friends and everyone march to their deaths from there. That’s your and my ‘REALITY.” Three months is not enough time for a person to really set his life and prepare his loved ones to say goodbye. If you care you have to be strong and endure and learn to live with this reality on your shoulders and all that bravado talk of going out fighting is another joke. I’ve seen all sorts of men march or be carried; hard solid men as well don’t waste your time in such fantasies. You’re different? Maybe you wont understand while you face death through anger. I’m not a saint nor weak, a real man is telling you this. Why? Cause there is people that will be affected by everything that happens to you and as long as those people are in your life you will at the end remain as a human and not an animal with no emotions. When a person really doesn’t give a damn fuck its very rare and that person becomes numb/hollowed inside, no joy, no tears, nothing. When you reach this level you can then say you don’t give a damn. If you get visits or mail it completely wont matter. So if you stand at the door or yearn for a date that someone has told you they’ll visit you. You do give a damn.”
– Miguel “Paisa” Paredes, Texas Death Row inmate #999400.

“OUR SITUATION here on Death Row is a cruel dilemma indeed. We don’t want to die, but at the same time, we don’t want to continue having to live like this for the rest of our lives neither. The thought of giving up has frequented my life on several occasions. It is a natural tendency in an abnormal environment. Every element of our circumstances are bent towards breaking us. The concrete, the steel, the bland colors of our surroundings, the bitterness that accumulates amongst the men living with you, the sensory deprivation (ie: no touching or being able to just talk with someone when you want or need to), the lack of spiritual guidance, etc. The psychological blueprint of this place is meant to drive one insane, or to the point of wanting to die. That is all they want from you: insanity and then death.”
– Randolph “Amun” Greer, Texas Death Row inmate #999042.

“I MISS THE STARS. You know, I haven’t seen the stars in years and years and years. I miss the rain. I miss food. I miss all these things. But what it comes down to the most — and this is the thing that will scar me the most and that I’ll carry with me as a scar the longest — the thing I miss the most is being treated like a human being.”
– Damien Echols was exonerated and released from Arkansas’ death row after spending nearly two decades behind bars.

“THE TRUE REALITY of life on death row is that every day is a life of fear, regret and humiliation. As a death row prisoner, my every day is consumed with the stress of waiting to die. Every moment is a countdown awaiting a court decision. I’m on edge every time my name is called for a legal visit. I’m afraid of receiving that letter stating that another round of my appeals has been denied, bringing me closer to that final moment. This is no life of leisure.

I am a man who is not trusted. Not believed. I am always a suspect. When an infraction is committed, I have no presumption of innocence. I’ve lost friends and associates in society who now view me disgracefully as a convicted murderer unworthy to live. I’m housed in a special management unit solely for the condemned.

I don’t enjoy the privileges that most general population prisoners are allowed. While most are allowed contact visits, all of my visits are behind glass with absolutely no contact. While other prisoners are allowed frequent telephone privileges, I am permitted one 10-minute phone call a year to my relatives. There are no rehabilitative programs to occupy my time like other prisoners are allowed. No AA, educational classes, no jobs.

Instead, I live in a cell the size of a bathroom. My window provides a view only of the prison. I am allowed no more than two cubic feet of personal property, and my every day is spent literally waiting to die.

Since I have been here, I have witnessed many men escorted to the death chamber over the years never to return. Mr. Hembree has no idea what it’s like to witness this walk of no return, and the hushed terror stamped into the eyes of every face that sees it.

This is no life of luxury, and I am no gentleman of leisure. I live every day with the fear of standing before my God and accounting for my deeds. My days and nights are filled with regret. Regret for the hurt I have caused and the lives I have ruined, including my own.

Any comforts that I have been afforded, whether it’s the privilege of being allowed to watch television or being protected from the elements of the cold or heat, are mercies that I am grateful for. Not something that I am audacious enough to say I deserve, but a mercy waiting for someone to die.”
– Michael J. Braxton, Raleigh, North Carolina. Michael Jerome Braxton, 39, was sentenced to death for the 1996 killing of another inmate at the Caledonia Correctional Center in Halifax. At the time of the killing, Braxton was already serving a life sentence for the killing of another person in a 1994 robbery in Wake County.

MAY 22, 2013 – I have 21 days left to live. The fickleness, the arbitrariness, the fleeting nature of life itself is on display daily throughout our world but as good an example as any occurred here on Monday morning when, as I was being dressed out here on Q-Wing for a visit, a sudden radio call brought the wing officers rushing upstairs where they found a prisoner (non-death row) hanging in his cell. After 20+ years in prison this guy (Earl) had finally given in to the utter hopelessness that can seize the heart and spirit of any man mired forever in an American maximum security prison. The irony wasn’t lost on me that while 3 of us on death watch are fighting to live, this poor soul, living just 10 feet above us, stripped of all hope, had voluntarily surrendered his life rather than continue his dismal existence. When nothing but a lifetime of suffering lays ahead – with no hope, no promise, no opportunity to change your fate – the idea of utter annihilation can come to look appealing in contrast. When everything has been taken from you, the one thing you have left, that nobody can take away, is the decision to live or die. In that context choosing death can look like freedom…

Today my neighbor, Elmer, went on Phase II of death watch, which begins 7 days prior to execution. They remove all your property from your cell while an officer sits in front of your cell 24/7 recording everything you do. Staff also performs a “dry run” or “mock execution”, basically duplicating the procedures that will occur 7 days later. This is when you know you’re making the final turn off the back stretch, you know your death is imminent, easily within reach, you can count it by hours instead of by days. Right now I’m on deck; when Elmer goes I’ll be up to bat (that’s enough sports metaphors for now)…
– William van Poyck, Death Row Diary. William Van Poyck was executed by the state fo Florida on June 12, 2013. Van Poyck’s case garnered international attention because he published three books and maintained a blog while on death row. He regularly wrote to his sister about his life in prison, and in recent years she published his letters to a blog called Death Row Diary. In these letters, Poyck wrote about everything from the novels and history books he was reading and shows he had watched on PBS to the state of the world and his own philosophy of life–punctuated by news of the deaths of those around him, from illness, suicide, and execution.

Texas death row inmate awaits final judgement – Hank Skinner

June 23, 2013

Hank Skinner escaped execution in 2010 by only 20 minutes after a dramatic 11th-hour reprieve. He now regards this as a miracle.

The 51-year-old, who was convicted in 1995 of the brutal triple murder of his girlfriend, Twila Busby, and her two adult sons, has protested his innocence for years, despite DNA evidence against him.

Haunted by the possibility of execution, the wait has taken a mental toll, says Skinner, who admits that in one sense, death may come as a relief.

“Living under the sentence of death is never off, it’s always on your mind. It’s always sitting on your chest, it’s always on your shoulders and they’re killing people about once a week. It’s so heavy because there’s a pall of death over this place,” he told AFP in an interview.

He tries to paint a picture for outsiders: “If someone kidnaps you and takes you down to the basement and they have jail cells there, six of them. There are six people here and every morning they come down with a gun with six bullets. They point it at you and you hear somebody die right next to you”.

“The first 10 times it happens, you think you’d be glad it’s not you, but after so many times, watching it happen to somebody else, you’d be praying the gun would go off on you.”

Texas prosecutors argue that recently re-examined DNA evidence taken from the crime scene proves Skinner’s guilt.

They point to a knife found caked with his blood, and blood spattering on the walls of a room where two of the killings took place.

Skinner’s legal team counter by insisting the DNA evidence paints only a partial picture of the scene, that Skinner was injured and that questions remain about the disappearance of a bloody jacket worn by Busby’s late uncle.

Skinner points out that the first round of tests showed the presence of a third person’s DNA at the scene whose name has not been determined.

As things stand, barring another twist to his case, Prisoner Number 999-143 is still on death row, at the Polunsky Unit jail in Texas.

But Skinner said he has not given up hope of a final reprieve.

And while he insists he is innocent, he is adamant that even the guilty among his fellow death-row inmates deserve pity.

“I’ve been here 20 years now and they have killed 400 people since I’ve been here,” he says into a telephone sitting behind a reinforced glass divide. The 500th execution is scheduled for Wednesday in nearby Huntsville.

“People don’t realize, they say ‘Oh these guys are monsters’ or whatever. They’re not, they’re just regular people just like me”.

“You walk in the normal world you’d find the same people you find here, they’re just people who made terrible awful mistakes but they can’t be judged by the single worst thing they’ve done in their life.”

During his incarceration, Skinner has married a French wife, the militant anti-death penalty activist Sandrine Ageorges, who regularly visits him.

Skinner longs for a day when he can taste freedom and take Ageorges in his arms.

“The girlfriend that was killed she was the woman of my dreams,” says Skinner. “I have the same thing for Sandrine. You’ve seen love at the first sight, that’s pretty much what it was.

“I definitely see her as my second chance, we think so much alike, it’s amazing. We got married by proxy … when I get out of here we’re gonna have another marriage ceremony where I can be there and I can really kiss her.”

Despite the looming veil of execution, Skinner says he retains a lust for life. “I am a big party person, I like to make love, I like to have a good time, I like to laugh, to tell jokes,” he says.

He regards his 2010 reprieve, when the US Supreme Court stayed his execution in order to consider the question of whether DNA tests not requested by his trial lawyer could be carried out, as a “miracle.”

He vividly recalls his last meal, the journey to the execution chamber, and the realization that he had been spared.

“When they took me over there to kill me … they brought my last meal.

“I ate it all, the whole time I could look right up in bars through this door and there’s the gurney and the microphone hanging there and the witness window. Literally looking at death”.

“Getting in a bus to go to a place you’ve never been, like a different planet. The unknown, I’ve never died before. I don’t know what it’s like. But I know it’s permanent,” he laughs.

“My head was buzzing, and I dropped the phone. I couldn’t hear anything, I thought I was floating. I couldn’t believe it,” he said of the moment when he realized he had escaped execution by a matter of minutes.

Although he holds out hope of winning his freedom, Skinner has revealed the last words he then had thought of: “Before this body is even cold, I will walk again.”

TEXAS – CLEVE FOSTER – Execution scheduled september 25, 2012 EXECUTED 6.43 p.m.

Cleve Foster, one of the more controversial death row inmates,  is currently up for execution on September 25 in Texas. I say controversial because there are plenty of people who believe Foster is innocent of the crime he’s on death row for.

Foster even has his own website Cleve Foster – Innocent on TX Death Row.

He was found guilty and sentenced to death for the February 13, 2002 abduction, rape,  and murder of 28-year-old Nyanuer “Mary” Pal in Tarrant County, Texas. His partner in crime was Sheldon Ward, who was also sentenced to death. He’s since died of a brain tumor, so one less monster to worry about. One of the main reasons, besides the presence of Foster’s semen in Pal, is that there is substantial proof that these two men committed a similar crime in December 2001 against Rachel Urnosky. The gun used in that murder was also used in Pal’s murder. Both men were convicted of Urnosky’s murder, but never tried. The jurors in Foster’s trial never got to hear about Rachel Urnosky. What are the odds that this man is innocent when he’s linked to TWO similar crimes? Will he receive a fourth stay of execution?

Update septembre 24, 2012

What Cleve Foster remembers most about his recent brushes with death is the steel door, the last one condemned Texas inmates typically walk through before their execution.

‘You can’t take your eyes off that door,’ he says.

But twice over the past year and a half, Foster has come within moments of being escorted through the door, only to be told the U.S. Supreme Court had halted his scheduled punishment.

On Tuesday, Foster, 48, is scheduled for yet another trip to the death house for participating in the abduction and murder of a 30-year-old Sudanese woman, Nyaneur Pal, a decade ago near Fort Worth.

It takes just under an hour to drive west from the Texas Department of Criminal Justice Polunsky Unit, where the state’s male death-row inmates are housed, to the Huntsville Unit, where condemned Texas prisoners have been put to death for nearly a century. The last 485 have been by lethal injection; the first 361, from 1924 through 1964, from the electric chair.

On execution day, the condemned inmate waits, usually for about four hours, in a tiny cell a few steps from the steel door to the death chamber.

Foster, a former Army recruiter known to his death row colleagues as ‘Sarge,’ denies his role in the murder. Prosecutors say DNA ties him to the killing and that he gave contradictory stories when questioned about Pal’s death.

‘I did not do it,’ he insisted recently from a tiny visiting cage outside death row.

Appeals again were pending in the courts, focusing on what his lawyers argued was poor legal help both at his 2004 trial in Fort Worth and by attorneys early in the appeals process. Similar appeals resulted in the three previous reprieves the courts subsequently have lifted, but his lawyers argue his case should get another look because the legal landscape has changed in death penalty cases.

‘I don’t want to sound vain, but I have confidence in my attorney and confidence in my God,’ he said. ‘I can win either way.’

Pal’s relatives haven’t spoken publicly about their experiences of going to the prison to watch Foster die, only to be told the punishment has been delayed. An uncle previously on the witness list didn’t return a phone call Friday from The Associated Press.

Foster, however, shared his thoughts of going through the mechanics of facing execution in Texas – and living to talk about it.

The process shifts into high gear at noon on the scheduled execution day when a four-hour-long visit with friends or relatives ends at the Polunsky Unit outside Livingston.

‘That last visit, that’s the only thing that bothers me,’ he said. ‘The 12 o’clock-hour hits. A dozen or so guards come to escort you.’

By Foster’s count, it’s 111 steps to the prison gate and an area known as the box cage. That’s where he’s secured to a chair for electronic scrutiny to detect whether he has any metal objects hidden on his body.

It’s the legacy of inmate Ponchai Wilkerson. Wilkerson, asked by the warden if he had a final statement after he was strapped to the death chamber gurney for execution in 2000, defiantly spit out a handcuff key he’d concealed in his mouth.

You’re in handcuffs, you’re chained at the ankles, they give you cloth shoes and you have to shuffle to keep them on,’ he said.

As he waddles the 111 steps, he gets acknowledgement from fellow prisoners who tap on the glass of their cells.

At the prison gate, armed officers stand by as he’s put in a van and secured to a seat for the roughly 45-mile trip to Huntsville that he says feels like a ’90-mph drive.’ There are no side windows in the back of the van where Foster, accompanied by four officers, rides to the oldest prison in Texas. Only the back doors have windows.

‘It’s like stepping back in time, dungeons and dragons,’ he said of entering through two gates at the back of the Huntsville Unit, more commonly known as the Walls Unit because of its 20-foot-high red brick walls.

Prison officials then hustle him into the cell area adjacent to the death chamber.

‘Going inside, it’s a little spooky. You can tell it’s been there a while,’ he said. ‘Everything’s polished, but still it’s real old. You look down the row. History just screams at you.

‘It’s almost like `Hotel California,” he said, referring to the song by The Eagles. ‘You can check out anytime, but you can’t leave.’

Both times he’s been there, most recently last September, he’s been treated ‘like a human being,’ Foster said. Officers look at him but don’t smile, he said.

At one point, he saw someone walk by with a bulging envelope that he assumed contained the lethal injection drugs.

At 4 p.m., during his first trip to the death house in January 2011, he was served a final meal. He’d asked for several items, including chicken.

‘It tasted so good,’ he said. ‘It actually had seasoning on it.’

Two hours later, at the start of a six-hour window when his execution could be carried out, he received the Supreme Court reprieve.

Since then, inmates no longer get to make a final meal request. Procedures were changed after a state lawmaker complained that condemned inmates were taking advantage of the opportunity and that murder victims never get that chance.

Foster was looking forward to nachos and chicken, the same food served to other inmates the day last year that he made his second trip to the death house, but he never received it. Instead, his attorney tearfully brought him news of another Supreme Court reprieve just before dinner time.

He asked for a doggie bag but was refused. He was put back in the van and returned to death row.

‘I’ve already told the chaplain: Take the phone off the hook before 4 o’clock,’ he said, anticipating his next trip Tuesday. ‘I want to get that last meal.’

TEXAS – For immediate release – Thomas Whitaker

Livingston, Texas, USA ‐ April 26, 2012
Thomas Whitaker, an inmate on Texas death row, has filed a class action lawsuit against Texas Governor Rick Perry, Senator John Whitmire, and the Texas Department of Criminal Justice
for the inhumane and unconstitutional conditions under which the men on death row must live.
Allegations include taking away wheelchairs from those who cannot walk, denying mental and physical health care, being held in solitary confinement for over ten years without any legal justification based on their conduct, dangerously unsafe living conditions, inadequate nutrition, inadequate exercise, denial of adequate access to telephones, destruction and loss of necessary legal documents, denial of religious freedom, denial of fair administrative process, failure to timely deliver mail including legal correspondence, and other abuses. 
In the case of Ruiz v. Estelle, the U.S. District Court for the Southern District held that conditions for the Texas prison system were unconstitutional but also held that the inmates of death row would need to bring a separate lawsuit to address their unique situation. That is the action now being taken by Whitaker. There have been acts of retaliation by TDCJ toward men who have been a part of this suit or similar litigation.
Thomas Whitaker, No. 999522, age 32, from Fort Bend County, Tx, Residing on Texas Death Row since March 2007, convicted under the Law of Parties. Visit his blog: “Minutes Before Six”.
Contact Information
Robert B. Wells,
Descending Eagles
Fax: 512/302‐4774
P.O. Box 49339, Austin, Tx 78765
3724 Jefferson, Ste. 309, Austin, Tx 78731
The following acts and omissions of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice have caused irreparable harm to all residents of death row at the Polunsky Unit in Livingston, Texas. These acts and omissions continue to harm the residents of death row at the Polunsky Unit. All residents now housed at Polunsky, previously housed at Ellis, on death row were put in solitary confinement in administrative segregation improperly and in violation of the existing plan for incarceration of those persons on male death row. Although most of the residents had not been charged with or found guilty of any conduct that would be punishable by solitary confinement, they have been retained in solitary for over ten years (since 2000). No less than a full due process hearing is required to determine whether there is a valid reason for the continued confinement in solitary. No such hearings have been held. The Texas Department of Criminal Justice regulations require a hearing with attendance by the Plaintiff, the warden, and the Classification Committee of the unit to determine if administrative segregation is appropriate or to extend such conditions beyond a limited period. There have been no such hearings. Those so held do not meet the Texas Department of Criminal Justice [TDCJ] requirements for such confinement because there has been no determination that each individual is in need of segregation for his protection or safety; there is no violation of the regulations of TDCJ for which a hearing is pending, there is no reason to assume that all are “custody risks” when they have shown no signs of being such. The fact that another person attempted escape does not make this entire class any more of a custody risk than the average person incarcerated in the general population.
By both action and inaction basic human needs of adequate food, safe shelter, adequate exercise, medical care and living conditions conducive to mental health are being denied every resident of death row. There are frequent failures to provide sufficient nutrition for the residents of death row in their daily food provision. Housing conditions include unsanitary living conditions due to inadequate cleaning of the cells and shower areas. At times, no cleaning product other than water is used by those performing general cleaning. Residents are not given access to cleaning products to maintain their cells in a sanitary condition and to kill black mold. Although security might dictate precluding caustic chemicals in the area housing those who might be a security risk, there is no reason to deny them ordinary cleaning products to keep their living area safe from disease causing bacteria. The food trays are often placed on the floors where there is sewage or spittle. The showers have inadequate ventilation causing it to be so humid and hot that residents have been made ill. The attorney visitation booths are not adequately ventilated for the residents. When an unruly resident is being gassed for misconduct, the other are exposed to so much of the caustic and harmful fumes as to also suffer from the contact. There is inadequate exercise. One hour a week is inadequate for the maintenance of physical health. There is no reason access to the outdoors and vigorous physical activity daily should be denied. The cells have inadequate ventilation and they effectively shut off the residents from all contact with the outside world. The occupants of the cells are subjected to harsh temperatures. The ceilings of some cells leak and there is black mold growing in some cellsLights are controlled by officers who turn them off and on at their discretion exposing those trying to sleep to light that awakens them and prevents adequate rest. Food is served at hours not usually considered appropriate for meals with no justification for such a schedule. Clothing also is delivered at hours designed to interrupt sleep. Other than the brief periods they are allowed out to shower and one time a week they are allowed recreation, they are in solitary confinement twenty‐four hours a day, seven days a week. The prolonged period of sensory deprivation has resulted in serious mental health conditions. No effort has been made to examine the residents of these isolation cells to see how they have been damaged by these conditions.
There has been a frequent lack of care used in regard to legal documents. When their cells are searched for contraband, their legal documents are often tossed in with other property and subsequently lost or damaged.
In violation of the regulations of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, “legal visits” between offenders in order to obtain needed assistance in their legal cases have been curtailed. Adequate postage is denied which prevents corresponding with legal counsel when necessary. Mail sent to or received from legal representatives has been opened and read.
Access to law books is very limited and difficult as well as access to information that could be gained from having greater access to the library and to television. Telephone access so as to be able to contact their legal representatives is not permitted. Residents of death row are denied adequate telephone access to contact legal counsel. At times, the transport of the resident is so slow that they are denied access to legal counsel. Counsel often is forced to wait for up to an hour or completely denied a legal visit. 
Residents of death row have been denied reasonable treatment for diagnosed medical conditions. Medical staff exhibits indifference or is unavailable. Dental care is extremely inadequate as is care of vision. Those in need of wheelchairs are now being denied access to a wheelchair and required to walk using a walker out of an excessive reaction to one person having been a security risk because he was being transported in a wheelchair when a weapon was found in the wheelchair. There is a concerted effort to avoid identifying the mentally handicapped for fear it will lead to them getting their sentences reduced to life rather than execution. Further, the mentally ill are not housed separately as is required by the regulations. Those nearby are kept awake by the shouts of those who are psychologically disturbed. There is inadequate treatment of the mental health issues that incarceration in these conditions necessitates. There is totally inadequate screening to determine whether mental health issues have arisen. There is inappropriate supervision of the mentally ill in terms of their maintenance on the prescribed treatment. The seriously mentally ill are not transferred to more suitable facilities nor is staff trained to deal with them properly. Prescribed medications and “over the counter” medications are not provided promptly or consistently so as to allow maintenance of the health of all residents, both mentally and physically in need of regular treatment. Both the mentally and physically ill have had the water turned off in their cells to prevent them from urinating due to dehydration. They have been denied food so as to not have fecal matter if the mentally ill individuals throw feces at guards. The physically ill had hemorrhoids and was bleeding excessively. At such time as each such sick individual became unable to move, they were finally given some degree of treatment at the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston, Texas. Contrary to the ethical standards required, no physician or guard or warden reported these crimes of abuse. The elderly, diabetic or mentally ill have been abused because they could not move quickly or fell due to their fragile condition. The very severely mentally ill are incapable of completing their administrative appeals due to their condition. Everyone suffers emotional trauma from witnessing these episodes of abuse of weak and fragile individuals. The mentally challenged or mentally ill are subject to punishment for their failure to understand the regulations they must follow. Their non‐compliance due to confusion leads to longer and longer confinement in segregation without clothes, mattress, linens, and inadequate food and medication. Guards are poorly trained in mental health so as to recognize whether there is real misconduct or a lack of comprehension. Those who are delusional are harassed and tormented by some guards. These guards are not disciplined or terminated, but are allowed to continue to abuse the mentally ill. Those who are mentally ill are incompetent to personally bring any grievance or complaint on their own behalf. Assistive devices such as braces, medical issue boots, and wheelchairs have been confiscated and not provided to those requiring them for proper function of their extremities or movement from location to location. Adequate pain medication is routinely withheld.
All residents are denied activities that would be conducive to good mental health such as an opportunity to engage in creative work or crafts which are allowed those in the general population of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice and only denied to residents of death row, including those who have nearly perfect conduct records. They are further denied access to television. These activities were allowed until recently. Some men escaped from Ellis, as a consequence of their conduct ‐ not the conduct of the current residents of death row at Polunsky, all previous activities that actually provided the residents with an incentive to improve their conduct so as to be able to engage in such activities, have been curtailed. It should be noted that the residents of death row purchase the materials with which to do crafts from the commissary operated by the Texas Department of Criminal Justice which provides money for the operation of the prison system. The men then were able to sell their work and spend the money paid for the completed craft project at the commissary, which actually recirculates the money again into the income of TDCJ. There is no security reason for denial of this activity. Furthermore, when a resident attempts to design his own craft activity, it is destroyed because using shoe strings or thread or plastic lids to make a craft is deemed using the item for a purpose other than the one originally intended. This is cruel and an absurd abuse of authority.
The residents of death row are thwarted in their attempts to pursue their administrative appeals as these appeals are mislaid either accidentally or intentionally or by there being a denial of the right to pursue their administrative appeal to conclusion due to action designed to delay or circumvent the administrative process.
Access to religious literature and other religious objects is denied in an indiscriminate manner. Those on death row are also denied the right to attend a religious service. No religious service is available for them to attend. Some are denied access to a representative of their faith as a spiritual adviser. In regard to adequacy of food, food that is Halal or Kosher is being exposed to pork grease.
The mail room is one of the worst situations for those men on death row. Entire publications are being withheld because the newspaper or magazine contains one article that the particular person screening the mail found unacceptable without applying the written standard as set out in Department regulations. Correspondence is very, very frequently mishandled. There is an ongoing retaliatory process to prevent some residents from sending or receiving their mail or to delay receipt of their mail unnecessarily. The amount of postage actually physically permitted each individual has been unduly and unreasonably curtailed.Access to postage at all has also been unreasonably curtailed. Legal mail has been opened before being delivered and has been  read. Outgoing legal mail has been read. There is no justification for denial of access to television. Television was available until death row was moved to the Polunsky Unit. Charitable groups have offered to donate televisions, there is an empty rack for holding a television in the day room, but no television. There is no valid security reason for denying access to the educational and recreational benefits of television. No other residents of penal institutions in Texas are denied televisions. This, on occasion, denies access to information that would be beneficial in regard to their legal defense.
The opportunity to work in a job in the Department of Criminal Justice is now suspended. That suspension needs to be ended. Other men found guilty of murder who are in the general population are permitted to work. This would be a very strong incentive for the men to maintain good conduct. Many, if not most, men on death row would be eager to have an opportunity to perform work. This would reduce the cost of maintaining their pod. They would willingly clean their pod themselves. They would maintain their own living area better than it is now cleaned.
Giving any person who is incarcerated incentives for good conduct is going to result in fewer disciplinary problems. Treating people fairly and with decent concern for their health and safety and emotional needs will result in a group that is easier to discipline. Those who do not respect the opportunity, then deserve to have opportunities denied.
Source: Minutes Before Six, April 26, 2012

Texas – Beunka Adams – execution – april 26 – EXECUTED

 Beunka Adams official website click here

Case from his official website

Beunka Adams is 29 years old today and is awaiting his execution at the Polunsky Unit, Livingston,Texas.

He has three children that he loves deeply.

Beunka Adams spends his days writing poetry or letters to his friend, creating artwork, working out and reading.

Beunka Adams also published a poetry book, named Delirium – A mind at death row.

In the beginning of October 2011 Beunka Adams’ final appeal was rejected by the US Supreme Court, even though there are obvious flaws in Mr. Adams’ legal procedure, doubts about the fairness of his trial and also doubts about what really happened that unfortunate day of a robbery back in 2002 in Rusk, Texas, USA.

Beunka Adams has repeatedly expressed his deepest regrets for taking part in the robbery. Mr. Adams is the father of three children and a healthy young man that can be a great asset to society in the future.

Resume of the events:

Richard Cobb and Beunka Adams robbed a store and took three hostages, two women and one man. They drove the hostages to a field where one woman and one man were shot. The man tragically died from his injuries. The women survived.

Beunka Adams has never denied his involvement in the robbery which led to the murder of a man by his accomplice.

The crime: Beunka Adams tells his story 

It was an extremely transitional point in my life (more than I knew) at the time when thismost unfortunate incident occurred. Not long before I had been kicked out of Job Corps and lost every stitch of clothing I owned. I had reunited with my children’s mother after a
little over a month separation and was preparing what would have been our third homesince I was 14 or 15 years old. I was out of work and in the coming two weeks were my step-son and my daughters birthdays… (I tell you this not to trivialize the events that
followed but to show you what motivated me to involve myself in this situation.)So when my friend/co-defendant showed up while I was working on the house and asked me to help him rob a store – I agreed.

It was not planned but I didn’t assume there would be any real physical violence. I didnot even carry my own gun. I was suppose to just follow his lead and be a pair of eyes, but shit went bad from the moment we entered the store and it became obvious my friend had
not planned anything out. He mostly stopped talking and nearly froze at the register.It was noticed there was a customer in the store and my friend whispered that one of the cashiers was his neighbor and he believed she recognized him…At that point I knew we were caught and really my only concern was getting the money where it needed to be. My friend was not talking and I had no idea what to do, so it was decided to take everyone from the store to buy some time to think. Now this is when some of the first lies start to occur. At trial one of the victims said she told me: “I know you, don’t I?” and I said: “yes” and took of my mask. This is not exactly true. She said: “I know you, don’t I? Your girlfriend used to work at Brookshines.”. At the time I had long hair and realized she was mistaken me for a friend of mine, but we did know each other and well, so to calm the situation a bit I took off my mask. The other girlknew my co-defendant so we where caught anyway. I was not known to hurt people for no reason, Nicky and Kenneth knew that.
If you read the transcripts it is said that there was laughter and conversation in the car though Nicky contends she was laughing to keep herself from crying. “Fast forward time” we wound up in an open field outside town. I really did not know what to do next because my friend was not really talking to me and acting weird. First idea was to put all three into the trunk and leave the car in a parking lot to be found in a few hours but all three of them would not fit. Two got in and I along with Nicky left walking (with no weapon). Now it has never been revealed what we spoke about by her nor me and I will not do so in this missive… We wound up having sex. I admit when I later gave a statement I conceded to rape but it was because I knew Nicky was engaged to be married and she would say that and if I did not, those officers would not believe one word that came out my mouth! I will be more than willing to take a lie detector test on the fact I never threatened or forced her to have sex with me, that or any other facts I present.
The others were let back out and it was decided they would take off in one direction and we would go the other. I stopped them because the direction they were headed led deep into the woods and they’d never come to a house, road or anything. It is decided they stay put. I turned and started walking towards the car assuming my friend was doing the same but after a few steps I heard the first blast!

read the whole story (download pdf) click here

Legal documents  click here

Take Action

1. [sign petition]

Sign our petition to show your support for Beunka Adams and others wrongfully convicted. Read more.

2. [write officials]

Send e-mails and letters to those in power. Let them know what you think. Read more.

Governor Rick Perry: Stop Beunka Adams’ execution!

sign the petition click here

HUNTSVILLE (April 23, 2012)—Death row inmate Beunka Adams, 29, who was scheduled to receive a lethal injection this week for killing an East Texas man after robbing a convenience store, won a reprieve Monday from a federal judge.

april 13, 2012

Petitioner: Beunka Adams
Respondent: Rick Thaler, Director TDCJ-CID
Case Number: 5:2012cv00036
Filed: April 13, 2012
Court: Texas Eastern District Court
Office: Texarkana         Office
County: Cherokee
Nature of Suit: P. Petitions – Death Penalty
Cause: 28:2254
Jurisdiction: Federal Question
Jury Demanded By: None

december 2010, source: various

Beunka Adams is imprisoned on the Polunsky Unit of Texas death row for a crime that another man confessed to committing. He was convicted and sentenced to death at the age of 21. Beunka was involved in a robbery in which store employee, Kenneth Vandever, was shot and killed.

Beunka’s co-defendant, Richard Cobb, admitted to the killing in his trial. This information was suppressed at Beunka’s trial. His jury were told that he was the gunman and he was given the death penalty.

Beunka does not deny his guilt in participating in the robbery and he suffers huge remorse for what happened that night, but he is not a murderer and does not deserve to die for his crime!

His supporters say; “Beunka is indigent – he has no money to pay for a defence and his state-appointed defence attorney is overworked and unable to help him. We need to raise $150,000 to pay for a private lawyer and investigator to help save Beunka’s life”.

In 2007 Beunka’s attorney at appeal, Stephen Evans, presented ten points of error in his client’s criminal case. The court voted 9 to 0 that the objections held no merit. The court affirmed both the trial court’s judgment and the sentence of death.

Evidence presented in the court hearings alledged that on the night of the murder the men entered BDJ’s convenience store wearing masks and demanding money. One of them was armed with a shotgun.

Prosecutors say that after taking the money from the cash register it was said that they demanded the keys to a Cadillac parked outside. Two women employees of the store and Kenneth Vandever were forced the three into the car. After arriving at the secluded field, one female and Mr. Vandever were told to get into the trunk of the car. The prosecution says that the other female was taken away and sexually assaulted. Both women were wounded.

A supporter of Beunka Adams said; “criminals are punished in the name of justice. This sense of justice seems to have abandoned the scene of capital punishment. Even in the USA people who committed murder as a minor are put on death row, those without money cannot afford decent legal aid which almost immediately condemns them, and prisoners spend years and years on death row sometimes getting their execution postponed several times.

“People on death row go through years of isolation and uncertainty. This is when justice becomes torture”.

12/05/2007 source :

An East Texas man condemned for a fatal shooting during an abduction and robbery at a convenience store lost an appeal Wednesday at the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals.

Richard Aaron Cobb was 18 when he was arrested along with a companion for the slaying of Kenneth Vandever in 2004. Vandever and two women were abducted from a store in Rusk. The three were taken to a field about 10 miles away near Alto, where one of the women was raped and all three were shot with a 20-gauge shotgun.

Vandever, 37, died of his injuries but the two women survived and testified against Cobb and his partner, Beunka Adams.

Both Cobb and Adams were convicted and sentenced to die. Records showed Cobb was on probation at the time for auto theft.

Vandever was described as mentally challenged after injuries in an auto accident left him with the mental capacity of a child.

Cobb’s conviction and sentence were upheld in January by the Court of Criminal Appeals. A subsequent appeal reviewed by the Austin-based court was rejected Wednesday.

The brief five-paragraph ruling from the appeals court upheld the recommendation of the trial court in Cherokee County, where a judge denied Cobb any legal relief after an evidentiary hearing.

Testimony showed Cobb fired the shot that killed Vandever, who frequented the store and would do things like take out the trash. Adams, then 20, was accused of shooting the two women who worked at the store. Adams’ conviction and sentence were affirmed by the court in June.

The men left the scene after believing the two women were dead, but the women were able to get up and run to houses nearby to get help. Adams and Cobb were arrested a few hours later in Jacksonville, about 25 miles to the north.

Both men still have appeals to pursue in the federal courts, and neither has an execution date.

Defense lawyers had argued at his trial that Cobb suffered abuse as a child and from fetal alcohol syndrome, the result of his mother drinking liquor while she was pregnant with him. Prosecutors presented witnesses who testified Cobb was able to tell the difference between right and wrong.

Executions in Texas, the nation’s most active death penalty state, and other states with capital punishment are on hold pending the outcome of a U.S. Supreme Court review of lethal injection procedures. Arguments in that case, initiated by two death row inmates in Kentucky, are set for early next year and a decision is expected before summer.

No. 11-9359

Beunka Adams v. Texas

from the Court of Criminal Appeals of Texas

Docket Entries

on March 13, 2012

Petition for a writ of certiorari and motion for leave to proceed in forma pauperis filed. (Response due April 18, 2012)


Beunka Adams, Petitioner, represented byThomas Scott Smith