Statement to Abolitionists from Christopher Young, set to be executed by Texas in July

I Love the People

#SaveChrisYoung

I want to thank you for the solidarity and love. Good day to you and good day to the struggle across the world. I want to thank you again for all of the support for not only me but for every prisoner captured in bondage. Without you, there would be no us. I want to give you your flowers while I’m here and give you your flowers for the others that have no voice.

I’ve been fighting this struggle with you for the last thirteen and a half years. Fighting with the likes of the D.R.I.V.E. Movement, the PURE movement, the International Socialist Organization, and the Workers of the World Movement. I also have to mention the LGBTQ Movement, the #MeToo Movement, the TDPAM, and the TCADP Movement. We all fight the same struggle.

I want to thank you all for being here. Today is not only a day for struggle but also a day for love and solidarity. If you don’t feel the love and solidarity from your comrades, then you’re here for the wrong reasons. The love should be flowing throughout the crowd. Throughout the people. Love flows no matter where you are.
I’ve been on death row for thirteen and a half years. With that time I’ve been fighting the struggle against the death penalty. Fighting the struggle against poor housing, fighting the struggle against the inhumane treatment that has been dealt out for all these years.

When I joined D.R.I.V.E. (Death Row Inner-Communalist Vanguard Engagement Movement) I did it because I went through the same system every lower-class individual would go through in my situation. The trial process I went through was a sham. The living conditions I’m subjected to are inhumane. Having to eat inedible food, suffering contaminated ventilation, having no human contact, living in sensory-deprived housing. It is an unjust classification system that has been outlawed in numerous other states such as Arizona, Virginia, and Pennsylvania. Those states have all been a part of the fight. I’ve been continuously gassed, ran in and beat up by this system’s riot team, and beat up for the struggle. I accepted and loved it all. Fighting for the people is something I was taught was necessary for the ones coming after me.

I compare this struggle I’m in to the struggle my people were subjected to starting well over 400 years ago. I was one of the rebellious individuals who jumped off the ship on the crossing of the Atlantic in another lifetime. I was Denmark Vessy, Nat Turner, and John Brown when it comes to this housing and treatment.

Again I’m glad you’re here. I’m glad you’re fighting alongside of me. The struggle hasn’t changed. The struggle hasn’t stopped. The struggle continues. The death penalty is still around. Classism is still prevalent. The struggle continues.

I’m still here but now I’m facing an execution for July 17th. I’m not only to be murdered but I’m to be assassinated. Yes I said that. I’m Troy Davis. I’m Trayvon Martin. I’m Michael Brown and Sandra Bland. I’m Stephen Clark and Sheed Vassell. I’m no different from those getting gunned down in the streets by a police officer that’s overstepping their authority for no reason besides that they can.

What I ask the people is to continue to fight. Fight against the death penalty. Fight against the systemic violence and corruption.

We still have rights in this country and we need to speak up for them.

I’m Stanley “Tookie” Williams, I’m Kenneth Foster, and I’m Mumia Abu Jamal.

I’m Chris Young. Let’s continue to fight for another life discarded with no thought. Let’s #SaveChrisYoung.

I love you like I love the struggle. Shout out to the struggle and remember what Huey always said, “POWER TO THE PEOPLE!”

#SaveChrisYoung

 

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About his case:

Christopher was convicted and sentenced to death as a young man for a murder which occurred during a convenience store robbery in San Antonio. Over a decade later, he is now facing his execution as a very different man. His case shows not only the arbitrariness of executions, and the fact that many on Death Row are capable of change, but the case also exhibits many of the legal problems we often see in death penalty cases. The jury selection in his case was very biased, and his lawyers are now arguing for a new trial due to religious discrimination against a prospective juror, which is often a cover for excluding people of color from juries.

Statement from various faith leaders:

chris young faith leaders

If you are a faith leader who would like to sign on: http://goo.gl/forms/H55ubzL7nj

If you think Christopher deserves a chance for a new, fair trial, which can only happen with a stay of execution, or want to show support for his sentence to be commuted (to a life sentence), please ask the Board of Pardons and Paroles for a stay of execution and to recommend clemency for Christopher. You can also contact Governor Greg Abbott directly and ask that he grant Christopher Young clemency.  In your letter, please include this information: full name: Christopher Anthony Young; birth date: September 24, 1983; TDCJ#999508

Catholic Mobilizing Network offers a sample letter, an email form, and some information on clemency here: https://catholicsmobilizing.org/event/christopher-young-1

Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles
8610 Shoal Creek Blvd, Austin, TX 78757
Fax: 512/467- 0945
Email: bpp-clemency@tdcj.state.tx.us or bpp-pio@tdcj.state.tx.us.

Governor Abbott: https://gov.texas.gov/contact

Sign this petition to the governor here: Mercy For Chris Young

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Interview about the Death Penalty

I, the editor, recently completed the following interview by email. The interview was used by a college student for a capstone project, but I thought it would be worth sharing my thoughts here. Let me know what you think in the comments.

1. Many opponents of banning the Death Penalty Argue….

It is an “eye for and eye”.
It works as a deterrent to violent crimes.
It can be used as a tool to get people to plead guilty to avoid getting the death sentence therefore saving money for future trials.

What are your thoughts?
I think these arguments can be shown to be flawed. Morally speaking I disagree with “an eye for an eye” because I don’t believe we make things right by perpetrating more violence and traumatizing and punishing another family. The family of the victim doesn’t gain anything through the suffering of another family. To me the moral response to violence is healing and preventing future violence, not reacting to violence with more violence. Currently we see that while attention and resources are being geared towards incarceration, execution, and court battles, the victims are often not receiving the support and resources they need to recover, and their voices, opinions, and needs are seen as secondary or irrelevant to the desires of the prosecutor and district attorney who are motivated by politics and their careers.
The argument that the death penalty deters crime is not backed by modern data. We have seen states in the southern US and countries like Iran and Saudi Arabia continue to execute people at higher rates than the rest of the world, but there continues to be frequent violence in these areas. The death penalty has been used heavily for 30 years now and has not drastically reduced the amount of serial killers, domestic violence related shootings, and mass killings, or deterred the daily gun violence we see here. We began executions again in the US in 1977 and in Texas in 1982, and during that period we actually saw several increases in the US murder rate until the mid 90s, which those spikes happened to also correspond to the Reagan era and many social issues happening at that time. I would argue, and most current data seems to show, that is because the rate of violence is affected by many societal factors such as poverty, lack of mental health services, drug epidemics, environmental factors such as lead exposure, age of the population, and easy access to guns, and not by the threat of execution.
The fact that many countries and states without the death penalty have much lower rates of violence could be a testament to the lack of evidence that the death penalty is an effective or necessary means to prevent violence. Most modern experts discount any deterrent effect and argue that people committing murder either are not thinking about consequences, or believe that they will not be caught or will not end up on death row. My experiences with death row prisoners would support that assertion as well. Ultimately we have seen a fairly steady murder rate for some time, but a drastic drop in the use of the death penalty. This is not due to a lack of horrific and violent crimes, but rather it has been attributed to the reluctance of juries to hand out death sentences and the fact that many prosecutors have stopped seeking it. I believe we are seeing an acknowledgement that this system is not viewed as effective and a push toward rehabilitation and prevention as more favorable policies.

Using the death penalty as a “tool” to get plea deals actually strikes me as part of the flawed ideology that has created an epidemic of wrongful convictions in this country. I have heard several wrongfully convicted people say they were threatened with some version of “confess or get the needle”. I can see how the price of murder trials is an issue for taxpayers. My response would be that we need to stop using the death penalty and to resort to less costly alternatives. Bad convictions are expensive because the taxpayers will pay for restitution, and the costs of more litigation with the wrongfully convicted. Death penalty appeals are very expensive to taxpayers, but are a necessary part of the death penalty process to try to ensure justice. Ultimately, ending that system is a better, more cost effective option than using it as a scare tactic.

2. Many Proponents of abolishing the Death Penalty Argue…

· It is cruel and unusual punishment therefor unconstitutional.
· It is a flawed process and too many people are being wrongfully convicted and executed.
· It leads to false convictions due to people pleading guilty even if innocent in order to avoid getting the Death Penalty.

What are your thoughts?

The death penalty is cruel and unusual for several reasons. One reason is that administration of the death penalty is completely arbitrary. Only a small number of U.S. counties are seeking death sentences regularly. This has always been the case since it was reinstated. We have also seen people held for 30 or 40 years before being executed, and those who face execution over and over again and develop “death row syndrome” because of the trauma it causes. There are issues around mental health and low IQ and whether it is cruel to execute people who are clearly mentally ill or have a limited understanding of things. Several men on Texas Death Row had well documented mental illness before their crimes and they would likely be sent to a mental health institution in many other countries or even in other states in the US with different standards and policies from Texas. Furthermore, the issues with lethal injection, that have stemmed from an EU ban on selling lethal injection drugs to us, have arguably caused many questions about the “humaneness” of the current way of killing inmates. There have been several prolonged executions and other signs that people were in pain or gasping for air when they should have been paralyzed during the execution process.

There is no doubt that people are being wrongfully convicted and that we have executed innocent people, two of those being Cameron Todd Willingham and Carlos DeLuna in Texas. I have personally met about a dozen people who were or are on death row despite strong evidence of their innocence and the struggle that these men and women go through to get exonerated is incredibly difficult and it should be concerning to anyone who cares about justice. There is no morality in promoting a system that kills innocent people. We have over one hundred fifty cases to prove that it is happening.

Just as we have a crisis with the amount of innocent people on death row, the use of the death penalty and other harsh sentencing has created a systemic problem of innocent people accepting plea deals for lesser charges. This is not justice and it is also not fair to the victims when poor police work and political ambitions get in the way of finding the truth and looking at violent cases in an honest way. Instead we are just throwing people’s lives away, dehumanizing people, sometimes lying to victims and not actually providing any solutions or justice in the situation.


3. In my research I found the biggest moral dilemma to be whether the government has the right to choose if a person lives or dies.
What are your thoughts on this?

I do feel that is a major moral dilemma and as someone who values freedom I do see the right of the government to kill as a threat to freedom and democracy. When we look at the context of executions worldwide and in history, they often have greater political implications and go hand in hand with repressive governments. Many abolitionists argue that the U.S. history of lynchings is connected to executions. We can see an underlying theme of race based repression in US executions with their prominence in the South and with the over-representation of black men on death row. So I see this as a major moral issue that is at odds with a free society. Countries like Saudi Arabia and the Philippines show what can happen when we allow the death penalty to be used more widely, which is the targeting of dissidents, sexual or ethnic minorities, and drug addicts, and a collapse of any semblance of fairness or justice. There is also a moral issue with the government ignoring the wishes of victims who are against the policies they promote, whether it is executions, life without parole, or giving a child life in prison. Many victims are in opposition to these policies, whether it is because they forgive the person, or that they believe in rehabilitation, or have religious views that make them against the death penalty. One such group is Murder Victims’ Families for Reconciliation, which actively seeks alternatives to the death penalty and promotes restorative justice options.

4. In my research I have identified proponents of banning the Death Penalty to value the sanctity of life, rehabilitation and justice and opponents to banning the Death Penalty to value safety, security, cost efficiency and justice.
What are some of your values?

I value justice, equity, rehabilitation, healing, accountability, and safety.

5. In my research I have identified that proponents of banning the Death Penalty seem to be obligated to Death Row inmates, their families, the wrongfully accused, & all American citizens especially those who don’t have the money to hire lawyers.
I have identified that opponents of banning the Death Penalty seem to be obligated to victims, their families, future victims, and American citizens.
Who do you feel obligated to?

I feel obligated to inmates and their families as well as victims and future victims, the wrongfully convicted, and all Americans; that is why I try to focus on better solutions to violence that will benefit all of us as a whole. I think we often overlook that victims are sometimes also family to the accused, and that a significant amount of victims oppose the death penalty and sometimes openly fight against executions, so being anti-death penalty is in no way inherently in opposition to supporting victims.

Remember the Dead, and Fight Like Hell For the Living

RIP Antonio “TonyTone” Williams

“An eighties baby raised in the era of dopeboys, crack fiends, and kickdoor burglaries.

A young lion of Acres Homes, nurtured on street corners by uncles and old heads who’d yet to succumb to violence or the 3 strikes laws.

Little Antonio: all ears & energy. While his schoolmates were busy being teenagers he was trapping out of motel rooms, paying rent to his own mother, surviving shoot outs, and watching out for his younger brothers.

A black boy with an immeasurable will to live, he was. He & I met on Death Row– the last stop in the Pre-School to Prison Pipeline. I laughed when he introduced himself as TonyTone. He was trying to be serious, but a chipped front tooth diminished his attempt severely. I laughed louder; he began to laugh too. Later he would joke that my gap tooth was far funnier than his chipped one, and that he could not help but laugh.

Our friendship was solidified a few years later while playing chess. Tony was one of the best chess players I’ve played. We both gambled on the game, but rarely did we gamble against each other. I asked him one day, as we were preparing to play, did he want to bet per game. He was quiet for a few moments, then looking directly at me he said, “Friends don’t hustle each other, bro”.

TonyTone was a friend.

I remember when he left for his court hearing. Weeks earlier we talked for the first time of his daughter, and his desire to be there with her. He left Death Row filled with hope. He had survived the streets, and had become a writer, poet, and a legal mind in prison. He was a beautiful, unbreakable man who deserved far more than the short life he received.

 

Long Live TonyTone!

#BlackLivesMatter

 

—Kichwa, Texas Death Row Inmate

tonytonepainting

Potrait of TonyTone, picture from MECA Dia De Los Muertos altar in Houston, October 2016.

Artist:

Howard Guidry #999226

Polunsky Unit

3872 FM 350 S.

Livingston, TX 77352

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Antonio “TonyTone” Williams, passed away under disputed circumstances in Harris County Jail in February 2015. TonyTone was formerly on Death Row and had been transferred to county jail for a hearing about new evidence in his case. Two witnesses had recanted their testimonies, citing police intimidation as their reason for falsely testifying against him at trial.

The Chronicle reported “The two women who saw the shooting from a second floor patio said they were told to identify Williams despite their claims that the killer was a man named Keith who had dreadlocks with blond tips, according to court documents…” While awaiting a ruling which could have overturned his sentence, he was allegedly found hanging in his cell by his shoelaces. TonyTone’s friends immediately felt that he may have been targeted by another inmate or staff due to his strong spirit of resistance. The only reason they can imagine he would have become suicidal is due to medical neglect, as he has previously been taking anti-depressants which he was denied in county jail, and mixed with the effects of solitary confinement this may have triggered a man who was known as “someone who would never give up” to become hopeless in Harris County Jail. His death was never given a fair investigation, but whether it was murder, or a reaction to negligence and torture, the Sherriff’s office is responsible for the conditions which led to this young man’s death. We must fight to make sure there is a future where there are no more senseless deaths in our jails and prisons. Prisoners rights are human rights, and their lives should matter to us too.

— the editor

Zine Release and More

On January 9th we released our second zine to a full house of enthusiastic supporters! The event was a great success, with historical and personal information from activists Gloria Rubac, Joanne Gavin, and Robert Gartner, as well as comments from editor Marie B and contributor Cristy V. Below I will share some photos of the event and information on the prisoners involved. The overall message we wanted to promote at the opening was that it is crucially important for our community to see prisoners as humans, with families who are suffering, in order to work together to find better solutions to our society’s problems. The current unjust and oppressive prison system harms our families and communities and does nothing to fix issues of inequality, addiction, poverty, mental illness, or to prevent violence. When we begin to view prisoners as members of a family and community we can work towards a more just society. Each person has an individual story and addressing the individual causes and effects(focus on healing rather than retribution) of their behavior in a  humane way can create much more effective results than punishing them and their family for years or decades. If you would like to receive a copy of the zine, please contact us to purchase one! Continue below for more information on our contributors:

Anthony “Tony” Medina

Tony is a Texas Death Row inmate, a father, a writer, and artist. His book, Witness to Murder, is a collection of poetry and essays posing the question “What is the value of a man’s life?”. You can find Witness to Murder online. Tony is currently hoping to make a casual friend from Houston, and you can write to him at:

Anthony Medina #999204

Polunsky Unit

3872 FM 350 S.

Livingston, TX 77351

 

Howard Guidry

Howard is on Texas Death Row. He is a son, husband, brother and uncle who is very dedicated to his family. He is also an artist, writer of poetry, essays, and plays, and is adamant about practicing yoga regularly in his cell or in the recreation area. He is always looking for new friends to keep him occupied!

Address:

Howard Guidry #999226

Polunsky Unit

3872 FM 350 South

Livingston, TX 77351

James Broadnax

James, or JB, is a young man on Death Row. He is an avid writer, and has contributed both to a blog called Solitary Mind, and a book called “Emotionally Illiterate: A Collection of Writings”. He submitted a spoken word piece and other poetry to our zine.

Address:

James Broadnax #999549

Polunsky Unit

3872 FM 350 S.

Livingston, TX 77351

 

John Green

John Green is an avid writer of fiction (prose, poetry and songs), a classic rock fan, and an enthusiast of literature, radio, and comedy. He is currently working on a fiction novel, but chose to contribute an inspiring and humorous reflection on his role model, his father Bob. He has contributed several poems and songs to our blog as well. He is actively seeking a dedicated pen pal.

Address:

John Green #671771

C.T. Terrell Unit

1300 FM 655

Rosharon, TX 77583

Jorge Garcia

Jorge is currently held at the Eastham Unit, in solitary confinement. He is unfortunately separated from his family (mother, sister, and daughter) by a large amount of space and hopes to see reform in the use of solitary confinement soon, as well as hoping to be moved closer to his loved ones. He likes to read and writes poetry and short prose. He would love to make a friend to have someone to express his thoughts to and learn from.

Address:

Jorge Garcia #1372972

Eastham Unit

2665 Prison Rd #1

Lovelady, TX 75851

Kenneth Conrad-Vodochodsky

Kenneth was sent to Death Row under a law of parties conviction, but has since had his sentence reduced. He is not guilty of murdering anyone and actually was not present when the murder was committed. He will be released by 2029 and has worked to better himself during his incarceration especially since his move from Death Row has allowed him more opportunities. He is an artist and writer who works with German artist Anja Claudia Pentrop on various projects. 

Address:

Kenneth Vodochodsky #1362329

Pack 1 Unit

2400 Wallace Pack Rd

Navasota, TX 77868

Nanon Williams

Nanon was formerly on Texas Death Row, but because he was convicted as a child he was later moved to general population with a life sentence. He is an academic, a published author, and a tradesman who makes beautiful leather and metal items in his prison craftshop. He has published a prisoner newsletter for many years and continues to fight his conviction. We hope he will join us in the free world to fight for justice soon! His books, with co-author Dr. Betty Gilmore: The Darkest Hour and Still Surviving, are available online.

Address:

Nanon Williams #1306434

Ramsey One Unit

1100 FM 655

Rosharon,TX 77583

Pete Russell

Pete is a Death Row inmate and a dedicated yogi. His book, Texas Death Row Yogi is available online. Pete is currently looking to make a friend to help maintain his personal/yoga centered web page. He also contributed artwork to our zine project! 

Address:

Pete Russell #999443

Polunsky Unit

3872 FM 350 S.

Livingston, TX 77351

Sean Adams

Before his incarceration, Sean was a longtime anti-racist activist in Houston and supporter of leftist movements and he was working on a historical fiction novel about Anarchists during the Spanish Civil War.  His problems with alcohol and other drugs brought him to prison after a tragic accident. He is currently about a third of the way through his sentence and has worked hard to be a model inmate, tutoring others and continuing to be a positive influence in the life of many of his friends from Houston. He hopes to see parole in the next 5 years so he can rejoin his father, sister and many friends and continue to fight for a better world. He is currently in the transfer process, but his address can be found online.
Sean Adams #1850164

Tee Earvin

Tee is one of the longest serving Death Row prisoners in Texas, and probably in the nation; he arrived there in 1976 and has not only maintained his sanity despite decades of torture, but has changed his life in many positive ways. He is a serious writer of poetry and prose, an artist, and is politically engaged as well. He is an example of personal growth against all odds and some of the young men on Death Row have written about him as an inspirational person in their life. 

Address:

Harvey Earvin #000577

Polunsky Unit

3872 FM 350 South

Livingston, TX 77351

Terence Andrus

Terence is one of the youngest men on Death Row in Texas, arriving there at the age of 24 in 2012. He left behind a small daughter who was his motivation for contributing to this publication. He has been learning about writing and many other subjects since his incarceration began, and is seeking a mature, dedicated friend to support him.

Address:

Terence Andrus #999578

Polunsky Unit

3872 FM 350 S.

Livingston, TX 77351

 

See our Pen Pal page for more information on

(and pictures of) many of these men and others!

Pictures From the Zine Release!

gloriatalking
Gloria Rubac speaking about the men on Death Row

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marietalkingzine
Marie introducing the zine

zinereleasebobgroupzinereleaseboby

Thanks for Reading!

Our next post will be a continuation of writings on family and incarceration from two men in solitary confinement…coming soon!

Film: The Darkest Hour

This short documentary film is most definitely worth 50 minutes of your time. Even the first 10 or 15 minutes gives you some profound knowledge and thoughts, and there are numerous spoken word and musical interludes from Brooklyn artists that are great too. This film is based on the writing of a Texas prisoner, who is still currently incarcerated despite having been ordered released several years ago, and Dr. Betty Gilmore who has written about the psychological effects of imprisonment. Nanon was put on Death Row as a juvenile and has since been moved off due to the court ruling against executing juveniles. He is incredibly intelligent, author of numerous books, and has worked on a prison newsletter for many years. Several people in Houston plan on getting together to read their book in the near future. Please watch and share:

The Darkest Hour Film (click to view) from GoodMedia Press on Vimeo.

“We live in the age of racialized mass incarceration. An age in which tens of thousands of human beings are caged in solitary confinement every day. Some for decades at a time. “The Darkest Hour” exposes the inhumane impact of extreme isolation experienced by those incarcerated nationwide.

Through intimate interviews with death row survivors like Nanon Williams, now serving life in general population, and the last words of men like Napoleon Beazley before execution by the state of Texas, these stories reveal the savage inner workings of our justice system.

Narrated in hip hop and spoken word by artist/activist Bryonn Bain, creator of the groundbreaking multimedia production “Lyrics from Lockdown” (executive produced by Harry Belafonte), the film’s soundtrack, the “Life After Lockdown: Digital Mixtape,” features founding hip hop DJ Kool Herc and an all-star cast of legends.

“The Darkest Hour” is a call to action for a complete paradigm shift. We will either be ruled by passionate cries for punishment, or heal ourselves with the compassion required to repair a broken nation. ”

Want to read and discuss with us?

Find the book: http://www.amazon.com/The-Darkest-Hour-Shedding-Isolation-ebook/dp/B00N51PW3Q

and contact us to let us know you want to join!