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If you were on death row, thought you were being wronged and only had about a month to live, what would you say to America? What would you want the world to know about you? Texas death row inmate Ray Jasper wrote a seven-page, type-written letter that sums up his feelings as he awaits execution on March 19.

It's a gut-wrenching manifesto that Jasper sent to Gawker.Com as part of their Letters From Death Row series. I saw the letter in a story on their web site at http://gawker.com/....

I'm not given to hyperbole, but I don't think I've ever read anything that left me sadder and angrier than Jasper's letter.  It's a must read for anyone concerned about race relations in America, our criminal justice system, our educational system and the role religion plays in our society.

I urge you to read this eye-opening letter, but here are some powerful excerpts:

"We look at slavery like its a thing of the past, but you can go to any penitentiary in this nation and you will see slavery."

"When I walked into prison at 19 years old, I said to myself 'Damn, I have never seen so many black dudes in my life'. I mean, it looked like I went to Africa."

"If God wanted me to die for anything, I would be dead already. I talk to God everday. He's not telling me I'm some kind of menace that He can't wait to see executed."

"As easy as it is for a preacher to stand up in the pulpit with a Bible and tell thousands of people the death penalty is right, I challenge any preacher in Texas, John Hagee or any others to come visit me and tell me that God wants me to die."

I've never been to prison, never even visited one...but it sounds like hell on earth--overloaded with young black men, created most especially to assuage the fears of the "haves" and to profit at the expense of the "have-nots" in our society.

Read Ray Jasper's letter.  It's long, but well worth the time.
 

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Comment Preferences

  •  The death penalty is so cruel. (6+ / 0-)

    And so unnecessary.

    And yet, all these "small-government" conservatives who claim to not trust the government are so very happy to grant the government power to adjudicate one's life forfeit.

    "Much of movement conservatism is a con and the base is the marks." -- Chris Hayes

    by raptavio on Wed Mar 05, 2014 at 08:41:46 AM PST

  •  This really moved me. (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    VeggiElaine, wader, cotterperson, jilikins

    What did he do?  What does he think about what he did?

    Based on this letter, if I had the power I'd take him off the death penalty list, at least.  

    Best Scientist Ever Predicts Bacon Will Be Element 119 On The Periodic Table

    by dov12348 on Wed Mar 05, 2014 at 08:46:28 AM PST

    •  Well thankfully.. (6+ / 0-)

      People put other people on death row because of the things they did, not because of the letters they write for sympathy.

      TX-17 (Bill Flores-R), TX Sen-14 (Kirk Watson-D), TX HD-50 (Celia Israel-D)

      by Le Champignon on Wed Mar 05, 2014 at 09:06:12 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  It is not a capital crime (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        chuco35

        to kill a straw man. And every time this subject comes up, a legion of them gets killed. Will nobody think of the poor straw men?

        The process that leads to the death penalty is so tainted with racism and classism and error, there is no way anybody can argue it's fair. But every time that argument is made, somebody finds one heinous case, as if that makes all the injustice okay, somehow.

        Is it worse that one innocent man be executed, or one hundred killers live on, behind bars?

        Early to rise and early to bed Makes a man healthy, wealthy, and dead. --Not Benjamin Franklin

        by Boundegar on Wed Mar 05, 2014 at 11:26:00 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Personally... (0+ / 0-)

          I'd say it's hardly worse than having an innocent man rot in jail his entire life. The problem isn't the sentence - it's the fact that our courts do not require prosecutors to sufficiently prove their case before handing down heavy-handed sentences like life in prison or the death penalty.

          Standards need to be erected, requiring that all death penalty/life without parole sentences be in cases where DNA evidence has linked the killer directly to the murder. I fully believe in the morality of the death penalty, but it does need reform.

          TX-17 (Bill Flores-R), TX Sen-14 (Kirk Watson-D), TX HD-50 (Celia Israel-D)

          by Le Champignon on Wed Mar 05, 2014 at 12:27:11 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

      •  Life in prison (0+ / 0-)

        would be worse for him anyway, IMO.  Many slowly go insane there.  

        Best Scientist Ever Predicts Bacon Will Be Element 119 On The Periodic Table

        by dov12348 on Wed Mar 05, 2014 at 02:17:20 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  Many cons become quite the (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Angryallen

        eloquent writers, as well as speakers, years after the crime. Jasper is an excellent writer, and does address some legitimate concerns. But, along with the prison charm, comes the denials, or completely ignoring the original crime altogether. No love from me; it was a very premeditated, horrific crime...SSK

        "Hey Clinton, I'm bushed" - Keith Richards UID 194838

        by Santa Susanna Kid on Wed Mar 05, 2014 at 03:05:51 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

    •  He slit a 33 year old man's throat with the intent (6+ / 0-)

      to rob him.
      David Mendoza Alejandro was the victim, his throat was slit by Jasper then his accomplice finished the job by stabbing David 25 times.
      In trial, Jasper maintained that he didn't kill the man since medical examiner determined that the final cause of death was the 25 stabbings that followed.

  •  I read some of it on HuffPo last night (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    VeggiElaine, raptavio, jilikins

    it was enlightening.

    This man should spend the rest of his life in prison, but not be sitting around waiting to die.

    This is a crime and poverty cycle that's only going to end when there is equal opportunity for all.

    You can get animals addicted to a harmful substance, you can dissect their brains, but you throw their own feces back at them, and suddenly you're unprofessional. -Amy Farrah Fowler/The Big Bang Theory -7.50, -5.03

    by dawgflyer13 on Wed Mar 05, 2014 at 08:48:35 AM PST

  •  Some people really do deserve to die for their (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    raptavio, wader, jilikins

    crimes HOWEVER the state cannot figure out which is which. The state has consistently been proven to botch this decision.

    Now they have the 2nd (safety net for sloppy) Amendment, and can't be infringed to actually treat their gun like a gun and not a video game controller.

    by 88kathy on Wed Mar 05, 2014 at 08:51:54 AM PST

    •  not in this case n/t (5+ / 0-)

      Rivers are horses and kayaks are their saddles

      by River Rover on Wed Mar 05, 2014 at 08:56:51 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Maybe. (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        River Rover, wader, jilikins

        But I don't trust the state with this power.

        Clear and present danger only -- the same exemption the rest of us have to kill someone. Not this flawed and broken judicial process.

        If he's so horrible, lock him up until the day he dies. Same public protection end is served.

        "Much of movement conservatism is a con and the base is the marks." -- Chris Hayes

        by raptavio on Wed Mar 05, 2014 at 09:09:02 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Your point about trusting the state in matters (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Samer

          like the death penalty ( and for that matter, drone warfare ) is a problem for me to.  While this guy has a well earned cell on death row based on his own confession, the case of Cameron Todd Willingham should scare the Hell out of all Texans.  

          Rivers are horses and kayaks are their saddles

          by River Rover on Wed Mar 05, 2014 at 09:15:18 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  But that's the point, isn't it? (5+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            wader, 88kathy, Samer, Pirogue, River Rover

            You can't separate out the two cases and say this is just, this isn't. The system is broken, therefore the state should not have the power to sentence either man to death.

            "Much of movement conservatism is a con and the base is the marks." -- Chris Hayes

            by raptavio on Wed Mar 05, 2014 at 09:23:23 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  Holding contradictory beliefs is not easy, (0+ / 0-)

              but it can be done.

              Rivers are horses and kayaks are their saddles

              by River Rover on Wed Mar 05, 2014 at 12:33:18 PM PST

              [ Parent ]

              •  Just because it can (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                River Rover

                doesn't mean it should.

                "Much of movement conservatism is a con and the base is the marks." -- Chris Hayes

                by raptavio on Wed Mar 05, 2014 at 12:35:08 PM PST

                [ Parent ]

                •  Maybe not but it's part of what makes us human, (0+ / 0-)

                  it's a pretty common, maybe even universal, trait as well.

                  Rivers are horses and kayaks are their saddles

                  by River Rover on Wed Mar 05, 2014 at 12:52:10 PM PST

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  I suppose that's so. (1+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:
                    River Rover

                    But to bring this back from waxing philosophical to the hard reality --

                    The fact that the government sometimes sentences the right guy to death or doesn't sentence the wrong guy to death, doesn't really mean that the times when it gets it wrong are okay. The best solution is to remove that power.

                    "Much of movement conservatism is a con and the base is the marks." -- Chris Hayes

                    by raptavio on Wed Mar 05, 2014 at 01:20:51 PM PST

                    [ Parent ]

                    •  Maybe but it ain't gonna happen. Same with gun (0+ / 0-)

                      control.  There is a chance that the MIC can be beaten back and the banksters punished because these issues have wide support. If we would concentrate on things that unite us across party lines, quit calling the other side evil and stupid, and give up on gun control and the death penalty the way they have all but given up on abortion, and gay marriage (only a shrinking fringe still oppose these in most states) we could win some elections and fix some of the fixable things .

                      whew that's a lot of comment there, I gotta rest

                      Rivers are horses and kayaks are their saddles

                      by River Rover on Wed Mar 05, 2014 at 02:01:56 PM PST

                      [ Parent ]

                      •  Sometimes (1+ / 0-)
                        Recommended by:
                        River Rover

                        it's worth it to tilt at windmills.

                        I think the "government shouldn't be trusted with the power to kill a helpless man" angle could appeal to conservatives, personally...

                        "Much of movement conservatism is a con and the base is the marks." -- Chris Hayes

                        by raptavio on Wed Mar 05, 2014 at 02:26:00 PM PST

                        [ Parent ]

                        •  It's gonna take a long long time. (1+ / 0-)
                          Recommended by:
                          raptavio

                          If you're not familiar with it you should google up Clarence Darrow's closing statement in the Leopold and Loeb trail.
                          He makes some good arguements that you could use against people like me.
                          I agree that tilting at windmills is worth it ; thats a human trait too.

                          Rivers are horses and kayaks are their saddles

                          by River Rover on Wed Mar 05, 2014 at 03:01:46 PM PST

                          [ Parent ]

      •  That's the point. The state does not KNOW. (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Pirogue

        Now they have the 2nd (safety net for sloppy) Amendment, and can't be infringed to actually treat their gun like a gun and not a video game controller.

        by 88kathy on Wed Mar 05, 2014 at 09:30:10 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  No remorse for cutting a mans throat after (5+ / 0-)

    premeditating the murder and subsequent robbery - no sympathy and no mercy is appropriate here.

    Rivers are horses and kayaks are their saddles

    by River Rover on Wed Mar 05, 2014 at 08:55:07 AM PST

    •  David's brother wrote a response to Jasper (8+ / 0-)

      At Gawker, providing details Jasper prefers to elide.

      Yes, our for-profit prison system is racist and corrupt.  There is evidence we have executed innocent persons, and continue to incarcerate/execute innocent persons.  The system is horribly flawed.

       But Jasper is not innocent.  He may not have made the killing blow, but he cut David's throat and held him down while he was stabbed.  

      I liked Stephen's thoughtful response - that he opposed the death penalty, but cannot personally oppose Jasper's execution.  I'd feel the same way if my brother was murdered.

      We do not forgive. We do not forget. The whole world is watching.

      by Tracker on Wed Mar 05, 2014 at 09:18:28 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  an excerpt from Stephen's letter: (4+ / 0-)
        Ray Jasper knew well that he could not rob David's studio equipment without being fingered to the police by him later. So it was, seven to ten days prior, Jasper made the decision to end David's life. He enlisted the help of two others. That night (and this is all from on-the-record courtroom testimony and statements he gave police in his confession) the three men made the recording appointment. They were there for roughly two hours working, recording, David sitting at the control console. Jasper admits to then grabbing David by his hair, yanking his head back and pulling the kitchen knife he brought with him across David's throat, slicing it open. David jumped up and grabbed at his own throat from which blood was flowing. He began to fight for his life. At this point Jasper called to one of his accomplices who rushed into the room with another knife. His accomplice then stabbed David Mendoza Alejandro 25 times. David collapsed, already dead or dying—we will never know. The final stab wound was at the back of David's neck; the knife plunged in and left there.

        He was then covered with a sheet and the three men proceeded to tear out as much equipment as they could and load it all into the van they drove there. As they were loading they were spotted by an off-duty Sheriff who called out to them. They took off running, and were eventually caught. The evidence was overwhelming; DNA, fingerprints, confessions. This is and was an open and shut case, as they say in all the cheesy TV murder investigation shows. One defendant was offered the choice of a trial by jury, which could end in a death sentence, or he could avoid the death penalty by admitting his guilt. He chose to admit his guilt. Jasper, given the same choice, apparently decided to take his chance with a jury trial.

        Two paragraphs that explain everything you need to know about Jasper, IMNVHO, and why the State of Texas should NEVER take the chance of having him loose on the street again.

        There are rabid humans out there too. Like rabid animals, there is no cure, and the public safety demands that they be put down lest they harm others.

        LBJ, Van Cliburn, Ike, Wendy Davis, Lady Bird, Ann Richards, Barbara Jordan, Molly Ivins, Sully Sullenburger, Drew Brees: Texas is NO Bush League!

        by BlackSheep1 on Wed Mar 05, 2014 at 09:49:54 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Or life imprisonment without possibility of parole (0+ / 0-)

          I've just one reason for being against death penalty is that people make mistakes. If a state made a mistake and "murdered" an innocent, there's no going back from that.
          Life imprisonment at least allows for a chance that if mistakes are made, there're always a chance to amend that mistake.

          •  Jasper's sentence is not a mistake. (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            6412093, Santa Susanna Kid

            Law of parties my sweet aunt Fanny. This guy is no angel, no innocent, and deserves exactly what the state will mete out on March 19. Read the rest of ... wait, read this graf from Stephen's letter:

            As I wrote earlier, this was an open and shut case and the jury did not take long to return a guilty verdict. All that was left was the punishment. During the punishment phase the prosecutor outlines the State's case for the death penalty and, of course, the defense argues for the sparing of the defendant's life. I'm sure if you asked, under the Freedom Of Information Act, you would be able to wade through the trial documents; the prosecutor's case was convincing for a death penalty verdict from the jury. Ray Jasper did not grow up on the wrong side of the tracks, he came from a family wherein his father, a career military man, and his mother were still happily married. Jasper was not defended by a court appointed lawyer; his defense was comprised of a well paid for and well known private practice firm. Jasper had a history of arrests and in fact was out on bail when he participated in the murder of David. He had, weeks before, assaulted an off-duty police officer who had stumbled upon Jasper attempting to break into a house.

            LBJ, Van Cliburn, Ike, Wendy Davis, Lady Bird, Ann Richards, Barbara Jordan, Molly Ivins, Sully Sullenburger, Drew Brees: Texas is NO Bush League!

            by BlackSheep1 on Wed Mar 05, 2014 at 10:41:11 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  I agree that Jasper is someone who's fully (0+ / 0-)

              deserving of his punishment.
              I'm only stating that on the justice system as the whole, cases like Jasper's are rare (a clear cut case of a sociopathic murderer without remorse). As such, it would be better to limit the maximum possible sentence to short of death penalty to prevent making irreversible mistakes.

              •  ah, but a sociopath can also be (0+ / 0-)

                not yet a murderer (many rapists, for example).

                What we need is less Gee O Pee obstruction and defund-it-all attitude, and more rape kits tested, more rapists arrested, and more juries like the one in Lubbock County this week who sent a 23-year-old sociopath to prison.

                LBJ, Van Cliburn, Ike, Wendy Davis, Lady Bird, Ann Richards, Barbara Jordan, Molly Ivins, Sully Sullenburger, Drew Brees: Texas is NO Bush League!

                by BlackSheep1 on Wed Mar 05, 2014 at 11:50:56 AM PST

                [ Parent ]

          •  Ad what if he takes another life (0+ / 0-)

            What if he takes another life in prison?  Life without parole essentially means living in prison without the possibility of the rule of law or consequences.  Why do the people in prison who are there because they were dealing pot or stole a car have to live in fear of Jasper?  Or do you condone a complete sentence of isolation?  How is that humane?

    •  Can't mention death row without mentioning the cri (3+ / 0-)

      It's one thing to oppose the death penalty, but it denies the victim of their humanity, again, when a discussion of a particular case omits any mention of the crime or the victim.

      David Alejandro-RIP

    •  Jasper wasn't convicted of doing the killing. (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      wader, Samer

      He was convicted under the law of parties.  The man who actually committed the murder made a plea deal, acknowledging he was the one who did it, and was given life in prison.

      I'm a Christian, therefore I'm a liberal.

      by VirginiaJeff on Wed Mar 05, 2014 at 09:24:48 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Of course. If you approach a person from (4+ / 0-)

        behind with a sharp knife and slit his throat, and then your accomplice finishes the job, you should not be charged with murder.  Very compassionate of you.

        •  Much more compassionate -- (0+ / 0-)

          or is it justice? -- to give the person who stabbed the victim 25 times a life sentence, while giving Jasper death.  The inconsistency in death penalty cases gives the lie to claims of compassion or justice.

          I'm a Christian, therefore I'm a liberal.

          by VirginiaJeff on Wed Mar 05, 2014 at 10:02:42 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  The person who stabbed the victim 25 times (3+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            BlackSheep1, 6412093, Angryallen

            accepted the plea bargain.
            Jasper didn't, and still maintained that he didn't murder David.
            The former is either smart or remorseful.
            Jasper is in no way remorseful for what he did.

          •  Allow me to elaborate even further. (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            BlackSheep1, 6412093

            I can't speak for the others who accepted the plea bargain. But Jasper is without remorse.
            From his own word.
            "I'm on death row and yet I didn't commit the act of murder. I was convicted under the law of parties. When people read about the case, they assume I killed the victim, but the facts are undisputed that I did not kill the victim."
            He still keep up claiming that he didn't kill the victim. While it is true in a technical sense that slashing the victim throat open didn't kill him, he is still without remorse for what he did.

          •  Jasper did this while out on bail (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            6412093

            and the only reason he isn't the primary murderer is the ME's analysis. Do we know he isn't the one who left the knife in the back of the victim's neck after the final killing stab???

            LBJ, Van Cliburn, Ike, Wendy Davis, Lady Bird, Ann Richards, Barbara Jordan, Molly Ivins, Sully Sullenburger, Drew Brees: Texas is NO Bush League!

            by BlackSheep1 on Wed Mar 05, 2014 at 10:43:11 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

    •  Mercy is about us (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      marina

      Mercy is about what kind of society we want to be.  

  •  "People need to know... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    raptavio

    ... that when they sit on trial juries and sentence people to prison time that they are sentencing them to slavery."

    That may change some jurors' minds.  Unfortunately, it may only encourage others.

    "Democrat" is a noun. "Democratic" is an adjective. "Republican" is an idiot.

    by TheOrchid on Wed Mar 05, 2014 at 08:58:16 AM PST

  •  Some of the comments (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    wader

    on the original article are just plain ugly.

    I hope that the quality of debate will improve,
    but I fear we will remain Democrats.

    Who is twigg?

    by twigg on Wed Mar 05, 2014 at 09:19:34 AM PST

  •  As a person adamantly opposed to the (5+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    wader, 6412093, Catte Nappe, basquebob, MKinTN

    death penalty I did find the letter to be compelling. However I also recommend reading a response by the brother of the victim, who is himself opposed to capital punishment.

    The world is a den of thieves and night is falling. -Ingmar Bergman

    by Pirogue on Wed Mar 05, 2014 at 09:26:54 AM PST

  •  He Confessed to Slitting a Man's Throat (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Catte Nappe, BlackSheep1, 6412093

    If he had plead guilty, he wouldn't be on death row.

    I oppose the death penalty on the grounds that I believe executing an innocent person is worse than letting a guilty person go free... but in this case guilt is not in question.

    Of course, that doesn't mean I think the justice system is fair or the prison system is wonderful... but I think for all of Ray Jasper's eloquence, society is better off without him in it.

  •  If anybody deserves to die in America, (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    hnichols

    Then, we should compare what they have done to DICK CHENEY.

    Dick Cheney deserves to die for his crimes against humanity, but instead our nation has spent hundred of thousands of dollars to keep this war criminal alive.  WHY?

    Voters should select people to represent them in their government. People in government should not select people who may vote!

    by NM Ray on Wed Mar 05, 2014 at 10:51:12 AM PST

  •  "Stop the murders, deter the crimes away ... (0+ / 0-)

    ... only killing shows killing doesn't pay. ... Murder is so wrong, you see. Both the Bible and the courts agree that the state's allowed to murder in the chair."

    Phil Ochs's song from roughly 50 years ago still rings with truth today. Half a hundred years later and the old arguments for capital punishment still ring just as hollow.

    That being said, I will admit to being a hypocrite. Mass murderers, serial killers and those who repeatedly prey on children don't get much sympathy from me.

  •  Murder is murder, whether by state or by man (0+ / 0-)

    He who is without sin insert insert the first poiso into this man's veins.

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