Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Arnold Prieto

Arnold Prieto, 41, is scheduled today to be the first person executed under Governor Greg Abbott. Arnold is a frequent contributor to the blog, where you can learn about him in his own words. He is deserving of a commutation to life in prison, so call Gov Abbott and urge him to stop today's execution:
(512) 463-2000.

by Arnold Prieto
September 10th, 2014 12:48am
Normally I would be fast asleep during these wee hours of the morning, but instead I find myself typing out my following thoughts to you. My night lamp is my only source of light, beaming down from its perch over my head on my shelf, while the silence is booming its loudness throughout this tomb all around me. I can hear someone’s radio so softly that it gets lost in the silence and making it sound so small compared to it .....
Count time will be called out within the next couple of seconds and the locking mechanism of the crash gate leading into the death watch section will break the silence with its loud metal on metal clanging sound. Soon, there will be a flash of light piercing our dark cages. Well, semi-dark in my case, as if a lightening bolt struck within our walls. The loud silence will once again reclaim its rightful place as the thundering of closing doors echoes out with the guards passing through the tomb with their infernal light.
Within that silence, I can hear the whooshing sound of Father Time's heavy pendulum swinging with every passing second ..... tick.tick.tick.tick.tick.

Friday, December 12, 2014


As you are filling out your holiday cards this winter, please remember the men and women who will spend the holiday season behind bars. Opening a holiday card and receiving greetings and words of encouragement from you could really mean a lot to someone who has to spend the holidays away from his or her family.  

Many CEDPers host holiday card writing events, which is a great way to get together in a more casual setting, make plans for the new year, and send some holiday cheer into prison walls. 

Here are some addresses of prisoners we have come to know through our work. You may want to add them to your holiday card list.
Death row prisoners:
Kevin Cooper, #C-65304, San Quentin State Prison, San Quentin, CA 94974
Darrell Lomax PO Box K-27402 SQSP San Quentin, CA 94974
Keith Doolin #K 13400, S.Q.S.P. (4E-Y-25) Death Row, San Quentin, CA 94974
David Lee Thomas #A-717466#P61185# A-1, Union Correctional Institution, 7819 N.W. 228th St., Raiford, FL 32026-4000
Keith Gavin #Z-665, 3700 Holman Unit 8U4, Atmore, AL 36503
Siddique Abdullah Hasan #R130-559, Ohio State Penitentiary, 878 Coitsville-Hubbard Rd, Youngstown, OH 44505-4635
Rodney Reed #999271, Polunsky Unit, 3872 F.M. 350 South, Livingston, TX 77351
Louis Castro Perez #999328  Polunsky Unit, 3872 F.M. 350 South, Livingston, TX 77351
Jeff Wood #999256 Polunsky Unit, 3872 F.M. 350 South, Livingston, TX 77351 
Rob Will #999402, Polunsky Unit, 3872 F.M. 350 South, Livingston, TX 77351
Christopher A. Young #999508, Polunsky Unit, 3872 FM 350 South, Livingston, TX 77351
Carlos A. Hawthorne Jr. #K-67900, San Quentin State Prison, San Quentin, CA 94974
Correll Thomas P.O. Box P-55743 3-EY-6 San Quentin State Prison San Quentin, CA 94974
Beth Markman #0G3739, P.O. Box 180, Muncy, PA 17756
Michelle Tharp #0F6593, P.O. Box 180, Muncy PA 17756
Shonda Walter #OJ8227, P.O. Box 180, Muncy, PA 17756
Darlie Routier #999220  2305 Ransom Road, Gatesville, TX 76528
Christopher Erdman #1008950 #6 South 515 Fulton County Jail 901 Rice Street Atlanta, GA 30318

Former death row prisoners who continue to be incarcerated, some with life without parole sentences: 

Mumia Abu-Jamal #AM-8335 SCI Mahanoy, 301 Morea Road, Frackville, PA 17932
Kenneth Foster Jr.  #1451768 Alfred Hughes Unit Route 2 Box 4400 Gatesville, TX 76597 
Kenneth Collins #189948, MHC-X-C-7, Jessup, MD 20794
Eugene Colvin-El #157345, MHC-X, P.O. Box 534, Jessup, MD 20794
Stanley Howard #N71620, 2600 N. Brinton Ave, Dixon, IL 61021*
Robert Gattis #188752 Unit-SHU17 JTVCC 1181 Paddock Rd Smyrna, DE 19977
Vernon Evans #172357, North Branch Correctional Institution, 14100 McMullen HWY SW, Cumberland, MD 21502
John Booth 170-921, North Branch Correctional Institution, 14100 McMullen HWY SW, Cumberland, MD 21502
Timothy McKinney #10137763 Shelby County Jail 1-E-21 201 Poplar Drive Memphis, TN. 38103

Thursday, November 13, 2014


By Marlene Martin
Sadly, our good friend and comrade in struggle Darby Tillis—the first exonerated Illinois death row prisoner in the modern era of the death penalty, passed away on Sunday November 10, at the age of 71. He was a steadfast fighter for abolition. After being released from prison in 1987, along with his co-defendant Perry Cobb, Darby spent the entire rest of his life fighting for justice. 
We will miss Darby terribly. To many of us, he was a teacher, someone who knew and could explain the criminal justice system from the inside out, and who worked passionately to expose it. Working alongside Darby in the Campaign to End the Death Penalty was an honor. 
His full name was Jesse “Darby” Tillis, but we all knew him as Darby.
It was so easy to grow fond of Darby, even with all his quirks and bouts of stubbornness—qualities that must have helped him survive an unjust imprisonment on death row. Darby stood out in every way (it wasn’t just his name that was unique!) There was, for example, his signature attire: He always dressed all in black, often wearing a black cape, even in the summer, along with a black cap and black alligator boots. Instead of using the word prison, he would talk about the “the penitentiary for the poor.” Referring to the corruption in Chicago’s Cook County, he would instead call it “Crook County.” 
Darby was certainly one of a kind. For a long time, he drove around in an old limousine, and across the side, he had scrawled, “Thou shall not kill.” But Darby was no joke, and none of what he did was for laughs. He wanted to shock people into paying attention. This is why he once strode through downtown Chicago in an orange prison jumpsuit, complete with chains, carrying a bullhorn calling for abolition—he called these walks “The Death Row Shuffle.” He would do anything to draw attention to this cause. He was all guts, and spit fire.
I heard Darby speak countless times over the years. In his characteristic low, raspy voice, Darby could hold audiences spellbound, telling them about how he had been “kidnapped, used and abused by the Illinois criminal justice system, and how he had been tried five times, “more than any other person in the history of the U.S.” (Actually, along with Darby and Perry, this unique distinction also belongs to the Scottsboro Boys, African American youth from Jim Crow Alabama who were falsely accused of rape.)
I never heard Darby say he spent “nine years” in prison, or “just over nine years.” He always gave people the precise amount of time, each time he spoke: “nine years, one month and 17 days.” Why? I’m not sure, but I think that he wanted to make it clear he knew exactly what had been stolen from him. 
He was bitter about the years taken from him—how couldn’t he be—and you could feel that in him. And he wanted people to know those precious moments of his life—each and every day that was stolen—were times that he wasn’t with his mom when she passed or wasn’t able to help his daughter when she needed him. He wanted people to feel that—to try to have some understanding of what having part of their lives stolen is like. And he also wanted to make it known that he was keeping score. 
Darby had been sent to prison by Judge Thomas Maloney, who was later found guilty of taking bribes to fix cases and was sent to prison for 15 years. Darby liked to include this fact in all of his presentations, too, since it’s so rare for a judge, prosecutors or police to face any consequences for sending the wrong people to prison or death row. At the end of one interview, Darby asked a journalist how it could be that the system was still doing the same exact thing it did to him all those many years ago—sending the wrong people to prison. He believed a big part of the reason it continued was because those who rule over the system never face any consequences for the miscarriages of justice they help to arrange.
I first heard Darby speak at a forum put on by the International Socialist Organization in the early 1990s. The title of the panel was, “The War on Poverty”—Darby was asked to speak on the connection of the criminal justice system. I was blown away by what I heard. 
He was a street preacher, and he had the cadence, confidence and passion of the profession, but he also had something very unique, which was a relentless determination to hold the criminal injustice system accountable for the wrongs it had done to him and to so many others, and that it was still doing. He taught me, along with many others in the abolitionist community, so much about the unfair workings of the criminal justice system and its deep-seated racism. 
Darby was at ground zero in the fight to win the abolition of the death penalty in Illinois, which we achieved in 2011. He also traveled on our national speaking tours on many occasions, rousing the audience and imploring people to join him in the fight against this injustice.
He talked tough, and he was, but he was also deeply compassionate, caring and gentle. I don’t think there was a single time that I talked with Darby when he didn’t first ask how my family was. 
He befriended family members who had loved ones in jail. He spent time with Martina Correia and Virginia Davis, the sister and mother of Troy Davis, the innocent Georgia death row prisoner who was executed in 2011. Darby drove to Atlanta to be with them for one of Troy’s last execution dates. He sat with them, prayed with them and gave them comfort in an impossible time.
When Mark Clements, a victim of Chicago police torture, was finally released from Illinois prison after 28 years, he said it was Darby who took him under his wing, mentored him and looked after him. They became very fond of one another and spent a lot of time together. As Mark says, “He supported me—he encouraged me to stand up against wrong.” Losing Darby leaves a “hole in my heart which will never be able to be filled,” Mark said.
Several times, when Darby spoke at the Campaign to End the Death Penalty’s annual conventions, he paid tribute to the work of the campaign, speaking thoughtfully and poetically about our accomplishments and why it was so important to stay the course.
It was through the Campaign that Darby would meet Cathy McMillan, who was fighting on behalf of her brother. Darby spent the last several years close to Cathy, whom he adored.
In later years, even when it was difficult for him to walk, he would still come out for events. 
At the final big rally for Troy Davis in Atlanta, Darby was with us among the 3,000-person rally. He spoke to the audience and performed a rousing song he wrote for Troy Davis, titled “Let’s Fight Together.” The song pleaded with the authorities to do the right thing and free an innocent man. The lyrics were beautiful and the music upbeat, holding out the promise that we could win. Darby was incredibly talented as a songwriter and harmonica player, and he absolutely loved the blues. You couldn’t go on a road trip with Darby without him popping in the CD he recorded during the trip.
One of the last times I saw him was when he spoke out at a rally in Chicago to call for justice for Trayvon Martin. Darby could always be counted on to help in the struggle. 
After the decades-long fight to win abolition in Illinois, Darby was careful to point out that the victory shouldn’t just be laid at the feet of Gov. George Ryan, who first put a moratorium on the death penalty and then cleared death row by granting clemency to every prisoner. Nor should the lawyers and journalists get the credit solely—he reminded us that it was also pivotal what activists did. This is how he put it when I asked him about how we won abolition for an article for Socialist Worker newspaper:
“We worked hard to get the ear of Governor Ryan, we got exonerated and family members out there, and he heard their pleas. We kept on and got the ears of the politicians to see our point, and as a result, we have destroyed this dinosaur. It shows that when we stand together and don't give up, we can win.
It's so different now compared to when we first started. People used to look at us like we were the culprits. Now they see us, and they want to stand with us. They say, "Hey, can I hold that picket sign?" and "Keep up the good work." People can see that the death penalty is senseless--it won't cure the ills in society. They can see the corrupt and flawed nature of the system.”
I asked Darby what we abolitionists should say in a situation where the guilt of the defendant is certain. Here’s how he responded:
“I used to say I would kill him myself if I saw him do it. But I have had a change of heart on that. You have to look beyond the person to understand why they did what they did. In some of these communities in Chicago, they're so barren, so desolate--they're like a desert. When I go there, I feel nothing but pain and hurt. It feels deadly--there's such a lack of resources.
When you grow up and live in a community like that, you become subhuman, because you live like you're in a combat zone. Police are cruising around, and young men are out on the street with nothing to do in miserable circumstances. Just like the soldiers coming back from Iraq who suffer post-traumatic stress disorder, so do the people in these desolate, crime-ridden, cop-patrolled communities.
They're battlegrounds, and you don't hear any of the politicians saying anything about it. These problems need to seriously be addressed and not just by a program or two--it needs to be deeper than that.”
The article ended with a quote from Darby giving instructions to activists about what’s next: "We have to align ourselves with people who want to build a safe and sound society. We've shown people what we can do when we come together. We can get justice if we work hard.”
One of the best ways we can remember Darby is to bring a bit of his spirit into our fight for justice today. One of the last struggles he was concerned about was that of Texas death row prisoner Rodney Reed, who faces an execution date in Texas on January 14. He had befriended Sandra Reed, the mother of Rodney and spoke of her as “an angel who was wounded by a system that doesn’t give a damn about poor, colored people.” Darby wasn’t able to attend the Campaign’s convention this year in Texas, but he was there in spirit the whole time.  
To learn more about the fight for Rodney, please go to our website at
Darby would be proud to know we will carry on with this fight, standing tall, and feeling him holding us up from behind.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Darby Tillis, Exonerated Death Row Survivor from Illinois Dies at 71

Darby Tillis, a death-row survivor who spent more than nine years incarcerated in Illinois, including four years on death-row, passed away at the age of seventy one. Darby was living in an old limousine in the streets of Chicago. Severely wounded by his experience on death-row, he traveled around the country telling the story of his wrongful conviction to anyone that would listen. In 2007, he took a bus ride from Chicago to Austin to support the successful campaign to save Kenneth Foster Jr. He never failed to mention that the judge who convicted him "is doing fifteen years in a federal penitentiary." I recorded this video of him performing his signature song at the same 2007 rally for Kenneth Foster.

Darby and Perry Cobb were wrongfully convicted and sentenced to death for the 1977 murder and armed robbery of the owner and an employee of a hotdog stand on the north side of Chicago. They were arrested three weeks after the crime when a witness, Phyllis Santini, went to the police with a story implicating them. Both men professed their innocence. It took three Cook County jury trials for prosecutors to convict Tillis and Cobb. The first two trials ended in hung juries. The third resulted in convictions and death sentences, but the Illinois Supreme Court reversed the case based on judicial error. The two men were acquitted at the fifth trial in 1987 after Michael Falconer, a Lake County prosecutor, came forward after reading an article about the case by Rob Warden in the Chicago Lawyer. Falconer said the state’s chief witness against Mr. Tillis and Cobb had confided to him that the crime actually was committed by another man, her boyfriend. Fourteen years later, as a result of petitions brought by the Center on Wrongful Convictions and the MacArthur Justice Center, Governor George Ryan granted Tillis and Cobb pardons based on actual innocence.actual innocence.


Sunday, October 26, 2014

Execution Watch: Miguel Paredes, Oct. 28

Miguel Paredes

On Tuesday, Texas is slated to carry out its last execution of 2014, that of Miguel Paredes.

Last month, Paredes gave Execution Watch an interview, which we will broadcast in its entirety. This edition of the show will air in Houston on the HD3 channel of KPFT FM because the station is in fund drive. As always, a live stream of the show will be accessible worldwide at > Listen.

MIGUEL PAREDES, Convicted of acting with John Saenz and Greg Alvarado in 2000 to shoot and kill three members of a rival gang in San Antonio. Paredes, who joined the Pistoleros prison gang before he was 17, was one of 20 children born to poor, Mexican-immigrant parents. The family moved to the west side of San Antonio when Paredes was a boy. After going to death row, he contributed Part 3 of a series called, "Letter to a Future Death Row Inmate." The text of the letter he wrote and a link to his his artwork are at

Host: RAY HILL, an ex-convict and activist who founded, and hosted for 30 years, The Prison Show on KPFT. His internet radio show airs Wednesdays, 2 PM CT, at

Legal Analyst: JIM SKELTON, a legal educator, retired attorney and native Texan who has seen capital trials as a prosecutor and a defense attorney. Also, Houston criminal defense attorneys SUSAN ASHLEY, LARRY DOUGLAS, MICHAEL GILLESPIE & JACK LEE.

Featured Guest: MIGUEL PAREDES, the condemned man, who gave an interview to Execution Watch last month. The results will broadcast unedited and uncut. A videotape of the interview, and of the show’s live radio broadcast, will air soon on Houston MediaSource,

Reporter, Outside the Death House, Huntsville: PAT HARTWELL, member, Texas Death Penalty Abolition Movement,

Reporter, Vigil, Houston: DAVE ATWOOD, founder and former board member, Texas Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty,

On Jan. 14, Texas plans to kill RODNEY REED, one of nine Texas executions already scheduled in 2015. Execution Watch will air coverage of each.

PRODUCER: Elizabeth, eliza.tx.usa [at]
THEME: By Victoria Panetti, SheMonster International,

Friday, September 12, 2014

Poems from death-row

More several individuals have asked for the poems which were read at Willie Trottie's execution. Two of the poems ("judge ye not" and "good bye"), were written by Eugene Broxton (TX #999044), a close friend of T-Rock's. Eugene and T-Rock have been friends for many years (Eugene entered in 1992, and T-Rock in 1993. Both were convicted out of Harris County). Ker'Sean Ramey (#999519) wrote "stand up to injustice". Ker'Sean has been a friend of T-Rock's since he entered death row out of Jackson County in 2007. 
"JUDGE YE NOT" (Read by Auntie Cynthia)
Have you walked in the shoes
Of the person you judge,
Have you shared their most
Intimate thoughts,
Have you known of the tears,
The doubts and the fears,
Or the battle that person
Has fought?
Have you shared in the secrets
That lie in the heart,
When they don't understand,
They condemn off hand
But trusting in me,
Your eyes confide,
Holding nothing,
Telling no lies,
Then suddenly I was startled,
At my own reflection,
Your eyes mirrored
My imperfection,
So, who was I looking at?
Who did I really see?
Was it you?
Or was it me?
Or am I you?
And you are me?
Written by Eugene Broxton #999044 in 1996
"GOOD BYE" (Read by Momma T)
Saying goodbye is never easy
But moving on
We all must do
Going on with our lives
Not just talking about it
But seeing it through
Move on,
My love,
Move on,
And live,
You have,
Much more to give
Now it's time I must go
It's not easy to say good bye
But it's time
So I say good bye
Know my love for you is true
And as long as you live,
My love will be with you
Written by Eugene Broxton #999044 July 2010
"STAND UP TO INJUSTICE" (Read by Pat after the bell was rung 20 times)
Stand up to injustice,
and let it be known.
You will not tolerate it,
even from the king on his throne.
Stand up to injustice,
cause it could happen to you.
And then what would you want
the rest of the world to do?
Stand up to injustice,
in every shape, size and color.
Then come together to stop this
from going any further.
Stand up to injustice,
for you and for me,
'cause one finger can be broken,
but a fist can not be too easily.
Fight this injustice,
whether a woman or a man,
'cause separated we fall,
but United, We Stand.
Written by Ker' Sean Ramey #999519

Sunday, September 07, 2014

Oklahoma Execution Report Raises More Questions Than Answers

Five points by Gloria Rubac

1.  Oklahoma, like Arizona and Ohio who've also botched executions, are experimenting on how to kill people, using live subjects. Looking for the best kill methods on prisoners is WRONG!

2. An attorney for Oklahoma death row prisoners has filed a very detailed, 33-page lawsuit against the Dept of Corrections, the executioners, the doctors, the paramedic, the warden -- 14 people in all. There are eight specific violations of law they are charged with and with the sub-points, they enumerate 124 charges against the listed defendants who botched the execution of of Clayton Lockett last April.

3. The autopsy was done in Dallas and Texas Attorney General Gregg Abbott ruled that parts of the results of the autopsy can remain a secret from the public, including the name of the doctor and paramedic and also where the drugs were bought. Gregg Abbott, who is runnig for governor of Texas, has received a very large campaign contributions from a Conroe compounding pharmacist.

4. Oklahoma's written procedures mandate the participation in each execution of a licensed physician. The physician's functions include insertion of intravenous lines into the condemned person and the performance of cut down procedures to gain intravenous access to the condemned person.

5. In a most ironic and factually absurd statement, the prison warden, Anita Trammell, told the investigators that Mr. Lockett was covered with a sheet to "preserve his dignity."

IV Misplaced in Oklahoma Execution, Report Says
By SEPT. 4, 2014

Jason Holt, left front, captain of the Oklahoma Highway Patrol, and Michael C. Thompson, the public safety commissioner, fielded questions on Thursday. Credit Sue Ogrocki/Associated Press

An official report released Thursday about a bungled execution in Oklahoma in April says that an improperly placed intravenous line in the prisoner’s groin allowed the drugs to perfuse surrounding tissue rather than to flow directly into his bloodstream.

The report was ordered by Gov. Mary Fallin after the prolonged writhing and gasping of the prisoner, Clayton D. Lockett, during an execution that drew global attention to death penalty procedures and problems associated with lethal injections.

Because the groin area was covered with a sheet as the injections began — first a sedative intended to render Mr. Lockett unconscious, and then paralyzing and heart-stopping agents — the doctor and paramedic on the scene did not see the bulge, larger than a golf ball, indicating a procedure gone awry, said the report by Michael C. Thompson, the commissioner of public safety.