"The National Geographic Channel is airing a program they filmed in Huntsville and Livingston, Texas last winter. It is on a show called EXPLORER and the show is titled "Inside Death Row."The information below is from National Geographic Channel:
We believe the three men featured in the program are Willie Pondexter, Johnny Ray Johnson, and David Martinez. All three men are now dead, victims of the state of Texas".
In most places death has no schedule, but in Huntsville, Texas, an average of 16 people per year are scheduled to be executed by lethal injection. Inside Death Row interviews three inmates as their dates of execution draw near, and follows the stories of their families and loved ones as they deal with death firsthand. This story is not one of guilt or innocence; it is about how the State of Texas carries out the death penalty as well as the men and women whom, by choice or circumstance, become players in the act of executing another human being. Lastly, it explores how the residents of Huntsville feel towards living in a town that is ground zero for capital punishment in the United States.
If you can not see the preview video embedded below, click here to watch it at the National Geographic Channel.
Visits to Death Row
By: Katy Jones, Associate Producer
The only way to communicate with death row inmates in Texas is by actual U.S. Postal Service mail. I spent a great deal of time during the planning stages of this project writing letters to death row inmates. It is odd enough to write to a stranger, out of the blue, but I was writing to strangers who were convicted of murder and condemned to die. What do you say? “Greetings from a girl sitting in a cubicle who isn’t quite sure how she feels about any of this?”
It was a lot we were asking. We were asking men who knew the date they were going to die if, without any tangible reward, they would be willing to share their story with us. We were transparent about our plans. We would be contacting everyone involved in the executions of those men who volunteered to participate. We would contact the families of the victims. We would interview wardens & correctional personnel. We would talk to their families. And we would film everything.
I watched the mailbox daily, hoping for return letters. We received them. After various exchanges, we settled on the three men in our film. When we met them in person, what was most surprising to me was how normal they appeared. It would be easier in some ways if you could come to death row and walk away knowing that all murderers were scary monsters. But they were normal, the type of guys who, without the jump suit and plexiglass, could have lived next door, or stand in line at the supermarket. These were just guys.
You couldn’t get away from the fact that these crimes were often awful. And some of the crimes, well - I once sent an email to my producer with a case history. I included the disclaimer, “If you are going home to your children, DON’T even open this case until the morning.”
We spoke with people who held strong opinions about the death penalty – both for and against it. What I walked away with – was that everyone on all sides of the issue – both for and against - were all deeply committed to justice. Everyone involved wanted to participate in a just society. And each participant – anti-death penalty lawyers, correctional officers, district attorneys, protesters, wardens, families, even inmates – every person was doing what they could to preserve the concept of justice.
The three men in our film were executed within the span of a month. One by one, after months of exchanging letters and visiting, we recorded our last interviews. We often were able to conduct an interview the day before they died. We’d say our good-byes, touch hands to the glass - the death row method of hand-shaking - and say whatever we could awkwardly think of to say. “Thank you for being part of our project” was all I could say.