Through the busy streets of downtown, families and friends of death row prisoners shouted and chanted in unison Saturday afternoon at an anti-death-penalty march.
Participants held up signs and posters with faces of their loved ones, some of who they said had been wrongfully convicted. Others said their relatives never had a fighting chance because of their race or their income level.
All agreed that Texas’ death penalty system is broken.
“We got a system that is used against the poor, the innocent as well as the guilty. It’s used against people who are so mentally ill that they don’t even know what’s going on,” said Gloria Rubac, a Houston activist and member of the Texas Death Penalty Abolition Movement.
To date, Texas has executed 517 inmates, more than any other state in the U.S. since the re-establishment of the death penalty in 1976 after the Gregg v. Georgia case. The first man to be executed after that ruling was Charles Brooks Jr. in 1982.
Rubac led the March to Abolish the Death Penalty, which is in its 15th year, and encouraged participants to shout out against the “flawed Texas prison system.”
“Death row, hell no,” she clamored into a megaphone to more than 100 protesters who had taken over several of the streets in Houston.
Rubac said that the prison system is flawed because it disproportionately targets minorities and the poor.
A total of 273 death row inmates are currently serving time in the Texas prison system, according the Texas Department of Criminal Justice. Nearly 70 percent of the inmates on death row are black or Hispanic, with just 29 percent being white.
Marilyn Grant, 54, and mother of Paul Storey, a felon who has been on death row for six years said the system is flawed for another reason.
“If you sentence a person to death, there is no option to rehabilitate him,” said Grant.
Grant said she just wants her son back. She wishes she could tell him that everything is going to be OK.
“It’s a mother’s job to protect her child, to console him,” said Grant. “I haven’t touched my son in years.”
Another voice heard at the rally was that of Rodrick Reed, 45, brother of death row prisoner Rodney Reed and member of the Campaign to End the Death Penalty. He said the conviction of his brother has affected his entire family.
“If my brother is on death row, I’m on death row,” he said. “I know in my heart of hearts that he is innocent.”
Supporters of Rodney Reed believe that sufficient evidence exists that could potentially lead to finding the actual murderer of the woman he is convicted of killing.
Rodney Reed has been on death row since 1998 when he was convicted of murdering Bastrop woman Stacey Stites.
In April 1996, Stites disappeared from her home in the early morning hours. Her body was later found in a wooded area seven miles outside of the city limits. According to the Travis County Medical Examiner, she was strangled to death.
Only one bit of evidence connected Reed to Stites – semen found inside her body was a match to Reed. Police could not connect Reed to the vehicle Stites had used the morning of her disappearance, according to relatives.
In July, Reed received a Jan. 14, 2015 date of execution. Defense attorneys and prosecutors agreed to allow additional DNA testing to be conducted. Now Rodrick Reed and his family are fighting to appeal the execution date.
“I’ve been punished for the last 17 years for something that my brother didn’t do,” said Reed. “I have to live with that.”
The 15th Annual March to Abolish the Death Penalty was held Saturday October 25, 2014 in Houston, Texas.
We gathered at 3:00 pm at Little Tranquility Park on Capitol and Bagby and at 4:00 we crossed Bagby and lined up at the Old Hanging Tree to march to M.E.C.A. at 1900 Kane Street.
We will rallied on the basketball court at M.E.C.A.
The Free Rads Second Line Band marched with us to abolish the death Penalty!