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Capital Punishment in the United States Explained

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In our Explainer series, Fair Punishment Project lawyers help unpackage some of the most complicated issues in the criminal justice system. We break down the problems behind the headlines - like bail, civil asset forfeiture, or the Brady doctrine - so that everyone can understand them. Wherever possible, we try to utilize the stories of those affected by the criminal justice system to show how these laws and principles should work, and how they often fail. We will update our Explainers monthly to keep them current. Read our updated explainer here.
To beat the clock on the expiration of its lethal injection drug supply, this past April, Arkansas tried to execute 8 men over 1 days. The stories told in frantic legal filings and clemency petitions revealed a deeply disturbing picture. Ledell Lee may have had an intellectual disability that rendered him constitutionally ineligible for the death penalty, but he had a spate of bad lawyers who failed to timely present evidence of this claim -…

The Life of Texas Death Row Inmate Teddrick Batiste

We periodically publish letters from death row inmates. Today we hear from a 29-year-old Texas inmate who describes his life and horrific upbringing, and offers a look behind the walls of a prison from which he will never emerge.

Teddrick Batiste was convicted of the 2009 shooting and killing a Houston man during an attempted robbery. Batiste, a Houston native, was a member of the Crips at the time of his crime. He has been on death row in Texas since 2011.

Last month, Batiste wrote to me to share his memories of Ray Jasper, a fellow Texas death row inmate who was executed in 2014. Shortly before his death, Jasper wrote us a letter that was viewed more than 2 million times, becoming the most widely read ever in our "Letters from Death Row" series. Batiste told of his close friendship with Jasper, and of Jasper's fierce physical resistance on the day of his execution, forcing a riot team to remove him from his cell.

I wrote back to Batiste asking for any further memories of Ray Jasper, and sent him a standard set of questions about his life on death row and his thoughts on the justice system. His letter in response is below.

Batiste recounts his relationship with Ray Jasper and his recollections of the time leading up to Ray Jasper's execution. "He decided to not cater to a person smiling in your face to get you to hurry up and sign a piece of paper saying that your going to willingly let them kill you."

Batiste describes the chaos surround Ray Jasper's last days. "He told me that he didn't care if they put his body on top of another inmate that has been killed by the state, he was going to fight for his life no matter what."

Final thoughts on Jasper, and Batiste begins responding to our questions about his case and the burdens of life on death row. "You can spend your time being mad at the world, but you have to look in the mirror and not out the window."

Batiste discusses his past and his life inside. "I had a real dark childhood and fear was taken from me when I was young."

Typical Texas Death Row cell
Typical Texas Death Row cell
Batiste describes his daily routine in prison. "I aint had no physical contact since April 2009. Any contact I have had since then has been me fighting with the riot team here. No touch of my son, no family, a woman, no friends, no hand shakes, no high fives, no nothing at all."

Batiste talks about his childhood and growing up in Houston. "My mom had me when she was 15 years old in the bathroom of my grandmother's house on the floor... I saw people break and fall every day. I saw people speak of endless pain and defeat in life."

More on Batiste's youth. "This guy would physically abuse [my mom and me] and when she fought or cried I was right there with her. We were face to face tear to tear. You ever tasted a tear? I have."

More on Batiste's past and his thoughts on religion. "I felt like nothing bad happens at church so why did god allow this or do this to my grandmother... That was the last time I ever went to church."

Further thoughts from Batiste on religion and on the media. "I got tired of saying I pray and he don't talk to me, my knees bleed because I pray so much."

Batiste contrasts media perception and reality of his neighborhood and prisons. "There is no media when the aid centers are over packed and things like that, only crime brings the media where I'm from."

Batiste's final thoughts. "As a man I'm always willing to deal with what comes my way, but I also know that I would like to not have what came my way as my identity."

Source: Hamilton Nolan, gawker.com, July 24, 2016


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"One is absolutely sickened, not by the crimes that the wicked have committed, but by the punishments that the good have inflicted." - Oscar Wilde

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