Texas death row inmate Ray Jasper
intensified the controversy over capital punishment when it published a letter from a Texas death row inmate
. The provocative missive quickly devolved into an online spectacle as its contents were used to fortify the entrenched positions of both death penalty opponents and supporters.
The letter’s author, Ray Jasper, is scheduled to be executed by lethal injection on Wednesday, March 19 at 6 p.m. Jasper was convicted of capital murder for his role in the 1998 robbery and slaying of 33-year-old David Alejandro in San Antonio.
Jasper began corresponding with Gawker
in January as part of the “Postcards from the Edge” series, wherein they reached out to death row inmates that are scheduled to be executed this year.
His second response, which he billed as “final statement on Earth,” is a must-read for anyone who has an opinion on capital punishment, which is to say everyone. It’s one part scathing indictment of the the American justice system and one part revealing look into the mind of a man facing his last days on earth.
Jasper’s words are nothing short of incendiary. He equates the American industrialized prison complex as a profit-driven tool for legalized slavery.
Under the 13th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution all prisoners in America are considered slaves. 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... People need to know that when they sit on trial juries and sentence people to prison time that they are sentencing them to slavery.
He also aims criticism at Texas’ “law of parties,” the felony murder rule under which he was convicted of capital murder. Under the rule, a person can be found criminally responsible for murder if he aids, abets or conspires with the one who ultimately commits the act. The law is controversial to death penalty opponents, and Jasper’s letter seems to shed light on a perceived injustice.
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. The one who killed him plead guilty to capital murder for a life sentence. He admitted to the murder and has never denied it. Under the Texas law of parties, they say it doesn't matter whether I killed the victim or not, I'm criminally responsible for someone else's conduct. But I was the only one given the death penalty.
The law of parties is a very controversial law in Texas. Most Democrats stand against it. It allows the state to execute someone who did not commit the actual act of murder. There are around 50 guys on death row in Texas who didn't kill anybody, but were convicted as a party.
Steven Alejandro's responds >>>>
As sympathetic as Jasper’s words seem to be, they reveal a man who, even in his final days, is unable to accept culpability for his crimes. Jasper may not have been the man who ultimately killed David Alejandro, but it was not without trying.
Alejandro was a music engineer who owned a recording studio in San Antonio where Jasper was recording a rap album. Jasper formulated a plan with his accomplices to steal Alejandro’s recording equipment and decided that he must be killed so as to leave no witnesses. During the robbery, Jasper slit Alejandro’s throat ear-to-ear, leaving the victim bleeding and struggling. His accomplice then stabbed Alejandro multiple times in the stomach. It was the injury that ultimately killed him.
While Jasper’s knife may have not been the one that killed Alejandro, Jasper was no mere bystander. He was the mastermind behind the robbery and murder, and the first to inflict critical injury on the innocent victim. For many who may have been sympathetic to Jasper, his criticisms of the American justice system are invalidated by his calculated savagery.
Jasper’s letter and the online debate that it sparked prompted David Alejandro’s brother Steven to write a post
as a response. Steven Alejandro’s words are a heartbreaking account that reveals the complexity of emotions that swirl around the death penalty debate.
After everything, I'm still opposed to the death penalty. I have no intention of witnessing Jasper's execution, but I have no intention of fighting to stop it either. Does this make me a hypocrite? Maybe, but that's for me to live with. I harbor no illusions that Jasper's ceasing to exist will ameliorate the pain I feel daily from the loss of David. The truth is I rarely think of Jasper or the other defendants. I think of David more.
The online ordeal adds a illuminating human element to the death penalty debate, but it does little to bring that debate to its conclusion.