"Which is worse? The wolf who cries before eating the lamb or the wolf who does not."— Leo Tolstoy

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

"I Don't Know Why I Was Born" - Texas Death Row Inmate James Broadnax

This is a three year-old video of Texas Death Row Inmate James Broadnax. The video is of a local television news station interview shortly after he was arrested for a double homicide.

As you watch the video you will see why he is on death row, as the "sympathetic" reporter walks the then nineteen year old right into the lethal injection room before he's even had a chance to see his attorney.

The video was part of a syndicated video feed recently featured on Breitbart.tv, and is therefore getting a wide renewed distribution and eliciting some harsh comments, such as "[t]hank you Mr. Lincoln."

The video is instructive for a number of reasons.

First, the right to counsel means nothing if capital murder suspects are going to be served up to the local news media to make their confessions on television. Who needs rubber hoses when the hot media lights will do the job for you. If they don't know this by now, every single public defenders office should have attorneys on standby to immediately go to the jail as soon as a capital murder defendant is booked into custody so they can advise their client not to speak to the media. In a death case, its just as much about sentencing mitigation as it is about actual innocence. That video ensured a death sentence in this case.

Second, the video demonstrates that the death penalty no longer serves, if it ever did, as any kind of deterrent to young men like Mr. Broadnax. They welcome and embrace it. The murder rate among young men of color in the inner cities is so high - and the teenagers living and dying in these communities are so desensitized to death - that we may have actually gotten to the point where murders are being committed with the expectation, if not the purpose, of receiving the death penalty. If the odds are that you are going to be gunned down before your 21st birthday, you may as well be famous before you die.

Few, if any, of the people who have viewed this video online have expressed any sympathy for Mr. Broadnax. While I can understand their anger, I hope that what the video accomplishes is to terrify everyone who watches it.

Over the past twenty years America's social policy has been to sentence teenagers like Mr. Broadnax to long mandatory prison terms for drug and gun-related crimes. Tens of thousands of fourteen, fifteen and sixteen year olds have been sent to adult prisons on mandatory sentences of twenty or more years. 
I have met a number of young men with a similar outlook on life to the one expressed by Mr. Broadnax. Hardened, angry, hopeless dead-enders with ready access to guns who are seeking revenge for being born.

Although many would like to believe these offenders are "rotting" in prison they are actually going to school; gladiator school.  In a prison culture ruled by gang violence they have been exercising and getting stronger both in their body and in their knowledge of how to hurt people  A small percentage will manage to get an education during their incarceration. The majority , when they are returned to their communities, will be strong but unemployable, street smart but uneducated, and they will want to take revenge on the world for the state of hopelessness they find themselves in.

Unless we take this problem seriously and take action soon.  More later.


  1. Agree 100%. I cried for this young man. I've never seen someone who hated thier being as he did. So sad for all involved, including the killer.

  2. I also agree %100. His crime was obviously wrong but he did it out of desperation. You can't possibly value somebody else's life if nobody including yourself has ever valued your own. Its a very sad situation:*(