Texas After Violence Project
In 2009, the Human Rights Documentation Initiative (HRDI) partnered with the Texas After Violence Project (TAVP), an independent, Austin-based, nonprofit organization. The mission of TAVP is to build an oral history archive that documents the effects of murder and capital punishment in Texas and serves as a resource for public dialogue on alternative ways to prevent and respond to violence.
The HRDI is working with TAVP to ensure the long-term preservation and access of its digital video testimonies, transcripts and organizational records.
Texas After Violence Project Collection
Interview with Iliana López
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Iliana López was a high school student in 1996, when her close friend Brandon Shanks was murdered. In the beginning of Video 1, López describes growing up in San Antonio, Texas, and recalls the events leading up to Brandon's murder, including the trip she and her friends took to their usual hangout, the North Star Mall, where they met the young man who would later murder Brandon. López describes how Brandon went home with the man and how she came to find out that her best friend was dead. In Video 1, López also discusses the effects of the murder, the criminal justice process, and the 1999 trial on her life; her reactions toward the defense team's strategies at trial; and her attitudes toward the death penalty. In Video 2, López talks further about her memories of Brandon; the effects of Brandon's murder among his peers; her experiences during the trial, including her reactions toward the defense team's interrogation of Brandon's sexuality; and shares what she's learned in the aftermath of the murder. This interview took place on June 26, 2008 in Austin, Travis County, Texas.
Interview with Ireland Beazley
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Ireland Gene Beazley is the father of Napoleon Beazley, who was seventeen years when he fatally shot John Luttig in Tyler, Smith County. The death sentence and execution of Napoleon Beazley sparked international protest; within three years of the incident the U.S. Supreme Court banned the practice of executing people who were juveniles at the time of their crimes. In Video 1, Beazley describes family life up until the time Napoleon was arrested; the apparent determination of officials to execute Napoleon before he was even arraigned; the trial and legal proceedings; and the effects of the tragedy on the family. In Video 2, Beazley additionally describes how faith, prayer, and the support of Black churches, family, and community enabled him to get through these tragic events. This interview took place on April 3, 2008.
Interview with Jamaal Beazley
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Jamaal Beazley is the brother of the late Napoleon Beazley, who was executed in 2002 for a capital murder committed in 1994, at the age of seventeen. In the interview, Beazley reflects on the role of memory; recalls his reactions and his coping mechanisms during the arrest, conviction and eventual execution of his brother; considers the U.S. Supreme Court's decisions in the case; discusses the setting of the Walls, how the events have affected his family, possible perceptions of the victim's family, and the importance of communicating his message to others. The interview took place on April 4, 2008, in the public library near the Walls in Huntsville, Texas, where Beazley was also in his final year at Sam Houston State University.
Interview with James Lohman
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James Lohman is an attorney who has represented clients sentenced to death in Texas, Florida, Louisiana, and Arkansas. In Video 1,
Lohman explains how he got involved in capital defense work in Florida after his childhood in New York and talks about some of his specific cases, highlighting problems he sees in the entire
death penalty system. In Video 2, he describes in detail several more cases he has worked on in Florida and Texas, including Ted Bundy and Jesse Tafero. This interview took place in Austin,
Travis County, Texas on February 24, 2009.
Interview with Jeff Hood
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Reverend Jeff Hood is a Southern Baptist preacher and death penalty activist living in Denton, Texas. Hood is a theologian educated at Auburn University, the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, and the Candler School of Theology at Emory University. He currently serves on the board of directors of the Texas Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty. At the time of the interview Hood had just completed a two hundred mile pilgrimage between the Polunsky Unit in Livingston, Texas and the Texas State Capitol in Austin. In Tape 1, Rev. Hood describes his evangelical upbringing in Atlanta, Georgia, moving through his education as a theologian and later a preacher. He gives a look into the slow changes that took place during those early years and how he came to death penalty activism after the conviction of Troy Davis for the murder of a police officer in 1989. Hood recounts how he came to adopt a philosophy of love and acceptance, moving from what he describes as “t-shirt activism” to working with the TCADP, corresponding and visiting inmates on death row. He concludes by giving an account of his two-hundred mile walk from Livingston to Austin; giving insight into the sort of people he met along the way; the fear and physical exhaustion he faced; and the journey’s conclusion in front of the Texas State Capitol building. This interview took place on June 20, 2014 at the Texas After Violence Office in Austin, Texas.
Interview with Jim Willett
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Jim Willett is a retired prison warden of the Walls Unit who worked in the Texas prison system in various capacities for forty years, until his retirement in 2001. In this interview, Willett describes first learning about jobs in the prison system after moving to Huntsville to start school at Sam Houston State University; the training process and his trajectory from officer through captain to assistant warden and warden at both the James H. Byrd, Jr. Unit and the Huntsville Unit, or "Walls Unit"; his responsibilities as warden during executions at the Walls Unit; his experiences as warden during executions and funerals of inmates; his role as public spokesperson and his activities and accomplishments as a writer and speaker since his retirement; and his reflections on prison reform and the relationship between wardens and the prisons they run. This interview took place on March 2, 2011, at the Texas Prison Museum in Huntsville, Walker County, Texas where he is director.
Interview with Joe Lawless
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Father Joe Lawless has spent most of his professional career as a Catholic priest. In Video 1, Father Lawless recalls serving in the United States military during WWII, including fighting in Dachau, Germany. He also discusses his life after WWII, including his enrollment at the University of Georgia, and his introduction to Catholic teachings at the Blessed Pope John XXIII National Seminary in Massachusetts. Father Lawless then speaks about his responsibilities as a Catholic priest serving in different communities around the United States, including Compton, California, New Braunfels, Texas and Corpus Christi, Texas. At the end of Video 1 and in Video 2, Father Lawless discusses his work within the jail ministry and reflects on what he considers the repression of truth within various sectors of society. This interview took place on July 30, 2008 at St. Joseph Catholic Church in Corpus Christi, Nueces County, Texas.
Interview with John Holbrook
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Then-private investigator John Holbrook worked with the defense team for James Lee Clark, Jr., charged with the 1993 rape and murder of 17-year old Shari Catherine "Cari" Crews near Denton, Texas. (Clark was ultimately convicted, sentenced to death, and executed in 2007 for these crimes.) After his investigation, Holbrook suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder. He attributes subsequent projects – photographing homeless people and Death Row inmates – to emotional and spiritual changes initiated by his role in this case. In this interview, he describes these events and processes as well as his visit to the Polunsky Unit of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice in order to photograph condemned male prisoners. He also reads aloud a letter from the Public information Office of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice banning him from interaction with condemned inmates. This interview took place on August 7, 2008 in Benbrook, Tarrant County, Texas.
Interview with Joyce Hazzard Easley
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Joyce Easley is the long-time friend and former wife of Charlie Brooks Jr., also known as Shareef Ahmad Abdul-Rahim, the first man to be executed by lethal injection in 1982. She is also the mother to two of Brooks’ children, his sons Derrek Brooks and Keith Brooks. In her oral history, Easley describes her childhood, her neighborhood and her experiences growing up; the introduction of drugs into the community; the birth of her two sons and their relationship with their father; and the effects Charlie Brooks Jr.’s execution had on his family. This interview took place on February 6, 2013 at Easley’s home in the Echo Heights neighborhood of Forth Worth, Texas.
Interview with Katherine Scardino
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Katherine Scardino, a criminal defense attorney in Houston, Texas, has defended roughly forty clients charged with capital crimes. She was appointed to represent Anthony Graves in 2006, before prosecutors dropped all charges against him and he was exonerated in 2010. In Video 1, Scardino discusses her background and journey to becoming a lawyer; Anthony Graves' case, her general feelings about the death penalty system in Texas and her place within it; and her strategies for jury selection. In Video 2, she continues to discuss jury selection; and then goes on to share her thoughts on cross-examination; on interacting with her clients; and on assembling a team to work on the various facets of a capital case. She concludes with a brief discussion of mental illness and working with mentally ill defendants, as well as the emotional impact of the work in general. This interview took place on January 5, 2011 in Houston, Harris County, Texas.
Interview with Keith Brooks
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Keith Brooks, a youth minister, small business owner, and native of Fort Worth, Texas, is the second son of Charlie Brooks, Jr., the first man to ever be executed by lethal injection in the United States. In Tape 1, Brooks discusses his experiences growing up in segregated Fort Worth; the gang culture that permeated his neighborhood in the 1970s; memories of his father’s arrest and trial; his experiences with the NAACP; his own time spent in prison; his father’s conversion to Islam; and his own views on the ethics of the death penalty in Texas. In Tape 2, Brooks discusses his experiences with segregation and desegregation of public schools in Fort Worth; his relationship with his family; how his father’s notoriety affected his life and that of his family; his time spent at Texas A&M University and his father’s appeal process. In Tape 3, Brooks discusses the day of his father’s execution, December 7, 1982; his family’s history as sharecroppers in Texas; his experiences as a Black student at Texas A&M; life after his father’s execution; his relationship with Christianity; and the ways in which his father’s legacy has impacted his life and the lives of his family members. This interview took place on February 6, 2013, in the Echo Heights neighborhood of Fort Worth, Tarrant County, Texas.
Interview with Kristin Houle
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Kristin Houle has been serving as the executive director of Texas Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty (TCADP) since December 2008 and is the organization’s first executive director. In Tape 1, Houle describes her background, including her years living in Kentucky and Arkansas; her growing consciousness of the death penalty; her development as a civil rights and human rights activist; her involvement in the Kentucky Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty, the Illinois Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty, Amnesty International’s program to abolish the death penalty based in Washington, DC, and the Texas Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty beginning in March 2007. In Tape 1, Houle also shares her thoughts on the demographics of social movements; the place of activism in her life; her experience at vigils on the day of executions; her reflections on the prominence of the death penalty in Texas and shifting attitudes towards the practice. In Tape 2, Houle discusses some of the factors affecting the public’s perception of the death penalty, including the option of life in prison without parole (LWOP), cases of innocence and exoneration, and the cost of the death penalty; Houle ends with her vision of the abolition of the death penalty nationally. This interview took place on February 2, 2009 at the TCADP office in Austin, Travis County, Texas.
Interview with Larry Daves
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In Video 1, Daves describes how he and small group of recent U.T. Law School graduates first went to Nacogdoches in the early 1970s to assist voter registration efforts in Black communities; the virulent anti-Black racism and poor material conditions the students observed in East Texas; how they started a legal services office; effects of single-member districting; and his first criminal trial. He also describes his current work with the Piñon Canyon Expansion Opposition Coalition as it resists U.S. Army plans to turn much of Southeastern Colorado into a training area for a ground war against China. In Video 2 and the first part of Video 3 he recounts the capital murder trial of Herman and Thurman Davis. In Video 3, Daves describes his successful representation of undocumented immigrant children barred by Texas statute from attending public school, a case that he filed in federal court under Judge William Wayne Justice, and that ultimately reached the U.S. Supreme Court as Plyler v. Doe. Video 3 also describes Daves' unsuccessful representation of Mexican American women workers who lost their jobs and organized as Fuerza Unida when Levi's closed its San Antonio plant. Video 4 concerns Daves' upbringing in New Mexico and the Texas Panhandle, including high school in Amarillo, his family's early encounters with law enforcement and juvenile incarceration, and finding his way to Washington University and then U.T. Law School.
Interview with Lee Greenwood
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Lee Greenwood is the mother of Joseph Nichols, who was executed on March 7th, 2007, for a murder committed on October 13th, 1980. In Video 1, Greenwood recounts their life together, her son's activities as he was growing up, and her surprise upon hearing of his conviction. She then reflects on how she feels his trial was "grossly mishandled" and how he was found guilty under the "law of parties," although the punishment phase ended as a mistrial. She speaks about her regrets, what she would have done had she known certain laws, and then goes on to describe what she witnessed throughout his trials, and how she felt they were unfair. She then talks about Joseph's attitudes in jail, how he continued to be kind and giving while on Death Row, and what she learned from the letters he sent, including Joseph's relationship with Kenneth Foster and pen pals in Europe. Greenwood shifts to the night of the incident and describes her interaction with her son that night. Continuing with the trial, we hear about Nichols' family's reactions to the court proceedings, a detailed account of those proceedings, and the mistakes she felt were made. Greenwood concludes with a description of her son's execution day and her peceptions of the criminal justice system. This interview took place on August 27, 2009 at the Walter Branch neighborhood library in Houston, Harris County, Texas.
Interview with Leon Grizzard
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A lawyer since 1978, Leon Grizzard has spent most of his professional career as a criminal defense attorney in Austin, Travis County. In this interview, Grizzard recalls three capital murder trials. John ("Jackie") Elliott was convicted of the 1986 capital murder of Joyce Munguia and executed in 2003. David Madrigal was convicted in the 1991 capital murder of Department of Public Safety (DPS) Trooper Carlos Ray Warren and sentenced to life imprisonment. Paul Vallejo was acquitted of a 1990 capital murder charge in the killing of cab driver Eleazar Hinojosa, after Austin Police Department investigator Brett McDonald expressed doubts about Vallejo's guilt. Two months after this interview, a jury convicted another man for murders originally attributed to Paul Vallejo. This interview took place in Austin, Travis County, Texas on June 4, 2008.
Interview with Linda Icenhauer Ramirez
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Linda Icenhauer-Ramirez is a criminal defense attorney in Travis County, Texas. She has formerly worked as an on staff attorney in the Ferguson Unit in Huntsville, Texas representing convicts in a variety of legal cases. Icenhauer-Ramirez also worked as a legal aid in Beaumont, Texas. In Tape 1, Icenhauer-Ramirez describes her background and career; discusses working on criminal defense cases; and describes her views on the death penalty. In Tape 2, Icenhauer-Ramirez describes the strain of having a career in the legal system; discusses the effects of reliable evidence, testimony, jury selection, and media coverage on cases; describes her work on death penalty cases; and discusses her views on the death penalty further. This interview took place on February 11, 2011 in Austin, TX.
Interview with Linda White
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In tape one, Linda White discusses growing up in Houston Texas. White has three kids, including her daughter Cathy, who was murdered in 1986 by two fifteen-year-old boys. White recalls her initial reactions towards her daughter’s disappearance, and how she first came to learn of her daughter’s murder. White discusses what was discovered about the boys who murdered her daughter. White also discusses her daughter’s funeral. In tape two, White discusses going back to school to study psychology, attending a group for families of murdered children, how teaching in prison helped her healing process, the concept of restorative justice, and meeting one of the men responsible for her daughter’s murder. In tape three, White continues to describe the meeting. The interview was conducted by Lydia Crafts and took place in Decker Prairie, Texas.
Interview with Lori Bible
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Lori Bible was born in Ville Platte in Evangeline Parish, in South Central Louisiana. She was one of four girls in her tight-knit family. One of Lori’s sisters, Colleen, was murdered by Kenneth McDuff in Austin, Texas. In Video 1, Bible discusses her early life as a child living in Louisiana. Details include Lori and Colleen’s enjoyment of horseback-riding, softball, and civic engagement with the Girl Scouts. Bible also discusses racial tensions in the South as she grew up, her and Colleen’s relocation to Austin, and the story of Colleen’s disappearance. In Video 2, Bible discusses what would become known as the yogurt shop murders, which claimed the lives of four women. Bible then discusses the atmosphere both inside and outside of her home following Colleen’s abduction. She became a frequent visitor of the Austin Police Department, and in doing so, realized the failings of the justice system. Towards the end of the video, Colleen describes what it was like to see Kenneth McDuff for the first time. In Video 3, Lori Bible mentions the tensions of the courtroom during McDuff’s trial and how she opted out of attending his execution. Bible discusses the details of how and where Colleen was found, her burial, and ultimately, Bible’s methods of coping with the traumatic loss not only of her sister, but of her mother, father, and former partner as well. This interview took place on August 9, 2014, in the home of Lori Bible, in Buda, Texas.
Interview with Mark Pryor
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Mark Pryor has worked for the D.A.’s office as a prosecutor in Travis County since 2005 and he has a special interest in capital punishment. In Video 1 Pryor discusses his background and how he became interested in death penalty cases as well as the professional relationship and mutual sharing of information between prosecutors and defense lawyers. Pryor also detailed the importance of a lawyer’s discretion in going forward with capital cases in addition to his specific style of trial lawyering including how he picks jurors and how he carries out cross-examination. He described what he has learned on the job and how he plans to use that in his future cases, as well as his blog where he writes about news that take place both inside and outside the courtroom. In Video 2 Pryor discussed how Travis County’s criminal justice system differed from the rest of Texas and other states, and lawyer’s strategy of playing to their strengths in the courtroom. This interview took place on May 3, 2011 at the Texas After Violence Project office in Austin, Texas.
Interview with Ray Hill
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Ray Hill is a prison activist and queer activist as well as the founder of The Prison Show, a radio program that has aired weekly on Houston's Pacifica radio station KPFT 90.1 FM since March 1980. In Video 1, Hill shares the inspiration for his early activism; his experiences during his incarceration in the Texas prison system; and his work as a community organizer. Hill describes how he helped to organize the Houston Gay Caucus, now known as the Houston Gay, Lesbian and Transgender Political Caucus, as well as his role in founding The Kaposi's Sarcoma Committee, which later became The KS/AIDS Foundation and is now The AIDS Foundation Houston. At the end of Video 1 and the beginning of Video 2, Hill discusses the origins of The Prison Show; his activism in prison reform, including his role in the creation of the program Gang Rejection and Disassociation (GRAD); and his perceptions of the criminal justice system. This interview took place on October 5th, 2010 at the offices of KPFT FM in Houston, Harris County, Texas.