TAVP Interviews with Survivors of Violence

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Interview with Angela Brown

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Angela Brown is the sister of Kevin Brown, who was shot and killed in 2007, by Austin Police Department Sergeant Michael Olson. In this interview, Brown shares the trauma of losing her brother to police violence and her mother to cancer within months of each other. She discusses her work with Texas Advocates for Justice (TAJ), fighting for justice in the midst of grief, and other losses her family has suffered due to police violence. She shares what advocacy and justice mean to her, and her thoughts on the relationship between black communities and police in America. This interview took place on July 15, 2017 in Austin, Texas, at the residency of Angela Brown.

Interview with Arthur G. Cárdenas

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Captain Arthur (Art) Cárdenas is a member of the Command Staff of the Travis County Sheriff's Office. A founding member of the Travis County SWAT Team, then-Sergeant Cárdenas trained Keith G. Ruíz in "SWAT School." Deputy Ruíz died in the line of duty on February 15, 2001, while attempting to serve a warrant on a suspected narcotics dealer in Del Valle, Travis County. In this interview, Captain Cárdenas recalls the perseverance, dedication, skills, and humor of Deputy Ruíz, and describes the emotional intimacy and sense of family that develops among officers. Captain Cárdenas also recounts his own path, from seminarian to law enforcement officer, married father of three sons, boxing coach, and writer. This interview took place on July 23, 2008 in Austin, Travis County, Texas.

Interview with Burnett Clay and Helen Phillips

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Burnett Clay is the grandmother and adoptive mother of Keith Bernard Clay, who was sentenced to death in 1997 for a 1994 robbery and murder in Houston, Harris County, Texas. Helen Phillips is Burnett Clay's sister. In Video 1, Clay and Phillips discuss Keith Clay's background; his life and ministry on Texas' Death Row; and his execution and funeral in 2003. They also discuss their relationship with Johnny Ray Johnson, another inmate and friend of Keith Clay's, to whom they ministered. In Video 2, Clay and Phillips describe growing up in their Church; their religious ministry; and their visits to Death Row. This interview took place on May 16, 2009 in Austin, Travis County, Texas.

Interview with Carolyn Mosley Samuel

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Carolyn Mosley Samuel is the mother of Ortralla LuWone Mosley, who was fifteen years old on March 28, 2003 when she was stabbed to death at Reagan High School by her sixteen-year-old ex-boyfriend. In Video 1, Mosley describes the history of abuse in her family; her struggle to interrupt those patterns as a parent; and the circumstances leading up to the death of her daughter. In Video 2, Mosley discusses the aftermath of the murder in the high school, in the courts, and in her decision to start a foundation to prevent teen dating violence and to become a correctional officer. In Video 3, Mosley describes reconciling with her mother before her mother's death. The interview took place on October 1, 2009 in Austin, Travis County, Texas.

Interview with Darren Long

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Darren Long is a Major in the Command Staff of the Travis County Sheriff's Office, and was a friend and colleague of Deputy Keith George Ruíz. Deputy Ruíz died early on the morning of February 15, 2001, when, as part of a SWAT team, he attempted to serve a narcotics warrant and the person sought shot through the door of the house, hitting Deputy Ruíz. In this interview, Major Long describes his background, his friendship with Keith Ruíz, the night of the shooting, and the resulting criminal investigation, trial, and sentence. Major Long also shares his own reactions and that of his colleagues both to Deputy Ruíz's death and to the decision of the District Attorney not to seek the death penalty for this capital crime. Major Long also explains the origin of SWAT teams and the process with which law enforcement agencies decide when to deploy SWAT teams. This interview took place in Austin, Travis County, Texas on August 25, 2008.

Interview with Derrek Brooks

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Derrek Brooks is the son of Charlie Brooks Jr., (also known as Sharif Ahmad Abdul-Rahim at the time of his death), who was the first person executed by lethal injection (on December 7, 1982) in the United States. In Tape 1, Brooks recounts stories he has heard about his father’s childhood and from his own childhood; describes interactions he had with his father; shares what he knows about his father’s case and trial; and describes the effects of drugs on his father's life. In Tape 2, Brooks discusses life with his grandparents, and experiences at church as a child; the transformation of his neighborhood after the introduction of drugs; his father’s experiences in prison; and reflects on how his life has been shaped by his father's. In Tape 3, Brooks describes the day of the execution; the media attention his family received following the execution and funeral; the attention Charlie Brooks Jr.’s case receives today; and his own thoughts about the use and future of the death penalty in Texas. This interview took place in February 2013, at his mother's home in the Echo Heights neighborhood in Fort Worth, TX.

Interview with Donna Hogan

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Donna Hogan is the mother of LeDuke Woodard, who was murdered in 2004 in Houston. As of July 2011, Woodard's murderer has not yet been identified. In Video 1, Donna Hogan describes how she and her husband learned of their son's death; the Houston Police Department investigation of her son's murder; her activities with Houston-based organizations Parents of Murdered Children and Unsolved Violent Crime Alert; her efforts to keep her son's memory alive; and the emotional and psychological after-effects of the murder. In Video 2, Hogan describes her opposition to the death penalty and her wish that her son's killer be apprehended. She provides additional information about her son's murder and describes the similarities and differences between the Parents of Murdered Children and the Unsolved Violent Crime Alert. Hogan compares the grief she felt at the death of her husband from cancer to that caused by the sudden killing of her son. Hogan tells of her efforts to remain connected with her son's children and advises people who lose loved ones to homicide to make sure to they find strong support systems, including support groups and counseling as necessary. This interview took place in Houston, Harris County, Texas on December 10, 2009.

Interview with Edgar Fincher

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Edgar Fincher worked as a correctional officer on the Ellis Unit (Death Row) in Walker County, TX from 1989 to 1994. He then went on to work for the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) as an internal affairs investigator from 1994-1997 and with the State Jail Division from 1997-1999. In Tape 1, Fincher describes his childhood background; how he became involved with TDCJ; his early career as a correctional office in the Ellis Unit; and his experiences with trauma resulting from his work. In Tape 2, Fincher describes what a typical day working on death row was like. In Tape 3, Fincher elaborates on his work on the death row and the strain associate with it; displays materials and documents collected during his career; and describes his later career in TDCJ Internal Affairs and with the State Jail Division. In Tape 4, Fincher discusses the transition from correctional officer on death row to a career with Internal Affairs; discusses the issues that arise when working in a high risk job; describes his current career; shows materials collected during his career as a correctional officer; and describes experiences with inmates executed between 1989 and 1994. In Tape 5, Fincher describes his experience with inmates who were executed between 1989 and 1994 while he was working in the Ellis Unit. In Tape 6, Fincher gives his concluding statements about his work with TDCJ and his experiences working on death row. This interview took place on April 17, 2011 in Austin, TX.

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 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 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 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 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 Melanie Young

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Melanie Young is the sister of Vincent Young, who died while in the custody of Harris County Jail on February 13, 2017. Melanie has been actively trying to get answers from jail and county officials about the circumstances surrounding Vincent’s death. Through the family’s “Justice for Vido” campaign, they have organized several rallies and protests in the ongoing quest for truth and justice. Melanie discusses growing up with Vincent, his impact on their community as an adult, his death, and finally her experiences trying to find truth. This interview took place at the home of Cinitra Resby in Houston, Harris County, Texas, on September 16, 2017. Melanie’s cousin, Cinitra Resby, also appears in this interview.

Interview with Mignon Zezqueaux

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Mignon Zezqueaux is the mother of three boys, Solomon, Joseph, and Ghabriel. In her interview, Mignon speaks about the 2008 murder of her son Solomon and how his death affected her, Joseph, and Ghabriel. She speaks particularly about its impact on Ghabriel, who was introduced into the juvenile justice system shortly after the loss of his brother, and is now incarcerated by the Texas Department of Criminal Justice. Mignon details their interactions with law enforcement, the court system, and the prison system, with a specific focus on mental health in the criminal justice system. She explains how those experiences inspired and inform her work as a criminal justice activist and member of the Texas Advocates for Justice. This interview took place on April 15, 2018, in Houston, Harris County, Texas at the home of John Taylor.

Interview with Ms. Jude Filler

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Jude Filler is a human rights advocate who spent over twenty years working and building relationships with prisoners on Death Row in Texas. In Tape 1, she discusses why she moved to Texas and joined Amnesty International; describes how she first became involved with Death Row prisoners and shares how her friendship with Death Row prisoner David Powell began. In Tape 2, Filler explains Powell’s methamphetamine addiction; the incident that put him on death row; discusses her work with murder victims; details her health issues and cancer and describes her experience witnessing Powell’s execution. In Tape 3, Filler relates her experience healing after Powell’s execution; shares memories of Powell’s time in prison; describes the sense of community on Death Row, then expounds on the poor conditions in the prison. In Tape 4, she explores Powell’s relationship with spirituality and religion; explains her position on the death penalty; describes corruption and injustice in the justice system; her experience with Powell’s trials and attorneys and then discusses the beginning of her relationship with David’s former cellmate, James Beathard. In Tape 5, Filler continues to describe her relationship with Beathard; explains the incident that put Beathard on Death Row; explains her career path and the toll Death Row work took on her; reacts to public opinion on the death penalty and describes why the death penalty is particularly difficult to change in Texas. In Tape 6, Filler discusses the role of fear in politics; describes the death penalty as a linchpin for moving toward justice in other areas of human rights; recounts stories of injustice suffered by Death Row inmates in Texas and describes her struggles trying to create change in the Texas justice system. These interviews took place on November 19 and 26 of 2010 in Jude Filler’s home in Austin, Texas, Travis County.