Tag Archives: capital punishment

“I had never read a book in my life until I came to prison”

Chucky MamouThe correspondence I have been having with prisoners to whom we have sent copies of I Am Troy Davis continues to astound and amaze me. Below, are excerpts from two letters that I received from Chucky Mamou, on death row in Texas, posted here with his permission. His comments about the book and about his own writing moved me more than any response or review I have ever received…

Letter #1, September 11, 2014

Let me begin by ‘apologizing.’ Here’s why: My neighbor passed me a copy of your book, I Am Troy Davis. My intention was not to read it at all. See, Troy and I shared a pen-pal, of sorts. I knew about his case, and I received a message from him. In the Washington DC rally at the USSC in 2011 of Jan, my flyers was next to all his buttons and etc…We all know the death penalty is barbaric in nature, archaic in practice, and Americanly inhumane; such truths has been known, said and fought against since 1770’s. And still NOTHING has changed. Feel me?

For me, it’s not what’s right or wrong, or  just or injust. It’s about the entire social conscious of this country. The whole fatuitious hypocrisy that Americans ‘buy’ on a daily basis!…

Michael Brown was unarmed with his HANDS up in the air, and that cop shot that child in his eye, face, chest, and arm–a total of 6 shots. But the cop has raised a million in cash for his use to defend himself in court, ‘if’ it goes to court. Political and professional folks say, “Well we don’t have all the facts.” But you let me or you shoot anyone 6 times, and they gonna send us straight to DEATH ROW, without any damn facts!

So, I wasn’t inclined on reading ‘any’ book about something I am so passionate about myself. I see this nation the way its suppose to be seen. I make no excuses for this nation and the atrocities it manifest.  What happened to Gary Graham, Todd Willingham, Troy Davis and countless others don’t make it right. Don’t comfort others in the same situation. At least, I speak for myself.

Let me tell you something. At this very moment of me typing this out to you, the state of Texas is about to murder (they call it execute) Willie Trottie, and you know what? He ain’t innocent, but if there was anybody I would fight for to have another chance at freedom, IT WOULD HAVE BEEN  HIM! He made a mistake…don’t we all?

As far as your book, the reason why I did ‘read’ it and was glad that I did: I have always been a fan of Martina Davis and the unyielding fight she devoted towards helping her brother. We all would be so lucky to have a family member such as her. And it’s not that our family love us any less, rather they just lack the courage and devotion that she displayed. She is (not was) a rarity.

Plus my neighbor told me that Troy had several photos inside the book where he shared with his family members, and I wanted to experience that defacto joy that he experienced. Sure I can never capture the moment, and any feelings that I felt were faux in nature; but I am American, and like the majority, I like my Reality TV (even though it’s not real ) too.

Now I must commend the author, cause the book was well written. Sista-gurl, you got some skillz. (smile.) I write books too, and I do appreciate a good read. The photos are a delight, and I would be willing to give up my soul, if I had a chance to hold any of my children the way Troy held his niece and nephew. I would give anything if I could be close enough to my mother (or any damn body) where I could smell them, hear them laugh in my ear, or just touch them. I haven’t touched another human being since 1999, and I’ll be the first to admit that the idea of touching another human being now seem shameful for me. It would be awkward…

I have never once lied about my innocence nor the unbelievable chain of events in my case, not once. I feel like Dorothy in the land of Oz, but there is no wizard that can help me, there is no friends that I can walk the golden brick road with, hell, there isn’t even any flying monkeys in this real struggle I find myself in.

Good day to you and God bless you.


Letter #2, November 13, 2014

(in response to my asking him about the books he writes)

I write ‘fiction.’ What one may call urban novels. Be it romance novels, or thuggery in nature, all of my books have a ‘moral message’ that I try to translate. I do not glorify nothing that would cause harm in any way. I simply try to explain how things can actually get so fucked up...I am working on my own autobiography…I don’t write for money. I write for the appreciation of the art. With each book I write I make sure that my level of creation and creativity is raised. i want to show the progression of my writings, if you will. I had never read a book in my life until I came to prison. So in a lot of ways I am raw. Still learning on the fly. Still eager.

(in response to I Am Troy Davis)

I feel that if Catholics are allowed to Saintanize the members of their flock that they deem ‘activist’ then surely we should be able to place the same Saintship on those that are within the struggle with every purpose of ‘fixing’ the injust within this country’s justice system and social ornery circles too which we all live and are divided within. Martina is worthy of such a title. And I think her son will continue what she started. In fact, I would be ‘shocked’ if 20 years from now he isn’t a major activist in a field of justice in America.

But you know what? The story you told is sooo common within the minority of the 99%. The struggle is real, so is racism, classism, elitism, and prejudice. It’s all of these traits that we all judge one another, and seem to relate to the other. Don’t make it right, it just clarify who we are as a nation of people within America.


I Am Troy Davis was made beautiful–so by your writing skills. Never lose sight of the work that you did. When Mrs. Virginia sat in her chair and died peacefully, it was the way you described the event. The climax that lead to it, that tugs at a reader’s heart…but ‘you’ and only you gave Troy’s story and his family a feel of sincere humanity that wasn’t pretentious. And I have no doubt that it was hard for you to relive a story that you found yourself a part of. Pictures of you inside of Mrs. Virginia’s house, hugged up to Saint Martina–tells me that they trusted your person. And there’s no telling the stories you could have told that was personal too, which they shared with you. Your writing made it beautiful. Real talk.

(In response to my asking how he was holding up.)

Thank you for asking me about my well-being, However, nothing has changed with my mental-state, emotionally…not everyone in prison is innocent or unjustly convicted. But for those who are truly innocent (like me) how can I ever wear a daily smile on my face? How can I ever do away with despair, depression and ill feelings? Because faith alone has never been an antidote nor cure to severe brokenheartedness. The favored Mother Teresa wrote in her book, “There was a time when I saw all the rape and murder of babies, and defenseless women that I questioned the existence of a God who would stand by and allow these atrocities to go on against the weak and innocent.”

What gets lost is that this was not just a thought that crossed her mind the way wind blew across her face. She was depressed, and her depression didn’t stop until she was removed from that crazy war zone. Same with me. I can never fully begin to comprehend what a recovery really is, until I am given my freedom again.

Chucky wrote a lot more…about the poverty in which he grew up, how he was one of four children sharing a bed, tussling at night over an extra share of blanket, about sexual abuse he experienced at the home of a neighbor, about having been in shootouts, being kidnapped, left for dead with his head split wide open. He wrote, “I’ve been that kid stealing from grocery stores just so that I can experience what a cake taste like.”

And he wrote:

Through all my ‘struggles,’ from the depths of the low of the lows, is why I am able to sit in this moldy, germ-infested cell; and still cling onto my sanity after 16 years of all this bullshit. I’m always mindful just how vulnerable I am emotionally, so I do not tease or test the boundaries of my sanity’s limitations. I do not pretend to be better than I really am. I do not play chess with my honesty.

To purchase a copy of I Am Troy Davis as a gift to a prisoner:



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Mumia Abu Jamal responds to I AM TROY DAVIS: “May it fuel the anti-death penalty movement”

Mumia Abu JamaI knew that my publisher (the amazing Haymarket Books) had sent a copy of I Am Troy Davis to Mumia Abu Jamal.  So when I saw his name and return address on the envelope, I should not have been surprised–yet I was. Surprised, and a little star struck. I had been following Mumia’s case–and his writing–for years now. It took me a few minutes to really process that he was writing to me, and that he was writing in response to the book I had written with Troy Davis and his family.

The next day, I got another letter from Mumia. This one was the text of what I later found out was a radio spot he had done about the book for the Prison Radio, an independent multi-media production studio dedicated to challenging unjust police and prosecutorial misconduct that results in mass incarceration, racism, and gender discrimination.

You can listen to Mumia’s three-minute radio spot about I Am Troy Davis here.

And, below, is the letter he wrote me, which I received his permission to post.

And–you can buy a copy of I Am Troy Davis to be sent as a gift to a prisoner here.

Dear Jen,

As you may know, I’m in the midst of working on a book, so it took me awhile to get to Troy’s. But, of course, I did.

It is, as I’m sure you know, a powerful, damning story of a human tragedy.

It is, moreover, a real condemnation of the U.S. Way of Death.

When reading it, I couldn’t help but think of how politics has completely dominated the judiciary–and, without question, the pardon/parole machinery.

His family (esp. Mom & Sister) fought–quite literally–to their last breath, never doubting that in an injustice so strong, surely they could finish their days in the company of their son/brother.

I think, in many ways, the family and the activists underestimated the level of rot in the system, never really believing that they would betray their oaths–and visit on Troy the foul fullness of state murder.

I remember being buoyed when the U.S. Supremes actually sent it back for an evidentiary hearing.

Once again, they raised hope, only to spit disappointment on the friends and family of Troy.

I will surely distribute it, and, perhaps, donate it to the library, so that many, many guys can read it.

I thank you for sharing it with me. And I thank you for writing something that I can imagine was almost too painful, too horrific to bear.

May it fuel the anti-death penalty movement, and make it more powerful than they are today!

Alla best,


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Reviews from the Row #6: We were with the Davis family when they lost Troy

It continues to be overwhelming and inspiring to receive such thought-provoking responses to I Am Troy Davis from men and women on death row around the country. The response below is from Louis “Big Lou” Perez, on death row in Texas. He wrote it on September 9, which marks 16 years that he has been on death row. I was not sure until further correspondence if I had his permission to post his letter to me–thus the delay. Louis gave permission in his next letter, which is why I am posting it now.

If you would like to send the gift of I Am Troy Davis to a prisoner, you can do so here.

From “Big Lou”:

I’d like to share something with you…first thing, I just finished reading your book. It is Awesome!! Congratulations and I hope it becomes a World Wide Read.

Today…September 9…will make it 16 years that I’ve been on Death Row. The day I turned myself in (like Troy did) to clear my name. Reading the book reminds me of what I’m still going through and of how my family is still here for me. Like I said, Ms. Marlowe, I’m a very blessed man.

Reading about all the things Martina had gone through for her brother is such a carbon copy of what my sister Delia is doing for me. I am very honored that you allowed me to have this book, but you say here in your letter that you want me to share it (Plus…I already told every one around me that I have it and they ALL want to read it too) But I will get it back from them when they’re finished with it.

As for me, Ms. Marlowe, it was really easy for me to read because I’m still going through all the things Troy did. His struggle…his fight…all his let downs…EVERYTHING, I’m going through them right now. But, it was still a great read.

Troy was a blessed man too, but what REALLY caught my attention was that throughout his ordeal…he was still able to have contact visits with his family.  THAT made me both feel really good for him and jealous too. Here in Texas, Death Row doesn’t allow contact visits. After reading your book and then going back to look at all the photos….I won’t lie to you…I shed some tears because I didn’t get to hug my mother before she passed. My Grandparents, some cousins and friends either.

I sat there thinking about hugging my father and shed more tears.

I just visited with my sister Delia and told her about this…and she cried! But…they were good tears. I also got to see and thank Marlene Martin (from the Campaign to End the Death Penalty) for sending you my name.

Well Ma’am…I’m not sure how I can help you with this, but I will do what I can to do whatever you may need me to do. I’m somewhat of an elder here and I have a pretty good rapport with the men here. I’ll keep your address and will pass on this letter of yours to the men who do read the book. Maybe they will respond?

Again…thank you so much for allowing me to read your book. If there is anything else I can do to help, please…you only have to ask.

If you are ever again in touch with the Davis family…Please let them know that we were there with them when they lost Troy.  We were in awe of the injustice! And that my family and I send our deepest sympathies for their loss.

God bless you, Ms Marlowe.

Con Todo Mi Carino y Tambien Unos Fuerte Abrazos!

Louis C. Perez

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Reviews from the Row #5: The impact of a family’s love & support

(I received this review of I Am Troy Davis from a death row prisoner in Texas named Ker’Sean Ramey. Another prisoner had passed on the book to Ker’Sean, and had invited him to send me his review. If you are interested in reading reviews from other death row prisoners, you can do so here and here. And, here are responses from prisoners about why books like this matter, and what the experience was emotionally of reading I Am Troy Davis.)

From Ker’Sean Ramey:

I Am Troy Davis is very well articulated. It not only opens your eyes to the things that go on in the judicial system, but more importantly, it allows you to relive vicariously all the things the Davis family went through in their struggle to save a loved one and an innocent man. Through it all, they refused to let their personal issues or Troy’s situation tear their family apart. The sacrifice, strength and love the Davis family showed is a beautiful thing. I enjoyed this book to no end. I appreciate Sis. Martina Davis and Jen Marlowe for having both the courage to tell the story and the sense to know it’s one that really needs to be told. I recommend all family members and friends of those incarcerated read this book. It shows just how much of an impact their love and support has on us.

Stay focused, push, and believe!

Ker’Sean Ramey



Filed under Criminal Justice, Death Penalty, Troy Davis

A torch in the dark: prisoner responses to “I Am Troy Davis”

Dear friends,

As many of you know, dozens of prisoners have been sent copies of I Am Troy Davis (you can gift a book to a prisoner by clicking here) and were invited to participate in the I Am Troy Davis Community Book Club.

One of the suggested discussion questions I sent to the prison book groups was: “Are books like I Am Troy Davis useful for challenging/changing the system? Why or why not?” You can read responses to this question from three men incarcerated in Hughes Unit in Gatesville, TX here.

The same group of men also responded to the question:

How was it for you emotionally to read “I Am Troy Davis”?

Here are their answers below:

From David E. Davis:

From an emotional stand-point, reading I Am Troy Davis was polarizing. At times, I was spilling over with inexplicable joy due to the many triumphs of the two courageous main siblings involved in the story, then, at others, I was overwhelmed with extreme remorse, because of the multiple abuses rained down upon them through an apathetic system by an unempathic state bureaucracy designed to exterminate and discourage designated groups in its environment.

I found myself in retrospect longing to be a part of a family as committed to the best-interest of one another as the Davis’s, because once we’re divided, we’re easily conquered. What many families don’t seem to understand is that to someone being unjustly disposed of, what matters is that those who should stand at their side, stand and not fold over. It’s the fight that counts, not that they’ve won or lost or any level. But the manner in which they’re seemingly defeated! If the family doesn’t care, who should? The Davsis’s are winners, despite how things may seem to the lesser-minded individuals. They maintained their dignity!

A movie that moves me emotionally is Brave Heart, starring Mel Gibson. I’m inspired by the scene at its ending where while being eviscerated before being decapitated and with the state’s executioners urging him to renounce his belief in the struggle, he yells the word, “Freedom!” indicating his desire for the people to continue their struggle to be freed from an unjust ruling class. I was as touched by I Am Troy Davis as I was by this classic movie, because of the similarities: both were fighting against unjust government systems designed to oppress the groups they were a part of, both fought and were eventually executed by the state, and, most importantly, their stories lived on long after they were deceased, effecting change for the better.

Martina is the character in the story that I won’t ever forget. She knew the effects her and Troy’s story would have on its readers’ emotions. She has touched my heart deeply. Martina did not have to give into the innate feelings she carried inside her towards her brother and, thereby, stand at his side for all those years. I have a bio-sister who’s my only sibling and the exact opposite of Martina. The last thing she told me and the first was that she did not put me here! Is she totally blind/unaware that “I did not put me here?” Or that I wasn’t born a criminal?

I am a victim of social genocide, imperialism/capitalism. I Am Troy Davis…long live the Davis family and their unique commitment to struggle, and active love for one-another.

From Kenneth Foster Jr.

[Reading I Am Troy Davis] was dreadfully painful. As a prisoner who spent 10 years on death row and came within 6 hours of my execution (which I protested by refusing to walk to the death house) it was a brutal reminder of the grueling death penalty process.

Author Eduardo Galeano said, “Remembering and forgetting are both political acts.” For example, take the Jewish Holocaust. Many people try to propagate that it never happened. Others try to downplay the numbers. That is an attack. It’s suppression. However, the Jews said “NEVER FORGET!” That is a statement of self-determination and resistance. I take the approach the Jews did to anti-death-penalty activism– “NEVER FORGIVE. NEVER FORGET.”  This is not to trap myself into hate. I can, and will, forgive when the death penalty has been ended and programs are in place to instill justice and healing. I can’t forgive someone for something they continually seek to do.

Right now, my memory is my weapon. My memory will save what is worthwhile. My memory knows more about me than I do. It doesn’t lose what deserves to be saved. That’s why I Am Troy Davis  is so important to people like me and people who do this activism. It doesn’t allow us to forget what needs to be saved.

Emotionally, when I think about that memory, I think about something Albert Camus said:

“Capital punishment is the most premeditated of murders, to which no criminal’s deed, however calculated, can be compared. For there to be an equivalency, the death penalty would have to punsh a criminal who had warned his victim of the date at which he would inflict horrible death on him and who, from that moment onward, has confined him at his mercy for months. Such a monster is not encountered in private life.”

As one who survived death row, reading I Am Troy Davis makes me relive that. I know the author doesn’t seek to instill feelings of pain or depression in the reader, but when we face this reality (the capital punishment one), we face a cold reality of systemic social genocide that targets a certain segment of our society, and throws them into a system that is biased, and that doesn’t take a rocket scientist to understand why we call it “a modern day legal lynching.”

Because I have been blessed with strength, vision, and passion, I use such books as guidance materials. It’s a torch in the dark. It reminds me when facing off against such a monster that might does not make right. When right is wrong, change is passed due!

From Mr. Charles McKinley

Reading I Am Troy Davis sent me on an emotional roller coaster. The tumultuous riot of anger, sadness, empathy, frustration, bewilderment, and inspiration had me constantly considering the nature of familial bonds, the court system, and human nature. I can’t begin to imagine how it is having a death warrant issued for your life. And at that, repeatedly!

I’m currently serving an aggravated life sentence for vehicular manslaughter. I was involved in an incidental wreck in which a young white woman passed. I empathize with Troy Davis and his situation in light of mine. Yet there are dynamics in his that are hard to grasp. It was enlightening and very inspirational to read of how positive and endearing Troy Davis remained in the face of such injustice and bigotry.

The so-called justice system failed Troy, his Mama, his sisters, his nephew and the myriad of supporters involved. The court system also miserably failed the MacPhail family. Instead of seeking TRUTH & JUSTICE for that family, the law enforcement officials involved provided no true closure. I am truly angered by this trend which has persisted for at least 2 centuries. Perhaps that’s why [Officer MacPhail’s mother] never truly attained the peace she sought.

Of course, I’m bewildered by how the courts could ignore and discard such critical evidence as the recantation affidavits and testimony that went alongside the flimsy crime scene “evidence.” It’s saddening, because it dims the light of hope for people like me. I could relate to so much of the book and the Davis’ struggle. I was constantly teary-eyed. Reading about his death row experience helped build my understanding and expanded my perspective on guys I’m doing time with. I know guys that have fought their way off the row and are now tacking capital life terms or terms of life without parole.


Filed under Criminal Justice, Death Penalty, Troy Davis

Happy Birthday Troy

Dear friends,

Today, Troy Davis would have turned 46 years old.  As a way to honor Troy and his life, we are asking people to give the gift of I Am Troy Davis to a prisoner currently on death row, or serving a life sentence without the possibility of parole.

We’ve sent nearly forty books to prisoners in the last month, and the responses I’ve gotten  have been mind-blowing. I’ll be posting more responses later today, but for now, I hope you will be a part of making sure Troy’s book gets in the hands of those for whom so many aspects of Troy’s story reflect their own.

All you have to do is follow this link. Haymarket Books will then send your gift to a prisoner from a list that was developed by the Campaign to End the Death Penalty. (You need only put your billing address–Haymarket will know to send your gift to a prisoner.)

Happy birthday, Troy. May your impact continue to spread.





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A harrowing call from MO’s death row

I got a call this evening from my friend Reggie Clemons. I could tell as soon as I heard Reggies’ voice that something was wrong. I didn’t know that Missouri had another execution scheduled for tonight–the 4th execution in as many months. 

“We live together, we see each other all the time,” he said, sounding more shaken than I have ever heard him. He wanted to call me, he said, because he wanted to talk to someone who knows what he’s going through. 

But the honest truth is that I don’t know what Reggie is going through. 

Yes, I have lived through the execution of a friend I loved dearly, and I know how that feels. 

But I don’t know how it feels to live on death row, seeing one after another of my friends being taken to die, knowing that the state has the same fate in store for me. I have not lived what Reggie is living.

I talked to Reggie, flashing back to the night in 2010 that Troy called me, equally shaken, because his friend Brandon Rhode, who was slated to be executed the next day, had been found by the guards unconscious, after he had managed to slice himself up as he lay under blankets with a razor blade he had managed to sneak into death watch. All this was under the guards’ eyes. They rushed Brandon to the hospital, saved his life and stitched him back up. Then they restrained him so he could not attempt to harm himself again…until they strapped him to the gurney to execute him. 

After 15 minutes, Reggie had to hang up–his phone time was up.

“I wish we could talk for more than 15 minutes at a time,” he said. 

If Missourri proceeds with the 12:01am scheduled execution of Michael Taylor, my thoughts will be not only with Michael, his family, the teenaged girl who was killed in 1989 and her family…they will be with Reggie and everyone else on Missouri’s death row, who has had to endure this scripted death of a member of their community 4 times in 4 months.

My thoughts will be with them all.

And they will be with Troy.

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