Oct. 10, 2022 marked the 20th World Day Against the Death Penalty. On this occasion, the first broadcast of the new documentary film, “Letters from death row,” took place on the Catholic TV channel, KTO.
The documentary by Leo Brezin illuminates the role of epistolary exchanges in the struggle for abolition. Through the accounts of lawyers, those who had formerly been on death row, a philosopher, a spiritual advisor, and members of ACAT-France, a kaleidoscope of diverse, but complementary, perspectives reveals the somber journey of those condemned to death. Everywhere in the world where it is still used, the death penalty affects disproportionately disadvantaged people, mainly those who belong to ethnic, religious, economic, and sexual minorities. In the U.S., many activists, through the intercession of ACAT-France, try to help these people via epistolary exchanges.
Although Charles himself appears only through an image and one of his letters, one of his supporters and one of his lawyers make appearances.
1. “WE do not choose to be born. We do not choose our parents. We do not choose our historical epoch, the country of our birth, or the immediate circumstances of our upbringing…but within the realm of our choicelessness, we can choose how we live.”–Joseph Epstein.
Time flys when you are having fun! I have been in the inaugural class of the Texas death row faith based program [FBP] for ten months, and it has been an amazing life changing opportunity. When the twenty-eight Texas death row prisoners that are part of the first FBP began this adventure we were not sure what to really expect. The chaplaincy was not sure what to expect because nothing like this had ever been attempted in a solitary confinement environment like Texas death row. We were given this opportunity and we have chosen to make the most of it and soar high in the sky with success.
On Friday, October 29, 2022, the FBP had a graduation service for completing the 12 week class named “Anger Management”, and the 26 week classed named “Authentic Manhood. Anger Management helped us identify our triggers and manage our anger effectively. It taught us self-control over our thoughts and actions and gave us the tools to communicate in non-violent ways. We also learner how to give and receive support from others.
Authentic Manhood was an intense look into manhood and what it should be based on. We learned what Authentic Manhood’s focus was, it’s chief elements, major challenges and it’s passions. WE also learned the Men’s Fraternity The Quest For Authentic Manhood’s definition for authentic manhood: one who rejects passivity, accepts responsibility, leads courageously, and expects God’s greater reward. Both classes were escellent and taught me a great deal. I loved them both.
2. “Do not remember the former things, nor consider the things of old. Behold I will make a new thing, now it shall spring forth; shall you not know it? I will even make a road in the desert. The beasts of the field will honor Me, The jackals and the ostriches, because I give waters in the wilderness, and rivers in the desert, to give My people, My chosen.” –Isaiah 43:18-20.
Our service began with prayer, singing and praising by the church band and a few songs by the FBP brothers as well. We had TDCJ Director of Chaplaincy C.F. Hazlewood, senior warden Daniel Dickerson, Texas Prison Outreach volunteers DAvid and Justin, Polunsky unit head chaplain Joaquin Gay, along with our FBP field ministers and program coordinators, Terry Solley and Troup Foster.
Solley shared with us that we have set the standard of what success looks like with the choices we have made here and how we are living our lives. All our success, our accomplishments, this is what it is all about. We are on the right track and need to continue to do the same and hold the course.
Troup shared with us Isaiah 43:18-20. He reminded us that we were all created by the Lord and we have been redeemed. And God is creating a new thing in us and on the FBP as in Isaiah 43:18. Troup said that for many years he lives in the past with all the pain that he had caused his loved ones. But he was finally able to let that go and focus on God. That we have to do the same, focus on what the Lord has to say about us, not what the world might say. Troup stated that we have been in this program for about a year and he was proud of us and to keep moving foreward, always prssing ahead.
Director Hazelwood congratulated us for completing the classes. He said that everyone needs change, not matter how old you are you can always change for the better. He said that we are all a work in progress. Hazlewood reminded us of the story of the paralytic being healed at the pool of bethesda in John 5:1-11. For thirty-five years that man was paralyzed. And Christ found him and asked him, “Do you want to be well?” Hazlewood said that unless a man wants to be healed we will not get well. Nothing happens until you want to change and get well. And this kind of healing comes from God, and once we come to the Lord our lives are His and what we do today today is part of a walk that will continue for eternity.
Our actions in this life will pay an eternal dividend. Hazlewood said there were three steps to change. 1. Desire to change; 2. Removal of sin from our life; 3. Persevere. Director Hazlewood told us that he was pleased with us and wanted to thank the field ministers, chaplains and wardens. Without them nothing would be possible. But most important was our participation, without it nothing would happen.
3. “Everyday, either you live by your priorities or you live by pressures. There is no other option. either you decide what is important in your life, or you let other people decide what is important in your life.”–Rick Warren.
Warden Dickerson began saying that a whole lot of work was being done by us. We were the change that Director Hazlewood was talkin about. We were agents of change that Executive Director Collier was also talking about because what were were doing with out lives here was inspiring
many. Warden Dickerson told us that we were offering folks hope in their lives in the free world. Because there were people who have no hope, but us death row prisoners who might be considered to have no hope were living for the Lord and choosing to live a life worth living.
He told us of a former TDCJ employee, a man who worked as a guard on Texas death row, who had been here when darkness reigned and was at the point of giving up in life. But he saw a video of us worshiping, singing, praising and worshiping the Lord here. And he found hope in that and
inspiration because if we could live life like this here the he could do the same where he was at. Warden Dickerson reminded us there were consequences in life, but it is how you live your life and how you overcome that counts. Everything happens for a reason and were were all agents
of change. Change was hard work but for us to keep pushing foreward, keep our heads up and do not get discouraged!
I was very touched by what the visitors shared with us. We are often limited by our situation and do not see what other see in us. It is humbling and encouraging to know that the FBP is changing things in the Texas prison system and abroad as well as giving hope to those who had none. I think if we did nothing else by that, give hope in the world then we could considerselves a success!
Charles D. Flores No:999299
Texas death row Faith Based Program
“We all got a date, be it here on ‘life row’ or out in the freeworld. Our task is to have our heart and mind right with Jesus Christ so we’ll be ready when that date comes.”–John “Big Sky” Montana.
Bikers for Christ Motorcycle Ministry! Have you ever heard of them? They are just that, a group of Harley-Davidson motorcyle rideing bikers-Christian brothers who are active in prison ministry, and their leader is John “Big Sky” Montana. Big Sky is what you probably expect a biker dude to look and sound like except for one thing. He follows the Lord Jesus Christ and that vida loca drinking, drugging and giving it hell is definitely not part of the program! Bikers For Christ were here to worship with us on the faith based program (FBP), to encourage and to also be encouraged Friday, October 21, 2022.
Big Sky is one cool brother and he shoots straight, tells it like it is and says some of the realest, truest, and funniest things. He’s been there and done that, lived the life that most of us have experienced and by the grace of God did not end up in a cell for the rest of his life. So, whenever Big Sky goes to places like prison or death row, he always commands the honor and respect he deserves, and people stop and listen to him. On Friday, Bikers for Christ were here early at Sam and they had the Polunsky unit’s chapel band with them, band members Carlos, Tee and 33 were ready to play. At 8:30am the band and field ministers were on our pod setting up the sound equipment and I had a feeling we were going to have a really great service.
Bikers For Christ learned about the Texas death row FBP through one of our field ministers who is a coordinator, Terry Solley. Solley and Big Sky’s son, John both attended and graudated from seminary together, and since then Big Sky and Bikers for Christ have been visiting and are a blessing for us.
“We all need God don’t we? We need Jesus Christ don’t we? God has a plan for everybody, that’s why Bikers For Christ is back to be with ya’ll.”–John “Big Sky” Montana.
I have been on Texas death row for twenty-three years. In that time I’ve exchanged with letters with many people from all over the world. Whenever the topic of God comes up, I have always shared with my friends that it is easy to say that you do not believe in God, there is no evidence that God exists, etc. because you have never been in a situation where the only thing that can sustain you is God. you know when you need God? When you mother and father die in a car crash when they are on their way to your house for Thanksgiving dinner. when your husband or wife has terminal brain cancer and the love of your life is dying just a little bit every day and you are there witnessing it. When you are sent to death row for the worst day of your life. Or worse! You are sent to death row for a crime that you are innocent of. That is when you need god. These are situations where no amount of money, influence or resources can change. When you face these kinds of troubles in your life, you will understand why Big Sky says that we all need God. He’s been there and done that and he understands. So do I, and I know that for me, my belief in the Lord has gotten me through the most difficult times in my life.
“The Devil is like the Wizard of Oz. Defeated but he still wants to act like he is still in charge.” –“Maytag”, Biker For Christ.
“Maytag”, was one of the Bikers For Christ who spoke Friday. He told us they call him Maytag because he was the agitator of the group, but today he had come to turn his agitation into motivation and he had some very good things to share. Maytag reminded us of the damage we do to our testimony when we are hyprocrites. Because the world, (non-christians) are always watching and listening, the moment we do not walk the walk that matches our talk, whoever sees this is discouraged and says, “You are doing that and you claim to be a christian? Why would I want to be like you?” Maytag reminded us of the apostle Paul’s letter to the Christians in Ephesus, and how in Ephesians 6:10-20, Paul talks about putting on the whole armor of God”, and keeping it on. Not to be taking it off, then putting it back on and off again, because Satan knows our weaknesses and he will attack when you have the Lord’s armor off. He really hit home when he told us that the devil was like the lilizard of Oz, defeated (by Christ’s sacrifice on the cross) but still runing around trying to act like he is still in charge. The thing about that is YOU have to believe the devil’s lie and be convinced that he is in charge for his mess to work on you!
Jose, was the next Biker for Christ to share with us. He began by telling us what a blessing we were to them, how they come here to uplift and encourage, and we do that for them. Personally, I wish I could experience our worship and praise from outside this cell. We have been singing and worshiping with the brothers who are part of the chapel band for ten months. So when we sing songs like, “In The House,” or “Redeemed,” or ” I Can Only Imagine,” these concrete walls ring with glory and praise for the Lord that comes from over thirty men singing together.
As we sing and praise, I can see our visitors singing and praising with us, and how it effects them. They raise their hands and put their face up to the heavens as the feel the Holy Spirt swirling around in this space. I can also feel it in here in my cell but it would be so special to experience the Spirit of the Lord being manifested from outside this prison cell.
“And we know all things work together for the good to them that love God, to them who are called according to His purpose.”–romans 8:28.
“Lockdown”, was the next brother who shared. He is called, “Lockdown” because he served eight years in prison. While he did those eight years he said he went through very difficult times including losing his mother while in prison, but God gave him peace and joy. He said that Romans 8:28 was his favorite Scripture and what got him through his troubles while doing time. Lockdown shared with us that we are with him daily, we are part of his testimony for Christ. He tells every one about the brothers on life row and how we’re all waiting on an execution date, but choose to worship and praise the Lord like there is no tomorrow. That really touched me and made me feel good. This brother is spreading the word and using us as an example for the Lord!
“Don’t give the devil a ride because he’ll want to drive!” –Big Sky Montana.
Finally, Big Sky spoke. Again, Big Sky looks exactly like you might expect a biker to look like. He’s a big guy, long grey beard, black t-shirt, jeans, boots and he serves it up raw and uncut. He talked about us all having dates and our job was to use today to get ready for when that date comes. He also told us that people ask him when he visits people in the hospital does he go to pray for them? He said no! HE goes to ask them if they will take Jesus as their Lord and savior before it is too late. That He and Bikers for Christ were real about their ministry because Jesus Christ was real. Man, I felt that big time. E have to be ready because tomorrow is promised to no one.
Then Big Sky said that we have to be real about living for the Lord as well, we can’t go back and entertain the, “old man” inside of us. You know, that old joker who got us put in this prison cell? That one! He said don’t give the devil a ride because he’s going to want to drive! haha! We all laughed at that. you know why? Because it is true. Giving the devil a ride is when you, a professed Christian goes out with non-christian friends for drinks at a bar. Or you meet a really lovely girl and she likes to smoke weed so you smoke with her because you “Like” her. You have as much business as the man on the moon smoking weed or going to the bar for drinks. Because in a week, you can easily be carrying around your own bag weed to smoke like you used to, or going to that bar everyday for drinks like you used to! That’s giving the devil a ride and him ending up driving before you know it.
Big Sky said we can all be gone tomorrow and that is why we have to be serious about our walk with the Lord. We can’t go back and entertain the old man inside of us. Instead of giving the devil a ride, focus on Jesus and living free of the “flesh”. Because Satan is here to destroy. Destroy your family, destroy your friends and also destroy you! That the devil’s desire is to steal, kill, and destroy. If we participate in a Satan driven world, (remember that drinking at the bar and smoking weed with that pretty girl? It starts there) all we end up with is nothing but prison time or sitting on death row. I can relate, I have been there and done that and have had a belly full of it too. Better to live for the Lord!
“If your not on fire yet, your wood must be wet!”-Big Sky Montana.
Big Sky closed with letting us know that when they come to be with us they take off two days from work, from being with their families and from doing their thing. While they are doing this they are praying for us. He and Bikers For Christ asked us to write down prayer requests on pieces of paper with uor names and they would pray for that too. As we closed we sang “I Can Only Imagine” and it was very special and moving. Everyone was singing and praising God and after we finished singing that Big Sky said if you were not on fire (with the Holy spirit!) your wood must be wet! Haha! We all laughed some more at what he said. Big Sky left us with this thought, if Jesus Christ can change an old dope friend like him the Lord can do it for anybody! I say amen to that! Thank you brother for all you do for us!
Charles D. Flores No:999299
Texas Death row FBP
Download “Straight Outta Darkness“, a testimony of the grace and forginess of the Lord Jesus Christ – as told to Terry Solley
“Trouble is part of your life, and if you don’t share it, you don’t give the person who loves you enough chance to love you enough.” –Dinah Shore.
1. Life is not easy for anyone. Life is especially not easy for me. Two weeks ago, I received the news via jpay email that my oldest brother, Antonio Garcia Jojola, had been killed in a senseless act of violence. Antonio, who we all knew as “Tony” was sixty-six years old when he lost his life. In the past twenty-three years that I have been on Texas death row, I have lost my mother and father, and now three brothers. This news shocked me and rocked me to my core. I could not believe it, could not wrap my mind around the fact that my beloved brother was gone. I had been waiting on the Texas prison system to issue us securus computer tablet so I could finally talk to Tony on a daily basis and reconnect with my brother, sharing as much of life with him as I could. Life was hard for my brother and this made it difficult for him to be in my life on a daily basis. I understood and was excited about talking to him on the phone all the time, and now he is gone.
2. It is hard to make sense of the loss of a beloved family member when you are on Texas death row. Because you are incarcerated you are not present when your loved one passes away. You do not see this, you are not at the burial you do not take part in the memorial service honoring their life. They are just gone, like a light that has went out in the world. That is what I have been dealing with inside this solitary confinement cell and it has not been easy. I have lost most of my immediate family in the two decades that I have been on Texas death row, how do you make sense of that? I have been doing my best and have friends and supporters who have reached out to let me know they are with me in my hour of need, love me, and care for me more than ever which has helped greatly. My issue is this – I am so good at making this, “death row experience” look easy, that I sometimes fool myself. I tell everyone that I am fine and I got this, but the truth of the matter is that I am not fine, and I’m hanging on by a thread.
3. On Friday, October 8, 2022, my friend and amazing classical composer and musician, Eric Genuis come back to the faith based program pod to perform again. Eric and his group were here at 9am, and they played for the other side of the pod. I could hear the music and while I waited on them to come to our side and perform for us, my mind drifted back to my troubles. I have precious few photos of my brother Antonio and Juan Elia Jojola, both of who passed away in 2022, and have gathered them into one envelope to have on hand. While waiting, I was looking at my brother’s photos and allowing my mind to go back and reminisce on the good old days spent with them.
4. About noontime, the field ministers and Eric began to bring the sound equipment for the show to our side of the pod and set up. I’m in a different cell now, I have a “front row seat” to the performances, so I pulled my makeshift chair to the cell door and quietly watched the preparations. I still had my brothers on my mind, and the losses that I have experienced I quietly mediated and prayed for my loved ones and waited for the show. A short while later Solley, one of our field ministers, stopped by my cell and told me that Eric had said that he wanted to come talk to me and would do that after the show. That made me feel good. Eric is such a kind compassionate person, he has so much going on in his life, but makes time for people like me because he wants to. Not long after that Troup, our other field minister suggested we sing a song for the musicians while they setting up was completed. We agreed, and I let the brother know that we’d been requested to sing. We sang our gospel version of the old Christian hymn, “Blessed Assurance”. As we sang I noticed that two of the group were different musicians. My attention went to one lady who had a long dark hair braid running down her back, and how we really had her attention when we sung. Shortly after it was time for the performance.
“It’s so good to be back! I am a composer and performer who goes around the world playing for the incarcerated because I want to share beauty in the form of excellent music because beauty uplifts the human condition.”–Eric Genuis.
5. The new musicians were Valerie Height, soprano Anna Mayo, along with cellist Brendan Phelps, and of course Eric. Valerie was the one with the braid, and because she stood to play I watched her through the entire performance. I could see her in motion and she was amazing. I was spell bound by her play and how she could make her violin speak. I could see the emotions on her face as she created this wonderfully beautiful music, was mesmerized by the speed in which she moved her bow across the strings of her instrument. As she played, the music lifted me so high and then would bring me back down low Some of the songs they played were close to fifteen minutes long. I was in awe how each musician new exactly what to play and when to stop to allow a cello or soprano solo, or when to perfectly jump back into the stream of music like Valerie did again and again. I cannot do justice in my attempt to describe the beauty of the music they created. For me, there are not enough words to express that kind of beauty it must be experienced.
6. When the group played, “Panes Angellicus” [Angel’s Bread], it was incredible. At one point during the performance Valerie stopped playing the violin with her bow and played it with her fingers, it was unbelievable! Until that point, this was my favorite song of the performance because the words were written in a poem eight hundred years ago, and Eric completed the music they play only a few years ago.
7. Then they played, “Here I Am”, a love song Eric wrote for his daughter. as Eric introduced the song, Solley set up a microphone in front of Valerie and I wonder why? As Eric began to play the piano I learned why, Valerie stepped up to the microphone and she began to sing. Up until this point I had been able to control my emotions, but as she began to sing, her voice was so beautiful the tears began to flow. As I listened to Valerie sing like an angel, I forced myself to keep my eyes open so I could experience it and remember this once in a lifetime performance that was happening right in front of me. When she stopped singing and began to play her violin I focused on her, all of the music was amazing, but I tuned into her play and thought of my brothers while she made this heart breakingly beautiful music. After hearing Valerie sing, then play, “Here I Am” was the most beautiful song they performed for us. In a word, it was divine. As Valerie played, it was as if every incredible note of music she created cut into the grief and sadness that I was surr- ounded by, and with every stroke of her bow she lifted me out of that terrible dark place. She was the sun and she shined her light into the dark corner that I was stuck in and burned all that ugliness away. I cannot tell you how it happened, all I know is it did happen. Valerie’s light come into my little world and with her angel’s voice and violin she chased the darkness away. It was a moment in my life that I never forget.
8. After their performance, I was able to thank them for their kindness and the precious gift of the show at my cell door. It was only for a minute or two, but I did my best to thank them and I got to speak with Valerie, and I told her that she was not fair! She could play the violin like she did, and sing like that? She was not fair! We all laughed, and when I said that I watched her the entire performance, that I could not keep my eyes off of her, Eric said that I had a ten-thousand dollar seat to the show front row seats!
9. The next day I woke up still riding the wave of beauty-spirituality-positive energy that Eric and company had left me with, replaying their performance in my mind and in a flash I knew what they were, especially Valerie! They are all “heaven leavers!” Because they have the kingdom of God within them, everywhere they go, they leave a piece of heaven behin It is rare to have such wonderful heaven leavers like this come into my little world and share their gifts and light with me. Eric, Valerie, Anna and Brenden are such a blessing to us all.
10. I am still not over losing my brother, but I now have a once in a lifetime memory to wrap them both in. The memory of Valerie cutting me out of that place of pain with her light and music, and everytime I think of it I smile and feel joy and peace flood into my entire being. Thank you Eric, Valerie, Anna and Brendan too!
LOVE PEACE HOPE FRIENDSHIP AND BEAUTY TOO!
Charles D. Flores No:999299
Texas death row October 12, 2022.
To access Eric Genuis’ music go to this link
Filled by Gretchen S. Sween on September 9th, 2022
Charles Don Flores is currently confined on Texas’s death row pursuant to the judgment of the 195th District Court, Dallas County, Texas, entered in 1999. By and through counsel, Flores files this Motion for Access to Evidence to Conduct DNA Testing pursuant to Chapter 64 of the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure. Flores’s counsel have previously conferred with counsel for the State, represented in this case by the Dallas County District Attorney’s Office (“DA’s Office”), about seeking the DNA testing described below. The State has not yet clarified whether it opposes the relief requested in this motion. In support of this motion, Flores respectfully shows the following:
Flores seeks a court order allowing access to physical evidence within the State’s control and currently being held by either (1) the Dallas County crime lab aka the Southwestern Institute of Forensic Sciences (“SWIFS”) or (2) the Farmers Branch Police Department, which conducted the original investigation of the 1998 crime for which Flores has been confined on death row since 1999.
The physical evidence in question is a piece of chewing gum found at the crime scene near the slain body of the human victim’s dog. It is undisputed that an unknown male DNA profile was obtained from the gum as a result of testing the State pursued in 1999. The State represents that the gum still exists and is susceptible to further testing.
Flores is asking that either the gum extract obtained during previous testing or part of the gum itself be sent to a reputable laboratory, to be designated by his expert, Dr. Colleen Fitzpatrick of “Identifinders International.” Identifinders International is a forensic genetic genealogy consulting firm that has successfully identified both murder victims and perpetrators using DNA profiles and contemporary analytical methods. Dr. Fitzpatrick is a scientist and the founder of the new field of “Forensic Genealogy.” She was the first individual to use genetic genealogy to generate investigative leads by combining DNA analysis with genealogy, a forensic technique Dr. Fitzgerald pioneered utilizing continuously expanding databases to help solve cold cases. She solved the first cold case using this methodology in 2015. In 2018, it was used to identify the “Golden State serial killer” after decades of failure. Dr. Fitzpatrick is the co-founder of the “DNA Doe Project,” which identifies previously unidentified bodies, and currently runs Identifinders International. See Exhibit 2.
Upon obtaining access, Dr. Fitzpatrick will direct that an SNP DNA profile be derived from the gum using contemporary extraction techniques, which will then be subjected to a new analytical methodology, forensic genetic genealogy, to determine whether the single source of male DNA on the gum can be identified.
Flores’s counsel with the Innocence Project of Texas has offered to bear the costs associated with the testing and analysis requested. Flores merely seeks a court order that will permit access to the gum to enable testing to adduce highly relevant information that is likely exculpatory.
TEXAS DEATH ROW NEWS
JULY 15th 2022 | By Charles Don Flores #999299
“Shout for joy to God, all on earth; sing the glory of His name; give Him glorious praise! How awesome are Your deeds! So great is Your power that your enemies come cringing to You. All earth worships and sings praises to You; they sing praises to Your name.“-Psalm 66:1.
1. On July 14, 2022, the Texas death row faith based program (FBP), had a guest named Eric Genius. The men on the FBP did not know much about the guest except that he was a classical musician, was come to perform, and would be accompanied by a cellist and a violinist. At 5pm they arrived and began to set up their equipment.
Although we are in the FBP, we are still in solitary confinement, housed in maximum security cells, where there are metal gates, stairs, bars, and wire mesh throughout the pod. There is no open space in the FBP housing areas, so depending on where your cell is located, you can see the visitors speak, sing, perform, or you can’t. I am housed on the ground floor, towards the middle of the section, and when I stand at my cell door I can see the area where our visitors stand and perform reasonably well. When Eric Genius began to set up his equipment I stood at my door and quietly watched as they ran cables, connected speakers, keyboards; and I was also watching Eric too.
2. I know nothing about classical mus. My family did not listen to it nor did any of my friends. Nor can I remember ever seeing classical musicians perform. So, as I watch Eric set up I saw him connect a keyboard to a soundboard. I saw a young dark haired young lady with a violin, a young man who had a cello, and I saw another lady who was part of their group with no instrument, and thought to myself, is she the singer? If so, what kind of music does she sing? The times that I had listened to classical music on the NPR radio station, I did not hear anyone sing … could she be an opera singer maybe? These were my thoughts as I watched the activity, waiting for the performance to begin. When Eric, his fellow musicians and the field ministers had completed the job, we had 6 large Bose style speakers on custom stands positioned in A, B, and C sections and the show was ready to begin.
3. Eric Genuis began by introducing himself and his fellow musicians, Anna the violinist, Brandon the cellist, and Kelly the singer. Eric said these musicians were as good as any classical musicians you might pay hundreds of dollars to see in symphonies across the country. And they were all here to donate their time and talents to share their music with us. Eric said that he was not making any money from performing for us, he was losing money by being here with us this evening because no one was paying him. But he wanted to be here with us, in fact this was his 100th performance they had given in a prison setting. Eric was 55 years old, from Kentucky, and all the music performed tonight was composed by him. I was immediately clear that Eric was very passionate about his music and sharing it with others from the positive energy coming from him, and it was all love. His music was also free. If we wanted to have it given to your family write and ask him and he would send it to him, he said he answered every letter that was written to him.
Eric said that when he was a young person, he had to save his money, then go to the record store and buy an album, then bring it home to listen to it on a record player. Nowadays, music is everywhere and available to anyone 24 hours a day. You see kids with their ear buds in where ever you go listening to music. Unfortunately, not all music is good music. Eric said the top-selling record last year had a title so vulgar that he would not repeat it’s name. He quoted Confucius, ”If you want to know the morality of any people, let me hear their music.” And Aristotle ” If you want to rule the people govern their music.”
These quotes made me consider how music affected us and brought to mind something I heard long ago, “just as youarewhat you eat, youarealso what you listen to.” And this was why they had come to perform for us because he wanted to share the beauty that music can have. As Eric said this, I knew it was true because I had heard the violinist warming up playing solo and she was amazing with what she was playing and the music was very beautiful.
Eric said that beauty was what we were all meant to be bathed in, and then the performance began. The first song was”Rabello”, which included the violin, cello and piano. Eric then sat down behind his keyboard and was transformed into someone else!
When he hit the key on his keyboard the atmosphere come alive with an amazing wave of sound that flowed from the big black speakers, then the violin and cello joined in and I do not know how, but the musician’s instruments began to speak! That is such an inadequate description of what we heard but it is the best that I can do, words do not exist to describe such beauty – it must be experienced because their music was alive. Eric lead this tidal wave of music with his piano. It was incredible to me because his small keyboard sounded like a huge concert hall size piano. And the way Eric played it, he seemed to be in super motion, he was moving his hands so fast, flying and down the keys. He would get caught up in what he was playing, leap up and create this awesome sound, then sit back down and play some more, it was unbelievable. Their first song lasted 8 to 10 minutes then suddenly the music stopped, Eric leaned back and had a big smile on his face and with a flourish he lifted his hands from the key and we knew it was the end of the song. And our applause thundered throught this building. Words cannot do justice to what we experienced.
The next song was titled, “Promise.” This was the violin, cello, piano and vocalist. The thing was, she would not sing words. She would use her voice as an instrument, and when they began, what an instrument it was! Kelly sang in opera style and it was glorious. The way these musicians blended their sounds, it was heavenly. Not one word was said but the music was so beautiful and touched me deep inside my soul that all I could do was laugh.
After the second song, Eric spoke and told us a story about an experience they had performing for some juveniles and the leader of this group of young people was 16 years old, was deeply moved by the music. This boy was the alpha of the group, and he peppered them with questions, he wanted to know how could Anna, the violinist play so fast? How did she know where to press the strings on her violin as she played in what appeared to be a blur? And why had we never heard this kind of music before? This boy knew every rap song that was popular and all about the culture that produced that kind of music but had never heard a violin play. Never heard the beauty of classical music, and was sentenced to be sent away for 30 years in prison. Then the boy requested the violin play a solo, and she played for him. As she played, the boy stood up and as he listened tears began to run down his face. The beauty of the music hit to the core of who this child was, and he was touched in a way he had never been touched by music.
Then Eric played a song called, ”Redemption.” It was also very beautiful and touched me deeply. After this song, he began to tell us about himself and how he had a son who had committed suicide, and later he would tell us he had a daughter who was born with Down’s Syndrome, and then I knew who Eric Genius was. He was a man who was climbing his second mountain. He’s scaled his first mountain with success with his musical talent, but like many people, including myself, life had broken us. Yet, somehow we have found a way to put the pieces back together and live for a higher purpose. Brother Eric knew what life has taught me – suffering is universal but victimhood is optional. When we have lost the most precious people we’ve ever known, we must find a reason to keep on living. He said something that struck a chord inside of me, that the greatest form of charity was putting yourself to serve the craziest, lowest person around. And the greatest human experiencewaslove.
Eric, Anna, Brandon and Kelly would also play, “Hero,” and “Here I Am” and they were also deeply moving beautiful As he closed the performance which lasted 2 hours, he told us he would be back in October 2022! When they were done, we got to meet Eric and the musicians as they walked through the housing area, from cell to cell chatting with us. When I talked to Eric, he saw the hand made cross necklace I wore around my neck and he said look! And out from under his shirt, he pulled out a handmade cross that he also wore! It was such a blessing to meet Eric and his friend and I cannot wait until they come to play for us again in October. I know that will be another amazing performance!
The State’s Brief in Opposition (BIO) contains no cogent legal argument. It relies on a stream-of-consciousness jumble of “facts,” cherry-picked largely from a trial record that is the product of prosecutorial misconduct and junk science.
Presumably, the State’s goal is to suggest that the case of an indigent individual on death row, who has been unable to present evidence of his innocence and of the rampant prosecutorial misconduct that enabled his wrongful conviction, is unworthy of this Court’s attention because the matter is so fact-intensive. Yet the State’s misleading presentation underscores the urgency of the legal issues presented. Actual facts, i.e., the truth, should matter; and the State’s frenetic effort to obscure the facts now known exemplifies the systemic denial of due process in state habeas proceedings in Texas death-penalty cases, a phenomenon that has resulted in overburdening federal courts to which habeas applicants have been forced to turn in search of a full and fair hearing.
See, e.g., Reed v. Goertz, Supreme Court No. 21-442 (granting petition in Texas death-penalty case challenging integrity of 1998 conviction); but see Shinn v. Jones, 596 U.S. __ (May 23, 2022) (curtailing federal courts’ ability to assess constitutional failures accounting for wrongful state-court convictions).
Enrolled in Faith-Based Program (FPB), Charles Don Flores recently graduated from “The Bridges To Life” Self-Study Program and the “Overcomers“, offered for the first time ever to inmates on Death Row.
Charles Don Flores is again endeavoring to be heard by the highest court in the United States after the state courts refused to consider all the new evidence demonstrating his wrongful conviction and factual innocence.
The State obtained Charles Don Flores’s conviction based primarily on a mid-trial, in-court “identification,” made for the first time thirteen months after the crime as he sat at the defense table. Flores did not match this witness’s initial descriptions of the perpetrators in any respect, a fact kept from the defense for nearly two decades. Her “identification” was made after the police had subjected her to “forensic hypnosis” and then shown her a highly suggestive photo line-up featuring Flores from which she failed to pick him out. She then saw his photo repeatedly in the news. After years during which Flores had no counsel, and after his execution was stayed to pursue a claim narrowly focused on the issue of “forensic hypnosis,” Flores unearthed considerable evidence related to this eleventh-hour “identification” and of extensive police and prosecutorial misconduct that had long been suppressed. When he submitted a subsequent state habeas application delineating the vast support for his Brady, false testimony, and actual innocence claims, the state court arbitrarily concluded that all of his new claims were barred on procedural grounds and refused to consider their merits—even though the evidence had been unavailable when Flores initiated his previous habeas proceeding.
The Questions Presented are:
Is the right to due process violated when a death-sentenced individual is barred from developing substantial habeas claims by the arbitrary application of state procedural law?
Is the fact that the State successfully suppressed Brady material for two decades a legitimate basis for denying a habeas applicant, who is actually innocent, the right to be heard?
John Wixted is a Distinguished Professor of Psychology at the University of California–San Diego (UCSD). His current research is concerned with the understanding of episodic memory. He investigates the cognitive mechanisms that underlie recognition memory, often using signal detection theory as a guide. A related line of research involves investigating how episodic memory is represented in the human hippocampus, work that is based mainly on single-unit recording studies performed with epilepsy patients. In recent years, his research has also focused on the applied implications of signal detection-based models of recognition memory. The main focus of this line of research is on the reliability of eyewitness memory utilized in forensic
Professor John Wixted wrote a report applying his new research to Charles Don Flore’s case, showing how the eyewitness identification process in his case is evidence of Charles’s innocence, not his guilt.