Juan Castillo

Texas Death Row News – Feb. 25, 2018.

“HELPING A FRIEND – JUAN CASTILLO WHO HAS A NEW EXECUTION DATE FOR MAY 16, 2018”

I’ve known Juan Castillo since he was sent to Texas death row in 2005. We’ve always got along well and I consider him a good friend. When I returned from Dallas County after having my evidentiary hearing,  I was sick with the flu and was put in a cell next to Castillo on B-pod. Castillo had been moved to that cell from death watch after he won a stay of execution in December 2017. When I got back to Polunsky unit, I was not feeling well and when I mentioned this to Castillo, he asked me if I had any medicine. I did not, I had not gotten my property and would not get it until the next afternoon at 4pm. Right away, my friend offered me some medication – over the counter cold pills, cough syrup and Ibuprofen to break the fever/chills I was suffering from. As most people know, this year’s flu strain is a very bad one and I felt terrible when I got back from Dallas County, and to have my friend give me what I needed the most – medication – meant a great deal to me. With this medication, I was able to get control of the awful fever/chills I had and start to feel better. Castillo gave me what I needed without a moment’s hesitation, he offered it to me and gave me all the medicine he had to help me get better. He did not have to do that. In fact, most people here would not give you the medication they had set aside for when they got sick and needed it. We must buy medication from the prison commissary and can do this just two times a month. This is why you buy it and save it for when you need it. I point this out because this is the kind of person he is, a friend who cares about the well-being of others.

It has been years since I have been in the same section with Castillo and being in the cell next to him gave us a chance to discuss different issues including his legal situation. I’ve known about his situation since I first got to know him and from what Castillo has shared with me I know he is a victim of injustice. It was my understanding that he was given a stay of execution late last year by the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals who sent his case back to the original trial court to be reviewed. It sounded good and we thought that at last he would get a fair opportunity to present his rights violations to the court. If he ever gets this chance I am confident he will win relief.

Meanwhile I was recovering from that wicked flu. It took me another two weeks to get back to more or less full health. But I must say the time I spent away from Texas death row brought into focus how awful this place is. It took me a while to get myself together and adapt to the routine I follow on Polunskyu unit. It takes a lot of energy and motivation to keep positive here and do what needs to be done and I was not there yet.

I realize that I am in a wonderful situation appeal-wise and when all goes according to plan, I will leave this place soon. But that does not change the fact that I’ve been incarcerated for 20 years for a crime I did not commit and I’ve grown weary of this situation, this place. And in fact the only thing that will change how I feel is winning my freedom.

So, I had that going on with myself and while feeling better, I was not yet back to my 100% self.

On Friday February 8, 2018, I was listening to the Prison Show on KPFT radio station and heard them announce Castillo’s Chapter 64 Request to test DNA had been denied by the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals. Upon hearing that I thought to myself that was not good news but did not think it was the end of the world for my friend. The next day I asked him did he hear them announce that he’d been denied on the Prison Show? He told me that he had. This led to a long discussion in which he explained the DNA issue and from the information he gave me I know this is a very strong issue and it’s my belief he will win relief on it in a higher court.

We continued to think that he was still “okay”, because he had another strong issue on being convicted under false evidence before the appeal court. So the sense of urgency, of “Ooh no! I’ve got an execution date”, was not yet upon my friend.

Monday morning February 12, 2018, Castillo received some legal mail and this letter informed him that both his DNA issue and his False Evidence Claim had been denied and that the judge had also signed a new death warrant which would give him an execution date. When he told me this, the full weight of his situation settled upon me.

As everyone knows, I won a stay of execution on May 27, 2016 and from that point my situation has only gotten better and better. So much so that I no longer think about execution dates. I’m thinking of the day I will be freed! By having this happen to my friend Castillo I was instantly taken back to the first 5 months of 2016, when I was on death watch and every friend there with me was also facing an execution date. We all discussed our respective legal situations and helped each other in trying to find new ways of fighting for our lives. Some men I was able to help, while some of my brothers I helplessly watched as they were taken off to be slaughtered on the name of [in]justice.

Castillo’s suddenly urgent situation woke me up in ways I did not realize I’d fallen asleep on. It also served to add some much needed fuel to the fire that burns inside of me. It made me say, “Hell No!” to these devils who are actively trying to murder me and every other human being on Texas death row. And start to fight tooth and nail once again not just for myself but for all my brothers as well.

With this in mind I asked Castillo to explain it all to me again. The case, the issues, the manner in which the different attorneys had raised his issues in his appeal and I started thinking of his situation as if it were mine. What would I say, how would I explain the complex issues to the different legal professionals I would write asking for help? Because that is critical – you must be able to explain the situation in a concise manner and convey the fact that there is hope in your case if you can only get competent legal representation! Then I shared it with him. I told him what I would say and what I’d do if it was me. Whenever I would get a new thought or idea, I would continue to share them with him. I knew that my friend would not be next to me long – the judge had set a new execution date for Castillo and within a matter of days they’d take him back to death watch. Every hour counted, because from 8am to 5pm, these devils could suddenly show up in front of his cell door and like that he’d be gone to death watch.

The next day Tuesday February 13, 2018, Castillo had a legal visit and he was told that yes, he had been given an execution date for May 16, 2018. When he came back from that legal visit, I had some more ideas and thoughts to share with him and contact information of individuals he ought to write requesting legal assistance. I also told Castillo that I would write some legal professionals I was in contact with who might be able to help him and if they couldn’t help, maybe they could put him in contact with someone who could.

I think about when I was on death watch, I wrote countless legal letters and sent out many legal packets urging attorneys and law firms to help me. And found nothing until I wrote Greg Gardner and he helped me. From there my next super hero attorney Gretchen Sween became my lead attorney and things have only gotten better for me. But it all started with one letter. After the hundred that I wrote went unanswered, I suddenly got a response and Greg Gardner proceeded to save my life. I know personally how important it is to never give up writing and asking for help and I told Castillo this. I reminded him that in a lot of ways having an execution date can be a good thing because he will have the attention of the attorneys in the anti-death penalty community and his chances of obtaining top notch legal representation go up.

Wednesday February 14, 2018 rolled around and while I was in the dayroom for my recreation period, they came for Castillo. We knew this was going to happen and in a matter of a few minutes, the guards were escorting him out of the pod and taking him to death watch. As he left our section I put my hand through the bars and shook my friend’s hand. I looked him in the eyes and told him I would do all I could to help him.

I’ve been true to my word. I’ve written letters on Castillo’s behalf because I’m incapable of seeing a friend in a life and death situation and not help him – that’s the kind of friend I am. I have a good feeling about Castillo’s situation I know he’s under intense pressure coping with that death watch situation but I know he’ll do the best he can with it. I continue to go over his situation in my head and whenever I think of a new way to help him I put it into play hoping to make a difference in the fight for Juan Castillo’s life, that’s the least I can do.

Charles D. Flores N° 999299

Texas Death Row

February 25, 2018.

DEATH ROW NEWS, SEPTEMBER 11, 2017

DEATH ROW NEWS                                                                                            SEPTEMBER 11, 2017.

“POST HURRICANE HARVEY EFFECTS ON TEXAS DEATH ROW”

It has been two weeks since Hurricane Harvey came through south east Texas causing death and destruction across the area. It came through the Houston TX metro area unleashing over 50 inches (4ft!) of rain in two days causing the worst flooding this area has seen in 100 years. Then Harvey went back causing epic flooding, power outages and loss of water supply.

All the while the men on Texas death row were following these events via radio, the only media outlet available to us. This was a very intense and stressful experience because we are locked in our cells with no way out unless someone comes and opens the door to these cages. I was very aware of the fact that the storm caused flooding very close to Polunsky unit as Hurricane Harvey first hit the right side of Livingston, TX, then the left side. It could have easily hit us directly and we’d be dealing with what Beaumont is dealing with – no electricity and no water service. I’m extremely grateful we were spared this.

What has been disrupted in this area is the postal delivery. Our mail is not processed in Livingston, it is trucked to a mega US postal processing center in north Houston and this center was knocked out by hurricane Harvey. This resulted in a 2-week delay of any mail to Texas death row. I’m happy to report that as of last Friday we began to receive mail again.

The other issue for us is the lack of access in this area for people to visit. Many roads were flooded because of the extreme rain the entire south east Texas area received and I personally had a visit delayed for 2 weeks as a result. The flood waters have ran off and the roads and highways in the surrounding area are clear allowing for normal access to the prison unit.

When hurricane Harvey hit the Houston area, 500 general population prisoners were evacuated from TDCJ prison in the Houston area and brought to Polunsky to be housed in the gym. These prisoners are still here and there is talk that they will continue to be housed on Polunsky unit for the entire month of September. This means there are 500 extra men to provide meals for 3 times a day which was resulted in us continuing to receive our breakfast meal in a paper sack which is their way of giving us less food to be able to feed the extra 500 mouths they have here.

The good thing about this is that we have been told the usual every 90-day lockdown/shakedown has been postponed until the refugee prisoners are transported back to their assigned prison units. If not for that Polunsky Unit would be on lockdown and the guards would be searching through the prison grounds looking for contraband.

Meanwhile Hurricane Irma has come up through the Caribbean islands and made landfall in the state of Florida. When Irma was forming on the Atlantic Ocean, there was a real possibility that it could make a turn westward and hit us in the Gulf of Mexico but we’ve been spared another direct for which I’m very thankful. I recently read that hurricane Irma was the post powerful Atlantic hurricane ever recorded with winds exceeding 185 mph. This is a category 5 hurricane – they do not get any more powerful than this. These storms get their immense strength from the ever-increasing warm waters in the ocean. This gives these deadly storms their power and the oceans are getting warmer due to climate change. But we have a president who does not believe in climate change, to him, it’s fake news. This is insanity.

We’ve been back to the regular routine on Texas death row for 2 weeks receiving recreation and showers daily. I was happy to get out of my cell after being locked away for over 2 weeks. I hope and pray we have seen the last of these terrible storms for a very long time. I am afraid this is the new normal for south east Texas and the Gulf of Mexico. Because of global warming, we will continue to have these deadly storms and there is nothing we can do about it. Personally, I’m ready to get as far away from this part of Texas and the Gulf of Mexico as I can. I’ve had enough of Hurricanes no doubt!

Charles D. Flores #999299

Texas death row

September 11, 2017

DEATH ROW NEWS – AUGUST 28, 2017

DEATH ROW NEWS – AUGUST 28, 2017.

« HURRICANE HARVEY AFFECTS POLUNSKY UNIT TEXAS DEATH ROW »

I have been on Texas death row since 1999 and in my 18+ years of being confined at this infamous prison I have lived through hurricane Katrina and hurricane Ike, which were harrowing experiences no doubt. Because of this when I hear the word Hurricane being used in regards to southeast Texas, where Livingston is located, I pay close attention.

When I heard the report the National Weather Service was forecasting for a tropical storm that was forming in the Gulf of Mexico that could grow into a hurricane and hit somewhere along the coast between Corpus Christi to the Texas/Louisiana boarder this past Wednesday, this news had my complete attention. Polunsky Unit is about 100 miles away from this coastline. From that moment on I listened to the news reports every couple of hours doing my best to keep informed about the development of this storm.

Thursday morning arrived and the storm was the #1 topic on the news reports with the broadcasters urging the public to prepare for the coming storm. To buy food, water, fuel for their vehicles because the storm was coming! This made me think of what we could do to prepare for the storm. It’s not like the authorities on Texas death row will allow us to go to the supermarket and get what we need! No, in that regard, it comes down to doing your best to stay prepared for any unexpected event – be it a month long lockdown or a hurricane. I always try to keep prepared for such events but I thought about the other guys who were not ready. There would be no opportunity to buy extra supplies, never mind the fact that everything costs money on commissary – our supermarket here on Texas death row.

Then, there was another personal issue that I was thinking about. A friend named Abby was planning to visit me on Thursday or Friday and I hoped she was paying attention to the weather and would not come because things could become unsafe on the highways when the storm did arrive. My friend is not one to drive in stormy weather – nor did I want her to be. Fortunately Thursday morning passed into afternoon and I knew by that time she did not travel for the visit and was relieved about that.

Friday morning brought with it the news that the storm was now a hurricane named Harvey and the National Weather Service was forecasting it to make landfall hitting the Corpus Christi area as a category III with winds over 100 mph., rain and even tornadoes. They also forecast the storm to move up the coast and hit Houston and dumps up to 30 inches of rain that will cause massive flooding; and whatever effects Houston often washes over into Livingston, Texas.

Upon hearing this I began to prepare in my little world. I washed my bedding and all the other clothing I had so I could hang it on a clothesline and have it dried before the storm hit. I know what I have sufficient food, coffee, and writing materials but I wish I had a couple of cases of bottled water – I only have 5 bottles in my cell. Other than that I am as prepared as I can be and have no choice but to ride out the storm.

The issue here on Polunsky unit is that with any kind of large storm like a hurricane the electricity will be knocked out and with it goes the electricity in our cells. We also lose the ventilation system that keeps the sealed building which houses Texas death row from becoming a torture chamber with temperatures that will exceed 100°F without it. When Hurricane Katrina hit the Louisiana coastline, it also came up through south east Texas hitting Livingston which caused us to lose electricity for 3 days. The same thing occurred with hurricane Ike, we lost electricity for 3 days and each time this happened, conditions on Texas death row were very rough.

Around 7pm Friday evening, I heard the state officials say that those who did not heed the evacuation warnings where hurricane Harvey was expected to directly hit needed to write their name and social security number on their arm with a permanent marker! They want these people to do this so they can identify them after they are killed by the storm. That was a very ominous piece of news – they were expecting many people to lose their lives in this storm.

Saturday morning I went to shower early in the morning and was back in my cell for the rest of the day at 7 am. This is when I heard that hurricane Harvey hit near Corpus Christi as a category IV hurricane with winds over 130 mph., rain and tornadoes. It had begun to rain overnight in Houston and here in Livingston the skies were dark and grey as I peered out my window and I could not help but wonder what if it flooded here at Polunsky unit?

I am locked in a cell and there is no way out of this tomb. If a massive flood was to happen here, we would all be locked in these cells at the mercy of the flood waters.

Sunday morning came and when I woke up I turned on the National Public Radio broadcast to find that they were broadcasting the Houston CBS television news broadcast. The reason why this was being done is because there was massive electricity outage across the Houston area and people cannot watch television in their homes. Many only have battery-operated radios or their cell phones on which to listen to the news and this only underscored the magnitude of the disaster that was occurring. They reported that 24 inches of rain had fallen on Houston. This flood was like nothing that has ever been seen in Texas. That morning they broadcast live helicopter rescues of countless people who were on their roof tops needing to be taken to safety. It was unbelievable the Houston, Texas area is home to 6.5 million people so the size of this disaster is hard to imagine. Around noontime a Houston official came onto the broadcast asking the public for boats and strong swimmers to rescue people who have been flooded out and where vehicles could not reach them. It was amazing to hear them ask for help from the public and it tells me how dire the situation is.

Here in Livingston, it has been raining all day and all night. I have been keeping watch out my window but only see the non-stop rainfall. Until now, there is no flooding here and I’m grateful but I can’t help but think to myself, what if we get 2 feet of non-stop rain? I think these cells would fill up with water and nothing could stop it. There are places in Houston where there is water over 16 feet high! My ceiling in my cell is 10 feet high; we’d all drown.

We are not yet halfway through this disaster and so far Livingston-Polunsky unit has been fortunate because the storm hit the west side of Houston more than it hit the east where we are and our rainfall has been less. I do not know how this thing will end but I continue to keep my eyes and ears open and hope to stay safe!

Monday morning I was up at 7 a.m. The guards say that only half their usual number came to work today. Because of this we have no movement on Texas death row. I asked one guard what were the conditions like in this area? He said there was flooding all around this area and there was 12 inches of water on the road when he came to work this morning. The only reason he was able to make it was because he drives a pick-up truck. If he would have driven a car, he would have not been able to come to work.

Shortly after this conversation, my neighbor yelled out to me from his cell, “Watch out! Water is coming out the drain!” I immediately looked at my cell door and see water beginning to come in my cell. I spring into action – I have to keep the water from coming into my cell! I look out the door and see the source of water is the drain on the run between me and my neighbor’s cell. The flow of water grows faster and faster so I grab my towel and throw it down, which slows the water. I then take newspaper and stuff it between the bottom of the cell door and the floor. I then clean up the water that made it in my cell and make a water barricade with more newspaper then socks and the towel on top of this and fortunately the flow of water stopped after about 5 minutes. I start to think about the situation – the drainage system around the unit is backing up because of too much rainfall and it came back out the drain. What if I can’t stop the water the next time? We have 2 more days of rain coming our way! No, I must prepare for an emergency evacuation of my own. So I pack my personal property and I am now ready to leave this cell with my stuff for higher ground if I need to. When and where that might be I have no idea, but I’m ready!

It is now 7 pm. Monday and there has been a lull in the rainfall and until now no more water has come out of the drain – but we’re only halfway through this epic storm! I hope no more flood water runs out the drain threatening to come in my cells or who knows what else… only time will tell!

Monday August 28, 2017

Charles D. Flores #999299

Texas Death Row News 8.11.17

November 16, 2017 Execution Date set for Texas Death Row Prisoner Larry Swearingen

Texas Death Row prisoner Larry Swearingen has been given an execution date for November 16, 2017 by the State of Texas. Swearingen, who is 46 years old, has been on Texas death row since July 2000, and we’ve been friends since 2002. In the 15 years that I’ve known Larry he has always been focused on working to prove that he was a victim on an injustice that sent him to Texas death row. He has also always been willing to help others with their case. In an environment that was designed to isolate prisoners from each other, Swearingen is always willing to help a fellow prisoner who is wanting to help himself. That speaks volumes of him.

In the news report that was aired yesterday, it was reported that Swearingen has DNA testing still pending in his case. He has filed a civil law suit to have this DNA testing done and now this lawsuit will move to the front and center of his legal efforts. In spite of this, the bloodthirsty State of Texas has achieved it’s goal of setting an execution date hoping to push Swearingen out of existence in a revenge murder on Movemeber 16, 2017.

The thing about having an execution date set is that so much effort is put into maneuvering the Texas death row prisoner into this situation including the trial, conviction and sentence, the denial of multiple appeals, etc. The momentum that this massive effort has put into it by the prosecutors makes it extremely difficult to stop them. This is why all of the execution dates set in the State of Texas are so serious.

When I heard the news that Larry had this execution date set I thought of the last time I saw him at visitation while he was seeing his elderly mother. His mother will also be put thought the trauma of having her son being subjected to the real threat of an execution date again. You see, this is not the first time Swearingen has been given an execution date and each time he is forced to go through this his mother is too. I know that’s not easy as I have first hand experience with my mother. Whenever a death row prisoner is given an execution date his loved ones are also given one.

I know my friend Larry Swearingen well and there is no giving up in him. If there is a way to stop this execution he will find it. There is no other was for us to be in this new age death camps. Fight tooth and nail my brother and give it all you got! Give the situation your absolute best effort and no matter how bad they want it, never let them devils see you sweat!

Power in the struggle for life!

August 11, 2017

Charles Don Flores

Texas Death Row prisoner #999299

Texas Death Row prisoner Robert Pruett has been given an execution date for October 12, 2017

June 26, 2017

This morning I found myself listening to the noontime news broadcast from the Texas State Network News when I heard the report that Rupert Pruett has been given another execution date for October 12, 2017.

Once again a friend of mine has been given an execution date and moved to death watch where those who have active execution dates are kept under 24-hour surveillance via CCTV camera in their cells. This time when I heard the awful news I had flashbacks to my time on deathwatch. You see Robert Pruett was also on death watch with me when I was housed there living under the evil threat of an execution date.

There is something about going through such an experience with another human being. A bond is forged because we made it through that living hell alive. It might seem nice and civil and humane to the outside viewer, seeing a man on Texas death row with an execution date. This is not a third world country where they are physically torturing us before them devils take our lives. They even begin to treat the Texas Death Row prisoner like a human being at the end, but it’s still a living hell.

It is psychological torture not only for the condemned prisoner but for all the family and friends who care for him too. When a person finds himself on death row it’s  not just him living with a death sentence, everyone who cares for him lives with it too.

I lived through that with Robert Pruett. And I know this is not his first time having an execution date. It’s his fourth or fifth time I believe. Try to wrap your mind around that. It took me a year to get over the trauma I experienced during my five months on death watch. How do you get over four or five more extended stays on death watch? I have no idea.

If nothing else my brother Robert Pruett know how it goes and what to do while on death watch most importantly he knows the rule – never let them devils see you sweat! I know he will make sure however this trip through living hell ends to never let them see him sweat. Stay strong brother.

Peace Hope & Freedom!

Charles D Flores #999299

Texas Death Row prisoner William Rayford has been given an execution date for January, 30 2018

This past Friday night I was listening to the Prison Show radio program when I heard the news that William Rayford has been given an execution date for January 30, 2018. I heard someone talking about this a few days ago and until now it was only rumor and not confirmed news. Now I know it is true.

Rayford is from Dallas County and I know him well as he’s been on Texas death row for over a decade. The years blur together for me but to the best of my recollection Rayford’s previous appeal attorney died on him about five years ago. As a result he had his federal appeal picked up by a Dallas, TX area attorney named Bruce Anton. I remember when Rayford first received his new attorney he was very happy because he thought Bruce Anton was a top quality attorney. I used to think that too until I was almost executes because of Bruce Anton’s carelessness. You see, Bruce Anton used to represent me and I know what it’s like to be in Rayford’s shoes.

So when I heard the news on my friend Rayford I took a deep breath and sent out a silent prayer for him in hopes that Bruce Anton will do all he can for my friend and save him from the death machine in Texas. Because that is what anyone needs when they find themselves with an execution date they need an attorney who’s giving their case 100%.

I am not sure why the Dallas County district court set Rayford’s execution date for January 30, 2018. That is a double edged sword for a death row prisoner. On one hand it gives his legal team a long time to do all they can for him to win a stay and stop the execution if they have not written him off as a goner! On the other hand he will be on death watch, the real death row, for seven months. That is not an easy thing to deal with to say the least.

I hope to see Rayford soon and remind him that it’s not over till it’s over and he has to stay on his attorney making him do all he can do win a stay of execution. Every man on death watch who faces an execution date must do all he can and make it as hard as possible for the executioners in Texas to take their life. Stay strong Rayford! I’m thinking about you brother!

In the struggle.

June 24, 2017

Charles D Flores #999299

Texas Death Row News

June 12, 2017

Texas Death Row prisoner Clinton Lee Young has been given an execution date for October 26, 2017.

Last Thursday, June 8, I was in my cell listening to the Texas State Network News noon report when I heard the news that Clinton Lee Young had been given an execution date for October 26, 2017.

I had immediate flashbacks to the morning I recieved the fateful letter from my then attorney telling me I had been given an execution date. I know exactly what that feels like. I know how it feels to be taken to the Texas death row major’s office and be informed by this administration that you have an execution date and be immediately moved to death watch. That is one of the worst experiences you can imagine because your death sentence just became “real.” The clock has begun to tick and if you are not able to stop the run-away-train to the death house these devils have put you on they will kill you.

I remember the first time I met Clinton Lee Young in early 2002. The actual date is fuzzy in my memory but I remember him well. He was a very young man who’d just arrived on Texas death row and I did my part in sharing what I learned about how things were here with him and we managed to get along well enough. Throughout the years I’ve gotten to know Clinton Lee Young well and we’ve become friends. I think of him now and his family, his mother and his sister who have stood by his side all these years and what this terrible execution date is doing to them. I know Clinton, he’ll face this execution date with courage and do the best he can with it. I know this but I worry about his family because when a human being is on death row all of his loved ones are on death row with him.

I hope to see Clinton in the visit room soon to let him know I’m thinking of him and wish him the very best, and one more thing — NEVER LET THEM SEE YOU SWEAT BROTHER!