[Edit: If you’d like to know more about Brandon and why I believe his life should be saved, please read the other posts on the blog.]
I have been sat in front of my keyboard for fifteen minutes, without a clue what to write, because nothing I can type will capture the desperation I feel, and I want you to feel too.
Four days ago, I heard that the state of Georgia will execute Brandon Astor Jones, Georgia’s oldest death row inmate at almost seventy-three, on February 2nd at 7.00 pm. Brandon has been a friend to me for sixteen years, each one of those years whilst waiting to die.
Thirty-seven years ago, Brandon and another man made a mistake, a terrible choice, and was involved in a robbery of a store which went wrong, and a man was killed. Brandon was convicted of murder, along with another man, and sentenced to death.
Below, I have posted my letter to the Board of Pardons and Paroles. Before you judge Brandon, I ask that you read it, and if you are moved by it, or you want mercy, or you believe you can help, then I ask that you write too.
Dear Board of Pardons and Paroles,
When I was seven years old, my mother called me downstairs and gave me a set of coloured pastels, and my brother a set of coloured pencils. I asked what they were for, and she told me that she had been sent them by a man who she wrote letters to, and when she had told him about us, and that we liked to draw, he had bought us some colouring materials to practice art with. I was amazed that a man who I had never met would think to send us something like that. I wanted to say thank you, and my mother told me that I would have to send a letter, because he lived a long way away, in America, and that he was in prison for a mistake he made a long time ago.
That was the beginning of my friendship with Brandon, and now, as a man approaching his 24th birthday, I can say, truly and without a shadow of a doubt, I know Brandon as a good, good man. We have exchanged many letters over my lifetime, and my friendship with Brandon has left me inspired and a better man. He is a man who has faced incredible hardships as a black man in a prison in Georgia, and yet has chosen not to become bitter and hard, but to better himself and become a new man. He has taught me that anybody, no matter what their background, or their past mistakes, or their circumstances, can choose to be good, can make decisions every single day to make the world a better place, and can stand before any situation and not let it destroy them.
Brandon is a man who knows he has made mistakes that cannot be undone, and yet, though they cannot be undone, he chooses to make the world a better place now, in any way that he can. He writes, to magazines, newspapers, and individuals, and as he does so, he inspires goodness, kindness and mercy. The man who has been sentenced to die on February 2nd is not the same man who was convicted 37 years ago. The man who is sentenced to die is a wonderful, honest, determined, honourable and moral man, who I would be proud to call a brother. Please, I plead of you, do not take such a man from the world. To allow Brandon to die would not bring retribution, but would bring suffering and grief to the many who know and love Brandon as the man that he has chosen to become in the time since he lost his freedom, and rob the world of the goodness he can still bring into it.
During his time in prison, he has educated himself. He has become political. He has found Christ. He has become an inspiration to people all across the world, has changed in every conceivable way a man can change, and above everything, the most incredible way in which he has been transformed is that that he has changed from a man who hurt the world to a man who wants to heal it. Words cannot express enough the joy I take in knowing Brandon, and my desperation to see him allowed to remain in the world for a little while longer.
I hoped one day, I could tell Brandon about my children, when I had them, and he could send them some coloured pencils, and they could write to him to thank him. Please, please do not take that from them, and do not take that from the children and adults across the world who have become better than they were for knowing him. Show mercy – the kind of mercy that the man whose fate you are deciding would show.
If you want to write, then please write here, to Katrina Conrad, the mitigation specialist working on Brandon’s case. She will collect all letters to the Board, and will submit them with her other clemency materials. This means nothing will be missed, and they will be aware of support for Brandon during their argument for clemency. Her details are as follows:
Katrina Conrad, LCSW
Staff Investigator, Capital Habeas Unit
Federal Defender Program, Inc.
101 Marietta St. NW, Suite 1500
Atlanta, GA 30303
If you choose to write, thank you so much, from the bottom of my heart. A letter you write could save a man’s life.