In an hour, as of the time of writing, Brandon Astor Jones will almost certainly be dead. By the time you’re reading this, he probably already will be. Yesterday, the Board of Pardons and Paroles refused his request for clemency, and he is scheduled to be killed at 7.00 pm tonight – midnight UK time.
I can’t even begin to imagine what Brandon’s day has been like. Even for me, the day has been excruciating – spent staring at clocks and wishing the hands would stop moving – and knowing that somewhere, four thousand miles away, was a man sitting alone in a cold metal cell. He sent me a sketch once, of that cell – nothing there but a metal bed, metal toilet and a metal shelf. I have attached a picture of a sketch of his cell block – the place he has spent the last 38 years of his life.
If you pray, please pray for Brandon tonight. I am sure he will appreciate it in his last hour – pray for peace for him, his family, and the family of Roger Tackett, the man who was killed in 1979. If you want to know more about the man that Georgia plan to kill in an hour, you can find some of Brandon’s writing here, or find his book While the Mississippi and Hudson Merge, here.
Thank you to all those of you who wrote letters to the Board of Pardons and Paroles. I know most of you did not know Brandon, and I wish that you had been able to get to know him – I wish I had been able to get to know him better than I had. The sad irony is that it was only really since learning of his execution that I found myself going over his old letters again, reading more of his writings online, and finding out more about his story, and feel I have got to know him better in this short time than I had when there was time to let him know. I wish I had been able to let him know.
I sent a letter to the prison the day after I heard about his execution, but the prison had stopped letting my letters through some time ago, after Brandon and I had corresponded about the mistreatment and racism he experienced. Some time, I will share what he wrote about that. I had to write to him under a false name for a while – though in my last letter, I did not. I hoped that the Georgia justice system would allow a letter through for a man about to die, but knowing what I do about that justice system, perhaps that was ill-judged.
I hope that God is with Brandon tonight, and hope that your thoughts are too. The system seems intent on one more meaningless death, and if you are outraged or upset or despondent about that, then defy it – do not let it be meaningless. Read Brandon’s writings, write to prisoners on death row, show them love and encouragement, get to know somebody in the same way I have had the privilege of doing, and appeal for them too.