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‘I’m nothing like that person’: Texas death row inmate makes video plea for clemency

The death row prisoner stares into the camera from behind bullet-proof glass, and with a pained expression delivers a message to the Republican governor of Texas, Greg Abbott.

“I know you don’t know me,” Quintin Jones begins. “I’m writing this letter to ask you if you could find it in your heart to grant me clemency, so I don’t get executed on 19 May. I got two weeks to live, starting today.”

The plea from a condemned Black man to one of America’s staunchest advocates of capital punishment must rank as among the more unusual last-minute attempts by an inmate to save their own life. It is made in the form of a four-minute video published in the opinion section of the New York Times, filmed from death row in Livingston, Texas.

As appeals for mercy go, this one is a long shot. In his six years in office, Abbott has only granted clemency once: to a white inmate, Thomas Whitaker.

The Republican-controlled state is gearing itself up as the pandemic lifts for a spree of judicial killings of the sort that have earned it the reputation of being the death penalty capital of the US.

Over the course of the year it plans to carry out five executions including that of Jones, out of a nationwide total of seven.

Despite the odds, Jones makes a spirited case for sparing his life. He talks about how he grew up “in the hood as a Black male” and was taught “to be tough and hard, macho. So yeah I had a messed-up childhood. Yeah, I had drug addiction, alcohol addiction. Yeah I hated myself.”

He was arrested in 1999 for beating his great-aunt Berthena Bryant, 83, to death and stealing $30 to pay for drugs. He was alleged to have been involved in two other murders – for which he has never been charged.

Jones tells the Texas governor he is not the person he was at 20 when he killed his great-aunt, a crime he has admitted.

“I’m nothing like that person,” he says. “I became a man on death row, so now you killing the man, and not the child.”

The prisoner promises that if Abbott shows mercy, he will spend the rest of his natural life in prison bettering himself and others around him.

“The mistakes I made – it’s mistakes, and it’s not something definitely solid about who I am. I wouldn’t be one of those that, you know, in 10, 20 years, you say ‘I regret letting him live.’”

Jones beat his great-aunt to death with a baseball bat she kept for her own protection. His other great-aunt, Bryant’s younger sister Mattie Long, has forgiven him.

Long has also written to Abbott, supporting Jones’s bid for clemency.

“Quintin can’t bring [my sister] back,” she said. “I can’t bring her back. I am writing this to ask you to please spare Quintin’s life.”

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