When I wrote to you on World Day Against the Death Penalty on October 10, I shared the horrifying reality that Florida led the nation in the number of executions, killing six men in 2023. Sadly, just before midnight on that same day, Texas executed Jedidiah Murphy, despite two lower courts granting a stay. The U.S. Supreme Court, in a 6-3 decision without comment, allowed his execution to proceed. Now, both Texas and Florida share the sickening distinction of sharing the most executions in 2023.
However, one of the most comforting things about the anti-death penalty community, from advocates and litigators alike, is the unwavering support and solidarity we provide to one another. We celebrate our wins together, and we grieve our losses together. This work can be so isolating in the day to day, and so I find it critical to stay connected to all the people across the nation (and the world) who are fighting for the same thing.
So today, I want to share with you the story of “Big Will” Speer, who is set to be executed this week in Texas. Will’s story struck me because, much like many of those executed in Florida this year, Will’s story is one of transformation and redemption. I urge you to read about Will’s baptism on death row, his leadership in mentoring his fellow men in prison, and how the son of his victim opposes his execution and does not want to watch him die.
Will’s team is asking for at least a 180-day reprieve – not just for Will’s sake – but so that the men he is leading can complete their faith-based program:
A 180-day reprieve would enable Speer to continue mentoring other inmates in the faith-based program. After being selected by the field ministers and chaplain as coordinator, Speer began leading 13 inmates through the curriculum last December.
“If Will is executed on October 26, he will have mentored the men for 10 months,” the clemency petition stated. “A reprieve of 180 days will enable him to see them through the centerpiece components of Bridges to Life and Overcomers.
The thirteen men who elected Will to lead them on their journey in the Faith Based Program need those additional six months. These men count on Will and lean on him, as they go through the difficult process of confronting, and correcting, their worst mistakes.”
Please read, sign the petition, and share Will’s story here.
I know that it is easy to become disheartened, especially when we witness other states proceeding with executions, while at the same time we wait and hope that Florida does not set another state-sanctioned murder this year.
Today, we stand with Texas, and with Big Will Speer, and with all the people fighting to save his life. We show them that they are not alone. And we remember that we are not alone.
Thank you for being in this fight with us.
FADP Executive Director