Tomorrow, the state of Texas will kill Mark Stroman by means of lethal injection. Today, a man he tried to murder, Rais Bhuyian, is praying Texas will spare Stroman's life.
Prayer is about all that's left. In the weeks after September 11, 2001, Mark Stroman raged through the convenience stores around Dallas, looking for "Arab" shopkeepers on whom to exact revenge. He found none, if that matters. What he did find was a Pakistani shopkeeper named Waqar Hassan and an Indian named Vasudev Patel. He killed them with a double-barreled shotgun. When he visited a Texaco station manned by Rais Bhuyian, a Bangladeshi Muslim, Stroman shot him in the eye.
Bhuyian cried out for his mother, and felt the sting of "a million bees" before collapsing on the floor, clutching his face to keep his brain in his head. He played dead until Stroman left the store, and ran to a nearby barbershop where he was picked up by an ambulance. Nine years and many surgeries later, he is partially blind, and his face is full of shotgun pellets.
The decision to execute Mark Stroman was an easy one. Texas justice is not known for leniency, and even compared to most murderers, Mark Stroman is eminently killable. After his apprehension in October 2001, he bragged to police about his ill deeds, which he called patriotic, and flashed a glib thumbs-up to reporters in the courtroom where he was tried. He was, by any sane measure, an embarrassment to Texas, humanity, and carbon-based life.
But Rais Bhuyian didn't care about that. Quietly at first, he initiated a campaign to save Stroman's life, petitioning Texas to commute Stroman's sentence to life without parole. On his website, Bhuyian wrote "that by sparing his life, we will give Mr. Stroman a chance to realize, through time and maturity, that hate doesn't bring a peaceful solution to any situation. Perhaps, if given the opportunity, it might generate such a positive influence on him that he may want to become a spokesperson against hate crime."
Nice sentiments, and utterly unlikely to move the heart of the Texas legal apparatus, if it can be said to have one, even though the widows of Stroman's other victims support Bhuyian's cause. Stroman supports it too, naturally enough, and convincingly testifies to his change of heart on the Huffington Post. "I received a message that Rais loves me and that's powerful," he says. "I want to thank him in person for his inspiring act of compassion … If I don't make it, I want Rais to carry on his work teaching people not to be prejudiced."
If he can't get Stroman's sentence commuted, Rias Bhuyian wants at least to meet his attacker in person. This is apparently Bhuyian's legal right, but he may have learned about it too late. Bhuyian has now initiated a lawsuit against Texas, demanding a stay of Stroman's execution until the meeting can take place; Dallas Magazine reports the case was bumped to a federal court, which shall convene Wednesday morning. If they don't grant the stay, Stroman will die at 6 p.m. tomorrow night, Texas time.