A few weeks ago, I sent letters to every American death row inmate scheduled for execution this year. I asked them about their own survival prospects, their day-to-day lives, and their thoughts on America, its media, and its justice system. Today, a death row inmate replies.

Brett Hartmann is scheduled to be executed in Ohio on November 13. He's been on death row since 1998, when he was convicted of murdering Winda Snipes, his lover, by stabbing her 138 times and cutting off her hands. Hartmann says he is innocent. His version of the case can be found here; a good Cleveland Scene article on the issues surrounding his case can be found here.

May 20, 2012

Dear Hamilton-

Thank you for your recent letter, it is always great to get mail and I am always happy to help legitimate causes when I can. You should see some of the other letters I got this time around!
As for my thought on possible execution, min probably vary from the others as this is my 3rd time down the isle! The first time I came within 7 days, last time I think within 2 weeks. so for me, of course I do not want to die but I am tired and feel they should give me the new trial I deserve or just kill me! I am not interested in anything in between.
My chances this time? I would not tempt to guess, when it comes to these courts they always seem to do the opposite of what you think. I would like to think I have about a 40% chance of surviving this one, but, I know people do not like to admit it but the DR is 90% politics and the time leading up to my date is prime election season so that drops it down to about 10% and the rest depends on the political climate more so than any issues I have. If the courts did what they were supposed- I would never have been convicted in the first place- gotten a new trial years ago and/ or should get a new trial now! But politics is already weighing heavily on my case as I will (over)

likely end up before the US Sup. Ct. When it comes to inmates rights to DNA testing there was first Osborne, then Skinner, [ed.: see here] I am the first to complete the requirements set forth in both those cases and still be denied DNA testing by the state. But if the US Sup Ct. takes it it will be just days before or day of my execution.
Ok if you want to know much about me please feel free to visit my website, tell my sister it is ok for her to talk to you- www.enddeathpenaltyforbretthartmann.com.
As for my daily routine- extremely boring! I say that knowing Ohio DR has it better than any other DR in the country/ world. I have the option to be out of my cell all day and socialize with the other 25 guys on any range(?), to go to an indoor gym 3 times a week or to an outside rec yard with grass and such, but something broke in me after surviving my last date and I have not cared to go to a gym or go outside for going on a year now. Mostly I get up about 8:30- 9 AM, wash up, clean my cell and such and then write letters till about 2 pm, then I go to the day room and play Scrabble till 5-7 pm when I lock back up and work on what ever art project I am currently doing while I watch my prime time shows till about 11 pm when I go to bed and do it all over again the next day.

Some guys work out, play card and such, I do arts and crafts to pass my time, my family is not rich- border on poor so they can not help me much so I just try to do what ever I can to earn a paycheck and support myself, so I will try making anything I think will sell eventually.
I try to keep my routine the same no matter how close I get, it is the comfort of routine that helps me keep my sanity through it all. My routine only changes as I get closer based the security restriction, at 30 days out I will separated mostly from the general population and 3 days out I will be isolated entirely and monitored 24/7, so that stuff throws a crimp into some routines but I will try to keep it the same as long as I can.
As for how the media covers the DR- two words come to mind, biased and ignorance, they have no clue what they are talking about, everyone bases their images from what they see on tv which historically is not accurate on much! Media acts like we get all these appeals- and there is some fair review process- it is all smoke and mirrors! All our state appeals are a joke, state judges are elected- therefore 95% politicians/ 5% Judge, so none of them will touch a DR case with a 10 ft pole, unless it is nearly 100% guaranteed the person will be reconvicted! I think in the Ohio Supreme Courts (over)

history they have only heard 1 post-conviction appeal- they have denied jurisdiction on every other one, yet every state court appeal is counted as some grande appellate system.
I always say look at all the innocent people save by, and solely by, Barry Scheck, Northwestern University Journalist students and such, if it had been left up to just the attorneys and courts every one of those proven innocent men would have been executed! It is proven Texas has executed 2 innocent men- every state is as crooked and bad as Illinois was/ is, it is just a matter of proving it- And yet no one cares, that is why my two words were biased and ignorance, all the evidence is there, the media and most people choose not to see.
The DR in the US is just a shining example of the self righteous arrogance most of the world can not stand about us, every intelligent and civilized country has done away with the DP, the only other countries are what, China, Turkey and such. It sad when there is not one single justification for the DP, it is cheaper to house an inmate for life, it does not deter crime, almost every victims family who thought it would bring some kind of closure admit it did not, some people reach for the bible claiming "an eye for an eye"- I find it funny how they skip over the other parts of the old testament that say all drunkards, adulterers, unruly kids should be put to death! So

there is not one single justification for the DP that hold water, so why do people cling to it so desperately?
I'll get off that soapbox, as you can imagine these are personal issues that I can go on and on about! :)
As for what the public should know- no one will believe me because they are so stuck on us being vicious monsters. But once a person is removed from the drugs, alcohol, women and what ever else drove them insane they revert back to the good people their parents raised them to be, the people here are just good people that did something bad. I have met better people in here then I ever did out there! We are a close knit family and we look out for each other.
Even the director of Ohio Prisons recently said, per capita we are the least troublesome and least violent group of inmates in the prison system- we might have 3-4 fights a year which is just a given when you have so many men stuck around each other 24/ 7. A lot of that is due to Ohio treating us like humans, so we act like humans!
Anyway, I will close, I am sure I have already bored you with my yammering. I hope a little bit of this might help- if you have any more questions please feel free to ask.


You can find more information about Brett, or purchase his art, on his website. Put any questions you have for him in the comments, and we will include some in our future correspondence with him.

[Image by Jim Cooke]