As part of an ongoing project, we've written letters to American death row prisoners scheduled for execution this year. We asked them about their lives in prison, their daily routines, and their thoughts on the American justice system. Today, a response from Douglas Feldman, a death row prisoner in Texas.
Feldman, 54, was convicted of the 1998 shooting murders of two different truck drivers, on the same night. Less than two weeks later, he shot another man, who lived. Feldman told a jury he was "consumed by anger" during the shootings. He is currently scheduled to be executed July 31.
On the first page of his letter to us, Feldman recommended contacting Amnesty International and the Death Penalty Information Center for background on the death penalty in America. We start with the second page of his letter (click to enlarge the images):
Does Gawker Media have a print magazine or are you an internet only media source?
If you Google my name, you should find plenty of newspaper articles that will tell you all about my case and my background. Just a little research on your part would answer most of your basic questions. At this point I don't really have much time to waste writing about already public info.
So I guess you are really fishing for something interesting or unique to post. Even though there are automatic federal appeals including to the US Supreme Court, the state of Texas is in control of my incarceration and my execution, and the only way the Federal system can remand my case is if they find something in direct conflict with clearly established federal law. All I have left is the US Supreme Court and they rarely agree to review cases, so I don't have much hope. I don't want to die, but it's not up to me. The State of Texas has a system of laws and when all the issues are resolved my appeals are basically over. Even the president (Obama) cannot stop my execution. He could ask the governor (Rick Perry) but Obama could not order him to comply. Thats where the authority lies. Its a mechanical system of rules that results in execution.
I think that most of the public is so far removed from the death penalty that it is really only a curiosity for them, like a morbid celebrity event. People have a lot of interest in murders, who were the victims, why were they killed, who was the killer, what were the circumstances, etc... So there are infamous cases like Charles Manson, Ted Bundy, David Berkowitz, Jack the Ripper, Boston Strangler, Hillside Strangler etc... That stick in peoples minds. Of course, most of the people on death row are just people who got caught up in a robbery, drug deal or sexual encounter (or marital conflict) in which someone got killed. Thats why they are so easy to execute because they are poor, unknown, low social class people who can't defend themselves against the criminal justice system very well. Rich people and crafty people are better equipped to evade the death penalty. You might call death row "Losers Row." There are plenty of examples of people who got away with murder for years and years because they were devious, cold-blooded, sociopathic and they covered their tracks well enough to avoid detection. People like John Gotti and Woody Harrellsons dad. So the death penalty, just like life, is not fair. They execute who they can catch and prosecute.
So: stupid, rash, thoughtless= caught= executed.
Smart, cold-blooded, devious= evade detection= go on living.
That's the basic truth of it.
Well, I could go on and on...
Here are several things you could help me out with possibly:
1) I've been wanting a subscription to "The Horse-Backstreet Choppers" magazine for several years but no one has sent it to me.
2) I need someone to send $200 or so to Perfect Score, PO BOX 3962, Brownsville, TX 78523 so I can buy some magazines and photos.
3) I've been trying to find someone who could send me or help me get some LSD Hydrate as medicine. In Switzerland they prescribe it for psychiatric reasons, (pre-death anxiety and as an anti-psychotic).
4) I'm looking for some pretty girls and attractive women to send me some sexy photos.
I only have 6 months left so theres no time to waste. Maybe you can help me out with any or all of the items above. Maybe if you post this info some inspired readers will come to my rescue? I hope you will help me.
Doug Feldman 999326
3872 FM 350 South
Livingston, TX 77351
[A list of death row prison pen pal sites.]
Also enclosed are a bunch of letters that I need mailed. Can you mail them for me? I never have enough stamps.
Thanks for your help.
You know, I'm not advocating violence, and some terrible things have happened in some of these capital murder cases. But the state of Texas is no better than the criminals at administering the death penalty. Nobody really cares about the outcomes. Everyone involved from the prison guards all the way up to the judges are employees of the state and they just want to have a nice career where they can retire with a state pension and no one is going to risk their own livelyhood standing up against a bad system. Also, law enforcement is embued with a real macho culture and they have developed an entire philosophy and psychology so that they actually feel good when they execute someone because they believe that they've done something good and just for the people of the state. Sort of like self-righteous police zealots, who get rewarded for killing people. Well I could easily write a whole book about this. I'll stop here. I used to be a friendly hardworking person but being on death row for 15 years has turned me hateful + bitter.
[Previous Letters from Death Row can be found here. Image by Jim Cooke.]