We periodically run letters from death row inmates. Our latest letter comes from an inmate who is now deceased. Arnold Prieto, Jr. wrote us this letter on January 14, one week before he was executed by the state of Texas.
Arnold Prieto, Jr. was convicted of the 1993 robbery and murder of three people in San Antonio, Texas. Prieto, who was 20 years old and a cocaine addict at the time, submitted a written confession saying that he and two friends had killed the family together. Prieto later claimed the confession was coerced. He was sentenced to death. He reportedly could have avoided a death sentence by testifying against one of his companions, but chose not to.
On January 21 of this year, after two decades on death row, Prieto was executed by lethal injection. This letter, a reply to a letter from us, is dated a week before his execution date. Prieto is the seventh one of our death row correspondents to be executed.
Jauary 14th, 2015
May this letter find you and yours in the best of health and in good spirits as it leaves me doing here thus far . . .
I received your most welcomed letter and questionaire and I would be more then Honored to answer your questions the best that I can. So I shall start answering them... :
-Can you tell me a bit about how you ended up where you are? Do you believe your arrest, trial, and sentencing were fair? How do you deal with the psychological burden of having a death sentence? Do you fear about your future?
I was sent to Texas Death row for a triple homicide that was commited in 1993. During that time I was living in Carrollton Texas and the murders were commited in San Antonio Texas, some 4 hours away from where I lived. The 3 elderly people who were murdered were relatives to a pair of friends who were brothers.One was a juvenile and the other brother was the older of the two, well when the murders happened in San Antonio, they talked about it because it was a huge thing amongst their family.What I mean about that is that they were talking about what had happened in San Antonio ... so when the brothers were at my home,they would tell me what was being said amongst their family. I for one never thought anything about it, I mean it was horrible what had happened to their Uncle,Aunt and a family friend who was like a care taker to the family or something.During that time I was doing some heavy drug use and I had just become a new father to a son. Six months later, I was arrested by the S.W.A.T Team right around midnight! That was a hellish experience indeed, and it scared the hell out of my then wife!
After I had been questioned by the Texas Ranger and a homicide detective for some hours.the Texas Ranger left and the detective whom I had known,had told me that he does not believe that I had commited the murders all by myself as my co-defendant had said I had in his confession.(The juvenile had been picked up for questioning concerning some computer theft which was a ruse by the leading investigators in order to pick the juvenile up for questioning concerning the triple homicide in San Antonio) The said detective had shared my co-defendats false confesion with me and remember just being blown away from the bits and pieces that he was pointing out to me in this confession! I could not understand as to why this was being said to about me. There were some truths in their about how I had lost my job and little things like that... The out come of reading his confession lead me to give the Texas Ranger and the detective a false confession [continues]
...thus implicating myself in a heinous triple murder!I knew about the murders because as I have said earlier,they were telling me about the case as the months went by. So because of that false confession that my co-defendant gave, it had lead to my arrest and to my false confession! You know, I was always thinking that my attorneys will find out the truth and see the confession as the false piece of paper that it was... but the trial came and went.I was found guilty and was sentenced to death all due to the false statment that I had given to the investigators.No finger prints, even after I had stated in the false confession that I had held onto a door frame with in the house! One thing that the DA who prosecuted the case had mentioned that in my statement,I had implicated everyone as killing one person each. I was saying what the detective who shared my co-defendant's false statement,that we all atleast killed one person each! All this time,all these years I have asked myself .. "WHY?" and just recently stoped kicking myself for falsly confessing to something that I only knew about but had nothing to do with... and now I will be executed for that false confession.
I know what you might be thinking. 'why wasn't it brought out in appeals that the confession was false?'. It is a long story,but suffice to say that from the begining of my appeals the cards were stacked up against me. Attorneys who do not believe that the confession was actually false was a main factor in the fact that the statement was never challenged within my appeals or during the trial procceedings. My trial attorney had stated that 'Mary will eat you alive on the stand ....'. That was a statement that was thrown in my face by someone who I was hoping would clear my name and yes,it is a very horrible feeling to hear those words from your attorney. My trial attorneys spent more time trying to get me to testify against my co-defendants then actually investigating my case.And to prove that point, I was cleared from an organized crime investigation I was apparently being investigated in Dallas Texas.Yet the state had used that particular case as one more thing for mitigating evidence to show the jurors that I was just a menace and should be put down by execution! I was cleared of that case 5 months prior my trial.When I was finaly for my federal habeas the appeal was filed like 160 some days past its dead line for filing the appeal. Because of that.my federal attorney looked into my case to find out why we were being called late on our filings. Tat is when he had found out about the case which I was cleared from and it was still used against me during my punishment phase. The issue was called a 'Brady issue' which was denied at the federal level and was never picked up again as an issue in any of my future appeals. I [continues]
...had also found out about an attorney who was appointed to me during my most important appeals, my State Habeas, who never so much as did any investigation or anything on my case.Right around the time that my appeal was to be filed in the state court she had dropped my case stating that she was to sick to continue on my case.My Heart really goes out to her because she was suffering from breast cancer even from the time she had been appointed to my case. I on the other knew nothing about her or even knew that I had an attorney because she had never introduced herself as they are normaly stated to do... as part of any investigation, the attorney needs to talk to the inmate in order to have any kind of proper investigation. If she had dropped by to see me I would of told her about the false confession, but I was never given the chance to do so. There is more to the case and my appeal attorneys, but there is really no need to continue talking about it since there really is nothing that any one can do about it, not to mention years to late to do anything about it. Death is already pulling its hood from its face to reveal to me my future....
The psychological burden over having to live under the threat of death for the past 20 years has been a hard one.There was a time in 2010 when I had suffered from a nasty depression that had seemingly snuck up on me with out me even realizing what it was that was happeing to me!I fell into a hole that I really did not think that I would be able to crawl out of ,but I had seeked help with the psych.Doctor who then proceeded to give me a perscription of the generic SSRI drug called 'Celexia'.It truely helped.I at first did not want to take any pills and had asked the Doctor what else could I do in order to level my self out without taking any pills.... he had laughed because I had been the first inmate who has actaully asked him that!haha he assured me though that by taking this drug that I would be getting better after a few months.I beiieved him and thus I started to take the drug and true to his word.I had started to get better as time was passing by.I also have my friends to thank as well becuase they all had said that it would be best to take the pills in order to get better.Through out my years on death row I have seen grown men loose their mind, some very slowly while others from one week to another!And that was/is very sad to see happen to those that I live around 24/7.As to actually dealing with the burden.... it is a day to day affair.There are days that I really do not wish to get out of my bunck and those are the days that I fear the most because that was how things had started the first time that I had suffered depression!So I will get up and do as many things that I can within [continues]
...my cell. no matter what that may be. From washing down all my walls to straightening up my cell 2-3-4 times that day! Books were a big help in dealing with such days.You know if I was given the chance to continue my education I would do so and go as far as I could with it!But since education is part of rehabilitation we are not allowed such a luxury here on Texas Death row. While general population is able to have such education, we here on Death row have to iump through hoops and then have to pay for the education.... something that is not within my grasp.
Do I fear my future? My future consists of 7 days as of this writing.What I do fear though is the pain that my death is going to cause to my Loved ones and Friends.... there is nothing that I can do in order to keep that from happening. They feel cheated because one of the co-defendants is still in the freeworld and has never served any time but for the one year that he was in the county jail awaiting trial.He had the charges dropped once his brother and myself were convicted of the crime.
-Can you discribe what your daily life is like in prison?What is your daily routine? How do you occupy your time? Do you have a particular fitness routine,dining schedule. etc.? How do you people get along inside?
My daily life here within these walls is pretty simple without any realy bad complications.I mean to say that there real1y is not any real daily routine here but the same thing over and over again.My day normaly starts around 5:30am when the shift changes because the guards will come through asking everyone if they are going out to recreation, thus waking us all up.I use that as my alarm clock!I will stretch out and get up.the first thing that I will do after that is to roll up my mattress, tie it down and set it aside to keep from laying back down!Plus I use the rolled up mattress as a 'chair' that i set on while I use the metal bunk as a desk through out my day.I proceed to wash my face and chin check the dragon(brush my teeth) That is fallowed with sweeping down my cell floor down with a state sock and lastly.I will clean my sink/toilet combo down with some detergent.After that is all done I then can start my normal day.During my morning ritual of clening my cell, I am thinking of eveything I must do for that day.For example:this morning I was thinking that I wanted to answer your questions that you had sent me and that is what I started to do right after my cleaning ritual.For me writing comes much easier to do as opposed to write during the later part of the day. So in the mornings I am usually answering letters that had recieved the day after in the mail. [continues]
The majority of my days now are spent on answering letters or writing.
We are normaly fed our food during the early morning hours for breakfast.By early morning hour I mean by 3:30am and 10 PM for our lunch and our supper will be served right around 4:30pm.
Our recreation time is spent inside a slightly bigger cage which has a table with four stools attach to it, a pull up-bar for exercise purposes and a toilet/sink combo.This is where we will recreate inside.we call that the dayroom.When we go outside, we are placed inside a bigger cage which is split into two cages.Within each cage we have a sink and a urinal as well as a pull-up bar.In the center of the cages there is a drainage system to allow the rain water to drain out of the cages.The walls in the outside rec yard are about 20 or 25 feet high.The ceiling is made out of bars so as to let the rain and the sun(whenever the sun is able to shine through) shine through ... there is only so many of the day that the sun is shinning through.so if your out there when the sun is not at the right angle in the sky then you'll be out there basicaly in the shadow casted by the walls. But it sure is beautifull to see the blue skys or feel the fresh crispy air during the winter days!so if I decide to go out to recreate,be in the dayroom or outside in the yard.I will be recreating for only 2 hours, Sunday is the only day that we do not recreate through out the week.When we do recreate we do so by our-selves one at a time.
If I am not outside for recreation or writing I will be drawing which is my favorite past time because it causes me to open my mind up to creativity.The challenge of bringing the idea up within my mind and then having to figure out the actual technique that I will need to use to bring forth my drawing.Being that I only use a #2 pencil to do my drawings, I do have to get creative in order to get the affects I am looking for...I say this because we are not allowed to have the 'graphite pencils' I need to create different textures.I believe that there are about 20 grades of graphite within a set of drawing pencils ranging from 9H which is the hardest of leads to 9B which is the softest of leads. Those of you who know what I am talking about will know that it is not that easy to get certain textures or shading values with only a #2 pencil! But then that is the challenge that I like to put myself up against because when I finish the drawing I cannot help but to feel proud for achieving what I had set myself out to do with what I only have to work with.In between all that i have just discribed to you I will be either playing scrabble with someone over the run(we play by calling out the letters through our door etc .. ) or just talking to another inmate about something or another [continues]
or just simply being someones sound board. Days and time within these walls will start to iust bleed into one another ... it will get to the point that you will have to use certain 'time posts' to recall a certain time within your past.Time posts are the little things that you'll use to tell time with. For example:we use the 'post camera' era and the 'pre camera'era.If the memory that your trying to bring up had cameras on the walk ways then that memory was during the after 2010. If the memory had no cameras then it was during before 2010.Since we are moved around every 6 months, things will tend to get confusing after awhile when your trying to bring up a memory.I am told that is one of the symptoms of long solitary confinment. Hmmm come to think of it, our vision also seems to get worse as well.
So occupying my time here on the row would be either,reading,recreating,cleaning my cell,writing,drawing and if I could I would be educating myself as much as I possibly can! If I could continue on with my education I would be spending the major part of my days doing so!!You know, I have always thought that if one could educate themselves enough, then he/she could be teaching others or be a teachers aid in the school programs that the system has for the regular population in prison! I mena why even stop there with that but continue to make programs that would help the money stricken system with its school programs! Instead of a paid teacher from the world, it could be an inmate teacher teaching others!!! The possibilities are nothing but endless! I set back and wonder as to why it hasn't been done yet... or maybe the state is not allowing such a thing to be taking place?! I wouldn't know the answer to that question because I have spent half my life on death row.
As for how people get along in here? Well it all depends if one is surrounded by psych. patients or by regular inmates . That would dictate more or less what kind of stew pot one lives in!hahaha But as a whole, we all get along with one another and when there is a new guy that comes in from the county we all tend to help him out with a few things that he might need.For example:some soups, coffee, stamps and envelopes along with a pen or pencil.We would also send him some hygiene like some soap, a wash rag, toothpaste and a pair of shower shoes that he would need to walk into the shower with .... Not many people are able to help another with much but would send what he can because he remembers that he had gone through the same thing as well when he had arrived to the row.Many people would try to pay back what others had given to him, but we all say that instead of giving the stuff back, to continue the chain unto the next man that walks in from the county. So as I have said, we all get along relative well with one another. [continues]
We are not the animals that the state has made us out to be or the ruthless killers one was supposed to be when their case had happened.
-Can you tell a bit about your own past, and how you grew up?
My past.... well I do not remember much of my childhood.I think that it is because of all the head tramuas that I had suffered as a kid. I recall bits and pieces and at times I think that they are nothing but dreams of my childhood that some how bubbled into my memories. I at times have to validate them through my mom in order to find out if it actually happened or not. A good example:when I was a child of maybe 3 or 4 years old I was hit on the head by a trash can that my father had thrown at me to get my attention. Which cause the gash on the side of my head right above my left eye towards the temple area. I recalled that I had ran to my aunt and hugged her and I had seen alot of blood on her skirt. The next thing I recalled was that I was being held down by my mother while the doctor was sticking a needle into my brain!! Well I asked my mother about that and she had told me the story about the day my dad was furious because I hadn't heard him calling me. So from the back of the pick-up he had tossed a trash can (the one that you see with the lids and the ones that are metal and not the plastic ones that they have now) at me I had happened to turn around at that time and the trash can caught me upside my head, splitting it. As for the doctor, he was numbing my gash in order to sew me up. My mother had told me that I went from being an out going child to one that was just with drawn and I have been like that since. There are many such instances through out my childhood and I truely believe that is the reason as to why I cannot recall much of my childhood.In 1991, I was hit by a car and I had eaten some concrete with my head right about the same place that I had the gash from my childhood. I was walking around not knowing who I was for about 2 weeks, which apparently was something that I have come accustomed to from childhood! I only recall waking up in the hospital to the Nervana song 'teen spirit' on the t.v in the room and my mother sleeping on the chair next to the bed.Then I was like awaken while walking to church with my mom and siblings 2 weeks later!hahaha Yeah that was a rude awakening indeed!
One of my favorite memories though as a child that I do recall on my own is when I had a pet crow which I had reared from infancy :-) I actualy had to pets that I really loved and cared about.My pet crow 'Arturo' and my german shepard 'Jumbo'! The presence of my mother has always been there no matter if I do not recall the memories, she was always a strong feeling within my life through out my childhood! [continues]
-Has your time changed your political or religous beliefs in anyway?How?
As far that I can remember, I have been a none believer. I think that I have pin pointed right about what age that I might have lost my belief and that was at the age of 12. The reason that I say that is because I recall that I was always questioning the church and hell.My father never liked me asking those questions and do believe that he made that known with his own way... through his temper. I really did not have any political views when I was out in the free world and I do not have any while here on the row. One would think that I would atleast find God within these walls but for some reason or another things were never that simple with me concerning the faith. Maybe there is something wrong with me or something....
-What would you like to say to casual readers in your state, and in the world at large, about your life, your situation, and what you think about our country?
About me.... well I can literally tell everyone that the crystal ball that the state had used to show that I would be a future danger to society was a faulty one. Because after 21 years here around other inmates and guards there has yet to be any situation where I have hurt either one! Disciplinary cases are literaly under 10 through out my stay here on the row which means that I do know how to obey and fallow rules and regulations so I do not see where the 'future dangerness' plays in which was for told by their so called 'future telling'?! After spending literally half of my life within these walls, I have reached out on my own volition to educate myself by paying for a home school program in order to recieve my high school diploma! I reached out because education is the highest form of rehabilitation! Am I correct in saying and thinking that way?? I want the world in general know that I am not the animal that the state had protrayed me 21 years ago and that there is room for more rehabilitation in my life.Executing me after I have spent half of my life in here is basicaly a double jeopardy, I mean I am being punished twice for one crime! Serving a long sentence and then it is fallowed by an execution! There is such a case in the court right now fighting that point in California. The case is Jones vs. Chappell. I would like the readers know that they have the power to make changes and that is done through the voting system our great country has in place! I am but one death, one life that will never be remembered after my execution takes place a few days from now.... but for the next fellas that are still here and will be seeing an execution in the near future. Is this what our great nation is about? To live by the laws of third world countries! We are the civilized country of the world yet we are mudering men and women using the tax payers hard earned money! Texas is a prison state, there is no need to [continues]
...also be the capitol of Death with our great nation of civility.
I wish to 1hank each one of you for your time and patience! And Thank Mr Nolan for the opprotunity of me a chance to voice my opinions! People, WAKE UP AND SEE WHAT IS BEING DONE IN YOUR OWN BACK YARD RIGHT UNDER YOUR NOSES!!!!
Arnold Prieto Junior