#90mStrong Monday: “I witnessed his execution.”

Welcome to #90mStrong Mondays! Each week we’ll share a story from one of the 90 million people who opposes the death penalty. Are you one of the #90mstrong? Raise your voice to put an end to the death penalty! Share your story at NCADP.tumblr.com.

My name is Maria and my husband John Quintanilla was murdered by the State of Texas on July 16th, 2013. I witnessed his execution.

I have always been against the death penalty because I simply could not imagine any human being sticking a needle in the arm of another human being, pumping drugs through IVs – causing the end of a life. I have never thought that the death penalty serves any good purpose – it does not deter, it does not bring back a murdered person, it does not bring closure.

This is why I decided to be a penfriend to a death row prisoner to make a difference to at least one of them. I met John – he quickly turned into my best friend, we fell in love, we got married. When I first met John, I met a depressed young man who would hardly talk to anyone and who was thinking about dropping his appeals. While our friendship and love grew, I saw John mature – he turned out to be a funny, caring, considerate, moderate human being who loved me with all his heart. Although we lived our life together to the fullest possible under the circumstances given, there has always been this sword of Damocles above us.

John has always maintained his innocence. He gave a wrongful confession to the police to protect his younger, then pregnant sister. Apart from this false confession, there was no other evidence which linked John to the crime, yet his case was full of things that are just so common in US death penalty trials: a prosecutor who wanted to win at any chance, expert witnesses which were later ruled unreliable, a public defender who did not really do much for his client… Until the end of his life, John has never had a copy of his trial transcripts in his possession because no one cared to give it to him.

And then, John got an execution date for May 14th, 2013 – which is my birthday. Luckily, the Attorney General obviously had other plans for that particular evening so that he asked for the date to be postponed to July 16th, 2013. This request was granted.

About two weeks up to his date, attorneys of the Law Center of the University of Houston took over John’s case and started filing last minute appeals. Appeals were going back and forth until the morning of July 16th. Around noon, we filed our final response to the objection of the Attorney General and at around 4:45 pm, we were told that our appeals had been denied by the US Supreme Court.

This was when we witnessed the execution left to the Walls Unit. We were kept waiting in the Administrative Building with no access to the outside world. We did not know at this time that another appeal had been filed and that the case had gone back to the 5th Circuit. No one cared to keep us updated, so we could only assume that something must have been going on – it could be another appeal, but could as well be that they couldn’t find a suitable vein or were doing anything else that hurt John.

Shortly after 7 pm, we had to follow the guards across the street because at that time, John’s execution had become a “go”. Never will I forget the humiliating way John was exposed on this gurney in this small room surrounded by people who meant nothing to him.

In his final words, John thanked me for all the years of happiness.

Five months after my husband’s execution, I miss him badly and don’t understand why he had to die – the world has not become a better place with him being back. The victim Victor Billings has not come back from the dead. But I and the rest of his family lost a loveable man.

No one – no matter what he or she or the person he or she cares about – deserves to go through a procedure so cold and inhumane.

Maria Brehm
Dortmund, Germany,

Hey 90 million strong, spread the word: Share Maria’s powerful story on Twitter and Facebook. You could even use this sample text: “In his final words, John thanked me for all the yrs of happiness.” Maria’s powerful #90mStrong story: http://bit.ly/PlNrgW #deathpenalty

Source: National Coalition to End the Death Penalty