Previously, a post from Hamilton Nolan on Gawker shared a statement from a Texas Death Row inmate named Ray Jasper. The letter from Jasper is touted as the last statement Jasper may make on earth. Huffpo has it as a must read. Jasper is on Death Row for his involvement in a stabbing murder committed during a robbery in November of 1998. I'm about to comment on Jasper's statement without having read it. In fact more than likely I will never read it. I imagine it is not much more than the statement he made in court to my family. My name is Steven Alejandro, and it is our brother, son, grandchild and cousin, the forever 33 year old, David Mendoza Alejandro who was killed by Jasper and his two accomplices.
The facts of the case are readily available on the internet, but allow me to plainly restate them here. David was killed on November 29 1998. It was roughly seven to ten days before this date when, unbeknownst to him, David received his death sentence. Jasper, according to his testimony, needed money so that he could move out of his parents house and into an apartment with the mother of his child, his girlfriend. Jasper decided to rob David.
Jasper was an aspiring rapper who had been recording music at David's self owned recording studio. (An important note here is that Jasper was not a business partner of David's as has been claimed elsewhere.) This was a self-made independently owned recording studio, by the way. David had leased an old apartment complex office, and with his own hands, and the help of our father, fashioned it into a affordable space for struggling local musicians. He offered low rates for artists who, much like himself, could not afford more spacious digs. My brother had no apartment of his own; he would crash on a couch at our parents house or, more often, sleep on a makeshift bed on the floor in the studio. He eschewed nicer living quarters so that he could pour his available money into the studio.
Ray Jasper knew well that he could not rob David's studio equipment without being fingered to the police by him later. So it was, seven to ten days prior, Jasper made the decision to end David's life. He enlisted the help of two others. That night (and this is all from on-the-record courtroom testimony and statements he gave police in his confession) the three men made the recording appointment. They were there for roughly two hours working, recording, David sitting at the control console. Jasper admits to then grabbing David by his hair, yanking his head back and pulling the kitchen knife he brought with him across David's throat, slicing it open. David jumped up and grabbed at his own throat from which blood was flowing. He began to fight for his life. At this point Jasper called to one of his accomplices who rushed into the room with another knife. His accomplice then stabbed David Mendoza Alejandro 25 times. David collapsed, already dead or dying—we will never know. The final stab wound was at the back of David's neck; the knife plunged in and left there.
He was then covered with a sheet and the three men proceeded to tear out as much equipment as they could and load it all into the van they drove there. As they were loading they were spotted by an off-duty Sheriff who called out to them. They took off running, and were eventually caught. The evidence was overwhelming; DNA, fingerprints, confessions. This is and was an open and shut case, as they say in all the cheesy TV murder investigation shows. One defendant was offered the choice of a trial by jury, which could end in a death sentence, or he could avoid the death penalty by admitting his guilt. He chose to admit his guilt. Jasper, given the same choice, apparently decided to take his chance with a jury trial.
During the trial, testimony from the Medical Examiner revealed that it was not technically Jasper's injury to David that caused death, but the subsequent 25 stab wounds. Jasper's defense team seized upon this as a defense tactic against a murder charge, and Jasper joined that opinion. Never mind that Jasper delivered the first attack. At one point while he was on the stand testifying, he asked to speak to us— David's family members. He looked us square in the eye and exclaimed "I didn't kill your son. He was one of the nicest guys I ever met, but I did not kill him." Jasper's reasoning was that since the M.E. cited the 25 stab wounds as the cause of death and not the throat slit committed by Jasper, he was technically not guilty of murder. You can make of that what you will, but it seems any reasonable person would hold Jasper as culpable in the murder as the other defendant who finished off David. So the long and short is this final statement is based in a fantasy that Jasper has convinced himself of. All evidence to the contrary, it seems he denies he is a murderer and therefore he feels he should not be executed for the crime.
And now to the Death Penalty issue. I must stress that I speak only for myself here and for no other family member. Our extended family is much like the rest of the United States. We are a large American family. There are Liberals and there are Conservatives in our midst. There are pro-death penalty and anti-death penalty folks in our tree as well. I am one of those opposed to the death penalty. As far as I can remember I have been in opposition to it. My brother David was not opposed to the implementation of the death penalty. We used to debate the topic often. Sometimes vigorously. During the trial the prosecutors in the case decided to use me on the witness stand in an effort to give David a voice. David was one year older than me. We had been roommates the whole time we lived with our parents. I was the Best Man at his wedding. I hesitate to say I was happy to testify, since it remains the hardest thing I have ever done in my life. But I willingly agreed to testify on David's behalf. At the trial, the first thing the prosecution wanted to do was to introduce David to the Jury through my words, so I was the first witness called.
After I was sworn in and sat in the chair, the prosecutor handed me a picture of David. It was a postmortem picture. It was a close up of David's face from the neck up. His eyes still open. The gash from Jasper's knife visible. I let out a gasp and when the Prosecutor asked me what the picture was of I told him, "it's my brother, David." Through tearful testimony, I tried my best to bring my brother back to life in that courtroom. When I got off the stand I reached for my father's embrace and sobbed as I had never before and have not since.
As I wrote earlier, this was an open and shut case and the jury did not take long to return a guilty verdict. All that was left was the punishment. During the punishment phase the prosecutor outlines the State's case for the death penalty and, of course, the defense argues for the sparing of the defendant's life. I'm sure if you asked, under the Freedom Of Information Act, you would be able to wade through the trial documents; the prosecutor's case was convincing for a death penalty verdict from the jury. Ray Jasper did not grow up on the wrong side of the tracks, he came from a family wherein his father, a career military man, and his mother were still happily married. Jasper was not defended by a court appointed lawyer; his defense was comprised of a well paid for and well known private practice firm. Jasper had a history of arrests and in fact was out on bail when he participated in the murder of David. He had, weeks before, assaulted an off-duty police officer who had stumbled upon Jasper attempting to break into a house.
During the trial somehow, apparently, the defense team got the idea that some of our family might be opposed to the death penalty and called my father to the stand. Nothing my father said could help their defense. When they called me to the stand the defense attorney asked me what my thoughts on the death penalty were. I knew what he was doing. He was hoping I would confess my opposition to the death penalty, thus maybe sparing Ray Jasper's life. And I could not assist him in good conscience. I've thought often in the years since If I did the right thing. If, when push came to shove, I suppressed my own true thoughts in an effort to avenge David's murder. This is what happened. The defense asked me what my opinion of the death penalty was. And I said, "I don't think it's relevant what my opinion is." And I paused. And I don't know where it came from, but I then said, "but I can tell you what David thought of the death penalty." And the defense attorney asked me, "what was David's opinion?" And I said, "he always told me that if there was no question of the guilt of a murder defendant, that the death penalty was a just punishment." I'll never know for sure, but it's a pretty good bet David's words uttered through me sealed Ray Jasper's fate.
After everything, I'm still opposed to the death penalty. I have no intention of witnessing Jasper's execution but I have no intention of fighting to stop it either. Does this make me a hypocrite? Maybe, but that's for me to live with. I harbor no illusions that Jasper's ceasing to exist will ameliorate the pain I feel daily from the loss of David. The truth is I rarely think of Jasper or the other defendants. I think of David more. Those thoughts are more important to me than anything else. Certainly more important than any last statement from Ray Jasper. Though I purposefully skipped reading Jasper's statement, I did read through the comments. I have to say to my fellow death penalty opponent friends: Keep up your fight. It is an honorable one. But do not use this man, Ray Jasper, as your spokesperson, as your example of why the death penalty should be abolished. The death penalty should be abolished because it is wrong to kill another human being. Not because a Medical Examiner said your knife wound did not cause immediate death. Ray Jasper is not worthy of your good and kind hearts. He has never accepted culpability or expressed remorse. He is responsible for viciously ending the life of "the nicest man he ever met." Responsible for ending the life of the nicest man my family ever met, David Mendoza Alejandro.