An open letter to Texas’ officials

ilan-portraitSince the cell phone ordeal in Polunsky Death Row Unit, Mark has been complaining that during the   repeated raids and searches of his cell, his legal documents have been tossed around. Some have even been taken away and damaged, rendering the whole legal file, consisting of hundreds of pages, useless.  This week, Mark exhausted the legal process available to him within prison to investigate the matter and return his legal files to him. I decided to write a letter to several Texas officials, US congressmen and senators, to appeal to them to look into the matter. As I have written several times before, I fear that continuously ignoring Mark pleas will result in a tragedy, as Mark has been growing more and more desperate with every letter. The letter below was posted on Friday to the following individuals. I consider it only a first step.

U.S. Congressman Kevin Brady
301 Cannon Building
Washington, DC 20515

cc. Senator Robert Nichols – Texas State Senator
Senator John Cornyn, U.S. Senate
Texas Department of Criminal Justice, Region 1, Director’s Office
Regional Director: Robert Treon
Assistant Regional Director: Doris Morris
Assistant Regional Director: Kevin Mayfield

Ref:  Mark Stroman Death Row inmate #999409

Dear Sir:

I am writing to you as a last resort. My name is Ilan Ziv. I am a NY-based filmmaker. In the past six months, I created and produced, with other colleagues, a website that focuses on the death penalty and hate crimes:  If you visit the site, you will see its dual focus with our emphasis on reporting on hate crimes not only in the US, but internationally. The website is an outgrowth of a film project that focuses on Mark Stroman’s murders after September 11. As you can see from the site, we are committed to delve into the complexities of Hate crimes by focusing both on the perpetrators and their victims. Both the film and the website are co-produced with Maryknoll Media Productions, the  media arm of the  Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers. As part of the site, we gave Mark Stroman a space to publish a weekly blog. In his blogs, Mark tends not to focus on his case (Mark confessed to the murders during his trial.) but primarily on the deteriorating conditions in Polunsky Death Row Unit in Texas. Of particular concern for us are Mark’s repeated complaints and allegations that, as part of repeated searches of his cell, his legal documents have been destroyed, some taken away, and the rest have been rendered useless. As you realize, those documents are Mark’s only tool to pursue his constitutionally guaranteed appeal process. We encouraged Mark to pursue an investigation within the prison system to explore what has happened and demand the return of his legal papers or their replacement with new copies. Below, you can see the official answer he received. We even attempted to launch a fundraising appeal on the site to help Mark obtains the funds to photocopy his entire legal file—an estimated cost of around $800, which is much more than a Death Row inmate can afford. However, we soon realized that without an investigation, clear results and a guarantee that this will never happen again, we cannot in good faith ask people to donate money.
By law, Mark is entitled to have his legal papers with him. Denying him those papers is a violation of his constitutional rights to due process. It is for this reason that I appeal to you to look into the matter.
It seems to me that it would be easy to investigate Mark’s allegations and to guarantee him the safety of his legal documents. As Mark’s despair grows, we fear the worst.

I appreciate your urgent attention to this matter.

Sincerely Yours,

Ilan Ziv

p.s. Below is the official exchange between Mark and the prison authorities regarding the status of the investigation into his allegations.

Investigator’s Response

Grievance # 2009081808
Investigator ID I-1364
The response given by Region I

Kevin Mayfield

Your Step 2 grievance has been investigated by this office. Your allegations could not be sustained; however your complaint is noted. Administration will continue to monitor staff conduct to ensure professionalism and policy compliance.

No further investigation is warranted by this office.

Kevin Mayfield – R.I.

Mark’s Response

None of the issues I mentioned were addressed in Step One. My legal work and documents were destroyed and thrown out. Not only did Officers Coker and White tell the Investigator of this, they also saw the utter destruction of my cell. Sergeant Seales also said the same. So who has my legal work and documents? Why was this allowed to happen and why is this response given to me on Step One when Lieutenant Price was not even at the scene of the Regional shake down destruction? This is a cover-up and plot to destroy all of my legal work and chances to win my death sentence appeal.