THE JOURNEY

Ilan portrait

I was white trash,
just another junky that why they assigned me
a two-bit flunky

And I knew
At first glance
That I didn’t stand
Any kind of chance

That is part of a poem that Mark sent me almost 5 years ago.  It was soon after we began to correspondent and I interviewed him in Jail. I came upon this poem recently as I began to view the material I shot, as the film enters its post-production phase. It was while I was going through Mark letters, all carefully dated, that I noticed that almost 5 years have passed. “Death is in the air” Mark wrote in his last letter—“The sleeping giant has awakened.” He meant the recent movement on his case; the new judge that was recently assigned and the coming oral argument to be held in September.  He knows his appeal has almost no chance of success.  “In Texas,” Rick Halperin, an anti-death penalty activist and professor of History & Human Rights at Southern Methodist University, told me, “if you are given a death sentence, you are as good as dead. Only in very rare and isolated cases, mostly when there is DNA proof of innocence, can an inmate succeed in his appeals.” Mark confessed to his crimes from day one.

Change is in the air here too. As the long journey that I began five years ago is coming to yet one more station. A year ago, we began the Execution chronicles.org website as an attempt to start publicly to document the process I have been following in private. Mark began to write his weekly blogs. We began to focus on the many issues involving the death penalty and hate crimes. Our site has grown. What we originally conceived as focusing on Mark’s victims’ families has developed into regular coverage of hate crimes all over the world. It is out of this work that we began to document the rise of hate crime against Latinos and immigrants in this country. As our interests grew and developed, we began to feel that maybe the site was losing its focus and it has become difficult to do justice to all these issues under one roof.

As a result, we have decided to use our 1st year anniversary to refocus Execution Chronicles on Mark’s life on death row, his legal struggles to stay alive and the evolution of the film as it enters its post-production phase. We promised Mark to stay with him all the way till the end, filming around his execution, if and when it happens. Starting in September, we will post more and more scenes from the film as our editing progresses, as well as out-takes of material, that because of narrative constraints, have not found a suitable place in the film.

Simultaneously, we are committed to try to come up with a separate website dedicated to hate crimes.  We want to begin with a limited project focusing on immigration as it fuels right-wing rhetoric in this country. To this end, we have decided to launch our Border Project on ExecutionChronicles.org. Until September 11, we will dedicate that portion of Executionchronicles.org that dealt with hate crimes (In Depth, Close Up, News and in part, Resources) to our Border Project. In the months that follow, we hope to raise the funds to develop an entire website that will feature grassroots reporting from both sides of the border.

So a journey that began in August 2004, with the first exchanges I had with Mark and his victims’ families, continues! I hope you will stay with us!

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