Love, Mercy, Grace, Forgiveness

Dear Friends,

“Love, mercy, grace, forgiveness, all these actions of God—that’s what’s really, really been so instrumental in my life.” These are the words of Ramiro Gonzales, a man the State of Texas plans to execute on July 13.

Please watch this video about Ramiro’s life. Today—and in the coming weeks—we will be sharing his human story with you.

Ramiro’s mother, Julia, was a teenager when he was born. Addicted to drugs, Julia drank and abused inhalants while she was pregnant with Ramiro, and once tried to abort him by overdosing on drugs. Julia abandoned Ramiro to live with his grandparents, and on the rare occasions she saw Ramiro, she treated him—according to Ramiro’s cousin—like an “animal,” like “he didn’t exist for her.” Ramiro’s grandparents failed to provide their grandson with any nurturing or love. No one ever hugged Ramiro, tucked him in to bed at night, or gave him a birthday party. Ramiro’s grandparents worked long hours, his grandmother as a cook in town and his grandfather on their Texas ranch, and they left him unsupervised during the day. At age six, Ramiro’s family encouraged him to start drinking, and let him drive a truck by himself before his feet could even touch the pedals.

And then there was the abuse. Ramiro was sexually abused for the first time when he was six years old, by his cousin; many others sexually abused Ramiro before he grew up. The only family member who showed Ramiro love and affection was his aunt Loretta. But Loretta was tragically killed by a drunk driver when Ramiro was 15.

Shocked and in grief, Ramiro numbed his pain with drugs. Ramiro’s self-medication tilted into addiction, and his life quickly spiraled out of control. Ramiro turned to crime to fuel his drug habit. He started running drugs for a drug dealer, Joe Leal. One day, desperate for a fix, he attempted to steal drugs from Leal. Bridget Townsend, Leal’s girlfriend, was an unexpected witness to the theft, and Ramiro killed her.

Ramiro had just barely turned 18 years old. He became one of the youngest people sentenced to death in the United States since the Supreme Court abolished the death penalty for people under 18 in 2005.

Ramiro has grown. He has changed. In his 15 years on death row, Ramiro has lived a life of contemplation, prayer, atonement, and reckoning. He has joined the United Church, worked closely with a pastor, and become an artist. He continually shows care and love for those around him—from fellow prisoners to correctional officers.

Ramiro says, “I was searching for a way out. This was my escape. The drugs were the only way to drown out the hurt. One of my biggest regrets is knowing that I probably could have really helped myself, but I allowed the shame and the addiction to just cut me down. I am sorry. I am sorry for what I did. I know just how precious Bridget was. There is no doubt in my mind that she had a more bright future than I did. I wish I could give it back.”

I will share more about Ramiro’s life in the coming weeks, as the teams at Texas Defender Service and the Capital Punishment Clinic at the University of Texas at Austin School of Law fight for Ramiro to have a chance to live.

In the meantime, your voice matters. Please join the many voices calling for Ramiro’s life to be saved. Email the Board of Pardons and Paroles and tell them to save Ramiro’s life, bpp_clemency@tdcj.texas.gov, and call Governor Greg Abbott and tell him to support clemency for Ramiro: (512) 463-2000.

With Gratitude,

Burke Butler
Executive Director
Texas Defender Service

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