Robert Pruett

Pruett was a guy I knew, I wouldn’t say we were ‘friends’, but we knew one another.  I think this was his third execution date, but his second, for sure.  Hell they actually took him all the way over to the Walls Unit one time, where executions are carried out, and then sent him back.  He was telling me about being driven all the way over there, and at the last moment, was given a stay of execution.  That must have been a hell of a feeling for him, and then to have two, and even three dates, must be one hell of an emotional ride.  I never want to be taken to the Walls.  I fear if I go, I am not coming back.

At one time, Pruett was one of the youngest inmates in a Texas prison, arrested at 15 years old. He was sentenced to 99 years for his so-called involvement in a murder that his father and brother committed. Then while he was in prison, he was accused of killing a guard.  I do not know if he did it or not, but I know he is claiming innocence.  And I know they found some DNA on the homemade weapon, and it’s not his.  If Pruett actually did use that shank to kill the guard, then his DNA would be crawling all over it.  It must take a lot of force to repeatedly stab someone, so I would think the DNA would be all over it.  I had really hoped he would win another round of DNA testing.

But man, this guy didn’t have a chance; Pruett was just a kid when he was charged as an adult, for a murder that his father and brother did—and they both got far less time than him too.  The prosecution threw the book at young Pruett, giving him 99 years. They took a child, and threw him away in an adult prison surrounded by hardened criminals.  He was pretty much raised in prison and had to grow up fast, hell he was locked up well over half his life.

Pruett and I were from the same neighborhood. We got to talking one day and it is amazing at how close our lives were.  If I’m not mistaken, I actually met his family once when I was a kid.  I think it was the same family that lived on Rebeca Street when my mom, little sister, and me lived there. I’m not 100% sure on that, but it just sounded like him.  Then he lived in the same apartments I lived in by Lake Houston, where I used to run around.  It is just funny how close we were to one another, but never actually met. 

We both had similar lives too, we grew up poor; moved around a lot; ran the streets real early.  We did all the same things too, like drinking and smoking weed at a very early age, then trying the harder stuff.  I would run all over those streets as a kid, getting into any, and everything I could.  And talking to Pruett, he was the exact same way.

A fifteen-year-old kid should have never been sent to prison in the first place.  I think the prosecution saw this was a chance to rid the streets of the whole damn family in one swoop.  But he was just a kid, he should have been sent to the state’s youth offender program. To sentence him to 99 years with grown men, robbed Pruett of his whole life.  His story is a sad one, at least to me it is.

I think his father should have protected his son better. And Pruett had something in him that I don’t.  Forgiveness; he had forgiven his father.  I just cannot do that with mine. I have tried, I really have.  But the line my dad crossed is unforgiveable to me. I wish I had the type of forgiveness Pruett had. But I guess when I feel betrayed, I am done.  You do not get two or three chances with me.  Arguments and disagreements are one thing, I can overlook and forgive with those things.  But betrayal?  No I just don’t have it in me.  I wish I could step around it, and try to build something new, but that is a fault of mine.  Or is it really?  Maybe it’s a strength, to protect myself.  Maybe it’s both. 

If they had just given Pruett life without parole, he never would’ve been able to harm another guard, if in fact he even did harm the first one.  Texas prisons have made it clear, if you try to escape or kill a guard, you are NEVER going to get out of Administrative Segregation.  I personally would rather die, but my point is, they didn’t have to kill him.  

I mean hell this kid never stood a chance. He has been screwed since the day he was charged for the crime his father and brother did.  And now that young kid has died for yet another man’s murder of a prison guard, when he never should have been in prison to begin with.  I really didn’t know the man well, but I wish they would had done him better.

See “As Texas Prepares to Kill Robert Pruett, He Leaves Behind a Literary Indictment of Us All” by Zaid Jilani