Atheist Inmates In Their Own Words: An Update From Pablo, Atheist On Death Row

Atheist Inmates In Their Own Words: An Update From Pablo, Atheist On Death Row May 9, 2018

If you’ve been following this series, you know that we have been hearing from a condemned man in Texas who may just be innocent. You can read the previous posts about Pablo here and here. I wrote back to Pablo and have since gotten a response. Before we get to that, though, some notes on this series:

This post is part of a series on what it’s like to be an atheist in prison. To read other parts in the series, click here. Some of these inmates have done things that, to many of you, will be unforgivable. I will be disclosing some of their names, so you can easily find out what they’ve done to end up in lockup. You may be disgusted to find out their crimes, and you have every right to be. This series, for the most part, will not be about their crimes. I’m interested in painting a picture of what life is like for nonbelievers in prison. If you find it is too upsetting to be part of giving them a platform, please choose not to read this. You don’t have to be part of it.

If you find you have questions that arise as you read their letters, please post them in the comments below or email them to me: and I will make sure the person gets them.

And now, here’s Pablo:

Hi Courtney

It’s good to hear from you and I do hope that this finds you at your best and life is treating you well. As for me, life goes on but what really matters is that I’m all still here and that’s what counts, eh? When I first wrote and I didn’t hear from you, I was wondering if you had gotten my response and then out of the blue I heard from some of your readers and they mentioned where they got my name and a little of what they read. This made my month.

Before we go on with Pablo’s letter… what he is referring to here is the fact that many of you have written to Pablo after reading the first two posts about him. Some of you even had books sent to him on death row. He seemed pretty happy about this, so thank you to those of you who have reached out to him.

In the letter to him that he is responding to here, I asked Pablo more about his case. Here is what he said:

Anyway, here’s my response to your question about my case. “No Justice, No Victory: The Death Penalty in Texas” by Susan Lee Campbell Solar and edited by Susan Bright was not going to come out because she passed away. Then I got my execution date for March 16th 2005. When I came back, I found out by Anthony Graves (author of Infinite Hope) that the book did come out so you’ve got to read the book. It gives you more detail about the case from the victim’s mother’s side. You have to read it to really understand things, especially the Michael Toney case. Michael Toney and I had the same prosecutor, Mike Parrish, who has been forced to resign after Michael Toney case.

A quick Google search returned the fact that the prosecutor mentioned here, Mike Parrish, was forced to resign after being found to have withheld exculpatory evidence from the defense in two separate cases, one if which was the Micheal Toney case. Mr. Toney was released after spending ten years on death row. Back to Pablo:

My appeal lawyer, Jack V. Strickland, wasn’t doing anything for me. He did just enough to show he was doing his job. You’ll read about him in the book.

I was arrested April 13th of 1995. The lead detective collected all the evidence at the crime scene and took pictures before bagging it up and put all the evidence into the evidence room for later, for both sides to view when the time comes. The detective testified under oath that she found nothing else. So, since late 2015, I’ve been trying to find a law firm to jump on my case because I was tired of sitting here and wanting to move on. You may be surprised but not me. I wasn’t trying to raise much dust because the last thing I wanted was to draw the wrong attention and have the courts appoint a good-for-nothing lawyer on my case. So when I found out that John W. Stickels was appointed on my case, I didn’t like hearing this. I didn’t want this because public defenders are often terrible lawyers and it’s hard to get anybody to take my case pro-bono after a lawyer has already been appointed.

I didn’t know anything about this new lawyer, so I waited until he came to see me. This is what happened September 14th of last year. I was told I had to take a DNA test. I refused because for one, I don’t have a rape case or anything like that and  two, there’s no DNA evidence ever found in my case that needed testing. Besides, if they really wanted my DNA they could go to the federal database which has been collecting the DNA of every inmate in the USA since early 2001, I believe. Then another officer came to talk to me and all this is getting me off guard but this time they tell me that I had a legal visit. Well, it’s like this. I go out there, Courtney, to talk to this lawyer and this is what he tells me. He says the head District Attorney in Fort Worth put a team together to look over all death row cases from there and mine came up. He says they went to talk to Mike Parrish but can’t because his sorry ass is dead. I didn’t know. So, they go talk to the other prosecutor in my original case who was fired in 2005, for what I don’t know. She tells them two things. For one, she said she had always had mixed feelings about my case. Wow! The other? She says she has a baseball hat that was found at the crime scene. They tell me there is a court order for a DNA test and this hat is why. Then this John W. Stickels tells me that is if this comes back on me that I’m fucked and I’m like, wait a minute, have you read any of my paperwork and he said no because Jack V. Strickland doesn’t want to give him any of it. Even after a court order! But this fool wants to tell me I’m fucked if this hat comes back on me. Other than that, I did not get any bad vibes from him, but him being a lawyer and an appeal lawyer at that, he should know this. The chain of custody has already been broken. The hat shouldn’t have been in this prosecutor’s house for twenty-two years. She broke the law by not only taking it from the evidence room, she had also taken the log sheet with it because my trial lawyers had never seen it. They’ve only seen the bullet casings and their logs in evidence for my case. So, not only did they withold an eyewitness, they also withheld physical evidence for twenty-two years!

I don’t trust this new lawyer. I don’t know anything about him and knowing what he should know but doesn’t seem to says a lot to me. Yet he wants to tell me that there was mention of a hat. I haven’t heard anything about the results and haven’t heard anything from John W. Stickels. I do have hope but not with this lawyer that I don’t know anything about. I know so little about the law. I know with this hat they are calling for a whole new trial but will this John W. Stickels do what he’s supposed to do?

How do I feel about my case? Well, from the very beginning I didn’t get a fair trial and I haven’t gotten any real help from Jack V. Strickland. I’m not so sure with John W. Stickels. Yet, let’s say if John does his job like he should and I get a whole new trial, what then? Am I supposed to hope to be appointed a decent trial lawyer by the court? One has to look at it from my shoes. Look what they have done from the beginning. The state of Texas will never say that they were wrong. Even if the evidence says they are. 

A good number of us on death row do get along really well, no matter what religion we are. At times we do talk and put our point of views out there on what the Bible says, but the respect is there. We don’t talk about it to put one one another down. We kind of see it like putting religion to the side. We are all here for one thing and that’s to die so if we can help each other by talking and just sharing some laughs or some advice, then we’ll take it. Yet there are the so-called tough ones that think they know it all and walk around like they are kings but that’s them. There’s a good number of us that can sit down and talk, play a game of chess or dominoes while one is in the day room. Here’s another thing: just because I’m dealing with what’s in front of me doesn’t make me a better person than you or anybody else in here or out there. I, myself, and a good number in here have just accepted what is going to happen and try to do what we can to fight our case and just live in the best way that we can whether we make it or not. We give it a try. 20 years ago I wouldn’t have been able to write what I’m saying now because I just couldn’t write more than three letter words. I couldn’t explain it all and I also didn’t think like I do now. It’s sad but it took this place to change me.

Courtney, this is all crazy because I did not expect it at all. Not like this at least. I’m really glad now, that I put atheist on that pen pal website. Others had said don’t do it. Others said I fucked up by putting atheist on that pen pal site. I’m glad I did. Really, I thought this would be the only a way to express myself, that’s all. This is not what I expected. Thank you for reaching out to me.

No, I did not finish school. I made it to the fifth grade for half of the first day of school. That’s the truth. Small words I knew but if I left the other kids alone the teachers would give me a passing grade and most times I was high on weed, too. I think I would be dead if I hadn’t been sent here. I was into the gang life, Courtney. Pride got in the way.

I never really believed in God as a kid when I was forced to go to church. I like the stories, that was about it. When I was on the run from this case, right before they started looking for me, I was already thinking about leaving the gang life alone because Carmina was pregnant and I loved her and I always told myself that if I ever had kids that I wouldn’t be like my so-called father and then, boom, they’re looking for me. It hurt a lot and it hurt a lot more when I did get arrested and I had gotten used to being with Carmina. I don’t know how you may think about this but love was my weakness and I didn’t know. There I was at night crying because I missed Carmina. I really didn’t know what would happen and I turned to the Bible out of wanting a chance in the long run. Four and a half years later, I felt so stupid, Courtney. There I was, on I was on my knees, praying and crying to God and he didn’t do nothing.

I wasn’t happy when I was trying to follow the ways of the Bible and later when I changed, I thought things over. I’m sure you’ve felt fire before, right? Who hasn’t? The Bible tells you that if you don’t believe you will burn in hell for eternity. Just because you don’t have Jesus in your life. So, who in their right mind wants to burn in hell? Who? Nobody does. It hurts as it is so they accept Jesus as their lord and savior. It’s just a trap . Just look at what it says. You either burn in hell or have everlasting life in heaven and they paint this beautiful, so-called heaven for you. One is like, “well, I want Heaven” yet there is no man or woman alive today that has been to Hell or Heaven. Can you name that person, Courtney? Jesus might have existed at one time and had a mother by the name of Mary but do I believe that out of nowhere she woke up one day and, bam, just like that she’s pregnant without having sex with a man? If God up above did such miracles then why can’t he do them now? It takes a man and female to do the deed. Nine months later a little baby will be born. It’s that simple.

The man that wrote the Bible was one smart-ass man. Look how many followers he has behind what he wrote from back then till this very day. He was one smart motherfucker. Look how many individuals have become so rich by preaching the word of this so-called God yet look how many kids are dying of hunger or walking without shoes all around the world. Where was God when the Holocaust was going on? Where was God when that 11-year-old kid was hanging by a tree in Elie Wiesel’s book, Night? For more than 24 hours, the child hung alive because he was too light. I couldn’t even finish reading this part. It took a while but I did it crying. I felt so much hate for all these Nazis. For this God that did a miracle as to put a baby in a virgin woman yet he can’t save a little kid from such cruelty? Yet it says in the Bible, Jesus says who accepts one of these little ones into their home is like accepting me into their home. Wow. God couldn’t even save his own son from the cross. The book is a true story by Elie Wiesel. He was part of the Holocaust, rounded up as a little kid and lost all of his family. Jewish or not, is it this kid’s fault their mom and dad were Jewish? Kids are supposed to be pure and without sin because they fully don’t understand right and wrong. I guess I’ll burn in hell for my beliefs but before this punk-ass God sends me to hell he will hear what I got to say. At least when I go, I’ll die a man with my two feet on the ground believing in what’s simply right and true. Reality speaks for itself.

My family only knows that I don’t believe in God or Satan. I don’t think they know what the word atheist means.

Courtney, please don’t take anything I said wrong but you did ask and I tried to be as respectful as I could about it so please forgive me for being so straightforward. Thank you for your time thank you for giving me this chance to speak my mind. Do as you wish with anything I write. Take care and I hope to hear from you soon. I almost forgot, I gave your first letter and info to a good friend of mine in here who is an atheist and he may write to you so I hope that’s okay. Please let me know. Also, I got three books to read in the mail from your readers. Let me finish reading these books before they send anymore. I can only have so much property in my cell. I will ask for more, so please understand. Also understand that I’m a slow reader.

Big thank you, Courtney,


I am so taken aback by the generosity of my readers. Sending him books to read was utterly selfless. I can’t thank you all enough. For now, though, let’s hold off on sending him any more. I’ll post when he asks for more.

The book he mentions, “No Justice, No Victory: The Death Penalty in Texas”, I can’t seem to get sent to Canada for less than $60, so I’ve added it to my wishlist if any of you generous book “angels” wanted to get it to me. My wishlist is here.

He also mentions giving my address to a friend of his on death row. I have received a letter from Pablo’s friend and I will be posting that in the coming weeks.

I have to say, I got a real kick out of the end of his letter. The bit where he says “before this punk-ass God sends me to hell he will hear what I got to say” had me cracking up. I am beginning to really look forward to hearing back from Pablo.

If you want to write to Pablo, send your letters to:

Pablo Melendez #00999192
Polunsky Unit
3872 FM 350 South
Livingston, TX 77351 USA

This post is part of a series on what it’s like to be an atheist in prison. To read other parts in the series, click here.

Image: Public Domain

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