'Tales from a dead man': 9/11 revenge killer set to be executed
The man who shot three men he believed were Arabs, as revenge for 9/11, faces execution in Texas Wednesday – despite pleas for clemency from the one survivor and the change of heart the convict blogged to the world from death row.
Alberto Martinez / Austin American-Statesman / AP
The 9/11-revenge killer turned death row blogger, Mark Stroman, is set to die by lethal injection at 6 p.m. Central Daylight Time. He will be the eighth person executed in Texas this year, unless the courts or governor heed the growing calls for a stay of execution.
A self-avowed "redneck" whose first arrest was for armed robbery at age 12, Mr. Stroman might seem an unusual target for sympathy, especially since some of the loudest calls for clemency come from his one surviving victim, a Muslim man.
Some have drawn comparisons to the widespread efforts to save Karla Faye Tucker, who was executed in 1998 after a prison conversion to Christianity. "May God bless Karla Fay Tucker," said then-Governor George W. Bush, after denying a stay.
One big difference: Unlike Ms. Tucker's pivotal conversion experience, Stroman's alleged renunciation of his deeds came over years. He documented much of his journey on his blog, which evolved from angrily unrepentant to these words from last week: "It's definitely an experience that's turned me into a new person … the closer I get to my death peace I seem to find." (All excerpts from Stroman's writings show his original spelling and grammar.)
In the weeks after 9/11, Stroman, a Dallas stone-cutter with ties to a white supremacist prison gang, shot three South Asian immigrants in a drug-fueled, revenge-driven hate-crime spree that he likened to an act of war. Two of his victims died: Vasudev Patel, an Indian immigrant, and Waqar Hasan, from Pakistan. Today, the one survivor, Rais Bhuiyan, a Bangladesh-born computer expert, is pleading for Stroman's life. Mr. Bhuiyan says Stroman could use his prison conversion to become a spokesman against hate crimes.
“I strongly believe executing him is not a solution. We will just simply lose a human life without dealing with the root cause, which is hate crime,” Bhuiyan said at a recent press conference. “In Islam, it says that saving one human life is the same as saving the entire mankind. Since I forgave him, all those principles encouraged me to go even further, and stop his execution and save another human life.”
Stroman's repentance grew over his years in prison. In his early diaries, he wrote, "Although revenge wasn't my motive, I did want to exact a measure of equality. I wanted those Arab's to feel the same sense of vulnerability and uncertainty on American soil much like the mindset of chaos and bedlam that they were already accustomed to in their home country."
Stroman also blamed the shootings on the loss of a sister in the collapse of one of the World Trade Center towers, but prosecutors found no evidence that she ever existed.
"I cannot tell you that I am an innocent man. I am not asking you to feel sorry for me, and I won't hide the truth," Stroman told CNN from death row. "I am a human being and made a terrible mistake out of love, grief, and anger, and believe me, I am paying for it every single minute of the day."
Blogging under the title, "Tales from a Dead Man," Stroman writes his philosophy and shares daily experiences at the Polunsky Correctional Unit in Livingston. Last week, he described kindness from the prison commissary: "I was able to get everyone on Death Watch a pint of Blue Bell ice cream as a farewell gesture that is like a tradition here. To Administration … much obliged."
On Wednesday, Bhuiyan was poised to tell an Austin federal court that his request – to meet with Stroman as part of a mediation process – had not been acted on. Stroman's lawyers were also awaiting word from the Supreme Court on a stay-of-execution request. They argue that Stroman's previous lawyers failed to detail childhood abuse and other troubles that may have played a role in the killing spree.
In his writings, Stroman seems at peace with his sentence.
"I’ve only 7 days left to live," he wrote last week. "If all else fails in this journey of doom & gloom … What started out as death & misery has turned into something extremely positive, overwhelmingly powerful to say the least."
He signed his missive: "True American — Unbroken."