41 x 29 cm
Oil on canvas 2009
Death Row Texas
Executed by lethal injection: 2003
In 1987 British national, Jackie Elliott, was convicted of the gang rape and murder of a young woman. His friends all put the blame on Jackie and received more lenient sentences. At the time Jackie was unable to prove them wrong but over the next 16 years as he waited on death row, DNA testing advanced and before his execution he requested a re-test which he claimed would prove his innocence. All 12 members of the original jury signed a petition asking for a DNA test. The then Foreign Secretary, Jack Straw, 150 MPs and the European Union President petitioned the Governor of Texas for a test. The Governor refused and Jackie was executed.
The Member of Parliament for the constituency where Jackie was born described it as a “sad day for US justice”.He commented: “The rush to execution in this case – even while new evidence was still emerging and appeals remained to be heard – is a tragedy, which serves nobody’s interests and does no credit to those implicated. No rational individual can be happy to see a person killed where so many questions remain unanswered.”
I arrived at a small flat in Austin, Texas wondering just what I could say to a mother whose son had been executed. Jackie’s sister had emailed me pictures of Jackie as a smiling boy riding a pony, an eager child sitting with Father Christmas and a gangly teenager. Then a jump ahead to a drawn-looking mother standing beside the greying 42 year old son that she would soon be saying goodbye to for the very last time. How painful must it be to look back over the journey those photos depicted? How could such an ordinary looking boy end up strapped to a gurney and killed by the state?
For Jackie’s mother, Dorothy, it was clearly too painful. Her remaining son, Robert, met me at the door – Dorothy understandably could not face our meeting. For Robert, too, it was an emotional story. As the older brother he described how as Mexican immigrants they grew up on the wrong side of the highway and he watched helplessly as Jackie got in with the wrong type of friends. Despite Robert’s pleas, Jackie refused to inform on his friends and clung to the hope that DNA testing would clear his name.
Part of the interview with Robert Elliott is available to listen to below but the quality may be poor so please click the button for the transcript.
“The philosophy of the state, it's all about process. I always thought the justice system was about
justice." - Robert Elliott
"How much is too much to spend? Or how much time is too much time to take before you commit such a finality… if you make a mistake, there’s no correcting it.” - Robert Elliott