After new trial
Howard Guidry sent back to death row
Published Mar 8, 2007 10:15 PM
Political activist Howard Guidry is back on Texas death row—after having
won a federal-court appeal that ordered the Houston trial court to release or
Guidry won a new trial because Houston police had denied him the right to see
an attorney when he was arrested for capital murder, and tricked him into
signing what he later discovered was a confession of guilt.
Guidry’s family, friends and supporters felt that finally justice would
be done in the February retrial and Guidry would walk out of court a free
But according to Njeri Shakur, a leader of the Texas Death Penalty Abolition
“Texas refused to let that happen. Using lie after lie and even paying
two witnesses for testimony, Houston District Attorney Kelly Siegler, with the
cooperation of a compliant retired judge, knowingly sent this innocent man back
to death row. Because Howard had become politicized during his years on death
row, they could not allow him to be free, despite his innocence.”
During his decade on death row, Guidry educated himself, and studied with
experienced political activists like Emerson “Young Lion” Rudd,
Ponchai Kamau Wilkerson and Harvey “Tee” Earvin. He joined the
Panthers United for Revolutionary Education.
A little more than a year after arriving on death row, Guidry attempted to
escape with six other men. When Workers World asked him why he would try to
escape if he was innocent, he said: “I kept seeing the racism and the
unfairness in the criminal justice system. I knew I was innocent but I learned
that didn’t matter. They wanted to kill me so I thought I had to take the
chance of escaping.”
In late 1999, Texas death row was moved to a new super-maximum prison where
conditions went from bad to worse. The 400 men were put into a sterile
environment of isolation and sensory deprivation. After being there just a few
days, Guidry wrote to Shakur: “Sister, this new prison is terrible. The
conditions are so bad that I fear it will totally destroy our minds and spirits
and our will to live.”
In early 2000, Guidry and another Panther activist, Wilkerson, decided drastic
action had to be taken to try to call attention to the oppressive conditions.
Risking their own lives, they took a guard hostage to call attention to the
horrific conditions, and demanded to speak with community leaders.
Kofi Taharka, chair of the National Black United Front-Houston Chapter,
S.H.A.P.E. Center Executive Director Deloyd Parker, and Shakur went into the
prison that night. They met with Guidry and Wilkerson as well as the warden and
discussed conditions. The hostage was safely released but conditions only
slightly improved. Wilkerson was later executed.
While awaiting a new trial for almost a year, Guidry was in the Harris County
Jail in downtown Houston, where he was able to meet and become friends and
comrades with many of the city’s activists.
His political poetry was read at local poetry slams and on the Pacifica radio
station. His message for the annual commemoration on the anniversary of Shaka
Sankofa’s (aka Gary Graham) execution was read on June 22 at the
Guidry wrote a commentary on July 4 entitled “What to the Prisoner is
Your Fourth of July?” that was widely disseminated. His taped greeting
was played to the crowd of hundreds at the annual Texas March to Stop
Executions in Austin last October.
Guidry became a part of the revolutionary movement for social change from his
cell at the county jail. It is widely believed that this is the real reason why
the ruling elite of Houston and Texas unjustly returned him to death row.
Hours after his new death sentence, Guidry told Workers World: “Please
thank all the comrades for their support. I appreciate it. And tell them that
this is not over. I remain strong and I will walk out of here, just not today.
We have more reasons for appeal now and eventually I will win. Until then I
will continue to fight from the inside, but I will get out.”
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