Former Death-Row Inmate Sent Back to Prison

Martin Draughon returns to the clink after becoming a test case for alleged flaws in GPS monitoring devices

The show soon expanded to two nights. Sunday nights were reserved for reading messages to inmates, and a Thursday night show was devoted to preaching.

"This is something God knew needed to exist because of the men in prison. They need to know that Jesus Christ loves them," Joplin says. "You would call us great humanitarians. I think we're doing one of the greatest humanitarian works that anyone has ever done."

Ray Hill has been doing a prison show on Houston's KPFT for 28 years. Hill, who spent four years in prison, has heard the KDOL show and, for the most part, likes what Weathers is doing. In fact, KDOL has a better signal going to death row than KPFT does.

Draughon and Weathers say the GPS monitoring device was faulty.
Draughon and Weathers say the GPS monitoring device was faulty.

"She isn't as diplomatic as I am, nor is she as sophisticated as I am," Hill says. "But the territory is big enough for the both of us, so I'm kind of glad for that. I don't buy into the religion thing, but that's just me."

While Weathers was laying the groundwork for her ministry, Draughon was becoming a celebrity on death row.

Draughon had received a small flash of publicity during his murder trial for a number of poems he wrote in his jail cell. After his sentencing, one headline read, "Jail poet given death in slaying."

Draughon was later contacted by Niels Graverholt, who operated an anti-death penalty Web site in Denmark. Graverholt had read an article about Draughon in a Danish newspaper, and he wanted to know more about Draughon's case. The two corresponded through the mail, and Graverholt created a Web site devoted to Draughon.

Graverholt posted essays, poems and letters authored by Draughon from death row. Draughon's writing dealt with what he perceived as inhumane treatment of prisoners on death row. When Draughon co-­published a collection of poetry with another death row inmate, Graverholt sold copies of the book for $15.

The Web site became a popular forum for anti-death penalty activists, and Draughon became the unlikely face of the fight against injustice. The site also received, and published, hate mail from people who argued that Draughon deserved to die.

When someone posted information about a rape Draughon had committed days before the robbery and murder that sent him to death row, Graverholt almost shut down the site because, he wrote, Draughon had not told him about that crime. But Graverholt kept the site ­running.

"As far as I can see, most Americans have not realized that the death penalty is not just about getting rid of animals," Graverholt wrote. "Presenting Martin's writings on the website would give these people a chance to understand that if the people of Texas some day executes [sic] Martin they will be taking the life of a human being."

Weathers was familiar with Draughon's case long before she met him. Felicia would often call the radio station to get a message to her brother. When Felicia's daughter was born, she wanted Draughon to know about it.

Draughon eventually wrote a letter to Weathers with suggestions on how to improve the show. She wrote back that she liked his ideas. He had a business mind, she wrote.

The correspondence continued, and Draughon's case, which had reached a federal appeals court, became a talking point during the radio show.

Then the federal judge ordered a retrial for Draughon. Prosecutors had not allowed his defense attorney to independently test the ballistics evidence. When it was finally tested, it showed that the bullet could have ricocheted off concrete before hitting Guerrero. It didn't mean Draughon was innocent, but the judge thought a jury should hear that evidence.

Draughon wrote Weathers asking her to come visit him before he was transported to Houston for his retrial. Draughon figured he'd be shipped to a prison away from Livingston, and he wanted to meet Weathers while the two were still close.

After their first meeting, Weathers visited Draughon weekly on death row. When he was transported to the Harris County Jail, Weathers drove to Houston each week to see him.

"I had an idea that he would get out," Weathers says, "and I knew that he would need a place to parole to."

In a letter posted on his Web site, Draughon wrote, "I have been head-over-heels, crazy, IN LOVE...Let me just say that I was smitten and falling hard, right from the very first time we spoke, face to face. At the start of that first visit, I placed my palm against the glass. What I felt like was a sincere welcome gesture. Joy placed her palm against the glass, over mine. Our hands never came down for the whole two-hour visit. That wasn't planned."

When Draughon learned he would get paroled, Weathers asked him if he would move to the radio station in Livingston. Draughon said yes.

The situation was perfect, in their minds. Draughon would be living just a few miles from his old death row cell, and he'd be speaking to the men he left behind. Weathers knew there would be no stronger witness for her ministry. Draughon agreed to parole to Livingston, and he was named an officer in All Life Is Precious Ministries. Draughon and Weathers decided to get married.

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