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

McKee said okay, and Draughon returned to the KDOL house.

He and Weathers began speaking of his case on the radio. Draughon wanted to tell the guys he felt like there was a target on his back, but he wasn't letting the system kill his hope.

"I can see now that was my test of faith," Draughon says.

A party was planned for Draughon (third from right) the night he was paroled off death row.
Courtesy of Giles Lyon
A party was planned for Draughon (third from right) the night he was paroled off death row.
Draughon is back in prison on a parole violation.
Daniel Kramer
Draughon is back in prison on a parole violation.

Draughon's GPS monitor began losing signal almost daily. The device would beep, alerting Draughon that his parole officer was unable to track him. Draughon was required to reset the device within ten minutes or call McKee to verify that he was home.

Draughon began writing down everything he did in a spiral notebook. When his GPS would lose signal, Draughon would mark it down in his book. He recorded phone conversations he had with McKee.

Weathers started videotaping Draughon in the house with his monitor beeping. She wanted evidence, she says, that Draughon was where he was supposed to be.

The monitor would often beep while Draughon was speaking on the radio. Weathers had Wolfe install baby monitors throughout the house, so if Draughon was in another room, she could record the sound.

Finally, Draughon was arrested again. The warrant was issued after Draughon failed to answer phone calls from his parole officer for about 30 minutes after his GPS device had lost signal.

Weathers prepared to take the case before the parole board, and she was certain there was no way Draughon could lose. In fact, with the amount of evidence she had gathered, she thought they could prove the entire GPS system was faulty.

"There are so many people who have been screwed by the system, and Martin's case can affect so many," Weathers says.

Buckley handled Draughon's case for the second parole hearing, and Weathers turned over all the video and audio evidence she wanted Buckley to use. She gave Buckley a list of witnesses — people who had been involved with her ministry and radio show — to testify on Draughon's behalf.

Weathers wanted Buckley to hire a private investigator to track down former employees of the company that manufactures GPS devices. She wanted to hire an electrical engineer to testify against GPS.

"I felt that was an overbroad approach. Nobody in that system is going to acknowledge that. They're not going to invalidate their whole system. I felt we should have focused on the specifics of Draughon's case," Buckley says. "He would have been better served staying away from this radio activism thing. He needed to get away from the prison system, and that falls in line with staying away from the whole ­culture."

The big plans for the parole hearing never materialized. Many of the witnesses were never called before the parole board, and only some of the video was allowed as evidence.

McKee argued that the video proved nothing about the reliability of GPS, and he accused Draughon and Weathers of intentionally causing the device to ­malfunction.

"I don't think the plan included him going back to the joint," Buckley says. "The whole video thing was put on as a ruse so they could change the system. They had him methodically screwing with the system so they could influence some public policy change."

The parole board voted to revoke his parole, and Draughon was taken back to prison.

Draughon is locked up about 50 miles northwest of his old cell on death row and the KDOL house in Livingston. He was placed in the Eastham Unit, a maximum-security prison near the town of Lovelady.

He's been there about a year, which, he says, is about a year longer than he expected. Draughon arrived at Eastham with a strong faith that the parole board would reinstate his parole on an appeal, the latest of which was filed in January.

Draughon's appeals have been denied, and he now thinks he won't be released until his case is heard before a fed­eral judge.

Draughon spends a couple days a week in the prison's law library, trying to look up information relevant to his case. He spends another couple of days taking auto mechanic classes. One day, while Draughon was out in the prison's recreation yard, he lay down in a patch of grass and fell asleep.

"It's different now just being a nobody," Draughon says. "All that attention I had [on death row] is just evaporating away. It makes me feel alone."

Draughon keeps a picture of Weathers in a red plastic wallet that another inmate made for him. He loves Weathers, he says, but is uncertain of their future when he is released.

Draughon hasn't seen her since he's been at Eastham, because Weathers has been banned from visiting Draughon — or the six other inmates who listed her as a visitor — after an incident this past summer at Polunsky.

Weathers had driven another woman to the prison to visit death row, and, according to the prison's report, several guards stopped her for "driving erratically" through the parking lot.

Her car was searched, and the guards found several bottles of alcohol, which is illegal to bring to prison. Weathers denies the alcohol belonged to her, and she believes that she was banned because of her radio show and prison ministry.

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