Texas H.B. 686, H.B. 2341, & H.B. 2177

What you can do

Email the Texas Senate.

Dear Texas Senate,

I am emailing to urge you to vote against HB 686, which would endanger Texans, traumatize victims, and deny justice. Victims should not be forced to repeatedly re-live the most horrific experiences of their lives, just so that violent criminals can have a chance to be released. Violent crime is not a youthful indiscretion. Releasing violent criminals early, just because they are juveniles, goes against the interests of Texas citizens.

Email the Texas House.

Dear Texas House,

I am emailing to urge you to vote against HB 2341 and HB 2177, which would endanger Texans, traumatize victims, and deny justice. Victims should not be forced to repeatedly re-live the most horrific experiences of their lives, just so that violent criminals can have a chance to be released. Violent crime is not a youthful indiscretion. Releasing violent criminals early, just because they are juveniles, goes against the interests of Texas citizens.

Senate emails

bryan.hughes@senate.texas.gov,
bob.hall@senate.texas.gov,
robert.nichols@senate.texas.gov,
brandon.creighton@senate.texas.gov,
Charles.Schwertner@senate.texas.gov,
carol.alvarado@senate.texas.gov,
Paul.Bettencourt@senate.texas.gov,
angela.paxton@senate.texas.gov,
kelly.hancock@senate.texas.gov,
beverly.powell@senate.texas.gov,
jane.nelson@senate.texas.gov,
larry.taylor@senate.texas.gov,
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john.whitmire@senate.texas.gov,
nathan.johnson@senate.texas.gov,
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charles.perry@senate.texas.gov,
Cesar.Blanco@senate.texas.gov,
Drew.Springer@senate.texas.gov,
kel.seliger@senate.texas.gov

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Letter #1

Dear Texas Senate, 

We are the National Organization of Victims of Juvenile Murderers. https://teenkillers.org/. We are urging you to vote against HB 686 for the reasons given below. https://teenkillers.org/legislation/texas-h-b-no-686/.

  1. HB 686 is dangerous 

We know that recidivism is out of control. A May 2018 U.S. Department of Justice report on state prisoner recidivism followed a sample of over 400,000 prisoners released by 30 states in 2005. Nearly 45% of the released offenders were re-arrested within one year of release.  About 68% were arrested within three years, 79% within six years, and 83% within nine years. https://www.ojp.gov/library/publications/2018-update-prisoner-recidivism-9-year-follow-period-2005-2014

On our website, we document nearly 100 examples of dangerous early releases. https://teenkillers.org/myths-about-the-juvenile-life-sentence/dangerous-early-release/

We know that many violent criminals are psychopaths–they are manipulative and have no compassion or remorse. Currently, there is no cure for psychopathy. Making psychopaths parole-eligible, even though it is a scientific fact that they will always remain dangerous, is irresponsible. https://teenkillers.org/juvenile-lifers/psychopathology-teen-killers/

  1. HB 686 would hurt victims

Many victims whose loved ones are brutally murdered or whose lives are destroyed by violent criminals oppose the criminals’ release. To prevent release, they will speak up at parole hearings. The parole process is very traumatizing for victims. Mental health conditions such as anxiety, depression, and PTSD flare up. They relive the horrific experiences and suffer nightmares, flashbacks, and panic attacks. For many victims, the release of the assailant is not only an injustice, but a potential danger. Many victims fear retaliation and justifiably so–perpetrators do sometimes hunt down victims and retaliate against them. https://www.wusa9.com/article/news/local/virginia/rape-suspect-washington-post-alexandria-crime/65-13310ff6-43bf-444d-acc3-e229d7699b6b. Victims’ understandable fear of the offenders is indescribable.

  1. HB 686 is unjust

Contrary to what juvenile offender advocates claim, some juveniles commit evil crimes with a complete understanding of the consequences. A great example is Jose Arredondo, 16, from Laredo. He kidnapped and raped a two-year-old girl and beat and strangled her to death. https://teenkillers.org/juvenile-lifers/offenders-cases-state/texas-offenders/jose-arredondo/

Another example is Kendrick Morris, who raped two women. One of the victims, 18-year-old Queena Vuong, was beaten so severely by Morris that she was left paralyzed, blind, unable to speak, and with profound intellectual disabilities. https://www.bradenton.com/news/local/crime/article137413133.html.

We are begging you to stand up for safety, victims’ rights, and justice, and vote no on HB 686.

Letter #2

Dear Texas Senate, 

We are the National Organization of Victims of Juvenile Murderers. We are urging you to vote against HB 686 because the bill would significantly harm victims.

Many victims whose loved ones are brutally murdered or whose lives are destroyed by violent criminals oppose the criminals’ release. To prevent release, they will speak up at parole hearings. The parole process is very traumatizing for victims. Mental health conditions such as anxiety, depression, and PTSD flare up. They relive the horrific experiences and suffer nightmares, flashbacks, and panic attacks. For many victims, the release of the assailant is not only an injustice, but a potential danger. Many victims fear retaliation and justifiably so–perpetrators do sometimes hunt down victims and retaliate against them. Victims’ understandable fear of the offenders is indescribable.

We beg you to protect victims and vote against HB 686.

Letter # 3

Dear Texas House, 

We are the National Organization of Victims of Juvenile Murderers. We are urging you to vote against HB 2341 and HB 2177 because the bills would significantly harm victims.

Many victims whose loved ones are brutally murdered or whose lives are destroyed by violent criminals oppose the criminals’ release. To prevent release, they will speak up at parole hearings. The parole process is very traumatizing for victims. Mental health conditions such as anxiety, depression, and PTSD flare up. They relive the horrific experiences and suffer nightmares, flashbacks, and panic attacks. For many victims, the release of the assailant is not only an injustice, but a potential danger. Many victims fear retaliation and justifiably so–perpetrators do sometimes hunt down victims and retaliate against them. Victims’ understandable fear of the offenders is indescribable.

We beg you to protect victims and vote against HB 2341 and HB 2177.

Letter #4

Dear Texas House,

The National Organization of Victims of Juvenile Murderers is once again emailing to urge you to vote against HB 2341 and HB 2177. This legislation is extremely dangerous. We know that recidivism is out of control. A May 2018 U.S. Department of Justice report on state prisoner recidivism followed a sample of over 400,000 prisoners released by 30 states in 2005. Nearly 45% of the released offenders were re-arrested within one year of release.  About 68% were arrested within three years, 79% within six years, and 83% within nine years. 

This page summarizes several studies on recidivism among juvenile offenders.

On our website, we document nearly 100 examples of dangerous early releases.

We know that many violent criminals are psychopaths–they are manipulative and have no compassion or remorse. Currently, there is no cure for psychopathy. Making psychopaths parole-eligible, even though it is a scientific fact that they will always remain dangerous, is irresponsible.

Sincerely,

NOVJM

News

Family of Round Rock murder victim speaks out against parole bills

By Shannon RyanPublished 2 hours agoRound RockFOX 7 Austin

ROUND ROCK. Texas – On October 14, 1993, Jim Branham’s son Christopher was born. He cut his umbilical cord.

26 years later, Jim cut the cord to his son’s time on Earth as he pushed the button to cremate him. 

“No parent should ever have to do that. And whoever did that to us, they just need to pay for what they did,” said Christopher’s mother Conny Branham. 

Christopher Branham (Conny Branham)

Christopher Branham was murdered in Round Rock on June 24, 2020. The 26-year-old father of two was beaten unconscious in a mob-style attack and robbery at the La Quinta Hotel at 150 Parker Drive then shot to death in a cornfield near ManorFarmers found his decomposed body more than a month later

The assault was captured on the cellphone of a 16-year-old girl. Police say she admitted to attacking Christopher and posted the videos to Snapchat. Transcripts of the video show the group taunted Christopher. 

“Our son was unconscious on the ground and they were stomping all over his body, his face, kicked out his teeth,” said Conny Branham. 

Anthony Davis, 26, and Kyle Cleveland, 30, were arrested and charged with capital murder and aggravated robberyJamil Watford, 23, Jesse Perkins, 36, and a then 16-year-old girl were also charged with robbery

The following day, June 25, Watford, Perkins, and the 16-year-old are accused of committing another robbery in Williamson County. At the time, Watford was out on bond in Travis County. He was wearing an ankle monitor when the crimes were committed. 

Currently, three bills are making their way through the Texas State Legislature, HB 686HB 2341, and HB 2177. They each aim to get offenders in front of a parole board sooner if they were young when they committed a crime. HB 686 pertains to offenders who were under age 18 when they committed a crime, HB 2341 applies to those who were under the age of 25 and HB 2177 applies to those who were under the age of 26. 

If convicted, this means Watford and the now 17-year-old girl could be eligible for early parole. 

“These people can’t be out who did this to our son,” said Jim Branham. 

State Rep. Jasmine Crockett (D-Dallas), a former public defender, sponsored HB 2341 and told FOX 7 Austin “Science shows us that a mind is not fully developed until someone is approximately 25 years of age. So, I based this legislation on science and nothing else.” 

Crockett points out that Texas is one of just five states where residents are considered adults at the age of 17. “You’re only an adult for criminal justice purposes. You’re not an adult when it comes time to vote. You’re not an adult when it comes time to go to war. In fact, last legislative session, the legislature decided that you can’t even buy a cigarette until you’re 21.” she said. 

Still, she argues her legislation is not a “get out of jail free card.” She says she just wants to get young offenders another “look,” adding that the “parole board is still the gatekeeper.” 

Monica Branham, Christopher’s sister, believes the additional and early parole hearings will re-victimize families like hers. She says she is dreading the possibility of attending hearings soon after wrapping up five separate trials. “It’s like grieving over and over again, facing them over and over again,” she said. 

“I don’t think that [legislators] have bad intentions with this necessarily. But what they’re forgetting is that we as victims and victim’s families, we have to be at those parole board hearings,” said Conny Branham.

Testimony

Re: Opposing Texas H.B. No. 686 (Moody) – Relating to the release of certain inmates convicted of an offense committed when they were younger than 18 years of age; changing parole eligibility

H.B. 686 proposes to change parole eligibility for inmates who committed an offense when they were younger than 18 years old. As the parents of a murdered son, and whose murder involved a juvenile, we strongly oppose this bill. We are worried that once juveniles are given sentences that are proportionate to the extremely violent crimes they committed, including murder, aggravated robbery/assault, and rape, this new legislation will be used to drastically shorten these sentences.

On June 24, 2020, our 26-year-old son Christopher was robbed, brutally assaulted, and murdered by five individuals in Travis County, TX. One of the five was 16 years old at the time, and was charged with aggravated robbery. The juvenile went on to commit armed robberies in Williamson County, TX after our son’s murder and was charged there as well. We believe that our son was their first victim in June 2020. The juvenile was one of the more sadistic ones, continuing to assault our son after he was beaten unconscious during the robbery, breaking his face and bones. Our son was then held for hours before he was shot to death. Since none of the five were talking, we had to search for 37 days until we found Christopher’s body in a cornfield in Manor, Texas. Our son had to have a closed casket; they even took away any opportunity for us to have a final goodbye. 
Once violent juvenile offenders are certified to stand trial as adults, are sent to prison, and are given a lengthy sentence, HB 686 could make them eligible for release on parole much earlier than under current law, which demeans the severity of their crimes, and devalues victims. 
However, our main concern is the devastating effect this legislation will have on victims and victims’ families. These juveniles caused irreversible damage, and parole hearings will trap victims in a never-ending cycle of trauma. Multiple generations of the victim’s family would need to relive their nightmare every two years. Victims need and deserve finality, not revictimization. We feel that when a 16-year old is convicted of murder in an adult court, and is sentenced to life in prison, it would be highly inappropriate for them to potentially be released at the age of 36, especially since some victims didn’t even get to live past the age of 2, as in the case listed below. There is no second chance or do-over for victims of violent crimes.

Below is an example of a Texas case listed on http://www.teenkillers.org website by NOVJM (National Organization of Victims of Juvenile Murderers).Jose “Lalo” Eduardo Arredondo (16) Victim: Katherine Cardenas, age: Crime: Kidnapping, abduction, rape, child cruelty, & murder, Laredo, TX Sep 5, 2009Arredondo became enraged at Katherine’s mother Norma after she turned down his advances for sex. He then kidnapped two-year-old Katherine in the early morning hours of September 5, 2009. Arredondo raped the toddler and murdered her by beating and strangling her. He was convicted and sentenced to life in prison.(Source: National Organization of Victims of Juvenile Murderers, Welcome to the National Organization of Victims of Juvenile Murderers NOVJM)

Texas Corrections Committee

My husband and I have been married for nearly 33 years and we raised two children; a daughter and a son. Our 26-year old son, Christopher, was a good all-round athlete. He played competitive baseball and played football and basketball growing up. We spent his childhood traveling through Europe while we were stationed in Germany, and he got to visit 12 countries. Once we returned to Texas, he graduated high school, married his high school sweetheart, and they had two children, a boy and a girl. He also became a small decorative concrete business owner. As an adult, Christopher was fluent in three languages and played co-ed softball. He’d been playing golf since he was about 6. He was his sister’s best friend.

Today, our daughter is at work, and our son’s ashes are in an urn on our china cabinet.

On June 24, 2020, a group of 5 jumped, robbed, brutally assaulted, and murdered Christopher. We were later told that those 5 had some type of gang-affiliation. After jumping and robbing him, and beating him unconscious, they sadistically continued to assault him, breaking bones in his face and body, including his jaw in two places, and kicking out his teeth while stomping on him. Much of this was done while he was unconscious. They also video recorded the assault, which they posted on Snapchat. When they realized they would be in big trouble because of Christopher’s injuries, they decided to kill him. Their ages were 37, 31, 26, 23, and 16. Two of them then drove Christopher out to a back road in Manor, where our son, broken bones and all, jumped from the moving vehicle. They chased him down, knocked him out, dragged him deep into a cornfield and put 2 bullets in the back of his neck. Our son laid there for 37 days in the Texas heat because we couldn’t find him.

Those 37 days were sheer torture. It involved police departments from multiple cities and counties, search and recovery volunteers, airplanes, helicopters, drones, and many cadaver dogs. Although 2 of the 5 were apprehended in early July, they didn’t talk and didn’t say where our son’s body was. The remaining three were arrested in August, days after a farmer found Christopher’s body in his cornfield while harvesting.

After our son’s body was transported to the Medical Examiner in Austin, and an autopsy was performed, he was then brought to Dallas for further autopsies, where he was for another six weeks.

Exactly three months after our son’s murder, we were finally able to put him to rest. We couldn’t have a proper service, there was no final goodbye. We had to stand away from his coffin with scented dryer sheets inside our face masks. My husband, who cut Christopher’s umbilical cord when he was born, got to push the button to start the cremation process.

[Arrested were Jesse Perkins, 37, Kyle Wayne Cleveland, 31, Anthony Gevante Davis, 26, Jamil Marcel Watford, 23, and Shawna Marie Rogers, who was 16 at the time.]

Two of the offenders were indicted for capital murder, and three, including the juvenile, were indicted for aggravated robbery. The juvenile and the others are on video stomping on our son’s face, breaking bones, including his jaw, and kicking out his teeth. There is aggravated robbery, and then there is AGGRAVATED robbery. This past Friday, the juvenile was offered a deal by the Travis County District Attorney. After pleading guilty to aggravated robbery, she will probably get counseling in detention, then some probation, and will be completely off the hook at age 19. We had NO say in that. Juvenile records can be sealed, which means she could be someone’s next childcare provider, even after doing their due diligence. 

Two of them were out on bond from Travis County jail at the time Christopher was murdered; one even had an ankle monitor. Another two have long violent juvenile and adult criminal records. The juvenile is a chronic runaway. This group committed additional armed/aggravated robberies in Williamson County, for which they were also indicted. 

We were told that the 23-year old might have been the ring leader. Should bills such as HB2177 pass, then even if he were sentenced to the maximum by a jury of his peers, he could potentially be paroled at the age of 43 while MY son will never be older than 26. There is no justice in that.

I heard testimony about a juvenile bill, HB686, recently, during which advocates of the bill described the violent offenders they represented. They shed tears while providing testimony because these violent offenders didn’t get to participate in the puppy program in prison or didn’t know what the ocean smelled like. My son’s babies sleep with teddy bears made out of their daddy’s shirts. My son will not get to see his little girl graduate Kindergarten or walk her down the aisle. He will never see his son’s first baseball game or meet his grandchildren. For being at the wrong place at the wrong time, he will never do anything again.

Revictimizing and retraumatizing victims may not be the intent of this bill, but it is the undeniable consequence. It appears that the ‘new victims’ are the offenders, not the people and families whose lives they’ve destroyed. Offenders will repeatedly go before the Parole Board in hopes that the victims of their crimes, or the families, will give up on fighting for their loved ones. I feel they should redeem themselves from behind bars by serving their judicious terms to completion. My family, for example, is going through 5 separate trials to fight for justice for our son, which will take years. Just imagine having to attend parole hearings for multiple offenders every two years after they are sentenced to long prison terms.

Humans practice free will once they start crawling. I do not believe that just being under 26 years of age diminishes one’s culpability. Murderous rage is not a hallmark of youth. I feel that an offender’s rights should not outweigh a victim’s right to justice. Even if these five hadn’t taken away my son’s right to live, he would have faced enormous medical challenges and a life full of pain due to his injuries.

If this bill, or one like it, passes, it will put families such as mine into a never-ending cycle of trauma, and will impact multiple generations. Victims need finality, not revictimization, and should not have to rip the stitches out of their wounds every two years as the perpetrators proceed with parole hearings.