UPDATE AS OF 2:00 PM, THURSDAY, OCTOBER 26, 2023: This afternoon, less than five hours before he was set to be put to death, Will Speer was granted a stay of execution by the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals (Texas CCA).
Speer raised five issues in his application before the Texas CCA, alleging that his counsel had been ineffective for failing to investigate and present his history of unfathomable neglect and abuse to the jury; he also claimed multiple grounds of prosecutorial misconduct, including withholding Brady evidence and presenting false testimony. The CCA stayed the execution pending further order of the Court.
TCADP is grateful to everyone who took part in the campaign to #SaveWillSpeer and to the incredible team of lawyers, mitigation specialists, and investigators who worked tirelessly to save his life.
This evening, October 26, 2023, the State of Texas is scheduled to execute Will Speer in spite of the wishes of family members of the men he killed.
Sammie Gail Martin, the sister and sole surviving family member of Gary Dickerson, the man Will killed in 1997 when they were cellmates at the Telford Unit, urged the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles to commute Will’s sentence to a lesser penalty, writing, “After all I have learned about Mr. Speers [sic], I respectfully request that his sentenced [sic] be changed to life in prison where hopefully he can continue to help others and make amends for his past crimes.”
In an article by the Baptist Standard, J.C. Collins, the son of Jerry Lee Collins, the man Speer shot and killed when he was 16 years old, says, “As much as I thought I wanted for him to be executed, it’s hard to sit here and say that’s what I want. … I had to forgive. It was the only way I could move on—the only way I could grow as a husband and a father.”
On Tuesday, the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles voted unanimously to deny Will’s application for clemency, as well as his request for a reprieve, however. Per usual, the Board provided no explanation for its decision.
Read “Commentary: Clemency should have been granted for death row inmate” by Mitesh Patel, published in the San Antonio Express-News.
The first Inmate Coordinator on death row
Just three and a half months ago, Texas prison officials named Will Speer as the first Inmate Coordinator for the Death Row Faith Based Program. Will is one of the original members of this voluntary, immersive religious program. Through the program, he has developed deep faith in God and expressed sincere remorse for the violent acts of his past. The tools he learned in the program have enabled him to heal from the trauma, neglect, and horrific abuse he experienced as a child.
Will now ministers to others who are incarcerated, carrying a message of healing and redemption. If allowed to live, he wants to devote the rest of his days to serving as a prison minister.
Read “Will Speer Found Hope Enough to Share on Texas’s Death Row” by Bekah McNeel for Texas Monthly.
At this time, an appeal is pending in the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals. According to the Associated Press, one request for a stay focuses on allegations that prosecutors at his 2001 trial failed to disclose evidence, presented false testimony and that his trial lawyers failed to present evidence about Speer’s troubled childhood.
If the execution proceeds, Will would be the seventh person put to death by Texas in 2023. Since 1982, Texas has executed 584 people.