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Texan prison's first Death Row worship leader to be executed

by Will Hobbs

The first death row prisoner to help lead a ministry in Texas’s Allan B. Polunsky Unit, is scheduled to be executed on Thursday, October 26.

On Tuesday 24th October,  Will Speer’s application for clemency was rejected, confirming that his execution will take place.

According to Christianity Today, Speer leads prayer and worship on death row, sometimes delivering a sermon through prison radio.

"Though prisoners are in solitary confinement for 22 hours of the day, they can still sing together through the walls", pastor Dana Moore told Christianity Today.  

In 2021 the Texas Department of Criminal Justice started an 18-month faith-based program for 28 death row inmates via an application process. 

Known as the “God Pod,” it includes classes, worship, and rare fellowship for those usually in solitary confinement.

Speer became the first “inmate coordinator” after finishing the course this year, which meant he could teach classes and mentor fellow prisoners.

He was convicted of murdering Jerry Collins when he was 16 and was sentenced to life in prison as an adult.

A decade later in 2001, he was convicted of murdering a fellow prisoner, Gary Dickerson—he says the murder was to get gang protection in prison—and was sentenced to death.

The only surviving immediate family member of Dickerson, whose murder resulted in Speer receiving a death sentence, said she did not want Speer to be executed. Sammie Gail Martin submitted a letter to the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles asking that Speer’s sentence be commuted to life in prison.

“I have spent much time reflecting on what justice my brother and family deserve,” she wrote. She said she believed Speer was remorseful and “has something left to offer the world.” If he received a life sentence, “hopefully he can continue to help others and make amends for his past crimes.”

J. C. Collins, the son of victim Jerry Collins, told the Baptist Standard that he would attend the execution, but in order to pray for Speer. “I don’t want to see him die,” he said.

“I know what I robbed from them and their families,” Speer told the Baptist Standard. “I understand, because I’ve been there. The stepfather who abused me killed my mother.

"I know what it feels like. I can’t restore what I took away from them. But maybe I can give back some other way.”

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