Tributes

"I first met Terence through his writing to others—specifically, to members of his legal team who had preceded me. I learned from these letters some things about his personality that experience later confirmed—that he had the sensibilities of an artist, the insecurities of a teenager, and the longing to be so much more than the labels that had been slapped on him throughout his short life. From these letters, I also learned some of the myriad ways the criminal justice system had failed him. When I met him face-to-face for the first time in the Polunsky Unit, in January 2016, I recognized that he would be a real partner in his own cause. It wasn’t that he smugly fashioned himself  a “jailhouse lawyer.” It was that his longing to understand—himself, where his life had gone wrong, the system that had condemned him, the larger cultural history that had shaped his fate—made him very attentive to the details. In short order, I also recognized that Terence was a bit of a paradox: endowed with great interpersonal skills and keen intuition but also marked by the intense traumas he had endured—and was still enduring. Pretty much the safest place he has ever lived was death row; death row had given him a chance to try to raise himself up through self-reflection; and yet his presence on death row meant that he had been declared “irredeemable.” Fighting for Terence’s life has never been an abstraction— because Terence embodies all that it means to be human while also being a complete original."

-Gretchen Sween, attorney

"I met Terence in 2015 after reading his poetry online. I wanted to collaborate with him on my latest composition, Voices of Death Row, in which I was setting poems by several incarcerated men in Texas. I did not know at the time that this would lead to a yearslong friendship, and one of the most meaningful connections in both my personal and professional life. (We still discuss the possibility of further collaborations to this day). I often reflect upon the strange circumstances that brought us together: my sudden inspiration to write a new composition for voice, encountering his profile on writeaprisoner.com, and, several months later, deciding on a whim to visit him in Livingston. Terence has a unique talent with words and images, but more importantly, he has that rare ability to bring joy and inspiration to almost anybody he meets. He effortlessly makes you feel like you've been friends forever."

-Keith Allegretti, composer

"We got to know Terence as law students participating in Harvard Law School's Capital Punishment Clinic.  When we arrived at the Texas Department of Criminal Justice's Polunsky Unit to visit Terence for the first time, neither of us had ever met a client before, let alone one facing a devastating death sentence.  We soon realized how special Terence is; within minutes, he drew us in with his warmth, intelligence, and zest for life.  We talked for hours about his love of art and music and the creative ways he got through dark days.  Even while facing a daunting legal battle, Terence took the time and effort to get to know us both as people, and we kept in touch even after our time working on his case came to an end.  Working with Terence and learning about his case has taught us a great deal about the importance of empathy in the justice system—a lesson which has proved invaluable as we have started our careers.  Terence is an extraordinary light in this world.  We are grateful to know him as a client and friend, and we fervently hope that he soon sees the justice he deserves."

-Amanda First and Chloe Holt, attorneys

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A dreamcatcher by Terence, gifted to Jim Kuhn

"I've been visiting and corresponding with Terence for a couple of years now. I travel to Livingston with a group from the Friends Meeting of Austin (Quakers), who have been engaged in visiting with those who reside on the row for many years. I always look forward to my visits with T, to hear what he has been thinking about, writing, and what works of art he is working on. "Master of improvising!" That's Terence's comment to me about this dreamcatcher he made as a gift, from boot laces he purchased through Polunsky's Commissary. Terence is creative, thoughtful, patient, and resilient. I think of these qualities and am inspired when I look at this work of art. And I look forward to resuming visits once COVID restrictions are lifted."

 

-Jim Kuhn, librarian and member of Friends Meeting of Austin

"I began writing to Terence back in 2013, through Lifelines – a charity which connects people in the UK with penpals on death row in the USA. Getting to know him has been a joy and a privilege; he is smart, creative, and very funny. We have things in common – we are the same age, we enjoy reading and like to work out, we are both naturally curious and reflective. And we also have differences, particularly in terms of our early experiences and the opportunities available to us. As such, our friendship educates me, challenges me and enriches me."

-Kat, UK