David Ray Duren

Executed January 7, 2000 by Electric Chair in Alabama


2nd murderer executed in U.S. in 2000
600th murderer executed in U.S. since 1976
1st murderer executed in Alabama in 2000
20th murderer executed in Oklahoma since 1976


Since 1976
Date of Execution
State
Method
Murderer
(Race/Sex/Age at Murder-Execution)
Date of
Birth
Victim(s)
(Race/Sex/Age at Murder)
Date of
Murder
Method of
Murder
Relationship
to Murderer
Date of
Sentence
600
01-07-00
AL
Electric Chair
David Ray Duren

W / M / 21 - 37

08-28-62
Kathleen Bedsole

W / F / 16

10-20-83
Handgun
None
09-14-84

Summary:
David Duren was convicted and sentenced to death for the abduction, robbery, and murder of 16 year old of Kathleen Bledsoe in 1983. Bledsoe was parked in a secluded area with 17 year old Charles Leonard, when Duren and Richard Kinder approached the car with a gun. They tied the two together, forced them into the trunk of the car, drove around for a couple of hours, then stopped. Standing approximately seven feet from the tied teenagers, Duren raised his pistol, aimed it, and squeezed the trigger. The gun discharged, striking Kathleen Bedsole in the head. She collapsed, pulling down Leonard with her. Duren lowered the gun and continued firing, striking Leonard in the legs, hips, and chest. Apparently believing both teenagers were dead, Duren walked back to the car and drove away with Kinder. Charles Leonard, still alive, extricated himself from the rope that bound him. Though riddled with three bullet wounds, Leonard managed to make his way to a home nearby and police were called. Kinder and Duren were apprehended shortly thereafter in Huffman, Alabama. Leonard identified Duren as the man who had shot him and testified at trial. Upon subsequent questioning, Duren confessed twice to his participation in the crime. He also led officers to the crime scene and pointed out where he had hidden the murder weapon. Kinder was sentenced to life in prison without parole. While on death row, Duren became a born-again Christian and wrote several articles recounting his mistakes in life. He opposed all last-minute appeals to avoid the electric chair.

Citations:
Duren v. State, 507 So.2d 111 (Ala.Cr.App. 1986) (Direct Appeal).
Duren v. State, 590 So.2d 360 (Ala.Cr.App. 1990) (PCR).
Duren v. Hopper, 161 F.3d 655 (11th Cir. 1998) (Habeas).

Internet Sources:

ProDeathPenalty.Com

The Alabama Supreme Court set a Jan. 7 execution date for David Duren, convicted in a $40 robbery and murder in Jefferson County, near Trussville. The court said Duren should die in Alabama's electric chair at 12:01 a.m. on Jan. 7 for the 10/20/83 slaying of Kathleen Bedsole, a 16-year-old Huffman High School student, during a robbery and kidnapping. She was parking with her 17-year-old date Charles when 21-year-old Duren and Richard Kinder approached the car, tied the two together, forced them into the trunk of the car, drove around for a couple of hours, then robbed Kathleen of her purse and shot her to death. Charles was wounded but survived. Kinder was sentenced to life without parole.

The U.S. Supreme Court last month refused to hear Duren's appeal. The state attorney general's office then asked the Alabama Supreme Court to set the date. Attorney General Bill Pryor has said he does not anticipate that a re-examination of the electric chair by the U.S. Supreme Court will delay the execution of Duren or two other Alabama death row inmates whose appeals have been exhausted. The Supreme Court, acting in a Florida case, agreed to review whether the electric chair in that state is a legal method of execution or violates the ban on cruel and unusual punishment.

Chuck Leonard survived being robbed, kidnapped and shot. His date, Kathleen Bedsole, wasn't so lucky. The 16-year-old Huffman High School student died after being shot once in the head. More than 15 years later, one of the men convicted of the crime is facing the ultimate punishment. David Ray Duren, now 37, is scheduled to go early Friday to Alabama's electric chair. As of late Tuesday, Duren had authorized no last-minute pleas to try to stall or block the execution, state authorities said. I accepted Jesus Christ that night." But his spiritual beliefs don't mean he wants Duren spared from the electric chair. Leonard is careful to say his sympathies are with Miss Bedsole's parents, Kay and Anthony Bedsole of Vestavia Hills. He said his feelings for them are even more pronounced now that he has 2 children of his own. "It's a higher law that we're dealing with," Leonard said. "Even as a Christian, I do believe that there's justice that has to be done." But he said there's no joy in seeing it done. "It's not a situation you're happy about. It's a sad day all around," Leonard said. "It's been so long, I figured it would never happen. It's kind of come as a shock that this day is upon us."

APBNews Online

"Alabama Inmate Executed in Electric Chair; Kidnapped and Killed Young Girl."

(January 7, 2000) ATMORE, Ala. (AP) -- A man convicted of killing a young girl during a robbery and kidnapping was executed in the state's electric chair early today. David Ray Duren, 37, was the first inmate to be electrocuted since the U.S. Supreme Court agreed in October to consider whether Florida's use of the electric chair is cruel and unusual punishment. Duren appeared calm as he awaited execution, at one point mouthing "I love you," to one of the ministry volunteers. He declined to make a last statement.

Kidnapped and killed

Duren was convicted of murder for the 1983 shooting death of Kathleen Bedsole, 16. He kidnapped the girl and her boyfriend, Chuck Leonard, from Leonard's parked car, put them in the trunk and drove them to a secluded area where they were shot. Leonard survived. Duren and an accomplice, David Kinder, were quickly captured. Kinder is serving life in prison without parole.

Duren asked for the death penalty at his trial, but later fought his execution for years. This week, he said the death penalty was appropriate for his crime. "I can drag it out another three years or however long it took them to decide it," Duren told The Birmingham News Wednesday. "But that wouldn't be fair to the victims' family. It wouldn't be fair to my family."

Killer's religious conversion

Leonard, now a Baptist minister in South Carolina, said he spoke Wednesday with Duren, who told him he was a born-again Christian who sought God's forgiveness. Alabama, Florida, Georgia and Nebraska are the only states that use electrocution as the sole means of execution. Late Thursday, the Florida Legislature voted to change its law to allow inmates the option of lethal injection. Alabama officials have said they are waiting to see if the Supreme Court's ruling affects Florida alone.

APBNews Online

"Executed Prisoner's Autobiography Posted on Web; Inmate Wrote to Warn Others."

(January 8, 2000) ATMORE, Ala. (AP) -- A man convicted of killing a teen-age girl wrote an account of his crime, conviction and religious conversion in an autobiography posted on the Internet after his execution. David Ray Duren, 37, was electrocuted early Friday for the 1983 robbery and shooting death of Kathleen Bedsole, 16.

He wrote "An Attitude Adjustment" at the request of high school students, said Birmingham minister Richard Copeland, a family friend. Duren mixes his own story with Biblical quotations and references. "I'm writing to you from death row, where I am awaiting execution," he begins. "This is a shameful thing to admit ... but it is my hope that through sharing these things ... that I may help you, or those you know, avoid making the same poor choices I made."

Self-loathing apparent

He said he felt "tremendous shame" at recounting Miss Bedsole's death and his other crimes. "The hatred that I felt for myself -- that I was ever capable of such inhumanity, such destruction of innocent lives," he wrote. "It never goes away, it never fades." Duren writes about dabbling in drugs, saying he once had to be revived by cardiopulmonary resuscitation after mixing heroin, methamphetamines and alcohol, and he was discharged from the Army for smoking marijuana. Duren was the first inmate executed in an electric chair since the U.S. Supreme Court decided in October to consider a Florida case concerning whether the chair is cruel and unusual punishment.

Miss Bedsole and her boyfriend, 16-year-old Chuck Leonard, were in Leonard's parked car when they were approached by Duren, then 21, and accomplice David Kinder, 17. Duren and Kinder forced the teen-agers into the car's trunk and drove to a secluded spot, where the youths were tied up and shot. Leonard survived. Kinder was sentenced to life in prison without parole.

Duren, who said he became a born-again Christian and was baptized in 1986, had opposed any last-minute appeals to avoid the electric chair. He declined to make a final statement. "David wanted to express his deep sorrow for his horrible crime of 16 years ago, and for the pain that he caused for the victims and their families," Copeland said after the execution. "He wanted the world to know he was sorry."

ABOLISH Archives (Associated Press & Rick Halperin

January 7, 2000 - ALABAMA EXECUTION:

A death row inmate died in Alabama's electric chair nearly 16 years after he robbed a teen-age Birmingham girl and shot her to death. David Ray Duren, 37, was pronounced dead at 12:09 a.m. Friday at Holman Prison in Atmore. Duren, of Jefferson County, was convicted of killing 16-year-old Kathleen Bedsole in October 1983.

Miss Bedsole's uncle and cousin solemnly witnessed the execution, along with 2 of Duren's friends. Strapped into the chair, Duren appeared calm as he awaited the execution. Duren opposed any 11th-hour appeal to avoid execution. He asked for the death penalty in his 1984 trial, but state officials said he changed his mind and fought execution for years.

Thursday, Duren spent the day with a group of more than 10 family and friends, including a pastor from a prison ministry at Donaldson Prison in west Jefferson County. Duren was held at the facility until Dec. 28, when he was moved to Atmore to await execution.

Duren's execution comes as the Supreme Court is reviewing a Florida case concerning use of the electric chair. Justices in October 1999 agreed to consider, for the first time in more than 100 years, whether the electric chair as it is used in Florida violates inmates' Eighth Amendment rights. Alabama is 1 of only 4 states that use the chair as the sole means of executing prisoners, although others include it as an option. Duren was the 1st inmate executed in an electric chair since the Supreme Court agreed to review the Florida case. Duren's attorney, Rory Fitzpatrick of Boston, has declined comment on any appeal this week and did not immediately return a phone call Thursday.

Prison officials said Duren gave clothing and other items to fellow death row inmates. He gave religious papers to Robert Tarver, who is scheduled to be executed Feb. 4. Duren also gave a watch to his father, Raymond Duren, and pictures and other items to friends.

Duren was 21 when he and accomplice David Kinder, 17, kidnapped Miss Bedsole and her 16-year-old boyfriend, Chuck Leonard, while the teens were in Leonard's parked car. After putting the teen-agers in the car's trunk, Duren and Kinder drove them to a secluded area, where both teens were tied up and shot. The killers were shortly captured. Kinder is now serving a term of life without parole.

Leonard survived and now is a Baptist minister in South Carolina. He said earlier this week he was worried about Duren's spiritual life. He and Duren spoke Wednesday by telephone, and Duren told him he was a born-again Christian who had sought God's forgiveness.

Duren, in a telephone interview Wednesday with The Birmingham News, said he was not afraid to die. "Being a Christian, I welcome it," he said. "I'll be in heaven." He said he thinks death is an appropriate punishment, "because I'm guilty." He also said he doesn't want to wait and see if the state eventually switches to lethal injection for executions. "I can drag it out another 3 years or however long it took them to decide it," he said. "But that wouldn't be fair to the victims' family. It wouldn't be fair to my family. "Not one minute of this has been enjoyable," he said. "I can't imagine wanting this for another 40 years."

The Florida legislature this week in a special session began debating switching to lethal injection for executions. If Florida changes its method, Alabama, Georgia and Nebraska would be the remaining states using the electric chair exclusively. Alabama officials have said they are waiting to see if the Supreme Court's ruling affects Florida alone. They also said the case might be left moot if Florida switches its method of execution.

Duren becomes the 1st condemned prisoner to be put to death this year in Alabama, and the 20th overall since the state resumed capital punishment in 1983. Duren also becomes the 2nd condemned prisoner to be put to death this year in the USA and the 600th overall since America resumed executions on Jan. 17, 1977.

Church of Christ - Welcome to the Good Fight!

Richard Copeland writes:

David Duren has been on Alabama's Death Row for over 15 years. He became a Christian about two years after his conviction. David has always admitted his crime. His attorney has filed all the customary appeals, but all the appeals have expired. He will soon have an execution date set -- perhaps before the end of November. This brother in Christ has a tremendous faith in God and a tremendous attitude about what he is about to face. Please pray for him.

Anyone interested in writing to him may do so at the address below. He has now (12/29/1999) been moved to Holman Prison, where the execution will take place on January 7, 2000. He is not pursuing any further postponements, so it is unlikely to be delayed further: David Duren, Z-447, Holman 3700, Atmore, AL 36503-3700.

12/14/1999 - I have seen some other writings he has done along this line. I do not know all the details of the case, nor do I know him personally. But the things he writes here are worth reading and thinking about. My apologies for the HTML formatting; David's letter was a Word document, and HTML conversion can be messy. - REW

An Attitude Adjustment

Learning to Live Inside

My name is David, Iím 36 years old, and Iím writing to you from death row where I am awaiting execution for the 1983 murder of Nancy Kathleen Bedsole, and the attempted murder of Charles Leonard, Jr. This is a shameful thing to admit, as will be many of the things I will share with you about my life. But it is my hope that through sharing these things with you, that I may help you, or those you know, avoid making the same poor choices I made.

I have spent the last sixteen years waiting for this sentence to be carried out. So, as you can imagine, Iíve had a lot of time to look back at my life, and see where I went wrong. I can honestly say that it all began at age thirteen, when I stopped attending church. I know thatís probably what you would expect me to sayóbut itís absolutely true. It was about this time that I started smoking. This marked a change in my lifeónot so much the cigarettes themselves, but the attitude which led me to make the decision to smoke, knowing that it was wrong.

Let no one say when he is tempted, "I am tempted by God"; for God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone. But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death. James 1:13-15 Therefore, to him who knows to do good and does not do it, to him it is sin. James 4:17

Knowing that it was wrong to smoke, I decided to do it anyway, because it was what I wanted to do. It was this attitude which would cause me and those around me to suffer many problems for the next eight years to come, and consequences of my actions for the rest of our lives: I needed an attitude adjustment. (more . . . )

Jefferson City News-Tribune

"Executed Inmate's Autobiography Posted on Internet."

(Saturday, January 8, 2000) ATMORE, Ala. (AP) -- A man convicted of killing a teen-age girl wrote an account of his crime, conviction and religious conversion, an autobiography that was posted on the Internet after his execution early Friday. David Ray Duren, 37, was convicted in the 1983 robbery and shooting death of Kathleen Bedsole, 16, of suburban Birmingham.

He wrote the account, titled "An Attitude Adjustment," at the request of high school students, said Birmingham minister Richard Copeland, a family friend. In Duren's account, he mixes his own story with Biblical quotations and references. "I'm writing to you from death row, where I am awaiting execution," he begins. "This is a shameful thing to admit ... but it is my hope that through sharing these things ... that I may help you, or those you know, avoid making the same poor choices I made."

He said he felt "tremendous shame" at recounting Miss Bedsole's death and his other crimes. "The hatred that I felt for myself -- that I was ever capable of such inhumanity, such destruction of innocent lives," he wrote. "It never goes away, it never fades." Duren writes about dabbling in drugs, saying he once had to be revived by cardiopulmonary resuscitation after mixing heroin, methamphetamines and alcohol, and he was discharged from the Army for smoking marijuana. Duren was the first inmate executed in an electric chair since the U.S. Supreme Court decided in October to consider a Florida case concerning whether the chair is cruel and unusual punishment.

Miss Bedsole and her boyfriend, 16-year-old Chuck Leonard, were in Leonard's parked car when they were approached by Duren, then 21, and accomplice David Kinder, 17. Duren and Kinder forced the teen-agers into the car's trunk and drove to a secluded spot, where the youths were tied up and shot. Leonard survived. Kinder was sentenced to life in prison without parole.

Duren v. State, 507 So.2d 111 (Ala.Cr.App. 1986) (Direct Appeal).

David Ray Duren was convicted for the capital offense involving the robbery and intentional murder of Kathleen Bedsole in violation of Alabama Code 1975, ß 13A-5-40(a)(2), and sentenced to death. The aggravating circumstance upon which the jury was instructed is found in ß 13A-5-49(4): "The capital offense was committed while the defendant was engaged or was an accomplice in the commission of, or an attempt to commit, or flight after committing, or attempting to commit, rape, robbery, burglary or kidnapping."

The undisputed evidence in this case, including the facts admitted by the defendant, show that the capital offense was committed while the defendant was engaged in the commission of a robbery and a kidnapping. This case is unique in that the defendant admitted that the State's evidence was undisputed except on the issue of whether or not the defendant intended to shoot Miss Bedsole. Defense counsel then argued that the defendant should be convicted and punished for murder but not for capital murder. In his closing argument, defense counsel stated, "The evidence is exactly undisputed. It comes out exactly the way Mr. McDonald said, but there is one point of dispute." That "point of dispute" was whether or not Miss Bedsole was facing the defendant at the time he shot her.

Findings of Fact from the Trial: This Court makes the following findings of fact from the trial based on the transcript of the testimony provided to this Court for review prior to the sentencing hearing:

"The victim in this case, Kathleen Bedsole, and her companion, Charles Leonard, were on a date on October 20th, 1983 and had left the victim's home at approximately 9:00 p.m. with the intention of going to visit some haunted houses sponsored by radio stations in the Birmingham area, as this was in the Halloween season. "Sometime after leaving the victim's home, the couple had parked at a location in the Huffman area and, according to testimony of witness Charles Leonard, had been there some five to ten minutes prior to two individuals coming up to the car. One of the individuals was armed with a pistol and was identified by witness Leonard as being the defendant, David Ray Duren. The two individuals instructed the victim and her companion, Charles Leonard, to get out of the car and, further, that, if they did as they were instructed, they would be okay.

"The victim, Kathleen Bedsole, and her companion, Charles Leonard, were subsequently placed in the trunk of the automobile, and the car driven from that location. The witness Leonard testified that on being placed in the trunk that the car traveled for a short distance and stopped. He heard one of the car doors open and, after a short time span, close, and the car proceeded on. After traveling a short distance, the car appeared to get on an interstate highway and traveled for some length of time. On exiting the interstate, the car shortly thereafter entered what appeared to be a drive-in restaurant, and a conversation was overheard between one of the two defendants and an employee of the restaurant. Only a few words were heard, but one of them appeared to be an exclamation shouted by one of the restaurant employees of the word, 'robbery.' Immediately thereafter, the car sped away from the location.

"The car again drove for some distance and appeared to get back on an interstate and drove to a location in the eastern section of Jefferson County known as Trussville. The car drove to a secluded location wherein the victim, Kathy Bedsole, and her companion, Charles Leonard, were taken from the trunk of the car. The second defendant, later identified as Richard David Kinder, tied the victim and her companion together with a length of rope, and after being tied together, the defendant Kinder retrieved the purse belonging to the victim and removed from said purse two twenty dollar bills which had previously been given to the victim by her father prior to her leaving her home.

"After a brief conversation between the defendant, David Duren, and Richard David Kinder, the defendant Kinder turned the victim and her companion in a position where the victim, Kathy Bedsole, was facing away from the defendant David Duren. At this time the defendant Duren raised the pistol which he had had in his possession and fired one shot, which appeared to strike the victim Bedsole. On firing the shot, the victim Bedsole fell with her companion, Charles Leonard, landing on top of her, as they were still tied together. At this time defendant David Duren aimed the pistol at Charles Leonard and fired approximately four times with three of the shots hitting the witness Charles Leonard in the chest and the legs. After defendant David Duren quit shooting, he and codefendant Richard Kinder left in the victim Charles Leonard's car.

"Shortly thereafter, the witness Charles Leonard was able to free himself from the rope binding him with the victim Kathy Bedsole, and he walked to a location where he was able to gain assistance and call the sheriff's office for further assistance. When interviewed by the sheriff's deputy answering the call and after ascertaining from witness Leonard as to what had transpired, a radio transmission was then sent and subsequently received by another deputy sheriff who later observed defendants Duren and Kinder walking along a public roadway in the Roebuck/Huffman area. On questioning the individuals and observing their appearance, they were later taken into custody, and on subsequent questioning by Detective Sgt. M.E. White, made a statement admitting their participation in this crime.

"Further testimony by Dr. Robert Brissie established the cause of death of the victim, Kathy Bedsole, as being the result of a small caliber distant gunshot wound to the back of the head with penetration of the brain. The undisputed facts show that the capital offense was committed during the commission of a robbery and a kidnapping."

Duren v. Hopper, 161 F.3d 655 (11th Cir. 1998) (Habeas).

On the evening of October 20, 1983, sixteen year-old Charles Leonard picked up his girlfriend, sixteen year-old Kathleen Bedsole, in his father's Oldsmobile. On their date they were planning to visit some haunted houses in the Birmingham area sponsored by a local radio station. As Leonard drove he noticed a car behind them flashing its headlights. Thinking the car behind them that of a friend, he pulled over into a cul-de-sac and waited. Several minutes later, another car entered the circle, backed out, and then parked. Two men, David Ray Duren and Richard Kinder, emerged and approached the teenagers, still waiting in the Oldsmobile. Duren, carrying a pistol, ordered Leonard and Bedsole out of the car. Duren and Kinder, the latter now wielding a knife, then forced the couple into the trunk.

The two men then drove the Oldsmobile along with their own vehicle to a nearby lot. Abandoning their own car, Duren and Kinder reunited in Mr. Leonard's Oldsmobile. They proceeded to a drive-in restaurant, intending to rob it. Before the robbery transpired, however, Kinder bungled it by prematurely exposing a pistol. The pair then fled the scene of the botched attempt. After driving some distance, Duren stopped the car in a secluded area in Trussville, Alabama. Duren and Kinder opened the trunk, removed the couple, and tied them together. Kinder seized Kathleen Bedsole's purse and took two twenty-dollar bills from it. The two men then stepped away and huddled, briefly discussing the fate of the couple. They resolved that Duren would shoot the teenagers to eliminate possible witnesses. Their deliberations finished, Kinder returned to the car; Duren, pistol now in hand, strode toward the bound couple.

Standing approximately seven feet from the tied teenagers, Duren raised his pistol, aimed it, and squeezed the trigger. The gun discharged, striking Kathleen Bedsole in the head. She collapsed, pulling down Leonard with her. Duren lowered the gun and continued firing, striking Leonard in the legs, hips, and chest. Apparently believing both teenagers were dead, Duren walked back to the car and drove away with Kinder. Dr. Robert Brissie, the State's forensic pathologist, testified that Bedsole was not immediately killed by the small caliber bullet which penetrated the base of her skull. Instead, in his opinion, she was rendered paralyzed from the neck down, resulting in her asphyxiation.

Shortly after the two men drove away, Charles Leonard, still alive, extricated himself from the rope that bound him. Though riddled with three bullet wounds, Leonard managed to make his way to the home of Mr. and Mrs. Dosier, who promptly notified the Sheriff's Department of the crimes. Kinder and Duren were apprehended shortly thereafter in nearby Huffman, Alabama. Later the same evening, Charles Leonard identified Duren as the man who had shot him and Kathleen Bedsole. Upon subsequent questioning, Duren confessed twice to his participation in the crime. He also led officers to the crime scene and pointed out where he had hidden the murder weapon.

At trial in Jefferson County, Alabama, on March 7, 1984, a jury convicted Duren of capital murder-intentionally killing his victim while engaged in the commission of an armed robbery and/or kidnapping. Later that day, the jury returned a verdict fixing the punishment at death. Before the sentence was actually imposed, however, the judge presiding over the case, Judge Joseph Jasper, learned that his deceased wife was a fifth cousin of the defendant Duren. Judge Jasper recused himself, and the case was transferred to Judge James Garrett. At the sentencing, September 14, 1984, Judge Garrett adopted the trial transcript, yet afforded Duren the opportunity to present any witnesses he desired. In large measure, Duren called the same witnesses as he had at trial, plus two new witnesses. After considering all of the evidence, Judge Garrett concluded that the aggravating circumstances outweighed the mitigating circumstances and therefore imposed a sentence of death.

Parenting Teens - Delinquency Prevention

A Letter From Death Row

Dear Friend,

Hi. My name is David Duren. I'd like to share something of great importance with you, in the hopes that my regrettable story will aid you in making some of the most important decisions in your life. First, let me tell you a little about myself. I'm a young, white male with an above average IQ of 132. I came from a middle-class family. As of 1988, I am currently on Alabama's death row awaiting execution.

Where Did I Go Wrong?

How did this happen? That's an important question I've asked myself over and over again during the past few years. While waiting on death row, I have been able to accurately piece together the answer by reviewing my life. Why is the answer so important? If you will listen carefully with an open mind and heart to what I'm about to share, you can use my mistakes to check your life, and the lives of those you associate with, to help you correct and/or avoid making those same mistakes before they get too far out of hand. If your life is heading in the wrong direction, it can be corrected before it's too late.

The Peril of Peer Pressure

My real problem in growing up was peer pressure. I was a skinny little weakling, a "straight" kid, living in an apartment complex where nearly all of the kids lived with single parents, who had to work and leave their kids unattended. So, for company and fun, we all "hung out" together. I was not accepted, at first, by the other kids because I didn't do the things they did. I didn't curse, smoke, drink or smoke pot (marijuana). But I knew if I wanted to fit in, if I wanted any "real friends" (Ha!), I had to do all of those things. So, at age 12, I inhaled my first cigarette, drank my first beer, smoked my first joint of pot, and began to curse regularly. My peers said: "Aw, a little pot never hurt anybody!" and "Pot's not addictive -- it doesn't make you crazy!" I found out later that the medical experts say differently.

Guess what? It doesn't stop there! I've discovered by succumbing to peer pressure, I surrounded myself with so-called friends who drank, smoked, cursed and did drugs. When you smoke pot, you've got to get it from someone who sells it. Frankly, I never met anybody who sold pot only. So, by smoking pot, you introduce yourself to the whole drug world. You also run the same risks by drinking alcohol. Suddenly, you need something to enhance your drink. So, you smoke a joint -- that's what I did. Then, you go buy your joint from your "connection," and he or she says, "Oh, man, I don't have any pot right now, but I've got some bad Quaaludes, or some crack, or a few Valium, Placidills, or even acid (LSD)."

The Dead-End Road

So, since you need a "high," you end up buying whatever is for sale. I should know, because that's the way it happened to me. Before you know it, you're not just smoking pot anymore -- you're crushing Quaaludes and mixing that with your pot. So, now you're all strung out and need a pick-me-up. Your friendly drug dealer says, "Hey! I've got some bad speed, man!" Or, "Hey! This cocaine will really put you in the clouds!" Now, you're flirting with death! What happens when you need a "fix" but can't pay for it? I think we all know the answer to that one. If you think you can do without it until you can pay for it, you're only kidding yourself. I was so bad off, I was doing heroin two or three times a week -- and I didn't even really like the "high"!

My favorite drug? Acid (LSD). I was doing it (even when I was in the Army) on the average of four or five times a week. I was doing it the night I murdered a 16-year-old girl (the reason I'm here now). Why? All because I succumbed to peer pressure! That's where it all started. It's been said, "Your friends can make you or break you." Only later down the road did it lead to addiction.

Listen to Me!

I'm not writing this just to have something to do! I could be doing something else more pleasant. Do you think it's "fun" for me to sit here and tell you that I murdered a 16-year-old girl because I was so strung out on drugs and booze that I didn't know how to act like a responsible citizen? Do you think that's fun for me? No, it's humiliating, embarrassing, and generally downright painful to have to relate to someone.

Please, Learn from my Mistake!

So, I'm not doing this for me -- I'm doing this for you because I care! I don't want to see others ruin their lives and the lives of innocent people as I have. I've traveled that road you or someone you know may be on right now. That road is dark. That road is a dead-end street. I have reached its end. Its end is ugly. Its end is pain. Its end is lonely. Its end is death.

Have you or anyone you know ever witnessed a prison execution of death in the electric chair? If perhaps you could find someone who has witnessed an execution by electrocution, ask him to describe the sight of a man strapped into the electric chair when 1,600+ volts of electricity pass through his body -- the straining and creaking of the leather restraining straps. Ask him to describe the sight and smell of that man's burning flesh as the electrode gets so hot it sears like a branding iron branding cattle. Ask him to describe the sight of the horrifying mask that once was that man's face. It now looks like a macabre Halloween mask -- eyes bulging, face grimacing, mouth opened in a silent scream (not because he wouldn't scream, but because the pain is so intense that he couldn't scream).

Maybe you realize the perils of peer pressure and are not into the drug scene. Good! You're on the right track. Maybe you know someone you care about who is now walking that dead-end street. If so, share this (letter) with them. Maybe you're hanging out with the wrong crowd that is influencing you to go places and do things you know you ought not do. I have cost an innocent girl her life, and I have ruined, I'm sorry to say, countless other lives by doing so. Please, learn from my mistake! I sincerely hope that what I have shared with you today is responsible someday for saving lives.

I am in the most awfully realistic, life-threatening situation, and my only hope is the salvation of our Lord Jesus Christ. While on death row, I ask for your prayers. Praise God, I have since been baptized into Christ for the remission of my sins (Galatians 3:26-27), based on my faith in Him (Mark 16:16), repentance of my past sins (Acts 2:38) and confession that He is the Son of God (Matthew 16:16-17; Romans 10:9-10). May the love and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ keep you.

In Christian love, David Duren