Ramiro Gonzales is scheduled to be executed by the
State of Texas
on July 13, 2022.
This is Ramiro.
Ramiro Gonzales is scheduled to be executed by the State of Texas on July 13, 2022, for the murder of Bridget Townsend. Just 71 days past his 18th birthday at the time of the crime for which he is sentenced to die, Ramiro is one of the youngest persons to be sentenced to death in the United States since 2005, when the Supreme Court held in Roper v. Simmons that the Constitution bars imposition of the death penalty on anyone under the age of 18.
At the time, Ramiro was gripped by a serious drug addiction rooted in prenatal substance exposure, childhood trauma, and neglect. But today, after more than fifteen years of maturation, reflection, and atonement, Ramiro is an entirely different person, as evidenced by the fact that even the State’s trial expert now believes that Ramiro:
“does not pose a risk of future danger to society.”
Ramiro does not have to be executed. Read Ramiro's story below.
Ramiro Gonzales was born out of wedlock to a seventeen-year-old mother, Julia Gonzales Saldaña, in Dilley, Texas. During the pregnancy, Julia—who has struggled throughout her life with substance abuse—drank alcohol, used inhalants, and abused other drugs and, at one point, even attempted to induce an abortion by intentionally overdosing on drugs. Ramiro’s father, Jacinto Sanchez, was not listed on Ramiro’s birth certificate and played no role in his upbringing.
Abandoned by his mother at birth to be raised by his maternal grandparents, Ramiro grew up in a tiny home, crowded with extended family members, on an expansive, desolate ranch on which his grandfather worked long hours as a ranch hand. Throughout his childhood, Ramiro was left alone for most of the day with no adult supervision or guidance. As a result, he was subjected to physical and sexual abuse by a cousin as early as age 6 and was introduced to alcohol and drugs by members of his own family at the age of 11.
When Ramiro was 15, his aunt Loretta—the one family member who had showed him love and affection—was killed in a head-on collision with a drunk driver. Loretta’s death plunged Ramiro into inconsolable grief. Unequipped to deal with the loss of his beloved aunt, Ramiro turned to drugs to numb his pain. Within a year, he had dropped out of school; after repeating multiple grades, he was still in eighth grade at the age of 16.
In the years that followed, Ramiro’s life spiraled out of control. What started as self-medication quickly descended into full-blown addiction. While he had previously had only minor contact with the juvenile justice system, Ramiro’s deepening addiction led him to commit a series of drug-related criminal offenses culminating in the tragic kidnapping and murder of Bridget Townsend, his drug dealer’s girlfriend.
• • •
Now a mature, deeply spiritual, and profoundly changed adult, Ramiro has conclusively refuted the prediction that he would present a danger to others, as numerous TDCJ death row guards and even the State’s own mental health expert at trial have now acknowledged.
• • •
Texas is one of just two death-penalty states that make a determination of “future dangerousness” an essential precondition for imposition of a death sentence. In other words, a capital defendant is not eligible, as a matter of law, to be sentenced to death in Texas unless a determination is made at trial that “there is a probability that the defendant would commit criminal acts of violence that would constitute a continuing threat to society.” Once that determination is made at trial, however, there is no looking back: the judicial system provides no meaningful opportunity for post-conviction review to assess whether the “future dangerousness” determination at trial was in fact correct.
In this case, it clearly wasn’t. In the 15 years that Ramiro has been on death row, he has devoted himself to self-improvement, contemplation, and prayer, and has grown into a mature and peaceful adult. He is devoutly religious and shares his practice with spiritual advisors and with others on death row. He has discovered a love of reading and enjoys sharing and discussing poetry and novels. He appreciates philosophy and prose, and writes poetry and devotionals. He is a practitioner of yoga and meditation, and has become a vegetarian.
In recent interviews, numerous death row prison guards have described Ramiro as “sensitive,” “genuinely” changed, a “good communicator,” and as someone who they “feel safe around” and who is “never problematic.”
Perhaps most significantly, psychiatrist Edward Gripon—the mental health expert who testified for the prosecution at trial that Ramiro would present a future danger, even if incarcerated—has recently re-evaluated Ramiro after 15 years on death row and now concludes that Ramiro does not present a danger to anyone. According to Dr. Gripon: “With the passage of time and significant maturity he is now a significantly different person both mentally and emotionally. This represents a very positive change for the better.” He concluded that, contrary to his testimony at trial,
Ramiro “does not pose a threat of future danger to society.”