On April 5, 2002, Mark Stroman, a 32-year-old stonecutter from Dallas, entered Texas’ death row for the murder of Vasudev Patel, an Indian immigrant and gas station owner in Mesquite, TX. Patel was Stroman’s third and final victim. In the three weeks after the September 11th terrorist attacks, Stroman also shot and killed Waqar Hasan, a Pakistani immigrant in Dallas, and partially blinded a gas station attendant from Bangladesh, in the erroneous belief that all three men were Arabs. The press labeled the murders Texas' first post 9/11 hate crimes. Stroman himself claimed that “blinded by rage,” he killed to avenge the United States. The prosecution convinced the jury that robbery was his true motive, (even though he hadn’t taken money from his victims), and he was sentenced to death.
What drove Stroman to commit these horrendous acts? This question, along with Stroman’s day-to-day existence on death row, his battle against the state of Texas' determination to execute him, and the plight of his victims' families, are part of the building blocks of Execution Chronicles: Anatomy of a Hate Crime.
Mark was executed as scheduled on July 20th, 2011 despite the determined campaign of one of his victims to save his life. Rais Bhuiyan, a devout Muslim and Mark’s only surviving victim, began a public campaign to spare Mark’s life. It is Rais’ dramatic gesture of forgiveness and Mark’s amazing transformation on Death Row which have given Execution Chronicles a new meaning and urgency. The film thus has become a journey not only to understand a Hate Crime but also to understand the human capacity for forgiveness and change. At his death, Mark Stroman was a very different man from the angry racist who burst into a Dallas gas station, wounding a frightened attendant that he mistook for an Arab. Rais Bhuiynan is a very different man today from the young immigrant whose world had just collapsed around him that fateful afternoon in September. It is this drama of change and growth that now frames Execution Chronicles.
I have filmed for the past seven years this powerful human drama and have recently run out of money. Donations to my kickstarter campaign will allow me to cover the last weeks of the effort to save Mark’s life and to finish the rest of the film. In order not to miss the developing campaign I used my own personal money and filmed in Texas for the past 11 days. We captured the legal drama that lasted literally until Mark's execution. We followed Rais and others who worked relentlessly to save Mark. We did the last interview with Mark on Death Row. Only the BBC and CBS were granted a short interview for the evening news. We were the last to interview him and were given more than an hour to do it. We filmed a unique exchange of video messages between Rais and Mark. We stayed for three days and filmed the diverse group of individuals from around the world who consider themselves Mark’s friends and who came to Texas to be with Mark in his last days. We were all asked by Mark to witness his execution. We filmed that fateful day recording the first direct conversation between Mark and Rais, literally 10 minutes before Mark's phone was cut for the preparation of his execution.
Witnessing Mark's execution only empowered me and strengthened my resolve. His case has attracted int'l attention. His blog (www.executionchronicles.org) has reached 7000 hits the day after the execution. The pressure now is to finish the film as soon as possible so the full story can be told.
Over seven years ago I committed myself to follow this tragedy all the way to the end. On the surface it seemed like a curious decision. Since Mark confessed to his crimes, there wasn’t a question that he was guilty. Mark was a self-confessed racist, so I asked myself why did I find him so intriguing . But somehow I believed, after meeting Mark for the first time seven years ago, that there was more to the man than met the eye. The prosecutor tried to paint Mark as a dangerous animal - a menace to society. What I saw was a man that did not fit this label, a man racked with guilt. What drove Mark to commit such horrendous crimes has become my obsession. The last seven years has been a journey looking for answers. Your support will help me to finish my journey. It not only will enable me to film these critical days before the scheduled execution but also to help finish the film.
In donating to the film you will become my partners in this very personal journey. The rewards for donors reflect my goal to give you a unique insight into the world I feel I have been privileged to enter in the past seven years. I believe that once you begin the journey, it will change you as it has changed me.
"It’s amazing, not only do I have my supporters and friends fighting to stop this but I have a lot of the Islamic community joining forces…this is bigger than me or Rais…. BUT it starts with Rais’ forgiveness…and I see this as a chance to join a lot of people from many walks of life together…to be able to Stop the Hate…and if I’m allowed to live past the 20th of July, I will take that as a sign from God that my work has just begun."
Mark Stroman June 25th, blog
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