Op-Ed ContributorBy NATHAN J. ROBINSONOctober 12, 2017
Robert Pruett is scheduled to be executed by the State of Texas Thursday. He has never had a chance to live outside a prison as an adult. Taking his life is a senseless wrong that shows how badly the justice system fails juveniles.
Mr. Pruett was 15 years old when he last saw the outside world, after being arrested as an accomplice to a murder committed by his own father. Now 38, having been convicted of a murder while incarcerated, he will be put to death. At a time when the Supreme Court has begun to recognize excessive punishments for juveniles as unjust, Mr. Pruett’s case shows how young lives can be destroyed by a justice system that refuses to give second chances.
Mr. Pruett’s father, Sam Pruett, spent much of Mr. Pruett’s early childhood in prison. Mr. Pruett and his three siblings were raised in various trailer parks by his mother, who he has said used drugs heavily and often struggled to feed the children. When his father returned from prison, things got worse: Mr. Pruett says his family sometimes had to move to flee the police, and that his father introduced him to marijuana at age 7. By elementary school, he was using drugs regularly. By middle school, he was selling them.
And at age 16, he began a 99-year prison sentence, after his father stabbed a neighbor to death outside the family home, with Mr. Pruett present. The court found that Mr. Pruett was culpable under Texas’