Save Will Speer
The Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles, Governor Greg Abbott
Just three and a half months ago, Texas named Will Speer as the first Inmate Coordinator for the Death Row Faith Based Program. Now, the State plans to execute him on October 26, 2023.
Will Speer is one of the original members of a voluntary, immersive evangelical Christian program for people incarcerated on Texas death row. Through the program, Will has deeply studied the way of Christ and recommitted his life to Him. He has developed deep faith in God and grown to feel sincere remorse for the violent acts of his past. His newfound relationship with God and the tools he learned in the program have enabled him to heal from the trauma, neglect, and abuse he experienced as a child.
Will now ministers to others who are incarcerated, carrying a message of healing, redemption, and love to people in Texas’s prisons.
Despite all that Will overcame and the positive impact he is making in his historic new role as the first Coordinator for the Faith Based Program, the State plans to execute him in a little over a month. If allowed to live, Will wants to devote the rest of his days to serving as a prison minister.
Will’s legal team is asking the Board of Pardons and Paroles to spare the life of this man whose soul Texas has worked so hard to save. Will you sign the petition to Save Will Speer today?
For more about Will's life, click on this link to watch a short video or read his life story below!
To watch the 20-minute documentary about Will that his legal team submitted to the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles, click on this link!
MORE ABOUT WILL
Will’s Traumatic Childhood
Will grew up in Houston, Texas. From an early age, Will experienced instability, neglect, and physical abuse. Will’s father Ricky, who was a drug addict and had symptoms of mental illness and paranoia, was fun-loving when he was high and vicious when he was sober. He often beat Will until he bled. When Will was a toddler, he saw his father push his mother down a flight of stairs.
The abuse only increased with the arrival of Will’s stepfather, Randy, who terrorized Will, belittling him at every opportunity and beating him with belts and with his hands until Will was covered in marks. Will had scars from where Randy had burned him with cigarettes. Will’s mom was not safe from Randy either. Years later, when Will was an adult, Randy murdered Will’s mom.
When Will was only 5 or 6 years old, his parents left him in the care of older adults who sexually abused him and his cousins. Vulnerable to this type of abuse, Will was later molested by older boys in the neighborhood. Like many kids who have experienced sexual abuse, Will wet the bed nightly well into his teenage years. As punishment, his parents forced him to stand in the corner of his room with the wet underwear pulled over his head.
At school, Will was bullied because he was “mentally slow” and “dumb.” Will was held back several times but still could not meet basic academic requirements. By the end of the 8th grade, he was the age of an 11th grader but had the reading level of a 5th grader and the spelling skills of a 3rd grader.
Will’s Teenage Years
When Will was 15, Will’s mom sent him away to live with his dad Ricky so he could escape from his stepfather’s abuse. But life with his dad wasn’t the haven Will desperately needed. Will’s dad introduced him to meth and cocaine. He forced Will to watch pornography with him and screamed at Will when he finally found the courage to leave the room. One night, Will’s dad beat him and threw him on the sidewalk to live on the streets with only his backpack, the clothes on his back, and black eyes.
Soon after, Will fell under the sway of a group of boys, the leader of which was an adult several years older than Will. Desperate for protection and belonging, Will was approached by the leader about killing another friend's father. Will was scared but eventually agreed because he believed the friend's father was abusing his son like Ricky and Randy had abused Will. Will was 16 years old when he killed this man, but he was tried as an adult. In 1992, Will was sentenced to life in prison, and, at the age of 18, placed in an adult prison.
A teenager in an adult prison, Will was scared. He told staff he had suicidal thoughts and was put on suicide watch. One prisoner bit off part of Will’s ear and beat him up so severely that he landed in the hospital for three weeks. Others wrapped toilet paper around his feet while he was sleeping and lit it on fire, causing second-degree burns. Fearing for his life, Will pledged himself to a gang.
Once again desperate for protection and belonging, Will agreed to murder a fellow prisoner. Will was convicted of capital murder and sentenced to death in 2001. By comparison, the man who confessed to ordering Will to commit the murder was sentenced to just 18 years in prison. The jury who sentenced Will to death never heard any information about the physical, emotional, and sexual abuse Will experienced growing up or the torture he suffered while incarcerated.
Will’s Transformative Growth on Death Row
In 2021— after three decades of incarceration—Will was selected to become one of the original 28 men on Texas’s Death Row to join the first designated faith-based unit. Nicknamed “the God Pod,” the program is a voluntary, 18-month intensive introduction to the path of Christ. Only men with clean disciplinary records are eligible to apply for the program; those selected to participate must be recommended by the chaplain and ultimately approved by the Warden.
Will gave himself wholeheartedly to the program and on Father’s Day 2022, he was baptized in a blue plastic tub in the prison rec yard. The experience of finding Christ has changed Will’s daily life. He employs the tools he’s learned in the program to be the best version of himself and aims to help others do the same. He feels deep remorse for his part in both murders and believes that Christ has helped him heal from the trauma of his past.
In June 2023, Will graduated from the faith-based program with honors and became one of two men selected as the first Inmate Faith Based Coordinators on Texas’s Death Row. Though Will has only been in this new role for a brief period of time, he’s already made a significant impact. Several prisoners have said Will’s positive personality and ministry has changed the prison culture for the better. The prison’s selection of Will for this position indicates a deep level of trust in him.
Will has shared his testimony of how he found God and chose to become a better man both in person and over the Polunsky Unit’s radio station, the TANK. As a result, Will has inspired not only other program participants, but prisoners throughout the entire Polunsky Unit. If you were to stand inside the Polunsky Unit at 6:00am any day of the week, you will hear an inspirational speech from “Big Will” playing on the prison radio.
Will continues to lead by example and thrive in his role. After receiving an execution date, condemned men are usually moved to a separate area called “Death Watch” where they are kept in solitary under constant surveillance. In Will’s case, however, the Warden granted him special permission to leave Death Watch twice a week to continue to minister to the participants in the Faith-Based Program.
Should Will be granted clemency, he aims to devote the rest of his life to the role of Field Minister, an aspiration for which he has the support of current Field Ministers and volunteer chaplains.
Please sign this petition and join our campaign to #SaveWillSpeer today.
The Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles, Governor Greg Abbott
From: [Your Name]
Dear Governor Abbott, Chairman Gutiérrez, and Members of the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles:
I am deeply alarmed that the State of Texas seeks to execute Will Speer (TDCJ# 999398, DOB 09/29/1974) on October 26, 2023. Will experienced deep trauma and abuse as a child, which was never presented to the jury that sentenced him to death. Through his participation in the Death Row Faith Based Program, however, Will has recommitted his life to Christ and expressed sincere remorse for his past.
His newfound relationship with God and the tools he learned in the program have enabled Will to heal from the trauma, neglect, and abuse he endured throughout his childhood and to be of service to prison staff and incarcerated people alike. Chosen as the first Inmate Coordinator of the program on death row, Will promotes a message of tolerance, healing, and personal growth and responsibility for people incarcerated within the Polunsky Unit. The prison’s selection of Will for this position indicates a deep level of trust in him.
If granted clemency, Will aims to devote the rest of his life to the role of Field Minister, an aspiration for which he has the support of current Field Ministers and volunteer chaplains.
Please do not allow the execution of Will Speer to occur. His ministry and service are a tremendous benefit to people incarcerated in Texas prisons and those who work there.
I respectfully request the Board recommend clemency for Will Speer and for Governor Abbott to grant it; or in the alternative, that Will Speer be granted a 180-day reprieve.