Relatives of Inmate Who Taunted Authorities About Ease on Death Row Paint a Different Picture
Relatives of a North Carolina inmate who bragged he had an easy life on death row recently made clear that he is seriously mentally ill and suffering greatly in his confinement. Danny Hembree Jr. had written a letter to his local newspaper tauntingly describing his experience on death row as a life of leisure filled with color TV and naps. However, his sister, Kathy Hembree Ledbetter, said he was a depressed man who had lashed out in hopelessness. She apologized to the victim's families and the community for any hurt the original letter had cuased. Hembree's family contradicted the letter he had written to the Gaston Gazette, stating it was not an accurate reflection of his life on death row, and that he is mentally ill and severely depressed. Hembree's sister released a letter he sent to her in which he admitted, “I try to put on a nonchalant attitude for you guys but it is overwhelming and depressing to look at these walls and electric doors and bright lights 24-7 and digest the fact that I’m never going to leave until they murder me or I just die. Either way I’m never leaving here alive. I know I promised you that I would fight this but I’m almost fought out.” Kathy Ledbetter said, “I am sharing a letter he wrote recently to me in order to try to reveal the truth about his mental and emotional state which was brought out at his trial. He has had severe mental illness for over 35 years of his 50 years of life. He is not happy, he is not comfortable and he is not well. He is being punished for his crimes and he is in a bad place. I feel deeply for the families who have been affected by his actions, actions that were motivated by mental illness.”
(See C. Ng, "Death Row Dad Contradicted By Son on Life of 'Leisure'," ABC News, January 27, 2012; Letter to Kathy Hembree Ledbetter from Danny Hembree Jr.) See Mental Illness and Death Row.