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Jarvis Jay Masters - California Death Row - Page 2
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Thread: Jarvis Jay Masters - California Death Row

  1. #11
    Administrator Moh's Avatar
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    Oct 2010
    On November 20, 2019, the California Supreme Court DENIED Masters' habeas petition.


  2. #12
    Administrator Heidi's Avatar
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    Oct 2010
    David Sheff follows the Buddhist journey of a San Quentin inmate in latest book

    Like a lot of people with newfound interest in Buddhist meditation, Jarvis Jay Masters struggled at first to sit still and quiet his mind. His thoughts wandered. Noises distracted him. Sometimes he was flooded with dark, shameful memories, so instead of serenity he felt panic. He worried he wasnt breathing right. Most of all, he wondered, Why bother?

    A mindfulness practice is challenging under the best circumstances, on a soft cushion in a quiet room, but Masters was attempting the seemingly impossible: turning inward, in search of greater peace and equanimity, while living on San Quentins death row.

    Sit? Close my eyes? Are you out of your goddamn mind? If you want to survive in here, you dont close your eyes, Masters told Melody Erimachild Chavis, the criminal defense investigator who offered to teach him some basic breathing exercises to quell his rage and anxiety as they prepared for his 1989 murder trial.

    But out of desperation, he reluctantly took her advice and started sitting cross-legged on the floor of his 4-by-10-foot cell before dawn, on a folded blanket wedged between the steel toilet and the bed.

    Marin County journalist and author David Sheff whose best-selling 2008 book, Beautiful Boy, about his son Nics struggle with drug addiction, was made into the 2018 Steve Carell/Timothe Chalamet film recounts this story in the opening pages of his fascinating, uncommonly uplifting new book, The Buddhist on Death Row, available Tuesday, Aug. 4.

    Sheff chronicles Masters spiritual awakening and radical transformation into a deeply respected Buddhist practitioner, a man of uncommon wisdom and spiritual grace, over the three decades after those first awkward attempts at meditating behind bars.

    Now 58, Masters arrived at San Quentin in 1981 at 19 years old, a hardened, angry young man who had been in and out of unsafe foster care and juvenile detention facilities since he was 9. He was serving a 20-year sentence for armed robberies in 1985 when he was accused of participating in a conspiracy to murder a correctional officer.

    Masters has always maintained his innocence. Despite substantial holes in the prosecutions case (no weapon was found; witnesses recanted their testimony), he was convicted and sentenced to death in 1990.

    A vocal group of supporters, including San Francisco writer and activist Rebecca Solnit and Buddhist abbess and writer Pema Chdrn, continue to fight for his exoneration. A new podcast, Dear Governor, explores his case.

    The Buddhist on Death Row, Sheffs seventh book, focuses on Masters discovery that daily meditation could help him survive, and even thrive, psychologically and spiritually, while incarcerated. Being locked up and denied basic freedoms presented him with tangible reminders of some of Buddhisms central, paradoxical truths: that fear and regret live in the mind, and mental liberation can be found anywhere.

    We all live in a prison, and we all hold the key, Tibetan teacher Chagdud Tulku Rinpoche, who guided Masters spiritual practice until his death in 2002, wrote to Masters in a letter. The key, the lama explained, is practice meditating twice a day, even when it is difficult.

    Sheff first learned about Masters 10 years ago from his friend Pamela Krasney, a Mill Valley prison reform activist. She had met Masters through Chdrn, and had been visiting him regularly for years.

    As a journalist, Im sort of a cynic, so I didnt quite know what to think when (Pamela) told me Jarvis was the most extraordinary person shed ever met, Sheff told The Chronicle by phone from his home in Inverness. I wondered whether she and (his supporters) were naive. Doesnt almost everyone in prison claim theyre innocent? But I was also intrigued by her description of him as somebody who is living in the most bleak place imaginable, and yet is positive, empathetic and uplifting. She said hed become a Buddhist teacher himself, a force for good in San Quentin, teaching meditation to inmates and intervening to thwart acts of violence, and that hed written books that have helped kids and others outside the prison. I thought, Really?

    Sheff attended Masters evidentiary hearing in San Rafael. He was intrigued but wasnt ready to delve more deeply into Masters story because his family was living through the darkest, scariest period of Nics addiction, and Sheff was consumed with fear that hed lose his son to an overdose.

    Fast-forward to 2015: Nic was safe and sober for four years. After Krasneys death that year, Sheff heard Chdrn read a heartfelt eulogy written by Masters at her memorial service.

    I listened to that letter and thought about how extraordinary it was that we were sitting in Mill Valley, and just around the bay Jarvis was sitting in a locked prison cell. I decided to go meet him and talk to him about writing a book, Sheff said.

    I told him, If I go forward, Im going to write the truth, the whole story, the good and the bad. And he said, I cant be painted worse than Ive been painted. For somebody on death row, thats probably true.

    Over the next three years, Sheff made 200 visits to San Quentin and recorded more than 150 hours of phone conversations with Masters. I started to open up about my own life, my struggles, Sheff said. and so a relationship naturally developed.

    As the two grew increasingly trusting, Sheff felt convinced that Jarvis was everything Pamela and Pema and others had described to me: an extraordinary thinker, an incredibly thoughtful person, one who could have by all rights been angry and bitter, vengeful, depressed, suicidal as so many are at San Quentin. But he was the opposite: open, kind and truly concerned with people he knew in the prison who were suffering and struggling, and people on the outside too.

    Sheff was still visiting Masters once a week, up until San Quentins COVID-19 lockdown. Masters became seriously ill with the virus the first two weeks of July. The prisoner in the cell adjacent to his died. (There have been 19 deaths and more than 2,100 confirmed cases at San Quentin.) Masters published an essay about mismanagement of the pandemic at the prison and spoke to The Chronicle about what the outbreak is like from Death Row.

    Jarvis has a wonderful sense of humor, and because we banter and laugh a huge amount when we talk on the phone, its dangerously easy for me to forget how utterly grim his circumstances are, said Solnit, who considers Masters a friend and has written powerful essays about him. Davids book really drove home the fact that Jarvis lives in some of the most brutal conditions of anyone on earth, and he is the most remarkable case of somebody overcoming circumstances to make a meaningful life.

    Sheff said he struggled in early drafts to strike the right balance between the intricacies of Masters legal case and a portrait of him as an unlikely spiritual warrior.

    In my view, anybody who does the reading will draw the same conclusion that I did, that he was framed, Sheff said. The injustice of living with that injustice is a challenge I cant even imagine, but I really wanted to focus more on his journey, on how a person changes.

    While hes not a Buddhist himself, Sheff admits that in the process of examining Masters life, he too changed in unforeseen ways. Masters journey to mindfulness taught him about the Buddhist notion that the more one accepts suffering, on a personal and universal scale, the less one suffers, and the more one can respond with compassion to others pain.

    I never imagined that I would be impacted to such a degree by reporting someone elses story, said Sheff. Ive spent a lot of time since writing Beautiful Boy and my next two books (2013s Clean and 2019s High, co-written with Nic) traveling around the country talking to people impacted by addiction, especially parents. Afterwards, there were long lines of people wanting to connect with somebody who understood their story. It was so moving, but also overwhelming, people who would burst into tears before they said a word because theyd lost their child. I would leave those events completely drained, and really depressed.

    In the middle of all this, Jarvis got into my head, and I realized that people were in a sense giving me a gift, by opening up their hearts and souls to me and sharing their pain. I was grateful for the connection with them, and that came directly from this journey, Sheff continued.

    I mean, look what our world is like now. Look how much suffering is around us. But when we realize were all in this together, there is power in that and peace in that. I dont think I ever would have gotten there if it wasnt for those years spent talking to Jarvis.

    An uninformed opponent is a dangerous opponent.

    "Y'all be makin shit up" ~ Markeith Loyd

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