Liz Lane, Sky News (Middlesex), June 1, 2010
Sandie Blanton, a divorced mother and grandmother from Somerset, is one of more than 100 women in Britain currently married or engaged to such a prisoner.
The relationships between the prisoners and women often begin as pen pals.
She decided to start writing to men awaiting execution after hearing about her father’s cousin, who was saved from the gallows in England in 1935.
“I read up on all his stuff and found out mistakes happen, and I decided that’s it, I’m going to write.”
In February 2008, Sandie married Charles ‘Chucky’ Mamou after two years of prison visits.
He is on Death Row in Texas for the abduction, rape and murder of a teenager–a crime for which he insists he is innocent.
Sandie admits that not being able to have a physical relationship was difficult but says: “It just goes by the heart. There is a very strong bond that you wouldn’t normally have out in the free world.
“You find yourself telling them more things than maybe you would your friends.”
Sandie describes Chucky as “the one that shouldn’t have happened” and admits she was having doubts the night before the wedding.
“But because everybody knew, and his family was travelling up from Louisiana, I just couldn’t turn back.”
Sandie got married in a white gown with veil and bouquet, but there was something missing–the groom.
The stand-in groom was Sandie’s new father-in-law who stood by her side in front of the pastor and put the ring on her finger.
After just six weeks, Sandie discovered Chucky had been writing sexual letters to a married woman in the UK and ended the relationship.
She continued to write to up to 30 prison pen pals and fell in love again.
Reginald Blanton, 28, was found guilty of shooting his friend in the head in 2000, which he denied.
Last October he lost his final appeal and Sandie witnessed Reginald’s execution by lethal injection.
“I didn’t think I’d be able to do it. But I did it for Reg because I don’t believe anyone should die alone, no matter what.”
She says she feels very angry about his execution.
“Anger towards his lawyer for not doing enough, anger towards anti-death penalty organisations that were supposed to have helped. The help comes in at the last minute, which is too damn late.”
Sandie says she will never have a prison relationship again.
She says she has cut down on the number of pen pals she writes to, but is still in contact with one of Reginald’s friends.
“I’m not going to just turn my back now. It’s too far down the road to do that.”