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From Foster Care to Death Row

As a child, Mr. Marshall was as protective of his sister, Julia as he could be given the abuse by his father, at great physical risk to himself. It is my understanding that Gerald would stand in between his sister Julia and the blows their father was inflicting on her with a metal belt buckle.

Certainly Gerald’s behavior was heroic, if unknown to all but his sister.”

(Carmen Petzold, PhD, Psychologist)

From Hell to Texas Death Row

In this section we want to provide some information about Gerald’s personal history. It is fair to say, that from birth to his 18th birthday Gerald had never experienced anything close to a parent’s love and care. His life instead was filled with abuse, neglect and terror. Considering this background it comes close to a miracle that Gerald developed into a person who deeply cared about others and tried by all means to better himself and help those he loved. After a horrendous childhood and youth, including many years in the foster care system, Gerald nevertheless graduated from high school at age 18 and enrolled in college. After aging out of foster care, he tried to reunite with his mother and siblings, but was thrown out after confronting his mother about her indifference towards his little sister. At the same time he lost his job and became homeless. It was then, that Gerald spiraled down into addiction and deteriorating mental health. Despite attempting to create a family with his then-girlfriend, her children and his own unborn child, he gravitated towards drugs and Ronald Worthy, who was much older than Gerald and known for being a criminal in the neighborhood.

One year and ten months after leaving the state’s care, Gerald was arrested and charged with capital murder.

A question of justice

We want to explicitly emphasize, that considering the life history of a person has nothing to do with seeking an “excuse” for the crime, though prosecutors do not get tired of using this knee-jerk and misleading claim. There can hardly ever be an “excuse” for a crime unless it is based on self-defense for example. Considering the background and challenges a person had to overcome is a necessary question of justice and how that person should be punished.

Remember: Gerald Marshall is not guilty of murder. But on May 11th 2003 he did take part in a robbery. He does not deny that and takes full responsibility for his actions.

We consider it sensible though to understand where Gerald came from, when the events in question took place.

From darkness

Gerald Edward Marshall was born in 1982 to Johni and Gerald Sr.

Johni had a diagnosis of bipolar disorder, antisocial personality disorder and schizophrenia and was a crack-cocaine addict. Gerald Sr. was diagnosed with major depression, anxiety disorder, alcohol and cannabis use disorder, brain disorder not otherwise specified and personality disorder not otherwise specified. He was known in the community as a violent man.

From these facts alone it is obvious, that from the first day of his life, Gerald had “caregivers” who were extremely ill and unable to care for him in any way, putting his growth, development and eventually his life (and the lives of his siblings) in severe jeopardy. Due to the violence and neglect of their parents (for example the children were beaten with electrical cords, made to lick their vomit from the floor, being abandoned without food for days) Gerald and his siblings were soon placed into foster homes. The abuse continued though. Until he aged out of foster care at age 18, Gerald was beaten, humiliated and deprived of food.

From the age of 12 until he aged out of foster care at age 18, Gerald experienced intense physical and emotional abuse in his foster home, where he also was exposed to the sexual abuse of other foster children by the sons of his foster mother, who ignored the abuse. Gerald was not only separated from his siblings, especially his sister whom he loved very much and tried to protect all of his young life, but was kept also locked in a bedroom, allowed outside only to perform household chores and frequently beaten with a cowboy belt.

When Gerald turned 18 his foster mother threw him out of the house. He carried his meager possesions in a garbage bag as he stepped into homelessness.

Gerald’s fate in the foster care system is sadly no exception but rather typical for a broken system, that frequently betrays those it is suppose to protect.

Gerald Marshall’s and the fate of other children in the foster care system was recently featured in a compelling article in the Kansas city star.