Brandon Woodruff lost his freedom in 2005 when he was arrested in connection with the double murder of his parents in Royse City, Texas. In 2009, a jury convicted him of the murders, despite his claims of innocence. He has spent 13 years behind bars, and is serving a life sentence in the Texas Department of Criminal Justice’s Hughes Unit in Gatesville.
The 31-year-old Woodruff, who is openly gay, participated in an interview by phone from the prison he calls home.
Woodruff says he has spent his years in confinement drawing, reading, and educating himself. He has attended classes and church programs. He has abstained from alcohol, drugs, and getting tattoos. An animal lover, he has befriended a pet mouse and a pet bird over the years. He has had jobs in the kitchen and factory, and says he is focused on remaining a “good person.”
David Webb: What is your reaction to a book being published about your case, and a documentary film in production?
Brandon Woodruff: It means the world to me—and it actually means a lot more than that. I think they will help me get the story out. I’ve been extremely thankful, and appreciate their time, dedication, and energy. In a way, I feel really inadequate because they are doing everything for me, and I can’t go out and get a job to help cover the expenses. I can never thank them enough. Time is very precious on earth, and they are spending it for me.
What has your time been like in prison?
I kind of got plucked out of reality as a normal person would know it, and put in this whole other world. I had to grow up really fast. At first, it was really terrifying. I was afraid of my own shadow. I had never had any serious fights growing up, and so just being put in this environment was really nerve-wracking for a while. I’ve kind of relaxed a little, but you can never relax completely because you are constantly having to watch your surroundings. I’ve never been severely beaten up or raped, so I feel like maybe my mom and dad are still watching over me.
What was your reaction to being convicted and getting a life sentence?
I ultimately would describe it as being indescribable. I was shocked. I was confused. I was angry. I was scared. I was sad. It was like a tidal wave of emotions going through my entire system. I specifically remember standing there, trying to stand tall and firm with what I knew was the truth. I did not kill my parents. But yet there are 12 people over there that just said they believe I did it. It was a gut-wrenching moment. Later that day, I threw up all my lunch in the jail cell. It was disbelief, but at the same time it was coming together like one big nightmare. I really wanted to talk to the jury. It was horrible.
What did you think would happen?
Before the jury came back with the verdict, I was actually very positive. I thought I was about to walk out the door with my grandmother. I thought we were going out to dinner that night. My mind, my heart, and my body were set on walking out the door. My attorneys were very positive. I thought there was no way in the world I was going to be found guilty. It was the most unreal thing, because your body doesn’t know how to react. It’s something I’ll never forget.
What is your response to the prosecution’s claim that you being gay somehow turned you into a murderer?
The State wanted to argue that because I didn’t tell certain people I was gay—that if I could lie about being gay, I could lie about being a murderer—and that’s just not the case. I was coming to find myself, and I didn’t feel like I needed to go around telling every single person what Brandon was doing in his private life. I do know the State was telling people they had evidence. But when asked what it was, the State said, “We can’t tell you, but just trust us.” The central issue was if I could lie about being gay, I could lie about being a murderer. That’s just not true.
Do you ever lose hope?
I can easily say I’ve never lost hope. There’s a line in a book I read once that said, “You can put a bird in a cage, but you can’t stop it from singing.” I won’t ever stop saying I’m innocent. I won’t ever stop fighting for the truth. I won’t just sit around and wait for other people to help me. I’m going to talk to as many people as I can to get the story out there. I think [when] more people learn about my case and go digging, they will see I’m innocent. And they will see what that town did. I think [that when we get] more exposure on it, they will eventually have to do the right thing. I do believe justice will eventually prevail. Right now, there’s been no justice for my mom and dad. There are people walking around out there that really committed the crime.
This article appears in the August 2018 edition of OutSmart magazine.