In 1990, while serving a sentence in San Quentin for armed robbery, Jarvis Masters was implicated as an accessory in the murder of a prison guard. A 23-year-old African-American, Jarvis was sentenced to death in the gas chamber. While in the 'maximum security' section of Death Row, using the only instrument available to him - a ball-point pen filler - Jarvis has written an astounding memoir that is a testament to the tenacity of the human spirit and the talent of a fine writer. "That Bird Has My Wings" tells the story of the author's childhood with parents addicted to heroin, an abusive foster family, a life of crime and imprisonment, and the eventual embracing of Buddhism while on Death Row at San Quentin Prison. Master's story drew the attention of luminaries in the world of Buddhism, not the least of whom was Pema Chodron who wrote a story about him for O Magazine, and offers a Foreword to the book. Twenty-two years after his conviction, Masters is still on Death Row - but things have changed.
The California Supreme Court has ordered an investigation into whether newly discovered evidence points to his innocence - which could result in the overturn of Jarvis' conviction and death sentence. A growing movement of people believe Masters is innocent, and are actively working within the legal system to free him. One of his lawyers will provide an Afterword with an update on Master's appeal.
An inmate at San Quentin since he was 19, JARVIS JAY MASTERS was moved to death row in 1990 (for alleged participation in the killing of a prison guard). Masters was converted to Buddhism several years later and has inspired the interest of leaders in the Buddhist community. While in prison he wrote and published one book, Finding Freedom, as well as many articles which have appeared mostly in newspapers and Buddhist magazines. In 1992, Masters won a PEN Award for his poem, "Recipe for Prison Pruno." Based on the lack of substantial evidence for Masters participation in the murder, in April 2008 the California Supreme Court ordered an evidentiary hearing, and Masters' attorneys believe his conviction will be overturned within the year.