Squandered Lives

Notes From Director, Rhonda Moskowitz


It breaks my heart to think that Martin, one the people in my film, has been sitting on Death Row for almost two and a half decades. When he was 19, he was a troubled young man on drugs and brutally took a life. My heart breaks for the victim’s family, (the young woman he murdered was only 26 years old), for the young woman’s life who was lost, for her unrealized potential, for Martin’s unrealized potential. Loved ones can never fully recover when someone takes a life. I’ve never met the victim’s family and can’t imagine their suffering, but I’m filming Martin’s family and they suffer a lot.


Martin’s mother, Myra,  died unexpectedly last spring. Death Row officials were going to allow Martin to attend her funeral, however Martin declined. Martin would have had to attend his mother’s funeral flanked by two armed guards with his wrists and ankles in shackles.  “I don’t want to be a trained bear on a leash,” he said. “I want my mother to have a funeral with dignity.”


This would have been the first time in decades Martin would have seen many of his family members. His mother’s funeral would also have helped him process his mother’s death. (She and her sister, Rosol, visited him on Death Row over the years.)  Interesting how you can find humanity in the souls of people who have committed unspeakable acts.


Martin’s first cousin, Philip, and  Dana, the mother of Philip’s three year old son, have great humanity and potential. They’re 20 years younger than Martin. I hope drug addiction doesn’t get the better of them.  I hope they, too,  don’t squander their lives.


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3 Responses to “Squandered Lives”

  1. Larry Diamond Says:

    This seems to me to be a very timely and important and poignant story about which little to no information has been provided to date. I very much look forward to the movie’s release–and to additional articles about the characters in it

  2. Rhonda Moskowitz Says:

    Thanks, Larry. Jews who have gone astray is a difficult subject for many Jews to face, however, we can learn a lot by their stories and their families stories. It will be beneficial to bring the subject out into the open.

  3. “I Don’t Understand How This Could Have Happened” « Teshuvafilm’s Blog Says:

    […] I previously wrote about how Martin declined to be let out of death row to attend his mother&#8217…. This unselfish act took my breath away. Martin thought his presence could turn her funeral into a circus-like atmosphere and opted to remain isolated, grieving in his cold, hard cell. […]

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