Thursday, August 30, 2007

Apologies, Explanations, the Trial, Prieto's Move, and Rick Perry, Pride of Texas

August 30, 2007 - 11:50 p.m.

I am going to preface this entry with an apology. I stated from the very beginning that my intention was not to attempt to sway any one's opinion about the Death Penalty. I did not set out to betray this intention, but thinking back over my last few entries, I think I did betray it, nonetheless. In all fairness, I did warn that this was likely to happen, but that doesn't really excuse it. I have noted before that I make only one edit of these installments, and that once they are sent out, they are gone, baby, gone. I do not keep any sort of copy for myself. This makes it a little difficult to remember exactly what I have written, a flaw which is usually exacerbated by the fact that I am wired on coffee, and usually don't begin to write these until well after midnight (there is a fine line between Starbucks and a crack house). So while I may not remember the manner in which I phrased anything previously written, I want to make it clear that I am not fishing for sympathy in any way. I am simply writing the way I feel. It isn't perfect. It may not even be 100% accurate, though I have taken pains to verify everything. I may be a complete idiot, and have everything all mixed up to the point of nonsense. So, I guess you need to take it how you will.

Part of the problem is that when I originally set these thoughts down on paper, I was writing to an audience of one. I know how I feel about things, and you tend to not need a lot of backstory when you are talking to yourself. At some later date, I then take these notes and translate them into something I am comfortable releasing. I guess that somewhere in the translation my frustration became more visible. I apologize for that. Also, unless you are aware of the details of my case, you will not know that I did come clean and accept responsibility for my actions. I didn't do it very eloquently, as the trial was, well...trying. It was an experience that I was totally unprepared for.

I have always relied on others to gauge my self-worth. It was the only barometer I ever knew how to access to determine whether I was behaving properly. Suddenly, everyone hated me. I wanted to hide, but there were cameras everywhere. Newsmen shouting. Angry, violent letters proclaiming that I was going to burn in hell. I've always been a little afraid of crowds, and suddenly I was center stage. All that, plus the months of little or no sleep, the shock of people I had been dieing (literally) to see since my arrest packing the courtroom, and the sheer weight of my guilt crushed me. I was barely conscious. I kept looking back at the people from my past life, hoping to see some glimpse of the light in their eyes I remembered. I found none. So, while I may not have done a very good job of it, I did take my come-uppance, in front of everyone. I hoped the few that knew me recognized how little like the old me that action was.

The trial did not turn out how any of our families wanted. The only people in the room who wanted my death were those that worked for the County. Usually the victims are for the death penalty, but this was most assuredly not the case in my trial. It didn't matter. Apparently, blood is the best way to wipe the slate clean. Oh well.

My mental bon voyage to all the spectators at the trial:

If I leave
no trace behind
in this fleeting world
what then could you

- Death Poem of Ukifune from the Genji Monogatari

Another point I should clear up: The name of this site, "Minutes Before Six" refers to the standard execution time in the State of Texas, which is 6 p.m. A list of the men executed by the State, complete with their last statements (the ones released by TDC, anyway) can also be found HERE Once at the site, click on the third item down "Executed Offenders".

What a week. My only friend here on the Row, Arnold Prieto, was moved off the pod this weekend. They tend to move you around a lot here, to keep you off balance. Staying in the same cell for longer than six months has been deemed a "security risk". (Side bar: Here is another example of one of TDC's brilliant logical conclusions involving security threats: Colored paper becomes contraband soon. I have included the official System Notice for your review. Maybe you can figure it out. I broke out my bowl and several different types of colored stationary and was unable to produce any colored dye from them. Colored pencils, however, make fabulous dye. Whoops.)

Anyway, I was hoping that I would be able to stay close to Prieto for the next few months. He will likely have an execution date set soon and I would have liked to have been there for him. Prieto has been a lifelong atheist, and only recently opened up to having a conversation about God. There are some characters here on Death Row who live the Christian lifestyle at full volume. Zealots. Vocal prayers in the day rooms, fasting, etc, etc. This is not me. I know how deep the stain of my sin goes. I know my weaknesses. Like Paul, God's power is made perfect in my weakness. I think the fact that I wear the scarlet "s" on my shoulder is what allowed Arnold to be comfortable talking with me. I definitely don't know all the answers, and I don't set myself up as some sort of teacher. I simply told him we would find the answers together.

We read through Daniel and Luke together over the microphone network (see my next entry for more details). It was kind of funny, I had just told Prieto the night before he got moved that Satan didn't mess with you when you were embracing sin. He only really takes notice when you begin to walk the straight path. Well, he took notice, and then he took action and got him moved. Pray for Arnold, that he will find some fellowship wherever he ends up. Me, too.

There were three executions scheduled for this week. The first two were carried off without a hitch. My condolences to the family and friends of John Amador, known around here as Ash. Ash, I never knew you, but any friend of Arnold's is a friend of mine. Que descansas en paz, carnal. Te vere pronto.

Some good news though: today's execution did not go through. Get this: Governor Rick Perry, the man who has authorized more executions than any other Governor in U.S. history, COMMUTED someone to Life! This never happens. I mean never. The only other time Perry has commuted anyone is at the behest of the Court, which he is obligated to do. I applaud Governor Perry, though I still think that if God gave him another brain, it would die from loneliness.

More details: After Perry took over office from good old GW, he instituted a Clemency Board. This Board's purpose was to evaluate each Death Row inmate's clemency appeal. It was a way for him to be able to say, "Hey, its out of my hands, ya'll." Since the creation of the Board (which is made up of his far-right wing buddies) Perry has never, not once, listened to the Board's recommendations when they call for a commutation to a life sentence. This includes all of the mentally retarded men killed before the Atkins issue was approved by the Courts. Also, back in early 2006 the Supreme Court ruled that individuals who had committed Capital Murder while they were minors could not be executed. Everyone knew this ruling was coming. Most states (read: all the rest of them but Texas) stopped executing minors in anticipation of this ruling. The Board recommended this same action. Perry rejected this advice, and killed the juvenile offenders up until the week before the ruling came down. Anyway.

Well, enough of that. The next entry will be a fun one, I've been preparing. Night!

© Copyright 2007 by Thomas Bartlett Whitaker.
All rights reserved.

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