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Wednesday, October 24, 2007

The Empire Strikes Back - Part 2

6:00 PM Wed October 24, 2007

This is probably not going to be a lengthy entry. I am both confused and angry, and I feel like there is a cloud inside my head that is going to prevent any eloquence. I have spent the last two days in prayer and fasting, but I have found no discernment to the issues in front of me. I have no doubt that this is due to my own flaws. Sometimes I am so dense that I feel the green algae growing in the dayroom has more insightful opinions than I do (not to bad-mouth old greenie. Just because he has no vascular system doesn't mean he doesn't play a mean chess game. And besides, he's been here longer than I have).

Last night, around 10:15, they brought me a mattress, so I could at least avoid the uncomfortable choice of having to sleep on either the concrete floor or the steel bed. None of the rest of my items had been returned to me. I didn't have any sheets, but unfortunately it wasn't cold out (we have no climate control here in the winter time) so it wasn't a big deal. None of the guards had any idea when I would get my things back. At 4:45 PM today, the property officer wheeled my belongings back to me on a cart, and after the obligatory hand cuffing, my cell door was opened and the bags brought in. I was enormously pleased to find out that nothing had been planted, like drugs or a weapon. In fact, they didn't find anything that they could level me for, because I didn't have anything. They did confiscate some items, and I have included the paperwork I was given (see picture). It does not include many items that were taken, but it at least does show that I am not making this up. It shows that they took my magazines (a few National Geographic and Popular Sciences, though I am not sure why, as they approve of both), my three books (David Dow's Executed on a Technicality, William Gibson's Pattern Recognition, and George Martin's A Game of Thrones, all of which were let in to the unit by mail room, only to somehow violate the book policy once they were in the unit), my "altered" headphones (these are made of very cheap plastic, and they had cracked, so I repaired them with a pencil, some rubber bands, and a dab of glue), an altered knit bag (no idea on this one, I bought it exactly like that from commissary), my bottle of "unknown" pills (this one was my mistake, I am pretty OCD and I had put my calcium pills and my multi-vitamins in the same bottle to save space...lesson learned. If they had been drugs, though, I would have been leveled real quick), 153 envelopes and 24 first class stamps. You have to have your name on these items, and I did. They claim I did not, but if you will look on THIS FORM, the handwriting for the phrase "with no name or number" is different from the rest. I will leave you to draw your own conclusions. I do not believe it to be a coincidence that my typewriter mysteriously developed problems, though the broken piece of plastic that holds one of the supports for the rubber paper holder could have been broken accidentally during the transport. Either way, it was easy to fix.

The signals are easy to read. TDC is not subtle. This will continue. The only choice I have to make is, do I feel that the good that is done through this site (though most of this is invisible to those of you that do not correspond with me) overrides the unpleasantness of having the system's ire directed at me? Will they find a shank the next time I'm searched? Sigh. I have another entry that I have already typed up which has nothing to do with any of this. I will probably send it out in a few days, but it might be awhile before I write anything new. I am really going to be concentrating on whether this is something that God wants me to continue.

To those of you who write me, and with whom I have developed a positive, God-based relationship centered on mutual personal evolution, thank you for the support the last few months. I'll still be here, even if this site is not. To those of you who write me your angry diatribes (though there have been far less this week than last, one to be exact), you may have won this one. That's ok. I don't feel any anger towards you. I know that one day we will look back on this from a much higher place, and chalk it up to Satan and his ruinous presence. Until that day.

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

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

The Empire Strikes Back - Part 1

9:00 AM, Tuesday, October 23 2007

I write this on borrowed paper. I am using a borrowed pencil. My cell is completely empty. At 6:45 this morning, my cell was searched. I was placed, handcuffed as always, in the shower where I was able to watch as gray-clad TDC employees packed all of my meager belongings into red onion bags, and then carried them down the stairs to a plastic pushcart. No one else on my row received this treatment. I was offered no explanation.

The date is October 23rd, the first day of new guard rotation (called "cards" in the vernacular) after the story on the evening news about the website. I must say, I do not understand TDC's response to the story. I have not been overly critical of the conditions here, though it would be very easy for me to comment on the myriad humans rights violations that I see on a daily basis. I have not done this for two reasons: one, prison is supposed to be bad. I do not consider myself intelligent enough to attempt the argument that you, the average viewer should care about prisoner's rights. I know what I used to feel when I heard about the brutal American prison system: well, fine, then don't go to prison. I didn't care. You don't care. I don't know how to explain the massive graying that exists in this country between right and wrong. How to explain that, yes, indeed the devaluation of a prisoners life DOES affect you, if only on a massive societal sub-audible frequency. I'm simply not smart enough, I don't know how to put into words that once you start to say that one life has more intrinsic value than another, it's all a slippery slope to perdition. And so we have Guantanamo Bay, and we have prisons that are so bad that when Federal Judge William Wayne Justice saw the Death Row conditions here, he said they were beyond what a human could stand. So, I try to stay out of the waters that are, quite frankly, too deep for me.

The second reason that I do not bash the TDC is because I do not want anyone to think I am playing for sympathy. I am not. But right now...reduced to nothing again, totally unaware if I am going to be leveled for something they "find" in my belongings. I am so angry. You are already killing me. Must we take my attempts at healing, as well? My meager attempt at ministry? And for what? For a website? Because I attempt disclosure? I had no expectation of ever reaching an audience, I simply wanted to let a few key people from my former life know a little something about me without forcing them to actually come near my plague. Must you take my voice, as well? I will be silent before long; can I not have a few whispers before the end? Clearly, some of you think not. Never mind ignoring the things we don't like, a little exercise in something called personal responsibility. You may win this, you may silence me. But I want you to think about this: if your precious silence requires that a human being lose the only real connection he has to being alive, what does that make you?

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

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Attempts at "Why?"

October 17, 2007 Wednesday

It's not exactly a rare occurrence for me to get hate mail.

Most weeks I get a few "lakes of brimstone" type letters damning me and my sorry writing ability. OK. I never claimed to be good at this. I'm doing my best, and if it's not good enough for some of you, you are welcome to go ahead and click that little "x" in the top right hand corner of your browser.

I had this idea, poorly formulated and somewhat nebulous, that I might be able to somehow learn about myself through this process, and by making it public I might help someone learn something about themselves at the same time. I had hoped that it might connect me with some people of the Christian faith, that I might also have some fellowship with them, as they have no church here on the Row, and I miss it. I guess I was not prepared for the sheer amount of hatred that was going to come my way at mail call. I almost have to steel myself for the ordeal like a boxer preparing to get his face punched in. I know I deserve a lot of that negativity from some people. I don't dispute that. But it's the letters from people I have never even met that have me reeling. I can only imagine how much worse it is going to be next week after they air the 48 Hours Mystery! special on CBS. Does it really enrich your lives to send me multiple pages of reasons why the world will be better off without me? Honestly? Perhaps your time might be better spent trying to figure out what you are really angry about. Just a suggestion.

Most days I'm hanging by a thread, and maybe some of you picked up on that. Maybe that's why you wrote. I'll pray that you are able to figure out what that says about you.

Anyways, if I have somehow offended you by the presence of this site, I am sorry. It was never my intention to do so. I had a few goals when I started this, and while I am not sure how much longer I am going to be able to continue writing these entries, I want to make sure that I try to complete at least one of my aims. The most common question I am asked on a nearly daily basis is: Why?

What makes a person want his entire family killed off? The ADA told my attorney six months before the trial that he knew that money was not the objective for me. And yet, this was the main angle they played up during the trial. Why did they do this? The first reason is very simple: they never bothered to ask me, not in 18 months of confinement before the trial. The second reason is a little more complicated, but not by much. It is in the nature of such trials to trend towards sensationalism. After all, money WAS the motivation for the actual shooter, and it was an easy connection to assume it might be the reason behind my motives as well. Besides, money is easy. People do horrible things for money everyday; it's not a hard sell. Any action that makes the defendant less of a person and more of a cold and calloused monster is great for Death Penalty prosecutions. Actions that show him to be a very messed up person psychologically are bad for Death Penalty prosecutions.

Like I said, very simple. The story about a mythical "million dollar insurance payout" was supplied by my co-defendant, who was the State's star witness. (In truth, I knew my folks didn't have much insurance. Turns out my Dad carried a $50,000 policy on himself, and none on Mom or Kevin or me.) If you can't imagine a situation where a person would lie to avoid the Death Penalty (in exchange for a 15 year prison sentence) then you should start doing some Sudoku puzzles or something to get your brain back in shape.

I've had a lot of time to think about this. I've spent many hours trying to put my mind into a semblance of order so that I could try to answer the question of "why" in a manner that someone other than me might understand. It is times like this that I feel most keenly my lack of writing ability. My words fail me, and I feel totally deficient to the task. Part of my problem is that I am trying to explain something that can't really be rationalized. Especially when I am trying to make sure it doesn't sound like I am making excuses. It can never be excused.

(Something to keep in mind: while the world may in fact be an objective reality, whatever exists out there must first pass through the filter of your perception, so in a very real yet totally weird manner, everything is also subjective.)

Part of the story of "why" is rooted in me reading some very true signals, and then misinterpreting and computing them very poorly, which skewed my entire perception of my world. That's not really all that strange since there are probably many, many "truths" you know that are, in fact, not entirely accurate. Anyway, I'm sorry that I am doing such a poor job. This is hard. I would have liked to have waited until I was better able to manage this, but...that thread gets thinner every day. I need to try to get it down, so it will be somewhere physical for others to see.

Sometimes "sorry" isn't good enough, no matter how much we mean it. I never meant to turn so cold inside, so hollow. It was always about survival, the slow deadening of all of the protrusions that stuck off of me and made me feel so out of place. I've never felt like I was one of anybody, even while I was very young.

I was named after both of my grandfathers and yet, I always felt like anytime I was around the Bartletts that I was somehow unworthy of their proud names. I was always aware of it. Later in life, I began to emulate some of the qualities They (especially my Mom's family) possessed: strength, toughness, and calmness under fire, a touch of disdain for the rules that everyone else had to follow but which didn't apply to them, and lastly, pride. I think I wanted to be my uncle. He had lots of power in the family, and if someone didn't like him, well, nuts to them. For someone who lived every day of his life searching for microscopically subtle clues in other people as to whether or not he was acting acceptably, the desire to be so...free!...from concern about what others thought of you was all encompassing.

So, I tried to pattern myself after him, though the attempt was only skin-deep. I faked that confidence. It did help, though, for a while. The DA called these emulations "masks", which sounds so sinister. The truth is, I had been wearing them since elementary school, and if not for them, as I tried unsuccessfully to fit in, I would have opened up my veins in despair before I reached High School. I just wanted to be a normal person that my family would be proud of.

Growing up, I was totally different from my friends. While they were confident, rebellious, I was the kid who got stuck in left field and missed all the fly balls because I was more interested in the airplane in the sky than the game, which I hated. Sports pretty much determine your rank on the social ladder at that age, and I was the base. I began to strike-out on purpose, hoping that every year would be the year I would finally be able to convince my parents that there wasn't any point. But I couldn't tell them I didn't want to play because I was afraid that not liking sports meant that I wasn't living up to what they expected of me. But playing ball was hell for me. I had to make it look like I was trying, but failing. Instead, it was more batting lessons and a better bat. Every time I missed the ball, or the basket, or whatever, it was my secret little middle finger to everyone.

It wasn't long until I retreated into books. Kids don't come with instruction manuals. I can't imagine how difficult it must be to raise two children in this day and age. My parents saw my voracious appetite for reading, and encouraged it. What else could they do? It allowed them to spend the time on my brother, who, to be honest, needed it at that age. Kevin was having a difficult time in school and required just a bit of extra attention. What I perceived, though, was that Kevin was somehow more worthy of affection, and my own self-doubt increased. And some jealousy. I didn't know that I was setting a dangerous foundation. I only knew that the only time I didn't have to be constantly watching for errors in myself was when I was alone with my books. I didn't have to be perfect for them. They accepted me as I was. And though I hated my independence, this isolation, it became me.

I wanted to be a part of the family, but by the time I went to Middle School, I was a loner. I didn't want to be, but I didn't know what it took to have a real friend. So, I tried different things. Different "masks", if that is the word you want to use for them. We all do this, to a certain extent, and sometimes we don't even know it. But I knew it. We act different when we are at work vs. when we are at a club, or at church. Eventually, I found certain attributes that produced positive feedback. Humor, for one. Making people laugh staved off the loneliness. I felt I could fit in, even if only for short periods of time. But the desire to be accepted only increased with that small taste.

The poison took form in those days: perfection brought happiness. All I had to do was look at the magazines and TV to see that perfect people had friends, had love. So, if you are stupid and ugly, what do you do? Well, you cheat. Any way you can. You do anything to keep the world and those you care about from seeing just how sad and pathetic you are. It's not my parents fault they didn't see the signs, because I was an expert at covering them up. It was critical that I kept the secret from them. I thought I would certainly lose their love if they had even the slightest idea who I really was. So I never let them, or anyone, see.

(I realize now that this wasn't true, but I believed it then. I tried to explain this to the prosecutor at my trial. I said that growing up I never felt loved, because deep inside I knew that the kid my parents loved wasn't the real me, but he rejected it completely, ignoring what I was trying to say and pointing out that my parents had never abused me or denied me love, did things with me, took me on trips, so why didn't I feel loved? No, he said, I was incapable of love and that I had betrayed the people who had tried to love me. I think that misperception is the worst part of this tragedy of multiple misperceptions. No one understands, and I am unable to explain it so they can understand. Perhaps by the time these journals are finished I will be able to get it out.)

Growing up I continued to pay very, very close attention to people's reactions to me, until I was so good at subtle detection of peoples' moods that it was second nature to me. I became a 13 year old con artist - not in the sense that I stole things or took advantage of people, but that I sold myself to people as something I wasn't. But something else happened, down beneath the masks and the sub-basement of self-loathing. I began to hate. I saw everyone as happy (even if they really weren't), and I hated them for it. I couldn't figure out why something so basic was missing from me.

I lost God in those days. I hated Him, for making me the way He did, for being such a sadist. I hated Him for cursing us with free will. I hated Him for giving me life. It's a tricky thing to hate something as big as God, though. He's too ethereal. You aim for Him, but you hit everyone else. So, even though I wasn't conscious of this, my hate for the world was really being directed at the people I loved. And the loneliness bore deep. And the masks had become all I was. There were no real benchmarks for "I" anymore, and everything became very fluid, very mutable. The better I got at impersonating a human being, the better I fit in. But the hate never went away, and though you mainly hate yourself, there are limits to how much you can hate yourself, and it spills over onto other people.

Add to this the extreme pressure I still felt to be perfect on a minute-by-minute basis, and something truly evil was born. It may have started as a maelstrom of emotions, all jumbled up into a messy vortex, but at some point during my sophomore year of High School, I overloaded. Like a breaker switching off from electricity overflow, something clicked off inside me. It started with something small. Something you can afford to lose. You think, "I will get that back some day, but for now, I have to make it through the day." It makes it easier the next time you get overloaded. It got to the point that, years later, when I heard that my best friend in High School, Lane, had died on the same day as had Matt, my best friend growing up, I was able to find my center of detachment very quickly. When I heard the news, my girlfriend was asking me if I was OK, and I wasn't. Everything was wrong, but...I found a place within me where it was all-right. I went there, and I stayed.

She had been my cornerstone since my senior year of High School. She was wonderful, perfect. She saved me from suicide 1000 times. I think I had loved her from the first time I saw her, but she was so far out of my league. When the opportunity to actually talk to her came about...I did what I always did, I re-invented myself to what I thought she wanted. And it worked. She actually cared about me, the way I had dreamed about for so long. Except it was founded on lies. I had wanted to stop being invisible for years, and here, finally was my chance, but I had blown it. I tried desperately to become the man she thought I was. I even got good at it, fooling myself for a time. Most of the time I knew, though, that there was a schism between who she wanted me to be, and who I really was. God, I needed her so much, though, I was willing to do just about anything. She made me so happy...but identity must be resolved. I know that now, though I didn't then. So, to my shame, while I was in college, I cheated on her. It was never about finding a better her, it was always about searching for me in the only mirrors that ever mattered: the eyes of another human being. I never found him. The list of who Thomas Bartlett Whitaker was became even longer. There were now at least 15 somewhat different versions of me, and it took an extreme amount of energy to keep these worlds from ever coming into contact. And the emptiness inside of me just kept getting bigger and bigger. I tried to fill it with drugs and philosophy (sometimes both...Nietzsche on Crystal Meth could make anyone hate the world). I began to work out a bit. I got into the martial arts, and that helped for a bit, though most of my senseis knew there was something wrong with me. Most people freeze up in a fight. I smiled.

Somewhere in there, around the year 2000, the hate overcame the love. It had grown strong over the years, and I knew that there were definitely people responsible for me having to be alive. A single night of passion, I reasoned, and I have to go through THIS? I'll never be what they want, anyways. I decided that it wouldn't really trouble me if most anyone in my life were to drop off the face of the planet. Sometimes I wanted them to. And then I realized that what I really wanted, more than anything else, was revenge for being alive. As soon as the thought was born, it had a life of its own.

It was never about money. It was never about getting away with it. I wanted revenge for being invisible. I wanted revenge for being me. In a very real way, though, it was all just a sick fantasy, a desperate attempt to bleed off the pressure a bit. If I thought how easy it would be, I relaxed a bit. They became the scapegoat for all the troubles in my life. I could play the "If only you knew game".

I knew I lacked the courage to do it myself. Being evil isn't a game that I could play by myself. So you find others to play. And you make plans, never really thinking it was going to happen. But then the gunshots roar, and 15 years of your personal evolution is stripped away, and it's real, oh God, it's real! What the hell was I thinking? And you try to back away from the horror of it, the image you see of yourself in the mirror, but you can't. And you lie, and you lie, trying to back away from it. Only, two of the only people that ever really cared about you are dead, and those that are left might die when they realize the truth.

So I ran, ran from the nightmare of what I had done and become. I was afraid of what was going to happen to me, and was running from the horror of me. I saw it all: the trial, the conviction, the needle. For weeks, I tried to erase the image of seeing my loved ones look at me through the glass as the tubes were inserted into my arms. The disappointment, the hate. So I ran. The only power I had now, I reasoned, was to ensure that when the day of the needle came, my family would cheer it, rather than cry over it. So like a coward I left them without a word. I didn't want anyone on the other side of that glass. I still don't.

There are those that think that my 18 month hiatus in the mountains of Mexico was a selfish action. Good. My personal fear was a major part of it, admittedly, but the majority wanted everyone to think it was selfish-it was designed to look that way so those who had cared for me wouldn't any longer. What I didn't expect was that I would find God again in those mountains. Or that my father would forgive me for what I had done. (That's another story, and a huge one, and I will write about that in another journal entry.) You might consider, though, that for those of you who have written me to say that you have a hard time fitting me into your mental image of a Death Row prisoner, it might be entirely because of that forgiveness. Think about the power of that, and how it might be applied into your own lives. All I can say in conclusion is this: Mom, Kevin, I would trade places with you in death 1000 times a day. I wish I had killed myself, instead. I'm so sorry. So sorry.

So, send me your hate mail if it makes you feel better. If it somehow bleeds the pressure in your own life. Just don't ask me to hate myself more than I already do. It can't be done. It can't be done.

I look back on this writing and it's all wrong. How can you reduce your entire life to a few pages of text? I did my best, and it is as I feared: totally inadequate. I'm sorry.

Why was none of this brought up during the trial, you ask? Good question. My attorney didn't think psychological issues were relevant in this case. Or the drug abuse. And besides, trials are designed to filter out this kind of stuff. They want cold, hard facts, not feelings.

I can't write much more of this right now, so I'm going to end this with someone else's words, as somebody else has generally already said everything better than I could ever say it. In Milton's Paradise Lost, Satan says that hell is wherever he is, for he cannot escape his own mind. Amen, Lucifer. Amen.


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

Monday, October 1, 2007

Cocktail from Hell

October 1, 2007 - 3:36 p.m.

You may have read in the newspapers this past week that the U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to hear arguments as to whether the current method of lethal injection is unconstitutional. It is likely that they agreed to hear the issue due to the increased number of botched executions in the past year. I never understood this issue when I was in the free world. I never liked capital punishment, but I thought that if we had to have it, putting someone to sleep with drugs was a pretty humane way to do it. I have since come to understand the truth of the three-drug cocktail, and I present that information here. The following information comes directly from case law. None of it is new, or unknown to State officials. The faint of heart should probably stop reading here.

The current drug cocktail causes death by poisoning the person with a lethal combination of three chemical substances: Sodium Thiopental, or Sodium Penththal (an ultra short-acting barbiturate); Pancuronium Bromide, or Pavulon (a curare-derived agent which paralyzes all skeletal or voluntary muscles, but which has no effect on awareness, cognition, or sensation); and Potassium Chloride (an extraordinarily painful chemical which activates the nerve fibers lining the person's veins and which can interfere with the rhythmic contractions of the heart and cause cardiac arrest). While each of these chemicals individually creates concerns about their use in the execution process, in combination they cannot pass constitutional muster. Far from producing a rapid and sustained loss of consciousness and humane death, this particular combination of chemicals often causes the inmate to consciously suffer an excruciatingly painful and protracted death.

Over the last two decades, however, numerous states, and most recently the State of Texas, have enacted statutes regulating the euthanasia of animals which preclude using the same combination of drugs currently administered to human beings during executions. If evolving standards of decency, as reflected by legislative action and the professional association of veterinarians preclude the use of these particular drugs when killing a dog or a cat, then certainly those same standards of decency would require a more humane, readily available version of the lethal injection for human beings as well. Anyway. Here is what the drugs actually do to the human body.

Sodium Thiopental: This drug, also called sodium pentothal, is a short-acting barbiturate which is ordinarily used to render a surgical patient unconscious for mere minutes, only in the induction phase of anesthesia, specifically so that the patient may reawaken and breathe on their own power if any complications arise in inserting a breathing tube pre-surgery. Because of its brief duration, sodium thiopental may not provide a sedative effect throughout the latter two stages of the execution process. Given the fact that several minutes pass between the administration of the first and second drugs, this is virtually guaranteed. Dr. Dennis Geiser, the chairman of the Department of Large Animal Clinical Sciences at the College of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Tennessee, recently explained:


"Sodium Thiopental is not a proper anesthetic for use in lethal injection. Indeed, the American Veterinary Medical Association standards for euthanasia indicate that the ideal barbituric acid derivative for animal euthanasia would be potent, long-acting, stable in solution, and inexpensive. Sodium pentobarbital (not sodium thiopental) best fits these criteria. Sodium thiopental is a potent barbituric acid derivative but very short acting with one therapeutic dose."

(See his affidavit HERE)

Due to the chemical combination used in the Texas execution process, there is also a probability that the sedative effect of the sodium thiopental is neutralized by the second chemical, pancuronium bromide. As Dr. Mark Heath, Assistant Professor of Clinical Anesthesia at Columbia University states:


"Sodium thiopental is an ultra short-acting barbiturate. It would not be used to maintain a patient in a surgical plane of anesthesia for purposes of performing surgical procedures. It is unnecessary, and risky, to use a short-acting anesthesia in the execution procedure. If the solution of sodium thiopental comes into contact with another chemical, such as pancuronium bromide, the mixture of the two will cause the sodium thiopental immediately to precipitate or crystallize. These factors are significant in the risk of the inmate not being properly anesthetized, especially since no one checks that the inmate is unconscious before the second drug is administered."

(See his affidavit HERE).

Concerns about using sodium thiopental are heightened by the lack of medical personnel, the lack of proper monitoring of the inmate during the process and the lack of inmate-specific dosing of the barbiturate.

According to Dr. Geiser:


"The dosage of thiopental sodium must be measured with some degree of precision, and the administration of the proper amount of dosage will depend on the concentration of the drug and the size and condition of the subject. Additionally, the drug must be administered properly so that the full amount of the dosage will directly enter the subject's blood stream at the proper rate. If the dosage is not correct, or if the drug is not properly administered, then it will not adequately anaesthetize the subject, and the subject may experience the untoward effects of the neuromuscular blocking agent..."

In other words, the patient feels what is going on.

Pancuronium Bromide: The second chemical used in the execution process, called pancuronium bromide, or Pavulon, is a derivative of curare that acts as a neuromuscular blocking agent. If, as is probable in the Texas execution process, the sedative effect of the sodium thiopental is ineffective or neutralized, the pancuronium bromide would serve only to mask the excruciating pain of the condemned inmate. Pancuronium bromide makes the patient look serene because of its paralytic effect on the muscles. The face muscles cannot move or contract to show pain. It therefore provides a "chemical veil" over the proceedings. By completely paralyzing the inmate, pancuronium bromide masks the normal physical parameters that an anesthesiologist or surgeon would rely upon to determine if a patient is completely unconscious and within a proper surgical plane of anesthesia. Because pancuronium bromide is an invisible chemical veil and not a physical veil like a blanket or hood that is easily identifiable, the use of pancuronium bromide in lethal injections creates a double veil. It disguises the fact that there is a disguise over the process. (See affidavit HERE).

In the case of Abdur' Rahman v. Bell, Dr. Geiser asserted that while Pavulon paralyzes skeletal muscles, including the diaphragm, it has no effect on consciousness or the perception of pain or suffering. Administration of Pavulon is like "being tied to a tree, having darts thrown at you, and feeling the pain without the ability to respond." (Affadavit of Dr. Dennis Geiser, in the case of Abu-Ali Abdur' Rahman v. Bell, 226F.3d 696 - 6th Cir. 2000. Cert granted on grounds, 122S.Ct 1463 - USA April 8, 2002, No. 01-9094).

This assertion is corroborated by the experience of eye surgery patient, Carol Weihrer. During Ms. Weihrer's surgery the sedative she received was ineffectual and Ms. Weihrer was conscious the entire surgery. Due to the administration of a neuromuscular blocking agent like pancuronium bromide, however, she was unable to indicate her consciousness to others.


"I experienced what has become to be known as Anesthesia Awareness, in which I was able to think lucidly, hear, perceive, and feel everything that was going on during the surgery, but was unable to move. It burnt like the fires of hell. It was the most terrifying, tortuous experience you can imagine. The experience was worse than death."

(See her affidavit HERE).

In short, the second chemical, pancuronium bromide, or Pavulon, in the lethal injection protocol serves no purpose other than to guarantee that the condemned inmate will be forced into a total chemical straight jacket and gag while he consciously experiences the potassium chloride ravaging his internal organs. Persons viewing the lethal injection procedure and the public will never realize that a cruel fraud is being perpetrated upon them: instead of witnessing an inmate quietly and motionless while being "put to sleep", they are witnessing the cover-up of a deliberate act of torture only the inmate is aware of.

Potassium Chloride: Finally, the use of potassium chloride itself raises important Eighth Amendment concerns. James J. Ramsey, a certified perfusionist and currently the Program Director in the Program in Cardiovascular Perfusion at Vanderbilt Medical Center, Nashville, Tennessee, gave a lengthy statement in Abdur Rahman's case regarding the use of potassium chloride in lethal injections. Perfusion is the study of medicine related to the artificial circulation technologies, including but not limited to the operation of the heart-lung machine, a medical device commonly used during open-heart surgeries of all kinds. The area involving the chemical arrest of the heart lies uniquely within the practice of the clinical perfusionist. Regarding the administration and efficacy of potassium chloride in the lethal injection context, Ramsey stated that:

"It is my understanding that during the performance of lethal injection as carried out during the death penalty, potassium (and other agents) are administered intravenously to the defendant. Such administration is, in my professional opinion based upon my knowledge, training, and experience, and within a reasonable degree of medical certainty, entirely inadequate in order to achieve reasonable cardiac standstill. Since the agents are introduced intravenously, there will occur an immediate dilution of the solution, weakening any potential effect it might have. By illustration an 80 kilogram person would have a blood volume of approximately 5.5 to 6 liters. An administration of 100 milli-equivalents of potassium intravenously to the 80 kilogram person would result in a blood concentration of only16.6 meq/L. Such a dose is according to scientific literature...and evidenced in my practice, inadequate to achieve cardiac standstill. Furthermore, it must be remembered that in contrast to the administration of the potassium chloride in the surgical context, such administration is: 1.) Not directed into the coronary arteries; 2.) directed only in an antegrade fashion; 3.) is at mormothermia (37 degrees Celsius, NOT at 5 degrees Celsius). Without reasonable data regarding any one person's anatomic and pathologic state as to their myocardial function prior to administration of the potassium, there can be no reasonable certainty that the potassium solution intended to arrest the heart would be distributed in a fashion that would arrest the heart. Thus, the very orchestrated and methodical methods used in surgery should not be thought of as optimizing the arrest of the heart, but should be considered to be necessary as the only reasonable mans of ensuring that the heart is arrested. If the heart could be arrested by intravenous objections, cardiac surgery today would be a very different animal-science and research tells us that mere intravenous injection of potassium is not sufficient. Additionally, in my professional opinion and within a reasonable degree of medical certainty, barring an effective cardiac arrest, it is entirely possible that a lethal injection as I understand it will serve ONLY to arrest the function of the pulmonary system, thereby causing a state in ischemia to the entire body (no oxygen delivery), which, in turn, will ultimately arrest the heart as well (with no oxygen delivery to it.) As a result, the defendant is simply suffocated due to lack of oxygen."

So, basically, you get paralyzed, and then get to feel the potassium shut down your internal organs. That's pretty much the long and short of it. If some of the language here seemed like lawyerese, and unlike my normal writing style, that is because I simply stole a lot of that from legal briefs. Personally, I wish they had brought the firing squad back. At least then you could die on your feet, like a man. Give me my last cigarette (I don't smoke, but, hey, why not?) and my casually indifferent sneer. (Insert French accent here) "Well, get on with it, I haven't got all day." At least that is better than being strapped to a gurney, wearing a diaper. Whatever the High Court decides, Texas is going to keep on killing people in the meantime (as evidenced by the execution of Louisiana Red on Tuesday). I'm sure Texas still has "Old Sparky" around somewhere, ready to go, just in case.

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