Friday, March 25, 2011

DeathWatch Journal for Lee Taylor – 84 days to live

Highlighting the purely arbitrary manner in which death sentences are handed out in this great nation, the economic crisis of the last few years has drastically reduced the numbers of new arrivals here on the Row. Turns out, when DA’s are flush with cash, they feel more ethically relaxed about murdering people. Of course, that doesn’t mean that they have stopped killing the condemned, so Death Row keeps shrinking. Evidence of the diminishing size of this place was thrown into the realms of the glaringly obvious a few weeks ago when they officially converted another half pod of the Row into cells for General Population Ad-Seg inmates. That means of the original six pods set for Death Row, two are now set aside for population and one half of another is reserved for the “bad actors” on Levels 2 and 3. During this process, I was moved back to A-Pod, this time only two sections over from Death Watch. When I was on A-Pod previously, I had been able to see the men with dates only through picket windows; now, I am living right next door. I knew from this previous experience that my stoicism was going to be challenged living so close to misery and despair. Arnold Prieto recently wrote an excellent on the psychological effects one can experience just from observing the sadness in the men around you. This point was firmly driven home a few days after my arrival on A-Pod when my friend Lee “Tiny” Taylor was brought into Death Watch on a stretcher.

Contact with anyone on Death Watch is impossible, both from an architectural point of view and also from a security standing. This section is simply the mos
t well-policed location in the entire TDCJ system. So, naturally, within the first fifteen minutes of his arrival we had traded kites. I learned that he was to be Texecuted on the 16th of June. I remembered that during Kevin Varga’s time on Death Watch, his having an outlet to express his last thoughts was a very therapeutic activity for him, so I offered the reins of MB6 to Tiny as well. He quickly accepted; below you will find his first article.

Also from experience with Kevin, I am aware that many of you felt uncomfortable reading a Death Watch Journal. Proof of this could be seen from two sources: the letters to me personally which explained a sort of terrified revulsion, and also from the hit count numbers for this site that went into a tailspin. Look, I know this is hard. I know this far, far better than you do. But these journals are important. Important to the man writing, and also for you as a society that allows these things to happen. These journals are a mirror; if you don’t like the image staring back at you from your screen, this says far more about you than it does about me or Tiny. These are a man’s last thoughts, and such things are always, always important and worth paying attention to. They can be a gift, if you know what to do with them. And if you still don’t like that reflection after this is done, then you will know what is required of you. - TBW

“The Sunset"

A gigantic ball of lava, majestic, the sun gives us life.

Everything we know, the air we breathe, could not be without the ol’ man in the sky! Our trees that release oxygen would never grow, food would never produce without the sun. Throughout human history, from continent to continent, we've worshipped the sun. If not worshipped, it has always been noted as the key to our survival.

Today, in mass, we've become so caught up in ourselves that we forget to look up and ponder the power of our sun. My brother and best friend Robert "Tool" Pruett has opened my eyes to the beauty of our sun. I came to respect our Sun, if not worship it, at the end of everyday at sunset.

We have been on Level together for several months. Every day we would climb into our very small window of our death row cage to view the sun set. It became a spiritual bonding between us. "Sun set" we would remind one another, and regardless what we were doing, we would jump up into our windows. Fellowship is a very important human interaction, and we found this together in the daily viewing outside our windows.

On March the 21st, 2011, I went to sleep for a "power nap" around 1:30 PM. As I closed my eyes, I never thought that I would never see the sun set again. Around 3 PM I swam up out of dreamland to insistent knocking on my door. "Wake up, the Major wants to see you in his office." Two escort officers were at my door, and I knew it was to issue, or rather to notify me I that I had been given an execution date. Other guards had unofficially “notified" me in the traditional manner weeks before. My date would be June the 16th.

Once at the Majors office, I sat there surrounded by officers seeking some morbid thrill. I was calm and answered the normal questions about last meals. “Are you okay?" "Do you need a spiritual advisor?" "Do you get visits?" Etc, etc.

I went back to my cage on F-Pod, the worst part of this hellhole. Once there, I felt a wave of sympathy come from my fellow peers, all 84 cages. In their silence, it was evident that they knew and felt my pain.

I got into my house and packed my meager belongs to get moved to Death Watch on A-Pod. I stopped for short periods to say goodbye to my friends, who I would likely never see again. My bro Tool started singing “In This River" by Black Label Society. This is a very personal song to me, and he knew it. It will be my last parting expression to those I love as it is played at my funeral. As he belted out the lyrics I started crying ... out of love for him, because of my situation, for my wife ... so many emotions cascading over me. He said, “Come on man, one time for Jen (my wife)", but I couldn’t speak. I hope he knows why.

I finished packing and was talking to Robert ... We realized that once I left F-Pod and moved to A-Pod, I wouldn’t be able to see the sun set, because these tyrants placed Death Watch in cells that face a concrete wall, not the fields.

The escort team came on the pod around 4PM to move me. I asked them to wait for a couple of hours so I could view my LAST sunset. They were understanding, but had to talk to rank. So they left. Shortly thereafter Sgt Farris arrived to talk to me. She said that they had decided that I could NOT stay. I was in an emotional state. I said, fine, and I requested again, saying this peacefully. I really did not want trouble. I simply wanted to watch my last sunset. Only a couple of hours delay. Please.

She left, and the rank sent three other' officers to talk to me. All were telling me that they wanted me moved before they went home at 5:30PM. So I snapped and refused to move. I figured they would understand how important this was to me. Wrong. What happened next was not planned; simply it just occurred, unfolding as it happened.

A six man team came to my door, with five or six other officers. They all had on body armor and shields and gas. Two Lieutenants and two Sergeants were there, plus a few more thrill-seeking stragglers. I did NOT want to go like this! I simply wanted, no needed, to see this sun set. Again I tried to tell this to Lt Tolly. He would not even listen to me.' He over rode my plea with "Offender Taylor, you will come out or chemical agents will be used.” I was trying to explain, and he just yelled louder: "OFFENDER TAYLOR, YOU WILL COME OUT OR CHEMICAL AGENTS WILL BE USED." I was completely dumbstruck. How could they be so disrespectful? I submitted to a strip search and came out of my cage. I did not know what I was about to do. I was emotionally distraught. I just fell to the floor and tried to detach my emotions. But the one emotion that remained was anger. How dare these people treat a human being like this? I try to be respectful to these people. Eleven years now on Death Row, and I have never assaulted an officer.

While all the other inmates were kicking their doors and angry themselves, the riot team tried to pick me up once they had me cuffed and shackled. But I am a large man, weighing 250 pounds and very solid. So they dropped me ... then picked me up again. They should have got a straight board to carry me, but Lt Tolly was set to be ... well, Lt Tolly.

To carry a man by his arms and feet, face down, puts all the weight on the wrist. Lt Tolly knows this tactic well. I screamed because of the pain; I truly thought my wrists were about to break and I started to struggle. So they slammed me on the floor face first and put the collective weight of six men on my back and arms. Lt Tolly said,"Let him struggle, he’s not going no where."
Once I calmed down, they again picked me up, and again the pain became unbearable. I began to struggle once more, and I was slammed again. Eventually they put me on a stretcher and dragged me to A-Pod. Once they loaded me in my new house, they removed the cuffs and I could see that my wrists were bleeding and swollen. I complained, and they actually took pictures. But, of course, the whole incident was my fault.

To be fair, I don’t think that the 6 men on the extraction team were trying to hurt me. But at 250 lbs, there was no way I couldn’t get injured the way that Lt Tolly told them to carry me. I’ve been told by all of them that they didn’t agree with the situation. They thought it was stupid and cruel. I could see the sincerity on their faces. So I don’t fault the men on the team, as they were only a tool of rank.

How could they not take into account the emotional state I was in? Not to mention the fact that I’ve not been able to write to anyone in over a month, save for my wife whose address I have memorized? You see, on February 18th, they found **XXXXXXXXXX. When they found this, they took my property and my address book, and I still don’t have that stuff back. So I was dealing with that, also. I cannot write my family and friends, and I cannot write to the courts about my case. So here I am on DeathWatch with less than 90 days to live and no way to write my lawyer. Even though I am now on A-Pod, my Level 2 status still applies, so I cant make store, thus no stamps. Fine mess I have put myself in.

I heard that my wife and mother have called the unit, but they say that they don’t know anything about my addresses, and all of this is making it difficult to stay calm. I am truly at a loss. I just want to die in peace. But with such oppression, how can I do anything but rebel? I do NOT want to fight these people! I want to be fighting my case! I have pleaded with them to let me make Level 1 in time to get some stamps and some food before I die, but they are not listening. I do not know what I am going to do.

I have less than 90 days to live. I will try to write some more as the days go on. Thank you for reading this.


Lee Taylor

**Admin note: Some sections of the entry have been edited

© Copyright 2011 by Lee Taylor and Thomas Bartlett Whitaker. All rights reserved.


Admiral_John said...

Throughout my adult life I've been a proponent of capital punishment. I studied it in college and have always considered myself an "expert" on it and how it's applied.

Since I started reading this blog, my attitudes have begun a slow shift on my beliefs on capital punishment. While I can't say I don't agree with it in certain cases, the conditions that the prisoners on Death Row in Texas are forced to endure is outrageous and make me want to vomit.

I found Lee's post difficult to read, but read it I did, and I'll continue to read them, because if I want to say "I believe in the death penalty" I have to subject myself not only to the cold facts and statistics, but I also have to experience the human side of it.

Lizzy said...

I got to know Lee over the past few years, what is going on over there in Texas,i just dont get it ,if a 16 year old boy can get a life sentence,then be put together with realy bad adult criminals,trying to survive in there he has to join a gang,and in one of those gang fights he then in self defants stabs an inmate!!! Where were the guards when this happend,i do not think that he deserves to be executed for that!!!I feel so helpless that i cant stop this, i am in Germany and i cant do nothing for Lee and Jen and its breaking my heard,i will not give up hope,Lee we are with you every step of your way where ever it may take us you are a wonderfull loving and caring person and we are blessed to have you as a friend, we love you very much ,sending love and respect your way Petra ,Tasha and little big L ( Elias)