Thursday, April 28, 2011

DeathWatch Journal for Lee Taylor – 50 days to live

Unrealized Potential
by Robert Pruett #999411

Over the past few years I’ve come to truly appreciate the simple things in life like the sunset. It astonishes me that I’m made up of the same substance as that magnificent ball of fire which has been powering our planet for billions of years.

The only place on death row the sunset can be seen is on F-pod, the disciplinary wing. I was on F-pod last month when word came that Lee “Tiny” Taylor, who was just three cells down from me at the time, had been given an execution day. He was to be moved to “death watch”, on A-pod, that afternoon. Tiny respectfully asked to be left on F-pod so he could watch one last sunset with me, He knew that his only view on death watch would be another cell block and that it would only be a couple of hours before the sun would set. Tiny’s request was denied so he refused to move of his own volition.

When I first met Tiny back in 2003 I was struck by the many parallels between our lives. We’re both the same age (he’s nine months older), we come from the same neighborhood on the east side of Houston (Channelview), our dysfunctional and poverty-stricken families closely resemble one another and even though we never met in the free world we ran with the same caliber of people: thieves, drug dealers and street hustlers. We’ve been with the same girl, Amy Perry, and made enemies with the same guy, Charlie Morgan. Sadly, the greatest parallel connecting us is that we were both certified as adults in 1995. At the ripe old age of sixteen we were both thrown into the TDCJ for the rest of our lives. It follows that Tiny quickly became one of my closest friends in life.

A couple of months ago a friend from out old neighborhood visited me. As she told me about her life now, how the dope dealers still own the streets, and that violence and crime are still rampant, I kept thinking: Tiny and I never stood a chance. Almost everyone I asked about from the past is either in prison, out on parole or dead.

Later, I thought a lot about human behavior and what shapes and forms our personalities. Regardless which side of the fence you stand on in the nature versus nurture debate, or even if you are like me and think we’re subject to a combination of both, you’d probably agree that many factors influence our development. Tiny and I were raised in the tough streets of Houston by ill-equipped parents. Food was scarce so we stole to eat. Drugs were aplenty so we used them to alleviate the stress of home life. Our role models were the best thieves and biggest dope dealers. In essence, we were conditioned to be criminals.

In my opinion, it takes a strong-willed and determined individual to overcome the obstacles Tiny and I faced growing up. Obviously, we both failed. Still the question begs to be asked: could we have learned to overcome those obstacles one day? The story of little Alex in A Clockwork Orange comes to mind. As a youth he was a violent criminal who was put through an unethical government program to “correct” his behavior. The government program did not work. Alex later grew out of his juvenile delinquent behavior on his own. How many times have you heard someone refer to their “wild youth”? For most people there seems to be a natural progression that lets them put their wildness behind them as they get older. Tiny and I never had that opportunity.

Think about it this way. In most states you have to be at least sixteen years old to drive a car, eighteen to smoke a cigarette and twenty-one to drink a beer. There’s a curfew for those who are seventeen and under in most cities. Car insurance companies decrease their rates as their client’s age. What’s the reason for all of this? Obviously with age comes maturity and, hopefully, responsibility. Somehow our politicians have lost sight of this in their rush to curb juvenile crime. In Texas you can get a life sentence at age fourteen and be thrown into the penitentiary with the most violent of criminals.

Tiny and I were cheated of our youth. Politicians who don't give a fuck tossed us into prison at age sixteen and baptized us by fire inside the dangerous, and often deadly, walls of the Texas prison system. Unless something happens to one of their kids, these politicians just don't give a fuck. Problem is, their kids live sheltered lives in gates communities. Their kids don't face the hurdles kids like Tiny and I did, and when they do find themselves in trouble, no matter how serious the crime, daddy is there to grease the judge’s hand.

A five-man extraction team was suited up to move tiny to death watch, where he’s await his June 16th execution date. Watching my friend and brother being carried off of F-pod and denied one last sunset shook me to my core. Tiny wasn’t aggressive or violent. He simply refused to walk. He made the guards carry him.

The truth is, we’ve grown up a lot together. Five years ago officers would have been hurt as a result of how they treated Tiny. Sadly, very few people care about our maturation. What matters to most if that we be put to death for the actions of our youth, regardless of the mitigating and extenuating circumstances surrounding our past. Hopefully one day our society will wake up and find better alternatives to combating juvenile crime than simply throwing us away.

Robert Pruett #999411
Death Row, Texas.

© Copyright 2011 by Robert Pruett and Thomas Bartlett Whitaker. All rights reserved.


John said...

I read this blog, and although I agree with the argument "we mature as we age," and I am very happy that you recognize this, I believe it is ultimately a flawed train of thought regarding your circumstances. Biased on your part, if you will. I realize there are circumstances dictating every action, be that justified or not. I haven't dug in depth into the circumstances of your cases, and you're being on death row is not a factor in this, but you've been convicted of murder twice. Most people when they say, "I was wild in my youth," mean something to the effect of: juvenile criminal mischief, egging someones house, painting/stealing a street sign, getting in to a fight or two, drunken debauchery etc. I would venture to guess when you use that phrase, most people, have not committed murder. Our system is flawed in many ways, I will concede, but to some extent you can't blame your decisions on your situation growing up.

There is a Brig.Gen. that is the Commandant of the Corps of Cadets at Texas A&M now that is from the 3rd ward in Houston, if I'm not mistaken. His name is BGN Joe Ramirez. He's from those same conditions you speak of, went to Texas A&M, graduated, became a General in the U.S. Army, and now returned to serve his alma mater. One of the most successful people I've ever met, and he openly shares his story of his trials and life.

I hope you understand this has nothing to do with your sentence, rather the accountability for your actions. I do not have enough information to make a decision whether or not I believe you should be on the row or not, so I will not even begin to venture down that slippery slope. Besides, my personal opinion on your sentence is irrelevant. You just came off as, "I had a rough life, that's why I did this."

God Bless, and God be with Mr. Taylor.

Kathy said...

I completely agree with John's comments. There are many people throughout history and current day who have come from unfortunate backgrounds and who have overcome that and done something meaningful with their lives.

My prayers are with you.

Melissa said...

How come you never talk about the father who loved and prayed with you, and tried to spare you the death penalty? What about your late mother and brother? You always seem to talk religion, philosophy, abolishment of the death penalty, etc, but not them. If you have changed at all, or really have remorse, wouldn't they be your focus?