Friday, February 17, 2012

In Response to Feministe

On the 26th of December, “feministe” left me a post in response to my (apparently)  ham-fisted entry Scars and the Path Northward.  Like all of her posts, I found this one interesting and worthy of a response.  This is what she wrote:

feministe said...
I have a lot of varied reactions to this post for you.

- Life vs. LWOP vs. death: you say that you wouldn't ever choose LWOP, but then go on to lay out a number of ways in which you believe that you could live a gainful life in prison. So why not LWOP, especially since you acknowledge that you have no serious possibility of parole even if sentenced to life? Are you saying that, if you received penalty-phase habeas relief (given that there's no serious guilt-phase issue in your case) and your case was sent back for a new trial, you would roll the dice again - go for another trial in which a Texas jury could pick death, just to see if you could get life rather than LWOP?

- As a side note: I oppose the death penalty in all circumstances and therefore do not support your execution. However, I find your supercilious tone in referring to Texas' death row as a "world of meticulously orchestrated pre-meditated murder" to be difficult to swallow, given that, with all due respect, you are no stranger to orchestrating that very thing.

- Your comments about the maximum security inmates on E-Pod ("And – lucky you – most of those guys on E-Pod actually have parole dates. They will be in your communities shortly.") actually weigh in favor of members of the public supporting LWOP, which I don't believe was your intent.

- Thank you for giving MWH's writings a forum on this blog. I had previously read his writings about San Quentin/California's death row and found them very illuminating. It's great to be able to follow his post-death row experiences; he writes with a good deal of humor and insight, but manages not to take a self-pitying, persecuted tone (which was true even when he was on the row).

- Your comments about Huntsville and other inmates expressing regrets prior to their execution are downright offensive. I certainly agree with you that the "regret and reformation" process should start well before an inmate's final day, but I don't see that that justifies your expression of contempt for people expressing remorse/regret on that final day as well - especially since their execution day is often the first time since their trial that they can express those sentiments to their victims' families face-to-face. (Your situation is obviously exceptional, and you have had more contact with the (surviving) members of your family/victims' family than most on the row.) When you say this: "This is the most intensely personal moment of our lives, the one time where you can think only about yourself, to indulge in the solipsisms which are distasteful in other contexts." I beg to disagree. If your premature death is a direct result of your having coldly and cruelly taken other people's lives, it seems quite fitting to give them some thought at the end, too. And to their credit, many who breathe their last at Huntsville do just that.

To begin with, you managed to expose a flaw in my thinking on the “life vs LWOP vs death” debate, one that I have not been able to reconcile completely for the entirety of my stay here.  I could probably spend a few paragraphs giving you some flowery claptrap that would lay out the different gravitational pulls of my varied chains of reasoning, but it boils down to this:  everything that I see around me, every experience that I have ever had in my life, every prognostication of the future that seems sensible to me, compel me to view the concept of hope as a delusion of the most treacherous QUALITY  I say this, usually in what I know to be a slightly arrogant, slightly fashionably jaded tone, a sort of dramatic flourishing of my existentialist credentials.  And yet…I am afflicted with optimism, way down deep to the marrow.  No matter how badly I wish to wrap myself in the comforting blanket of nihilism, this thing keeps rising up to overwhelm my good sense.  Deep in my core, underneath my defense mechanisms and my desire to be oh-so-fucking-cool, I believe in a vision of man overcoming his bonds, of him triumphing over his flaws.  One cannot be a political progressive (which I am) without a deep belief in certain types of hope.  If the courts were to reverse my sentence and it were changed to the regular capital life sentence which corresponds to the 2003 statute (under which I fall by law), I could and would do everything in my power to live nobly behind bars, to “be the change I desire to see around me”, as MWH so helpfully and artfully noted.  I am tough enough to face a 40-calendar year life sentence, even knowing that the actual likelihood of ever being paroled after my eligibility comes up is effectively zero.

LWOP, however, offends and assaults everything I believe in.  It irrevocably denies any possibility of rehabilitation; it eviscerates hope entirely.  It is for this reason that I would never sign for it, even if that were the only way to evade a return to death row.  Would I roll the dice, as you put it, on another trial?  I would hope that it would not come to that, that no responsible District Attorney would (again) waste millions of dollars of taxpayer money on a non-victim-supported death penalty trial.  But, to answer your question, yes, yes, I would.  I can face my death.  What I cannot face is a life without some tiny ray of light at the end of the tunnel, even if I know that it is highly unlikely that my body will last long enough to actually feel those rays hit my face.  I am a goal-directed person.  Even an impossible goal will consume me for a lifetime.  Without any hope, though, well, I am not that strong, plain and simple.  I am very aware of what this means in regards to my pathological fear of illusions.  I guess, in the end, even I am willing to accept an illusion or two just to make it through the day.  I am surprisingly less ashamed than I thought I would be, admitting that.

“The sword of justice is in our hands; but we must
blunt it more often than sharpen it.” – Voltaire.

My comments about E-Pod have a double edge, one I was aware of when I wrote that piece.  Many of the themes in the real world do.  None of them have simple, one-sentence answers.  One can take the uninvolved way out of the problem of mass incarceration and the increasing levels of institutional “super predators” by simply dumping LWOP on everyone.  That does seem to be the trend, admittedly.  LWOP is a sort of reduction ad absurdum of our entire penal ideology:  lock everyone up forever, and toss out the key.  They point that I have made on this site is that the problem is never going to be solved in this manner.  All that will result from treating human beings like this is that we end up with unit after unit filled to the girders with LOWPers who have been so damaged by the system that they only know how to respond to the world around them with violence.  Look at California.  They are a bit further down the curve than we are in Texas on this matter.  It is not an easy argument to be made that what these human beings need is kindness, not hatred or derision or scorn or more stigmas.  It’s not politically popular to mention tactics of this sort.  It’s certainly much simpler to say something like, “Well, if you can’t do the time, don’t do the crime!!!!!!”  What has that ideology bought us?  Let’s be realistic here, and think with our brains and not our hearts of our fists.  Look around you.  Instead of new highways and schools, we have bloated prison budgets which are just barely capable of floating above the line of constitutionality.  Unfortunately for the “lock-em-up crowd”, I don’t have to appeal to some vague moral concept of the golden rule of the Categorical Imperative in order to fix this.  I don’t have to say things like, “Well, it may not be easy or popular, but it is right.”  I happen to believe these things, but all I really have to do is to solve the dilemma of E-Pod is to take a look at how other nations and states within the US have already solved the problem.  It is not a coincidence that the rise of the “cell warrior” came about at the exact same time as long-term solitary confinement or “truth in sentencing” laws.  I am not simply stating that there is a correlation.  I am explicitly stating that there is a direct causation, one that has already been exhaustively proven.  Europe has no facilities like the one I live in; neither do they have the same sort of ultra-punitive laws.  Neither do they have penal super-predators or recidivism rates like we do.  Maine recently did away with the vast majority of its long-term seg cells, and they experienced no uptick in violence in general population.  Facts like this abound.  All one has to do to find them is play google-detective for a few minutes.  A few states – most notably New York – have made drastic reduction in prison size and harsh sentences, and the state-wide crime rates have fallen.  The bottom line here is, if I were a warden, I would already know how to stop most of the violence on E-Pod.  If I know this, why doesn’t the system?  The solution is so simple that I have concluded that the problem is not with the guards (who also know how to fix this, and if any of them happen to read this site, I would welcome some comments and suggestions below).  Neither is the problem with most of the mid-level ranking officers.  It is basically the REMF’s in the offices and in the statehouse that make these rules, sending others to do the real work of implementation.  But that is an entirely different entry, isn’t it?

“If you are required to kill someone today, on the promise
of a political leader that someone else shall live in
peace tomorrow, believe me, you are not only a double
murderer, you are a suicide, too.” – Katherine Anne Porter

Is it “supercilious” (nice word, btw) of me to expect society to behave in a manner more noble than its criminals?  If so, I guess I deserved that comment.  I am guilty of what you claimed of me, at any rate.  I’ve not hidden from the reality of what I have done, much as I might have liked to.  You have seemed far too intelligent in your posts for me to believe that you really think society should stoop to the level of the criminals it locks up.  This isn’t the Egyptian desert, and you aren’t some ignorant Jewish sheepherder.  I know that you cannot be advocating that rapists be raped and all murderers be murdered.  Color me confused, then.  I am with you on the rest of your comment, but you lost me here.  Perhaps your objection centers upon my choice of wording?  Pretend for a moment, if you will, that I am not a prisoner, and instead an attorney writing for a noted law blog.  Would you object to a lawyer calling capital punishment “meticulously orchestrated murder”?  What about a judge, or a politician, or a former warden? (All of which, by the way, can be easily found in droves saying exactly that.)  If you find this claim less distasteful coming from someone else, you are falling victim to a logical fallacy I just mentioned in a recent post, that of the argumentum ad hominem, or attacking an opponent’s motives or character rather than the policy or position they maintain.  I am not a post-modernist.  I believe there are some objective truths in this universe, and that if statement X is true, it doesn’t matter if person A or B states it.  The fact that I killed (or caused to kill, to be more precise) in no way changes the fact that society ought not to compare its actions to my own when considering a moral response.  The actions of a group always have to be more considered, more rational, and more ethical than those of any single unit within the group.  Lose that, and you can kiss the entire thing good-bye.

“The executioner’s face is always well hidden.” – Bob Dylan

Perhaps you deny the equivalence of the death penalty with murder.  Fair enough.  I humbly suggest to you that the legality of a thing in no way directly addresses its morality.  In Texas, if I were to steal your cow, the punishment for this theft would be five times more radical than if I stole the equivalent amount of chickens from your coop. (That is, lamentably, not a joke.)  Laws are just laws.  Some of them are great, some of them are terrible.  Slavery and Jim Crow were legal, and you aren’t defending them, are you?  I suspect that the reasons some feel this way about the death penalty are manufactured by the medicalized nature of the lethal injection protocol.  There are no spouting streams of blood, no rolling heads locked in half-grimace, no broken bodies on the rack, no twitching limbs strung up from a tree.  What we have is a sterilized and thoroughly antiseptic procedure, carefully kept from the public view.  The executioner’s identity is a diligently guarded secret. (Although, seriously, how frigging difficult could it be to find out who he is? Just go sit outside the Walls Unit on the day of an execution and take down the license plates of every car that goes into the building. Jeez.)  Do you know how the process actually works?  When it becomes time for the condemned to meet his end, he is first forced into a diaper.  A special team of officers (known as the “execution team” or “kill team” in Texas) straps him to the gurney, oftentimes enlisting the inmate in the procedure by telling him they all need to get “through this thing together”.  Each man on the team has one specific task, so that he is insulated from feeling totally responsible for the action about to take place. (This fact is highlighted at several different points in the policy manual.)  Officers are given pep-talks prior to the arrival of the condemned, to initiate a process known in the literature as “numbing”.  (Please note the significance of this.)  These speeches treat the inmate as something inhuman, and thus also initialize a process known as “doubling” wherein the officers compartmentalize a portion of themselves away from who they really are in order to focus entirely on their “duty”.  Experts call this “the killing of self”, a term borrowed from the military.  Actually, several of the tactics used to prepare officers come directly from military manuals, like desensitization (including the chant of “kill, kill, kill”), conditioning (the soldier learns to shoot reflexively and instantly), and cultivation of denial (instilling a feeling that the enemy is a mere target, not a human being).   These methods combine a technological distancing (the medical nature of lethal injection), a high level of anonymity and the defusing of responsibility, and moral-distancing to make the entire thing come off like clockwork.  Despite all of the research and effort put into this, the turnover rate for the “kill team” is extraordinarily high.  One ex-member came to work here on the Row years ago.  I’ve mentioned Officer Woods before, when he committed suicide in the parking lot of the unit, right in the middle of his night shift.  On his t-shirt he had scribbled the words “do not resuscitate”.  I suspect that Officer Woods came to believe that what goes on at the Walls Unit is,  in fact, quite synonymous with murder.

In many states (though not Texas), there are multiple executioners.  Both will flip a switch or push a button, so neither knows which actually released the lethal cocktail.  The machine which controls the entire process then wipes its internal memory, interestingly and revealingly.  The executioner is never visible; he is always in another room where his mixing of the poisonous cocktail cannot be seen.  In Texas, actually, this partition is separated by a pane of one-way glass.  What you see when you look at the executioner is, appropriately, you.  I doubt this was intentional, but even a bunch of cop-minded rednecks can occasionally hit upon the sublime.  In states where the firing squad is still an option for inmates convicted decades ago, five shooters are used but only three or four have bullets, so no one can be certain that they actually delivered the kill-shot.  Do these people sound like they have any doubts about whether this is a murder or not?  This entire process is designed to make it seem like something less, but don’t confuse ends with means, madam.  When they get around to executing any of us, the cause of death on the certificate will read homicide, regardless of whether they inject us or hand us or shoot us or bury us alive in a mountain of gummy bears.

“No one wants to touch a smoking gun
But since they got injection
They don’t mind as much I guess
They just put ‘em down at Ellis Unit One.”
- Steve Earle “Ellis Unit One”

Try this thought experiment.  I recall a short story written by Franz Kafka called In the Penal Colony.  In this story, executions were done by an ingenious and insidious machine known as “The Harrow”, which bristled with needles.  Over a period of 12 hours, the Harrow etched the condemned man’s crimes onto his back, until he died from the wounds.  Of course, after a while the machine broke down and carved its victims to pieces.  Kafka wrote: “This was plain murder.”  Don’t let the relative cleanliness of lethal injection hide the truth of what it does.  It looks like a medical procedure, but it is not one.  This is political theater writ large.  Killing is killing.  Trust me when I tell you that for those of us down here, there is no qualitative difference between The Harrow and The Needle.

“What the hell was I doing here?  How had my career come to this?”
Donald Cabana, former Warden

Maybe you didn’t like the “meticulously orchestrated” bit, rather than the “murder” part.  I had two co-defendants.  In response to the depression and drug-induced insanity of three people, the SLPD, HPD, Texas Rangers, FBI, DEA, US Marshall’s Office, Greater Metropolitan Police Force of Monterrey, La Policía Estatal de Nuevo León, La Policía Ministerial de Nuevo León, La Agencia Federal de Investigación, and several departments of the northern Mexican military (SEDENA) were mobilized.  After my arrest, countless officers and jailers of the Fort Bend Sheriff’s Department held me in captivity for more than 18 months.  The staffs of the Limestone County Detention Center, Polk County IAH, and Grimes County Jail were similarly called upon.  During this time, at least six members of the FB DA’s office calculated – with great precision and at incredible expense to you – how to murder me.  12 jurors were called upon to make a horrid decision that never needed to be reached in the first place.  A trial judge was utilized.  So were 12 judges at the TCCA.  So was a federal district judge (and so on).  All of these people had clerks, assistants, bailiffs, secretaries, etc. etc.  Hundreds of officers have been needed to keep me in my 60 sq. ft. hole for five years this month.  If I get sick, I might see a nurse or a doctor.  If I go insane, they have an entire unit of professional mental health workers who are tasked with healing me, so I can be returned for execution.  Eventually, the Governor and his entire apparatus will be called upon to pass judgement.  I could go on.  The point is, thousands of people have worked in unison with the simple goal of strapping me to a gurney and then pumping poisonous toxins into my veins until my heart stops.  Call this what you like, friend.  Nothing any of us did to get here comes close to the premeditated precision of what they have done and intend to do to me.  On the day of my death, if I have a heart attack while being strapped to the gurney, a group of nurses (doctors refuse to participate in the process) is on stand-by with a portable defibrillator.  I would be revived, given a physical, and then killed.  And yet, I couldn’t even get 2 grand for an extended investigation…

If a person who deals with it on a daily basis doesn’t
call the public’s attention to the fact that it’s not working,
then who will?
-Gerald Kogan, former chief justice, Florida Supreme Court.

Finally, I want to address the comments you find to be offensive in regard to my opinion of people who wait until they are strapped to the gurney to express remorse.  You are probably right about this one.  Even as I defend myself here, know that I sort of agree with you that I am a jerk.  I have grown hard in ways that sometimes perplex me and which often cause me to feel ashamed.  The point that I was so clumsily attempting to make is that real remorse isn’t a few words.  It’s a lifestyle.  I definitely agree with you that the victims of violent crime need to hear repentance from the mouths of those  that so wounded them.  I am sorry that you thought I was saying otherwise.  I have no doubt that the men who express such remorse are genuine, up to a certain point.  That is the most emotional day of their entire lives, and one’s impending death tends to make one speak from the heart.  But the truly sorry, those truly attempting to right their wrongs, wouldn’t wait until the last day.  You are right that I have a unique situation with my dad, and his entire family.  I am a very lucky man for having the opportunity to heal those wounds.  What you don’t know is that for years now I have been using PI’s and contacts in the free world to locate people that I have harmed outside of my father’s family.  I always use a third party to contact them, so that I do not intrude where I am not wanted.  If they confirm that they would accept a letter from me, I write it.  This has not been easy, or cheap on my part.  I have not found everyone, nor have all of the ones I did find been open to hearing from me.  But at least I made the attempt.  Feministe, there are tons of internet sites out there where inmates can post their writings for free.  So, too, are there many groups organized to find pen pals for the condemned.  Every last man here has a multitude of resources he can use to build a support network, people who can make funds available to do just as I have done.  It’s not as if we don’t have the time for this, either.  Anyone who truly wishes to do this has the options to get it done, period.  (I myself have offered mb6 as a platform for this for several guys; none accepted.)  Maybe I am hard.  Maybe this place has finally found a way to kill the good parts of me that I have kept insulated deep inside.  But I cannot hide the fact that I believe that waiting until one’s last day to make amends is reprehensible.  My sorrow and regret fuel most of what I do.  Did you know this about me?  I literally run on self-hatred.  This compels me to keep a tight rein on my thinking and behavior.  A day doesn’t go by that I do not deny some minor pleasure because I don’t fucking deserve it.  Did you ever read Sir Gawain and the Green Knight?  I won’t bore you with yet another of my bizarre literary references (in any case, the story is incredibly tedious), save to say that Gawain fails in the test of his code of chivalry, and thus forces himself to wear a green belt for all of his days as a reminder of his failure.  “For where a fault is made fast, it is fixed evermore” (2512, the Marie Borroff translation).  My scar is my green belt.  If I feel like relaxing, maybe eating some tacos with my neighbors or drinking a few bottles of hooch, or if I decide that instead of spending some of my savings on yet another class I’d really rather get a magazine, or if I relax my discipline in any other way, all I have to do is feel my arm.  December 10th is my scourge, one I use daily to whip myself into shape.  I do not believe that real remorse – the kind that is necessary for rehabilitation – takes any other form.  We all talk about people having the ability to change, and yet so few ever really do.  This is why.  Change hurts.  It is worse than any physical torture because it requires you to see just what a horrid, despicable, downright ugly thing you really are.  Summoning the energy to work on this sort of process on a daily basis requires this sort of self-flagellation.  I’m sorry if it is ugly.  I only know that it works.

I wish that you could hear the noise on the run right now.  In every dayroom, a man is playing dominoes, slamming them down on the table.  His opponent is up in his cell, yelling out his moves.  Six guys on this section alone are in the middle of an NBA Fantasy Draft, picking players with great skill and deliberation.  They are incredible, each man knowing mountains of data on every player.  They do this for football, also, and baseball.  I have no doubt that these same six guys will be very sorry on the day that they are killed.  But when I look at how they spend their time here, I cannot help but wonder if they are really only sorry that they are about to die.  If they spent one-tenth of the energy on tracking down people they hurt and expressing genuine remorse as they do on their daily dose of fun, then their last words would seem far more genuine.  I intend to have that all wrapped up way before that day, so that I can focus on the actual process of dying.  It only happens once.  Seems the sort of thing one might want to experience with a clear sight and a clean conscience.  The time to fix anything that is broken is now, right now.  I managed it.  Keep in mind, this site was not built on family money.  I arrived on death row with nothing.  If some blithering doofus like me can figure this stuff out, anyone can.  Waiting is lazy.  It is disingenuous.  I have never been able to respect either quality, and I do not intend to begin now.

“The world breaks everyone, and afterwards
many are strong at the broken places.” – Ernest Hemingway

© Copyright 2012 by Thomas Bartlett Whitaker. All rights reserved


Admiral_John said...

Sometimes a crime that a person commits is so heinous and cruel that the state decides that you no longer have the right to be a member of society, regardless of any type of change you've made in prison.

Thomas, as far as I know, has never denied the crime he committed... because of his actions, his brother and mother are dead and his father has lost a son and a wife. When you commit that kind of unspeakable crime, you've lost the right to live in a free society.

I don't think that Thomas' involvement in this crime warrants the death penalty, especially since the actual shooter didn't receive it, but I do think that his actions have caused him to forfeit his right to ever live as a free member of society.

Andrew said...

Hello Thomas, Andrew from London here, still following your your online journal. I think your general comments on genuiness and timing of remorse were well considered and plausible. I am also convinced that expressing yourself in this way was therapeutic for you. However, I also feel that you should go FURTHER! Speak to/about your mother and brother - and do them the honour of using their NAMES! I know from our previous extended exchanges that this may not be easy for you; you should still go for it! Be as in-depth, expansive and heartfelt as you were when talking about regret and remorse in general, it'll liberate and unburdon you ... word by heartfelt word!

My Family said...

What is beyond sad is that you say "My Dad, and HIS family" Are they not your family, Thomas? I could never describe my parents family are "their family" They're MY family also. A family I love deeply. I'm sorry, but you seem exceptionally cold, and super supercilious. Furthermore, Andrew is correct. You NEVER mention your mother or brother. I feel you are an indubitable broken man. I do not believe you should die, nonetheless, I believe this world is a safer place with you behind bars. Perhaps this will get sent to you in private, yet probably not posted here. Ms Evans is very selective in what she posts. Love Thomas, or be blocked or ignored. I neither like or hate you. I just do not believe you are sorry. You are only sorry that you got caught. You cannot organise the murder or your whole family 5 times, and complain that you got the DP! Indubitably, you are not that stupid.

Dolmance said...

I find many of the comments here reflect a cruelty, including those from "Feministe," though she manages to provide a mask of intellectual detachment in an effort to hide the fact that she's got a mile wide sadistic streak.

I don't know Bart. But I do know that people don't kill their parents without underlying reasons - be it something within themselves or within their victims or both - and what that would be, I don't have enough information to speculate, beyond maintaining that it ain't dollars and cents. To suggest it's the usual prosecutor's charge of being all about "greed" or "he thought he was smarter than everyone else," is to me just nonsense.

I do believe a kind of strict religious upbringing is one in which parents refer all problems their children come across to empty air, essentially forcing them to be thankful for directing them to nothingness;there's a reason most great crimes perpetrated by youths, like mass school shootings and such, happen in highly religious communities - because the centerpiece of their lives is nothingness. Talk about fostering nihilism!

My Family said...

@ - Dolmance

Cruelty - Definition - As obviously you do NOT know what it means.

"Something, such as a cruel act or remark, that causes great pain or suffering"

So, "Bart" organizing to have his whole family shot dead isn't cruel? However Feministe is. Are you nuts? You evidently do not know what the word "cruelty means" Stepping over your dying mother is cruel. Killing your little brother is cruel. Feministe just made a statement. Bart, hired not one, not two, but THREE people to kill his entire family. I find it appalling that you would even consider blaming his religious upbringing. So, if you are raped as a child, you will go on to rape people. If you were beaten as a child, you will go on to beat people? What you are saying is completely absurd. Bart put himself on Death Row, no one else. He could have stopped the murder at any time. Bart hated his family and wanted them all dead. I don't believe money had anything to do with it though. He is just a cold blooded person, who only cares about himself. Also, he didn't hurt the family in Mexico as he was on the run, hiding from the FBI, and a whole lot of law enforcement officials. Killing anyone there would only bring attention to himself and the little town. By letting him free, many people would not be safe. If my English is bad. It's not my first language, and I do apologize.

Unknown said...

Dolmance said
"to provide a mask of intellectual detachment in an effort to hide the fact that she's got a mile wide sadistic streak"

I respectfully suggest that this comment exactly parallels Thomas in his writing.

To label the attempted execution of his entire family as "the depression and drug-induced insanity of three people" is to trivialise an act so barbarous as to shock any right-minded individual. The response following this that he goes into so much detail about (thank you for pointing out the extent of the cost, both materially and mentally) was caused entirely by him. I do not believe that his co-defendants, without his presence, would have gone on to murder two and attempt to murder a third person amd I wonder what extent that Thomas has gone to in addressing the hurt he undoubtedly caused them.

Andrew said...

'Unknown', I fully agree with you regarding 'Dolmance's' comments! I have corresponded with Thomas quite a lot and can confirm that Dolmance's opinion is a carbon-copy of Thomas' output in terms of thought development, sentiment, syntax and choice of vocabulary! I wouldn't be surprised if it is actually Thomas himself who posted those comments under Dolmance's name, in fact I am quite sure of this! - 'My Family's' comment pertaining to Thomas' (mis)use of the word or concept "cruelty" also was very astute, however I strongly feel that Thomas is somehow unable to treat the murder of his family with the same amount of sensitivity and appropriate ethical appreciation because inwardly he does not function the way most other people do. Thomas is a very HEAD-BASED person to whom intellectual capacity represents the totality of human functioning! This is the most fundamental area of deficiency that I have noticed in him. This lack in basic self-awareness is sooo decisive in some people, at times it may feel as if trying to explain Rachmaninov, Picasso or Shakespeare to a robot. Thomas has little appreciation of what he is (as a human being) and what instruments he was given to function. - Thomas, in short, you ARE a human spirit or human being, whether or not you accept that, but you HAVE intellect! This is the key distinction you fail to make. Intellect is simply the capacity to organise grossmaterial information. It is therefore comparable with the product that a computer delivers. The brain is merely a powerful built-in computer, however, it is operated by the actual being, the living entity, which is the ego, the spirit, or simply … YOU! And what I am saying about the brain being an instrument applies also the whole of your body. Your body can be likened to a custom-made spacesuit, literally, but it isn't synonymous or identical with who YOU are. But I am not optimistic you'll ever get this because staunch materialists such as yourself or your buddy Richard Dawkins aren't even clear on the most obvious distinctions between species. Dawkins in all seriousness thinks human beings are animals, albeit slightly advanced ones, demonstrating his ingrained idiocy and failure to recognise the fundamental differences in the core of each species; he only judges the material exterior and misses the immaterial nucleus, the actual … because he can't touch, quantify or measure it and is able only to recognise quantitative difference, not the qualitative one ... (to be continued)

Tracey said...

I am sorry Andrew but you are wrong. Dolmance is not Thomas. I would think that Dolmance would appreciate not being named so.

Andrew said...

And so here comes oh-so-clever Thomas along with his book knowledge, with his restricted little brain including its resultant limited capacity to comprehend, with his exclusive intellect reliance, with his pride (no disrespect intended) and tries to tell mankind that a human being's perceptive and productive faculty is his intellect only and that things such as spirit, soul and intuition don't exist!!! And when he's told that the real man is not his body he screams: “Prove this.” Ohhh, what poverty of spirit. Man, you gotta wake up! Are you seriously proposing to deny the existence of the immaterial spiritual core because it cannot 'be proved'??? So what's the psyche then? Ohhh, I see, so good old Sigmund has been wasting his time all along then, right ? - But again, with reference to your comments on these and other topics, you will probably be processing these elaborations and elucidations, too, in the only way you are able to digest them, that is: held fast firmly in your frontal lobe, which finds its outward manifestation in the mostly cold, detached and conceited disposition you display (on camera, in a large part of your writing & amplified in your letters). Your usual emotionally removed self. You need to warm up from within, Thomas! Wake up, integrate the two capacities inside, and stop confusing waking up with academic prowess through the accumulation of intellectual part-knowledge.

It would actually be fascinating to hear your self-formulated thoughts on art, beauty, melancholy, regret, remorse, empathy, yearning, joy (not fun !), sadness, humanity, connection, intuition, anguish, warmth, love, contrition and selflessness (none of which are quantifiable, measurable or 'provable'). I really mean this, I'd have genuine interest to hear you on these ...

This aforementioned and much greater than usual disconnect in you between your spirit and your intellect was also the defect that enabled you to sink to a depth ethically that is unimaginable to most people. - A little intermission here before I continue: as you may remember, in my first letter to you last year, I said that I saw no point in joining the ranks of all those who judge and condemn you for what you have done to your family; and that I was about the present and the future; this still stands. So anything I have to say here about that tragedy does not come from a place called 'judgement' but 'illustration'.

Closely connected with the spirit (and not the intellect) is the sense for good and evil, right and wrong (as well as all the other concepts I listed just two paragraphs ago), also called 'inner moral', which is not a result of nurture but a facility provided by nature. The human spirit is inseparably linked, imbued or equipped with a natural ethical compass: the conscience! This conscience or inner voice tells a person continuously whether something is right or wrong … unless s/he has buried it. And the burying is the deliberately and even forcefully maintained disconnect between spiritual and intellectual reasoning. So in order to commit a crime of the magnitude that you have, you had to overcome a very loud inner voice, your natural ethical compass, which screamed at and in you that what you were contemplating was morally unacceptable. So how were you nevertheless able to go through with the homicide campaign against your mother, father and brother? The answer to that lies in the dominance of the other faculty in you.

Andrew said...

Closely connected to the intellect (and not the spirit) is the sense for material gain, for profiteering, for unconscionability. Intellectual decision-making is purely concerned with gaining advantage, that is the brain's and the intellect's natural job description, like with any computer or software worth its salt. Do you play chess? Chess computer (brain) and chess software (intellect) are a good analogies here; a chess computer or its programming looks for material advantage and it does so very effectively because that is its sole occupation, that's what it is there for. It is cold and calculating! Mmmm, Thomas, does this ring a bell? However, decision-making in life obviously far surpasses the narrow and mechanical confines of a game of chess, the whole dimension of social interaction which necessitates reasoning that takes spiritual or ethical values (human warmth) into consideration is lacking entirely. Therefore, the person who allows or even forces the intellect to dominate his or her choices is able to overcome or dispense with the normal and natural compunctions that others would have when considering to do something amoral.

Thomas, it is of fundamental importance that you truly grasp the distinction between spirit and intellect. Look up for a second from this page … look around you. What do you see? Answer: Feedback! You're in a cell facing the harshest earthly penalty possible! What got you into this situation? When considering this question more deeply you'll find it is your failure to operate or use your intellect as an effective instrument from within, from the spirit, which would have guided your decision-making, would have supplied it with wisdom, humanity, empathy and warmth! Instead you relied on your intellect alone and consequently received the feedback from a morally outraged society with what they now deem to be your just deserts. And in your current development you now even go further in the wrong direction with the excessive cultivation of inferior things, character traits such as vanity, grandiosity and arrogance. Looked at more maturely, your supposed intelligence is actually utter stupidity. Most guys with a lower IQ than you and with comparable exposure to temptations (familial wealth) have not gotten themselves into the mess you're in, now have they? In sum, the disconnect within you between genuine humanity and intellectual prowess is the single most important issue you should concern yourself with. And you could begin by acknowledging your mother TRICIA & your brother KEVIN by name and in their humanity! Doing so would put you on a path from regret to remorse, because at present most of your readers seem to have a hard time believing you truly grasp the difference!

My Family said...

This was written about Bart by Billy Sinclair. How astonishing true is this! Whitaker does this in EVERY single post. Five years on and he is still doing it. It is exceedingly comical now.

I noticed also that Whitaker has a tendency to quote from famous literary works and writers. This is an outdated tactic used by inmates to impress the outside world that they are intellectual heavyweights who somehow have superior knowledge over the rest of the “dumb-asses” in the free world. No doubt Whitaker has probably read a few of the classics and highlighted those passages that captured his intellectual fantasy, and he now wants to impress the rest of the world with his deep insight into the hidden meaning of the natural order of things.

feministe said...


Thanks for your thorough response to my comments. I wanted to let you know that I read it in full. I delayed in responding because the comments thread here has been a bit heated, and I'd rather steer clear, for instance, of the debate about my supposed "mile wide sadistic streak" (!)

This response will be rather briefer than your lengthy post deserves. Your first section has given me food for thought with respect to the pros of indeterminate life sentences relative to LWOP. I understand what you are saying about the importance of the sliver of hope that a life with possibility of parole sentence allows.

As for your response on the "meticulously orchestrated murder" point, your point is well taken. I was objecting to the irony of someone who had, arguably, meticulously orchestrated murder complaining of the state's doing the same - but not to your underlying arguments: that it is wrong for the state to commit homicide via the death penalty, and that the state's wrongdoing via capital punishment leads to reverberating consequences even beyond the death of a condemned prisoner, such as the emotional harm (e.g. PTSD) done to many prison staff involved in executions. (I am also especially concerned about the harm that executions cause to the innocent children of those on death row.) In any event, I am vigorously opposed to the death penalty, and I have no problem with any of the arguments you proffered in your response to me. And I concede your argument that if something is true, it is true regardless of the speaker; you are as entitled to proffer anti-death penalty arguments as anyone else (in a sense, arguably more so, given the high stakes for you). Consider my "supercilious" comment retracted - though I still feel slightly uncomfortable with the above-described irony.

Finally, thank you for your clarification of your concerns on the failure of some others on the row to take responsibility for their actions prior to their execution date. I understand your argument, at least. I would be interested in your comments on this related topic: it is common in postconviction litigation for capital petitioners to raise claims of mental retardation, incompetence, paranoid delusions, organic brain damage, and/or other mental disabilities that impede their functioning, whether in ways that affect their culpability for their capital crime(s) or in ways that affect their ability to function daily, comprehend legal proceedings, express remorse, etc. Do you think that these mental issues explain some of your fellow inmates' failure to take responsibility or make amends in the reasoned, high-functioning way that you would prefer? If not, why not?

AJ said...

My Family- While obvious you dislike Thomas and find ways to denegrate his posts, or those in support of him, please ensure you know what you are talking about. Thomas has always been well read and I don't know many undergrad students, grad students, or technical writers who don't do the same thing. Oh, and it's clear he doesn't know what he is doing since he managed to use proper formatting in a blog. Please stick with the reason he is in prison. Don't attack his literacy, proper use of grammar, and respect for the English language as a whole.