Thursday, March 28th 2019, the day that the State of Texas had planned to eradicate me from existence. As they had my four co-defendants who were part of the Texas 7. Only Randy Halprin and myself remained. I awoke at 3:45am, after only a few hours of fitful sleep, to the sound of the food cart bringing breakfast, and packed all of my property. I wanted to give everything to specific friends and family of mine in the free world. I sorted everything and put what I wanted each person to have in a labelled envelope and bags so that there would be no confusion. My property filled five plastic mesh bags about the size of the average laundry bag. It consisted of letters, books, photos, commissary food, appliances – fan, radio, hotpot, reading light – and clothing I’d bought from the commissary – gym shorts, T-shirts, socks, and thermals.
I began to pace in my small concrete cell, thinking about how I had reached this point in my life, the many harmful decisions and the wrong turns that I had made. After realizing where my train of thoughts was leading I decided to meditate. Even after meditating for several years it still took me several long minutes to calm my mind and body until I could follow my breath inward bringing peace and comfort. I began a quiet chant, “O-Mi-to-Fo”, calling upon the Buddha until two grey-suited guards with somber faces took me to another box so I could shower. By then I felt centered and calmed down. The hot water helped to ease the tension.
After the shower I was taken to the dayroom, located directly in front of the cells, which is just another barred cage used to allow us to recreate. I was briefly put on display before being taken to my last visits at 8am.
At 8am two stoic looking male guards arrived to escort me out to visitation. Knowing that my clothing, all of it, would be taken away from me I was dressed in all prison clothing, wearing my personal shoes and eyeglasses that would be going with me to Huntsville.
My last visits were to be from 8am to 12pm. At 12pm I would be escorted to the Death House. In this 4-hour window I had six visitors scheduled. From 8am to 9am my Buddhist minister, Reverend Hui-Yong and my dear friend Linda. Then at 9am to 10am a friend came. My only son Patrick and my sister Kristina visited from 10am to 11am. And finally, my dear friend Shannon had the last hour with me.
When I arrived in the small visitation booth that is separated away from the main visitation area for privacy reasons. I was relieved to see the smiling face of Hui-Yong. His presence helped me keep my inner calm I’d been struggling with since I awoke.
My visits that day are a bit of a blur but everyone helped me stay calm and feel at peace and most importantly, loved. The warden allowed us all to take photos even though it wasn’t a scheduled picture day, and I could tell this act of empathy meant a lot to my family and friends.
My first visit was interrupted twice by Sergeant Hon. First he wanted to know what I had for breakfast. I had two cups of coffee, a Dr Pepper, and a protein bar from the commissary. The second interruption was for me to sign a withdrawal slip for the money that was left in my trust fund account. I had approximately $40 that was to be donated to the Soul Sisters, a group of kind people dedicated to helping improve the lives of inmates.
At a few minutes before noon I heard a lot of movement in the hallway, meaning the extra guards and officials had arrived. It was time to say goodbye. Shannon and I almost cried as we kissed the glass for the first time and possibly the last. She waved and blew me a kiss as Major Vincent escorted her away. She seemed so sad as she left.
Death Row Captain Smith came to the door and talked to me. He explained to me how I needed to hold my hands to be handcuffed later. My hands had to be cuffed with the backs turned inward and my thumbs pointed downward. Once the handcuffs were double locked, I was to rotate my right hand until my hands were stacked on top of each other with the backs still facing each other and my fingers pointed towards the opposite elbow. You end up looking like a running back about to take a handoff from a quarterback. This elaborate handcuffing was done only after I was strip searched in preparation to be transported to Huntsville.
I heard several radios announcing that Shannon had left the building. Lt. Newberry handcuffed me and escorted me to the restroom in visitation where I took a nice long piss. I was in the legal booth for over four hours.
It appeared that there were at least twenty people in the hallway behind the visitation area. I saw Head Warden Butcher and Assistant Warden Perez. I can’t be one hundred percent certain who all the officials were but usually the regional director, executive director and more will be present, especially during the execution of an infamous prisoner, like one of the Texas 7. I do know that the city of Irving chief of police was present, as he was at each of my co-defendants’ executions.
I heard at least six radios announce that the visitor, Shannon, had left the prison property. It was only then that Lt Newberry handcuffed me again and I was escorted back to 12 building.
As I stepped outside onto the sidewalk, in front of me was a large grassy area. The grass had been cut and I deeply inhaled the scent of fresh cut grass. The sky was blue with white clouds in the distance. I tried to soak up the sights and smells as I walked slowly down the sidewalk.
As I walked down the sidewalk, 11 Building was on my right. On my left was 12 Building. Several men on one of the pods knocked on the glass windows in their cells. The knock is our way of saying goodbye and good luck. I nodded towards them to say thanks. A transport van was already parked in front of Death Row at the gate. My heartbeat increased as I walked past it and into the building.
I was taken to the medical cage which sits in the hallway outside of C Pod. This is where we are taken when the nurse needs to draw a blood sample. It is a heavy mesh cage approximately six feet wide and seven feet tall and bolted to the floor. There appeared to be more witnesses in the hallway.
As I approached the cage, Head Warden Butcher stepped toward me and said, “Murphy, you’ve gained weight!” And I replied, “Yes sir, I have.” When I was allowed to go to commissary, two weeks before my execution date on the 14th of March, I bought a lot of snacks and candy to share with the men on Death Watch, but we were on lockdown and I had to eat most of it myself. That is why Warden Butcher made that comment.
Once I was locked inside the cage and the handcuffs were removed, my prescription eyeglasses and commissary running shoes were taken away and placed in my property. I was a little worried about the glasses as they have been with me since the escape. The lieutenant put them inside my shoes. I hoped they would be safe. Then I was strip-searched.
There was a heater vent above the cage blowing very hot air into the cage, causing me to feel faint as I went through the slow and thorough strip-search. I was told to follow the lieutenant’s instructions exactly. I began by running my fingers slowly through my thinning grey hair, front to back and sides. Then I turned my head to each side and ran my fingers behind my ears. The lieutenant used a flashlight to look into my ears and even into my nose. Then I opened my mouth, wiggled my tongue, pulled my cheeks outward as the lieutenant looked into my mouth. I raise my arms to have my underarms inspected. I had to raise my stomach to expose the underside, lift my testicles, turn around, bend over and spread my butt cheeks (there’s that flashlight again), lift my feet, wiggle my toes, run my finger between each toe.
Then, I was told to walk around the inside of the cage, from corner to corner. They had some type of detection device outside of the cage at the corner that I had never seen. It was a grey plastic pole with a pyramid-like base and was nearly as tall as the cage. I saw small lights near the top. I walked around, naked. If I touched the metal cage the device would beep. I was sweating and dizzy from the heat and nervousness but was finally allowed to dress in all new clothing before being handcuffed in the elaborate manner explained by Captain Smith, and then taken out of the cage. I felt very embarrassed and dehumanized by this ridiculous procedure.
I was now required to kneel down and the shackles were put on my ankles. I noticed right away that the left shackle was too tight. This meant it would rub and cause a raw spot and possibly leave a scar (which it did).
Once the shackles were on, I was helped to stand. Then a chain leading from the shackles was connected to the handcuffs and locked in place with a padlock. This kept my hands from rising above my waist while standing.
Once all the restraints were on four men checked them, Captain Smith, Assistant Warden Perez, Head Warden Butcher, and one of the transportation officers. Warden Perez actually adjusted my hands to a lower position causing me to walk in a stooped over position. They wanted to be assured that I could not possibly slip free.
I was then escorted out of the building to the waiting van. The lieutenant was loading my property into the van. I could see that my property had been searched and randomly stuffed into the bags. I was quietly upset, fuming on the inside; my heart began to pound and my blood pressure rose. I had spent hours, even days, carefully looking at photos, reading old letters, to sort and decide who would get what. I had labelled envelopes and books. I had spent weeks agonizing, as I wrote farewell letters to my friends and loved ones, and now I did not even know if the letters were in there, or if those to receive these items would get the right things. This last slight, this final rudeness, was very upsetting.
There were four guards in the van with me. An assistant warden from the Walls Unit was in the front passenger seat armed with an AR-15 rifle and three fully loaded thirty round magazines. A captain was driving around with a 357 Magnum revolver. Another captain was sitting in front of me, turned sideways, so he could watch me, also armed with a 357 revolver and a speed loader with six extra rounds. I could see that this ammunition was hydro-shock man-killers. The final guard was a lieutenant sitting in the rear of the van armed with a 12-gauge shotgun loaded with three in magnum loads.
Once we were on the road, the warden turned to me and asked about my final appeals and what were my chances. I replied that my chances were “thin, very thin.” When the van left the prison property, the guards were somewhat tense and vigilant. Once we were a mile or so away and I was talking they seemed to relax a little and had a business as usual attitude. The warden and I continued to talk as he constantly looked outside. The lieutenant would occasionally look out the rear window through a small peep hole. There was one tense moment where the van had to turn left off of the minor county road that we were on, onto the main road. I saw the warden and captain grip their weapons more firmly and brace themselves. The warden told me that that intersection is always a tense moment.
The warden and I continued to talk. The forty plus miles from Polunsky to the Walls Unit was a surprisingly long trip. I had only left the prison one time during the past fifteen years. That was around ’08 or ’09, to go back to Dallas on a bench warrant. I enjoyed seeing Lake Livingston and told the warden that if I had known about this area of Texas when I was a free man that I may have moved to this area. The warden said that it was a nice area but had no further comment. You could tell he was happy I’d never moved there.
I had never been to the Walls Unit. The inside is very crowded with large very old individual buildings. There seemed to be a lot of guards present. The Death House is difficult to get to; the van actually hit the wall as the captain made a very tight hard left turn into the final approach.
The Death House is the old death row used from 1954 to 1965. There are seven small open bar cells that each have a bunk, toilet/sink, and a small table welded to the steel bars. There are two cells that only have a sink/toilet; these cells are used for the troublemakers, men who try to resist their execution and/or assaulted the guards. One cell is used for the minister visits; it has a heavy steel screen mesh welded to the bars in order to prevent contact between the prisoner and the minister.
Once I was taken from the van and escorted into the Death House, the restraints were removed and I was thoroughly strip-searched again. I was given a clean pair of boxer shorts to put on, and was then fingerprinted twice. I was fingerprinted twice because they maintain two different sets of records.
It felt strange to be outside of a cell without handcuffs. I had not been this close to anyone without handcuffs in nineteen years. I felt unsure of how to stand and hold my head – worried that the guards would find offense or feel threatened. I just felt awkward being free of restraints with guards in the same room.
After being fingerprinted, I was locked in a cell and allowed to dress in new pants, shirt, shoes, and socks. I had not worn pants since my trial in 2003.
The bunk had been made up and even had a pillow. The Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) has not issued pillows to prisoners for the past seventeen years. The cell door had three locks on it; the main lock required a big brass key, and there were two padlocks. Later, I learned it required two separate guards to unlock the cell.
After I was dressed a group of officials came to see me. The director, the head warden, and several others. The warden attempted to explain, in a matter-of-fact manner, what the process was like. I would stay in this cell until all of my legal procedures were over. Then and only then would I be escorted into the execution chamber and strapped to the gurney. The curtains to the witness room would be opened and I would be allowed to make a final statement. Then the drug would be started. After I was pronounced dead the curtains would be closed. During this conversation I was very calm and relaxed. I had reverted to my Buddhist practice of awareness. I was mentally, emotionally, physically and spiritually prepared to die. Death is a doorway to our next life and I was prepared to walk through it.
Because I am a Buddhist, I had requested that my body not be touched or moved for at least seven minutes. This is symbolic of the Buddhist practice of not disturbing the body for seven days.
I had also requested that the chaplain not touch me at all. In previous executions the chaplain would stand at the prisoner’s feet with his hand resting on the condemned man’s foot, as if he were offering comfort. I felt that the true purpose was to signal that I had died. His hand is resting on the pulse in the foot and when he moves his hand it is a signal for the medical person to check the body. I did not want this false comfort.
Once the officials left the Death House it was 2pm and the chaplain offered me some food. There was a platter of cookies and cakes that I could choose from. There were oatmeal cookies, peanut butter cookies, sugar cookies, two types of cake, and cinnamon rolls. I could eat all that I wanted but only a few at a time. I chose a cinnamon roll.
The chaplain then explained about the phone calls. I was allowed to call anyone in the United States. I already knew of this and had a list of phone numbers in an envelope inside my dictionary, which I had seen in my property. The chaplain went to get the list.
The process to make calls was complicated, and in my opinion deliberately done to lessen the amount of calls. Here’s the process. The chaplain would call the prison operator and give them the name and number to be called and hang up. The operator would make the call, put the person on hold, and then call the Death House. The chaplain would answer, identify himself, and then hand me the phone. I could hang up the phone but not answer it. This process took four to five minutes each and every time.
My first call was to my dear friend Shannon. She and I had only known each other for 9 months but had grown very close in that short time. Shannon was also handling my final wishes to be cremated and who got my remains. We spoke for several minutes and after a couple of “I love yous” I ended the call to make another.
At the time of the call Shannon was standing outside of the Walls Unit with a group of protesters. She was wearing a green T-shirt with white shamrocks and letters that said “Murphy is the Man”. She wanted to record our call but did not know how; before our second call her son would show her how to record it.
During all of my phone calls I tried to maintain a calm and peaceful presence. I wanted to reassure my friends and loved ones that I was doing fine and at peace. I was not trying to offer any sense of false hope. I laughed and spoke calmly and tried to hide my emotions, but my voice did crack at times.
I think it was after my third call that my Japanese friend, Kaori, called the prison. I could only have overseas calls if the caller called the prison. Kaori and I had been writing for eight years and this was the first time we had spoken to each other. The first thing I asked her was how to say her name. We had a nice laugh as I tried to explain to her what a cinnamon roll was. She tried to get her kitten to meow for me. Kaori sounded so gentle and sweet and timid. Neither of us really knew what to say in the circumstances. She thanked me for helping her regain some self-esteem. When we first met, she was embarrassed to go out of her tiny apartment. I slowly encouraged her to go out and do things. I thanked her for all the hard work she had done for me, like putting up a petition and Facebook group, and so much more. One thing that I told her was that regardless of what happened to me tonight, the fight against the death penalty would continue. We exchanged “I love yous” and I ended the call.
At 3pm I was moved to the cell next door for my visit with Reverend Hui-Yong, my first Buddhist teacher. We have been writing and visiting since 2013. The Rev was wearing, at my request, his bright yellow robe with the brown ‘chanting’ over robe. I wanted him to look very Buddhist in order to make a statement that he was a Buddhist and that Patrick Murphy was also. I tried to reassure him and everyone that I truly was at peace with what might happen.
People may not understand that at this point I was very focused upon “this moment” and not worried about what might happen. You see, in Buddhism we practice Awareness. We are very aware of our actions and the actions of others. I was very aware, focused, upon this moment, this breath, this heartbeat. My practice of meditation is what helped me to focus my awareness. Don’t get me wrong, there was still a part of my mind that was screaming at me, “You Fool, they are going to KILL you!” But through my practice I was able to ignore that voice and focus on the moment. Really, I do not know what I would have gone through if I did not have my practice.
At 3:30 the Reverend left. I thanked him for his friendship, teachings, and support. I then bowed deeply to him and said “O-Mi-to-Fo.” It is a Chinese chant used in greetings and leavings. Also, it’s used to call upon the Buddha. I don’t know what it means but the “Fo” is the Chinese version of the Buddha’s name. I do know that over the years these words have helped me find peace. They will also be my last words.
I waited until 3:40 to call Cody, my 16-year-old grandson, after he got out of school. Cody and I have only seen each other one time. We spoke for a few minutes before we got serious. Unknowingly he gave me the one thing that I truly wanted to hear: he called me “grandfather”. At this point I began to cry. Even now, just thinking about that call makes me cry. It is one of my most cherished memories. I know he could hear it in my voice as I thanked him. A few minutes later I had to end the call and try to pull myself back together. That was the first time in a long time that I cried.
I took a break between calls to eat a little. I was given a choice between a barbecue chicken plate or a breakfast plate. I chose the breakfast plate that had scrambled eggs, French fries, biscuits and gravy. I have always liked eggs and those looked very good. Surprisingly even facing death, I had an appetite and enjoyed the food.
As I was eating, the operator called to ask if I wanted to talk to my aunt Linda, whom I had not seen since my trial in 2003. Aunt Linda is in a nursing home with my sister Sheryl; they’re roomies. Sheryl had a major stroke three years ago and has been in a home since. She is 50 years old, only 50. I talked to both of them. After a few minutes, Sheryl began to cry saying how much she had missed me. She was 15 when I went to prison. I tried to hold it together but asked to talk to our aunt. I told them that if I was still alive tomorrow to send me their address and I would stay in touch. (I have kept that promise.)
After 4pm, I called my son at the hospitality house. Patrick was nearly 3 years old when I first came to prison in 1984. I would not see him again till 2001 and he was 19. We had a 20-minute visit in Dallas County Jail. Patrick despises the crimes that I was convicted of and he’s very pro-death penalty. If I was not his father, he would probably call me ‘scum’ or ‘dirt bag’ – if he spoke to me at all. He is now 38 and has never called me Dad or Father. I won’t repeat what we said. It was a very difficult call.
After speaking to Patrick, I asked him to give the phone to my sister Kristina. Kris is 49, the youngest of our father’s four children. She began to cry a few minutes into our call saying that I should not be there because I did not kill anyone. I assured her that I was at peace and that I loved her.
I made my last phone call, just before 5pm, to my friend Shannon. I tried to keep things light. To my surprise her son was there, and I told him to keep it clean and take care of his mother. Shannon and I said a few “I love yous.” I told her that on Monday I was going on a diet and would begin to exercise. I did not do that because I am rather lazy. She told me to make sure she was still on my visitor’s list. At 5pm we said goodbye and the guard took the phone away.
They also came and took all the food away. I kept a biscuit to nibble on. I didn’t know if I could ask for more to eat and decided not to. I did drink more cold sweet tea. I grew up on sweet tea and Dr Pepper.
The food is removed and phone calls are ended at 5pm so that TDCJ officials can be prepared for the execution at 6pm.
The execution would take place at 6pm if all appeals were denied. In my case all of my appeals had been denied already except for my appeal to the Supreme Court about religious discrimination. TDCJ allowed Christians and Muslims to have a spiritual advisor in the death chamber but would not allow Buddhists to do the same.
I would not be moved into the execution chamber until there was word from the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court rules on a tiny fraction of the cases brought before it so it would have been no shock to learn they would not rule on my appeal.
As 6pm turned into 7pm I realized the Supreme court MUST be ruling on my case and I felt a small seed of hope growing within me. I tried to tamp it down but that was beyond my ability.
I sat in that small cold concrete cell wondering what the Supreme Court would decide and how long it would take them to work it all out. As the minutes ticked by I felt more sure that I would live.
For the next two and a half hours I talked to the chaplain. At one point there were four chaplains there outside that small cell. I was almost never alone. The chaplains never really did push their religion, but they were wanting me to convert and accept Christ. I felt like I was being ganged up on. They gave me a lot to think about. I won’t lie; as I sat in that small cell, I did a little soul searching. I was still at peace with myself. I had made the decision to be a Buddhist and stood by that choice all the way.
The chaplains all left. I don’t know where they went. A guard came to watch me. We realized we had been at Ferguson Unit together and talked about the many people we knew. He was very relaxed and polite.
It was shortly after 8pm when the assistant warden, the one who’d brought me, came in the door. I missed when he told the door guard that I had a ‘stay’, but when he told me I covered my face with my hands and said “Oh, thank you!”
I actually had mixed emotions about the stay. I was both happy and let down over it. I was mentally and spiritually prepared to die. I stood on the edge of the valley of death for three hours and then took a step backwards. I was ready for all this to be over and move to my next life. Really, I was not expecting to be alive at this time.
A TDCJ major and another guard came into the Death House that I had not seen before. The two new men seemed a little more gruff. They were not barking orders at me but there was a tension in the room. The guards that had been with me all afternoon were respectful but they were beginning to react in a similar manner, a little more gruff. I wondered if they were disappointed that I, one of the Texas 7, had not been executed.
I was then taken out of the cell and yet again went through the infamous strip search. The clothes I had been given at the Walls Unit were taken away and I was given the Polunsky clothing to put on. Restraints, shackles, handcuffs, and chains were put back on. I was loaded back into the van, my property was thrown into the holding cage next to me. The bag holding my fan, hotpot, and radio was balanced precariously on the top of the other bags. I was concerned that something could be broken, especially the headphones.
Before leaving the Death House I told the guards that I thought they had been very respectful and professional. The guard who had spent time talking with me earlier actually thanked me.
On the trip back to Polunsky the assistant warden told me that he had thought I would get a stay because of how I spoke about my chances; I said that I had a very thin chance.
I did not speak much on the return trip because I was in a state of shock. The guards were somber. They were talking about maybe going to Sonic to get something to eat.
Lt. Hunter greeted me upon my return to Death Row. I was put into a filthy cell in a section all by myself on C Pod but was told not to unpack because I would be moved in the morning (I was). However, I did unpack my hotpot and radio. At midnight I was listening to country music and drinking coffee. It was hard to believe that I was still alive. I did not even know why I was given a stay. I finally learned by listening to NPR news at 5am.
Basically, the Supreme Court gave the state of Texas and TDCJ two choices: 1) they could allow my Buddhist minister to be in the execution chamber, or 2) not allow the Reverend and I would get a stay of execution. The state chose not to allow the Reverend in the execution chamber for security reasons.
At midnight, I saw a bug crawling across the floor and picked it up to flush down the toilet. I stood watching it swim around and thought “who are you to condemn this bug?” I reached back into the toilet, picked it up and sat the little guy on the floor. I had just received mercy. Who was I to judge another? I am no one. I bowed to the bug “Go in peace, little brother. O-Mi-to-Fo.”
Patrick Murphy aka Hui-Com
|Patrick Murphy 999461|
3872 FM 350 South
Livingston, TX 77351