Wednesday, March 30, 2011

DeathWatch Journal for Lee Taylor – 79 days to live

Entry #2


As you take time out of your day to read my words, these last thoughts of a condemned man, please read with an open mind. Bare in mind that I have a limited education, as I dropped out of school after the 8th grade. However, despite my failures in this regard, I am a thoughtful man. I don’t yet understand why I’ve decided to write this forum. Maybe I feel the need to somehow leave a little of myself behind, in the likely event that the state does murder me. I don't really care about what people think about me personally, so that is not why I write. I don’t expect to say something that would sway a hate filled person from thinking me a monster. And those who "care" about me, simply because I am human, regardless of my past ... well, I suspect they would care about me regardless of what I say here.

Are you reading my words because you are a compassionate person? Do you read these thoughts because you care about the spiritual, physical, or mental well being of a human about to die? Maybe you are a spiteful, hateful, or angry person reading so you can find some twisted reason for why you hate? Maybe you’ve been hurt emotionally by the untimely death of someone you love, by the hands of a murderer. In this case, you may seek an avenue to forgiveness, so you can move on with your life. Somehow, to find a way to put it all into perspective. Could be you just stumbled upon these words, and have no real opinion - yet you will, as "we" take in information and inevitably form our opinions. Whatever the reasoning behind why you are reading this, thank you for your time.

On June 16th of this year the state of Texas will put a needle into my arm, puncturing my artery in order to inject a drug that will effectively induce a heart attack. As spectators watch me breathe my last breath, i will shortly be pronounced dead, dead, dead. What do you think about that, eh? I wonder if I will utter one last word as I slip into the "unknown?" It may seem morbid to you people, but I am curious .... Regardless of what religion you believe in, it’s all based on faith. No living person knows what happens when you die! I am not afraid to die, hell we all have to die! Actually, the state, and all of you voting Texans, are really giving me a way out of spending the remainder of my life behind bars, wasting away in a cage. So, thank you for that.

I’ve been in prison since 1995. I was 16 years old when I was "certified" as an adult and sentenced to spend the rest of my life in prison. I am 32 now, so do the math. Once you have done that much time and are looking to spend the rest of your natural life in this hellhole, well, death seems a sort of escape. Better than going slowly insane ...

The state of Texas has a huge number of men serving long aggravated or life sentences, a ton of men that will never be free again. They realized that they would have men doing so much time in these walls that they would not think twice about murdering each other if disrespected. Prison is indeed a concrete jungle. (Song of the moment: "Concrete Jungle," by Black Label Society.) Respect in this world is a must, a matter of survival. So these lawmakers decided they had to find a way to curb prison murders. As of 1994 in Texas, if a person serving an aggravated life sentence commits murder, this act meets the requirement for the "aggravating factor" to constitute capital murder, and therefore brings the possibility of a death sentence. In theory it would seem this law would curb prison killings. But in actuality it creates an escape. Once a man has done 20 or 30 years and knows he'll never see light at the other end of the tunnel, what is death? I didn’t look at it that way eleven years ago when this case happened. But now? Well, to be honest with you people, I feel a sense of relief! I feel as though my execution on June 16th will just be an early release from a life in a prison cage. Most men who spend their lives in prison end up either institutionally insane or they commit suicide. So these legislators, they actually facilitated my escape.

Admin note: This section of the entry has been removed.

The entire process here is flawed. Do a survey of Texans in Dallas, Houston, or Austin. I bet most of them would say that there is less than 100 men on Death Row, and that they were all serial killing pedophiles. When most people think of death row, they think of some rabid monsters. Trust me when I was in the regular prison system, I was around some real killers. A lot of these guys on the Row are circumstantial killers. They did not go out to kill anyone, or they exploded from years of pressure. Many were either drugged up or crazy and found themselves in some really messed up, atypical situation. Don’t get me wrong, there are some sick dudes here, too. But the system has lost sight of what the voters originally desired in this process, to kill only the worst of the worst. It was not to "put down" guys who accidentally killed a shop clerk in a robbery gone bad. I am not trying to say that such things are ok at all. But this is out of control. In eleven years I’ve watched close to 300 human beings put to death ... until they were indeed dead, dead, dead. We teach our children: two wrongs don’t make a right ... unless - it would seem - we are talking about killing someone.

Until next time, feel free to send me an email using

Lee Taylor

Note: sorry if you don’t like my opinion, but I am writing with complete honesty. I have less than 80 days to live, so ... well, I don’t have no reason to worry about holding back my thoughts.

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

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.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

149's Corner - A Journal from Death Row - Entry #4

by Arnold Prieto Jr #999149

"A Place of Many Punishments"

Greetings Ladies and Gents:

I wish to thank everyone who has sent me an email expressing your thoughts on my writings. Thank you all!

Well, I wish to share something with everyone that I have at first found to be pretty embarrassing. Throughout my entire time here in prison I have seen men go through many mental changes, from depression to literally hearing voices or seeing things that didn’t exist. There are many schizophrenics here; some came to Death Row crazy, and the rest were made by this place. This is a truly sad process for grown men to go through. Witnessing such things happening to others always made me think that they were the "weaker minds” of prison life who couldn’t handle their reality. Yes, that very thought always made me feel ashamed inside, because it made me feel like I was looking down at another human being. But I would tell myself that there are things I just have no control over. In this case, their mental state. I would never lose my ability to see things as they were, I told myself.

In the beginning of October of last year, I began to notice that I was having to "roll out” of bed. At first, I thought it was time again to refluff my mattress to even out the lumps inside. Nothing to it. Well, I did sleep better after doing this, but I still noticed that I was having to will myself out of bed. Maybe I was not going to sleep early enough. So I started to go to bed earlier than normal. Sleeping was not the problem because I could easily fall asleep. By the time I knew it, I was sleeping 14 or more hours a day! And I did so for more than a week. Feeling like I was being weighed down by lead was the straw that broke the camels back. Now I was getting really concerned, so I requested blood work done. Maybe I had some disease or some form of cancer! As these thoughts flew in my mind, I felt even more tired.

The blood work came back negative, and according to the doctor I was healthy as a horse. But I was still feeling weird and now out of myself. One day in December I was talking to the resident know-it-all (ahem) out on the yard about this he suggested that I request to see the psych doctor which in a way pissed me off because it was like he was calling me weak-minded. (All in my head only of course; I know now he wasn’t implying such a thing.)

He explained to me the difference between depression and mental retardation; which to me was all the same thing at the time. I mean, a psych doctor is a head doctor, right?

By this time I was having to "will" myself to accomplish the simplest of things, especially getting out of bed. Taking the advice of T, I sent in my request to see the unit psych doc.

A man who calls himself "Dr" Estes pulled me out soon after and listened to what I was describing to him, and how I was feeling. (He is not really an MD, but rather has a Masters in counseling. He simply likes people to call him “Doctor Estes”, and hates it when people intentionally call him "Mr.") His response was that I was experiencing the starting stages of MDD (Major Depressive Disorder) and said that I could be put on medication. I must have had a horrified look on my face because he laughed. I instantly told him that I will not take any kind of meds! It there was anything else that could be done, I wanted to do that first. He responded that he would send me information on depression and the medications used to combat it.

Medication was out of the question. I thought to myself that I’ll just have to grow out of it or something. After taking a 400 question test, Dr Estes said that he would schedule a visit with the main psychiatrist. In the mean time, I should read the information he sent me. After talking with Thomas and Mr. Whiteside (a pastor friend of mine), my stubbornness about taking medication waned a little bit. In the end, I would like to say that I made the right decision to try it.

On January 10th, I had a really cool experience that blew my hair back! I felt like a cave man watching a TV for the first time! I had a medical teleconference with a Doctor Nathan in Galveston. Nathan seemed like a good guy. He asked me a lot of questions which I answered honestly and he also asked about medication and why I was not sure about it. I explained to him that I have seen men take meds and just sleep their lives away. He explained the side effects of a type of medicine called an SSRI, and how it shouldn't make me sleep more than I did before my episode. He also went through the whole subject of depression and how the SSRI would work. At the end, I agreed to take Celexia at a low dosage. I gave him my word that I would give it at least four weeks for a trial, after which I would decide to continue with it or not.

January 13th at 10 AM I received my first pill. A 20 mg generic equal to the Celexia which I took for 10 days and the then the dosage went up to 40 mg. Now the pill nurse brings it to me at 10 PM each night when she does pill call rounds.

At first, I was embarrassed because the nurse would stop at my cell door and call for me by name and number. Since many of the guys getting meds are nutcases, I did not like being in the same category as them. Now, I just wait at my door, so she won’t call my name out loud. Some people that I have known for a decade and a half were weirded out by the fact that I was taking meds, and gave me odd looks. Well they can get over it. Thomas explained that this was not a will-power thing, but a bio-chemical one. He said he fights this, too, so I don’t feel weak. Even still; at times that I am beating him at Scrabble or in an argument, he will make a little “cuckoo, cuckoo" sound to keep me in check, the ass. He later sent me Ken Kesey's "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's
Nest” too, though he claimed it was a coincidence. Well, all I have to say about that is, I am my oId self again and he is losing his hair and has ulcers. Hahaha!

Dr Nathan told me of the possible side affects from taking this drug. Of the whole list, only two have happened to me. For the first week I’d get a headache sometimes during the day. The second is of a more personal nature. It’s sort of a good thing, because unfortunately it does me no good here in prison, and I shall just leave it at that.

Now 49 days later, I am able to pop out from my bed like popcorn, instead of rooooooolling out like a slug! Once out of bed, my little mouse in my head is at full attention next to its cogwheel ready for a full day. I feel like my serious self again.

I just never knew how far I was into this depression until I started feeling myself again. I just recently shared all of this with my wife Lisa and my mother. My macho side was too embarrassed to share my diagnosis and the medication prescribed to me to the two women I love in my life. I just didn’t want them to think that I was losing my marbles in here, thus worrying them out in the freeworld which is not good, but neither is lying to them.

My next step was to find out the "how" I ended up on the path to depression. I always kept busy. I recreated daily and had no more worries than the next man. I soon realized that I had to see outside of myself in order to figure out what the deal was. I noticed that I was always living amongst depressed and mentally impaired men for the last four years! For example I now live next to Jonathan Green, who takes a cocktail of drugs which keeps him asleep 24 hours a day; except for when he eats. He wakes up not knowing what day it is all of the time. He is a psych patient with some real issues. My other neighbor was, until last month, a schizophrenic who always believed that others were talking and plotting against him. I am not quick to blame others for what I have been feeling, but I cannot help but think that being around people like that had a strong effect on me. Seeing them suffer can break you down.

So the question I keep repeating to myself is: “Did living around such mentally ill individuals for 4 years actually affect me on such a deep level that it changed my mental state?"

Texas’ Death Row: a place of many punishments….

Arnold Prieto Jr

© Copyright 2011 by Thomas Bartlett Whitaker & Arnold Prieto, Jr. All rights reserved.