A harrowing account of the death penalty in action in Texas. Written by a prisoner there who is in regular contact with us. From Subversion #20 (1996)
Texas state death factory
This month marks six and one half years of incarceration for me here at the famous Huntsville Walls unit. If the walls and bars of this institution could speak out they no doubt would weep endless tales of cruelty and agony, not the least of which would include the multitude of men murdered officially here by the state since the 1850s by hanging, electric chair, or the latest most antiseptic method, death by lethal injection.
Having lived at this fascist cowboy gulag long enough to make a few observations and inquiries about the state-sanctioned murders carried out here, my fellow cons and I have collected a few facts about the methodology used by the state in these affairs, and the professional state hacks who are the perpetrators of these deeds. As well, some other professional scum are mentioned who are accomplices in these acts. But first a small historical account.
Since the brief moratorium on capital punishment ended in 1976, 104 prisoners (not counting those killed in 1996) have been put to death by the state of Texas. There has been a progressive numerical escalation of state murders yearly in Texas as well as the rest of the death penalty states in the US since 1976. Texas however leads in state homicide, having put to death one third of all those executed in the US since 1976. The 1990s in Texas have been a particularly bloody decade with state murders being carried out in a more conveyor belt assembly line fashion, repetitive, efficient, and somewhat clandestine. The fact that these state murders are no longer isolated events, but repetitive, serves to desensitise the people in the region somewhat. In 1993 and 1994 I counted 14 state murders per year, yet 1995 saw 19 state murders carried out in all. As the political and economic context continues toward the extreme reactionary and more stringent legislation is passed limiting appellate options for death row prisoners, the Texas death assembly line will get much busier.
Up until recently all state murders were carried out at midnight in typical prison fashion. As of late, a change of policy has the murders carried out at 6 p.m. while we cons are locked down for the evening count. During the midnight phase, the soon to be murdered was transported over here from death row on the Ellis 1 Unit some time in the a.m. He takes his last ride taking in the sights of a world that has changed vastly since his entombment knowing life's sweet hum will likely cease very soon. This ride is usually taken after spending anywhere from 8 to 17 years in confinement fighting appeals. For many, such a ride has been taken once or twice before having only a last minute stay of "execution" retrieve them from the state's death clutches.
Upon arrival, then as now, the prisoner is appointed a clergyman (unless he declines) to talk with if he wishes while he sweats out his last few hours hoping for a miracle or a stay to be granted by the political bosses. The last clergyman (nicknamed the "Killer Clergyman" by some) quit his position here probably as a matter of conscience since he witnessed every execution here since the moratorium was lifted.
It is said that this same clergyman overstepped his capacity as saver of souls and counsellor of salvation, and actually helped the pigs end one condemned man off to the great beyond by helping to subdue the fellow when he wouldn't relinquish his life peaceably. The prisoner obviously didn't buy into the hereafter spiel.
While the future state victim whiles away his remaining few hours waiting for death in his holding cell, having his last meal (cheeseburger and french fries best alternative and most frequent choice) all of the professional vultures and leeches get ready for the bloodfest. This assortment of social pariahs, participants, facilitators and spectators consists of various bourgeois media scum waiting to get their scoop, high-ranking screws with their pinched solemn authoritarian faces emanating officialdom, the top pieces of shit at the faecal hierarchical apex (wardens etc), the Texas attorney general (a political hustler and liar), some Texas Rangers (notorious machine-gun wielding strike breakers and scab herders), doctors, coroners, lawyers are all present.
As the day wanes on, the prison kitchen where I was forced to perform non-wage labour would have some of the less class conscious convict slaves cook up a massive assortment of artistically decorated confections consisting of doughnuts (standard pig staple), fried pies, cookies, cinnamon rolls, bear claws, as well as cheese plates and cheeseburgers topped off with gallons of fruit juice. All of these culinary delights, more conducive to the ambience of a birthday party than a death fest, are put forth for the spectators to gorge themselves on at the tax payers' expense. As the lard condiments are consumed by the cop spectators, they're gripped in a massive euphoric sugar rush and the blood lust sets in. They all sit around laughing and joking, slapping each other on the back and reinforcing each others' faith in the state awaiting the big moment. Unfortunately the prisoner's family is forced to witness their son's death in the company of this lot.
When execution time edged closer, the prisoner was brought in and strapped to a specially fashioned swivel gurney with a microphone dangling just a few feet above his head. In this way any sound the prisoner may utter from now until his death is made audible to the pigs and the prisoner's family who are all watching from behind a glass viewing window.
One of the physicians' assistants here on the prison medical staff (another accomplice) comes in and hooks the prisoner up to an I.V. which leads to a euthanasing device. This device has three tubes leading away from it for three state murderers to secretively (out of sight) drop their death chemicals in. The reason they use 3 tubes is because two state murderers only administer fake solutions while the third administers the potassium chloride which stops the heart. This is supposed to obfuscate guilt much like the dummy rounds used in firing squads. To show that they are good sports about the whole thing, the pigs also offer the prisoner an adult diaper. These are kept under special lock and key.
So the condemned man waits in this condition 'til midnight and if no stay is granted by the courts or the governor (George Bush Jr is our current head crook) the death freaks carry out their foul deed.
It's actually debatable if three different people are chosen each time as killers. Some sources have it that it's the same three people volunteering to do it each time. It's known that one of the killers is an ex tunnel rat in Viet Nam who smells of sadism. He is a high ranking official of the cess heap. This "god and country" fellow is reported to get paid 1,000 dollars per murder but is said to brag "I'd do it for nothing". The same individual when making his exit after an execution night is said to whistle a merry tune if the execution was carried out but to be extremely red faced and pissed off if the prisoner was granted a stay.
So the prisoner goes out watching his family for the last time surrounded by a bunch of doughnut eating cops, media scum and other agents of death culture. The coroner pronounces the deed final and the state murder victim is bagged up and driven out of the prison compound in a black minivan to the mortuary. If his family doesn't claim him, or he has no family, he gets a nameless numbered headstone courtesy of the state amongst the multitude of other state murder victims in the prison cemetery.
As I said earlier, the execution time has been changed to 6 p.m. now. It's usually fairly certain now when a death row prisoner is shuttled over here that a stay of execution will not be a prospect. There are some exceptions though.
We had a double state murder here not long ago. I look for this to be a more frequent occurrence. One source states that it was his job to inventory the condemned prisoners' personal effects on the night of this double killing. "The first execution took a long time, but then came the hearse driving out the first body. As they were driving out with the dead man the second condemned man was being driven in and the two vans were parked at opposite sides of the gate for a while. Then they slowly passed each other. The second man had one bag of personal effects. Before I could finish inventorying his stuff they were driving his body out in the hearse."
The same source reports: "After one execution, the hearse was driving through the checkpoint and the screw in the back of the hearse guarding the body was actually sitting on top of the dead prisoner. Out of respect for the dead I offered said screw a milk crate to sit on."
The latest addition to the death house is a partition in the viewing area which will allow the crime victim's family to witness the murder along with, but separately from, the prisoner's family. This ostensibly is supposed to promote something called closure. All it really does is legitimise the state as problem solver, authority and arbiter.
One final word, when the screws are confronted as to how they feel about being participants in state murder, they all bleat like the sheep at Nuremberg, "I was just doing my duty."
By K.G. Quotes from A.O'C. and other sources.
In Memoriam. The murdered of 1995 in Texas. Jan 4 Jesse D Jacobs Jan 17 Mario S Marquez Jan 31 Clifton C Russel Jan 31 Willie Ray Williams Feb 7 Jeffrey D Motley Feb 16 Billy Gardner Feb 21 Samuel Hawkins Apr 6 Noble D Mays Jun 1 Fletcher T Mann Jun 8 Ronald K Allridge Jun 14 Karl Hammond Jun 20 John Fearance Jr Aug 15 Vernon Sattiewhite Sep 19 Carl Johnson Jr Oct 4 Harold J Lane Dec 6 Bernard Amos Dec 7 Hai Hai Vuong Dec 11 Esequel Banda Dec 12 James M Briddle