I had been working on something completely different for the first day of the new year, but because of events that happened the week before Christmas - when I received news about my appeals - I've had to re-organize my thoughts of late. Despite the news, my focus remains the same: to LIVE and LOVE and PRAY for mercy...I suppose it has created even more drive and focus within me, and quite honestly, I'm eerily calm, although a little sad, and of course, disappointed. On the plus side, I don't feel panicked, and I'm not freaking out...My mind is firmly on the new year and working to make 2019 a year of love, kindness, compassion, and praying that mercy will be granted.
I have so much to be grateful for! I have the most amazing and good friends who have been by my side for years...whose friendship and support I cherish, and who have never made me feel anything other than loved, accepted, and part of their lives. And this past year, I have been lucky enough to find the love of my life whose creativity amazes me, and who gets along so well with my friends. This time last year, I talked to my dear friends about her, and how she and I had talked about the journey that life and love is. We imagined a house, standing in front of it, and not knowing what lay inside. We grabbed each others' hand, and stepped into the unknown, exploring every room inside...Every nook, every cranny, every closet. We knew there would be regular maintenance to take care of - a squeaky door, a broken window, a burst pipe - just as there are things you need to do to take care of and nurture a relationship. We all have to do that regular maintenance to keep things from becoming unfixable. No love is perfect...No life is perfect...But sometimes, you find the person who is perfect for you, and who helps you navigate a very imperfect world. With her love, and the love of my cherished friends, even with the news of my appeals, I still feel like I'm the luckiest guy in the world! Now more than ever, in this period of uncertainty, I'm so grateful to have the reassurance of my friends' love and support, and the love of a good woman who will be by my side no matter what.
For many years I have battled with the feeling that something was missing in my life...I have been in love with other people in the past, but nothing ever filled that empty feeling I struggled with, and I couldn't figure out what it was for a long time. I know and acknowledge that I have mishandled certain situations because of that feeling I had, and I am truly sorry for that. Ultimately though, I did discover what was missing...I knew immediately...I guess you could say that as soon as I read the words, "hot cocoa and marshmallows," (an inside joke!) I knew what was missing!
I'm a pretty simple dude; I don't need a lot in life to keep a smile on my face. I've often said that the guards in this place could take every single item I have except my radio, and I'd be okay with that - music, of course, being my passion. But I also have a strong will to live, and a desire to love and be loved...My friends know this, and they do everything they can to reassure me I am loved and a part of their lives...Knowing that feeds my drive and my focus! I am lucky to have the love of good friends, and I pray my life is spared so that I may continue to love and be loved..
So, you might ask, what do I want for 2019? If I survive this, how will I make the world a better place? You might ask, "Why should you be more deserving of life or another chance when there are hundreds of others in the same situation?" I definitely don't think I'm any more deserving than anyone else. Over the years I have learned that each person has their own unique set of circumstances. I can't pretend to know the heart of each and every man on death row; I don't know how they were raised, their financial/socio-economic conditions...I don't know how anything affected their choices in life, or if they ever had any real choices open to them, or whether they have suffered abuse of any kind...What I do know for sure is that there are some pretty awesome and good people back here who just messed up hugely. I am not better than they are, or any more deserving, but I know my life...I know my story, and I know my heart. Regardless of how anyone feels about my bad decisions, my initial offence, or the escape, I have tried my best to be a good person...To help people...To lift up and encourage others. There's been times I've given all I have to someone who wasn't so fortunate as myself - that doesn't cancel out any of my screw-ups in any way, and that isn't why I would do any act of kindness anyway...But I do try and live by example, and in the hope that simple and random acts of kindness can spread positivity and light in this place.
As for my goals...What would I do with my life? For years, I've talked about the things I'd like to achieve...I want to help prisoners who are illiterate, and those who need help to strengthen their own literacy skills. If I ended up in an AD-SEG situation, I would like to have books donated, as well as other educational resources that would help those re-entering society. I would like to get a radio donation program going, so no inmate in Texas is without a radio, and with my writings, I want to encourage families to listen to their troubled kids/teens when things are going wrong for them. My purpose in life would be to encourage, and to uplift...To encourage people to have belief in their own self worth, and to transfer that into a practical way of living once they're released. These are the things I will do with my life...It's my promise to the universe, G-d, and the amazingly supportive friends who love and believe in me, and who see me as part of their own families, and who have been by my side for years.
So, I'm hoping and praying, and trusting that a miracle will happen in 2019. I'm not ready to call it quits! And I sure as hell don't want to be killed for something I didn't do! I'm just praying for mercy...I'm still here...I'm still alive, breathing, and in the fight! I wish the death penalty would just end; it can be tiring to fight, emotionally. I wish people could see that killing accomplishes nothing - it doesn't prevent other murders from happening, and it doesn't do anything to reduce crime levels. A revenge-based system of justice in our society does nothing but cause more suffering. I would love to see it end, but in the meantime, I still fight...I will fight...I will live...
Here's to hoping and believing that 2019 will be a year of miracles - a year that sees the world wake up and we stop hating one another, a year of peace and love. Thank you to all of you who support and believe in me, and for putting that support into action. And thank you, my love...We're still in this! In it to win it, and we make an awesome team. I can never thank my personal long time friends enough...Thank you all so much for your friendship - I need you more than ever. I know you all have it in your hearts to make 2019 a year of hope...A year of love...A year of mercy and miracles.
Happy New Year!
With courage, strength, hope and faith...
January 15th, 2019
I really need to get better at keeping up with this journal! I'm trying to operate with my brain on several different things at once...I have various writing projects in progress, and I'm super focused on my memoir right now. I want to finish with it so I can start writing a more upbeat memoir about my childhood; it starts out on a sad note, but gets better, and it will be full of funny memories once I finish it. I've also been writing some new songs/poems over the last few months, so please check out my poetry section of the site where I add new poems/lyrics occasionally, and I've been working on a radio play as well. So, all of that and the natural stress that comes with my appeals situation and this environment, has left me with little time to focus on my journals...Anyway, I will be trying harder in the coming months, and do keep an eye on the memoirs section of the site - roughly 8 new chapters are on the way!
The chaos in this place is at an all time high! It feels a bit like "Lord of the Flies" right now - not amongst the inmates, but with the guards. There's some real "Game of Thrones" style power struggles, and we're caught in the middle of it all. We joke that it can't get any worse, but we know it could at any moment...We even pine for the days of the early '00s like it was the golden age! Back then we complained about how bad it was, and now we look back and we're like, "We had it freakin' made!" Bring those days back! Sheesh...
Anyway, there's a little good news to report - one of my friends back here, Blaine Milam, was facing execution today, and yesterday afternoon, the news spread like wild fire that he was given a stay of execution! I was so happy for him and his family, and my heart swelled with hope! His mother, bless her heart, has shown true unconditional love for Blaine, and supported him with unwavering love...I can only imagine the emotional toll this has taken on her. You can wish for your revenge, but please remember there are victims on both sides.
With courage, strength, hope and faith!
January 27th, 2019
I have had every good intention of keeping up with this journal...and this coming week, I'm going to make every effort to do something - even if it's just a paragraph a day.
Things have been so chaotic that I find it difficult to seriously focus on anything outside of what I deem the utmost importance. Let me give an example...On Friday, I went outside at 8.30am; our alloted time for recreation is two hours per day, Monday through to Friday, with two days outside, and three days inside. Often, this is left to the officer's discretion on extra outside days. Anyway, I didn't come back inside until 3pm!!! Now, I can understand running a little over time, and we all appreciate any extra time we get outside of the cell, but when guards do absolutely NO work, NO showers, and generally do NOTHING at all, and I get stuck outside for hours and hours??? Isn't that ridiculous? It can also take officers until 1am to finish showers because first shift couldn't do the work they are expected to have done, and on top of all that, the State has stopped allowing extra officers to come in and work overtime, because they don't want to pay the extra...This has created even more of a problem! Sigh...All of that to say it's hard to focus on work when things are being run this way. Everything is topsy turvey! I will try though...Yoda wouldn't be happy with that statement, but I'm only human!
Anyway, I'd like to say "thanks" to the DJ on the radio station, KPFT 90.1 out of Houston (kpft.org online). His name is Lars, and he has an excellent music program on Thursday nights at 9pm, Texas time, called "Tennyson's Tape Deck". It's a lot of folk, alt country, American music, and the one hour he has just isn't enough...It's a really great show that's full of emotionally evocative and soulful music that's perfect for winding down after a stressful day. Well, he took a few minutes to mention my case, the law of parties, and my website, which meant more to me than he could ever imagine, and I really appreciated it. I was in complete shock and extremely touched...I'm asking anyone who likes that kind of music to support his show by donating online to keep it on the station. KPFT is a community station supported by listeners and not corporate interests, and the program director will either cancel a show or give it more time, or a better slot, based on the donations it receives. So, please support this program! And to Lars: Thank you so much!
Another note of importance for today: There's a guy on our section, who's been here for a few weeks now...His name is Syed Rabbani, and he's spent most of his time on death row, at the state mental facility. He's severely mentally ill, and really shouldn't be over here because he cannot properly take care of himself because he's so doped up. When they bring him out of his cell, he walks around in a daze, and can barely lift his feet off the ground. My neighbour and I have done our absolute best in trying to look out for him by sending him snacks and coffee, and we're not even sure if he has money on his inmate account. He should have some because at Christmas time, several organizations do send a few bucks as gifts, however, because he doesn't have his ID card, he cannot make commissary and we've talked to every guard we can - every ranking official - to see if we can get his ID card, but nothing is being done. He needs it not only for commissary - it's also a security issue...But no one seems to care.
If there's anyone out there who reads this and visits Polunsky Unit on a regular basis, will you please contact the Warden's office and ask them to get an ID for him? We're doing our best, but we need some outside pressure to get him his ID. Also, if there is any minister, or anyone who knows a minister who visits Polunsky, will they please call him out for a visit so he can get out of his cell and have a decent meal? It would be so good for him to get away from this place for a couple of hours...Sometimes, he sleeps through his meals because of the meds they have dosed him up on, and I don't need to say that the psychiatric department here is JOKE, but I will...It's a freaking JOKE!
Well, I'm doing as well as I can, anyway...Despite the chaos, the noise, and the seriousness of my situation, I can say with complete honesty that I'm relatively calm and at peace. It's just hard to focus, and I can be easily distracted. I really am going to make an effort to write more in the journal though, because I really should.
Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith!
February 3rd, 2019
shot by like a rocket! I cannot believe how quickly time is going by
these days. This past week was a bit of a roller coaster.....I had
received word that my attorneys filed a supplement to my request for a
rehearing with the Fifth Circuit; it seemed like a solid issue because
it showed a contradiction within the court itself, on how they rule on a
particular issue. A three-judge-panel might come to one conclusion,
whilst another panel will reach a completely different conclusion -
often against precedent, or what the Supreme Court looks to for guidance
in their rulings. And yet, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, and the
Fifth Circuit, routinely ignore precedent AND the Supreme Court...The
petition was denied, and I admit, it knocked the wind out of my sails a
bit. I just keep thinking, "Geeze, God, what do I have to do here? How
is this all going to get straightened out?" It's frustrating, and it
hurts at times...But I remain hopeful. It'll take a lot more than that
to make me lose hope!
was an execution this week as well, and those always suck. I wasn't
happy with the way the media handled it, or how they portrayed Robert
Jennings based on a crime that happened in the '80s! Like, they can only
ever see him as the exact same person now as he was back then...I've
been around him many times and he was always respectful, intelligent,
and kind. To hear certain public officials come out on the news to say,
"He's finally getting what he deserves." or, "This is justice," I cannot
imagine how how people can see killing as justice - just call it what
it really is: Revenge. When will people stop confusing the two?
life moves on...I was having a discussion with someone on Friday and we
both agreed that one of the biggest ways to slow down the machinery of
death in Texas is by informing people that the Court of Criminal Appeals
in Texas is an ELECTED, not an appointed, position. You'd be surprised
at how many people don't know that. When they're elected they remain in
that seat for SIX YEARS!!! And yet, these same extremist judges are
often re-elected because they have no one to challenge them or people
just vote along party lines, or ignore the court altogether because they
think, "What does the CCA have to do with the issues I care about?" If
you are someone who votes in Texas, and you're anti-death penalty, then
that is what you should focus on! There's a saying in the political
world that goes, "All politics are local," which means that to affect
things on a national stage you have to start with your local/state
governments. But if people don't vote, or even run for that matter, how
can you expect any kind of change? It's something people need to really
wake up to. I get frustrated when people say, "My voice doesn't count."
It doesn't count? You really think that? Tell that to the people who
elected Trump...Or Ted Cruz...Or the number of extremist Judges in the
CCA, or those who are appointed to the Fifth Circuit by Trump and Cruz.
who knows what the next week has in store for us, but I hope that it
will be a good one filled with positivity and positive change!
I'll close with a little piece from my Small Stones from the River book...
"If you have difficulty seeing
in the world
make your own"
Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.
February 4th, 2019
woke up fearing we'd have a day full of chaos. The crew of officers we
had today is notorious for laziness, and leaving a huge amount of work
for second shift. I said my prayers and told myself, "Put your head
down, get to work on your memoir, and let things fall as they may." On
one hand, I can be the most patient person in the world, and on the
other, when things get chaotic back here, I can get worked up into a
state of anxiety and I know it is beyond my control, but I still want to
I was scheduled for 3rd round of recreation outside, but then someone
upstairs gave me a 'heads-up' that they weren't going, so I might get
bumped up to 2nd round...I was kind of surprised that so many people
were skipping out on recreation because, whilst it may be freezing in
many states in the US, it's in the '70s in Texas! It's grey and a little
wet, but nothing that could spoil going outside.
enough, I went out 2nd round and the guy I was out with asked if I
wanted to play basketball. I was up six games to his five when the
guards said he had a visit, and he left. I was outside for the next hour
and a half by myself and it was lovely! You can't put a price on
moments when you're outside alone, when the wind is blowing lightly and
you can think without the noise and chaos of this place. I exercised and
reflected on things, prayed, and just enjoyed the moment. When I came
back in, I began working on some edits of a poetry collection of mine
that my girl is putting together, then I began to type up two chapters
of my memoir, which I'm happy to say are finished, and going in the mail
to my girl tomorrow!
guards amazingly worked today, and I had a shower around 2 in the
afternoon, and as far as I can tell, the only thing left for 2nd shift
to do is a handful of showers. I guess the lesson the day is to just
carry on and not let what might seem to be a bad day, stop you from
doing the things you want to do in your life...Bad days only become bad
days when you allow them to...
Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.
February 5th, 2019
didn't sleep well last night and worried that I might be first round
for recreation, but they said that rec was cancelled because they didn't
have enough officers to cover it, as well as showers and visitation,
because all hands would be used to escort AD-SEG inmates to
classification hearings. There, they go before a small committee who
decide whether or not they will be able to return to general population
or remain in AD-SEG. More often than not, they remain in AD-SEG...The
committee is a joke!
a way, whilst I don't like missing recreation, I was more than happy to
sleep in until 8am...My thoughts are a little too distracted to take
advantage of the peacefulness - it's been oddly quiet all day long - but
I have managed to stay occupied anyway.
afternoon, pest control came through spraying everywhere...I don't know
what they use but it seems to attract more bugs than keep them away. I
said, "Y'all need to get that stuff with skulls and crossbones - the
crap that'll give you cancer - because the bugs drink this stuff up like
after 4 days of grey skies, the sun finally broke through and I looked
out my winder and watched as hundreds of birds landed in the grass,
searching for a meal. The grass is turning green again, and yellow and
white wild flowers have popped up as well...I think we'll have an early
spring....But the humidity is still here, and we're expected to have
another cold spell later this week! I look forward to that.
All that's left for today is dinner and mail call. I can't wait...I'm ready for the day to be over.
Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.
February 10th, 2019
been an interesting week to say the least...On Monday night I had a
couple of personal issues pop up. One of them wasn't anything but a
misunderstanding, but the other thing...I was upset with a friend back
here because I had told him I didn't want to visit with a friend of his,
but I felt like they were trying to pressure me by going over my head
and talking to the head people in trying to get on my visitation list,
which I wasn't happy about. I appreciate the thought in wanting to get
me out of the cell and have a visit, but I'm uncomfortable with how they
went about it...Sigh...Well, it's over and done with, and I've moved
is when things got a little wild! So, for a long time, B-Pod has been
relatively empty, and I think they had four empty sections to use as
solitary confinement/isolation and quarantine for really sick guys from
general population. Well, around noon they told F-Section on C-Pod - the
pod I live on - to pack up their things because they were being moved
to B-Pod. Later that evening they told E-Section the same thing, which
kind of sucked because it had been a year since I had seen one of my
friends, and I've only been able to talk to him here and there since he
moved to this pod, and now he's moving back to B-Pod. We were pretty
sure that would be it for moves, but on Thursday, they told C and
D-Sections that they were also moving to B-Pod. That left just A and
B-Sections (B is the section I'm currently on) which means this entire
pod is otherwise empty.
Friday morning they moved the guys on discipline (levels 2 and 3) to
F-Section, and made that 'solitary' or as we used to call F-Pod, 'The
Dungeon', and left us where we were. One of the guards said that the
rest of the empty sections will be filled with Administrative
Segregation guys...which, in reality, is a violation of policy because
we aren't supposed to be anywhere near those guys. I suddenly had the
thought that if they do move them next to us, the State will have lied
to the jurors during our trials, because one of the principal arguments
the State ALWAYS makes is the case that we are so-called "future threats
to society" which also includes other prison inmates in population.
We're sooooooo dangerous that they tell the jury it would be better to
just kill us than risk an attack on another inmate or guard. But...if
the State then turns around and puts non-death row prisoners RIGHT NEXT
to us, or even on the same pod, that argument is rendered moot because
apparently we aren't that dangerous after all...They're putting these
guys right next to us...Makes sense, right? Just a thought I had.
weather has been crazy! Thursday it was in the 70s, and on Friday when I
went outside it was freezing, and Saturday was equally as cold. Sunday
has been nice though, and tomorrow it's supposed to be back into the
70s...good ol' Texas weather!
still busy with my memoir, and I just put together a 'sound track' to
each part because music is such an integral part of my life, and I
thought it would add another level to the whole thing. It's keeping me
Courage. Strength. Hope. Faith.
February 11th, 2019
woke up for breakfast, which came a bit late this morning - 5am -
instead of the typical 3am breakfast time. It was weird getting a tray
at a relatively normal time. I hadn't gotten to sleep the night before
until close to midnight, becasue I listened to the movie, "Titanic" and
then I tossed and turned imagining that moment in history and how
terrifying it must've been. It really is a masterpiece of a film - it
deserves a spot on my 'Movies you should see before you die' list!
fell back to sleep a little after 6am, got out of bed just after 7am,
and started my day by writing to my girl. Then I prepared for going
outside, 2nd round. I went outside with a friend, and it was a grey and
misty morning as I exercised, and we chatted about legal stuff. He was
ranting and raving about his attorneys not keeping in touch with him,
and I tried to explain to him that this doesn't always mean that they
aren't working for him. I think that's why communication is so important
in this place - a lot of guys just want to know that their attorneys are doing something...that glimmer of hope can keep us sane back here.
we came back in, I ate lunch and knocked out another chapter in my
memoir! I'm at the part where I'm back in Texas, and things aren't going
the way I had hoped. I didn't make a plan B, but just arrived in Texas
believing my parents couldn't possibly reject my plea for help, knowing I
was sincere. But I was wrong...
it was so humid today, I went to put on my fan and it shocked the hell
out of me! I had just returned from the shower and was wet, so that
didn't help! It gave me a good scare but thankfully 120 volts isn't
enough to kill me - just made me almost poop my pants! Turns out I had
an exposed short in it.
been a peaceful day here anyway, and I'm feeling reflective
tonight...Hopefully mail will come early so I can get some sleep!
Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.
February 12th, 2019
had a rough night of sleep last night after I realised I was a
scatter-brained idiot sometimes. I'm a very giving person, and yet I'm
still sometimes short-sighted and selfish in looking after my own needs -
it's something I need to be more mindful of in the future, and work on.
I don't know if it's a 'survival' instinct or what, but I don't like
it. Anyway, I can only hope for a bit of forgiveness and move beyond it.
did manage to sleep in until a little past 7 this morning, and I was
set up for recreation 3rd round, in C-Section day room, but I was bumped
up to 2nd round. Because I would be in the day room, I decided to do
some writing, as well as my usual exercise. Anyway, when I finished
exercising in the day room, I went to pull out my pen to start writing,
and I thought either the guard had dropped it or lost it somewhere
between my cell and the day room, but I didn't just want to accuse
anyone straight out because I'd feel like an idiot if I had
inadvertently left it in my cell...Sure enough, I got back to my cell
and there was my pen sitting on my desk...Idiot! I can't believe how
scatter-brained I can be at times - something else I really need to work
on. I would've felt horrible if I had blamed the guard for losing my
pen when that wasn't the case at all.
turned into a really lovely day...Plenty of sunshine, and whilst there a
lot of puffy clouds out, there are large patches of blue sky. The grass
is a mixture of greeen, some dead patches, and some beautiful wild
flowers. It hasn't been cut in ages and looks unkempt, but something my
girlfriend and I agree on is the beauty of the natural state of grass. I
know a lot of people think that lawns and fields look wild and unruly
when they aren't neatly manicured, but really look at it in it's natural
state...Tall grass, patches of clover, wild flowers, and even some of
the weeds that spring up high above the blades of grass have their own
beauty. Then, while insects give me quite a scare (don't laugh, I'm
quite manly!..ha ha) seeing dragon flies, moths, butterflies, bees and
other critters flying about from stalk to stalk or wildflower to
wildflower is really amazing to watch. There's a perfect balance to all
everything is finished before 2nd shift, and I'm getting quite spoiled
by the peacefulness of this near-empty pod...With just two sections on
this site, I've noticed the guys on both sections become closer; we're
not separating ourselves to just our groups of friends, but instead,
starting to see one another as a sort of family living in the same house
- it's a nice feeling.
think we're a stronger community when the negativity is down, and we
all get along as one instead of becoing more tribal and insular.
Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.
February 13th, 2019
started my day at 4.45am; I wanted to sleep in until 5.30am but
couldn't get back to sleep, so I got up for 1st round recreation and
left my cell just after 6am. When I came back I got to have a shower
fairly quickly with no waiting around, and by then, the sun was blasting
through my little window. It's supposed to get warmer as the week
progresses, and by the weekend, Livingston might be in the 80s!
I wrote some letters and then felt like cooking something, so I ended
up making tacos for some guys back here, and they came out really well.
My girlfriend informed me that she brought up the subject of Syed
Rabbani, the mentally ill guy back here who is one of the forgotten
people, on Twitter...Well, today, commissary delivered a care package
full of food and snacks, from her, and there are two other people who
are also sending packages to Syed to help him! I want to say a big thank
you to my girlfriend, and to Karine and Jessica, for the kindness you
have shown to this forgotten soul. I can't describe how happy he was to
get the first package, and he was clapping and saying, "thank you, thank
you, thank you" to no one in particular, all afternoon...I think he
will be over the moon entirely when he receives the other two packages!
It was just wonderful to see him so happy. So again, thank you so much
to all 3 of you!
Otherwise, the day has been pretty uneventful and calm. I am already feeling spoiled by this empty pod thing!
Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.
February 14th, 2019
Day...I can't begin this without telling my girl that I love her, and
"Happy Valentine's"...It's our second one together, and I'm just so
fortunate and feel like I've won the lottery of love with her...She
amazes me, daily, and well...I look forward to many more Valentines if
the universe sees fit.
went outside today for the first round of rec; it was a lovely, cool,
spring-like day, and it felt great. Syed received another care package
today, and yelled, "I'm the luckiest man on the planet!" Again, I want
to thank the 3 people involved in making Syed so happy. It's these acts
of kindness that bring some much needed light into this otherwise dark
this afternoon has been a bit slow and boring...I wanted to write some
more of my memoirs, but I couldn't quite get there, mentally...I will
most definitely tackle it again over the weekend though. I've got
chapter 37 mapped out, and it's a tough one...It breaks me at that
moment of my life. As these chapters inch closer to September 1996, they
will become more difficult to write, and probably more difficult to
Anyway, I am holding onto hope, tightly!
Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith!
February 19th, 2019
Tuesday, and my fourth day back on B-Pod. I still haven't fully
adjusted, and I had a bit of an adventure on Friday afternoon...Around
2pm I was sitting at my desk, writing off and on, but doing more jamming
out to the radio than anything else. It was peaceful...All of the
recreation and showers had been finished, and I was getting quite
spoiled by the complete lack of chaos - the chaos C-Pod had put us all
through for well over a year! Anyway, there's a really great song out by
Young The Giant, called "Superstition" and I'll go out on a limb and
say it's the best song around right now - just a phenomenal song! So,
it's playing out, and I'm bobbing my head and tapping my pen to the
beat, on my writing tablet, when an ant with wings lands on the wall
next to my desk and I think, "Huh?" I grabbed some toilet tissue, caught
it, and threw it down the toilet. A bug here and there is not uncommon
in this place and whilst I'm prone to having the heebie jeebies and
screaming like a little girl when one randomly pops up, I wasn't about
to let the thing interrupt my enjoyment of the music, so I went back to
bobbing my head and tapping my tablet.
ant with wings pops up. Now, I'm like "WTF??" And begin to look over my
cell. I can't find where it came from and most of the cell cracks had
been solidly sealed with soap or Vaseline by prior occupants. Ten more
ants with wings pop up on the wall and I'm beginning to freak out a
bit...I keep looking around the cell and I can't figure out where
they're coming from, and I can't hear anyone in any other cell yelling
anything out either, so I keep looking...Then I catch sight of a crack
in the ceiling where a piece of iron had been bolted to a seam on the
wall to prevent inmates from hiding cell phones in the cracks/seams.
Back in 2008, we had a cell phone scandal, so the TDCJ are more vigilant
than ever about that sort of thing. Anyway, both ants with wings and
fire ants were pouring out of the crack and that isn't hyperbole! I let
out a scream like something from a horror movie and yelled, "Holy shit!
It's the apocalypse! The Seventh Seal has been broken, and God is
reigning his punishment down upon my Jewish ass!" They were falling on
my head and face, biting me as I tried to best to wipe them up with a
wet rag and then seal the crack up with Vaseline, toothpaste, and toilet
paper...My neighbour was asking me what was going on and I told him,
"Look for ants! They might be headed your way!" Sure enough he lets out a
scream of holy terror.
took about 30 minutes to get the situation under control, but a few
fire ants managed to avoid my rightful vengeance and ended up getting
their pay back on me by biting my ass - yes, my ass! - and other
finally get settled back down and second shift comes and I'm eager to
receive my mail and listen to the Prison Show because my girl was giving
me a shout out. At about 7pm a guard pops up and tells me I'm being
moved to B-Pod 2 cell. I was caught a bit off guard...On one hand, I've
been wanting to move off C-Pod for months and months - it was the
longest amount of time I had ever been stuck on a particular pod. But on
the other hand, once they had emptied it out it was peaceful and I
didn't want to move! I was settled, and the two sections that were left
on the pod were starting to act like a family because it was just
"us"...It was a nice feeling.
ended up moving to B-Pod relatively early, but they were still doing
recreation and showers...Back to the chaos, I thought. The cell is nice
though, and I get really good radio reception here. The section I'm on
only has one idiot, and everyone gets along very well, and I do have
some friends nearby like my friend Blaine, who had just received a stay
of execution in January...I'm so happy about that!
rest of the weekend was peaceful, but Monday was a holiday and it was
crazy insane! On another level, I went to recreation 2nd round, after I
was told that I'd be going 4th round...When I get out there at a little
after 8.30am or so, I get STUCK out there until 5.45pm! Apparently the
male officer that was working the pod quit on the spot and because it
was two female officers left, they couldn't strip search us and take us
back to our cells. I was frustrated, hungry and exhausted by the end of
the day...I didn't get my shower until 10pm, and today is looking like
it's going to be another late shower. I went to recreation a little
after 6am and I know I won't get a shower until much later this evening
which really sucks!
So that's all of the excitement of the last few days!
Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.
February 21st, 2019
was a mess! The first shift officers only did three rounds of
recreation for the entire 12 hour shift, and just a handful of showers.
The work load was so much to do for second shift that the Lieutenant
told the officers to only do showers, so everyone still waiting for
recreation was screwed out of it. It may seem trivial to people who
don't fully understand the importance of recreation for mental and
physical health reasons, but for some of us, our sanity depends on
getting out of the cell for that short bit of time, whether for social
reasons like having conversations with friends, or for physical
exercise, a walk around the day room, exercise in the fresh air and open
space. Being denied that time is an unnecessary stress for us back
highlight my point, I know several guys back here who are in the
process of dropping their apeals so they can be executed - or, as I call
it, suicide by State. In a recent appeal a guy, Justin Hall, had been
fighting with his attorneys who were trying to keep him alive, claiming
he was mentally incompetent to make such a decision for himself. So, the
guy chose to write to the court and tell them directly that he WAS
competent, but in his words he stated he was a "broken man and should be
put down like the rabid dog he was". In the opinion written by Sharon
Keller of the CCA, she agrees he is competent to be executed and
disagrees with his lawyers' arguments that it was the environment that
broke him, and made him mentally incompetent.
Keller wrote (taking this directly from her opinion):
his [Justin Hall] October 6 communication with the trial court,
Appellant did say that he had been "broken" by his 24/7 confinement on
death row. This statement does not necessarily indicate any lack of
competency on Appellant's part."
depressed due to his circumstances is UNDERSTANDABLE, AND IS A RATIONAL
RESPONSE TO ADVERSE CONDITIONS (my emphasis). She then goes on to cite
Bundy V Dunger, 675 F.Supp. 622, 625 (M.D. Fla 1987) which says:
testified that the absence of situational depression and agitation
would be surprising given the grave consequences the defendant was
facing and that periods of situational anger, stress and depression
would be normal reactions under the circumstances."
find it very interesting that Keller all but admits that our conditions
on death row are tantamount to torture. However, she says it's "normal"
for us to have adverse reactions to our conditions...WTF??
point being, the things like recreation are important to some of us to
maintain a sense of normality and sanity; when things are so chaotic to
the point where we aren't being given our recreation time, well, it
should be addressed. If not, we'll see more instances like Justin Hall,
where people drop their appeals or even try to hurt themselves.
been thinking a lot lately about the concept of accountability. Like,
everyone back here needs to be accountable for their actions, and whilst
I agree with the idea so long as it doesn't mean death by revenge, I'm
finding that those who scream for accountability the loudest, are the
least likely to be held accountable for their own misdeeds. Take our
government for instance...Ideas of justice, accountability etc...They
scream about it at other countries who have wronged them, or even at
their own citizens when they break a law. but when has the govenment
EVER been held accountable for the genocide of countless native tribes?
For slavery? For the way it has treated immigrants from the Irish to
Italians, to the present day migrants? When has the country, state or
city ever been held accountable when they shoot an unarmed black man? Or
when a prosecutor deliberately prosecutes and sentences an innocent
person? Everyone screams accountability! We need accountability! Just
not for themselves...I mean, our own freakin' President, who every day
talks about criminals and rapists pouring over the border, and he's a
criminal and, by his own admission, a sexual abuser! Where's his
don't know, I just shake my head at all of it and find it increasingly
more confusing to navigate and intellectually understand these things. I
just try to hold my head high above the water and try to keep myself
Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.
February 24th, 2019
woke up to brilliant sunshine blasting through my window...I initially
thought the guard in the control center had turned on the cell lights,
but when I pulled the sock off my eyes, I could see the sun light
reflecting off the white walls of the cell. It was a lovely way to wake
up after so much rain of late, and I'm hoping it will stick around.
got one of the nastiest, meanest guards working today and she's already
on the war path with people. For the life of me, I cannot understand
why people - of any walk in life - can be so mean and hateful. It makes
me wonder what they've gone through in life that makes them that way and
I do try to empathise and understand, but it is a dangerous thing when
you give such a person any kind of authority over other human beings -
especially when they have the full support of the State behind them and
believe they are rightfully punishing 'criminal scum'. Yet, they don't
see that often their acts are criminal in themselves.
ago, there used to be a women who was over 'intelligence gathering' on
death row; she was put in place after the cell phone scandal of 2008 and
her job was to follow money on inmates' books (to see if large sums
were being moved around for the purchase of drugs or cell phones) and to
monitor certain people's mail etc. She had authority to go into any
cell at any time and take whatever she wanted - contraband or not - and
had free rein to do whatever she wanted to do. Now, to be fair, I've
seen many officers over the years have this kind of authority, and the
majority of them don't abuse that power - they do what their job
requires them to do, but they don't go out of their way to mess people
over and create havoc. But this person...As if it couldn't get any
worse, she'd often tell the people she screwed over that she not only
had the authority of the State behind her, but she was called upon by
God himself to punish criminals of ANY kind.
eventually abused her powers enough that they had no choice but to fire
her after the sprayed a can of gas in an inmate's face, for merely
talking crap back to her...But it's like, geeze, don't they (or
shouldn't they?) do a psychological background check on these people
before giving them a job with such power?
I filed my grievance on the recreation situation on Friday, and helped
several other guys file their complaints as well. I really don't expect
anything to be done about it - especially after my brief exchange with
the warden himself, but you never know. This past week there wasn't a
single time that we didn't receive all of our mail before midnight; I
don't think they've finished the showers before midnight for that
matter! It's insane to think how quickly this place has deteriorated. We
always joke, "Well, it can't get worse than it is now" and then we're
proven wrong every single time!
Oh well...onwards and upwards...
a lighter note, I wanted to recommend some geeky reading material for
those interested in graphic novels...Over this weekend, I finished all
five volumes of the brilliant Image Comics (the best publisher in the
business, people!) series, "Peter Panzerfaust" by Kurtis J. Wiebe and
Tyler Jenkins. It's a reimagining of the classic Peter Pan story, and it
takes place during the German Occupation of France in World War II. It
takes every element and every character of Peter Pan and puts them in a
real world setting. Peter is an American and the lost boys are young
French orphans who become resistance fighters, and Wendy Darling and her
brothers were in a British plane that was shot down over France. Tiger
Lily and the Braves are French-Canadian natives who become resistance
fighters, and Hook is Kapitan Haken, a German SS Officer. The art is
phonomenal! All done in beautifully rendered water-colors. I couldn't put the book down all weekend, and the ending is executed so well that it had me in tears.
read a lot of great series' over the years, but many are often
forgotten. Still, some remain THE BEST, such as Joe Hill's "Locke &
Key", Brian Azarello's "100 Bullets", Robert Kirman's "Walking Dead,"
and Marguerite Bennett's "Animosity," to name but a few. For me, what
makes a great series always comes down to the writing, but when you have
art that complements the story, it takes it to another level...Peter
Panzerfaust pulls both off perfectly! Check it out for yourselves...
As Peter would say, "Second star to the right and straight on 'til morning."
Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith!
February 26th, 2019
I started my day out yesterday thinking things were going quite well...I went outside with my friend, Blaine, and there was a slight chill in the air which, with a beautiful clear blue sky and birds chirping on the roof above us, made it a perfect early spring morning. Blaine and I talked about music, and life in general, and when the guards showed back up to bring us inside, I noticed it was 10 minutes shy of our alloted two hours. When I mentioned that to the guard I said, "Well, since you're taking 10 minutes from us, how about you just let me grab my shower stuff and go straight to the shower?" He told me that as long as he didn't have to remove the handcuffs from me to get my shower stuff, he'd do it - probably thinking I wouldn't be prepared! I keep a shower bag right by my door, so all I have to do is pivot and snatch it off the hook, and there's no need to take the handcuffs off.
So, I took a quick shower and when they brought me back to my cell I thought, "This day is going well!" Ten minutes later, the guards stopped working! They didn't finish changing out the first round of recreation, leaving those guys in the day room until 2pm. Then they got second round out and right before second shift came on, SOME of third round went out, but not all who were scheduled got to go...When second shift arrived they couldn't believe their workload and basically cancelled the remaining recreation rounds, only doing showers. Mail wasn't completely passed out either, until well after 11pm!
This is becoming a regular thing now, and I was telling my girl in a letter (I filed a grievance on it last Friday) that either the Warden just doesn't care, or he doesn't have the control he thinks he has...The working theory is this: because people don't want to work in a prison anymore, and officers are constantly being hired, then quitting weeks after, the ranking supervisors try to placate the lazy officers and tell them that as long as it doesn't affect security, or is a threat to security, they don't care if they don't do their jobs like letting us have our recreation or a shower. They're not going to jump their ass for us being screwed out of recreation. After all, we're lowly offenders...Who gives a damn?
What they are not realising is that it very much is a threat to security because you can't keep screwing guys out of the few priviliges they have - privileges that help to keep them in line and well behaved, and if they're taken away...I try to encourage guys to file grievances because you need what is happening on record, but in their minds the process doesn't work. Some think violence is the only answer, and I'm like, "No...don't do that! In using violence it will only justify them screwing us over even more. It solves nothing!" But they really believe that it is the only way to get attention. I've offered to write grievances for people, so long as they promise to turn them in, but I can't hold people's hands, only encourage them...
As far as I know though, the only recreation problems we're having are on A-Pod and B-Pod, and so it isn't enough to address the problem. These are the most full pods on the building and the only pods where everyone goes to recreation.
So, I woke up today feeling slightly down because they didn't pass out any Jpays last night....I was most eager to hear about my girlfriend's weekend 'cause she does these huge craft events and she gives me a play by play of the day in her letter and I love it! I do fist pumps when she's sold a bunch of stuff, and call them "barn burners." I'm always soooo proud of her team when they have a successful day, and I also love hearing about how the kids at these events react to the little grab bag idea I came up with for her...She tries to ensure there's enough little toys to annoy adults at these things - bouncing balls, whistles, chattering wind-up teeth...Nothing makes me smile more than having the image of a snooty and stuffy adult irritated by the mischief of kids! Why do adults forget they were once children too?
Well, hopefully they'll get their act together tonight and pass out Jpays!
I'm scheduled for recreation later this afternoon and I just finished another chapter of my memoir...I'm getting closer to the end now, but it's difficult reliving all of the emotion...
Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith!
February 28th, 2019
I wish the sun would come out! I'm sooooo sick and tired of grey skies and rain...Please, March, bring us many days of sunshine and lovely spring weather.
I cannot believe how fast this past month went. It's just been a blur! As I write this I'm not scheduled for recreation, so I'm assuming it will be around 4th or 5th round. I don't know if it's just this shift, but things have improved this past few days, and they are trying to get rec done and stay on top of the work load. They also told the officers that mail MUST be passed out by 10pm, after weeks of receiving mail past midnight. Things are definitely less stressful when everything runs smoothly, but what I also know about this place is: never get comfortable. This could fall apart in the next shift or crew of officers.
I had filed a grievance about the situation, and they were really slick with how they rejected it...I had typed it, and they returned it a couple of days after saying, "Must submit original copy." Now, I don't know how they confused something being typed as not "original" but we are allowed to use our typewriters. I gave a heavy sigh, but at least I know it was copied and is on record - many other grievances were filed by other people so hopefully those ones will receive responses.
Anyway, in other news, I have finished chapter 39 of my memoir, and things are rapidly speeding up now...I'm close to August, and things are really falling apart in my life at that time. Writing these things and reliving the memories and the emotion, is really difficult...I often wish I had a time machine so I could go back and kidnap myself or something, maybe prevent the stupid things from happening. I remember Stephen King's novel, "11/22/63," where he writes that the past doesn't like to be changed, but I would love to be able to go back and see my parents! They wouldn't recognise me, and I'd say, "Look..." and try to talk to them and help them to see that yes, whilst I am responsible for my choices and actions, they too share in some of the responsibility for how they handled things. I'd say, "Look, that kid just needs some guidance and love...Give him those things and he'll go on to do amazing things - I promise you!" But until I can figure out a way to turn my radio or typewriter into a time machine, all I can do is daydream.
Here's to hoping that March is filled with a ton of happiness and love, with good things happening, and lots and lots of hope!
Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith!
[Below you'll see a scanned copy of the grievances I filed...Apologies for the poor quality - these forms are very difficult to scan effectively.]
March 1st, 2019
The State has killed another person: a 70 year old man...He was NOT any kind of continuing threat to society, so yet another mindless killing by the State.
Yesterday, I watched as they took Billy Coble from the visitation building and down the sidewalk, surrounded by guards, wardens, ranking officers, and spectators. I've not witnessed this sickening ritual - the long walk to the van that takes a person to the death house/execution chamber - in quite some time, and my stomach churned as I watched men shake hands, pat shoulders, smile and laugh...all in front of Billy, who had a terrible look of grief on his face. Yet, he stood stoic and proud - no slouching or slumping of his shoulders.
Billy had changed a lot over the years - guards liked him, inmates liked him...Over the years he'd had several heart attacks, and he was in poor health, frail, but very much alive. I'm not sure what executing him proves, other than showing the rest of the world how insane and fanatical the Texas Governor can be...Killing a 70 year old man...Something to be proud of...Good job!
In other news, yes, it's been a mess of a day...They only did 3 rounds of rec on first shift, so second shift cancelled the rest of recreation due to "too much work." That's the second time this week the guys upstairs were screwed out of recreation, and yet, no one will file a grievance! They'll complain and threaten violence - mostly empty threats - but I still try to discourage that talk...It's stupid, and won't solve anything. But when you tell them to file a grievance and get it on record, they say, "Oh man, that crap doesn't work!" FRUSTRATING! We're our own worst enemies at times...Our sense of community is waning :-(
Well, the skies are still grey and dark...Will the sun ever stay out for a long period of time?
Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.
March 3rd, 2019
Sunday morning, and it's another grey day...PLEASE can we have some sunshine??? I'm sick of no sunlight!
Well, the weekend has been a bit on the boring side. The radio antenna has been acting up since yesterday - we're getting weird noises and and can't pick up a lot of our stations, which sucks. I love listening to a program called "Live From Here" on NPR, Saturday evenings. It's a really music-centic program, and they have a lot of great live bands on the show, but I had to miss it yesterday, and it doesn't look like I'll be able to catch the repeat today. The guards said something about having the antenna reset on Monday, by maintenance. Sigh...
I was a bit down on Friday night because I was listening to the Prison Show and they were giving out the death row news and appeals information for those of us back here. I was shocked by the number of people who are done with their appeals, or are going into the Supreme Court...It freaked me out. I mean, if Texas Counties really wanted to, they could wipe out most of death row right now! Fortunately most don't have the stomach for it anymore, or the resources. You'd think politicians would see this, but they ignore the signs that most people aren't as interested in the death penalty as advocates "for" would have you believe. That being said, it's still scary to think about...Someone down the run said, "Geeze, those aren't the death row angels...they're the angels of death!" Referring to the women who give us the updates on the Prison Show...Sheesh!
Another thing that upset me is how the system is really a game of chance. There's a guy who received a Certificate of Appealability, but that same guy has openly admitted to killing - and even laughs about it - and the 5th Circuit grants him action on a mere technicality??? Yet, some of us back here never killed anyone and receive denial after denial...It makes no sense how they rule on these things.
Well, I just have to keep telling myself to remain positive and hopeful. I want to enter into this month with hope and faith.
Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith!
March 4th, 2019
Monday...It's grey and extremely cold, and the latest weather report says it'll be even colder tomorrow. I'm scheduled for 4th round with my friend, Big Will, but I'm wondering if we'll even get there...It's looking like it will be second shift at this point, if it doesn't get cancelled. They've only done one round of recreation and it's almost noon!
I've been working on my memoir, and things are accelerating now as I move closer to the end. It's getting tougher, and much harder to deal with the emotion and knowing I can do nothing to stop what happened. I've also updated the soundtrack for the memoir, and written a new poem, "Like I'm Doing Wrong" which is included in the poems/lyrics section of the website, under "New Poems for 2019." I love having these little creative spurts, even if they don't happen as much as they once did.
For the most part I'm trying to fight off anxiety and trying to remain hopeful for things to come...I have to try to stay calm, and I do trust in G-d that things will work out in the end...But my anxiety worsens when I hear of so many people being denied their appeals, and I'm also dreading the onslaught of media misinformation and bad reporting that may come when my co-defendant, Patrick Murphy, nears his execution date towards the end of the month. I pray to G-d that mercy will be shown to Patrick...It's so hard on the heart and soul when you have no control over the narrative the media and the State apply to your case, when all you want is the truth to be upheld...
Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.
March 10th, 2019
As I write this, the sky is a mixture of grey and blue outside of my window...The sun battling it out with the clouds. It does feel like an early spring and very humid kind of day.
The last few days have been on the chaotic side again, with first shift only arranging about 3 rounds of recreation, leaving second shift over 70 plus showers, which means they were forced to cancel the remaining recreation periods. Officers are quitting all the time because they are tired of the nonsensical "policies" that have no basis in safety or security, as well as micro-management and being treated like 3rd class citizens by their supervisors and the warden. Who would want to work under these conditions? I don't like jerks, and have my own issues with lazy guards, but I can also empathize with those who work for the state and who are just trying to do their job and feed their families. The State wonders why they can't get people to work in prisons? The answer is right under their noses! Even their own officer union representative told the Houston Chronicle, "The problem isn't the offenders - it's the system" (to paraphrase).
Anyway, I've been a little irritated over the past few days because I don't like it when people I haven't written to in a very long time - whether they just stopped writing or we just never made a friendship connection - turn around and post things like pictures etc, as if we are still pen pals. It feels like I'm being taken advantage of, or they're capitalizing on my situation. It makes me very uncomfortable, and I don't like pictures of me being posted without my permission...I don't know...It just bothers me. I have other thoughts about things this "world" invites, but I'll keep those to myself. I'm very happy with the people I choose to have in my life, the people I care about and value. I don't need anything more than that in my life at this point - my long established friendships, and the love of my life, my Taffy, is all I really want or need.
On a more upbeat note, I'm looking forward to some very special visits, and I'm super excited! Here's to holding onto courage, strength, hope and faith...I pray this week will be a good one...
March 14th, 2019
I'm about to write something extremely controversial...it might even turn people away from supporting me, or reading my journals, but the truth must be spoken and it's a risk I have to take! If I offend anyone, I'm truly sorry, but I can no longer bite my tongue...
I don't get Lady Gaga...There. I said it and I feel soooo much better! I woke up to one of her songs on the radio and I swear it sounded like a wounded goat singing...Miley Cyrus as well....I almost want to call PETA because it seriously sounds like animals being tortured. Just because you can sing in key doesn't mean you can sing. Also, when I hear interviews about people talking about 'their art' it makes me want to bang my head against the wall! A real artist doesn't have to talk about their 'craft' or being an artist, they just produce art...They put it out into the world and let it speak for itself.
So, we're on day four of the lockdown that began on Monday. I wish I could say that I've taken advantage of it and been knocking out chapters for my memoir and finally have it finished, but I've been kind of low-energy of late...I am using today as a 'reboot' though, and I'm really going to put my head down and work. I want to finish this memoir because now all I can think about in terms of writing, is another memoir centered around my childhood. It'll be more upbeat, funny, and full of happier memories of my younger life. I've settled on a title: "When All I Have To Give Is Love."
My girlfriend (who I love more than anything in the world!) told me that she posted YouTube links to my memoir mix tape, so that people could hear the songs I listened to a lot in 1995/1996, and I hope people will check that out! I'm sure it won't be suited to everyone's taste, but hopefully it will set a certain tone...I thought it was an excellent idea of hers to add those links.
Well, I woke up this morning and the sun was breaking through again. I think they said it was going to be 78F, and I wish I could get outside to enjoy it. I'm just sick of rain! It rained all afternoon yesterday, and I am just tired of it.
This lockdown is expected to last a while and they've not even begun to do the shakedowns on death row, so we're in it for the long haul. I'll be fine though...
Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith!
March 20th, 2019
Spring is finally here! I love the winter, I love the cold and grey skies, I love that feeling of it all. But...I have to equally appreciate the warmth (not extreme Texas heat!) but the sunshine, the fact that everything is coming alive again. Wild flowers, green grass, beautiful green trees, and birds everywhere. I love it all! It's a rebirth of sorts...It gives me hope.
As I write this we're on the second week of our lockdown; I think it's expected to last for another week or so. The one good thing about it, this time around, is whilst we started off with sack lunches every meal, we are not receiving hot meals. Believe me, even a bad tray beats a sack lunch with nothing but peanut butter and jelly, and bologna sandwiches. I'm grateful for it.
Monday and Tuesday I had special visits with a very close friend - someone my dearly departed friend and mentor, David, introduced me to 15 years ago. It was wonderful to catch up and talk about all manner of things, but also to get out of the cell for a couple of days...Escape the insanity of this place and feel human. It's kind of like resetting the mental button.
For the most part though, these days have been filled with writing, and kicking it with my friend, Blaine, listening to music and other radio programs, and just goofing around.
Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.
March 23rd, 2019
Week two of the lock down has almost wrapped up and the word on the street is we are looking at another week to a week and a half of this thing! It sucks being cooped up in the cell all day long, but they are giving us regular trays for our meals and I did have that special visit this past week which rebooted me in a lot of ways...I'm in decent enough spirits right now.
So, a friend and I noticed a strange trend that's growing amongst the guards and several ranking officers here on death row. They've been wearing a version of a 'death's head' patch, or a skull and crossbones...It clearly represents death (as they are working on death row, or enforcers of 'death') and it's eerily reminiscent of the Nazi SS death squads and their 'death's head' symbols and adornments. Besides all of that, I'm fairly certain that as a representative of the State they aren't allowed to have adornments on their uniform that aren't either officially a part of their uniforms like, say, a patch made up of the State or US flag, or State seals. I remember years ago when officers had started making name plates on their uniforms that had logos of their favorite sports teams, and the warden told them to remove them. Why is it that they can wear a 'death's head???' They don't even take part in executions...They are guards...Their only duty is the security of the institution - that's it.
Anyway, I decided it would be worthy of a grievance being filed - we'll see if it goes anywhere. If you are for the death penalty, fine, whatever...Just don't go around wearing Nazi symbolism. It's disgusting! Trump's America though, right?
And so the weekend is here and I'm spending it catching up on things and trying to keep busy. I wanted to mention an orphanage in Honduras that I think is worthy of support from people. One of my close friends spent some time recently helping out there, and in light of all the immigration craziness, and the horror of people having to escape the most extreme violence in places like El Salvador and Honduras, it's so uplifting to see that there's a glimmer of light in such violent places...The orphanage is called "Our Little Roses" and you can find out more about it by clicking on the following link Our Little Roses. My friend told me that the time spent with those little girls was medicine her heart really needed, and so I have to get behind something like that!
I'm hoping and praying that Patrick Murphy receives a stay of execution...[Note from Webmaster: Thankfully, Patrick did receive a stay on the grounds he was denied the presence of his chosen religious representative at his execution, but he's not out of danger yet...We are still fighting to reform the Law Of Parties, and the fact that Patrick definitely was NOT one of the shooters, and wasn't even at the scene]. It's going to be another heart wrenching and soul torturing week, but I'm going to try to remain as hopeful and positive as I can be...
Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith!
March 26th, 2019
Into the second day of the third week of the lockdown...They started off doing showers this morning, and were then supposed to begin shaking down on E-Pod. They finished shaking down F-Pod yesterday, so they were on track to finish the building up by early next week. I got my shower around 7am and then they grabbed the next guy in line who is in 3 cell, and brought him back. After that, everything stopped. They've not done a single shower since, and they haven't been shaking down either, so it puts them another day behind...Sigh.
On the plus side, a group of ministers came around passing out bibles and some Life Saver candy! I don't think I've had those candies since the 1980s! They brought back a flood of memories from growing up in Arlington, Texas...My mom worked in Dallas and wouldn't be home until around 6 in the evening, so my dad would often cook dinner - he was a really good cook! We'd be waiting on mom to get home before we could eat, and I'd help set the table and put out the milk and apple juice...Mom always brought back a little snack or surprise from work for Wesley and I, and most of the time it was either a roll of Life Savers, or another candy of the same brand that was square, chocolate, and mint flavoured. When we'd get the regular Life Savers though, I always demanded the pineapple flavor! So, when I got the roll I immediately ripped it open and went straight to the pineapple loops...I was like a little kid for a few minutes as it dissolved on my tongue...Happy memories!
I'll give the new warden some credit - he has been allowing more ministers back here on 12 building. The last couple of wardens had this place tighter than a pro-wrestlers butt cheeks! I do wish they'd allow representatives from other religions back here though, for the Muslims and Jews, and even Buddhist monks etc. I think it does a lot of good, and lifts morale to have those free world people come back here and show us that there are people who care about them, even if the motive is to 'save' one's soul.
It's an absolutely beautiful day and I'm longing to be outside. I was watching the sunrise this morning, and birds were pecking around in the grass. Then, later in the afternoon, I saw my first butterfly of the season! I don't know what kind it was, but it was bright orange and really pretty. There were some birds perched on the chain link fence eyeballing it, and I was worried it was about to become lunch, but they let it fly away.
Otherwise, I'm in relatively good spirits and full of love...Oh, man, I have to describe this picture I received from my girlfriend! I cannot explain how happy it makes me when I look at it because it is so freakin' cute! Her best friend had a son last year, and the little fella is adorable as it is. Well, everyone knows what a huge Star Wars fan I am so they dressed him up as Yoda, and waited for just the right moment to take a picture of him! I almost died from cuteness overload!!
Anyway, I'm still holding onto...
Courage. Strength, Hope and Faith.
March 28th, 2019
It's been a long and stressful day so far..,As I write this, I'm waiting on an attorney visit, but I'm stressed and very tired...It's Patrick Murphy's scheduled execution this evening, and I've been listening to news reports and I'm thoroughly disgusted with how inaccurate they've been. I think they've relied heavily upon the opinion of the lead prosecutor, Toby Shook, for interviews, and he has skewed all of the facts and in some instances, outright lied about us. The only thing they've gotten right in the reporting is saying that Patrick was not a shooter. However, the Texas State Network news reported he was the only person that didn't shoot. That just isn't true, because I did NOT shoot either! Here's the facts: ONLY five guns were ever fired that evening...You had 7 people, with Patrick not at the scene of the shooting. He did NOT set up an ambush, as Toby Shook said! And he certainly did NOT tell anyone else to shoot! That's completely untrue...All he said was "Get out of there." Period. Furthermore, anyone with any common sense knows that 6 people did not fire 5 guns! I've ALWAYS said from DAY ONE that I never even pulled a gun...I never used a gun, and the majority of my co-defendants said in their personal statements after our initial capture, that I was NOT a shooter. Then later, in affidavits, they reaffirmed what they had said. THOSE ARE THE FACTS! But don't just take my word for it, look it up for yourself.
I don't know how or why executing someone who didn't shoot can be defined as "justice" in any way. You want to lock up Murphy and I for the rest of our lives, and throw away the key? Fine! I'll accept that and I'll accept punishment for my own mistakes. But we are NOT killers! How does that even fit the whole "eye for an eye" thing? And for those who say it fits, think about this: you've got about 10% of all so-called killers locked up on death row, when the other 90% are in general population watching TVs, having jobs, and receiving contact visits, and access to telephone calls....That's fair? The system is fair? We don't even practice what we preach in this State - everyone is a hypocrite! I'm emotionally exhausted and disgusted with the way people can be sometimes...You can have your illusion (delusion) of "justice."
Anyway, more later...
I got almost no sleep last night. The guards woke us up at 2am for breakfast, then at 2.30am for juice, then at 3am for cereal. It was like they were playing with us - they kept turning the cell lights on and off all night long. Then, at 3.50am they started doing showers! I got to sleep some time after 4am only to be yanked out of my sleep again at 7.30, with the sergeant yelling at me to wake up because it was shake down time. They pulled us out and took us to empty cells on C-Pod for about an hour, and when I returned to my cell it looked like a tornado went through a trailer park! Things were thrown everywhere, and someone had opened my baby powder and poured it all over the place. I was royally pissed! I asked the sergeant, "Do you just tell them to throw crap everywhere?" He said, "Do you really think we do that? If you think something is wrong, don't be smart about it...Just tell me." So, I apologized for being sarcastic, but was like, "This is unnecessary." He said he'd tell the guards to stop and respect our stuff in future.
Well, as I began to clean my cell up I noticed they threw away my vitamins and my shower bag...For the life of me I don't know why, but whatever! It can be replaced. I have the things that are important to me, and it's very small in comparison to someone losing their life.
So, this afternoon I watched them take Patrick to Huntsville, and load him into the van. There was the usual crowd, but it wasn't a circus like it typically can be. It seemed to be a bit more serious/sombre, and in my imagination I hoped that maybe these people feel it's morally wrong to participate in the killing of someone who didn't kill anyone...I don't know. There were no slaps on the back and handshakes like there was on poor Billy Coble's date...Patrick looked at peace. When the van pulled away, everyone walked off and that was that.
As I type this, I'm still waiting on a legal visit with my attorney. It was supposed to be today.
Later now...the legal visit never happened. I don't know why.
7pm...So far, no execution...I'm hoping and praying it doesn't happen. Patrick did an interview with KPFT and said I was not a shooter, and it meant a lot to me because it's the truth.
Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.
March 31st, 2019
I cannot believe it's already the last day of the month. Strange that it would end on a surprise cold front! I woke up and it was freezing, but it made me grateful that at least the guards didn't take our blankets in this year's spring shake down, like they did last year - it still gets cool at night, and I like to wrap myself up.
Well, since Thursday, things have progressed in great ways...I was super stressed and worried about Patrick and the fact that the State intended killing someone who is truly 100% innocent of capital murder...I was also upset that I didn't get to see my attorney, and then waiting on the shake down to happen just compounded everything into one very anxiety-laden day. I didn't want to listen to the Execution Watch program - the one KPFT does on execution dates - as they're always littered with inaccuracies, and sometimes cruel and ignorant comments, but I needed to listen to see what they said about Patrick and myself...Fortunately, it wasn't a bad show at all.
Well, we waited for news as his appeals ended, and nothing had been reported. I kept checking the news throughout the night and hadn't heard a thing! I finally went to sleep and a guard woke me up at 4.30am and said, "Did you hear?"
I rolled over and opened my eyes.
"Did I hear what?" I said, slightly irritated at being woken up...
"Murphy received a stay. He's on C-Pod."
"Wow..." I said in disbelief.
I pulled my blanket back over my eyes and rolled back over. but instead of sleeping, I found myself crying and saying, "Thank G-d!" I didn't know why he had received a stay, but it filled my heart with hope, and I saw it as a breakthrough in the universe...As if it had finally heard us and things would begin to change.
I went up and down the dial on the radio to catch some news about his stay, and at 6 in the morning, on Friday, I finally heard something on NPR about Kavannaugh (of all people) issuing the order, and saying that Murphy's Buddhist monk should be allowed in the execution chamber...That the government should not favour one religion over another. That is the correct interpretation of the constitution, and it gave me some faith in Kavannaugh for the future...We'll see! I had hoped it would be on the Law Of Parties issue, but regardless, a stay is a stay, and it does now give Patrick more time to work on any other issues he might have pending or hadn't resolved.
I was still emotionally over-taxed on Friday, and spent most of the day in a bit of an emotional fog. Actually a better description of how I felt all day long is when I'd be up for over a 24 hour period, when I used to take drugs, and then the next day my body struggled to recover. I just felt blah...
Things improved on Friday evening when we were told the lockdown was officially over, I received mail from my girl saying she'd received the special surprise I'd been working on for her, and an explanation from my attorney about why he never got to see me. It was the Prison's fault, and I'm not happy about that, but I figure they did that to keep me from seeing Patrick leave...I should have expected that to happen.
The evening ended with a call into KPFT's Prison Show, from my girl, and that sent me to sleep with a smile, and with HOPE very much on my heart. We had a hot meal for breakfast on Saturday morning, and then back to normal trays for the rest of the day, and Monday we are going to recreation again!
So, I'm entering into April with a ton of hope and I think things will begin to turn around and get better. I've started reading Tehillim (Psalms) again, which I hadn't done in quite some time. It's a good way to start the day. I just can't believe how quickly this month has flown by though...I mean, it was fast, and now we're entering into the fourth month of the year? Unbelievable!
And if I can geek out a bit here...This is about the time when before a big Star Wars movie release is coming, we start getting more and more information about the movie, and then a trailer is released and the excitement begins to build! Episode VIV comes out in December, so it's time to get the gears turning and the information flowing! I think the movie title and trailer will be released by Force Day (May 4th) so I'm excited! I have confidence that J J Abrams will wrap up the trilogies with a bang, and make fans happy. People complained about Episode VIII, but I don't really understand why...It was a good movie, and lined up perfectly with the other movies, and I hope it will grow on people in time. Some movies just have to have some breathing room and age for a while before people appreciate them.
Well, on this Sunday, I plan to do some reading, some writing, and listening to a classic '80s top 40 music show, and cleaning my cell. Tomorrow I get to go outside and hopefully play some basketball if the weather is okay.
I am entering into April with plenty of...COURAGE. STRENGTH, FAITH AND ABOVE ALL, HOPE!