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July 14th, 2019
As I write this I'm on 'Death Watch'...It's where they move you when you receive an execution date. The section, whilst being on A-Pod with five other sections, is pretty much isolated from the other inmates who don't have execution dates. I've never understood the purpose of it unless you're days away from being murdered, but it is what it is and has been a practice since death row inmates were moved from the Ellis Unit in early 2000.
My attorney visited on Tuesday to tell me that on July 3rd, the Judge had signed an order to issue me an execution date of 10th October, 2019 - the day after Yom Kippur. We talked for a while and he told me what they'd be working on in the mean time, and that the fight was far from over. He told me to not mope about because the courts are going to have to address this racist/bigoted judge...I told him my biggest concern was having to live under a camera 24/7, but more so, seeing guys leaving for executions and never coming back. I know, as one who is very emotional as it is, that it's going to affect me badly...I can block a camera out of my mind and just go about life like it isn't there, but I can't block out someone being taken away to be killed.
I told my attorney, "Well, I'm glad the stress of waiting on a date is over. I'll go back to my cell and pack my stuff up, and be prepared for when they take me off the pod." I also told him that I'm still hopeful, and then I surprised myself when I said this - but it is a true statement - I said, "I've been through worse." In all my 41 years of life, I've been beaten, had a front tooth knocked out as a child, when I was beaten, had my wrist cut with a glass baby bottle after being shoved down some stairs when I was just 3 1/2 years old...I've been treated badly in foster homes, damn near killed myself in a scooter accident, been involved with drugs and was homeless, been in one of the worst prisons in Texas, escaped, been shot...I really don't consider myself a victim by any means, but I say these things as a 'survivor' - a survivor and a fighter! I have an incredibly strong will to survive and to live, and I've truly been through worse.
So, after my attorney and I had finished discussing everything, we made some small talk. Then he had to see another client, so I waited to be taken back to my cell. When I returned, I told my friends on that section that I had a date and Blaine, who has been through the stress of an execution date before (and thankfully received a stay!) gave me some advice, and told me what to expect when I was on Death Watch. I started packing things up, just leaving out the essential items like my radio, hygiene, etc.
Wednesday came and I hadn't been moved, then Thursday went by...I had heard them mention my execution date on TNS news, as well as some other things about the judge, and by 1pm I was starting to feel like I was safe for that day when suddenly two guards showed up and said, "Let's go. Put your jumper on, the Captain wants to see you." I unplugged my radio, wrapped it up and shoved it into a bag. Then I was strip searched before I got dressed and taken to the Captain's office. As I walked off the pod, guys from all over began to yell 'goodbyes' to me and to wish me well. Some said, "You'll be back!" When I got there, he told me to sit in a chair in front of his desk. He asked the two guards to leave and shut the door behind them and I sat down as he fumbled with a manilla envelope.
"You know why you're here?"
"Yeah, I've got an execution date for October 10th. My attorney told me on Tuesday." I said.
"You know, we have no history of you ever being violent, nor acting out or causing any trouble here." He said. "Let me ask you a question...You weren't a shooter, were you?"
"No, sir! And neither was Murphy!"
"Yeah, well, you knew what you were getting into when you escaped," he said, letting it hang there in the air...
He then went off on a little tangent about Patrick being denied the presence of his spiritual adviser, and I felt uncomfortable with the conversation...So I said, "That's his own business."
Then he explained the manilla envelope and what was inside...There were papers I had to have filled out 14 days before my execution, a Will, details about the disposing of my body etc. He said if I needed anything or had an issue, to ask someone to contact him and he'd take care of it. I told him my property was already packed up, and he said I'd have it as soon as possible. They had to go through all of it first. He told me I'd be living in 12 cell, then he handed the folder to me and called the officers back in to take me to A-Pod.
As I was going into the hallway, I ran in to my friend, Big Foot - he was in a wheelchair for some reason, and was on his way to medical. He locked eyes with me and I said, "I have a date for October, bro." He told me he knew, and to keep my head up and he was praying for me. We made the turn into A-Pod, and entered...
When I got to the cell the first thing I noticed was how hot it was over here. An inferno! The air isn't working at all...Then, I noticed how filthy the cell was. It hadn't been cleaned in a very long time. Dirt, dust and dead bugs were everywhere! They took off my handcuffs, and then my neighbor sent me some cleaning supplies. I was drenched in sweat as I cleaned the cell and I asked the guards if I could at least have my fan and my mattress, but when they made the call to the lieutenant, he said 'no'.
They brought my mail from B-Pod a little bit later, but I didn't get any of my property until after midnight. I unpacked, had my cell in order by 1am, and just crashed out, exhausted.
Friday was a new day, and the love and support I've been shown by everyone over here has been overwhelming! One guy told me, "Dude, you're universally loved by everyone." I was choked up when he said it, I mean, you want to know that you've had a positive effect on someone's life, but to hear someone tell you that directly...It meant a lot.
It's actually bonkers over here in how they run things! It used to be that Death Watch was top priority - ranking officers, guards, everyone made it a priority to get the recreation and showers finished, but we're routinely screwed over now. On Friday, I didn't even make it to the shower, so now I have to file a grievance. I don't want to spend my time over here fighting these people about the things we should have...I was told by the guys over here that they're routinely screwed over on recreation and showers. I made the comment to one apathetic guard, "This place used to be run like a well-oiled machine..." He just shrugged his shoulders and walked off.
During my time here, I'm going to do my best to draw attention to the treatment of these guys in the hope that we can get something changed. It's ridiculous, and has been bonkers since I've been over here. My neighbour teased me and said, "Geeze, everything was running smoothly until you showed up." I said, "Well, you guys are more than welcome to kick me out of here!"
I've made my mind up that I'm going to live my life as I always do...Of course, I'll make plans for the worst, but I need to keep my mind, my health, stay positive! A lot of guys get over here and give up - I refuse to give up...I'll give up when they have me in the ground!
Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.
August 6th, 2019
I had these deep thoughts I wanted to spend time writing about, with regard to the recent shootings in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, and one of these days I'll write about it because I'm starting to think that whilst gun culture is a big deal, I also think that the bigger problem is this country's revenge culture. We have to 'get everyone back' who has ever slighted us, or is a threat to us or has hurt us...I do want to write about it and I will, but today I'm switching gears...
My girlfriend has not been too well recently, and has had so much stress in her personal life, as well as handling the news about my execution date. She's been exhausted lately, and I'm super worried about her. I ask anyone who cares about us to pray for her in this time, and that she gets back to full strength quickly.
It can't be understated how important she is in my fight to live, and how much I love her and consider her my team mate in all of this. If I live, it will be because of her and because of my attorneys. Their resolve in this fight and their belief in me has been overwhelming. I may not express it every day in a journal, but she is the best thing that has happened to me. Someone recently told me, "I know why you love her so much." She is such a wonderful human being: a strong and independent woman, and a fighter. But her heart...her heart shines like none other. It seems crazy to say, "I don't want to ever love anyone else," but I really don't.
So, please pray for her to get better for me...It would mean so much...
Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.
August 3rd, 2019
Yesterday was one of those days that really sucked...It all started with having one of the laziest, worst group of officers working. Wait, did I say 'working?' Oops! They didn't do any work, and whilst I'm fairly used to that and it's very frustrating, things move on and you can put your head down and try to stay busy with your own stuff. My neighbour to the right of me was gone to special visits with his family, so I knew I was going to be bumped up a round of recreation, so I kept myself busy until it was time...
Then, on third round, everything broke out into chaos. There was a guy in the day room who doesn't have a lot of support, so we're making sure that he has plenty of food, coffee, and things that he needs, so that his last days aren't completely miserable. Someone upstairs had sent him a bag of chips and some chicken pouches for him to take back to his cell when suddently a sergeant shows up and starts barking at the guard, "The new major watched him get that food, on the cameras! Take his food, put him in the shower and go in and take ALL of his property. He's getting put on Level 2!"
Well, this upset the whole section, and everyone was pleading with the sergeant, and saying, "C'mon, man, the dude has a freakin' month to live!" You're going to take all of his property? That's BS!"
Now, this particular sergeant is a young hot head with a 'small man complex' and starts barking, "Y'all shut the f**k up or we'll take everyone's property!" Of course, this resulted in a lot of guys cussing and threatening back.
They put the inmate in the shower and then I said, "Go ahead and put me out at recreation. I'm next up and the only way all of us have a chance to get our recreation is if you keep it moving." The sergeant ignored me and then the guards went in the dude's cell to take his stuff. Another sergeant, probably the only reasonable one, popped up and I said, "Man, tell them to put me out to recreation!" Fortunately, he did. Then, the officers got mad at me and started to gripe. I said, "I'm supposed to have recreation. It's your job. Don't gripe about having to do your job."
I went to recreation and the guards went back to the guy's cell and started packing things up. There was a friend of mine on B-Section, so I walked up to the bars to talk to him because he was asking what was going on, when a hot-headed female guard (and not to be disparaging, but...not the brightest tool in the shed) walks in. Now, when I'm upset or nervous I tend to walk with my hands crossed behind my back, and that's exactly where my hands were when she says, "Don't think about it!" I had no idea what she was talking about, so I say, "What? I'm not allowed to talk to the guy on B-Section?"
"You were going to shake his hand," she responded.
"My hands are behind my back. How am I going to shake his hand?"
"You need to calm down."
"I am calm. You're the one talking nonsensical," I said.
"Calm down!" She barked.
I squished up my face in a "really?" expression, took a mental deep breath and said, "This place has turned into a freaking mental institution." And I walked away.
"What did you say?" She barked again.
"I said, the insane are in charge of the asylum. Sheesh..."
"I'm not the one on death row facing an execution date."
"Yeah...real original, that one. Funny thing about that...Every person on this planet is walking around with an expiration date."
Someone yelled out their door at me to stop entertaining her nonsense, so I cut the conversation off. I was really mad though.
They continued to screw the section over for the rest of the evening.
This is what is upsetting for me...and I've said this since I've been on death watch. Something changed! During my many years of being on death row, the men who had execution dates were treated with a certain dignity and borderline compassion. I think under different administrations the consensus was, they could be killed, they're receiving their 'justice' why add to it? The guys on death watch were a top priority and even if someone was acting up, getting into trouble etc, they were given a chance or two to modify their behaviour before having their property taken, or being severely punished...But that seems to be out the window now.
On top of that, we're routinely screwed out of the things we're supposed to have if we are behaving, like, every other day an entire floor gets screwed out of recreation. We're no longer a priority...When we have an issue that needs to be addressed it gets ignored. I've never seen it this bad in all of my years back here and the truth is we're being the better human beings in this...NO ONE is threatening to hurt anyone. NO ONE is hurling hateful words. We're upset, but the so-called 'law abiding citizens and good people' are treating us worse than dog crap. So, who are the better human beings? When a human intentionally harms someone in the name of the State, then the State loses its moral superiority...But what do I know?
Anyway, onwards and upwards! I'm trying to not let it affect me.
I was reading a book of thoughts I received from one of my attorneys; it's by Rebbe Nachman of Breslov. It's called 'The Empty Chair: Finding Hope and Joy'. I've been reading a quote or two a day, reflecting upon it and seeing if I can apply it to my life. It's kind of helped in the last couple of days of chaos...
On Thursday I had a legal visit with an Investigator and paralegal who work for my attorneys, and it was a breath of fresh air. I really enjoyed it and I'm just amazed by the hard work and HEART these wonderful human beings put into fighting for the guys they represent. I am so grateful for all of it!
Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.
July 28th, 2019
It's the last Sunday of the month, and I'm sitting here at 9.33am with a sheet drying on a clothes line, and typing this journal entry. Oh, and it's EXTREMELY hot!!
It's been a busy few days...On Thursday, I had an attorney visit and met a couple of really cool interns working with my attorneys on my appeals. They wanted to meet me, so they came along to the visit and I really enjoyed meeting them.
We talked about things they are working on and I'll know more when I have another legal visit this coming week, but I'm still full of hope. They're an excellent group of people and I couldn't feel more fortunate and blessed to have the team that I have. Even if I weren't to survive all of this, I would have the comfort of knowing they did everything they could.
We had another guy come to Death Watch with an execution date set for some time in November...That makes a total of 12 men on the list, and the biggest number of executions scheduled, in a long time. With this comes more problems with our recreation schedule because we are only allowed to recreate on our own section. We're allowed 2 hours on five days a week, and they shut recreation down typically around 10pm, so you can imagine the problem this creates.
So, as a collective, we've all agreed to monitor our time and try to only take about an hour each so that others get a chance to come out of their cells. We make sure the officers come and get us and grab the next guy, and so on and so forth. No one has been selfish in demanding their own full two hours, and I'm incredibly proud of these guys that we can all work together, agree, and get along on this. We realise and understand that we're all on the sinking boat together, and the only way to ensure that it doesn't go down is for all of us to bail the water out as a group. It would be easy for someone to say, "Pffft! Screw you guys! These are the last days of my life and I don't give a flying flip about you or anything else...I'm getting my full two hours!" But that hasn't happened at all, and Friday ran very smoothly in getting everyone out to rec.
Saturday was an outside day and I went out first round. I played basketball, winning 16-14, came in and went straight to the shower, and stayed busy the entire day. My neighbor had heard about the hot pockets I sometimes make and asked if I wouldn't mind cooking some up, so I did. They were barbecue chicken and came out really well, if I'm allowed to too my own horn! Then I listened to Sound Awake at 10pm until midnight (not one of the better shows he's done, for the end of the month classic club special) and was in bed by midnight.
So, going back to Thursday, and my first legal visit, I was having a conversation with two of my attorneys from the Capital Habeus Unit in Austin and the conversation turned to what it felt like to have someone hate you for merely being Jewish. I said it was weird, and explained how growing up, I'd only ever had a couple of experiences where someone attacked me for it...One being in the 7th grade, involving a stupid kid, and the other time was the Palestinian people who ran the Steak Fest restaurant I worked at in Kentucky. At least I could look back and empathise with the Palestinians' own struggles in Israel, and their treatment from the government, even if I was (at the time) confused as to why they singled me out for merely being Jewish. My experience attending a fundamentally Baptist Boarding School was very difficult...but even that, it was never, "You f****** Jew!" It came from the Baptists wanting to save my soul...I never interpreted it as being anti-Semitic or anything like that. Yes, it was confusing and hurtful to be told I was going to hell every single day, but I suppose they rationalized it from a skewed and perverted perspective of love? I don't know...
Then I told them that my experience is not even remotely close to the guys around me who come from poverty and being minorities. I understand that. Here I am, this white Jewish dude who grew up in an upper middle class family, who was able to travel and go to Disney World every year, who attended a boarding school in Kentucky, who could say, "Hey, dad? Can I have twenty buck to go hang out at the mall and see a movie?" Not once in my adoptive life did my parents ever say to me, "No, son, we can't afford it...We need to buy groceries or pay bills..." A lot of guys around me have never been outside of their own neighbourhoods. As well as all that, I've never been profiled and I've never been stopped by the police because of the color of my skin. I did benefit from white privilege, and no one ever knew I was Jewish unless I brought it up or they saw the Star of David I used to wear.
Yes, the Judge singled me out for being Jewish and it sucks...but in a lot of ways, I don't feel I'm any more special than anyone else. Do I think every single case that came before him, where the defendant was a minority, should be looked at again? Absolutely!
I don't think my experience is anything like that of a lot of guys around me...I had opportunities in life, I had a chance at a nice life and I blew it. I mean, that is the simple truth. I can point at things my parents got wrong...I can point out periods in my life where, had something been a little different I might not be where I'm at, but the fact remains I blew it in a lot of ways. I don't believe I'm any better or any more deserving than the people around me.
My attorneys and I talked a little bit more, and one of them said he was 'moved' by what I had said, and it was powerful that I recognized that. It's almost impossible to ignore when you're living on a section and there might be two or three white guys, and the rest are either black or Latino.
When it comes to this Judge though, I do want people to understand that an injustice anywhere is an injustice everywhere...He shouldn't be allowed to get away with the mistreatment of anyone, whether Latino, black, Catholic or Jewish. I hope it is my case that sheds more light on the courts for everyone, and that others will be given another chance as well...I really do.
Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.
July 24th, 2019
Last night I was vultured...You're aware that it happens, and many years ago when I used to get moved from pod to pod, week to week, I'd been asked to vulture a person on death watch, and I told them they were out of their mind! But to have it done when you yourself is on death watch...It's a very strange feeling.
You're probably wondering what 'vultured' means. It's a term we use back here to refer to a person who doesn't have an execution date who asks a person with an execution date for their food, electronic items, etc if they make it to their date.
So, I'm in the day room having my recreation when a guy on B-Section calls me over to talk through the bars for a bit. He's known to have a massive ego and only really cares about himself, but I have try to understand him and just take the dude in very small doses. I made small talk with him and then went back to talking to someone on my own section, when he called me back over again.
“Hey, I have a question for you,” he said.
“Okay, shoot,” I said.
“What are you going to do with your electronics when they kill you?”
I paused for a second, not quite believing what he'd just asked.
“Did you really just vulture me?” I asked.
“Heh heh heh...It's nothing personal, but I mean, c'mon! You're part of the TX 7. You know you're a dead man! Seriously though, can I have your electronics?”
I really wanted to bark at him, but I took a deep breath and said, “Apparently you've not heard about recent developments in my case, and even if they do kill me, I'd give my things to my people or to someone here who can't afford a radio or a typewriter, not someone who cons people for their money on a regular basis. Be careful not to vulture people when you're almost at the end of your appeals, dude, because it's really bad karma...” and I walked off.
Sheesh...this place! There are some really caring people back here, and I've met many of them, but people come in all different ways, and back here it's easy to fall prey to desperation.
I didn't make it to bed until midnight last night, and then they kept turning the cell lights on all through the night. I thought we were going to have a new recreation schedule today and Wednesday would be a day off from rec, but they asked me if I was going out first round, and off I went, despite the poor night's sleep I had the night before. I played some ball outside and won 23-17. It was lovely...A nice cool front came through and it felt like a spring morning. I loved it! When I came back in the guards put us straight into the shower so we didn't have to wait all day long like we've had to this past few days.
All in all, it hasn't been too bad a day!
Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.
July 23rd, 2019
Yesterday turned into a nightmare...Besides only getting 2 rounds of recreation out during the day time, when the night time crew came on, they were short handed because more officers had quit. I was surprised though, when they still tried to pull out another round of rec and start showers...However, their attempt to keep things moving was futile because I went to the shower at 7.30pm and was trapped in there until almost 9pm. It was a mess! They ultimately shut everything down at 9, and did no more rec or showers.
Today is turning into the same mess that yesterday was...It's 10.14am and first round of rec is still out. They've been out there for over 4 hours now. I'm scheduled for fourth round (I was bumped up from fifth) but it looks like at this point it'll be second shift, if at all.
The fact of the matter is that no one wants to work in prisons anymore. They get paid peanuts, they're treated like crap by the State, and have to deal with the stresses of this environment as well...I know it's difficult and I'm constantly telling myself to be empathetic to the situation. It's frustrating though, especially when certain guards do abuse their authority or take things out on us, but it cements in my mind that Texas is long overdue for criminal justice reform. There are people in prison who would be much better off in a program that focuses on true rehabilitation, and turns them into productive members of society. I don't think it's a liberal or bleeding heart idea that it can and should happen – there are plenty of people who have turned their lives around and done well after coming out of prison, and plenty more who are worthy of that second chance. The system as it is now, has not been working for 30 years...Start thinking outside of the box! Why does everything have to be punishment/revenge based?
Anyway, so last night I was listening to a radio program that takes requests from prisoners etc, and it was on KPFT. It's called “Reach Out Into The Darkness” and several weeks ago I requested a Cure song that I had never heard before called, “Underneath The Stars.” I'd all but given up on them playing it so when they finally did last night...Holy Cow...AMAZING! It gave me goosebumps, and had my eyes welling up with tears. The song was one of the most beautiful Cure songs I've ever heard! I kept thinking, “I have to hear this again! I have to hear this again!” The song was on the 4.13 Dream album – an album I've not been able to hear because I was locked up when it was released.
I know another program on KPFT called, “Sound Awake,” is doing a two hour Cure special to honour the 30 year release of “Love Song” at the end of September...So I might write that program and see if he'll be willing to play that song. I really need to hear it again!
Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.
July 22nd, 2019
Monday...I woke up a little before 7am and set about my day. I wanted to get a workout in before they started showers, but they never started showers at all...We've got a super lazy crew of officers! A-section doesn't have recreation on Mondays so we're trapped in our cells, but on the other sections, the first round of rec was left in the day rooms for almost FIVE hours! That's insanity...
On the plus side I did have a morning of really good music as a bunch of stations from Austin were coming in crystal clear. If I said it once, I've said it a thousand times: Houston radio sucks! Has anyone heard Lana Del Ray's cover of Sublime's “Doing Time?” If not, I recommend listening to it immediately. I've never been a big fan of Sublime, but she did a really good job of breathing new life into the song.
Other than that it has been another typical day here...Hot, boring, and moving at a very slow pace.
It's later now, and we just heard that a death row inmate – a severely mentally ill man – suffered a massive heart attack...None of us ever really know when our time is up. Sadly, I don't think the poor man had any family in the States – he was a Mexican national. May he rest in peace.
Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.
July 21st, 2019
It's been a relatively normal weekend. We don't have recreation on Sundays, so I've been stuck in the cell all day long, just tying to keep busy. Yesterday was an outside day, so I woke at 5.30am to go out and play basketball with another guy who likes to play ball.
We made it out there a little after 6 and started playing. Now, when I was on B-Pod we were playing games to 100, so I was used to that jog pace and not the quick, fast-paced games of 'the first person to make ten shots'. I had to adjust and lost more games than I really should have because my pacing was all out of whack! However, we did tie up at 10 games to 10, and the dude called it quits on me! I said, “Come on, man! We can't go in on a tie! Let's at least play one more game.” He wouldn't budge though...
Since I've been over here I've really been trying to motivate these guys and get them to come out of their cells, and not withdraw from the world because they are on death watch. There's no reason to show the white flag or let this place steal any kind of peace you might still have.
The other thing I've done is to encourage these guys to make the guards put us back into our cells when our two hours are up. If we let it go over the two hours, someone else is going to be screwed out of their rec, so we kind of have to monitor ourselves on the time. If we don't, the guards are going to lolligag around and just not do it.
The Head Warden, Butcher, came around on Friday and I talked to him about how we were full to the max on A-Section and because of that it was an impossibility for all of us to get our recreation because we can only recreate on our own section. He said he “might" look into allowing us to recreate on other sections. I mean, it really makes no sense! Technically, we all have execution dates because we all have death sentences...It doesn't or it shouldn't matter whether or not someone is 90 days away. It's my understanding that when death row was on the Ellis Unit in Huntsville, they didn't separate a person who was given an execution date until they were a few days away from their date. It wasn't until they were on Polunsky Unit that they started that practice.
I suppose we'll see what happens. I'm not going to allow this section or this place to steal my peace.
Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.
July 18th, 2019
I can't believe I've been on Death Watch for a week...I've been told by other guys over here that time moves very differently once you receive a date, but I didn't quite understand it until now. It's like the days whiz by in their own time vortex...I wake up, then the next thing I know is the day is over with. Even when waiting on recreation when you're set up for 4th or 5th round, it still goes by in a blur! Maybe it's because your priorities become very different – my own priorities are the friendships I have and trying to live. Sure, I've always been trying to live, but in the space of my own existence, and not the actual fight for my own life. Friendships, whilst they have always been important, become even more important because you want every single letter to really mean something.
It's been an interesting couple of days. I had every intention of writing yesterday, but my radio went haywire and so I spent the day fixing it and I have it all stable again. I wanted to write about the day I had on Tuesday, though...I woke up that morning at 7am and I'd barely opened my eyes when I was told that a clemency officer wanted to see me, so I slammed my coffee, splashed water on my face, and brushed my teeth. I had been advised by other guys back here that I shouldn't go to the meeting...They said it would be a horrible experience and I'd spend several hours defending myself whilst they beat up on me, wanting to know why I did this or that. One friend back here told me that it was particularly bad for him. He said, “When you get over there....don't go. They're going to treat you like crap.”
So, two officers showed up at my door, strip searched me, and then I got dressed. I was taken to a legal booth and sat for about five minutes (this was around 7.30am). Shortly afterwards, a woman introduced herself and had a file with some information, questions, and a writing tablet. She asked me my ID number, my birthdate etc, and then started with the questions.
She wasn't mean, in fact, she was quite the opposite. She was polite, and we spent almost two hours jumping around different parts of my life and over some of my offences. What I did notice was that the way she questioned me – by jumping from the escape, the robbery, then to my first offence, and then to something else – was just all over the place and without any kind of order...I think it was done this way to weed out inconsistencies. But I was clear. I was concise. I was honest and remorseful. None of my accounts have ever changed in all of these years, and I know I am standing on truth. In the end, she asked, “Anything else you want to add or say?” And I told her, “I mean, ultimately, all I can do is ask for mercy.”
She looked at me and said, “Ah! You said the magic words...I need you to write that” She handed me a sheet and her pen, and I wrote what was in my heart, and that I am deeply sorry for any harm my choices and actions caused anyone...I wrote that I am NOT a killer, and that I ask the State of Texas for mercy...
She had a copy of it made for me, and then left me there. I waited for a bit to be taken back to my cell, and as I waited I wrote to my attorneys to let them know I had had my clemency meetings...Just a few minutes later, I was told I had an attorney visit!
I had a really good talk with my attorneys and they told me there were some more filings to be made, and that things looked very good. I think they're going to ask the CCA for a stay, and see what happens. I have no idea if that will even be granted or how long it will take, but with everything he's told me, I feel hopeful.
There's a lot of positive things in the works and I'm deeply moved and humbled by the support and outreach from organisations and other places that have shown concern. What's been on my mind the most, though, is this: if I survive this mess, if I'm given a second chance at life, this is NOT something I'm going to blow! I will do everything in my power to live a life that is giving and helpful to others. I will do my very best to show people that their supporting me has not been for nothing...I want to make everyone proud!
So, today is another hot day and I'm waiting on recreation, trying to keep busy and stay focused and positive...
Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.
July 15th, 2019
I woke up this morning and reaffirmed the conscious decision I made yesterday to live my life on death watch as normally as I can, and try not to let it affect me. It's easier said than done but I see no reason to be all doom and gloom at this point. I think the biggest thing that bothers me the most is living under a flippin' camera! But really, it's a mental thing...I have to be creative in certain aspects, but it isn't that big of a deal, although someone told me that when a person is 14 days away from their execution, the scrutiny over every aspect of your privacy is enhanced and they watch you even more closely.
So, after waking up and praying, I got outside to exercise and was fortunate to receive a shower fairly early. Another thing I have to get used to is not being able to shave every single day. When you're not on death watch or on discipline, they issue you your own razor so you can have a shave every single day. But here, they only allow you to use a razor on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. It's an attempt to keep you from killing yourself before the State can, and man...that is the absolute definition of irony!
It got me thinking again about revenge...I've written about this before, but I'm still baffled about how vengeful our society - especially our justice system - really is. When you think about a lot of our legislative polices etc, and even how our government responds to a lot of issues in a vengeful way...no wonder we have such a violent society. I've read and heard it several times that violence is cyclical...Well, the death penalty is one way of carrying on the cycle of violence.
In my case, it's raised several notches higher. I mean, you know I'm not a shooter! You know my judge hated me not only because I was an escapee, but also because he hated Jewish people for a lot of horrible reasons. But the State STILL wants to kill me!...It's baffling...It's enough to make you cynical and jaded, but I still have hope! If I didn't, I'd go crazy.
A few weeks ago I was in the dayroom on B-Pod and I was talking to a guy about forgiveness. A guard (one who had recently screwed me over by taking my recreation and shower because I wasn't awake) was eavesdropping...
I had just said, "I find it easy to forgive as I've gotten older, and I eventually came around to forgiving all who have wronged me."
The guard jumped into the conversation and said, mockingly, "I forgive you!"
I became serious, looked him in the eyes and said, "No...I forgive you from the other day."
He paused...I don't think he was expecting me to answer him.
He walked away and then came back and said, "Forgive, but don't forget!"
And to that I responded with, "But...You're not truly forgiving if you don't forget. The issue just festers, and even though you say you forgive someone, if you don't do the forgetting part, you're quick to throw whatever it is they've done right back in their face...The other day you took my recreation and shower for no good reason other than you could, but I forgive you and today is a new day. I've not treated you like you screwed me over...If I didn't forget, I'd be holding it all in...letting it fester"
He ended up agreeing with me, and hopefully I gave him something to think about. We need more forgiveness in our society.
The conversation also reminded me of my own shortcomings when it comes to forgiveness. I'm human, and from time to time I will stay angry about something or someone for longer than I should. Whenever I look at all of these cameras around me, in this cell, in the day room etc...And then I think about all of the policy changes that happened after a death row inmate called a Senator from an illegal cell phone, and threatened him, I sometimes think, "Freakin' dude! This is why it's so crappy here!"
Well, that dude is living right next to me...He's not on death watch, but since that event in 2008 he's been living under constant supervision. Now, if I were to believe that the world isn't full of shades of grey and it's just plainly black and white, or if I happened to believe there are certain absolutes when it comes to human behaviour, I'd have the mindset to think, "That dude is a freakin' moron and deserves every bit of what's he's getting..." But I don't think that way at all...I hold onto the shades of grey in life because it helps me to understand myself, as well as others. When I came over here and found out he was my neighbor, my reaction was to ostracise him and ignore him...To not even acknowledge his existence because of what he did. But, after thinking about it for a long time, I reminded myself that even though this guy has pissed us all off by doing something stupid, he's still much more than even the worst thing he's ever done - this applies to everyone, and not just those we choose to speak up for.
Yesterday, he was asking some guys for food and coffee and they gave him some...I didn't give him anything at the time, but after observing his behaviour and actions, and his interactions with the guards and other guys over here, I realised I was harboring some resentment towards him. I wasn't even fully aware of it until I'd spent time thinking and observing the whole situation. I realised I had chosen to ignore him, and that bothered me.
Having spent that time observing him and his behaviour, I noticed that like most of us, when he's treated with kindness he in turn acts with kindness. When he's ignored by eveyone and ostracised, he in turn acts out. I don't know anything about his childhood, but I thought back to my own childhood and things I've heard from other people about theirs and I realized that I was ostracising him and it shocked me. I asked G-d to forgive me for this and almost without even thinking about it, I reached into my locker and pulled out a bag of coffee, then I pushed it out my door for him to take in. I banged on the wall and he was surprised I was even talking to him...I said, "There's a bag of coffee in front of your door. If you need anything else, just ask."
I felt good for breaking that cycle...
Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.
July 8th, 2019
As I write this the air-cooling system on 12 building (where death row is housed) is acting up, and it is HOT!! I hope they get it sorted out soon. It'll take a few officers to really complain before they will take some action. I do empathize with them...We can strip down to our boxers, get under a fan, and splash water on ourselves. They've got to wear a bunch of protective gear and can't take it off...Their stab proof vests probably weigh about 15lbs!
On Thursday night, one of my good friends back here, Blaine, suddenly got very sick. He kept throwing up over and over, so we began to scream for the guards to call medical. A male officer came through and he said he'd call,, but the female officer stopped him from doing so! When she came out to do her security check, I stopped her and said, "Look, when you pass by Milam's cell, will you check on him? He's been down there sick and throwing up." She pursed her lips and said, "Well...here's the thing...I heard some guys on the run saying, 'Do it louder. She can't hear you!' So I think he's faking it. I said, "You did not hear that, you're trippin'." She nodded her head to me and said, "I did."
In that instant I was so upset! She walked down the run and I repeated what she just told me to some other guys and they were furious, so we all started yelling for the control offficer to call medical, and a ranking officer. Blaine started throwing up again and she came to our section's gate and I said, "Do you hear that? He is not faking it! Call medical now!"
She left, and about an hour later came back and checked on him. Then she told us, "Look, this is what's going on...A bunch of people are throwing up everywhere. Medical thinks it's food poisoning from tonight's dinner...Youre going to have to ride it out, but if it gets worse, let us know."
Of course, guys were yelling at her about not taking it seriously at first, and her saying that Blaine was faking it...All she said was, "Well, you can't say that some guys don't fake it to get attention!"
That was her logic...Because some people fake it, all of us must be faking it. Whenever I see this mentality I'm reminded of the man I watched die in the bed right next to me, back in 1998 at the Choice Moore Unit. He had come back from the hospital, but was still complaining of chest pains. When he went to medical their response was, "The hospital wouldn't have sent you back if there was something still wrong with you." He died of a massive heart attack a few hours later.
So, it turned out the chicken was spoiled at dinner. They had used leftovers from a baked chicken they served on diet trays. It was mixed into some kind of noodle mess...I never eat it when they do that, because it never looks edible to me. As far as I know, no one in the kitchen is being held responsible.
(The AC is pumping cool air again!!! Woo hoo!!)
Friday was a chaotic day and I waited forever for a shower. Over the weekend I listened to the radio and did some more writing work, and today is another one of those chaotic days where no one seems to know what they're doing. I'm honestly just killing time until a music program tonight.
As of now, there's no legal updates either...I'm still anxious, but trying to not let the stress weigh me down too much.
Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.
July 2nd, 2019
Today has been the opposite of yesterday...I'll put it like this: first round rec has been in the day room for over four hours! As I type this, I'm still not scheduled for rec...I keep telling myself to stay focused and not let it frustrate me.
Something cool did happen last night though...On Monday nights from 9pm to midnight, there's a program called "Reach Out In The Darkness" on KPFT. They do requests and play every genre of music, so from time to time me and some friends send in a letter to request some songs. My recent request, "Special" by Garbage, was played. My friend wanted to hear some Smiths he'd never heard, and I suggested, "The Boy With The Thorn In His Side" and they played it! Man, talk about a flood of memories coming back to me...I can remember my guitarist playing it on his acoustic guitar, and me singing along to it. We both loved The Smiths' album, "The Queen is Dead" so much! It was a real treat to hear that song last night.
Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.
July 1st, 2019
Today hasn't been too bad of a day. Of course, with each day of the week now, I'm a bit anxious and scared that some guards are going to pop up at my cell door and say, "The Major wants to speak with you." When they do that it usually means you'll be given a copy of your death warrant and taken over to A-Pod, A-section...I have to push forward and act like each day is normal, and of course I pray that something positive will happen, but I'm human and have my own fears like everyone else.
We didn't have recreation today on my section, but I was happy to make it to the shower early in the morning. I finally typed out chapter two of my new memoir. I've been struggling lately because of all of the stress in dealing with my legal affairs, but also, I've been trying to figure out the pacing of the memoir and which events I want to write about. Because this particular memoir is about my childhood, and not just a particular chapter of my life, I want to tell the stories that mean the most to me...Sifting through memories and being able to move through the years. I think I've got it mapped out fairly well though, and we'll see how it all shapes up! I'll get the chapters posted as I write them.
The pod had commissary today so there's always the excitement of that as well.