A new month. A New Hope...See my Star Wars reference there? They're finishing up with the shakedown of this pod today, but they've still got one more pod to do. That being said, some guards said we're expected to be on lockdown until October 15th...I really hope it isn't that long, but it's out of our control. When they passed out laundry earlier, we asked when we were going to receive our blankets because the nights have been getting a bit cooler...the officer said, “October 15th,” so...who knows?
I woke up this morning with a bit more pep in my step than last week. Trying to pump those positive vibes into the universe! I exercised, bathed from my sink, and cleaned up my cell, wrote a bit and finished another chapter of my memoir which will get mailed out tonight. Oh, and they allowed us to buy some stamps and hygiene items from the commissary, which was cool 'cause I was dangerously low on stamps!
I was still in a bit of shock after that kind act by the Officer yesterday...I asked her before their shift was finished, why she did that...She said, “I didn't want to get in trouble for having that wire out there, if a ranking officer or the warden saw it, and I know it must suck to not have control over what you want to listen to.” I thanked her again and again.
Anyway, just trying to keep positive and stay focused on good things to come. Not too much to report on today.
Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith!
October 7th, 2018
I can't say with absolute certainty, but I do believe that the lockdown is winding down. Rumors have us coming back up on Tuesday, but we'll see! They allowed the Christian Ministry service "Kairos" to come and do their ministry work for General Population this weekend, and as always, they came to death row and gave everyone cookies which is always an appreciated thing. Especially since we are on lockdown and receiving very limited food...But it's a positive sign!
This past week has been pretty much the same as any, and I do think I'm off to a good start to the month following a pretty poor ending to September...I'll take the positive out of that. My head has been full of so many different thoughts, and a lot of these thoughts were to do with the political climate we are in right now, and I feel it's given me a sense of helplessness. For months I've wanted to write an open letter to Evangelicals and Christian Fundamentalists, but more and more I find myself just wanting to speak to everyone who voted for Trump - especially those who claim to be pro-prison reform, or against the death penalty, because I find it very contradictory on the whole. In a lot of ways, those who are lamenting the fact that Texas has already executed 10 people this year (whilst the entirety of the rest of the country has only executed 6 people at the time of writing this) are the very same people responsible for the very political climate we live in right now.
I'm not trying to bash Trump supporters - I don't think that does anything to help the cause and only creates more of a divide...but I do wish those of us on the left, instead of just screaming at those on the right, would try to communicate a bit better because we're doing a horrible job of that right now. Instead, we should focus on education and SHOWING people how voting on purely single issues is not only wrong, but very dangerous...
For those who wanted Trump in office in order to overturn Roe -v- Wade...you may well get that now, or at least the Courts will allow the States to essentially render it moot with so many regulations and restrictions. But at what cost? Watch as the Courts give more power to the Executive branch...Watch as the Courts allow Corporate America to rob the working class who work hard...Watch as the elite and wealthy Americans have more and more power, and the working class has none...Watch as the Prison Industrial Complex grows, more poor people are locked up, and private prisons reap the rewards...Do you enjoy clean air? Do you enjoy drinkable water? All of these things are in danger...Just look at what the Trump administration has done with the EPA in the last two years! And it isn't that I don't think you care...I believe, deep down, you do...but your single issue mindedness, your wish to vote straight party ticket, gets in the way. Loyalty is a good thing...but if your best friend said, "Hey, I think it's a great idea for us to jump off this cliff!" And he or she jumps...I'm pretty sure you wouldn't be THAT loyal! I'm speaking to Democrats on this issue as well - they don't have all of the solutions either, which is why communication and education is so important.
Obviously, I see things through the lens of wishing the death penalty would end...I see things through the lens of wishing prisons to change and have fewer people locked up...If I'm blessed enough to survive this mess my two primary focuses in the rest of my life will be education/ending illiteracy (especially working with those in administrative segregation/solitary confinement) and reforming the prison mental health system. These are two very important issues to me, but that being said, I also want to see people in the LGBT community be treated as equals...I want to see people have a right to better education, health care, and a clean environment. For the life of me, I don't understand how tax-payers have little problem spending almost a trillion dollars on the Military Industrial Complex, and then go ape shit crazy over the idea that it should be a basic human RIGHT for everyone to have universal or even affordable health care. If you are a person who is a pro-life supporter, it should be a no-brainer!
All I'm saying here is that you should look further than yourself...Look at the person next to you...Look at the country as a whole...Look at what is at stake...VOTE! You've got to get out and vote! Don't be a part of the problem, be a part of the solution! If you don't vote, you don't get to complain one way or the other. I'd do anything to be able to vote...
In other news, and on the execution front, I want to bring attention to a couple of guys on death watch who have little support, and who are mentally ill...Whilst all executions are a shame, these two in particular will be a very shameful day in Texas' history should they be allowed to go ahead - I'm talking about Kwame Rockwell and Emanuel Kemp...I've witnessed first hand that both are extremely mentally ill, and have no business even being on death row. Rockwell had just come back from the psychiatric hospital before he was given an execution date...People back here call him "Snake Man" because he has severe visual hallucinations, and thinks there are snakes in his cell. I wrote in February this year that whilst in the dayroom one day, he yelled at me, "Hey, you throwing snakes at me?" I replied with, "No, I hate snakes...I'd never do that to anyone!" Throughout his time on death row, he has been back and forth from the psychiatric hospital, with no real care being given to him.
As for Kemp...he has been on death row for a long, long time, and has spent many years coming back and forth from the state psychiatric hospital. His mind is that of a child..I've never seen him in the same state I've seen Rockwell, but witnessing first hand his interactions with guards and inmates alike, there is no question that he suffers with mental illness and mental retardation. I'm pleading with people to look at these two cases, and if there's any kind of mercy, any kind of humanity in your heart, support and call for an immediate stop to their executions! Please...
Well, here's to hoping that this week we'll be off lockdown. I really need to stretch my legs! To be able to get outside would be lovely as well. The past two days have been gorgeous looking. I'd love to just take a deep breath of cool and fresh air, play some basketball (heck, I'd even taken an ass whoopin' or two on the court...gladly! Just to be able to run...) and let the sun shine on my face...
Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith...
GET OUT AND VOTE!
October 8th, 2018
I'm starting this journal entry at 10.28pm on a Monday night...I'd spent the early part of the day listening to political programs, and becoming enraged at conservative talk radio and their mock outrage at Democrats' handling of the Kavanaugh hearings, and the "political correctness" of wishing to change the named celebration of colonialism and genocide from "Columbus Day" to "Indigenous Day", and to instead celebrate the history of Noble America and its indigenous people. One AFR host and fundamentalist spat, "The Indians weren't innocent - they were savages!" Yeah, dufus, because we were killing their people and taking their land. You'd defend your home if someone was invading it and laid claim to it. Contrary to popular belief, Jesus didn't say, "Hey dudes, there's this continent across the ocean...It's free for the taking! Go for it, man!"
Later, I listened to some left wing liberal radio and found myself getting annoyed because, whilst they're still smarting over the appointment of Kavanaugh, it's time to cut their losses and move on. Focus on taking back the house, the senate. Make the argument to those Americans who feel ignored or left out, or marginalised on why they should turn out to vote.
Trump can tell his base that he's kept the vast majority of his promises, and be surprisingly truthful about it. He can create fear amongst men that "women are coming after them" or put fear into those who just need a reason to be afraid of something...
But Democrats and the left need to be making the case for what Trump and Republicans have not done:
1. They haven't solved the gun safety/gun violence problem.
2. They haven't addressed mental health in America.
3. They haven't solved the opioid crisis.
4. They haven't addressed climate change.
5. They haven't fixed our health care system.
6. They haven't fixed our education system.
7. They haven't solved the student loan/student debt crisis.
8. They haven't addressed our crumbling infrastructure problem.
9. They haven't addressed the equal pay gap between women and men.
10. They haven't (and won't) address LGBT rights issues.
So yeah, the Republicans can boast about separating illegal immigrants' families, locking up children and placing them in tent cities...They can boast about cutting regulations on clean air and coal factories so that people will have breathing problems, and have toxic chemicals dumped into rivers and lakes that people drink out of or swim in...They can boast about a miniscule tax cut that does far more for the super rich and gives a paltry few dollars to the working class...They can boast about spending almost a trillion dollars to bust up an already jacked up military...They can boast about so much! But Democrats need to start talking to the people directly...Time is running out!
Politics aside, I spent the other half of the day working on my memoir...I'm getting into Chapter 15 now; it's still 1995 for a couple of chapters, but I'm not looking forward to Part Two which will be 1996...To relive those 9 months up to September...Ugh! It was a very ugly chapter in my life...so many regrets, so much remorse...and I can't sugar coat it! I can't gloss over it! I have to face myself down...
Anyway, I'm calling it a night. May God grant me mercy!
GET OUT AND VOTE!
Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.
October 9th, 2018
(I'm actually continuing on from my journal entry of the 8th, because when I closed out that particular entry, I just wanted to follow up with a note of thought...If you read this in the US of A and listen to NPR, I highly suggest a new program that comes on late at night - 12am Eastern/11pm Central time - it's called "America On The Line." It's a wonderful live call in program that debates in a very civil way on various political issues. I think it would be a good example to those who don't know how to engage people who have a differing opinion to their own...Just a recommendation! Goodnight people! For real this time...Peace!)
[Later this morning]
So, word on the street is that lockdown will indeed be over tomorrow! I really do hope so...I need to get back to a normal schedule because my sleep has been all off during this period. Normally, I'd start my day at around 5.30-6am, and be in bed by 10.30pm...Yeah, an "old man" schedule, but I found myself to be more productive and "fresh" with that schedule. This particular lock down I've been staying up really late at night and sleeping in until almost 8-9 the next morning, and it's got me to where I am now, which is tossing and turning when I sleep. I didn't make it to sleep until after 1 this morning...I tossed and turned, and then once I was sound asleep the guard woke me up at the 3 in the morning (after we were told earlier that evening there was no mail) to give me mail! I couldn't get back to sleep until 6 in the morning after that because I waited on 1st shift to see if we were going to either get a shower or have recreation. Neither happened so I slept until 8 and then decided to get up.
A couple of months ago I talked about how they were shifting sections over to put in the new shower doors. Well, today they are starting to shift sections again because they are putting new locks on the food slots. The ones they've had for the past century are a spring loaded bolt that requires a steel bar and a tip that looks similar to a crow bar...About a year and a half, or maybe two years ago, on another unit, an inmate snatched one of those bars out of the hand of a guard and beat him to death. It was really something awful, and now that inmate is on death row. Since then, they decided to go to a turn key style lock on the slots, and are in the process of converting all of the food slots. I don't know when they'll get to my section, but I figure it will be soon, so I'll either be going to F-section or D-section. But who knows? I can't go to B-pod or A-pod because I'm not allowed to be around my co-defendants...
As I type this, the guards are saying we are supposed to get a hot meal for dinner...Woohoo! I'm ready and starving!! Today's lunch was a hot link, peanut butter and jelly sandwich, and one slice of bread...Meal of champions, right there!
Well, so much for the hot meal we're supposed to get tonight...they just gave us one bean burrito and a PB&J sandwich...Wow!...Another meal of champions!
Anyway, remember...GET OUT AND VOTE!!! You can't complain if you don't VOTE!!!
Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith!
October 22nd, 2018
Today hasn't been a terrible day...I just came in a little while ago after playing 70 games of basketball. It was nice and cool, and I felt like I could play forever...but whilst I was beaten pretty badly, I needed the exercise! I thought 60 games on Friday was pretty impressive, but 70 games is just insane...maybe the next time we go out we'll aim for 80 games!?! I'm soooo sore and completely exhausted, and plan on getting to bed early tonight...When I came in I was able to get straight to the shower, and then I finished everything up that I needed to.
The really great thing that happened today is that both of the mentally ill guys I wrote about recently were taken off death watch. I was surprised but thrilled when Kwame Rockwell was given a stay and moved onto our section. I said, "Hell yeah!" when he walked through the gate...And I was proud of all the guys on my section as we all tried to offer Kwame some snacks and coffee or whatever else he needed, but he wouldn't respond to us...(maybe we'll try again later). I can't begin to imagine the kind of trauma he went through over there.
I'm going to wind it down for the day...it's getting quite cold and I want to get under the blanket.
GET OUT AND VOTE ON NOVEMBER 6TH!!
Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith!
** Warning...Contains foul language **
October 23rd, 2018
Here's how I woke up this morning...It was about 6.45am or so, and I opened my eyes and heard two officers pass by my cell. The female officer - a new one in training - yelled at the other officer, who was male, "If you try to touch me one more time, I'm reporting you!"
"I was just trying to get a pen out of your pocket!" The male officer replied.
"Get your own fucking pen, creep!"
I got up, got ready for recreation, and started a letter to my girl...then I headed out to rec. I wanted to work out, but I was so sore from yesterday that all I did was walk around and talk for a couple of hours. I came back in, wrote a little more, then had lunch and an early shower. It's now second shift as I write this, and I'm listening to the news, waiting on dinner, and hoping I get mail relatively early.
Wow...Trump is calling himself a nationalist??? Why do I feel we're inching toward a repeat of 1933 Germany?...Jesus!
GET OUT AND VOTE ON NOVEMBER 6TH!!
[Below, you will see a copy of the grievance I filed on the cockroaches in the food carts...I guess I won??]
October 28th, 2018
It's been an emotional weekend...Yesterday, I was heartbroken to hear the news of yet another mass shooting, this time at a synagogue in Pittsburgh, during a baby naming ceremony. I've been to many of those as a kid...The parents hold the baby in front of the ark of the Torah, as the Rabbi blesses and names the child.
After news of the shooting broke, Trump gave a brief statement to the press, and it sounded so empty...I challenge you to listen to the real anger and emotion of ex-President Obama, after news of a shooting, and then listen to Trump...I was put off by his empty words even more when Trump said the incident called for the death penalty. Even as a Jew, I wouldn't want that for the shooter. What gets to me even more is that Trump takes no responsibility for any of this...for his rhetoric laced with tribalism and nationalism...his legitimising of hatred and violence. He can say that American politics has no place for violence, or that no one should be attacked for their religion or ethnicity...But where were these words when he praised a Congressman who body-slammed a reporter when he refused to speak against a white nationalist protest that resulted in the death of a protester? Where were these words when he openly attacked and demonised migrants and muslims? Trump's actions have led to this...If people don't vote to put in place a check and balance on this rogue administration, it will only get worse.
This weekend, I also learned that a supporter of one of my co-defendants posted some words online that I wish to state here and now have NOTHING to do with me, nor do these views coincide with or reflect my views, or those of my friends and supporters. I disown and detatch myself from any connection or supposed notoriety attached to the label "Texas 7"...I want no part of it, and I don't lay any claim to that title. I will be forever ashamed and have the utmost regret and remorse for ever having been part of it, or associated with any of it, and I will forever ask for forgiveness... I have spent my years on death row trying to distance myself from that label/title...There is no honor in it, only shame.
In other news, many of you who read my journals will know that we have a new warden here...I've written a little about him in previous journals, but each day it seems like he's enforcing some new rule - one minute we can't have our clothes lines up, and the next, we can put them up from 6pm to 6am...Then he changes it from 6am to 10pm! He's also been swapping out the ranking officers, some of whom are okay, and now he's stocking the building with hard asses...Dudes who love to stir up trouble. They've been writing bogus cases galore! This man is determined to make both inmates and officers as miserable as possible. I've heard officers talk about quitting...I've heard inmates say they've had enough...And if he keeps at it the way he is, some of these guys won't continue to fight their appeals. Right now, we're at one of the lowest points back here...one of the worst since I've been here. I just try to keep my head full of positive thoughts, and push through it...What else can I do?
Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith!
October 30th, 2018
Last night was pure madness...the guards had about 40 showers to do and it took them until after midnight to finish them. Then, someone else came from another pod to pass out mail, and they woke me up at about 11.30pm to sign for a Jpay letter! Then, I had to write a quick note to my chick, and crawled back into bed after that. They kept the lights on all night long, and then another crew came in with a very loud pressure washer to wash the bars in the day room...It seemed like every time I fell asleep, something else was waking me up. I had a solid bout of sleep from 5.30am until about 8am, when the mail room woke me up again to sign for a magazine...That was my night's sleep!
I had been told I was going to recreation third round so I began a letter to my girl and then, just as I was about to start on other stuff, the guards came back and told me I had been bumped up to second round! I scrambled to get ready and went to recreation, exercised, and spent the next four hours trapped...I made it back to my cell a little after 2pm, and I haven't had time to catch a breath or rest...You are probably thinking, "how busy can a person be when he's locked up all day long?" Apparently, very busy!
So, last night I also received a response to the latest grievance that I will have posted below this journal...the grievance was about the sack meals they were feeding us during the last lock down, and how they did not meet the dietary standards. To give an example, breakfast is supposed to be 600 total calories, lunch 800 calories, and I believe dinner is another 600. However, for breakfast, all that they were giving us was 3 or 4 pancakes thrown into a bag...We used to get raisins or some kind of fruit, and a PB&J sandwich. Lunch used to be a fruit item, PB&J, and another sandwich. What they've been giving us lately...the calories are barely adding up to 1100-1200, and that is being liberal with the math! Well, I lost the grievance as the kitchen said we were getting what we're suppsed to get. Sucks, but that's our life back here now.
Otherwise, I'm holding up...I've been learning a valuable lesson in communication of late, and I'm working on it! I hope to get better...
Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.
November 1st, 2018
Man...this year is flying by! So much to look forward to this month! We've got election day next Tuesday, and I know I'll be a nervous wreck the entire day, building up to the results that evening. Then, Veterans' Day on the weekend of the 10th, and Thanksgiving day holiday on the 22nd...
Yesterday was Hallowe'en, and the kids in this area were most likely really disappointed because it rained so hard, and the storms were something so fierce that I doubt they got out to trick or treat...I hope they got to do something!
So, today, I want to share a Hallowe'en story that happened in 1990...At the time I was a huge Batman fan, and still riding off the excitement of the movie by Tim Burton the previous year. My best friend Chad, and I, had decided that for Hallowe'en we were going as The Joker. I had a suit, a long trench coat, a purple hat, and I bought a make up kit and green hair spray that sat in my closet a good two months before Hallowe'en.
At my school in my 7th grade year, I had made a new friend from Brazil and his name was Conzo. His mom had invited me out to some haunted house along with him, so a few weeks before Hallowe'en, on a Saturday night, she picked me up and off we went. It was a blast!
Now, around this time there was a lot of stories going around in the news about kids huffing gasoline and spray paint, and turning into vegetables..and parents were warned to be vigilant and keep these items out of the reach of kids and teens. I remember Chief Waybourne, the head of our suburb's police department, speaking to my dad about it.
So, I came home after being out with Conzo and his mom, and my dad asked me how the evening was...I said it was a blast, but then he starts crinkling his nose up and he says, "What is that smell on you?"
"Huh?" I replied.
"That smell...It smells like spray paint," my dad said.
"I don't know...I don't smell anything." I said.
"Have you been huffing?" He asked me.
"I smell paint. You've been huffing with that new kid, haven't you?"
"No! I swear!" I kept saying.
My mom came into the living room and my dad says, "I think Randy's been huffing. Do you smell anything?"
Mom gets close to me and sniffs, and says, "I smell something, but I can't make it out."
Now, I had just turned 13 years old...I'd never touched a single drug, huffed anything or had anything to do with drugs leading up to this. I wasn't doing great in school - actually I was doing pretty badly in school at the time, but I was also busting my butt studying for my Bar-Mitzvah. I couldn't believe I was being accused of huffing!
"Go to your room until we figure this out." Dad ordered, sternly.
I couldn't believe it...they had no reason not to believe me. I went to my room, turned on my stereo and paced back and forth. I decided I was going to have to make something up to defend something that never happened. I opened my closet, pulled out the green hair spray, broke the seal and let out a couple of bursts. Then, I walked out to the living room and handed the can over to my dad...
"Is this what you could smell?"
My dad held the spray tip up to his nose and said, "Yep, that's it."
"I was playing with it earlier. I'm sorry. I wasn't huffing...Just getting excited about Hallowe'en."
My dad handed the can to my mom and said, "Well, you're still not going trick or treating this year."
"Nope. Me and your mom just decided you're too old anyway...You can stay home and help pass out candy."
I was sick...me and Chad had planned this out! My parents bought the costume - or most of it anyway. Not only was I accused of doing something I didn't do, but I had to make up a story to cover for something I didn't do. I thought maybe they would change their minds, but they didn't. On Hallowe'en, they took Wesley, Jimmy, and an an infant Kevin, out to trick or treat...I stayed home to pass out candy. Chad stopped by to hang out a bit and then went out on his own. I did my best to make it fun, though...I had a scary sounds record that I put on my dad's stereo, and I made bowls of spaghetti to look like brains, and a soupy gunk with grapes for eyeballs, and told kids they had to stick their hands in it before they could get any candy...It wasn't a total bust!
The following year, I was stuck home once again while Chad was about to head out. I guess my dad picked up on the fact I was down about it, and said, "If you can throw a costume together really fast, you can join Chad." I leapt off the couch, ran to my closet, and grabbed a camouflage shirt and pants, then ran to the games room and tore through my brothers' toys...I found a war helmet and said, "I'm going as a soldier...bye!" Then I ran out the front door and all the way to Chad's house before he took off to trick or treat. I don't remember what our candy score was, but I do remember the night being really chilly. All of the following Hallowe'en holidays I had were spent in Kentucky.
Anyway, in other news...As I expected with this new warden and administration, and as guards had been threatening to do, many have quit the place and we are once again short staffed. Nobody wants to work for peanuts and be screamed at by an out of control warden who riles up the inmates and then leaves the guards to clean up the mess. The policies are supposed to keep the place safe and secure for both inmates and guards alike, but they do the opposite because they're so arbitrary that they make little sense, and are now more about control than security. In turn, the officers have to enforce the arbitrary policies, riling up the inmates, and they then have to deal with the fallout of that...And if they don't enforce the policies, they are threatened by the ranking officers or warden, put on probation, or else they have their pay docked...It makes no sense, and Huntsville has to figure that out! You complain about not having enough staff - well look at how they're running things! To quote an officer in the Houston Chronicle, "It's not the inmates who are the problem. It's the administration."
But hey...I just live here and observe things from my cell...What do I know?
Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith!
November 3rd, 2018
I can't believe how fast this year is going by! It really is mind boggling...I always look forward to this month and getting into the holiday season, and the weather getting cooler - there is something truly magical about it. In getting into the holiday spirit and the tradition of things, I have made my own traditions over the years and in particular, listening to "The Wizard of Oz" and "It's a Wonderful Life" on my radio is something I enjoy every year....along with many other positive things.
Something I really want to mark this year, especially, and it really is a moment to celebrate, is that my girlfriend is stepping out on her own and beginning a new and brave journey with her own business. To say I'm proud is an understatement! She is a crafter who makes beautiful things, and works so hard every day of the week...Over the months I have been wowed and blown away by how fast things have moved for her, and I've tried to help and encourage her in any way I could. Of course, since I first met her, I was always amazed by what she does and her creativity, but when you fall in love with someone, it becomes immensely more personal and it feels like you have an even greater investment in that person and their success.
I've been reluctant to talk about it in my journals, but she says I should let people know how I contribute, and I do find a lot of joy in coming up with ideas and input when I can. One of the things I helped her with was coming up with an idea that came to me when thinking back on the times my parents would drag me around craft fairs as a child...They are often huge events with so many things on display, and if I ever touched something, I'd be screamed at! So, I thought, "they've got to have something that entertains and occupies the kids...something that makes the parents feel it's a nice touch, and it deserves their business..." So, I suggested putting together some grab bags with crayons, colouring books, little novelties etc...I fully expected her to say, "yeah...not doing that!" But she ran with it, and it turned out to be a huge success! It put a smile on the kids' faces, and brought the parents' business her way too...Soon, she noticed that other booths at these fairs were copying her grab bags...I guess imitation really is the sincerest form of flattery!
After that the ideas kept flowing, like, a drawing contest for the kids with a prize for the best drawing...The kids pin their drawings to a cork board, and someone judges the entries...And she runs prize draws for the adults on occasions too. Needless to say, it has all helped her, and I can't help but beam with pride at the hard work she puts into all of it! We just work together really well, creatively...I can't explain it, but every now and then someone that is a freakin' Unicorn comes into your life and she is my Unicorn :-) I'm really fortunate...
In other news...The weekend has been long and boring as usual...I don't know what it is about this pod since they swapped a bunch of people out, but even the weekends have gone from peaceful and quiet, to loud and chaotic. It's really crazy, and has hindered my focus, but I'm trying to get back on track. Then, I've got this guy upstairs from me who has suddenly taken to banging all of the time...I used to have the worry of him flooding me out, but now I have to deal with him banging and tapping all day! The other night I said, "What are you doing, building Noah's Ark? Geeze, dude..."
Well, I'm hoping to get eveything back on track with more writing, and other stuff to focus on...Stay tuned!
Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith!
November 11th, 2018
As I type this I'm smiling to myself because I've just finished Part One of my Memoir! Chapter 16 ties up the end of 1995, and I know that writing Part Two (which covers 1996) is going to be emotionally difficult...But I will get it done! I'm wondering if going through that period of my life will offer new insights, maybe bring back to the surface any forgotten or supressed memories...There's so much to write about in that period of time, and how things stacked on top of each other. I'm planning to begin Part Two over the Veteran's Day holiday weekend.
For all of you who are following my Memoirs so far, thank you! I really couldn't have gotten to where I am right now without the help of my love, my friend, my everything...Her encouragement, her enthusiasm and support...Thanks, babe!
Well, election day 2018 has been and gone...On Tuesday night I waited on pins, unsure of what to expect. I was in this exact same cell when the 2016 elections were taking place, and by the Wednesday morning of that year, I remember being an emotional wreck! I was in a state of shock, disbelief, and couldn't wrap my head around it. I remember a week or two later, I was on B-Pod, writing pages and pages of emotional vomit, just trying to process what had happened. And whilst the Democrats lost more seates in the Senate - something I don't understand when the candidates who ran for the Republicans (outside of, maybe, Mitt Romney) are as extreme and far right as you can get. The Democrats did win the House though, so it wasn't a total bust! The other thing is that with Democrats in control of congress, they can subpoena Trump's tax records and other things...I think this has him a bit nervous, and it was reflected in his rambling incoherent and nonsensical press conference yesterday...He actually called a black reporter "racist" for asking him about racism! I was scratching my head on that one...
Anyway, it does give me a little hope and maybe - God willing, and with his mercy - I will be around for 2020 to see even greater things happen. I certainly woke up in a much better mood the day after the 2018 elections.
I'm looking forward to the coming holiday weekend and especially the fast approaching Thanksgiving holiday...I think I'm really going to throw myself into the holiday spirit this year. Let's make it fun and full of love!
Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith!
November 12th, 2018
Well, I thought today was going to be an observed part of the Veteran's holiday, but it appears it isn't. That being said, the day has been loud and chaotic and nothing has gotten done - I got my shower at 4pm! I was fully expecting to get it this morning because I skipped out on recreation. Sigh...Can't win them all!
Anyway, I put my head down and got busy working on the latest chapters of my memoir - I'm up to chapter 3, part two, and they will be posted up on the website soon. It's kind of strange writing about how things continue to get worse...there are moments when at that time I thought, okay...things are going to get back on track, only for me to self sabotage myself or make a bad choice about things...It's hard. And it builds and builds until it all explodes...Very difficult to write, but I have to get through it.
The weather is extremly cold! We're expected to hit the 30s tonight...Anyway, I'm still holding on to...
Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.
November 16th, 2018
I woke up early in the morning with a little panic attack, and feeling slightly distressed...It came because last night, my neighbour had received an update on the most recent execution dates, and my other co-defendant, Patrick Murphy, received a date for March...that leaves me as the last one of us...As positive and hopeful as I am trying to be, it feels like I'm at the edge of the cliff, holding onto this tiny little root sticking out of the ground, and I just hope it's strong enough to hold me and keep me from falling. I have to press on through though, keep hopeful, keep praying and asking for mercy, and believing that something positive will happen. As Yoda would say, "Difficult the future is to see, always in motion..." [Update from Randy: the news about Patrick Murphy receiving a date was not entirely true...What is happening is the DA in his case is pushing to have a date scheduled for March 2019, but NOTHING is confirmed by the TDCJ as yet].
The day started off a bit on the crazy side! I woke up, shook the negativity out of my head, and had a cup of hot - yes, hot - coffee! I was finally allowed to purchase a new hot pot yesterday, after going weeks without being able to have a hot drink, or to make any hot food for myself. After my coffee, I started writing my daily letter to my love, and then had a conversation with a guy in the dayroom when suddenly there was a whole lot of commotion, screaming, chaos and confusion...apparently, as the guards were taking someone to recreation, another inmate tried to stab him with a homemade spear, as he passed by his cell. I don't understand being so angry with someone that you want to do physical harm to them, and if you do feel like that, just step back, breathe, and blow if off...Some guys just can't do it...It's a pride thing, or something to impress their so-called friends with, and some just want to come across as "tough". It solves nothing, impresses no one, and now that guy is going to be in the dungeon for the entire holiday season...Why? Because he couldn't let something go...Back here, we should know more than most that revenge never solved anything!
Weather wise, we've just had a deep freeze, and now we're thawing out. The only problem is that the back walls were "sweating" from condensation, and as things are drying out, there's this persistent smell of mold and mildrew...It's disgusting! I'm just glad I can go outside this afternoon and breathe some fresh air and clear my head. Until then, I wanted to share a passage from my Small Stones From The River meditation book...It's a book my girlfriend sent to me at the beginning of the year, and I pick it up just about every day. The passage I want to share speaks about how the way we respond or react to things can have an equal response in turn, and how everything in our lives, whether we see it or not, is interconnected...
tug one string
and the web ripples
the scowl you receive
is the scowl you once gave
so smile to receive a smile
lessen a burden
and feel your burden lifted
we live together
in the web
and all of us
are tugging on it
Isn't that amazing? I'm doing okay, and keeping positive!
Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.
November 17th, 2018
I'm facing today in a bit of a sour mood, but I'm really trying to shake it off! I wrote about how things were in a state of chaos yesterday, and after I finished writing, things grew impossibly worse...First, a bit of clarification...Yesterday I wrote that Patrick Murphy had received a date - this has NOT happened yet. The position is that the DA had only requested an execution date for late March, but it is up to the trial court to set the date, and they do usually side with the DA of that county. Nonetheless, nothing has been confirmed yet, so we must remain hopeful, as always.
So, where to begin? I was scheduled for recreation, 4th round, and this usually lands around 3-4pm. It's very rare that the guards get 5 rounds of recreaton out on first shift, but it can be done quite easily. That being said, it was looking like 4th round of recreation was going to run into 2nd shift, which I really didn't mind because I figured I would get back in around 7pm, get my shower, and then listen to the Prison Show. I was really looking forward to getting outside because it was a beautiful cool day - not warm, not cold, but just perfect! Getting outside didn't happen...3rd round of recreation was out until 6.30pm! They didn't pull out 4th round of recreation until almost 8pm and so I had to skip out on recreation because I didn't want to miss the Prison Show, so I figured I'd just get my shower at 9pm, and even though I wasn't happy about that, I was certain I'd be back in time for the shout outs...I really wanted to hear my girlfriend's voice...9.30pm came, and I was still in the shower...10pm came and I was still in the shower...The guards had disappeared to the other side of the pod!! I didn't get back to my cell until 10.35pm having been trapped in the shower for an hour and a half!!! I was soooooo angry, and hoping I hadn't missed the call, because she is almost always on in the first 10 minutes of the calls...But when I put my radio on, the reception was so staticky that I could barely make anything out for the rest of the show...Sigh...
The guards didn't finish showers and recreation until after midnight! This is insanity...I'm amazed at how this new warden is doing everything in his power to make our lives as miserable as possible, but he does NOTHING to make the officers do the job they are supposed to do. Not all of them are lazy, but I'd say three-quarters of them are, and no ranking officer ever tells them to do the job they're supposed to do. However, they can write us up on bogus cases, or enforce stupid rules that do nothing but make our lives difficult, and have nothing to do with actual "security."
Alright...blood pressue is going up again...I need to get to some laundry and cleaning, and keep my brain occupied.
Courage. Strength. Faith and Hope.
November 18th, 2018
It's 1.49pm and I'm getting caught up on writing my Memoirs...I've started the day off finishing up laundry and cleaning my cell from top to bottom. We're facing a mildrew and mold problem because it has been so damp and humid, and the circulation of air is really messed up. The smell of mold and mildew is so strong it was giving me a headache...And when I scrubbed underneath my bunk, which is a large metal frame, the rag came out pitch black! I had just cleaned all of that out a couple of days before. My neighbour told a guard that they should pass out face masks so we don't have to breathe in this crap because even the guards are complaining about headaches and allergy issues. This new warden has the trustees running around polishing brass drains and door knobs, but this mold/mildrew issue hasn't been addressed thus far. I'll probably write a grievance about it on Monday morning. If people reading this have loved ones on death row, please encourage them to file a grievance...On the outside, you can legitimately complain to officials (the ombudsman office) about the issue. There's little doubt in my mind that if this was a public facility, any inspector would condemn the building.
Anyway, I am looking forward to Thanksgiving and the holidays. One of the radio stations is already playing its 24/7 Xmas music, which will put anyone in a good mood! Chanukah is approaching fast, and to my Jewish Brothers and Sisters: Happy Chanukah...I might share some funny stories this year, in my journals, as it approaches.
Well, here's to a very Happy Thanksgiving to everyone! I'm going to force myself to get into a better mood...!
Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.
**Warning...Contains explicit reference to drug use**
November 19th, 2018
Today was one of those days...not terrible, but not the greatest day in the world either. If a word could describe the day, it would be, "Meh."
I woke up with the intentions of getting outside and enjoying the cool weather...I knew it would be grey and cool, but there was no rain forecast for the day. Wrong! Just before I was about to go outside, we were hit with a torrential downpour! I called it off, even though the guards hadn't shut the outside rec yards down. I can handle getting a bit wet - I love the puddle hopping, and splashing around like I've lost my mind, but when it's this cold? I'll pass! Fortunately, the guards let me get straight into the shower, so I was able to get that out of the way and get on with my day.
When I got back to my cell, the mail room lady had shown up and posted a notice...This is VERY IMPORTANT for anyone who writes to prisoners in Texas, because it applies to all units...Apparently, people have been smuggling in a chemical called "K2", via letters and other methods. The chemical is sprayed on paper or pot pourri, or some other leafy materials, then it dries out and can be smoked. Using this drug causes an hallucinogenic effect - so much that it causes people to freak out like they have taken Angel Dust or something...It's become quite the epidemic in TDCJ, and has caused many inmates to be taken to hospital.
The mail room, in an effort to get control of this epidemic (Why don't they ever look at their own??? Things like this don't come in just through letters, and they always blame the inmates and the people who write to them!) has decided to come up with new receiving mail rules...They are as follows:
No stickers on letters, of any kind.
No lipstick kisses (this one sucks because my girl keeps me topped up with kisses, which makes me happy)
No letters sprayed with perfume, or ANYTHING else that they feel cannot be inspected.
You do not have the right to appeal any decision made by the mail room, and you will not be allowed to receive or read the letter. It will be denied and destroyed.
So, keep that in mind people...
[Update: Randy wrote this journal on 19th November...We have no mail or journals, as yet, for after that date, and with Thanksgiving holidays and generally slow running mail out of Polunsky, it may be a few more days before we receive anything further. With all of the differing stories going around about this policy being either "in force", "cancelled", or "on hold", we are sure that Randy's later journals will have an update on what has been decided. Obviously, when he wrote this journal, the only information he had to hand was the notice the mail room had handed out to all of the inmates on that day, but at least it tells us why such action regarding the mail is being considered/in force or whatever...We will update again when we know more, but in the meantime, we suggest people call Huntsville if they want clarification on the current state of play]
[Update 10th December, 2018] According to the mail room at the Polunsky Unit, the rule about no perfume, stickers or lipstick kisses is not in force]
Well, that piece of news made my morning a bummer, but I trucked along, determined to not be in a bad mood!
When the afternoon came, a guy came to our dayroom and started demanding I cook something for him to eat whilst he was there...Everyone knows I have a new hotpot now, and people have been asking me to cook. I'm "booked up" with cooking plans, and did not intend to even touch my hot pot today, so I said..."I'm not doing anything today. Sorry." He kept trying to talk me into it and I kept saying, "No." I was starting to get a little irritated the more he pushed, and I finally said, "Look, dude, I don't cook on demand! Drop it...I'm getting annoyed, and it would be dumb for us to fall out over cooking something. When I cook I'll send you something, but for now, just drop it." He backed off after that and things were calm...We even joked around to lighten the air.
I don't mind cooking - I actually enjoy it! And I always share just about everything I own. I often tell people I have no material attachment to anything I own except personal things like cards, letters, and pictures, as well as my radio. That's it. If I've got anything else I will always share it, because I am lucky enough to have good fortune and blessings at times...But ask, man...don't demand it of me.
After that was done, I cleaned up my cell because (as I mentioned in an earlier journal) we're dealing with a condensation problem on the back walls, and a very bad mold/mildew problem. I needed to get my toilet fixed as it was starting to leak, and when maintenance showed up, he had an inmate helper with him who asked my name...I said, "Randy"...He told me he was in a faith based program, studying to be a minister and said, "I'm going to pray for you and your appeals...I hope you get out of here." That really touched me. He doesn't know me from Adam, and it was a totally sincere gesture. I thought, wow...what are the odds? My toilet is acting up, we get it fixed immediately, and this dude tells me he's going to pray about my situation, and I didn't even know him? Pretty wild, but I'll take it!
One last thing...It's my understanding that someone has posted some very disrespectful things on a public platform, towards the victim (Officer Hawkins) of the shooting on the night of the robbery at Oshmans. Those statements - and anything like them - do NOT reflect my views in ANY way, nor do they reflect the views of any of my friends and supporters who are fighting for my life. And from what I'm told, the person behind the comments is NOT connected to anyone here on death row either.
Officer Hawkins was a good man, and I have the utmost respect for law enforcement. Now, some people will roll their eyes reading that from me, but for anyone who knows my childhood, they know my dad's best friend was the Chief of Police who taught me Karate and boxing, and when I went to boarding school in Kentucky, he often visited me there.
Over the years I've spent on death row, I've seen many crazy things...Unfortunately, life on death row often attracts some things we would rather not have to deal with, and thank G-d these things usually blow through quickly. But that doesn't mean we aren't affected by these things...nonetheless, they are out of our control. We have no link to the outside world other than through mail, or a visit from a friend or loved one, so we are clueless about what is going on outside. So I ask only that people who read disrespectful and distateful things about a victim, or anything to do with someone back here, they do not automatically associate it with the inmate.
Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.
November 21st, 2018
Thanksgiving Eve...Well, the holiday weekend has officially kicked off and it feels like a Friday, and not the middle of the week! I went to recreation, first round, very early this morning, and when my rec time was over, I was told I had a legal visit. Fortunately, the guards let me jump straight in the shower so I could clean up before I went out to visit, and as soon as I was ready, the escort crew showed up to take me out to my legal visit.
Yesterday, I had a legal visit as well, only not with my attorneys, but with an investigator working on my appeals, and I am hopeful she will be able to uncover some good stuff that will help me...It meant a lot to see both my investigator, and my attorneys, right before the holidays. It says a lot about the caliber of people they are, and how much they care about their clients.
As I was waiting to get back to my cell, I noticed a large family come in and sit in the booth in front of me. It made me smile that a family would come to visit their loved one right before Thanksgiving...That is real love.
Well, here's to hoping that we get some really good food tomorrow!
Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.
November 22nd, 2018
Happy Thanksgiving! Firstly, I want to thank everyone who reads my words for whatever reason, and for the people who offer prayers and are pulling for me. It means more than you could ever realize.
I also want to thank my friends...having you all in my life has been a real blessing, and saying "thank you" could never be enough, but I do thank you. I have a lot to be thankful for this year, and I really hope that I'll be around for another and another...
Well, we had a really good meal! They brought the dessert tray first, which had a piece of pie, a piece of cake, some black olives, fruit infused jello, sweet pickles, and celery sticks. When the actual meal came it was loaded down...We had a giant biscuit, stuffing, a pretty good sized piece of turkey smothered in brown gravy, and a piece of ham that was smothered in gravy too...There was also some corn, beans, green beans, and cranberry sauce. I was stuffed! For dinner they gave us an apple and an orange, as well as two salami and cheese sandwiches, with two home made cookies.
All in all, pretty good!
Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.
November 23rd, 2018
I started the day by getting outside for first round rec. It felt really nice, and we played 50 games of ball. When I came back in I went straight to the shower and settled in for the rest of the day...I will say that I'm getting tired of cleaning up mildew and mold...I clean the cell every day, and when I wake up the next morning, the back wall is covered in black blooms again! Every one of the guards is complaining about the strong smell of the mold and nobody is doing anything about it. My neighbor said when he gets a visit he's going to talk to his girl and see about talking to the warden about it. I can't remember a time that it has ever been so bad...I've never had to deal with it on this level since I've been on death row.
The rest of the day I've just vegged out and been listening to some radio...Tomorrow, I really need to get caught up on some writing.
Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.
November 24th, 2018
I've been busy all day catching up on writing and filling out holiday cards...I had to clean my cell AGAIN, because of the black mold and mildew...I can't deal with this crap much longer...it's driving me nuts!
Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.
November 27th, 2018
I woke up this morning at about 5.45am...I didn't get to sleep until midnight as I tossed and turned after reading an article about my co-defendant whose execution date is next week. The article was littered with inaccuracies, and some pretty blatant mis-statements that don't actually reflect the record of evidence and statements given by my other co-defendants, but I'll leave it at that. I guess my main problem with the article as a whole is how someone can claim to be a devout Christian, yet be so loose with the truth. But that is a story for another day...A group of my friends and supporters have come together to produce a response to the article, and asking that the reporter check the court record and double check the facts...The truth doesn't change, and my truth hasn't changed in all these years. You can read the article and the response from my friends under the "News" section of the website.
After waking up, I was told I was scheduled for recreation, first round, in B-dayroom. I rolled out of bed, got ready, and was out of my cell by about 6.20am. When I went out, a large crew of maintenance workers were coming by cells and checking the air. Yesterday, the warden came through and he could smell all of the mold and mildew...Apparently, and I hadn't seen this for myself, but on A-section, one wall was covered in its entirety in mold! The warden blew a fuse and started screaming at officers and other ranking officers demanding to know why this issue wasn't addressed. He ordered an officer to grab some trustees on the clean up crew and had them scrubbing the walls with bleach, all day long. He even had them to into some cells to scrub the walls. When my neighbour and I addressed the issue on B-section, the warden told us that he was going to get it taken care of. Well, the maintenance crew that came through kept saying amongst themselves, "It's fine...the air is on...It's warm in here." Another inmate had to explain to them that it was the air flow and ventilation. No air is moving. Sure, it's warm, but the air is stagnant and the moisture is trapped, which is causing the moisture to sit. Even as I type this, my back wall is dripping with water and I'll have to scrub it shortly before it starts to bloom again.
After maintenance left, I started working out and was back in my cell a little after 9 in the morning. I started writing a letter to my girl, doing laundry, and then I decided to bathe in my cell because I'm not going to wait on this particularly lazy bunch of officers to start showers...They've just been slothing around and doing nothing...Serenity now!
Anyway, I'm just trying to press on and stay positive and focused. I believe the universe has my back and I'm in good hands! It does little for my well being to stay stressed about things or to worry.
I'll close today with a quote from my Small Stones From The River book:
be the miracle
in someone's day
an unexpected kindness works fine
Something to focus on!
Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith...
December 5th, 2018
I woke up in a bit of a depression...so many thoughts running through my head and I'm trying to work through them. As I'm writing this I am listening to Texas State News on a local radio station, and they just had the Detective who worked on our investigation talking in response to Joseph Garcia's execution yesterday, and he said, "I don't want there to be any reason for people to say the justice system doesn't work in executing all of these men." Really? Well, sir, it doesn't always work and executing 6 people, if you have your way, isn't going to prove that system works. If anything, it is going show exactly how the system failed and continues to fail...and only highlights the fact that the system is rooted in vengeance, not justice. Do not confuse the two - executing non-shooters is not justice.
I think the only way to write today's entry is to just let it flow and be a bit of an emotional vomit...That's the only way I'm going to be able to get my head out of this and not bottle everything up...
Firstly, I'll start with Joseph Garcia...In no way have I hoped for his or anyone else's execution - I believe the death penalty should end for all, not just for me, or any of my co-defendants. For "all" I mean ALL. That being said, I have sat for the past week agitated and upset at his account of events and his blatant lies to the media and even his supporters. If he wanted to make his story about finding religion and redemption, I could fully support that. If he wanted to highlight that he never should have been in prison the first place, because he was only defending himself, I could support that because I will give him that - his story never wavered one single bit from the very first moment he told me that series of events back in 2000. But I cannot accept or allow him to give an alternate history of the events of December 24, 2000. There were only ever two non-shooters that night: Patrick Murphy and myself. Period. I'm irritated that both the media and some of his followers did not bother to check the court records and statements given by other co-defendants - I can appreciate the willingness to help, and attempt to save his life, but what I can't accept is the perpetration of a false narrative when all it would've taken is a little digging to find the truth.
Whilst my story has never changed (you can go back to when I was 23 years old after being captured and review early interviews in February 2001) I don't want people to either blindly follow or support me. I hope that doesn't come across as being either snide or unappreciative, because I'm beyond grateful to anyone who would invest even a second of their time to show me any solidarity or support - it means more to me than you can imagine! I just want people to do their research first...Look at the court documents posted on my website or elsewhere...Look at how several of my own co-defendants gave sworn affadavits that say they even went as far as checking my gun and seeing it hadn't been fired, and in their initial statements after we were captured, they said I was not a shooter. Look at all of the evidence...Look at the ranking document that shows they believed I was the least dangerous of them all, and at the time of the escape, I was suffering from depression (even the guards' accounts support that). Look at everything! Let there be no doubt about my role in things. Decide for yourselves...Then I can ask you to fight for me. I'm not asking to be set free - I should be punished, but I am not a killer and I should not be executed for something I didn't do and didn't want to happen.
If I had a time machine, I wish with all of me that I could change the events of that night. I wish I had never escaped. Hell, I wish I could go back to the summer of 1995 and never have left home that day...I wish I could go back, run into my driveway before I stepped into that taxi cab, tackle myself to the ground and scream, "Don't be a fucking idiot!" I wish I could change so much in my life. But I'm here, and I'm trying to be the best person I can be...I'm trying to right my wrongs and poor decisions. I'm trying to lift people up and show from my mistakes the they, too, can work to be better people. I have dreams and goals...wishes and desires. I think I'm worthy of life and I would hope that others think I'm worthy of life and another chance. I'm not perfect...Heck, I'm probably more flawed than most people, but no one can say that I don't try to be better!
I've been irritated by the way the media has reported things as well...We all joke (liberals anyway) when President Trump uses the term, "Fake News," and far be it from me to agree with him on anything he says or does, but he isn't always entirely wrong when he uses that statement. Sometimes reporting is down right sloppy, lazy, or sensationalised, especially when it comes to local news. I wanted to yell every time they referred to us as a "gang" or a "member of the Texas 7" - a term that was created by the media back in 2000 after the escape. None of us were gang members or had ever been part of a gang! We were 7 individuals that decided to escape. To mis-characterize us as a gang is unethical, and only serves the purpose of trying to frighten the public by comparing us to other violent and real gangs like the MS13 or something like that.
I was especially upset whilst listening to KPFT's "Execution Watch" program, when they got a myriad of facts wrong. One of the lawyers on their "professional" panel said we had 40 something automatic weapons and an AK47...That was entirely wrong! George Rivas stole revolvers from the prison and a semi-automatic rifle...There was never an AK47 or automatic weapons - not from the prison, and not from the Oshmans sporting goods store. Again, these so-called "facts" only serve as a means to frighten the public, and in my opinion, make them think, "wow...maybe these guys do deserve to be executed!"
I don't know...I just get upset at the many inaccuracies that are reported, and unfortunately it happens to anyone working their way through the "justice" system...Please, people, do your research and don't blindly accept what you read/hear in the media...The truth is there on record, if you look for it.
My other thoughts are a bit more all over the place...I woke up this morning and it seemed like everyone was asking me, "Did they kill Garcia?" I didn't want to sound like an asshole, but I kept saying, "Do you not listen to the radio or the news?" Why ask me? But it made me realise - and even I'm guilty of this - how we just carry on into the next day as if in our own oblivious bubble, blind to the severity and reality of our situation. When someone says, "wow...I'm surprised they killed so and so..." I think, "Really? You're surprised? We're on freakin' death row! It has "death" in the title! No, instead we wake up, drink our coffee or eat a snack, start our letters and go to recreation...Wash, rinse, repeat...Maybe it's our way of dealing with the situation and pain of it all. Some executions do affect some of us more than others, and I suppose it is no different in the free world. Your grandfather's death is a terrible loss, but if your friend's grandfather dies, you tell them, "I'm sorry for your loss, I'll pray for you." And then you go about your business as normal.
There's a scientific theory called "Dunbar's Number." Scientists took all kinds of different monkeys and studied their brain sizes, and the size correlated to the number of other monkeys they sought out to make a "tribe." The smallest brain could get along with groups of ten to twelve other monkeys...Medium sized brains could deal with slightly bigger numbers in the group, and so basically, the larger the brain, the larger the society. Homo Sapiens have the largest primate brain; our number reaches to around 150 people in our sphere - family, friends, co-workers...At a certain point everyone else melts into the background. Even if you see the postman every single day, and ask him how he's doing, they're not as "real" to you...They become a fixture of your environment but they aren't a member of your group or tribe. You CARE about the family pet, but you dont care about the animal you're eating for dinner. You'll cry and grieve when your grandmother dies, but when a highschool full of kids is slaughtered by a gunman, you'll be moved by what a tragedy it is and then...You'll move on. I think that in a certain way, as it is back here, it's the same out there...The death penalty continues because, whilst as a society we can say, "Yeah, we really shouldn't be killing anyone...especially when there's the chance we could get someone innocent caught up in it," how many people REALLY and TRULY care? Sometimes, as a species, I feel like we're dogs chasing cars...We'll never "catch" them. That's not me saying I'm cynical or that I doubt the intentions or sincerity of those within the movement. There are people who fight with every bit of physical and emotional energy to make real changes...Unsung heroes in my opinion. But I do wonder if, as a species, we're making half the effort we really could make to bring about the change.
And my final thought on the issue of the death penalty/executions stems from the revelation of the execution drug supplier in Texas, as a result of the investigative discovery by Buzzfeed.com. In an article published in the New York Intelligencer, here there's a sentence that stands out over and above the whole article..."The existence of the death penalty presumes that a country whose wealth was derived from black slave labor and indigenous-land theft and seen thousands of racist lynchings, has a moral legitimacy to be executing people in the first place." I couldn't agree more with that...Where does this sense of "moral legitimacy" come from? How messed up the United States' history is...come on, really! Slavery! Freakin' genocide! Does society feel it has the moral legitimacy to carry on with the death penalty? It's a sham! The system as it is applied is a sham! When we bomb an enemy and a couple of hundred civilians are killed in the process, it isn't "murder," just collateral damage. When an innocent black man is gunned down, it isn't "murder," but an accident. When whole entire tribes of indigenous people are wiped out, it isn't "genocide," but Manifest Destiny...It's all bullshit! The whole concept of "eye for an eye" is bullshit because as a great non-violent activist once said, "It will leave us all blind."
And now, for an upate on the mold issue...The problem continues. To give Warden Perez credit, when he learned of the problem he sent in a crew of trustees to come and scrub cells and walls etc. But until we can get some properly circulated air in here, the walls are going to continue to condensate and unless we, the inmates, are proactive in cleaning it up ourselves, the mold and mildew will persist. The warden is not going to send a clean up crew down here to scrub and bleach walls every single day.
Let me give you an example of how serious this problem really is...Kwame Rockwell...I've written about him before, and the fact that he's mentally ill. He does not function like the rest of us, and whilst he does occasionally go the shower, he had not been cleaning his cell. Now, I can make the argument (a very strong argument) that it isn't his responsibility to ensure that he regularly cleans his cell - his brain isn't even functioning on that level. And yet, the Warden and other ranking officers were "disgusted" at how bad his cell had gotten. Yesterday, they pulled Rockwell out of his cell and moved him to B-Pod. The sergeant was talking down to Rockwell as he stood on the run, and he stared back, blank-faced, as if he didn't even fully comprehend what was going on. When they pulled his property and laundry out of his cell, it was pitch black with mold! Another officer said his entire back wall was black with mold...Now just three days prior to that the so-called psychiatric doctor or nurse or whatever the hell she calls herself (we've taken to calling her Doctor Death) supposedly came to check up on him to see how he was doing. She jotted a note down and walked off...Surely she could smell the mold and see that the wall was pitch black, and see how he was living! The mental health department here is a freakin' joke! She reminds me of the sadistic psych nurse on "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest."
As they were taking Rockwell off the pod, we were all telling the sergeant, "Don't get mad at him. It's YOUR duty to make sure he's taking care of himself. It's YOUR duty to look out for his mental wellness." Everything about state's system is a sham. Wake up people, you've been bamboozled! Your tax dollars at work...!
What else can I say? I'm trying hard, so hard, to keep my positivity and hope. I'm trying so hard to survive. I feel like a Looney Toon character that was pushed off the cliff and managed to catch that tiny little flower poking out of the side of it, and I'm just trying with everything in me to hang on.
Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.
December 6th, 2018
I've been a bit emotional today...waves of every emotion a person can experience...And then I read an article in the latest issue of GQ, about the Thai Cave rescue of 12 Thai kids and their coach, and I found myself tearing up throughout the article at the miracle of an entire world coming together to save these people! I thought, "Wow...maybe we aren't completely lost as a species." I began to think about all of the little "miracles" we experience daily, and don't ever see or recognize, and I thought,, "I really do have a lot to be thankful for, even through this experience, as painful and frustrating as it can be." And I do try my best to continually be grateful for all the things in my life, but I can also let little things eat at me that I should learn to let go of...
I also realise that whilst I do forgive easily, I need to be better at forgiving, and I was thinking about the things that upset me over this past week and thought, "I should forgive them all..." And so, I forgive Joseph Garcia...I forgive the Detective that said he hopes we all die to show the justice system "works"...I forgive the panel of experts on KPFT's Execution Watch for referring to Patrick Murphy and myself as #s 5 and 6, instead of using our names...I forgive the media for getting the facts wrong...In turn, I too ask for forgiveness for my own flaws.
Well, today has been a bit on the wild side...Early this morning they brought some drug searching dogs into the pod. They didn't find any drugs per se, but they did bust a couple of guys with some prison hooch, and sent them to level 2. Everyone was kind of laughing about it because they train these dogs to find narcotics, and all they find is a few bottles of juice and candy mixed up to make prison wine...Tax dollars hard at work!
Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith!
December 9th, 2018
After a long and exhausting week, I'm hoping that the new week ahead will be a good one. I'm trying to get my head into a more positive space and renew my sense of hope...
The weekend seemed to go by in a blur...Yesterday was a bit crazy as the heat went out. The walls have been sweating badly with condensation, but when the heat is off it's much worse! I've wrung out bowls of water...I'm tired of mopping it all up, and in my 15 1/2 years of being here, this has never happened...They had the heating on, then it went out, then it came back on, and went out again over night...When I woke up this morning I was swimming in water, and again had to clean everything up. On average, I'm wiping up three to five GIANT bowls of water per day - imagine those big mixing bowls you put cake batter in....That's how big the bowls of water are! My neighbor again asked the Warden what was being done about the situation and he said, "I have an active work order!" Then he left and I said, "What is that? Active/Work is redundant!" Anyway...
A friend visited me last night and it was nice to get out of the cell, and I asked that they send my girl a "Happy Birthday" message, because the mail has been screwed up and extremely slow lately, and she hadn't received my birthday card to her. As I was waiting for my visitor to show up, my friend, Blaine who has an execution date, was telling me he has a 50% chance of getting a stay...Better odds than most! I told him to stay positive and keep hoping for the best. It ain't over 'til it's over...
I thought of a new phrase for the anti-death penalty movement, that I'm coining! Maybe people will use it: Heal. Don't kill.
Here's to hoping the next week will be positive and full of hope, healing and love. Forgiveness isn't as hard as you might think it is, and compassion should never be confused with naivety...
Courage. Stregth. Hope and Faith.
Peace to all!
December 16th, 2018
We've been on lockdown since Tuesday the 11th...It kind of came unexpectedly as everyone was guessing it would happen right after Christmas - it's been that way for the last several years. Now, almost a week in, everyone is wondering if we'll be back up before Christmas...I hope so! That said, other than it being a bit of a psychological downer, it wouldn't affect us too much because for the first time in many years, they've actually been giving us normal meals instead of sack lunches. I think this is because the head warden (Mr Butcher) who was the assistant warden many years ago, was allowing death row to eat hot meals during our quarterly lockdowns. Now that he has returned as head warden of the entire unit, the food has also improved a bit. I think a lot of people - guards and inmates alike - are hoping that Warden Butcher reigns in the new death row warden...Things do seem to have calmed down a bit.
Another plus is that the air problem seems to have been fixed and we've not had the condensation build up or mold/mildew problems that we've had for several weeks. Well, I can say that for the guys who clean their cells...I'm sure some cells haven't been cleaned and are in pretty bad shape - I had to scrub my cell for days to get the smell of mildew out of it.
I was fortunate to see my attorney last week and we spent some time talking about recent executions...I'm trying to keep my hopes up, and have hope for Patrick Murphy as well. My faith and positivity are fully intact, and knowing I have truth on my side gives me strength. It means a lot to me that so many people have researched my case, read the facts, and told me they believe in me. All of that and the love and support of my friends and my girl, her friends and her family...It's hard to put into words how much that means to me.
I was talking to my lawyer about all of this on Tuesday, and even going back over the events of September of 1996 with him, I said, "I am not that person...I'm not dangerous, and I'm not violent..." He looked at me and said, "I know. I know you're not that person." I thanked him, and told him how much that meant to me...To have people believe in me and my value as a human being...To believe in me. All of these years, even going back to my teens and my screw-ups, I just wanted to have someone believe in me and know that they see something of worth...That's all I've ever really wanted my whole life.
As the new year approaches, I keep holding onto hope...faith...courage...strength...and love! Lots of love! I think being in love with someone and having a life - yes, even as an inmate, as difficult and improbable or impossible as it can seem - it gives me focus and drive. To share goals and dreams, and to share creativity and imagination...These things give me a strength that can't be described, and I'm incredibly grateful for it. I thank G-d for it! When I pray, and I thank the universe for the things that I do have...outside of praying for mercy, I never pray for anything that isn't realistic. Mercy, love, to love and to be loved...and to live! Pretty reasonable things to pray for, I think.
Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith!
December 17th, 2018
This has been one hell of a day...I woke up in pretty decent spirits, started a letter to my girlfriend as I do every morning, and I was happy we were going to get showers after two days without any, because we've been on lockdown since last Tuesday.
When I got back from the shower, someone started yelling that they were passing out the red crates for shake down...All of our personal property has to fit inside of the crate, and anything that doesn't, they can take. Well, everyone was expecting our shakedown to be on Tuesday - maybe even Wednesday - because they decided to skip A-Pod and move over to C-Pod, which honestly makes little sense, but very little makes sense in this place! There was a mild panic for those unprepared, but they're moving so slowly with things that there's more than enough time to prepare. It's taking them about 2 hours per section which is really slow...but that also means they're being very thorough.
I knew they weren't going to get to my section anytime today, so I decided to kick back, drink some tea and listen to the radio...I put on the classic rock station, 92.7, which is a local Livingston station that broadcasts Texas news updates every hour, on the hour, and at 1pm I hear, "5th Circuit decides not to hear appeal of remaining Tx 7, Randy Halprin." I mean, what do you do? My initial thought was, "Okay...I lost." And then I worried that my girlfriend would be in a state of worry over me...It sucks to be in this situation, but it wasn't a knock-out punch - not yet - and I was oddly calm about the news. I'd like to know what kind of time frame I'm looking at, and I know my attorneys aren't giving up, so why should I? I don't feel out of the fight and I do have a lot of hope in other things. I'm strangely zen about it, and it isn't or shouldn't be confused with being reserved, or a feeling that it's all over - it's far from it! Normally, as neurotic as I can be, I'd be in a state of worry and anxiety...But I don't feel like that at all, thanks to my lawyers who are good and honest people who know that the truth is on my side. I have to place my trust in them, and in God, and hold onto the love and support of my friends and my girlfriend.
So, what do I do next? I don't know...where to start? I have faith in my attorneys, and I also have a personal desire to fight and to LIVE, and so...I'm asking anyone who has read my story and who knows my case, my life, my appeals...If you believe in ME and in my human worth, please tell anyone you can about my case...Please...pray for me...Pray for a miracle, and tell anyone you know who believes in me and knows my case, to please speak out for me and the possibility of another chance to live, and to do right by it. I don't want people to blindly follow or support me - I would prefer you look at everything to do with my case first, and then, if you are convinced of my value and worth, please speak out for me. That is all I can ask.
I'm still fighting, and there are so many things I want to accomplish. I have dreams and goals, and ultimately, I want to make up for my mistakes in life. I'm not giving up and I'm not giving up that I'll be spared and earn a second chance...
I don't know my time frame at this point; I don't know when my appeal is due to the Supreme Court, but as I know more information I'll update. But for now, please, pray for me and believe in me, and believe in miracles...They can and do happen! Thank you.
Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.
December 18th, 2018
There's a moment in my past that I wrote about in my memoir, "Falling Down," where I sat down on some rocks that oversee the track and field, and further in the distance, the farm and hills of OBI (the school I attended). I wanted to share a moment with my girlfriend at the time, and her family, but I didn't think it would happen because her family was angry with me...So, I sat and prayed until the tears ran down my face. It was real...It came from a sincere place. And now I find myself humbly praying to God for mercy...praying with tears streaming down my face...It's difficult to surrender to what feels like the impossible, and whilst I strongly believe that faith without action behind it is worthless - and I'm too neurotic to just blindly "surrender" to an unknown - I still pray...I still ask for mercy each and every day.
I've come to realise just how little control we have over our destiny, because even for those people who are goal-oriented and driven, and who control every facet of their lives with a certain degree of success, none of us are guaranteed our next breath. That said, is it so wrong to want just a little more time? Another chance to get it right this time? All I can do is surrender...Pray, and surrender...
The days here continue to roll by, oblivious to my current predicament. As I write this I'm waiting on our section's shakedown. They stopped on D-section and should begin C-section some time this morning. Hopefully (depending on how quickly they move onwards to B-section - my current housing) they will complete A-section, and that should hold us until early April. Anyway, I'm packed up and ready to roll!
It's the afternoon now...My shakedown went without a hitch, and all of my property was neatly stacked when I got back to my cell. Just as I was breathing a sigh of relief to be over the stress, things took a turn for the worst at noon...Apparently the warden ordered that D/E/F be searched again because the guards didn't finish yesterday! Well, two mentally ill guys on D-section freaked out, and they gassed a 60 year old (maybe older) mentally ill man. The psych department should have immediately been called to defuse the situation, but that didn't happen. Instead, a guard just said that if they don't finish C-Pod, they will have to start all over again tomorrow!! Pure absurdity! Do you see my will to live? That I actually want to live in this crap...Geeze! Well, we'll see what happens.
5pm...They finished the shakedowns for the pod! In spite of the chaos and absurdity I live with here, I'm not giving up...EVER! Please, pray for me...
Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.
December 19th, 2018
Today started off a bit iffy...I woke up for a shower at 5.30am, after staying up until midnight reading the denial from the 5th Circuit of appeals. I planned on getting some more sleep after the shower, but ended up being trapped in there for an hour!
I finally made it back to my cell after 7am, and just couldn't get back to sleep. So, I started typing a letter to my love...I was relieved she was taking the news okay, but I know it's hard on her. She contacted my Rabbi for prayers and his response was incredibly kind, and my other friends are rallying support and prayers as well. I am beyond grateful and humbled. They say you can tell a man's worth by the friends he keeps, so I must be a billionaire!
One thing I find very difficult back here is listening to guys being so negative about things. There's a difference between having hope grounded in reality, and being delusional, and when I say "I'm going to live" and "I will live," this is me refusing to accept any other "reality." After all, as Qui-Gon Jinn says in The Phantom Menace, "Your focus determines your reality." Negativity will attract more negativity, but positivity allows hope to flourish and grow, and I am not a quitter! I am NOT a killer, and I trust in G-d and the truth to make that known.
Anyway, I'll be writing a little more about the 5th Circuit's opinion soon, and clarifying the facts, because they have mis-stated some events. Maybe from a legal standpoint they felt they were correct, but I find it alarming that lives can be at stake based on opinion contained in a document almost 250 years old. But I'll write about that when I can get my thoughts together.
Anyway, the rest of the day brightened up and now, as I write this, I'm just waiting on today's mail. I can't believe Christmas is almost here and we're still on lock-down!
Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith!
December 23rd, 2018
It seems like a slow roll to the Christmas holiday here this year...Last year it was cold, and there was a different vibe to the pod. This year? It's warm, people are arguing, and it feels miserable...One guy on my section received an execution date on Thursday or Friday. It's just a strange vibe here right now...I hope the mood lifts before Christmas Day. Tomorrow is always a difficult day for me, and I usually spend it reflecting and meditating on things...But just for Christmas Day, it would be good to feel a more positive vibe for all of us here.
Well, last Friday was a good day! We came off lockdown, and I went outside to recreation. The air was crisp and the sun was out. At about 10am I was told I had a legal visit which I was expecting, and the guards came to take me out there. I spent a good amount of time with one of my attorneys and he told me the game plan going forward with things...It has really boosted my spirits! We have some very good things in play, and all I can say right now is that I am blessed to have such good and honest people as my attorneys. They know the truth, and they believe in me, which means so much to me. And they are honest in their work and efforts for me which is something I value immensely - we are nothing without the dignity of truth. My attorney also told me that I've been granted permission to ask for a re-hearing at the 5th Circuit, and whilst I don't expect anything to come of that, it's a start to filing in the Supreme Court. For obvious reasons, I can't go into any detail about the other issues my attorneys are working on, but he did say to me, "It's far from over, and there's everything left to still hope for"...I left the visit feeling upbeat and optimistic.
Friday night I heard my girlfriend's voice on KPFT as she gave me a shout out, and that was medicine for the soul. Her best friend recently had a baby son - the cutest little fella you've ever seen! His mom and dad call me his "Funcle" (fun uncle) and joke about me teaching him all about Star Wars, and how to be a Jedi as he grows up (ha ha). My girl bought him a Yoda for Christmas, which I thought was brilliant! Hearing her say that put a huge smile on my face...You know, I've been touched - deeply touched - at how loving, supportive, and (most importantly) accepting of me, her friends and family have been. They have never judged me, and have remarkably jumped into the fight to save my life, without hesitation. They have been so kind in sending books, and supported our relationship - again without judgement. To have that support, and the support of all of my own good friends who over the years have stood by me, means more to me than they could ever imagine. To know these people have done their research as I have asked, and then come back to me and told me they believe in me, and stand by me...It touches me deeply.
So, to all of you - my long time good friends, and my girlfriend's friends who love and support us...Thank you! Thank you all from the bottom of my heart..."Thank you" could never be enough for the love you have all shown me...You are ALL awesome! One thing I would also like to say to my girlfriend's friends....PLEASE! Drag her away from work a bit more often!! She works so freakin' hard, and non-stop, and she needs to get back out onto the ski slopes!
Anyway, in other news, Saturday was kind of slow and boring, but I listened to "Live From Here", a really good show that airs on NPR on Saturday evenings. Tomorrow is Christmas Eve...As I have done every year since the escape, I will use this day to reflect, pray, and ask for forgiveness for my mistakes and bad choices, and my naivete in thinking I could escape...And whilst I stand by the fact I never hurt anyone during the escape or afterwards, no day goes by where I don't feel regret and remorse about everything that happened...I pray for everyone who was affected, and for the loss of life on that Christmas Eve...I pray for forgiveness for all 7 of us, and that G-d will grant mercy to Patrick Murphy and I.
Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.
December 30th, 2018
It's a Sunday afternoon, and I'm sitting here listening to a classic edition of Casey Kasem's American Top 40...They're actually doing the Top 100 for the year 1986 – a pretty good year for music. Actually, I think the sweet spot for just good FM radio play was from 1980 to around 1997, until corporate radio dug its greedy heels into music and ruined it with template pop across all genres. There were some great songs since then though – songs that slip through the cracks on mainstream radio, and some amazing bands have sprung up from 2000 onward...But on the whole, It's pretty awful! Even '90s pop music has a certain originality and craft to it that sticks with you across the decades. Name a song from the early '00s, or even 2010 onwards that when you hear it, you say, “Damn! That was the jam!” It's hard, right? Or maybe I'm just getting old (ha ha).
Well, it's the last weekend of the year...I can't believe how fast this past year has gone by. It was almost a blur...At 1am we received a “first ever” on death row – the guards woke everyone up passing out a little hygiene kit; I guess it was a New Year's gift? It contained a tiny shampoos, a bar of soap, two packets of shaving cream, a toothbrush, and some deodorant. We were all shocked to receive it, and we're not sure who donated it, or who to thank, but it's surprising they allowed us to have it.
This past week has been a bit on the chaotic side...Each night they left 60+ showers for second shift, and as well as all that, they have to feed dinner, and do a round of recreation before they shut everything down at 10.30pm. Needless to say, guys were getting screwed out of showers! Second shift says, “We've got too much work to do!” We hadn't been getting mail before midnight...On Friday night it was a bit smoother, and of course we don't get recreation at the weekend, but I kind of dread the coming week...There are good, kind guards who bust their butts to get the work done, but the calibre of people they've been hiring lately – it's like they snatch them off the street and say, “Here! Work, you bum!” And they get a job here.
Otherwise, I'm just trying to remain positive and focused and moving forward...I've got to keep positive and deal with the mayhem!