New Year's Day, 2019
I had been working on something completely different for the first day of the new year, but because of events that happened the week before Christmas - when I received news about my appeals - I've had to re-organize my thoughts of late. Despite the news, my focus remains the same: to LIVE and LOVE and PRAY for mercy...I suppose it has created even more drive and focus within me, and quite honestly, I'm eerily calm, although a little sad, and of course, disappointed. On the plus side, I don't feel panicked, and I'm not freaking out...My mind is firmly on the new year and working to make 2019 a year of love, kindness, compassion, and praying that mercy will be granted.
I have so much to be grateful for! I have the most amazing and good friends who have been by my side for years...whose friendship and support I cherish, and who have never made me feel anything other than loved, accepted, and part of their lives. And this past year, I have been lucky enough to find the love of my life whose creativity amazes me, and who gets along so well with my friends. This time last year, I talked to my dear friends about her, and how she and I had talked about the journey that life and love is. We imagined a house, standing in front of it, and not knowing what lay inside. We grabbed each others' hand, and stepped into the unknown, exploring every room inside...Every nook, every cranny, every closet. We knew there would be regular maintenance to take care of - a squeaky door, a broken window, a burst pipe - just as there are things you need to do to take care of and nurture a relationship. We all have to do that regular maintenance to keep things from becoming unfixable. No love is perfect...No life is perfect...But sometimes, you find the person who is perfect for you, and who helps you navigate a very imperfect world. With her love, and the love of my cherished friends, even with the news of my appeals, I still feel like I'm the luckiest guy in the world! Now more than ever, in this period of uncertainty, I'm so grateful to have the reassurance of my friends' love and support, and the love of a good woman who will be by my side no matter what.
For many years I have battled with the feeling that something was missing in my life...I have been in love with other people in the past, but nothing ever filled that empty feeling I struggled with, and I couldn't figure out what it was for a long time. I know and acknowledge that I have mishandled certain situations because of that feeling I had, and I am truly sorry for that. Ultimately though, I did discover what was missing...I knew immediately...I guess you could say that as soon as I read the words, "hot cocoa and marshmallows," (an inside joke!) I knew what was missing!
I'm a pretty simple dude; I don't need a lot in life to keep a smile on my face. I've often said that the guards in this place could take every single item I have except my radio, and I'd be okay with that - music, of course, being my passion. But I also have a strong will to live, and a desire to love and be loved...My friends know this, and they do everything they can to reassure me I am loved and a part of their lives...Knowing that feeds my drive and my focus! I am lucky to have the love of good friends, and I pray my life is spared so that I may continue to love and be loved..
So, you might ask, what do I want for 2019? If I survive this, how will I make the world a better place? You might ask, "Why should you be more deserving of life or another chance when there are hundreds of others in the same situation?" I definitely don't think I'm any more deserving than anyone else. Over the years I have learned that each person has their own unique set of circumstances. I can't pretend to know the heart of each and every man on death row; I don't know how they were raised, their financial/socio-economic conditions...I don't know how anything affected their choices in life, or if they ever had any real choices open to them, or whether they have suffered abuse of any kind...What I do know for sure is that there are some pretty awesome and good people back here who just messed up hugely. I am not better than they are, or any more deserving, but I know my life...I know my story, and I know my heart. Regardless of how anyone feels about my bad decisions, my initial offence, or the escape, I have tried my best to be a good person...To help people...To lift up and encourage others. There's been times I've given all I have to someone who wasn't so fortunate as myself - that doesn't cancel out any of my screw-ups in any way, and that isn't why I would do any act of kindness anyway...But I do try and live by example, and in the hope that simple and random acts of kindness can spread positivity and light in this place.
As for my goals...What would I do with my life? For years, I've talked about the things I'd like to achieve...I want to help prisoners who are illiterate, and those who need help to strengthen their own literacy skills. If I ended up in an AD-SEG situation, I would like to have books donated, as well as other educational resources that would help those re-entering society. I would like to get a radio donation program going, so no inmate in Texas is without a radio, and with my writings, I want to encourage families to listen to their troubled kids/teens when things are going wrong for them. My purpose in life would be to encourage, and to uplift...To encourage people to have belief in their own self worth, and to transfer that into a practical way of living once they're released. These are the things I will do with my life...It's my promise to the universe, G-d, and the amazingly supportive friends who love and believe in me, and who see me as part of their own families, and who have been by my side for years.
So, I'm hoping and praying, and trusting that a miracle will happen in 2019. I'm not ready to call it quits! And I sure as hell don't want to be killed for something I didn't do! I'm just praying for mercy...I'm still here...I'm still alive, breathing, and in the fight! I wish the death penalty would just end; it can be tiring to fight, emotionally. I wish people could see that killing accomplishes nothing - it doesn't prevent other murders from happening, and it doesn't do anything to reduce crime levels. A revenge-based system of justice in our society does nothing but cause more suffering. I would love to see it end, but in the meantime, I still fight...I will fight...I will live...
Here's to hoping and believing that 2019 will be a year of miracles - a year that sees the world wake up and we stop hating one another, a year of peace and love. Thank you to all of you who support and believe in me, and for putting that support into action. And thank you, my love...We're still in this! In it to win it, and we make an awesome team. I can never thank my personal long time friends enough...Thank you all so much for your friendship - I need you more than ever. I know you all have it in your hearts to make 2019 a year of hope...A year of love...A year of mercy and miracles.
Happy New Year!
With courage, strength, hope and faith...
January 15th, 2019
I really need to get better at keeping up with this journal! I'm trying to operate with my brain on several different things at once...I have various writing projects in progress, and I'm super focused on my memoir right now. I want to finish with it so I can start writing a more upbeat memoir about my childhood; it starts out on a sad note, but gets better, and it will be full of funny memories once I finish it. I've also been writing some new songs/poems over the last few months, so please check out my poetry section of the site where I add new poems/lyrics occasionally, and I've been working on a radio play as well. So, all of that and the natural stress that comes with my appeals situation and this environment, has left me with little time to focus on my journals...Anyway, I will be trying harder in the coming months, and do keep an eye on the memoirs section of the site - roughly 8 new chapters are on the way!
The chaos in this place is at an all time high! It feels a bit like "Lord of the Flies" right now - not amongst the inmates, but with the guards. There's some real "Game of Thrones" style power struggles, and we're caught in the middle of it all. We joke that it can't get any worse, but we know it could at any moment...We even pine for the days of the early '00s like it was the golden age! Back then we complained about how bad it was, and now we look back and we're like, "We had it freakin' made!" Bring those days back! Sheesh...
Anyway, there's a little good news to report - one of my friends back here, Blaine Milam, was facing execution today, and yesterday afternoon, the news spread like wild fire that he was given a stay of execution! I was so happy for him and his family, and my heart swelled with hope! His mother, bless her heart, has shown true unconditional love for Blaine, and supported him with unwavering love...I can only imagine the emotional toll this has taken on her. You can wish for your revenge, but please remember there are victims on both sides.
With courage, strength, hope and faith!
January 27th, 2019
I have had every good intention of keeping up with this journal...and this coming week, I'm going to make every effort to do something - even if it's just a paragraph a day.
Things have been so chaotic that I find it difficult to seriously focus on anything outside of what I deem the utmost importance. Let me give an example...On Friday, I went outside at 8.30am; our alloted time for recreation is two hours per day, Monday through to Friday, with two days outside, and three days inside. Often, this is left to the officer's discretion on extra outside days. Anyway, I didn't come back inside until 3pm!!! Now, I can understand running a little over time, and we all appreciate any extra time we get outside of the cell, but when guards do absolutely NO work, NO showers, and generally do NOTHING at all, and I get stuck outside for hours and hours??? Isn't that ridiculous? It can also take officers until 1am to finish showers because first shift couldn't do the work they are expected to have done, and on top of all that, the State has stopped allowing extra officers to come in and work overtime, because they don't want to pay the extra...This has created even more of a problem! Sigh...All of that to say it's hard to focus on work when things are being run this way. Everything is topsy turvey! I will try though...Yoda wouldn't be happy with that statement, but I'm only human!
Anyway, I'd like to say "thanks" to the DJ on the radio station, KPFT 90.1 out of Houston (kpft.org online). His name is Lars, and he has an excellent music program on Thursday nights at 9pm, Texas time, called "Tennyson's Tape Deck". It's a lot of folk, alt country, American music, and the one hour he has just isn't enough...It's a really great show that's full of emotionally evocative and soulful music that's perfect for winding down after a stressful day. Well, he took a few minutes to mention my case, the law of parties, and my website, which meant more to me than he could ever imagine, and I really appreciated it. I was in complete shock and extremely touched...I'm asking anyone who likes that kind of music to support his show by donating online to keep it on the station. KPFT is a community station supported by listeners and not corporate interests, and the program director will either cancel a show or give it more time, or a better slot, based on the donations it receives. So, please support this program! And to Lars: Thank you so much!
Another note of importance for today: There's a guy on our section, who's been here for a few weeks now...His name is Syed Rabbani, and he's spent most of his time on death row, at the state mental facility. He's severely mentally ill, and really shouldn't be over here because he cannot properly take care of himself because he's so doped up. When they bring him out of his cell, he walks around in a daze, and can barely lift his feet off the ground. My neighbour and I have done our absolute best in trying to look out for him by sending him snacks and coffee, and we're not even sure if he has money on his inmate account. He should have some because at Christmas time, several organizations do send a few bucks as gifts, however, because he doesn't have his ID card, he cannot make commissary and we've talked to every guard we can - every ranking official - to see if we can get his ID card, but nothing is being done. He needs it not only for commissary - it's also a security issue...But no one seems to care.
If there's anyone out there who reads this and visits Polunsky Unit on a regular basis, will you please contact the Warden's office and ask them to get an ID for him? We're doing our best, but we need some outside pressure to get him his ID. Also, if there is any minister, or anyone who knows a minister who visits Polunsky, will they please call him out for a visit so he can get out of his cell and have a decent meal? It would be so good for him to get away from this place for a couple of hours...Sometimes, he sleeps through his meals because of the meds they have dosed him up on, and I don't need to say that the psychiatric department here is JOKE, but I will...It's a freaking JOKE!
Well, I'm doing as well as I can, anyway...Despite the chaos, the noise, and the seriousness of my situation, I can say with complete honesty that I'm relatively calm and at peace. It's just hard to focus, and I can be easily distracted. I really am going to make an effort to write more in the journal though, because I really should.
Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith!
February 3rd, 2019
January shot by like a rocket! I cannot believe how quickly time is going by these days. This past week was a bit of a roller coaster.....I had received word that my attorneys filed a supplement to my request for a rehearing with the Fifth Circuit; it seemed like a solid issue because it showed a contradiction within the court itself, on how they rule on a particular issue. A three-judge-panel might come to one conclusion, whilst another panel will reach a completely different conclusion - often against precedent, or what the Supreme Court looks to for guidance in their rulings. And yet, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, and the Fifth Circuit, routinely ignore precedent AND the Supreme Court...The petition was denied, and I admit, it knocked the wind out of my sails a bit. I just keep thinking, "Geeze, God, what do I have to do here? How is this all going to get straightened out?" It's frustrating, and it hurts at times...But I remain hopeful. It'll take a lot more than that to make me lose hope!
There was an execution this week as well, and those always suck. I wasn't happy with the way the media handled it, or how they portrayed Robert Jennings based on a crime that happened in the '80s! Like, they can only ever see him as the exact same person now as he was back then...I've been around him many times and he was always respectful, intelligent, and kind. To hear certain public officials come out on the news to say, "He's finally getting what he deserves." or, "This is justice," I cannot imagine how how people can see killing as justice - just call it what it really is: Revenge. When will people stop confusing the two?
Well, life moves on...I was having a discussion with someone on Friday and we both agreed that one of the biggest ways to slow down the machinery of death in Texas is by informing people that the Court of Criminal Appeals in Texas is an ELECTED, not an appointed, position. You'd be surprised at how many people don't know that. When they're elected they remain in that seat for SIX YEARS!!! And yet, these same extremist judges are often re-elected because they have no one to challenge them or people just vote along party lines, or ignore the court altogether because they think, "What does the CCA have to do with the issues I care about?" If you are someone who votes in Texas, and you're anti-death penalty, then that is what you should focus on! There's a saying in the political world that goes, "All politics are local," which means that to affect things on a national stage you have to start with your local/state governments. But if people don't vote, or even run for that matter, how can you expect any kind of change? It's something people need to really wake up to. I get frustrated when people say, "My voice doesn't count." It doesn't count? You really think that? Tell that to the people who elected Trump...Or Ted Cruz...Or the number of extremist Judges in the CCA, or those who are appointed to the Fifth Circuit by Trump and Cruz.
Well, who knows what the next week has in store for us, but I hope that it will be a good one filled with positivity and positive change!
I'll close with a little piece from my Small Stones from the River book...
"If you have difficulty seeing
in the world
make your own"
Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.
February 4th, 2019
I woke up fearing we'd have a day full of chaos. The crew of officers we had today is notorious for laziness, and leaving a huge amount of work for second shift. I said my prayers and told myself, "Put your head down, get to work on your memoir, and let things fall as they may." On one hand, I can be the most patient person in the world, and on the other, when things get chaotic back here, I can get worked up into a state of anxiety and I know it is beyond my control, but I still want to take control!
Initially, I was scheduled for 3rd round of recreation outside, but then someone upstairs gave me a 'heads-up' that they weren't going, so I might get bumped up to 2nd round...I was kind of surprised that so many people were skipping out on recreation because, whilst it may be freezing in many states in the US, it's in the '70s in Texas! It's grey and a little wet, but nothing that could spoil going outside.
Sure enough, I went out 2nd round and the guy I was out with asked if I wanted to play basketball. I was up six games to his five when the guards said he had a visit, and he left. I was outside for the next hour and a half by myself and it was lovely! You can't put a price on moments when you're outside alone, when the wind is blowing lightly and you can think without the noise and chaos of this place. I exercised and reflected on things, prayed, and just enjoyed the moment. When I came back in, I began working on some edits of a poetry collection of mine that my girl is putting together, then I began to type up two chapters of my memoir, which I'm happy to say are finished, and going in the mail to my girl tomorrow!
The guards amazingly worked today, and I had a shower around 2 in the afternoon, and as far as I can tell, the only thing left for 2nd shift to do is a handful of showers. I guess the lesson the day is to just carry on and not let what might seem to be a bad day, stop you from doing the things you want to do in your life...Bad days only become bad days when you allow them to...
Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.
February 5th, 2019
I didn't sleep well last night and worried that I might be first round for recreation, but they said that rec was cancelled because they didn't have enough officers to cover it, as well as showers and visitation, because all hands would be used to escort AD-SEG inmates to classification hearings. There, they go before a small committee who decide whether or not they will be able to return to general population or remain in AD-SEG. More often than not, they remain in AD-SEG...The committee is a joke!
In a way, whilst I don't like missing recreation, I was more than happy to sleep in until 8am...My thoughts are a little too distracted to take advantage of the peacefulness - it's been oddly quiet all day long - but I have managed to stay occupied anyway.
This afternoon, pest control came through spraying everywhere...I don't know what they use but it seems to attract more bugs than keep them away. I said, "Y'all need to get that stuff with skulls and crossbones - the crap that'll give you cancer - because the bugs drink this stuff up like it's lemonade!"
Anyway, after 4 days of grey skies, the sun finally broke through and I looked out my winder and watched as hundreds of birds landed in the grass, searching for a meal. The grass is turning green again, and yellow and white wild flowers have popped up as well...I think we'll have an early spring....But the humidity is still here, and we're expected to have another cold spell later this week! I look forward to that.
All that's left for today is dinner and mail call. I can't wait...I'm ready for the day to be over.
Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.
February 10th, 2019
It's been an interesting week to say the least...On Monday night I had a couple of personal issues pop up. One of them wasn't anything but a misunderstanding, but the other thing...I was upset with a friend back here because I had told him I didn't want to visit with a friend of his, but I felt like they were trying to pressure me by going over my head and talking to the head people in trying to get on my visitation list, which I wasn't happy about. I appreciate the thought in wanting to get me out of the cell and have a visit, but I'm uncomfortable with how they went about it...Sigh...Well, it's over and done with, and I've moved on...
Wednesday is when things got a little wild! So, for a long time, B-Pod has been relatively empty, and I think they had four empty sections to use as solitary confinement/isolation and quarantine for really sick guys from general population. Well, around noon they told F-Section on C-Pod - the pod I live on - to pack up their things because they were being moved to B-Pod. Later that evening they told E-Section the same thing, which kind of sucked because it had been a year since I had seen one of my friends, and I've only been able to talk to him here and there since he moved to this pod, and now he's moving back to B-Pod. We were pretty sure that would be it for moves, but on Thursday, they told C and D-Sections that they were also moving to B-Pod. That left just A and B-Sections (B is the section I'm currently on) which means this entire pod is otherwise empty.
On Friday morning they moved the guys on discipline (levels 2 and 3) to F-Section, and made that 'solitary' or as we used to call F-Pod, 'The Dungeon', and left us where we were. One of the guards said that the rest of the empty sections will be filled with Administrative Segregation guys...which, in reality, is a violation of policy because we aren't supposed to be anywhere near those guys. I suddenly had the thought that if they do move them next to us, the State will have lied to the jurors during our trials, because one of the principal arguments the State ALWAYS makes is the case that we are so-called "future threats to society" which also includes other prison inmates in population. We're sooooooo dangerous that they tell the jury it would be better to just kill us than risk an attack on another inmate or guard. But...if the State then turns around and puts non-death row prisoners RIGHT NEXT to us, or even on the same pod, that argument is rendered moot because apparently we aren't that dangerous after all...They're putting these guys right next to us...Makes sense, right? Just a thought I had.
Our weather has been crazy! Thursday it was in the 70s, and on Friday when I went outside it was freezing, and Saturday was equally as cold. Sunday has been nice though, and tomorrow it's supposed to be back into the 70s...good ol' Texas weather!
I'm still busy with my memoir, and I just put together a 'sound track' to each part because music is such an integral part of my life, and I thought it would add another level to the whole thing. It's keeping me busy!
Courage. Strength. Hope. Faith.
February 11th, 2019
I woke up for breakfast, which came a bit late this morning - 5am - instead of the typical 3am breakfast time. It was weird getting a tray at a relatively normal time. I hadn't gotten to sleep the night before until close to midnight, becasue I listened to the movie, "Titanic" and then I tossed and turned imagining that moment in history and how terrifying it must've been. It really is a masterpiece of a film - it deserves a spot on my 'Movies you should see before you die' list!
I fell back to sleep a little after 6am, got out of bed just after 7am, and started my day by writing to my girl. Then I prepared for going outside, 2nd round. I went outside with a friend, and it was a grey and misty morning as I exercised, and we chatted about legal stuff. He was ranting and raving about his attorneys not keeping in touch with him, and I tried to explain to him that this doesn't always mean that they aren't working for him. I think that's why communication is so important in this place - a lot of guys just want to know that their attorneys are doing something...that glimmer of hope can keep us sane back here.
When we came back in, I ate lunch and knocked out another chapter in my memoir! I'm at the part where I'm back in Texas, and things aren't going the way I had hoped. I didn't make a plan B, but just arrived in Texas believing my parents couldn't possibly reject my plea for help, knowing I was sincere. But I was wrong...
As it was so humid today, I went to put on my fan and it shocked the hell out of me! I had just returned from the shower and was wet, so that didn't help! It gave me a good scare but thankfully 120 volts isn't enough to kill me - just made me almost poop my pants! Turns out I had an exposed short in it.
It's been a peaceful day here anyway, and I'm feeling reflective tonight...Hopefully mail will come early so I can get some sleep!
Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.
February 12th, 2019
I had a rough night of sleep last night after I realised I was a scatter-brained idiot sometimes. I'm a very giving person, and yet I'm still sometimes short-sighted and selfish in looking after my own needs - it's something I need to be more mindful of in the future, and work on. I don't know if it's a 'survival' instinct or what, but I don't like it. Anyway, I can only hope for a bit of forgiveness and move beyond it.
I did manage to sleep in until a little past 7 this morning, and I was set up for recreation 3rd round, in C-Section day room, but I was bumped up to 2nd round. Because I would be in the day room, I decided to do some writing, as well as my usual exercise. Anyway, when I finished exercising in the day room, I went to pull out my pen to start writing, and I thought either the guard had dropped it or lost it somewhere between my cell and the day room, but I didn't just want to accuse anyone straight out because I'd feel like an idiot if I had inadvertently left it in my cell...Sure enough, I got back to my cell and there was my pen sitting on my desk...Idiot! I can't believe how scatter-brained I can be at times - something else I really need to work on. I would've felt horrible if I had blamed the guard for losing my pen when that wasn't the case at all.
It's turned into a really lovely day...Plenty of sunshine, and whilst there a lot of puffy clouds out, there are large patches of blue sky. The grass is a mixture of greeen, some dead patches, and some beautiful wild flowers. It hasn't been cut in ages and looks unkempt, but something my girlfriend and I agree on is the beauty of the natural state of grass. I know a lot of people think that lawns and fields look wild and unruly when they aren't neatly manicured, but really look at it in it's natural state...Tall grass, patches of clover, wild flowers, and even some of the weeds that spring up high above the blades of grass have their own beauty. Then, while insects give me quite a scare (don't laugh, I'm quite manly!..ha ha) seeing dragon flies, moths, butterflies, bees and other critters flying about from stalk to stalk or wildflower to wildflower is really amazing to watch. There's a perfect balance to all of it.
So, everything is finished before 2nd shift, and I'm getting quite spoiled by the peacefulness of this near-empty pod...With just two sections on this site, I've noticed the guys on both sections become closer; we're not separating ourselves to just our groups of friends, but instead, starting to see one another as a sort of family living in the same house - it's a nice feeling.
I think we're a stronger community when the negativity is down, and we all get along as one instead of becoing more tribal and insular.
Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.
February 13th, 2019
I started my day at 4.45am; I wanted to sleep in until 5.30am but couldn't get back to sleep, so I got up for 1st round recreation and left my cell just after 6am. When I came back I got to have a shower fairly quickly with no waiting around, and by then, the sun was blasting through my little window. It's supposed to get warmer as the week progresses, and by the weekend, Livingston might be in the 80s!
Anyway, I wrote some letters and then felt like cooking something, so I ended up making tacos for some guys back here, and they came out really well. My girlfriend informed me that she brought up the subject of Syed Rabbani, the mentally ill guy back here who is one of the forgotten people, on Twitter...Well, today, commissary delivered a care package full of food and snacks, from her, and there are two other people who are also sending packages to Syed to help him! I want to say a big thank you to my girlfriend, and to Karine and Jessica, for the kindness you have shown to this forgotten soul. I can't describe how happy he was to get the first package, and he was clapping and saying, "thank you, thank you, thank you" to no one in particular, all afternoon...I think he will be over the moon entirely when he receives the other two packages! It was just wonderful to see him so happy. So again, thank you so much to all 3 of you!
Otherwise, the day has been pretty uneventful and calm. I am already feeling spoiled by this empty pod thing!
Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.
February 14th, 2019
Valentine's Day...I can't begin this without telling my girl that I love her, and "Happy Valentine's"...It's our second one together, and I'm just so fortunate and feel like I've won the lottery of love with her...She amazes me, daily, and well...I look forward to many more Valentines if the universe sees fit.
I went outside today for the first round of rec; it was a lovely, cool, spring-like day, and it felt great. Syed received another care package today, and yelled, "I'm the luckiest man on the planet!" Again, I want to thank the 3 people involved in making Syed so happy. It's these acts of kindness that bring some much needed light into this otherwise dark place.
Well, this afternoon has been a bit slow and boring...I wanted to write some more of my memoirs, but I couldn't quite get there, mentally...I will most definitely tackle it again over the weekend though. I've got chapter 37 mapped out, and it's a tough one...It breaks me at that moment of my life. As these chapters inch closer to September 1996, they will become more difficult to write, and probably more difficult to read too.
Anyway, I am holding onto hope, tightly!
Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith!
February 19th, 2019
It's Tuesday, and my fourth day back on B-Pod. I still haven't fully adjusted, and I had a bit of an adventure on Friday afternoon...Around 2pm I was sitting at my desk, writing off and on, but doing more jamming out to the radio than anything else. It was peaceful...All of the recreation and showers had been finished, and I was getting quite spoiled by the complete lack of chaos - the chaos C-Pod had put us all through for well over a year! Anyway, there's a really great song out by Young The Giant, called "Superstition" and I'll go out on a limb and say it's the best song around right now - just a phenomenal song! So, it's playing out, and I'm bobbing my head and tapping my pen to the beat, on my writing tablet, when an ant with wings lands on the wall next to my desk and I think, "Huh?" I grabbed some toilet tissue, caught it, and threw it down the toilet. A bug here and there is not uncommon in this place and whilst I'm prone to having the heebie jeebies and screaming like a little girl when one randomly pops up, I wasn't about to let the thing interrupt my enjoyment of the music, so I went back to bobbing my head and tapping my tablet.
Then...another ant with wings pops up. Now, I'm like "WTF??" And begin to look over my cell. I can't find where it came from and most of the cell cracks had been solidly sealed with soap or Vaseline by prior occupants. Ten more ants with wings pop up on the wall and I'm beginning to freak out a bit...I keep looking around the cell and I can't figure out where they're coming from, and I can't hear anyone in any other cell yelling anything out either, so I keep looking...Then I catch sight of a crack in the ceiling where a piece of iron had been bolted to a seam on the wall to prevent inmates from hiding cell phones in the cracks/seams. Back in 2008, we had a cell phone scandal, so the TDCJ are more vigilant than ever about that sort of thing. Anyway, both ants with wings and fire ants were pouring out of the crack and that isn't hyperbole! I let out a scream like something from a horror movie and yelled, "Holy shit! It's the apocalypse! The Seventh Seal has been broken, and God is reigning his punishment down upon my Jewish ass!" They were falling on my head and face, biting me as I tried to best to wipe them up with a wet rag and then seal the crack up with Vaseline, toothpaste, and toilet paper...My neighbour was asking me what was going on and I told him, "Look for ants! They might be headed your way!" Sure enough he lets out a scream of holy terror.
It took about 30 minutes to get the situation under control, but a few fire ants managed to avoid my rightful vengeance and ended up getting their pay back on me by biting my ass - yes, my ass! - and other delicate places...
I finally get settled back down and second shift comes and I'm eager to receive my mail and listen to the Prison Show because my girl was giving me a shout out. At about 7pm a guard pops up and tells me I'm being moved to B-Pod 2 cell. I was caught a bit off guard...On one hand, I've been wanting to move off C-Pod for months and months - it was the longest amount of time I had ever been stuck on a particular pod. But on the other hand, once they had emptied it out it was peaceful and I didn't want to move! I was settled, and the two sections that were left on the pod were starting to act like a family because it was just "us"...It was a nice feeling.
I ended up moving to B-Pod relatively early, but they were still doing recreation and showers...Back to the chaos, I thought. The cell is nice though, and I get really good radio reception here. The section I'm on only has one idiot, and everyone gets along very well, and I do have some friends nearby like my friend Blaine, who had just received a stay of execution in January...I'm so happy about that!
The rest of the weekend was peaceful, but Monday was a holiday and it was crazy insane! On another level, I went to recreation 2nd round, after I was told that I'd be going 4th round...When I get out there at a little after 8.30am or so, I get STUCK out there until 5.45pm! Apparently the male officer that was working the pod quit on the spot and because it was two female officers left, they couldn't strip search us and take us back to our cells. I was frustrated, hungry and exhausted by the end of the day...I didn't get my shower until 10pm, and today is looking like it's going to be another late shower. I went to recreation a little after 6am and I know I won't get a shower until much later this evening which really sucks!
So that's all of the excitement of the last few days!
Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.
February 21st, 2019
Yesterday was a mess! The first shift officers only did three rounds of recreation for the entire 12 hour shift, and just a handful of showers. The work load was so much to do for second shift that the Lieutenant told the officers to only do showers, so everyone still waiting for recreation was screwed out of it. It may seem trivial to people who don't fully understand the importance of recreation for mental and physical health reasons, but for some of us, our sanity depends on getting out of the cell for that short bit of time, whether for social reasons like having conversations with friends, or for physical exercise, a walk around the day room, exercise in the fresh air and open space. Being denied that time is an unnecessary stress for us back here.
To highlight my point, I know several guys back here who are in the process of dropping their apeals so they can be executed - or, as I call it, suicide by State. In a recent appeal a guy, Justin Hall, had been fighting with his attorneys who were trying to keep him alive, claiming he was mentally incompetent to make such a decision for himself. So, the guy chose to write to the court and tell them directly that he WAS competent, but in his words he stated he was a "broken man and should be put down like the rabid dog he was". In the opinion written by Sharon Keller of the CCA, she agrees he is competent to be executed and disagrees with his lawyers' arguments that it was the environment that broke him, and made him mentally incompetent.
Keller wrote (taking this directly from her opinion):
"In his [Justin Hall] October 6 communication with the trial court, Appellant did say that he had been "broken" by his 24/7 confinement on death row. This statement does not necessarily indicate any lack of competency on Appellant's part."
Being depressed due to his circumstances is UNDERSTANDABLE, AND IS A RATIONAL RESPONSE TO ADVERSE CONDITIONS (my emphasis). She then goes on to cite Bundy V Dunger, 675 F.Supp. 622, 625 (M.D. Fla 1987) which says:
"Expert testified that the absence of situational depression and agitation would be surprising given the grave consequences the defendant was facing and that periods of situational anger, stress and depression would be normal reactions under the circumstances."
I find it very interesting that Keller all but admits that our conditions on death row are tantamount to torture. However, she says it's "normal" for us to have adverse reactions to our conditions...WTF??
My point being, the things like recreation are important to some of us to maintain a sense of normality and sanity; when things are so chaotic to the point where we aren't being given our recreation time, well, it should be addressed. If not, we'll see more instances like Justin Hall, where people drop their appeals or even try to hurt themselves.
I've been thinking a lot lately about the concept of accountability. Like, everyone back here needs to be accountable for their actions, and whilst I agree with the idea so long as it doesn't mean death by revenge, I'm finding that those who scream for accountability the loudest, are the least likely to be held accountable for their own misdeeds. Take our government for instance...Ideas of justice, accountability etc...They scream about it at other countries who have wronged them, or even at their own citizens when they break a law. but when has the govenment EVER been held accountable for the genocide of countless native tribes? For slavery? For the way it has treated immigrants from the Irish to Italians, to the present day migrants? When has the country, state or city ever been held accountable when they shoot an unarmed black man? Or when a prosecutor deliberately prosecutes and sentences an innocent person? Everyone screams accountability! We need accountability! Just not for themselves...I mean, our own freakin' President, who every day talks about criminals and rapists pouring over the border, and he's a criminal and, by his own admission, a sexual abuser! Where's his accountability?
I don't know, I just shake my head at all of it and find it increasingly more confusing to navigate and intellectually understand these things. I just try to hold my head high above the water and try to keep myself from drowning.
Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.
February 24th, 2019
I woke up to brilliant sunshine blasting through my window...I initially thought the guard in the control center had turned on the cell lights, but when I pulled the sock off my eyes, I could see the sun light reflecting off the white walls of the cell. It was a lovely way to wake up after so much rain of late, and I'm hoping it will stick around.
We've got one of the nastiest, meanest guards working today and she's already on the war path with people. For the life of me, I cannot understand why people - of any walk in life - can be so mean and hateful. It makes me wonder what they've gone through in life that makes them that way and I do try to empathise and understand, but it is a dangerous thing when you give such a person any kind of authority over other human beings - especially when they have the full support of the State behind them and believe they are rightfully punishing 'criminal scum'. Yet, they don't see that often their acts are criminal in themselves.
Years ago, there used to be a women who was over 'intelligence gathering' on death row; she was put in place after the cell phone scandal of 2008 and her job was to follow money on inmates' books (to see if large sums were being moved around for the purchase of drugs or cell phones) and to monitor certain people's mail etc. She had authority to go into any cell at any time and take whatever she wanted - contraband or not - and had free rein to do whatever she wanted to do. Now, to be fair, I've seen many officers over the years have this kind of authority, and the majority of them don't abuse that power - they do what their job requires them to do, but they don't go out of their way to mess people over and create havoc. But this person...As if it couldn't get any worse, she'd often tell the people she screwed over that she not only had the authority of the State behind her, but she was called upon by God himself to punish criminals of ANY kind.
She eventually abused her powers enough that they had no choice but to fire her after the sprayed a can of gas in an inmate's face, for merely talking crap back to her...But it's like, geeze, don't they (or shouldn't they?) do a psychological background check on these people before giving them a job with such power?
Anyway, I filed my grievance on the recreation situation on Friday, and helped several other guys file their complaints as well. I really don't expect anything to be done about it - especially after my brief exchange with the warden himself, but you never know. This past week there wasn't a single time that we didn't receive all of our mail before midnight; I don't think they've finished the showers before midnight for that matter! It's insane to think how quickly this place has deteriorated. We always joke, "Well, it can't get worse than it is now" and then we're proven wrong every single time!
Oh well...onwards and upwards...
On a lighter note, I wanted to recommend some geeky reading material for those interested in graphic novels...Over this weekend, I finished all five volumes of the brilliant Image Comics (the best publisher in the business, people!) series, "Peter Panzerfaust" by Kurtis J. Wiebe and Tyler Jenkins. It's a reimagining of the classic Peter Pan story, and it takes place during the German Occupation of France in World War II. It takes every element and every character of Peter Pan and puts them in a real world setting. Peter is an American and the lost boys are young French orphans who become resistance fighters, and Wendy Darling and her brothers were in a British plane that was shot down over France. Tiger Lily and the Braves are French-Canadian natives who become resistance fighters, and Hook is Kapitan Haken, a German SS Officer. The art is phonomenal! All done in beautifully rendered water-colors. I couldn't put the book down all weekend, and the ending is executed so well that it had me in tears.
I've read a lot of great series' over the years, but many are often forgotten. Still, some remain THE BEST, such as Joe Hill's "Locke & Key", Brian Azarello's "100 Bullets", Robert Kirman's "Walking Dead," and Marguerite Bennett's "Animosity," to name but a few. For me, what makes a great series always comes down to the writing, but when you have art that complements the story, it takes it to another level...Peter Panzerfaust pulls both off perfectly! Check it out for yourselves...
As Peter would say, "Second star to the right and straight on 'til morning."
Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith!
February 26th, 2019
I started my day out yesterday thinking things were going quite well...I went outside with my friend, Blaine, and there was a slight chill in the air which, with a beautiful clear blue sky and birds chirping on the roof above us, made it a perfect early spring morning. Blaine and I talked about music, and life in general, and when the guards showed back up to bring us inside, I noticed it was 10 minutes shy of our alloted two hours. When I mentioned that to the guard I said, "Well, since you're taking 10 minutes from us, how about you just let me grab my shower stuff and go straight to the shower?" He told me that as long as he didn't have to remove the handcuffs from me to get my shower stuff, he'd do it - probably thinking I wouldn't be prepared! I keep a shower bag right by my door, so all I have to do is pivot and snatch it off the hook, and there's no need to take the handcuffs off.
So, I took a quick shower and when they brought me back to my cell I thought, "This day is going well!" Ten minutes later, the guards stopped working! They didn't finish changing out the first round of recreation, leaving those guys in the day room until 2pm. Then they got second round out and right before second shift came on, SOME of third round went out, but not all who were scheduled got to go...When second shift arrived they couldn't believe their workload and basically cancelled the remaining recreation rounds, only doing showers. Mail wasn't completely passed out either, until well after 11pm!
This is becoming a regular thing now, and I was telling my girl in a letter (I filed a grievance on it last Friday) that either the Warden just doesn't care, or he doesn't have the control he thinks he has...The working theory is this: because people don't want to work in a prison anymore, and officers are constantly being hired, then quitting weeks after, the ranking supervisors try to placate the lazy officers and tell them that as long as it doesn't affect security, or is a threat to security, they don't care if they don't do their jobs like letting us have our recreation or a shower. They're not going to jump their ass for us being screwed out of recreation. After all, we're lowly offenders...Who gives a damn?
What they are not realising is that it very much is a threat to security because you can't keep screwing guys out of the few priviliges they have - privileges that help to keep them in line and well behaved, and if they're taken away...I try to encourage guys to file grievances because you need what is happening on record, but in their minds the process doesn't work. Some think violence is the only answer, and I'm like, "No...don't do that! In using violence it will only justify them screwing us over even more. It solves nothing!" But they really believe that it is the only way to get attention. I've offered to write grievances for people, so long as they promise to turn them in, but I can't hold people's hands, only encourage them...
As far as I know though, the only recreation problems we're having are on A-Pod and B-Pod, and so it isn't enough to address the problem. These are the most full pods on the building and the only pods where everyone goes to recreation.
So, I woke up today feeling slightly down because they didn't pass out any Jpays last night....I was most eager to hear about my girlfriend's weekend 'cause she does these huge craft events and she gives me a play by play of the day in her letter and I love it! I do fist pumps when she's sold a bunch of stuff, and call them "barn burners." I'm always soooo proud of her team when they have a successful day, and I also love hearing about how the kids at these events react to the little grab bag idea I came up with for her...She tries to ensure there's enough little toys to annoy adults at these things - bouncing balls, whistles, chattering wind-up teeth...Nothing makes me smile more than having the image of a snooty and stuffy adult irritated by the mischief of kids! Why do adults forget they were once children too?
Well, hopefully they'll get their act together tonight and pass out Jpays!
I'm scheduled for recreation later this afternoon and I just finished another chapter of my memoir...I'm getting closer to the end now, but it's difficult reliving all of the emotion...
Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith!
February 28th, 2019
I wish the sun would come out! I'm sooooo sick and tired of grey skies and rain...Please, March, bring us many days of sunshine and lovely spring weather.
I cannot believe how fast this past month went. It's just been a blur! As I write this I'm not scheduled for recreation, so I'm assuming it will be around 4th or 5th round. I don't know if it's just this shift, but things have improved this past few days, and they are trying to get rec done and stay on top of the work load. They also told the officers that mail MUST be passed out by 10pm, after weeks of receiving mail past midnight. Things are definitely less stressful when everything runs smoothly, but what I also know about this place is: never get comfortable. This could fall apart in the next shift or crew of officers.
I had filed a grievance about the situation, and they were really slick with how they rejected it...I had typed it, and they returned it a couple of days after saying, "Must submit original copy." Now, I don't know how they confused something being typed as not "original" but we are allowed to use our typewriters. I gave a heavy sigh, but at least I know it was copied and is on record - many other grievances were filed by other people so hopefully those ones will receive responses.
Anyway, in other news, I have finished chapter 39 of my memoir, and things are rapidly speeding up now...I'm close to August, and things are really falling apart in my life at that time. Writing these things and reliving the memories and the emotion, is really difficult...I often wish I had a time machine so I could go back and kidnap myself or something, maybe prevent the stupid things from happening. I remember Stephen King's novel, "11/22/63," where he writes that the past doesn't like to be changed, but I would love to be able to go back and see my parents! They wouldn't recognise me, and I'd say, "Look..." and try to talk to them and help them to see that yes, whilst I am responsible for my choices and actions, they too share in some of the responsibility for how they handled things. I'd say, "Look, that kid just needs some guidance and love...Give him those things and he'll go on to do amazing things - I promise you!" But until I can figure out a way to turn my radio or typewriter into a time machine, all I can do is daydream.
Here's to hoping that March is filled with a ton of happiness and love, with good things happening, and lots and lots of hope!
Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith!
March 1st, 2019
The State has killed another person: a 70 year old man...He was NOT any kind of continuing threat to society, so yet another mindless killing by the State.
Yesterday, I watched as they took Billy Coble from the visitation building and down the sidewalk, surrounded by guards, wardens, ranking officers, and spectators. I've not witnessed this sickening ritual - the long walk to the van that takes a person to the death house/execution chamber - in quite some time, and my stomach churned as I watched men shake hands, pat shoulders, smile and laugh...all in front of Billy, who had a terrible look of grief on his face. Yet, he stood stoic and proud - no slouching or slumping of his shoulders.
Billy had changed a lot over the years - guards liked him, inmates liked him...Over the years he'd had several heart attacks, and he was in poor health, frail, but very much alive. I'm not sure what executing him proves, other than showing the rest of the world how insane and fanatical the Texas Governor can be...Killing a 70 year old man...Something to be proud of...Good job!
In other news, yes, it's been a mess of a day...They only did 3 rounds of rec on first shift, so second shift cancelled the rest of recreation due to "too much work." That's the second time this week the guys upstairs were screwed out of recreation, and yet, no one will file a grievance! They'll complain and threaten violence - mostly empty threats - but I still try to discourage that talk...It's stupid, and won't solve anything. But when you tell them to file a grievance and get it on record, they say, "Oh man, that crap doesn't work!" FRUSTRATING! We're our own worst enemies at times...Our sense of community is waning :-(
Well, the skies are still grey and dark...Will the sun ever stay out for a long period of time?
Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.
March 3rd, 2019
Sunday morning, and it's another grey day...PLEASE can we have some sunshine??? I'm sick of no sunlight!
Well, the weekend has been a bit on the boring side. The radio antenna has been acting up since yesterday - we're getting weird noises and and can't pick up a lot of our stations, which sucks. I love listening to a program called "Live From Here" on NPR, Saturday evenings. It's a really music-centic program, and they have a lot of great live bands on the show, but I had to miss it yesterday, and it doesn't look like I'll be able to catch the repeat today. The guards said something about having the antenna reset on Monday, by maintenance. Sigh...
I was a bit down on Friday night because I was listening to the Prison Show and they were giving out the death row news and appeals information for those of us back here. I was shocked by the number of people who are done with their appeals, or are going into the Supreme Court...It freaked me out. I mean, if Texas Counties really wanted to, they could wipe out most of death row right now! Fortunately most don't have the stomach for it anymore, or the resources. You'd think politicians would see this, but they ignore the signs that most people aren't as interested in the death penalty as advocates "for" would have you believe. That being said, it's still scary to think about...Someone down the run said, "Geeze, those aren't the death row angels...they're the angels of death!" Referring to the women who give us the updates on the Prison Show...Sheesh!
Another thing that upset me is how the system is really a game of chance. There's a guy who received a Certificate of Appealability, but that same guy has openly admitted to killing - and even laughs about it - and the 5th Circuit grants him action on a mere technicality??? Yet, some of us back here never killed anyone and receive denial after denial...It makes no sense how they rule on these things.
Well, I just have to keep telling myself to remain positive and hopeful. I want to enter into this month with hope and faith.
Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith!
March 4th, 2019
Monday...It's grey and extremely cold, and the latest weather report says it'll be even colder tomorrow. I'm scheduled for 4th round with my friend, Big Will, but I'm wondering if we'll even get there...It's looking like it will be second shift at this point, if it doesn't get cancelled. They've only done one round of recreation and it's almost noon!
I've been working on my memoir, and things are accelerating now as I move closer to the end. It's getting tougher, and much harder to deal with the emotion and knowing I can do nothing to stop what happened. I've also updated the soundtrack for the memoir, and written a new poem, "Like I'm Doing Wrong" which is included in the poems/lyrics section of the website, under "New Poems for 2019." I love having these little creative spurts, even if they don't happen as much as they once did.
For the most part I'm trying to fight off anxiety and trying to remain hopeful for things to come...I have to try to stay calm, and I do trust in G-d that things will work out in the end...But my anxiety worsens when I hear of so many people being denied their appeals, and I'm also dreading the onslaught of media misinformation and bad reporting that may come when my co-defendant, Patrick Murphy, nears his execution date towards the end of the month. I pray to G-d that mercy will be shown to Patrick...It's so hard on the heart and soul when you have no control over the narrative the media and the State apply to your case, when all you want is the truth to be upheld...
Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.
March 10th, 2019
As I write this, the sky is a mixture of grey and blue outside of my window...The sun battling it out with the clouds. It does feel like an early spring and very humid kind of day.
The last few days have been on the chaotic side again, with first shift only arranging about 3 rounds of recreation, leaving second shift over 70 plus showers, which means they were forced to cancel the remaining recreation periods. Officers are quitting all the time because they are tired of the nonsensical "policies" that have no basis in safety or security, as well as micro-management and being treated like 3rd class citizens by their supervisors and the warden. Who would want to work under these conditions? I don't like jerks, and have my own issues with lazy guards, but I can also empathize with those who work for the state and who are just trying to do their job and feed their families. The State wonders why they can't get people to work in prisons? The answer is right under their noses! Even their own officer union representative told the Houston Chronicle, "The problem isn't the offenders - it's the system" (to paraphrase).
Anyway, I've been a little irritated over the past few days because I don't like it when people I haven't written to in a very long time - whether they just stopped writing or we just never made a friendship connection - turn around and post things like pictures etc, as if we are still pen pals. It feels like I'm being taken advantage of, or they're capitalizing on my situation. It makes me very uncomfortable, and I don't like pictures of me being posted without my permission...I don't know...It just bothers me. I have other thoughts about things this "world" invites, but I'll keep those to myself. I'm very happy with the people I choose to have in my life, the people I care about and value. I don't need anything more than that in my life at this point - my long established friendships, and the love of my life, my Taffy, is all I really want or need.
On a more upbeat note, I'm looking forward to some very special visits, and I'm super excited! Here's to holding onto courage, strength, hope and faith...I pray this week will be a good one...
March 14th, 2019
I'm about to write something extremely controversial...it might even turn people away from supporting me, or reading my journals, but the truth must be spoken and it's a risk I have to take! If I offend anyone, I'm truly sorry, but I can no longer bite my tongue...
I don't get Lady Gaga...There. I said it and I feel soooo much better! I woke up to one of her songs on the radio and I swear it sounded like a wounded goat singing...Miley Cyrus as well....I almost want to call PETA because it seriously sounds like animals being tortured. Just because you can sing in key doesn't mean you can sing. Also, when I hear interviews about people talking about 'their art' it makes me want to bang my head against the wall! A real artist doesn't have to talk about their 'craft' or being an artist, they just produce art...They put it out into the world and let it speak for itself.
So, we're on day four of the lockdown that began on Monday. I wish I could say that I've taken advantage of it and been knocking out chapters for my memoir and finally have it finished, but I've been kind of low-energy of late...I am using today as a 'reboot' though, and I'm really going to put my head down and work. I want to finish this memoir because now all I can think about in terms of writing, is another memoir centered around my childhood. It'll be more upbeat, funny, and full of happier memories of my younger life. I've settled on a title: "When All I Have To Give Is Love."
My girlfriend (who I love more than anything in the world!) told me that she posted YouTube links to my memoir mix tape, so that people could hear the songs I listened to a lot in 1995/1996, and I hope people will check that out! I'm sure it won't be suited to everyone's taste, but hopefully it will set a certain tone...I thought it was an excellent idea of hers to add those links.
Well, I woke up this morning and the sun was breaking through again. I think they said it was going to be 78F, and I wish I could get outside to enjoy it. I'm just sick of rain! It rained all afternoon yesterday, and I am just tired of it.
This lockdown is expected to last a while and they've not even begun to do the shakedowns on death row, so we're in it for the long haul. I'll be fine though...
Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith!
March 20th, 2019
Spring is finally here! I love the winter, I love the cold and grey skies, I love that feeling of it all. But...I have to equally appreciate the warmth (not extreme Texas heat!) but the sunshine, the fact that everything is coming alive again. Wild flowers, green grass, beautiful green trees, and birds everywhere. I love it all! It's a rebirth of sorts...It gives me hope.
As I write this we're on the second week of our lockdown; I think it's expected to last for another week or so. The one good thing about it, this time around, is whilst we started off with sack lunches every meal, we are not receiving hot meals. Believe me, even a bad tray beats a sack lunch with nothing but peanut butter and jelly, and bologna sandwiches. I'm grateful for it.
Monday and Tuesday I had special visits with a very close friend - someone my dearly departed friend and mentor, David, introduced me to 15 years ago. It was wonderful to catch up and talk about all manner of things, but also to get out of the cell for a couple of days...Escape the insanity of this place and feel human. It's kind of like resetting the mental button.
For the most part though, these days have been filled with writing, and kicking it with my friend, Blaine, listening to music and other radio programs, and just goofing around.
Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.
March 23rd, 2019
Week two of the lock down has almost wrapped up and the word on the street is we are looking at another week to a week and a half of this thing! It sucks being cooped up in the cell all day long, but they are giving us regular trays for our meals and I did have that special visit this past week which rebooted me in a lot of ways...I'm in decent enough spirits right now.
So, a friend and I noticed a strange trend that's growing amongst the guards and several ranking officers here on death row. They've been wearing a version of a 'death's head' patch, or a skull and crossbones...It clearly represents death (as they are working on death row, or enforcers of 'death') and it's eerily reminiscent of the Nazi SS death squads and their 'death's head' symbols and adornments. Besides all of that, I'm fairly certain that as a representative of the State they aren't allowed to have adornments on their uniform that aren't either officially a part of their uniforms like, say, a patch made up of the State or US flag, or State seals. I remember years ago when officers had started making name plates on their uniforms that had logos of their favorite sports teams, and the warden told them to remove them. Why is it that they can wear a 'death's head???' They don't even take part in executions...They are guards...Their only duty is the security of the institution - that's it.
Anyway, I decided it would be worthy of a grievance being filed - we'll see if it goes anywhere. If you are for the death penalty, fine, whatever...Just don't go around wearing Nazi symbolism. It's disgusting! Trump's America though, right?
And so the weekend is here and I'm spending it catching up on things and trying to keep busy. I wanted to mention an orphanage in Honduras that I think is worthy of support from people. One of my close friends spent some time recently helping out there, and in light of all the immigration craziness, and the horror of people having to escape the most extreme violence in places like El Salvador and Honduras, it's so uplifting to see that there's a glimmer of light in such violent places...The orphanage is called "Our Little Roses" and you can find out more about it by clicking on the following link Our Little Roses. My friend told me that the time spent with those little girls was medicine her heart really needed, and so I have to get behind something like that!
I'm hoping and praying that Patrick Murphy receives a stay of execution...[Note from Webmaster: Thankfully, Patrick did receive a stay on the grounds he was denied the presence of his chosen religious representative at his execution, but he's not out of danger yet...We are still fighting to reform the Law Of Parties, and the fact that Patrick definitely was NOT one of the shooters, and wasn't even at the scene]. It's going to be another heart wrenching and soul torturing week, but I'm going to try to remain as hopeful and positive as I can be...
Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith!
March 26th, 2019
Into the second day of the third week of the lockdown...They started off doing showers this morning, and were then supposed to begin shaking down on E-Pod. They finished shaking down F-Pod yesterday, so they were on track to finish the building up by early next week. I got my shower around 7am and then they grabbed the next guy in line who is in 3 cell, and brought him back. After that, everything stopped. They've not done a single shower since, and they haven't been shaking down either, so it puts them another day behind...Sigh.
On the plus side, a group of ministers came around passing out bibles and some Life Saver candy! I don't think I've had those candies since the 1980s! They brought back a flood of memories from growing up in Arlington, Texas...My mom worked in Dallas and wouldn't be home until around 6 in the evening, so my dad would often cook dinner - he was a really good cook! We'd be waiting on mom to get home before we could eat, and I'd help set the table and put out the milk and apple juice...Mom always brought back a little snack or surprise from work for Wesley and I, and most of the time it was either a roll of Life Savers, or another candy of the same brand that was square, chocolate, and mint flavoured. When we'd get the regular Life Savers though, I always demanded the pineapple flavor! So, when I got the roll I immediately ripped it open and went straight to the pineapple loops...I was like a little kid for a few minutes as it dissolved on my tongue...Happy memories!
I'll give the new warden some credit - he has been allowing more ministers back here on 12 building. The last couple of wardens had this place tighter than a pro-wrestlers butt cheeks! I do wish they'd allow representatives from other religions back here though, for the Muslims and Jews, and even Buddhist monks etc. I think it does a lot of good, and lifts morale to have those free world people come back here and show us that there are people who care about them, even if the motive is to 'save' one's soul.
It's an absolutely beautiful day and I'm longing to be outside. I was watching the sunrise this morning, and birds were pecking around in the grass. Then, later in the afternoon, I saw my first butterfly of the season! I don't know what kind it was, but it was bright orange and really pretty. There were some birds perched on the chain link fence eyeballing it, and I was worried it was about to become lunch, but they let it fly away.
Otherwise, I'm in relatively good spirits and full of love...Oh, man, I have to describe this picture I received from my girlfriend! I cannot explain how happy it makes me when I look at it because it is so freakin' cute! Her best friend had a son last year, and the little fella is adorable as it is. Well, everyone knows what a huge Star Wars fan I am so they dressed him up as Yoda, and waited for just the right moment to take a picture of him! I almost died from cuteness overload!!
Anyway, I'm still holding onto...
Courage. Strength, Hope and Faith.
March 28th, 2019
It's been a long and stressful day so far..,As I write this, I'm waiting on an attorney visit, but I'm stressed and very tired...It's Patrick Murphy's scheduled execution this evening, and I've been listening to news reports and I'm thoroughly disgusted with how inaccurate they've been. I think they've relied heavily upon the opinion of the lead prosecutor, Toby Shook, for interviews, and he has skewed all of the facts and in some instances, outright lied about us. The only thing they've gotten right in the reporting is saying that Patrick was not a shooter. However, the Texas State Network news reported he was the only person that didn't shoot. That just isn't true, because I did NOT shoot either! Here's the facts: ONLY five guns were ever fired that evening...You had 7 people, with Patrick not at the scene of the shooting. He did NOT set up an ambush, as Toby Shook said! And he certainly did NOT tell anyone else to shoot! That's completely untrue...All he said was "Get out of there." Period. Furthermore, anyone with any common sense knows that 6 people did not fire 5 guns! I've ALWAYS said from DAY ONE that I never even pulled a gun...I never used a gun, and the majority of my co-defendants said in their personal statements after our initial capture, that I was NOT a shooter. Then later, in affidavits, they reaffirmed what they had said. THOSE ARE THE FACTS! But don't just take my word for it, look it up for yourself.
I don't know how or why executing someone who didn't shoot can be defined as "justice" in any way. You want to lock up Murphy and I for the rest of our lives, and throw away the key? Fine! I'll accept that and I'll accept punishment for my own mistakes. But we are NOT killers! How does that even fit the whole "eye for an eye" thing? And for those who say it fits, think about this: you've got about 10% of all so-called killers locked up on death row, when the other 90% are in general population watching TVs, having jobs, and receiving contact visits, and access to telephone calls....That's fair? The system is fair? We don't even practice what we preach in this State - everyone is a hypocrite! I'm emotionally exhausted and disgusted with the way people can be sometimes...You can have your illusion (delusion) of "justice."
Anyway, more later...
I got almost no sleep last night. The guards woke us up at 2am for breakfast, then at 2.30am for juice, then at 3am for cereal. It was like they were playing with us - they kept turning the cell lights on and off all night long. Then, at 3.50am they started doing showers! I got to sleep some time after 4am only to be yanked out of my sleep again at 7.30, with the sergeant yelling at me to wake up because it was shake down time. They pulled us out and took us to empty cells on C-Pod for about an hour, and when I returned to my cell it looked like a tornado went through a trailer park! Things were thrown everywhere, and someone had opened my baby powder and poured it all over the place. I was royally pissed! I asked the sergeant, "Do you just tell them to throw crap everywhere?" He said, "Do you really think we do that? If you think something is wrong, don't be smart about it...Just tell me." So, I apologized for being sarcastic, but was like, "This is unnecessary." He said he'd tell the guards to stop and respect our stuff in future.
Well, as I began to clean my cell up I noticed they threw away my vitamins and my shower bag...For the life of me I don't know why, but whatever! It can be replaced. I have the things that are important to me, and it's very small in comparison to someone losing their life.
So, this afternoon I watched them take Patrick to Huntsville, and load him into the van. There was the usual crowd, but it wasn't a circus like it typically can be. It seemed to be a bit more serious/sombre, and in my imagination I hoped that maybe these people feel it's morally wrong to participate in the killing of someone who didn't kill anyone...I don't know. There were no slaps on the back and handshakes like there was on poor Billy Coble's date...Patrick looked at peace. When the van pulled away, everyone walked off and that was that.
As I type this, I'm still waiting on a legal visit with my attorney. It was supposed to be today.
Later now...the legal visit never happened. I don't know why.
7pm...So far, no execution...I'm hoping and praying it doesn't happen. Patrick did an interview with KPFT and said I was not a shooter, and it meant a lot to me because it's the truth.
Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.
March 31st, 2019
I cannot believe it's already the last day of the month. Strange that it would end on a surprise cold front! I woke up and it was freezing, but it made me grateful that at least the guards didn't take our blankets in this year's spring shake down, like they did last year - it still gets cool at night, and I like to wrap myself up.
Well, since Thursday, things have progressed in great ways...I was super stressed and worried about Patrick and the fact that the State intended killing someone who is truly 100% innocent of capital murder...I was also upset that I didn't get to see my attorney, and then waiting on the shake down to happen just compounded everything into one very anxiety-laden day. I didn't want to listen to the Execution Watch program - the one KPFT does on execution dates - as they're always littered with inaccuracies, and sometimes cruel and ignorant comments, but I needed to listen to see what they said about Patrick and myself...Fortunately, it wasn't a bad show at all.
Well, we waited for news as his appeals ended, and nothing had been reported. I kept checking the news throughout the night and hadn't heard a thing! I finally went to sleep and a guard woke me up at 4.30am and said, "Did you hear?"
I rolled over and opened my eyes.
"Did I hear what?" I said, slightly irritated at being woken up...
"Murphy received a stay. He's on C-Pod."
"Wow..." I said in disbelief.
I pulled my blanket back over my eyes and rolled back over. but instead of sleeping, I found myself crying and saying, "Thank G-d!" I didn't know why he had received a stay, but it filled my heart with hope, and I saw it as a breakthrough in the universe...As if it had finally heard us and things would begin to change.
I went up and down the dial on the radio to catch some news about his stay, and at 6 in the morning, on Friday, I finally heard something on NPR about Kavannaugh (of all people) issuing the order, and saying that Murphy's Buddhist monk should be allowed in the execution chamber...That the government should not favour one religion over another. That is the correct interpretation of the constitution, and it gave me some faith in Kavannaugh for the future...We'll see! I had hoped it would be on the Law Of Parties issue, but regardless, a stay is a stay, and it does now give Patrick more time to work on any other issues he might have pending or hadn't resolved.
I was still emotionally over-taxed on Friday, and spent most of the day in a bit of an emotional fog. Actually a better description of how I felt all day long is when I'd be up for over a 24 hour period, when I used to take drugs, and then the next day my body struggled to recover. I just felt blah...
Things improved on Friday evening when we were told the lockdown was officially over, I received mail from my girl saying she'd received the special surprise I'd been working on for her, and an explanation from my attorney about why he never got to see me. It was the Prison's fault, and I'm not happy about that, but I figure they did that to keep me from seeing Patrick leave...I should have expected that to happen.
The evening ended with a call into KPFT's Prison Show, from my girl, and that sent me to sleep with a smile, and with HOPE very much on my heart. We had a hot meal for breakfast on Saturday morning, and then back to normal trays for the rest of the day, and Monday we are going to recreation again!
So, I'm entering into April with a ton of hope and I think things will begin to turn around and get better. I've started reading Tehillim (Psalms) again, which I hadn't done in quite some time. It's a good way to start the day. I just can't believe how quickly this month has flown by though...I mean, it was fast, and now we're entering into the fourth month of the year? Unbelievable!
And if I can geek out a bit here...This is about the time when before a big Star Wars movie release is coming, we start getting more and more information about the movie, and then a trailer is released and the excitement begins to build! Episode VIV comes out in December, so it's time to get the gears turning and the information flowing! I think the movie title and trailer will be released by Force Day (May 4th) so I'm excited! I have confidence that J J Abrams will wrap up the trilogies with a bang, and make fans happy. People complained about Episode VIII, but I don't really understand why...It was a good movie, and lined up perfectly with the other movies, and I hope it will grow on people in time. Some movies just have to have some breathing room and age for a while before people appreciate them.
Well, on this Sunday, I plan to do some reading, some writing, and listening to a classic '80s top 40 music show, and cleaning my cell. Tomorrow I get to go outside and hopefully play some basketball if the weather is okay.
I am entering into April with plenty of...COURAGE. STRENGTH, FAITH AND ABOVE ALL, HOPE!
April 21st, 2019
It's a lovely spring Easter day! I woke up to sunlight pouring through my window and it was a great way to start the morning. I jumped out of bed, and started my day...
I haven't been doing much writing lately for several reasons...One, the days leading to and after my co-defendant's pending execution (he received a stay, thank goodness) filled me with anxiety. It was more emotionally tolling that I expected. Then, I came down with the 'flu, which started with a splitting headache. The headache was gone the very next day, and I felt fine until it came back – full force – and then I was as sick as a dog for the next few days. It spread through B-Pod like wild fire, and the entire pod is either sick right now, or going through the last of it.
I'm feeling much better now though, and I plan on returning to my memoir tomorrow and finishing it all up this week. Then, we'll do a final edit and it will be complete! I do want to rework the structure of the prologue, and the first chapter, to fit with the epilogue I have in mind. Then, once this is all out of the way, I'll finish the radio play I've been writing with my girlfriend, and then start on my second memoir about better and happier times I had as a child.
In other news, the warden came through about a week ago and said that in early May he plans on allowing death row a 7 day recreation schedule...When I first came to death row on June 12th, 2003, we used to have a 7 day recreation schedule but only received one hour each day, and it was pretty effective. In 2005 I think they changed it, or some time around that year, but it went to a five day schedule with a rotating day off throughout the week. This, too, was an effective rec schedule. Then, three years ago an idiot Captain tinkered with the formula and it's been a mess ever since. I think the warden wants to get back to something that works.
I'll say this about our new warden...He can be a bit of an ass-hole, but he runs things with military efficiency, and expects the rules to be followed. But in recent months, I've also seen a fair side to him where he has taken some of our complaints to heart, and has tried to get things fixed if it's a serious issue. I think one of the biggest problems is that none of the ranking officers or administrators communicate very well with each other, and their leadership skills are lacking, so things do descent into massive screw ups and chaos.
Here's to hoping a seven day rec schedule will make things a little better...It's Passover now, and today seems easier at least. So, Happy Holidays to all.
Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith...
April 22nd, 2019
A very interesting day it has been...So, they've started this 'heat advisory' stuff where they shut down recreation for the outside at 1pm, until 6pm - never mind that it's only 78 degrees outside and we don't start seeing extreme heat until June!
So, what happens is this: you have three sections of 14 people - each section wanting to go outside - and there just isn't enough time in the day to get everyone out. And how do they try to remedy that probem? By addressing the officers' extreme laziness? No! Instead, they feel the answer is to start rec at 4.30am!! In theory, that should allow at least 4 rounds of recreation before they shut the outside down...Did that happen? Nope! The guards only did about 2 1/2 rounds of rec outside, and now you still have 30 plus inmates waiting to go outside in the evening.
Second shift has to have recreation finished by 10pm, which means that some people just aren't going to get theirs...It's a mess, and until the problem is rectified (which, let's face it, it hasn't been addressed properly in several years, and I don't think it ever will!) this tense and frustrating situation will continue the way it is.
Going into the day in such chaos, I had to just push on and put my head down and get to work. I wanted to finish up my memoir, and outside of a few chapter clean-ups and further editing, I can happily and proudly say, "IT'S FINISHED!!" I am mailing it off to my Webmaster this week, and hopefully it will be on my website in the next few weeks.
The final chapters were extremely difficult to write and relive, and it brought back a lot of pain and remorse, but all I can hope for is to be forgiven...I hope that people won't see things in black and white, and will instead see the huge swathe of grey that has been my life. I thank everyone who has encouraged me and tried to understand - it means more than you'll ever know.
Otherwise, it's been a lovely day. It started off a bit grey and looked like a pop up shower was going to happen, but soon the clouds burned off and the sun has been out and the sky is just beautiful! East Texas skies get some of those big puffy cotton ball-like clouds, and it's gorgeous.
I'm still waiting on recreation...I doubt I'll get it, but who knows?
Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.
May 1st, 2019
I can't believe it's May already! We're in the fifth month of the year....Where's the time going? So, a bit of decent death row news, which is good...Someone else received a stay of execution yesterday, and they moved him to this pod in the afternoon. That takes the people on Death Watch down to two – probably the lowest number in a very long time! There are a lot of guys who have been either kicked out of the Supreme Court and waiting on dates, or like me, they are now just entering into the Supreme Court, but I think a lot of these Counties are losing their appetite for executions. The smaller Counties just can't afford them any more, and the larger Counties like Harris, Dallas, and Bexar, don't have the blood lust they once did. I think it's more the politicians and ultra right wing conservatives who are keeping it alive.
Well, we were expecting the recreation schedule to change today as the Warden had said it would, but it didn't happen...In the past few weeks (especially since they are now closing down the outside rec yards from noon until 6pm) many people are being screwed out of their recreations and showers – it happened to me twice last week! It really sucks, and I hate complaining about it...It's actually mainly why I've been avoiding writing journals of late – the place has been getting gradually worse! I'm not expecting a Disney World theme here, but for the collective sanity of the environment, and for a safe environment, recreation is crucial. People can get out of their cells, stretch their legs, exercise, and let off steam and frustration. But when you're sitting in your cell, everything builds up.
Another one of my issues is my current cell location. Whilst I'm close to one of my friends, I'm on a section full of immature idiots! One of them turns their radio speakers up all day and night, without any kind of respect or regard for the people around him. In a way, I feel sorry for him because the dude acts like a 13 year old...It's a clear case of arrested development, and people have tried to talk to him and reason with him about how disrespectful he is being towards the people around him, but he doesn't care. It seems like this whole section erupts into chaos around 9 in the morning.
I went outside early this morning and enjoyed the fresh air, but I'm needing some sunshine badly! I haven't been in direct sunlight in almost a year.
10.11am...Wonder of wonders...I actually received a shower! When I came in from recreation I asked the guards if they would put me straight into the shower as I keep everything right by the door so that they don't have to undo the handcuffs on me...My shower bag was taken in the last shake down, but I had someone make me a new one, and it hangs right there, ready to grab. They told me “No,” so I said, “So...I guess it'll be second shift, then?” I mean, that's what usually happens! But they're actually working today – amazing!
I'm going to try to focus and keep up with work...My girlfriend kind of got onto me, but I do have a reasonable excuse...Still, I will try to push through it.
Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith!
May 5th, 2019
Happy Cinco de Mayo day!
Well, the past few days have been interesting...I saw my attorney on Tuesday, and it was a good meeting, and definitely gave me some much need pep in my step! Some good things are happening – and coming – and whilst I remain cautious and grounded, I'm also extremely optimistic.
I did a little re-writing on my memoir, fine tuned the Prologue and first chapter, and once we do the final edit things will be good to go, so I'm excited about that. I'm really eager to get it out there and have to say that my girlfriend is doing a whizbang job of putting it all together for me. She's awesome! We just make a great creative team and I love that about our relationship. Even if we were just friends, we'd make a great creative team.
Next up is writing the final act of the radio play we've been working on, and then writing a new memoir about some of the happier times in my childhood – something that isn't as depressing as my first memoir! My working title for the new memoir will be, “When all I have to give is love” and that may change later, but it will be something like that anyway. I'm going to ask a friend back here to paint a cover for it. I've got an idea for how I want it to look.
The recreation problem is still bad, but recently, some guys I helped write grievances have been lucky enough to “win” and that gives me hope that things till turn around...We'll see.
Courage. Strength, Hope and Faith!
May 6th, 2019
This day has been no different than others...Chaos, and even more chaos! As I write this I'm still waiting to go outside and it's probably going to be second shift when I go out...I've been trying to get out to play ball with this other guy for the past two weeks, but because everything has been so crazy, we still haven't managed it. Oh well, life goes on...
Instead of letting it all get to me I decided to finish up the third act of a radio play I've been working on for a LONG time, about the Law of Parties...It's officially finished, and I'll get it out to my girl and she'll work her magic on it and polish it up! I'm pretty excited to see how it turns out.
It's a lovely day even if I never get to get out directly in the sun anymore – it's been well over a year since the direct sun has been on my skin, and I've kind of forgotten what it feels like. I'd probably burst into flames!
Well, onwards and upwards as they say!
Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith...
May 11th, 2019
"Vengeance...I can't wrap my head around it. I think a lot of people confuse justice with vengeance. Vengeance is repaying a bad act with a bad act, in turn – the whole 'eye for an eye' thing. Justice is doing the right thing, the noble thing. When people say, “We need to bring this person to justice,” what many of them mean is, “This person needs to pay for what they did.” That isn't justice...That's revenge – plain and simple!"
A lot of people also say, “We need swift justice,” but I'm not quite sure that reacting quickly or swiftly, in the heat of emotion, is always the rational way to serve justice. This is especially true when a life or lives are at stake. It's one thing to react quickly in self-defence, like one country striking another, or a person under physical attack striking back...That's noble...That's 'just'. But when an accused person is condemned for a crime, and their life is at stake, I think it serves justice to be cautious...To turn over every stone, and ensure that everything is done in the interest of true justice. Without this course of action, the State, investigators, and prosecutors, find ways to bend the truth against the accused, or repay an evil act with another evil act because they believe they're on the 'right side of justice.' That's not justice...That's revenge.
I've been thinking about this a lot over the past week or so. Whether it's our own government and how they often react rashly to things, but also of course, my own case...I don't consider myself a victim in any way, and I don't ever want to play the 'victim card'...I own every single mistake and bad thing I've ever done in my life, and I'm deeply sorry for things that have hurt people. But I also know that I'm not a killer. I know the facts, and no matter how much bending, twisting or denying of those facts goes on, my story has never, ever changed. And yet, the State continues on with their campaign of revenge, with many of us back here. I don't understand how any of that can serve true justice. I will never understand how revenge could be confused with justice...I just don't understand vengeance at all.
I've never been the vengeful type...I've never thought, “This person wronged me so I'm going to do everything in my power to get them back!” I've been on death row now for almost 16 years. I was sent here on 12th June, 2003, and during that time I've been poked, prodded and screwed over by guards, and sometimes inmates, more times than I can count. Never – not one single time – have I ever thought, “I'll show them, and I'll be justified in doing so!” Have I been angry at times? Sure! I've argued with them, but never have I acted out in any sort of violence – I don't even like to cuss people out.
One of the questions a jury has to decide upon when sentencing someone to death, is 'will they be a continuing threat to society?' And they're allowed to take into account that the environment of prison is 'society' as well...So, if I'm a continuing threat, where or how have I acted out? Where have I harmed someone? The State was wrong...The jury were wrong...16 years is a long, long time.
I had a legal visit the other day, and I was talking with my attorney and telling him something someone had shared with me years ago...There are 3 types of person in prison:
1) Those who become woven into the fabric of prison...They accept that they've been titled, and they will fight, cheat and steal, and sometimes even kill.
2) Those who will do whatever it takes to survive, and if that means they have to join a gang, they will do it. If they have to pay protection to others, they will do it. They are part of the fabric because they want to survive, but they also want to make it out alive.
3) Those who are on the periphery, who try to avoid trouble, who don't see themselves as 'criminals' or even as 'inmates' and typically when they get out they try to get back to a normal life. They might have screwed up, made mistakes in life, but they aren't 'bad' people.
I know who I am...I know my heart.
So...that's what has been on my mind lately...I've also been a bit anxious of late because some very big stuff to do with my case is in the pipe line, and will be filed soon. It's going to make heads spin, and once again prove that I didn't get a fair shake in this whole mess...That justice – the real definition – wasn't served.
There's also something good happening for us back here...After a long and hard battle to get a recreation schedule that works, we are starting a new one this coming Monday! I'll explain it all in my next journal, but it will be one less thing to stress about for sure, and I have enough stress as it is!
Finally, in closing, I want to ask people to pray for my girlfriend's brother. He recently had a serious heart attack, and as of writing this, he's very ill, but recovering slowly. Her family have been very loving and accepting of me since the very beginning, and even as her brother was recovering in his hospital bed, he still asked her about me and how I was doing...It means more than they will ever know. I'm extremely fortunate to have their support, and I'm blessed to have her love, her friendship, and everything that comes with it. She's definitely my warrior queen!
Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith!
May 12th, 2019
Happy Mother's Day...regardless of whether or not you have me in your life, I do love you, mom...
The sun is finally coming out after a week of rain and storms. I love the grey, I really do...It always brings out some good writing in me, but I also crave the sunshine!
I mentioned yesterday that our recreation schedule is changing on Monday. Initially, we were supposed to get 7 days of recreation, but I knew it was going to create more problems. A few of us back here have been writing grievance forms and trying to get the warden to go back to our old recreation schedule. Under the old schedule, we had the same five days of rec, but one day for each section was an 'off' day, and it would rotate throughout the week. It also worked better when they weren't trying to cram three sections (42 people) outside, in a 15 hour period. It was impossible, and many people were losing recreation because of that.
So, we fought and fought, trying to point out the shortcomings in the more recent schedule, and on Wednesday, a new schedule was posted, and it's back to the old one! The section I currently live on is A-section, and our 'off' day is going to be Monday. Our outside days will be Wednesday and Saturday, and I'll finally be able to get some sun on my skin! I've not been in direct sunlight for over a year – no joking! I never get out in the sunlight – it's always either very early in the morning, or late at night, or sometimes not at all...This is going to change, and we're all looking forward to it. It will also be much less stressful for the officers, because on any given day they will have 14 fewer rounds of recreation to do.
I'm entering into a very important time in my case, and I need many, many prayers. I'm a little anxious and eager, but I know – I feel it in my gut – that this is what's going to turn everything around. I will live! I refuse to accept anything but a chance at life and redemption!
Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.
May 13th, 2019
A bright and warm Monday...I woke up at about 6.30am, and got a jump start on the day! I wrote a letter to my girl, prayed, and then exercised. I thought the guards were going to do showers as our section wasn't going to recreation today, but they only did one round, and this particular crew will probably leave the rest for second shift. I guess even with a new and easier recreation schedule, some things just don't change...
Speaking of the new rec. schedule...They changed it again this morning. It's still similar to what we thought it was going to be, but they changed some of the days around so now I need to find out when A-section is going to rec. It seems like they made it a little more complicated than it needed to be! Cue my favourite saying: “It's not rocket science!”
Well, I'm entering into this next few weeks with a lot of hope, and I'm eager to see when the “big filing” will happen - it's due very soon, and I can't wait to be able to talk openly about it and to see all of the work my attorneys have put into it...I don't know all of the details as yet, and I cannot say too much right now, but it's BIG, and nobody will be able to say, “It wasn't a big deal!”
I'm praying...I'm always praying for mercy.
Well, it's later in the day now, and the new rec schedule seems to be working flawlessly! Just like we knew it would. This is going to ease up so much stress! I guess what I can't figure out is why it took several administrations to see it and listen to us...
Well, here's to hoping that good things are on the horizon!
Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.
May 14th, 2019
It's been a fairly productive day...I finished up the first chapter of my new memoir and I'm sure it will be posted soon. It's set in the happier times in my life, but I found writing that first chapter a little more emotional than I first thought – especially remembering my first conversation with my adoptive grandfather. I really wish I had known him longer...He had a stroke when I was about 9, and then he passed when I was around 10 or 11. I do have some fond memories of my time with him though, and even in that brief amount of time, he made a big impression on me. Some of those memories will be worked into the memoir.
I was initially set up for recreation, 4th round, but was bumped up to 3rd round, which I was happy about. I don't mind 4th round, but 3rd is definitely the sweet spot in the recreation schedule – the guards are on a break, everyone is taking naps or busy writing letters, and there's a kind of peacefulness around that time that I really like. This new schedule is working very well so far, and I can't overstate the amount of stress it has eased throughout the whole place.
Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.
May 15th, 2019
It's been a relatively peaceful day. I was working on the second chapter of my next memoir, but I stalled a bit and hope to finish it tomorrow. I'm trying to figure out how I want to move through my childhood - which memories I like to look back on, and those which bring me the most joy, as well as highlighting the positive and loving moments between me and my family. I spent the last memoir talking about how everything fell apart, and how my parents reacted to everything, and whilst it was harsh and hurt a lot, I do have many happy memories with them, and had some great experiences growing up. I also want to talk about the kind of kid I was, and how I related to my environment and the world around me as a child coming from a background of abuse, and then being adopted...I'm figuring out the structure as I move along.
A funny thing happened earlier. I like to get on my bed and look out the window occasionally, watch people go down the side walks, watch birds, nature, or even just stare at the grass and wild flowers swaying in the wind. It's meditative for me, but for some, it makes them feel depressed and they never look out of their window. I do feel a sense of longing...but it has never depressed me.
So, I'm watching some birds peck around in the grass, watching some general population inmates and guards walk around outside, when a GIANT wasp flew up to the glass and bumped into it! For a second, I forgot the glass was there, and I let out a scream of holy terror before falling backwards and almost breaking my neck...NOT COOL! Ha ha...
So, the day of the big filing is coming nearer and nearer...I'm anxious and eager to have it all out there!
Courage, strength, hope and faith.
May 16th, 2019
I woke up at breakfast time, which was later than usual - around 5.20am. A a really cool Nigerian guard gave me two egg trays which I was really thankful for, and it shows there are some who treat us as humans and don't let the power go to their heads. I was going to fall back to sleep, but then shift change happened and I noticed we had an extremely slow and lazy crew...I sighed, and figuring it was going to be a long day, I forced myself to remain positive.
I wasn't scheduled for recreation at first, but then they came back and told me around lunch time that I was going to E-section, 4th round. I'll probably be stuck out at rec until 2nd shift, but I have a friend over there so I can talk to him for a while - just getting out of the cell will be nice.
I'm sooooo ready for this filing to happen! I want to be able to talk about it openly, but my attorneys have said I can't speak about it until it's been filed...I have a gut feeling that this is what's going to turn things around for me. I'm not a person who reads 'signs' etc, and I don't believe in dreams, but I guess it was a strong coincidence that a very close friend back here told me the other day - out of the blue - that he had a dream that his mom told him, "Don't worry about Randy, he got off death row." I thought that was a nice thing to share and I'll take it!
Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.
May 20th, 2019
I've been pretty jittery all day long...I suppose it has to do with waiting on word about the filing, and I'm hoping to hear about it tonight, in a letter - then I can finally talk about it! I've had to keep it all in for months...
The weekend was fairly quiet; I was scheduled to go outside on Saturday at 6pm, and I was stretched out and pumped up, ready to play basketball. We got outside and started our first game when the guards came right back out and said they had to shut it down due to lightening. We didn't see any lightening, but once the call goes out, that's that...I went straight to the shower and then spent some time listening to the radio.
Today, I woke up after 4am when I thought I missed breakfast - I did miss it because the guard never woke us up! I'm a fairly light sleeper and I'm programmed to wake up to certain sounds - gates slamming shut, the squeak of a chow cart's wheels...I knew they didn't wake me up! I tossed and turned until 1st shift came on, then I got out of bed, started a letter to my girl, and exercised. I thought that because A-section has an off day today, I'd get a shower early, but it's evening time now and we're - the entire section - still waiting for showers. The guards on first shift did almost no work! Pretty crazy...The whole point of the new recreation schedule was to alleviate the work load. I guess it still requires people to do their jobs properly and efficiently...Sigh...
I spent a good bit of time today looking out of my window. The wall was really warm so I know it's very hot outside. I love to look out, meditate, and day dream...All in all, it hasn't been a bad day, I just need to calm my nerves!
Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith!
May 27th, 2019
My memorial day weekend kicked off with a bang! Normally I'd be down in the dumps, depressed, and wishing I had a time machine so I could go back to the Friday evening I jumped into a taxi cab in 1995, and stop myself from putting this whole entire mess in motion...I will always believe that had I not left that day, had I not gone to Louisville, Kentucky, I would not be RIGHT HERE. That being said, I've been waiting for some big things to happen with my appeals, and I knew it was coming...I was told on the 17th that it would be filed, and it was, but I still hadn't seen the actual filing until a couple of days later...All I can say is, “Wow!” My Webmaster has posted a link to the filing on the front page of this website, so anyone can read it and come to their own conclusions. It's more obvious now than ever, that the cards were well and truly stacked against me in my own trial, and I never had a chance. Never mind having the law of parties...Never mind that I wasn't even a shooter...But to have a racist, homophobic and anti-Semitic judge presiding over my trial??
When I was adopted I hadn't really been exposed to bigotry. I can't remember any circumstances before I was adopted either. My parents raised me to love and appreciate all human beings...I had two Korean brothers who I loved and adored, and I can only recall (prior to going to school in Kentucky) one incident where I was picked on for being Jewish...There was this kid called Chance, in the 7th grade, and he constantly called me 'Jew Boy' and would say things like, “Heil Hitler” as he passed by me in the hallway. One day I'd had enough and we ended up fighting...When I was suspended, my dad was furious and went to the school to say it wasn't my fault, and the teachers were on my side as well.
When I went to school in Kentucky, however, I became much more aware of bigotry's ugly face...Teachers were telling me I would go to hell, and I was becoming more and more sensitive to the 'passion plays' that would spark anti-Jewish sentiment over Jesus' death, and the choice of Barabus over Jesus...Teachers and students who knew I was Jewish would ask, “Why did you kill Jesus?” I'd say in return, “I didn't kill anyone!” I was told the Star of David was a symbol used by Satanists, and so on and so on...To make things worse, I had no one to talk to about what was going on at that time because I worried my dad wouldn't believe me, thinking it was an attempt to try and get back home. I just had to deal with it.
In prison, even though I never faced physical harm, I did have to listen to anti-Jewish sentiment from White Supremacists and other groups, but the one place you should NEVER, EVER have to expect it or encounter it is in the justice system! Whilst I can never compare my experience of bigotry to any African-American's experience, you shouldn't have to deal with it in the court room, regardless of race or creed.
So, we'll see what happens, but hopefully what has happened to me will not only turn my case around, but it will also aid other defendants of color who were tried or sentenced by this particular judge...It will take a lot of time for all of this to hash out, but I have hope!
Over the weekend I've pretty much been vegging out. I cleaned my cell, listened to some radio programs, and just kicked back. On Saturday morning I was able to get out whilst the sun was shining, and I played some basketball. Unfortunately, I lost by 8 measly points, after a pretty strong winning streak!
Well, here's to hoping for good things to come, and a good week ahead...
Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.
May 28th, 2019
Today turned out to be a real bummer. (Side note: I just laughed to myself because as a kid when I used to use the word 'bummer' my dad would tell me to 'Stop talking like a valley girl'...I don't even think I knew what that meant as a kid! I hadn't seen the Nicholas Cage movie until my teens). I was scheduled for recreation, third round A section, and thought, “this is great!” I wanted to be in my cell by the evening because I had plans to listen to “The Lion King” on my radio at 7pm. It had been over 20 plus years since I'd seen it, and growing up a huge Disney fan and having wonderful memories attached to that film, I didn't want to miss it.
Then things went KABOOM!
After the first round of recreation, the guards closed down A-section because the maintenance crew called the pod and said they had to fix something. That would push my recreation back to fourth round and I was a bit nervous...Often, fourth round stays in the day room no less than 5 hours due to shift change, and depending on the officers working second shift, they may or may not take an inmate back to their cell...I was going to chance it though 'cause I needed to exercise, and I had a plan to ask the officers (as soon as second shift came on) to please put me back in my cell so I could make it on time for the movie.
Lunch came and the guards shut down recreation to pass out the trays...The longer it took, the more it pushed the recreation schedule back, and by 1pm they still hadn't set up second round of rec. I knew then I'd never make the movie if I went to rec, so I was resigned to just skip it. It upset me a bit...Oh well...I'd take the loss of recreation to listen to the movie...
As luck would have it, though, recreation was cancelled altogether because 'pest control' was going to come on the pod and spray. We have a huge cockroach problem here, and this pod is particularly bad. They sprayed at around 2pm, then started up the showers. Then second shift came on at 5.30pm, and we had a decent crew, so they handled the the remaining showers and kept things running smoothly.
As I type this I'm listening to 'The Lion King' and geeze...I actually got a little emotional as a flood of memories came rushing back to me. I can't believe I'd forgotten so many of these songs! I mean, I still remember numbers like “Hakuna Matata,” “The Circle of Life,” and “Can You Feel The Love Tonight?” But others I'd just forgotten!
I'm waiting on mail now...My girlfriend is in Canada right now, visiting her brother who is seriously ill, and I'm hoping that she not only arrived safely, but that her brother is improving as well. The heart doctor has said he needs to become stronger before he can have some necessary surgery, so I'm hoping everything is okay with her right now. She works 7 days a week, and has to travel with her work every weekend, and now travelling back and forth to Canada as well...It sucks that we can't use a telephone in these difficult times.
No Jpays! This is happening more and more lately, and I know she would always let me know she was okay...Sigh...
Well, here's hoping everything is okay.
Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.
May 29th, 2019
I didn't get much sleep last night. As I said in yesterday's journal, I am worried about my girlfriend and her brother. The Jpay email system is supposed to turn the mail around quickly – within 48 hours – but in Texas, however, they can't seem to hand them out in a timely manner. We also can't email back - we have to respond via snail mail, which can make things difficult in times like this. Our mailroom here is particularly slow with mail, and sometimes we can wait longer than necessary for our Jpays – several people on my section alone are constantly missing Jpays they know they should have received. I usually get mine fairly regularly, but at this stressful time, I don't know why they are so slow in passing them out.
Anyway, I woke at 5.30 for recreation, and went outside just before 6. I played some basketball, but I was just too tired to put my all into it. We managed to play 5 games to a hundred points each game, but despite coming close to winning, I couldn't pull it off. I ended up losing by 28 points!
We've been playing a different way lately because it's better exercise, and it actually improves your shot. So, for years, I always played first to 10 points, but with these games to 100, it's the first to make 100 goals. If my opponent makes 100 and I make 96, he gets 4 points. If in the next game I make 100 and he makes 90, it takes his points away and gives me 6 points. It really does make you work harder because not only are you trying to win the game, you're trying to keep your tally up without falling behind.
I thought we'd come back in and go straight to the shower, but we've got an extremely lazy crew of officers today...I had to rinse off in my sink because I was a sweaty mess, and then I washed my clothes.
For most of the day, besides worrying about my girlfriend, I've been thinking about all the memories that came flooding back when I listened to the Lion King last night. It was a family favourite when I was growing up – especially a favourite of my little brothers! I can remember throwing blankets and pillows on the floor in our games room, and 'camping out' as we watched it together. Sometimes they would come rushing into my bedroom demanding I put the DVD on and I didn't mind because the whole family were Disney fans, and I loved those movies too.
I used to use a nifty trick when I was babysitting my brothers on my parents' date nights. My dad would want the house cleaned before they came home, and so, to get my brothers to help out I'd say, “Whoever cleans up the most in the house will get to pick the movie we watch.” They'd run off in a mad dash picking up toys, as I would vacuum...In the end, I'd let them both pick a movie, It'd usually be Aladdin or the Lion King.
When I'd come back home on a school break, my brother Jimmy liked to sneak into my room...He'd want to watch a movie late at night and I'd say, “Okay, I'll put something on, but if mom or dad come into the room, you have to pretend to be asleep!” I'd put on a Disney movie and in seconds, Jimmy would be out like a light!
Well, here's to hoping I get some mail tonight!
Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.
June 2nd, 2019
It's been an interesting weekend...The mailroom had either been sitting on my letters, or just not sending them to me, but I got a stack of letters from my girlfriend and thank goodness she's okay, and her brother's health is improving. I was so relieved!
On Saturday, recreation was cancelled because of 'staff shortages' and I had been hoping to get outside to play basketball. Instead, I caught up on things I needed to and then I listened to some music on my radio. One of my favorite radio programs is called “Sound Awake”. It's on 90.1 KPFT out of Houston, and it used to be broadcast on a Tuesday afternoon, for years, but more recently, the program switched to Saturday night at 10pm to midnight. The DJ can be frustrating in that he has a bad habit of talking over the music and talking for way too long, which eats up the time that could be used for playing music. But that said, this program is one of the only places I get to hear songs I would normally not hear on mainstream radio. I don't hide my dislike of the music on mainstream radio – every once in a while something will be good, but it's a rarity now. KPFT is all I have for the really good stuff.
So, last night, the DJ was doing his tradition of honoring the 25 year anniversary of the current graduating class, and it fell on 1994. I immediately perked up and became excited because the tail end of 1993 and all of 1994 is one of my favourite years for music. Sooooo many good albums and songs! I have some great memories from that year as well, and the DJ really knocked it out of the park! The Cure's cover of 'Purple Haze', Depeche Mode, Cocteau Twins, and it went on and on...Just wonderful! Two whole hours of bliss! I was so excited from the music high that I couldn't get to sleep.
I slept in until 7.30am this morning, and set about the day knocking out some mail, when a little after 9am the guards said they were running recreation. I had to put everything else on hold and get ready! We went outside and the sun came back out (it had been overcast at the start of the morning) and we ran 4 games to 100...I won by 50 points!
Well, the guy I was outside with was a bit upset that we weren't going to get showers, and requested to talk to a sergeant. I told him it was going to be a losing argument, but he wanted to talk to him anyway. When the sergeant came, it was a really young and hot-headed dude, and I knew it wasn't going to go anywhere...So, the sergeant didn't even try to listen - he cut the dude off and said, "You're not getting a shower." At that point the guy I was outside with said, "Okay, I'll write a grievance." I was watching the body language of the sergeant and it changed to hostility immediately! Then, the sergeant said, "Write your fucking grievance. Spell my name right!" And he began to spell it out for him...The inmate said, "I'm just letting you know, that's all."
"I don't give a fuck. I'll end your recreation right now. You think I give a fuck?"
I could see it was escalating, so I tried to intervene and calm things down because the guy I was outside with has a history of assaulting guards when he feels disrespected. I said, "Hey, sarge..." but he slammed the door on us and I didn't get to finish. I told the guy, "Look, calm down. Don't do anything. Don't make this worse. I'm a witness to this so we'll write a grievance and we'll write the internal affairs division and make sure he doesn't try to retaliate. At least it'll be on record. If you do something, we won't win. But we can win this because he wasn't acting as a professional.
He finally calmed down and we'll file the grievances tomorrow morning. After that incident, I laid down in the sun and just enjoyed the fresh air.
Because we aren't getting showers I had to bathe in my sink when we got back inside, and I still have to do laundry. After I catch up on things, I'll jam out to the radio some more...I still need to heat up my lunch!
Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.
June 5th, 2019
It's been a grey and wet day, but I'm in fairly decent spirits. I woke up at 7 this morning and was all but certain they would cancel outside recreation because of the storms we've been having in this area, but they kept it open. I asked the guy I was going to go outside with if he was still going and he said he was, so we were out before 8 even though it was raining, but not too heavily.
I love summer rain...It's the best kind of rain! Clean, rejuvenating, and takes me back to being a kid. I had a memory pop up about my childhood friend, Chad, when we were growing up in Arlington, Texas. I was about 11 at the time and I'd often hang out over at his place over summer break. We'd watch re-runs of 'The Fall Guy' and other shows, and then head out to the local shopping mall. I remember it was raining heavily one day, and we were bored being couped up in his house, so we went outside to play in the rain. His yard quickly turned to mud, and we started stomping around in it. We stripped down to our boxers and began kicking the mud at each other, then we began grabbing it and flinging it at one another - it quickly turned into an all out mud fight! The down side is we tore up his yard, so when his parents came home they were pissed! We had to hose off, then we got chewed out...Over the next few days we had to reseed their lawn, and tidy everything up, but hey, it was worth it! (ha ha).
So, back to today...We started playing ball and running carefully in the rain. The dude I was outside with fell, and I said, "You okay?" And he said he was fine, so we went back at it. On the fourth game, I took a nasty slip! I felt both of my feet come up so I turned my body to the side, but as I came down I hit my knee first and skinned it...The guy asked me if I was okay, and I said, "Yeah." I shook it off and we got on with the game. Some blood was trickling down my leg, but I wasn't about to stop. He ended up winning in the end by 19 points...Oh well...Maybe next time!
When I came back in I washed up, did my laundry and cleaned up my scrape, putting some Neosporin on after it was cleaned up...I'm okay.
I really like our new recreation schedule, and it has eased a lot of stress. We're guaranteed to get our outside recreation, and that makes things much better. Yesterday, they shut recreation down because of a staff shortage (an increasing problem in Texas prisons...People just don't want to work in a prison no matter how much money they throw at them) so we'll probably get rec on Sunday to make up for it.
I'm still in shock and reflecting on the news that I had a judge who hated Jews...It's just a weird thing to have someone hate you for a religious view or how you were raised, or whatever...It's worse for people of colour though, and I try not to lose sight of that. No matter the problems I've had at boarding school for being Jewish, or the problems it brought whilst being in prison, it's small potatoes when compared to what people of colour have been through. I can't imagine being afraid to drive a car at night, or being hated just for wanting a better life for my family - that's something I've never had to experience and I guess it helps to put it all in perspective. No matter what your problems might be, someone always has it much worse.
I can only hope the court is fair and pays attention to this. I can say with certainty that if I did not have a fair trial simply for being Jewish, people of colour definitely didn't.
Courage. Strength, Hope and Faith.
June 9th, 2019
I'm writing this on a bright and beautiful Sunday morning. It's normally super quiet on Sundays, as it's typically a 'no recreation' day, but someone upstairs has a homemade speaker and has decided that everyone on the section should listen to what he's listening to! It does no good to talk to him...believe me, we've tried...His excuse every time is, "I'm doing my time." Yeah, but if your time affects our time...Sigh. Oh well!
I've had a rough couple of days...Thursday started off relatively normal; they had first round of recreation in the day rooms and things seemed to be operating normally, but 45 minutes later, the officers came back around shutting rec. down! This was after a 'no recreation' day on Wednesday due to personnel shortages...Then we were told we were on lock down. It was weird that lockdown was starting on a Thursday as they normally start at the beginning of a week. We were all asking, "Are y'all sure it's lock down, or is it just another staff shortage?" The officers said it was for sure a lock down...Well, just fantastic.
The same day we waited all day for lunch, which didn't arrive until after 3pm, and then right after that dinner arrived - literally minutes later! Now, on this last lock down we were given hot meals, but on this one, apparently we're not. Nothing we can do about that and fortunately I do have some food in my locker so I'll be fine...And I have enough to share with others too.
On Friday we had showers, and I spent the day cleaning my cell and weeding through things to give away or donate to the library. A friend down the run wanted to make tacos for everyone and just needed a bag of beans and rice, so I sent him those to contribute. I told him the tacos were so good that if we were free, I'd be investing in him to make a taco stand in the free world! They really were that good!!!
That evening I settled in to listen to the Prison Show - they have a 'death row news' section, where they mention things that were filed for guys here. I listened whilst waiting on mail, and didn't hear anything on my case, which was fine. I knew it was going to be a while before anything happens because it needs time for the recently filed stuff to hash out. Right after that I received my mail, and some Jpays (printed, one way, emails). Things have been wishy-washy with the mail service for some weeks now, but it seems like everything was back on track. Several Jpays arrived from my girlfriend, which was fantastic, but another one I received was just...bad. All I can do is hope and pray that this mess will all be resolved, and that truth and what is right, will prevail. I have confidence that it will...The truth is on my side no matter how dirty and how hard the State try to play. When I can, I will go into further details...Right now, I'm just praying, hoping, and holding onto hope and faith.
The weekend has pretty much been affected by that news, but I'm pushing through! In recent weeks I've taken to reading Tehillim - Psalms - for strength, guidance, and comfort. I tell myself that things WILL work out...I have faith in G-d and the truth, and I refuse to give up!
Here's to hoping that the coming week will bring about better things and better news...
Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.
June 10th, 2019
I'm sitting here at 11.28am with a slight grumbling in my tummy, waiting on my sack lunch. I didn't bother eating breakfast because by the the time I checked to see what it was (they passed them out at 2am, and I just chucked it into my locker) I was underwhelmed by the two pancakes and packet of syrup – not real syrup either, but the sugar fee artificial kind that for some odd reason is what I imagine donkey piss would taste like...I had no appetite. After being woken up at 2am, we we were again woken up at 3am when milk was being passed out, and then again at 4am when they passed out little bowls of cereal. Around 4am they started doing showers and I managed to get back to sleep until it was my turn in the shower, at 8am.
This morning I was thinking about faith...Have you ever prayed and asked G-d to 'show' himself to you? I don't know, not exactly like, “Dude, give me a sign!” Or even, “Prove yourself to me.” But just a simple “show me you're there” kind of thing...Whilst being Jewish has always been very important in my life, I've not been the most religious person at times. Heck, for a while I was wondering if I was beginning to become slightly agnostic! I don't think I could ever be atheist because I firmly believe in something much greater than us, and looking at the world and how beautiful it is – there just has to be something behind it...
Anyway, I just want to know there IS something behind all of this and a reason why...And I want to know there is a guiding hand, and that there is truth and justice governing all of it. I'm no more special than anyone else – in fact, I'd put myself a few rungs below a lot of people. But that being said, I also know the person I am, and I know my own heart...I've made plenty of mistakes in my life – more than most people – and I have many flaws...But I do pray and ask that G-d will see “me”, and grant me a smidgen of mercy.
The latest shake down news is that they're doing E-Pod today. They did F-Pod on Friday, and if they keep to the one-pod-a-day schedule, I'm sure they'll be on this pod by Thursday. I figure we'll be finished with everything on Saturday, so we might get some recreation time.
One of the real bummers of the past week has been that we lost a really good local station from Livingston. When I first came to death row it was a country music station, and then about five years later it transformed into a classic rock station. Occasionally, they played some really good '90s alternative music, and on Tuesdays they had an '80s flashback theme to the day. I didn't listen to it all the time, but it was there, and it was a bit of musical 'comfort food' from time to time. They also did Texas news updates throughout the day. Well, apparently a big Houston Christian music station bought the signal out because on Friday, it was gone and replaced! I keep going to that spot out of habit, but what sucks even more is that I'm running out of FM stations to listen to! It's either all pop, country, Spanish, or Church music now...For a city with so much diversity, they are very limited in their music offerings!
Okay, let's see what else the day brings...
It's a little after 1pm now, and I just had a delicious peanut butter and jelly sandwich, and a lovely bologna sandwich...Nothing tastes more like road kill than a good ol' lukewarm piece of bologna!
I've been spending some time looking out the window, watching the clouds pass by and the birds picking at the grass. Someone threw out some bread from somewhere because a bird – looked like a big crow – swooped down, grabbed the big chunk of bread, and flew off! I guess one of the trustees threw it out there.
Oh well, another day in the life of...
Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.
**Warning: Contains foul language**
June 12th, 2019
Yesterday began as any other day on lock down - boring, and with me trying to find something to do with my time. I'd been checking a local station that broadcasts Texas news networks and gives small updates on death row inmates appeals, and as I was listening to that I heard, "Jewish death row inmate, Randy Halprin..." My heart began to pound, and I thought, "Okay...so news of the appeal is officially out there now." I suppose we'll see what becomes of all of this. I remain humble, hopeful, and faithful.
I spent most of the day reflecting on the importance of today's date: June 12th, 2019...It marks 16 years of me being on death row. I'm currently living on the exact same section and pod - B-Pod/A Section - that I was in when I first arrived here, except I'm in 2 cell right now, and I was in 8 cell back then. I can still remember every bit of the day I was sentenced, as if were yesterday...
The Jury in my trial was sequestered overnight because they couldn't decide on my sentence. Very early that morning I was pacing the floor in my holding cell before finally being called into the court room, when word of a decision had been reached. I remember hearing the sentence being given, followed by the victim's impact statement, and then I was whisked out of the court room to sign a pile of papers whilst the Sheriff's deputies barked orders at me to change out of the clothes I was wearing, and put on an orange Dallas County jumper. I was shackled up, quickly ushered out of the holding cell area, and into a parking garage filled with Police officers and media. I remember beginning to feel numb, as everything was happening so quickly.
What would normally have been a 3 hour drive from Dallas to Huntsville was so fast it took less than two hours! The Dallas County Officers helped me out of the car and took the shackles off me before turning me over to TDCJ. I wasn't sure what to expect at that point - I half way expected the guards to shout hateful things at me, but when a sergeant took over as he took me through what they call "Diagnostics" he said, "As of now, everything that's happened before this moment doesn't exist. You treat me with respect, I'll treat you with respect. No one is going to retaliate, okay?"
"Yes sir," I said.
"You're not planning on killing yourself, are you?" He aasked.
"No...The State will do that for me," I said, sarcastically. I remember him saying I didn't have to take it 'there', but it was how I felt at that moment.
I was taken to a barber where my hair was clipped off and then on to where I had my picture taken for a State issued ID, and fingerprinted. When the process was over they loaded me into the back of a van that would take me to death row. I sat in silence for a few minutes when the back door opened and I was staring into the ruddy face of a heavy set TDCJ sergeant. "Where you going?" He asked, with disdain in his voice.
I ignored him.
"I said, where are you going?" He demanded.
"You know where I'm going," I replied.
"I want to hear you say it."
"That's a good fuckin' place for your ass!" He spat, and slammed the door.
Armed officers climbed into the van and we drove to Livingston, in silence. About 40 minutes later, we pulled into Polunsky and drove through a series of cages until we reached the sally port of 12 building.
My mind began to race...I fully expected to enter a world portrayed by the movies - homicidal manicas and psycopaths, screaming and spitting at me as I passed by their cells...Threats to the guards and threats hurled back at inmates...Banging, screaming, and all manner of horrible things being thrown from cells...I expected chaos, and my imagination was running wild.
I was taken to an office, had a few more pictures taken, and then given an orientation package. I was told I already had a mattress and necessities in my cell, and if I needed anything else I had to notify an officer to call a supervisor. I was then taken to B-Pod 8 cell.
When I entered the pod it was so quiet! This surprised me...No one was standing at their door yelling out...There was no banging or shouting, nothing being thrown. I entered my cell and had my handcuffs taken off, and a few minutes later, an officer came back and asked me if I wanted a shower. I said, "Sure," and off I went.
When I got back to my cell after my shower, nobody said anything to me for about half an hour. I sat in my cell, staring at the walls, trying to figure out what I would do with whatever remaining years I had on this earth. I was still a bit numb when my thoughts were interrupted by a banging on my wall...A voice called me to the door and a guy said, "Hey, we're sorry you're here, man."
"Yeah, me too..." I replied.
"Well, I'm going to send a fishing line to the front of your door. The guys up here put together some food, stamps, and writing supplies for you. Just pull it all in."
"No, that's cool. I don't need anything, thank you." Didn't they know I came from general population? Number one rule in prison: nothing comes for free!
"Seriously, dude, just pull it in," he said.
"I'm good. I know the game." I replied, again, skeptically.
Then, another voice began to speak.
"Hey, dude, just take it. There's no strings attached. We do this for all of the new guys on death row. All we ask is you to the same in return for the next guy that comes."
I reluctantly pulled the line into my cell and tied to it were ramen noodles, chips, candy bars, soap, deodrant, toothpaste, stamps, envelopes, and a writing tablet! I couldn't believe it...Where were the monsters?
I thanked everyone and promised that every new person or every person that needed something would get my help, if I could give it at that point. I've always been grateful for that moment.
Over the following days my impression of what I thought I was going to face was blown apart! Sure, I've had some not so good interactions with guys here, but over the 16 years I've been here, I've met so many good-hearted and well-intentioned people and I've discovered that in life, nothing is as black and white as we are lead to believe. There are circumstances in life that can shape or influence our decision making skills, and some of us have lesser or greater mental capacities...Some people are influenced by racial, socio-economic, or other psychological factors. What I'm trying to say is that there's a huge grey swathe of inbetween, that somehow, society has fooled itself into believing doesn't exist. It doesn't excuse our actions, and at no point in this process have I ever felt I shouldn't be held accountable for my own choices and mistakes, and I would gamble that most guys back here feel exactly as I do on that point. However, some of us truly aren't killers, and we are not the monsters the general public perceive us to be...My life here this past 16 years has shown me just that.
As of now, my fate is still up in the air, but I do hope I'm given the chance to make right my own mistakes...To live by action, not words, and to affect things around me in a positive and loving way.
Well, it has shaped up to be a really lovely day! Plenty of sunshine, and the back wall of my cell is quite warm. I'll watch outside of my window for a bit, and see how the rest of the day shapes up...I'll finish this here.
Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.
June 13th, 2019
Well, I was all but certain that I'd wake up today to the sounds of red property crates being pushed into the section. I tossed and turned last night in anticipation, but when I got up this morning at 6.45, I learned that they the shake down on A-Pod, which means they'll definitely be giving the crates to us later tonight, and shaking us down tomorrow. I've heard through the rumor mill that it hasn't been too dredful this time around, but we'll see.
Later today, around 12.43pm, I left my cell for a visit with two Rabbis - it was something I really needed, and enjoyed. It was good for my spirit and I even gained some perspective on a few issues I'd been struggling with. In Jewish teachings, it is said that our soul leaves our body when we sleep - it's G-d's grace and mercy that he returns it to our body when we wake. We have to acknowledge our insignificance, but also be grateful that G-d decided we were worthy enough to let us live another day. In acknowledging that, we essentially 'surrender' and trust in him. The other thing was that the Rabbi suggested we take account of the things we did - our 'mitzvahs' (good deeds and charity) - and the bad things, and we say to ourselves that we need to do better the next day, or to change things. Then, we say the most important Jewish prayer, The Shema.
Well, it was lovely outside! Whenever I walk to the visitation building I take everything in...I smell the air, I look at the sky and the trees...I watch the birds go by. I only get a few minutes to do it, there and back, but I love it. I saw some huge black birds flying around and I don't know what species they are; they're not ravens, nor are they crows, but they're super intelligent. I've read about certain species of birds sharing food, but yesterday I witnessed one of those birds allowing two other birds to nibble off its food. They didn't fight, they each just took their turn and it was so cool to watch. I also saw a couple of birds just standing on the side walk and normally as soon as a human gets near them they jet off. Not these birds! They made US go around them - they didn't even budge! It made me smile.
So, the past few weeks I've been listening to a really well produced documentary by BBC on the Apollo flight, and Lunar Program, in the '60s - it's called "13 Minutes To The Moon." If anyone can find a podcast and you're into the history of space travel, I highly recommend it. As a kid I was fascinated with space exploration, and it absolutely rivalled my passion for music! Anyway, the production of this documentary is amazing, and the story telling was excellently done - it even includes audio I'd never heard before. I promise you'll enjoy it!
In spite of recent stresses, I'm keeping hopeful and upbeat - thanks to my wonderful friends who love me, care for me, and fight for me every day.
Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.
June 15th, 2019
It's a bright and beautiful Saturday morning! I'm trying to keep busy and keep my mind occupied throughout the weekend. Yesterday, I almost had a nervous breakdown with the whirl wind that was the past couple of weeks...It all caught up with me at the end of the day, and after our shake down on Friday morning, I think the stress and lack of sleep just took over...I felt sick to the stomach, and had a splitting headache. But I do feel a bit better this morning, and that's the best I can hope for right now.
So, before I get into yesterday's shake down of B-Pod and everything else, I'm aware that with recent media articles about my appeals etc, I might have some new readers of my journal, so I wanted to take the time to thank you for reading, and hopefully you will keep your mind open about my life story and how I've grown over the years. I really appreciate it, and thank you!
Thursday night we received our red property crates to pack our things up for the shakedown. Everything I have fitted perfectly, and I settled in for the night - I wanted to be rested for the next day. Breakfast came at 3 in the morning, followed by showers at about 3.45. I made it to the shower shortly after 4, then came back to my cell, went straight back to bed, and slept until 7am. By 8am the officers poured into our section to begin the shake downs. One of the officers took my neighbour out of his cell and when putting the cuffs on him he accidentally slammed his hand in the food slot...I thought that was going to derail everything, but they quickly took him to medical, and whilst the officer was hapless and in a hurry, he did apologize to my neighbour profusely. Fortunately, nothing was broken, but he's going to lose his finger nail...I was slightly irritated when one of the female sergeants was smirking and trying to keep herself from laughing at the inmate's pain...This place!
I was next in line, so two officers strip searched me, placed handcuffs on me, and then led me to the metal detector chair. I went through that process and then I was taken to A-Pod and put out in the recreation yard. They brought my other neighbour out to the yard along with me and we talked and enjoyed the beautiful morning.
A little after nine in the morning, they came back to get us, strip searched us again, took us back through the metal detector, and to our cells. I braced myself for a mess, but this time around everything was neatly stacked and taken care of, unlike the last shake down where it looked like a tornado had hit. I didn't lose anything, and nothing was destroyed, so I was grateful for that.
I spent a couple of hours scrubbing my cell and re-organising things, and then settled in for the day. Of course, I was anxious about everything and as the day went on I allowed the stress and worry to get to me. We didn't get lunch until 3pm and up to that point my stomach had been really upset. I thought it might be hunger so I made a light snack, and that didn't settle me either. When lunch finally came, that still didn't settle my stomach, and by 5pm I felt like I was going to be sick...I didn't get sick but it was close! I tried to take a little nap, but I was on the verge of a panic attack and just tossed and turned. Then, after shift change, I started to calm down, and once mail arrived, I crawled into bed and slept like a baby!
I've read some more articles about my appeal and it's very unsettling...I feel like I'm in the Twilight Zone! It's also weird to know that in spite of everything, the State still wants to kill me so badly that they're willing to bend, twist and obfuscate the truth in order to do so...It's all so surreal to me right now, and I'm having a difficult time understanding it. All I can do is have faith in G-d, in my dear friends, and in my excellent attorneys, that I may survive this mess.
Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.
June 16th, 2019
I woke up with Father's Day on my mind, and I had been going through my memories trying to think of a good story to tell about my dad - there's a lot of them, in spite of the more difficult moments we had. So, I thought I'd share one of those moments where I think he understood what it was like to be a teenager...
I had come home from my first semester at boarding school in Kentucky, and my best friend, Chad, and I, spent the summer catching up. We'd spend time hanging out at the mall, going to our local amusement park, Six Flags, and going to the movies. We hadn't been having much luck with girls that summer, to our dismay, but things started to look up one Sunday evening when we were at the mall...An announcement came over the PA system that the mall was closing, and as we headed towards an exit we noticed two girls going down an escalator. They were both pretty cute - one was blonde, and the other a brunette. Chad said, "What about them? They look our age..." And I said, "There's not enough time, we've got to leave." Chad suddenly yelled, "Hey! Stop!" And to my surprise, they were waiting at the bottom of the escalator. We took off running, and hurried down to meet them...Chad introduced us quickly, got their names, and their phone numbers, then they left and we couldn't believe our luck.
The brunette's name was Jennifer, and she and I hit it off pretty well. Chad, however, had no luck with the blonde, and he was seething! About two weeks before I had to go back to Kentucky, Jennifer and I made plans to meet up at Six Flags...Her friend was going to come as well, so Chad agreed to come with me. I asked my dad if it was okay and if he could drive us to the amusement park, and he said, "What time do you have to be there?"
"We're going to meet up at 10am. We have to be there!"
"That's the same morning you have to mow the lawn for the O'Neils."
"I'm still going to do that! If you drop me off early, I'll have it knocked out and I'll call you to pick me up and I can get back home to shower and change, and then we can pick up Chad."
"Are you asking me, or are you telling me?" My dad asked.
"Uhhh..Asking?...Please?...Pretty please with sugar on top?"
"Alright," he smiled. "Your tuckus is going to have to be out of bed at 6. I'll drop you off and you can call me when you're finished."
I called up and told Chad the plan, and he said he'd be ready.
The next morning my dad and I loaded the lawn mower into his work truck, along with a can of gas, and drove about a mile away to the O'Neils. He helped me unload it and said, "Call me when you're finished. Don't do a half assed job!"
"Yes, sir!" I said, as I primed the lawn mower and started it up.
I quickly mowed the lawn and by 8am I was finished, so I rang the door bell of the O'Neils, and asked if I could use the phone. Mrs O'Neil paid me $20 for the job and said, "Take your shoes off before coming in."
I kicked them off and grabbed the phone...The line was busy at home! I called again and again, and was getting frustrated and impatient. I didn't have time for this! Finally, I got through and told my dad I was ready to be picked up.
"Well, something came up with work so I'm not going to be able to get there until after 9...You're just going to have to sit tight and wait."
"This is out of control, dad! I have to be at Six Flags!" I protested.
"Who do you think is paying for that trip? You'll be fine, just wait."
I hung up the phone and Mrs O'Neil asked if I would like a snack and someting to drink as I waited.
"No, thank you, ma'am." I politely declined. "I'm gonna walk home. I'm running late." I said, matter-of-factly.
She showed me to the door, I thanked her for the money, grabbed the can of gas and the lawn mower, and began to push it down the street. Then, deciding to get home faster, I took off running, dragging the lawn mower as I ran. It was a hot morning, and I was covered in grass, but I hoped no one would think that I had stolen a lawn mower because I was running with it!
About 15 minutes later I reached my street and pushed the lawn mower, out of breath, the rest of the way. When I got home, dad was busy working in the garage and looked at me surprised.
"I told you to wait." He said.
Pushing the lawn mower into the garage, I said, "No time! Gotta take a shower!" And I ran inside and up to the bathroom to get ready.
After I'd dressed, I went back out to the garage.
"Come on, dad, we don't have time to lollygag around," I said, borrowing one of his much-used phrases.
"Don't press your luck, son," he said, smiling.
We hopped in his Suburban and drove to pick up Chad, then he dropped us both at Six Flags.
"You owe me some yard work for this," dad said.
"Yes, sir!" I said, as we jumped out of the truck and made our way to the ticket booth...
The day was a lot of fun for me, but unfortunately, the blonde never showed up and Chad ended up ditching me and Jennifer because he didn't want to be a tag-along. At the end of the day, Jennifer and I kissed, and Chad's mom came to pick us up. We promised to stay in touch when I returned to Kentucky, and I told Jennifer I'd see her again for fall break.
When I got home, my mom and dad were in the living room watching the late night news.
"How was it?" Dad asked. "What she a hot babe?"
"It was fun, and yeah, she's hot." I said, slightly embarrassed.
"Glad you enjoyed it. So, bright and early I want you to pull the weeds around the plants."
"C'mon dad! I'm about to go back to school..."
"I'm teasing you. Tell you what, how about you have lunch with me tomorrow, and help me out with some work. Sound reasonable?"
"Only if we eat at Colter's BBQ." I said.
"You got to pick where we ate lunch last time. I say we do Minyard's?"
"That'll work!" I said, taking off to my room.
"Love you, son!"
"Love ya too, dad! Thanks for taking me to Six Flags."
I went to sleep with a smile on my face.
Happy Father's Day...
Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.
June 17th, 2019
The lock down is finally over with...Although, because I'm living on A-section, we don't have recreation today, so I'm technically still on lock down. Here's what I've never been able to figure out...Why, after a lock down, does it seem that the officers have forgotten how to do their jobs? They're literally running around like no one knows what they should be doing! Utter chaos...They also seem to have hired a bunch of new people as well as having two new officers in training, so that has added to the madness a bit. Oh well, onwards and upwards!
The day started off really grey after a big rain storm yesterday. The clouds are breaking up now, and there's some lovely sunshine bursting through. I've always found that to be a beautiful sight...Watching the grey clouds whisk away and patches of bright blue take over until soon, the only clouds that remain are little puffs of white. Then, birds start to reappear and things look lovely.
I've managed to not get myself worked up into an anxiety fit today, and I hope I can remain a bit more positive and hopeful. It can be s struggle...I can be neurotic by nature, and I definitely over-think things. I'm trying to just breathe...I'm praying...
Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith!
June 18th, 2019
It's been a lovely day thus far! Most of the pod is hyper and in a good mood because it's commissary day. Ice cream makes the most bitter of hearts smile...If only for a short time! (ha ha).
As I write this I'm scheduled for recreation 4th round. It'll be nice to get out after being on lock down, and I really need to jog and stretch out.
Well, it's much later now and day fell apart! Second round was out at rec until 3.30pm, and I didn't get outside until 3.45pm. That said, something positve came of it...There's a guy here who's in a bad state of depression and on meds that knock him out for most of the day. When he wandered to the door I said "hello", just expecting him to turn and go back to bed. We ended up talking about all sorts of things and he seemed to come to life, and even laughed a little. I encouraged him to do some stretches and get the blood flowing, and I hope he will pick himself up some more.
Anyway, I got back inside and was pooped! I had to heat my dinner back up in my hot pot because it arrived whilst I was outside (a common practice among officers even if they're not supposed to do it).
Tomorrow is a State holiday, so we'll see what it brings...
Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.
June 25th, 2019
I woke up at 5.40am for recreation, and went outside to exercise. Then I did a little writing in the day room, and chatted with some guys. I didn't expext to be stuck there for 4 hours, but then, this place...The fact that I expect it to ever be any different either meets the very definition of insanity, or shows me to be an eternal optimist - I'll take the latter! (ha ha).
It's been kind of difficult to write for the past couple of weeks, although my girlfriend encourages me to do it regularly to help manage my anxiety and stress. Everything has been happening so fast and I can't wrap my head around it. On one hand I'm extremely hopeful that something positive will happen in my appeals, but on the other hand, I've moved out of the realm of 'justice' and straight into 'revenge'. I just can't wrap my head around it. I can't understand why a group of human beings want me dead so badly. Sure, we're a nation of laws and all of that, but what good is any of it when in my case there is a true violation of the very constitution that people took an oath to uphold? And you're willing to bend and break it to get revenge? And for what? I KILLED NO ONE! Because of my original offence - something I ask for forgiveness for every single day? Because I was young, naive, dumb, and escaped from prison when I was feeling hopeless and helpless? I accept responsibility for every bad choice, for every law I've broken, and for every person hurt by my actions...But I'm NOT a killer. All I can ask for is mercy...For true justice. I'm not in control.
It's only Tuesday, but it feels like much later in the week for some reason...We'll see what the rest of the week brings.
Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.
June 30th, 2019
It's the last day of June, and what a topsy turvey roller coaster of a ride this past month has been...There's been a lot of good in it - a lot! But there's been an equal amount of gut-turning drops and spins. I feel like I'm in this weird tango with the Angel of Death, right now, and we're constantly changing lead...
I've written about vengeance -v- justice quite recently, but what's forefront in my mind right now is hate...In all it's many forms and fashions, hate is an act of violence in itself. Medical science has shown us what anger and hatred does to the human body and to our psyche, but what does it do to the person you direct it towards? It can have an equal or even greater effect on the person you turn that hatred onto, and if you hate someone you create a 'cause and effect.' Say a person has harmed you either through a criminal act or some other way, and you turn around and direct your anger and hatred towards them...You are not only creating a cycle of violence, but in turn you're causing a greater infliction of pain upon yourself. When 'justice' has a root of hatred, it leads to vengeance...It's all relative.
I think one of the reasons our American society is so violent - and we haven't been able to properly heal, especially post-civil war - is because we're rooted in hate. Our politicians and elected officials often use hatred as a tool of maniuplation, both left and right of the political spectrum. Hatred of another color, hatred of a particular religion, hatred of this or that...No wonder we've never been able to heal...No wonder we're in the state that we are.
In prison, the officers are trained to hate us. We're given a demeaning title - OFFENDER - and if an officer does act kindly towards us, they're derided by their co-workers as 'inmate lovers' or 'inmate friendly'. Of course, when that hatred is directed at an inmate, in turn it creates a toxic environment of equal hatred towards the officer, and things quickly spin out of control. Look at the effect that hatred has through our every day lives. It should have no power at all, and yet we give it almost ALL of the power.
So, what is more powerful than hate? Forgiveness! I'm not talking about let's-have-a-kumbya-moment-and-hug-it-out-hippy-dippy-thing, but instead, just forgiving someone when they've done something that has hurt you or wronged you in some kind of way. Forgiveness takes the power of hatred away; it shows the perpetrator that whatever the wrong, you are in control and you will not give them the power over you where you can be affected. It allows you to move on in your life. When I'm upset about something it's easy to stew and let it fester right here in this cell. But instead, I try to take a deep breath, forgive the person, and let the moment pass. I try to understand why they've done what they've done, and just like I would wish my own faults and flaws to be forgiven, I try to forgive them for theirs.
I'm hated on daily in numerous ways, here...Whether from the outside, or back here. I'm hated on for my past crimes and poor choices...I'm hated on for being Jewish...I'm hated on for this and that and it hurts at times. I can feel the flames of that hate, and it hurts even more when those I love are burned by the flames that are directed at me for the things I have done. I suppose I could lash back out at all of it, but instead, I try to understand it in such a way that I can improve myself and correct those flaws...I also forgive them in the hope that they can in turn forgive me. Forgiveness is not about erasing a wrong; forgiveness is saying, "I'm no longer going to give that wrong any power over me."
I forgive those who hate me. I forgive those who want to see me executed. In turn, I sincerely hope you can forgive me.
Here's to hoping that July will bring better things...
Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.