Executions in 2018: min. 690 plus 'thousands' in China

Articles written by inmates

On the subject of executions

Kevin Cooper: Ritual of Death

Cooper describes the day which was supposed to be his last.

'I came within three hours and 45 minutes of being murdered by the state of California. I am now recovering from the manmade ritual of death that I had to experience. I will never be the same again!'

Ritual of Death

On Monday, February 9th, 2004 shortly after 6:15 p.m., Rev. Jessie Jackson said a prayer for me and my visitors inside the visiting room here at San Quentin Prison. Then he and my personal pastor and friends were told to leave, which they did.

I was then escorted to the rear of the visiting area and taken to a hallway which contained holding cells. I was then placed in the holding cell, where I had the handcuffs removed, and was then told to get undressed, which I did. I was strip-searched and given a brand new set of prison-issued clothing and told to put them on.

I was handcuffed after I got dressed and was removed from that cell, where I was handed over to another squad of officers. I was surrounded by about six officers and escorted to the death chamber waiting room. When I was in the visiting room, the prison officials told me that the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals had granted me a stay of execution, but until they heard from the United States Supreme Court about whether or not my stay would stay in place, this prison was going to proceed as if I had no stay in place.

When I arrived outside the death chamber waiting room door, it was opened, and I was told to go inside, which I did. I was then told to place my back on the wall while being surrounded by a new squad of officers. These were the officers of the execution squad. There were about eight of them. The leader of the squad got real close to me and asked me if there was going to be any trouble when they took the handcuffs off of me? I looked him in his eyes and told him 'no,' and he removed the handcuffs.

I was again told to take off all my clothes, which I did, and I was again strip-searched. This time, they used a flashlight to light up both my mouth and butt as they searched me! This room that I was now in was very, very cold; the temperature had to be in the lower 50s. I stood barefoot on that cold floor surrounded by those officers while my body was completely searched. Then I was given another new set of clothing, only these were the ones that I was to be executed in.

I was then placed in another cell, only this new one was half the size as a regular cell. It had only a toilet, a mattress and pillow in it. I stood there in the cold, waiting for my pastor to come pray with me, and for me. All the time not knowing what the United States Supreme Court was going to do.

About a half hour later, my pastor arrived, and she was placed in a cell next to mine. It was to my right-hand side, but on an angle, and it was hard to see her through the cell bars, but I managed. I was asked once again, did I want a last meal. I said no. I was asked, did I want water. I said no. The warden came in and asked me, did I have a final statement. I said no. My arms were once again checked so they could make sure that they could find my veins, and officers were passing by with armfuls of alcohol pads/swabs and other assorted items for my murder, and their execution! My pastor did a great job in keeping me focused, and somewhere in the middle of one of her scriptures, the phone rang. It was my attorney calling to let me know she was with me in spirit, and as soon as she heard something from the U.S. Supreme Court, she would call and let me know.

I entered the death chamber waiting room around 6:35 p.m., and around 8:15 p.m., the phone rang again, and it was once again my attorney. She told me that she heard from the court and that they refused to hear the state's petition. They denied the state and upheld my stay!!!

Even before I told my pastor the news, I told those officers that I meant them no disrespect in what I was about to say to them, but they weren't going to do their job tonight! I then told my pastor, and her and I prayed! I came within three hours and 45 minutes of being murdered by the state of California.

I am now recovering from the manmade ritual of death that I had to experience. I will never be the same again! I am only getting stronger and more determined to do my part in shutting down the U.S. government's pride and joy: 'Their capital punishment system!'

In Struggle

From Death Row,
Kevin Cooper

Bild des Hinrichtungsraums in Huntsville gezeichnet von einem texanischen Todestraktinsassen

On the subject of death row

The Beginning

'Average Joe' has been on death row in Florida since 1977. In the following article he describes his first impressions of death row, feelings and how he learned to survive on the row.

The beginning

I arrived at Death Row. I was 20 years old. I walked onto R-Wing at Florida State Prison. In 1977 R-Wing was Death Row. All 70 people were housed there. I was walked into the gate on 2 South. That means the second floor. R-Wing had 3 Floors. Split in half by a pipe alley. So you has 1-2-3 South floors. Then 1-2-3 North floors. Each floor had 17 cells. Thus 4 1/2 floors were Death Row.

1 1/2 were lock down population inmates. I was led onto 2-South. Cell 8.

I must admit I was nervous. Even a little afraid. I mean - 6 months earlier I was on the streets. I knew zero about the Death Penalty. All I knew for sure was each person there was convicted of 1st Degree Murder.

And as I walked by each cell - men in the cell stopped to watch me pass. Some said hello - others just glanced at me - went back to what ever they were doing. And I was thinking...I can´t believe they are putting me in here with these killers.

I got in my cell. Looked about. Sat down on my bunk.

They gave me - 2 sheets - a blanket. A towel. Toot brush and tooth paste. That’s what I had.

I guess you could say a weight settled on my shoulders. I guess it just hit home, how bad a situation I was in.

The guy in cell 9 said: Hey new guy.

Cell 8#: What´s your name?

I figured out it was me he was talking to. I told him and he said: You drink coffee - smoke ??

I said: Yeah.

He passed me over some coffee - and a pack of smokes and a pack of matches. Along with a cup and spoon. I made a cup of coffee - lit up a smoke. And he and I talked. Sometimes others would join in. They explained the rules and regulations. Gave me the whole run down on the place.

The guy in cell 9 passed over his radio. Said keep it till they bring you a T.V. At that time they gave you a T.V. I got mine the next day.

But what those guys did was help me settle in and adjust. They knew what it was like to just arrive. In those days, that´s the way it was. You helped others get adjusted. Made it as easy for them as you could.

No. Not all, there is always the selfish ones. Or ones to wrapped up in their own misery. But, the majority would help you learn to survive.

I came to Death Row ignorant. Not stupid - there is a difference. Ignorance - means uneducated not aware of the world. Inexperienced. Stupid - is knowing or being aware educationally or world wise. But, just adopting a stupid attitude - or view of life. Or it´s the way I see it ! Anyway, I was ignorant. And, the way I was being treated surprised me. It was not what I expected.

We went to the exercise yard 2 days after I arrived. Back then - that was just a dirt yard. Fenced in - beside R-Wing. it had a volley ball net. A basket ball goal - and some pull up bars. That and a drinking fountain. When we went outside that first time I was surprised again. Guys would meet - shake hands - or dap. That is just a cool hand shake. And stop and talk with each other. It was very civilized.

The guy in cell 9 who became a good friend walked over - shook hands. Then laughed. Not quite what you expected huh ? No, it wasn´t He and I - 2 or 3 others got to talking. They had experienced the same things when they first came. And they began to enlighten me.

My attorney said before I came: You will be back in court in 6 months. I told them this. And all of them laughed. Saying yeah. That´s what I was told. I´ve been here 3 years so far. Same with the others.

The next thing you need to know. Is learn to depend on yourself. After time, here - family and friends will forget who you are. Or most will.

I was never very close to much of my family. My brothers and sisters all left home at early ages. Then I did also. So, we really were not around each other much. So, that part would not surprise me !

However - I had 2 good friends and a girlfriend and what the guys said came true pretty fast. Less than 2 years. Both friends and my girl friend were gone.

The guys explained that to me. We on Death Row become lost causes to them. And they have lives and move on. It makes sense in a way. Yet still it hurts to see them go.

The next thing they taught me was: don´t believe half of what your attorney says. An attorney will tell you things just to placate you. Get you to go along with ever they do. Learn about law. Keep an eye on them. These attorney have several cases. they can and will spend only as much time on your case as they have to. Learn law, research your own case.

Of course I was not able to do that then. I had completed only the 6th. Grade in school outside. I knew zero about law. Or anything else really. But, I did start to educate myself. I borrowed books from the Prison School Teacher. Started to read everything I could get my hands on. And some of the guys helped me. I watched public T.V. They have mostly educational programming. Science - Nature - History - Documentaries. And my eyes slowly opened to the world. I took the G.E.D. test in 1981 passed - got my High School Diploma.

But that still did not teach me law. And at Florida State Prison - a law library was a joke. So, I was still law - ignorant. So, I had to rely on the attorneys. Which in later years I realized was just what the guys told me. They really messed my case up.

But back to the first days. After I was there for awhile I got some money in. I tried to repay they guys who had given me things. Not one would accept it. Rather they said. Just pass it on some day. Do for someone else what we did for you.

They had done more than given me a few snacks - coffee - ect. They had helped me adjust - and to survive.

You see Death Row is about survival. It surviving mentally and physically. But mostly its mental. Your locked in a one man cell 24 hours a day - 7 days a week. You have a few things as distractions. A T.V. - radio - art work - other such things. Books. But, it´s the same distractions. Day in - day out. Every day is like yesterday and tomorrow. And as far ahead as you can picture.

There is no break - no vacation. It´s 365 days a year. You can let it go for a lil while, on visits or while you read a good book. It´s always there, waiting for you. You watch others lose the fight. I´ve seen it affect people in so many ways. I´ve seen strong vital men come to Death Row. Then watch them slowly die inside. Become weak and feeble. Or grow cold inside. No longer care or feel. Some go crazy. It just becomes too much. It breaks them. Some committed some overdosed.

And those in charge never believe a guy is crazy or do not care. They think they are just playing crazy. One man who went crazy was close by me. I knew he wasn´t faking. I watched him slowly loose it. I couldn´t help him. Those in charge did not believe he was. So, when the man just gave up, lay in his cell - urinated and defecated on himself - they would carry him to the clinic a couple of times a week. Clean him up. The State doctor would say: he is okay. Put him back in his cell. That went on for over a year. I told them he was for real. Wrote people about it. Nothing was done. Then, he just died. So, you see this kind of thing.

Or others not getting proper medical care.

Add on - people being executed - friends. Your case just drags on and on. And it becomes on hell of a mental struggle. You question when is my turn ?

Those guys thought me to survive these things. They showed me where to begin.

I remember one guy told me ! Believe in yourself ! And never give up ! It doesn´t matter if no one else does. That´s something no one can take from you. What you know and believe inside. That´s true. Whatever your inside or outside. Maybe so here !

Here´s a funny thing for you. I was on Death Row 6 months before it dawned on me. I´m one of them. Till then I lived with the illusion - I don´t belong here. I´m not like them - not one of them. I was all along ! It just didn´t hit home till 6 months later.

It doesn´t matter why they were there. Or if they were innocent or guilty. Nor if I was.

Innocent or guilty - we had all been convicted of 1st Degree Murder. I was as they - just one of the men of Death Row.

You guys who read the earlier writings already have an idea of my life here. You know I´ve been here over 28 years. Thought I would show you where it began. Some of the reasons why I am who I am today.Maybe say thanks to those who helped me learn to survive. Most are no longer alive. But, I still pay back what they gave me when I can. Help a new arrival learn to survive. Help others when I can.

This 28 years+ has been one hell of a path to travel along. And I wonder if - back in 1977 - someone had said - you may have to do 25 or more years. Would I believed it ? Would I still chosen to go through it. And I think of what said in the "Green Mile": Am I lucky or am I cursed ? I tell you - I just don´t know. Will it be worth it. I guess I have to wait and see how it ends !

But I do have a little good news ! In 2005 I had an evidentiary hearing. In that hearing the judge ruled - all my issues were procedurally barred. So we appealed to the State Supreme Court. And in less than 2 months after oral arguments. The State Supreme Court ruled - none of my issues were procedurally barred. They ordered a new hearing on all issues. We have some very good - strong issues. So, I have a chance - maybe to win a new trial.

Of course they could screw me over again. So, I take the attitude of wait and see what comes. I will not let my hopes get up. I´ll do what I´ve always done. I´ll maintain my day to day philosophy. Live one day at a time. Enjoy what good comes my way in that day ! Hell if I win - I can celebrate then. If I lose. I can keep on doing what I´m doing ! Surviving !

And from the help of some old friends. Along with a couple now friends. Maybe some new friends. I think I´ll be ok. Smile but hey wouldn´t it be a kick if I win ? Since the last time I talked with you guys I wrote my first book ! A science fiction - fantasy - adventure. I managed to put in some problems we face today - and may in the future.Such as "Global Warming", "The Manufacturing of Chemical and Biological Elements", viruses, crooked politicians. Store bought religion, corruption and greed. Plus, a bit of a love story ! It´s not the greatest book ever written. But according to the 3 guys I let read - they liked it. Plus it´s a quick read 3 1/2 to 4 hours. Not sure what I´ll do with it yet ! I´m not allowed to publish by law !Maybe I´ll give it to a friend - let them.

Now that I´ve learned I can. I will probably write a couple of more books ! To be seen !

I´ll let you know how it goes at the hearing. Good or bad.

I talked it over with my friend who set up the blog. I used 'Average Joe' as a name. Because I wanted you to see the issue. Not just one person - but any 'Average Joe' here. We agree that´s been accomplished. So I´ll give you my real name now. Even so, I´ll still just an 'Average Joe' on Death Row.

For now, I´ll just wish you a good life. Take it a day at a time. Enjoy what good comes of each one. Endure the bad. And if someone has or is helping you out. Or to adjust to whatever. Pass it along one day. It´s a good thing !  

Average Joe

Orange County Jail

'Average Joe' talks about the 1000th execution in the US and about his impressions on the county jail where he was locked up for a short period of time because he had to attend a trial.

Orange County Jail

Hey Guys,

here I sit - not on death row for the time being, rather at the Orange Country Jail. Back for a court hearing. One to hopefully get my sentence thrown out and maybe win freedom.

I say maybe, because you never know with the courts or the political climate. But, still I have the chance. Which is surprising after 29 years, or amazing. To be seen though !

The jail is a fish bowl type of jail. Round, plexi glass across the front and back of each cell. You can see all the way across the floor. Every cell. So suffice to say - there is no privacy. Add to that cameras everywhere. Yet, now that I´ve been here for a month, I ignore them - go with my life each day. Unlike at UCI.

I have an incredible view. I´m on the 5th floor - overlooking the parking lot and roads - where visitors come and go ! Busy every day. And when it rains or storms I can watch the rain comming from a mile away. Clouds nearby. Lightening - right in front of my eyes. Birds gliding and landing on the roof in front of me. Life going on. Makes me want to be a part of it ! I´m smiling as I say that. Its so close ! Freedom just outside my window. Grrrrrowllll !

I´m in an 8 man pod. Locked in my cell all day - except for the use of phone or shower. And no one to talk to ! Rest of the pod is inhabited by mental patients. Oh I´ve tried a couple of times while out for the phone. One guy asks, don´t I know you ? I ask where from ? He says, last week at the Miami Dolphins football game. Row 10 ! I looked - felt odd for a second. Cause it was so rediculous. But the guy had this hopeful look on his face. Almost as if - if I remember these things I am ok. Right. I thought for a second and smiled. Said yeah. Hell of a game wasn´t it. He smiled so big. Seemed relieved or grateful. Saying yeah - yeah - sure was.

The second one called me a queer for 2 weeks each time I was out of my cell. He called everyone that. Finally I talked to him and he changed. Even apologized for calling me a queer ect. He was just angry ! He was arrested for a crap charge. Trespassing at a train or bus station. He had a ticket ect. So as of today he´s been locked up for 26 days. Turned out to a pretty cool guy. They have him taking Lithium and Haldol. Psychotrophics.
He´ll be free soon. I gave him my website address.

So, Brian, if you`re reading this...Hey, hope you`re eating pizza and enjoying life again !

But I see others in pods across the way. One naked 24-7- dances and plays with himself. Others just sleep. A couple are angry, beat and bang. It´s sad really. But, what can be done ? They actually treat them fairly decent - for a jail. Most will cycle over to the mental hospital. Some back on the street. No where to go. They will recycle through jails and shelters - maybe end up at the mental ward - or worse. It´s so much different than death row. Yet still prison. Court, cat and mouse. We present one side. The state tries to make it seem harmless. Even though they know it´s not. But, my case - jail - is not why I choose to write at this time. That´s just an update on my life at present.

No, the real reason is I heard on my walkman radio this morning that North Carolina would or maybe executing the 1,000th person on Dec. 2nd. since the death penalty was reinstated in 1976. It wasn´t significant as a man would be executed. The only significance was that he would be No. 1,000.

I thought - a thousand - really ? I keep up pretty well with death penalty related issues. But if someone had asked me how many had been executed since 1976, I would not have known. Nor would I have guessed so many. You just do not hear about executions anymore - unless its some serial killer or someone that had really good issues and still was put to death.

And it takes me back to when I was 22 years old. When I did my only newspaper interview. The debate then was which would be better: the electric chair or lethal injection.

The reporter asked me that question. I said it doesn´t matter how you are killed - the method - dead is dead. You will not wake up later and say - wow that electric chair hurt, wish it had been lethal injection. I added lethal injection would only make it easier to accept the death penalty as more humane. And make it easier on those who hand out and administer it. And that it would become acceptable - that executions would become mundane. Not news worthy. And look where we are now. 1,000 deaths - and you do not even hear about them on the news. So many - its just not news worthy.

Oh, when the article came out all it said for what I said was - Hitchcock said it didn´t matter or he didn´t care which. The rest was just tossed out. And no, I was not that smart at 22 - nor prophetic. I had just discussed it with many others before hand. And what I said was what I spoke with thoughtout and had been agreed on.

But, it was true ! And the fact that the 1,000th death was a surprise to me. Reminded me I must be more aware also. Not allow things to become so mundane that I forget to notice too !

Did that number surprise any of you also ? You have done a lot of good, guys ! You have made a difference. It could have been the 5,000th if not for your voices raised in opposition. Oh believe me, if it were not for you guys out there who oppose and fight for a better system, it would be. They would be executing 2 or 3 every day ! So take heart in the fact that a thousand in 30 years is alot but, it could be so many more ! And those who have been freed would not have been !

So what now ? Well simple. We fight till that number - or the number that are executed - becomes smaller and smaller. Till there are none !! Till one morning those who are for executions and make them happen hear on the radio or T.V. that the number of executions is down to zero ! And it catches them by surprise. Or there´s just not enough people who are for the death penalty for there to be one !

Anyway, just an update for now. And to share an eye opener ! Speaking of which, for those who do not receive it yet, email for the newsletter 'Legal in USA'. They update a list of all the upcoming executions and - show the recent court rulings - and news bits from each state!
Email: Legalinusa1@aol.com

You guys take care of yourselves and each other ! I´ll tell you how this court thing goes - when I know !

Till later as ever
Average Joe

You'll find more articles by 'Average Joe' here.

George McFarland about the conditions of imprisonment on Texas death row

George McFarland has been on death row in Texas since September of 1992. In his open letter he writes about the cruel and inhumane conditions of imprisonment in the Polunsky Unit and about the unbearable tension and the despair of the inmates.

Open letter by George McFarland

March 2002

Dear Abolitionists, Family, Friends, & Fellow Comrades,

First of all, God bless all of you. Truly my heart cries out to you all, for your love, time & efforts in all that you're doing to help bring about a change in our living conditions here on the Allen B. Polunsky Unit, as well as to all your efforts for the number one goal of bringing an end to the Death Penalty in Texas prayerfully America.

For all reading this, my name is George Edward McFarland sr.. I've been on Death Row just about ten years. In this time I've seen a lot of men executed, a lot, many of which I knew. And yes, now even a couple of women, which is really hard to swallow, but never the less true. And of course you are all aware this list continues to grow, and there is much talk that Texas is out to break their own record, as though they are playing some sort of state to state game.

In the last few years, a number of things have taken place that eventually led to us being up-rooted from the Ellis One Unit in Huntsville Texas, to be replanted into the Allen B. Polunsky Unit, formerly known as the Charles T. Terrell Unit, when asked to have his name removed for he wished not to have his name associated with the Death Penalty, which says a lot in itself!!

I'm not writing these lines to go into all the different things the system has taken from Death Row prisoners to further oppress us for one reason or another, for most of you are fully aware of its long list, nor is there any need to go into the long list of broken promises made by the Prison Board Administration since our up-rooting from the Ellis One Unit. Many of you are witnesses yourselves to these broken promises and its only fruit were more promises that has yet to be kept, and the more days turn into weeks, and weeks into months, the worse it seems to get inside of here where your eyes may never see. And if so, never to witness the hidden horrifying conditions.

We are also aware of the most recent protest staged every Wednesday of March 2002 by the members, family & friends from the Texas Death Penalty Abolition Movement, out front of the Polunsky Unit to make more known, and hopefully bring an end to these inhumane conditions. You all know who you all are, as we do, so please know, and yes I move to speak for all, to say we truly thank you.

I wish for all to know as I write these lines, plans are also being made to urge an upcoming non-violent protest by the majority of the Death Row prisoners to more or less aid you, our family of supporters in aiding us to have a chance to some sort of life here at the Polunsky Unit, of which we have not had since our replanting here.

I ask that you bare with me as I look for the words to make a long story short, which is difficult for this nightmare is never ending. Executing only days ago, Monty Delk & Gerald Tigner. May they rest in peace. Moments earlier, guards suit up in riot gear to gas and run in someone of F-Pod. Never ending nightmare is an understatement.

Since coming here, outside of being handcuffed everywhere we are taken, all human physical contact has been stopped. Personally, I'm a people person and need to physically interact with other people, and I don't mean by being gassed or run in on by five men in riot gear, or shackled down and led off to be executed, which seems to be the only sort of contact given to us since we've come here.

Beyond doubt, we need change around here fast, for as it is now many spirits are being broken, and the hope that once kept many dreaming, seems now to be only a word lost in conversation.

The tension is so thick from all around, it keeps your whole being on guard every second, especially after being cuffed and asked to back out your cell going here or there.

Men are so worried and desperate their hair is falling out and / or turning grey. The look in their eyes is crying out for help.I know this to be true, for it's happening to me also.

Everyone seems to stay on edge, from the man in the cell next to you who screams all night or the guy who bangs for the guard about his medication or what have you, to the faint sounds of crying from a young prisoner missing his family, not to mention the painful scream of a prisoner being gassed and jumped by five men in riot gear having his arm twisted so far up his back to be cuffed, it feels dislocated.

And yes, those who have lost so much weight due to the extremely small portions of food served to those on level 2 and 3.

Such treatment only pushes one towards desperation and hatred be he white, black, hispanic, blue or green, he's human and should be treated as such. Punishment has been handed down by the people of the court, leaving no need for the system to also punish us at will, when we've done nothing. We should be afforded all or at least most of what we had on Ellis One Unit.

It would not hinder security to have four men rolled out their cell for two or three hours of recreation together in a locked day room, or to be able to go to the shower, then return to your cell without being handcuffed.

Even a small 9 inch or 12 inch black/white T.V. would not hinder security. Small Death Row prisoner clean-up crews, food servers, necessity workers would not hinder security, all of which many of us have done for years & years before coming here.

However, if no-one says anything or do nothing, that's all we will ever gain.

I've heard of the upcoming protest and I shall be a part of it from May 1st 2002 to July 1st 2002.

No recreation or shower. I'll exercise in my cell and wash up in my cell.

When I go to the store, all I will purchase is stamps, writing material and hygenical things. This hurts no-one and breaks no rules at all.

My reason for this: First and most important is it may help to bring about the changes needed for Death Row prisoners at the Polunsky Unit and also to show my many thanks to all of you beautiful and kind people from the many Texas and around America Abolition Groups, European Abolition Groups and Amnesty International from Germany, England, Switzerland, Denmark and many other countries.

We thank you for all your support as we stage this protest along with all of what you all are doing.

I've also decided for myself on all the days of serious dates for the men and women, I won't eat, shower or recreate out of respect for that person and their family, friends and loved ones. I will fast and pray, and be with them in the spirit, praying also someone will do the same for me should fate take me down that road.

I'll close now, once again giving my many thanks to you all.

As I pray this never ending nightmare finally finds an end.

Sincerely & respectfully,

George Edward McFarland Sr. #999046
Polunsky Unit
3872 F.M. 350 South
Livingston, Tx. 77351

P.S. 'Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about the things that matter' - Dr.Martin Luther King Jr.

Richard Rossi: Too old to kill

Essay by Richard Rossi about old people on death row and the difficulties states face to deal with them. On one hand it's always being stated that age does not matter but on the other hand, the state seems to shrink back from executing very old prisoners since this would reveal that 'the death penalty is a cruel and unusual punishment'.

Richard Rossi has been on death row in Arizona for more than two decades. He published lots of articles and a book. You can read more on his website.

Too old to kill

The title of this article has two meanings. Some can believeit refers to being too old to kill another, while others, especiallythose concerned about the death penalty, can recognize the increasingdilemma facing the State and Federal governments when the time comesto execute an elderly prisoner on death row.

Many people are aware of the "graying" population inAmerica's prisons, and this extends to the death row population.Elderly convicts grow older, weaker and sickly waiting to die. Theproblems of old age are the same behind these walls as they are inthe free world. I sometimes suspect that we even age more rapidlydue to the environmental factors: being closed off from society,loss of hope, no opportunity for work or adequate exercise to keepthe mind and body sound. Add to that the psychological stress ofspending years anticipating the day you will be hauled out of yourcell and deliberately killed, and you age beyond your chronological years.

It is no wonder that more and more elderly death rowprisoners suffer from dementia and Alzheimer's disease. As acivilized society, one could imagine we'd refrain from executing suchold and sick prisoners, but that is not the case. Recently, abedridden 74 year old man who suffered from dementia, named J. B.Hubbard, was executed in Alabama. However, since executions do notseem to be newsworthy these days, this sad and deliberate murder ofan old and mentally deficient person went virtually unnoticed.Statistics tell us that at the age of 55, a prisoner isconsidered to be beyond his crime-prone years. In good or poorhealth, it appears that most people don't seem to care that anelderly convict would pose practically no threat to society if theyhad a chance at freedom. However, what seems to concern politiciansand prosecutors is that as more and more elderly prisoners areexecuted, the public may start to show some scorn. Here in Arizona,a 74 year old prisoner on death row succumbed to Alzheimer's whileawaiting execution. Kent Cattone, who is the chief counsel inArizona's Capital Litigation section has acknowledged that this deathrow prisoner's death sentence has been stayed indefinitely. Thereason, of course, is that the person being executed must understandand be conscious of why he is being executed.

This leads me to the topic of Viva LeRoy Nash. He was on theRow when I arrived 22 years ago. He was 68 then, well past theaforementioned 55 year old crime prone age. On September 10, 2005,LeRoy will be 90 years old. I have lived around him for many years.When I was a law clerk in the prison library, I read a number of the pleadings he submitted to the courts. I always wondered how his case seemed to linger in the courts and lack any progress, when numerous other men who arrived here years later were already executed as their appeals were exhausted. I finally came to the realization that behind the scenes a concerted effort was secretly underway to delaythe exhaustion of this octogenarian's appeals.

Now that LeRoy is 90 years old, could you imagine what aspectacle and horror show it would be for the state of Arizona toexecute the oldest prisoner on death row in America? A man who mustbe assisted by officers to walk to the shower would have to bewheeled into the gas chamber or carried and lifted onto the lethalinjection table. The State still contends that age is not a factorwhen it comes to carrying out executions. Former deputy warden Madeleine Perkins, who used to help supervise executions here, statedduring an interview that it would be a waste to execute a 90 year old man - what is the threat to society? But the reason this case haslingered in the courts with no execution warrant being issued is now apparent. In a recent article in the L.A. Times, it was reported that a gentleman's agreement is in the air, and that the Stateforesees a day when the old man simply does not answer his morningbed check. To die quietly lets everyone off the hook.

There seems to be some hypocrisy going on here. All of thesetough on crime politicians and prosecutors stand behind this falserhetoric that the death penalty exists to protect society from themonsters of death row. Now it seems they are afraid that the publicwill be revolted to see old geezers wheeled and carried to the execution chamber to be killed in cold blood. Men older than your grandfather and totally harmless to society if they were released tomorrow. Their sand castles will crumble when the absurdity oftheir sacred death penalty is thus spotlighted and seen for what itis. Not even their gentlemen's agreements or the prayers to their Gods will provide them with shelter from the storm.

This problem can not and will not go away because we are anaging population on death row. Sooner or later the executions ofolder prisoners will reveal the cruel and unusual punishment thedeath penalty is along with the fact that it is purely senselessmurder. The only way any compassion could be shown would be toeliminate capital punishment. And that can not happen without lotsof effort by all. The death penalty is not an old man who will failto wake up one morning for his bed check and thus solve the problem.We must continue the fight and not be lulled into believing that the death penalty is 'too old to kill.'

© Richard Rossi 50337
P.O. Box 3400
Florence, AZ 85232
Death Row
August 8, 2005

Robert 'Bobby' West: Execution Diary

Robert West was sentenced to death on February 3rd, 1983. He had spent more than 14 years on Texas' death row before he was executed on July 29th 1997.

The last 31 days of his life, Robert West wrote a diary. The last entry in this diary was written only a few minutes before his execution.

You can read the diary hier.


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