Tuesday, April 26, 2005

April 17, 2005

Dear Sis

Meanwhile, back in the Commonwealth of Virginia, I've just finished picking at my supper (lukewarm spaghetti, boiled carrots, bread & applesauce, mashed into a small plastic tray), and I'm stretched out on my bunk, munching from a bag of canteen pork rinds, eyeing the setting sun's slanting rays angling in through my narrow horizontal slit window, watching them slide inexorably up my wall, bisecting a cloud of floating dust motes. Years ago I used to carefully pencil mark the rays on my wall, capturing the arcing pattern of the changing seasons, until it became just another pointless reminder of life passing me by. Hell, I'm edging up on my eighteenth year since my arrest, and over 16 years since I was sentenced to death. Who needs to be reminded of that? Anyway, I was laying here, relaxing, enjoying the relative solitude. (nobody screaming, banging or kicking their door, nobody flooding out their cell, and everyone else's cell in the process), debating how to spend the rest of my evening. Read? Write? Legal work? T.V.? Radio? Pace my cell? Meditate? Work out? Stare at the Wall? A pretty narrow spectrum of choices, huh? But, you've gotta work with what you've got. Some guys here just spend all their freetime watching cartoons & soap operas. If you live squeezed in a box long enough, immersing yourself in the tedious routines, the bland, numbing sameness can grind you down, erase your recollections of what it means to be free, until your only goal is to urge each dumb day forward. Day to week to month to year your mind will try to convince you that the tin can you inhabit is all that matters & all that there is until, if you let it, you've fooled yourself into believing it's real. It takes effort to shatter that dull existence, more than some guys can muster... At any rate, I voted to write.

Are you as glad as I am that the brouhaha over Terri Schiavo is finally past? It was a sad & tragic case, and ultimately a very personal issue deserving a serious reflection. But it sure didn't beong in the hands of grandstanding politicians. I think a fair number of those protesters had martyr complexes. Some of them were "professional protesters" (the ones with eyes as bright & wild as crazed cats) moving from hot button issue to hot button issue, simply for the sake of publicity. Down in Florida I celled next to Paul Hill for years, the anti-abortion lay preacher who gunned down an abortion doctor & his bodyguard in Pensacola, and I learned all about guys with martyr complexes. Most of those protesters at Terri Schiavo's place were consumed with projecting their own beliefs & convictions, validating themselves, rather than considering Terri's wishes and welfare. None of them would honestly want to exist like that, but they were eager to force Terri to do so, if they could. When I saw Terri's brain CAT scan, compared to a normal brain scan, it was clear to me that "Terri" was no longer there. You know, Americans seem to be profoundly uncomfortable with the subject and idea of death, as if they want to deny their own mortality, and fend off the grim reaper by any means necessary, even if it means existing hooked up to tubes and wires. They just can't bear to let go. As for all those protesters, the hypocrisy was like smoke in my nose. Most of them who were waving those signs about safeguarding "the sanctity of life" (one sign asked "What part of 'Thou shall not Kill' don't you understand?") are they very same ones showing up at prison gates for executions, shouting "Fry that bastard!" And the very same grandstanding politicians self-righteously preaching about the horror of "taking a human life" and about "erring on the side of life" are the same ones clamoring to execute ever more people at an ever faster rate. They don't even recognize their hypocrisy. At least the last Pope was resolutely consistent; he didn't believe in killing at either end of the spectrum.

Here on the row there's been a subtle ratcheting up of melancholyness (don't know if that's a real word). Five or six of the 23 guys here on the row have run out of, or will very soon run out of, legal options, which in this state means that their life is about to suddenly go wrong. In short, their executions have become imminent & inescapable. In Virginia, they're real serious about killing people. The execution process here is a well-oiled machine that grinds relentlessly and very quickly, without a backward glance. Other states have basic procedural safeguards that allow prisoners to at least raise issues of newly discovered evidence, such as DNA evidence. Florida, for example, leads the nation in death row exonerations, with most of those cases occurring after 10-15 years on the row. But in Virginia, those guys would be dead long before any such new evidence could be discovered (I'd be dead three times over if my case was out of Virginia). Here the machinery of death just plows on, without a hiccup. Unlike Florida and most other D/R states, in Virginia very few guys make it past the 5-year mark, and virtually nobody ever gets a stay of execution or any kind of legal relief once their death warrant is signed, which occurs even before the last step (certiorori petition to the U.S. Supreme Court) is reached. I've been here five and a half years and except for 3 guys I've outlived everyone who was here when I arrived. In my first 12 months here they killed 14 guys, including two who were juveniles when they committed their crimes, and each one was chained up and hustled off in front of me (all cells here look inward into an open, common pod) on their way to the death house in Greensville. The execution process here is very personal, immediate and in your face.

Well, next week is the NFL draft and I'm hoping that the Dolphins make some wise choices. I'm giving the new coach, Nick Saban, the benefit of the doubt. My gut instinct is that he'll be exactly what the Dolphins need.

OK, sis, that's it from south of the Mason-Dixon line. Give the dogs a pat on the head for me! Love & Peace, Bill.


StarDesign said...

I would like to write to Piper Roundtree. Does anyone know her address?

Anonymous said...

I would like to bang Piper Roundtree

Anonymous said...

She should be there by your side pretty soon, bang away baby

Anonymous said...

I think that Piper is a sex people do not enjoy the finer pleasures of life. PS; what did this innocent con say he did not do??.T/Y

BenCanType said...

Bill (Lisa, will you pass this on?),
I can assure that not all of us protesting the forced death of Shaivo, and the forced death of babies are silent about the forced death of inmates. Regardless of innocence and degree of the crime, life is precious and I cannot believe our society cannot move past all this killing.
As a Knight of Columbus, when I pray for blossoming of the Culture of Life, that prayer includes an end to the death penalty.