Thursday, November 29, 2007

November 22, 2007-Thanksgiving

Dear Sis~
It's (another) Thanksgiving Day, perhaps my 38th one behind bars. My last one enjoyed in freedom was 1986, and the one before that was 1969. A sad commentary, huh? Anyway, I just finished watching March of the Penguins on the Discovery Channel, a remarkable film, a grand tribute to the vitality of life which reminds us of the wonders of nature, which we are mostly ignorant of and often indifferent to. I'm an optimist by nature and I believe in the inherent ingenuity of mankind, especially when faced with crisis, but yet I still fear for this planet. I really don't know if we are going to win this race (and a part of me wonders if Earth wouldn't be better off without the presence of man)..
By the way, the administration here fired me from my podworker job, in retaliation for me telling the story of Percy's mistreatment. Someone in this administration is reading my blog and they don't like what I wrote! Rather than treat Percy with a little humanity, they'd rather strike at me (kill the messenger!) Percy, with his pathetic, broken mind has languished in that barren cell for ten years now, alone, bewildered, usually naked, devoid of even a scrap of property, inhabiting his own little private slice of insanity, and the only thing the Commonwealth of Virginia wants is desperately to execute him, while the only thing this prison wants is to ignore him. It speaks more about us as a society, than it does about Percy himself. Looking into Percy's cold, empty cell, seeing him naked, huddled in the corner, talking to himself and the unseen voices around him is like holding a mirror up to the commonwealth, reflecting back its soul...
In a rare turn of events (considering how everything here has been going steadily downhill for the last year) we got a grain of good news when the canteen passed out a memo stating that we can now purchase 13" color TV's (at $185, they are actually cheaper than the $210 they've been charging us for these cheap, toy-like black and white TV's). Everyone is excited about this (it doesn't take much to excite people on death row!) and buzzing about what a grand luxury this is. I'll start saving up for one myself, but I'm going to wait awhile & see if the news ones start blowing up. We went through this once before when we went from excellent quality 5" Magnavox to a cheap 5" generic brand; the new ones started breaking down and blowing up almost immediately, until we eventually went to another generic brand. Those who bought the new defective TV's were just out of luck. So for now, I'll start saving my dollars...
A guy on the row received a visit today and was permitted the regular 90 minutes, which conflicts with what Captain Tuell told you and me last week when he limited our visit to 60 minutes and proclaimed that 60 minutes was the new limit for death row visits. I don't know what to make of this but it causes me to wonder of that new limit is just being applied to me. I do know that since yesterday all my 15 phone numbers on my phone list have suddenly been invalidated; I can't get a single call to go through now (everyone else's numbers are working fine) Hmmm...
Alright, Sis, I'm going to hit the hay. I'll see you at our next visit.
Love, Bill

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

November 11, 2007-Percy getting worse

Dear Sis~
Today is Veteran's Day. I still remember when I was just a child, how every Veteran's Day and each Fourth of July, Dad would get me to help him raise up our American flag on the short flag pole mounted on our front porch. Dad took that very seriously which, in turn, made a firm impression on me...
Here's a little update on Percy's situation, just to better document what occurred. It was the night of October 15th, from 10:30 pm to 11:45 pm, when I cleaned up Percy's cell (cell #7). It was Lieutenant Dudley and Officer Lewis who supervised me and were right there on the spot (they were also the ones who moved Percy from cell #7 to Cell #2). All of this was recorded on video; we have four cameras on the pod and at least two of them were pointed toward cell #7. Many of the death row prisoners stood at their doors and watched all of this. It was Thomas Porter who was next to Percy, in cell #8, who kicked and banged for seven days, demanding to move because the odor from Percy's cell was gagging him. Porter filed numerous "emergency grievances" over that 7-day period, also demanding to move, in which he described Percy's feces-flooded cell (the feces and urine was running out from under Percy's door and into cells #6 and #8). These emergency grievances were all denied and returned to Porter with the notation that "this does not constitute an emergency."
My point is that this entire incident was well-witnessed and well-documented over a period of a week. Well, on Friday afternoon (Oct 19th) I phoned one of Percy's attorneys and told him what was going on with Percy and he promised to get Percy's other attorney, Jenny, to visit Percy on Monday morning. Well, on Monday morning, the guards came on the wing and sprayed the interview room down (where we meet our attorneys) with a citrus-scented disinfectant; then they laid out a clean uniform on the table, sprayed it down, and made Percy put it on. Jenny visited him minutes later, and I later heard that she commented that Percy "smelled like flowers" and thus, she didn't think anything was amiss. I also heard that the prison officials (i.e., Warden Loretta Kelly) had denied that Percy was living in a feces-flooded cell. Apparently, Jenny believed them. She did not look at Percy's cell, did not interview me or anyone else, and did not demand to look at the video, which would prove what I reported. Jenny, who is non-aggressive and non-confrontational by nature, chose to believe the administration's lies and chose not to push the issue. So, nothing has changed with Percy. He's still in a virtual strip cell, alone and bewildered, with nobody in a position of authority who gives a damn about him. The only upside is that Percy is so psychotic and insane that he does not understand how terribly he's being treated. To me, the true sad aspect of this is what it says about us as a society, that we treat people like this without any sense of shame and, in the larger picture, how the State, through its attorneys, are so desperately eager and determined to kill Percy, to put him to death despite everyones knowledge that he is absolutely insane. It is a group of attorneys, intelligent men and women, who spent long years in law school, and who now represent the Commonwealth of Virginia, who sit around polished tables and scheme and plot how to kill Percy. I wonder if any of them pause to ask themselves "Is this really what I went to Law School for?"
Love, Bill

November 7, 2007-D.C. Sniper burns cell

Dear Sis~
I was just sitting down to write you a letter when I smelled smoke. When I went to my door to investigate I saw a cloud of billowing smoke surrounding cell #22, along with the orange flicker of flames (it was 11pm and the lights were off on the pod, making the fire easily visible). John Muhammad (aka the D.C Sniper) lives in that cell and he'd clearly set his entire cell on fire. Then the fire alarm went off and the red strobe lights started flashing. About that time, the guards started streaming in, milling around his cell door, shouting his name, peering inside the dark cell. Eventually, there were 14 officers there in a Keystone Cops-like state of confusion and panic, some carrying fire extinguishers, one wielding a video camera, another holding the electric stun/shock shield. Nobody wanted to open his cell door, fearing an ambush. Meanwhile, the thick smoke kept billowing up toward the ceiling. After watching this for 13 or 14 minutes I was certain that Muhammad was dead. (I've seen guys die in their flaming cells under similar smokey circumstances). After 17 minutes (I was timing it) they finally opened his door, sprayed the fire extinguishers inside and pulled Mohammad out of his cell. Surprisingly, Muhammad was conscious and able to walk. He had wrapped himself in a wet sheet, like a mummy, and clearly he'd had his face pressed to the air vent in the back of his cell (the vent near the floor forces air into the cell, while the vent near the ceiling extracts air). So, whatever his motivation was in setting the fire, it clearly was not suicide. (Had he not taken protective measures he absolutely would have died from smoke inhalation). By this time the entire cellblock/pod was filled with smoke and we were all choking. I wrapped a wet towel around my head and stayed near my vent. Meanwhile, all Mohammad's property and paperwork, his clothes, sheets, pillow, mattress, etc. was pushed and pulled out onto the pod by guards wielding brooms and sticks, where it burned and smoked in a big smoldering heap...So, that's how I spent the last hour, watching this comedy of errors, with a damp towel wrapped around my head, thankful that Mohammad was incapable of engineering a more substantial fire or else we might all have suffocated (clearly, the guards would never open all our cells; we'd just die in here, as has happened in other prisons and jails in the past). I hope your night was better than mine!
Love, Bill

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Sunday Nov 4th ~ A note from Bill's sister

Dear Readers~
The following post is an article written about Percy Levar Walton whom Bill wrote of in his last entry of October 21st. I have sent Bill's blog entry on Percy to the Governor of Virginia, the local news stations (TV and radio) and Amnesty International (Washington DC). When I visit Bill today, I'll get the name of Percy's attortneys to send them a copy as well. This poor man needs help and can't speak for himself.

Percy Walton - Mental Illness - the International Justice Project

Percy Walton - Mental Illness - the International Justice Project