Thursday, May 17, 2007

May 15, 2007

Dear Sis~
As you know, Christopher Scott Emmett is scheduled to be executed on June 13, less than a month from now, and it's very unlikely that anything will stop it. Virginia has an exceptionally high lethality rate in its death penalty process; nobody gets off here. If you receive a death sentence in Virginia you are going to be executed, and quickly. (Reminds me of a line from Kafka, "There is an abundance of hope, but none for us"). This will be Virginia's 99th execution since capital punishment was reinstated (Here's an oxymoron: the death certificate of an executed prisoner lists the cause of death as "legal homicide"). As you might guess, the atmosphere here on the row is somber. With only 19 of us here it's a small, intimate community; we all know each other fairly well and we see each other and interact with each other daily. My cell is only about 25 feet from Emmett's and I see and speak to him many times a day. To most people, the death penalty is just an abstract concept but it's very real and personal when the people being killed are guys I've known well for years. In the nearly 8 years I've been here I've watched about 35 men get chained up and taken away to Greensville to die. (My first year here, in 1999-2000, the Commonwealth engaged in a machete march through death row, killing 14 men in 12 months, about one man every 3 weeks). Three of those 35 guys - Mark Bailey, John Yancey Schmidt and Michael Lenz - were good friends of mine; another friend, Jeff Remington, hung himself. Being in the midst of so much organized death indelibly stains your memory and can suck all the energy from your spirit, if you let it...Not being in the mood for much small talk I'll close this up and post it (my next letter will be more upbeat, I promise!).
With Love,