Monday, March 04, 2013
My old pal Tom died on Friday, Feb 8th at 4:10 pm, alone in the clinic isolation cell at UCI. I hate that he died alone, locked in a tiny cell with no property (no radio, TV or anything to occupy his mind) and nobody to converse with, just laying on his bunk, staring at the ceiling, waiting for his final escape. His loved ones, who were able to travel from Texas and North Carolina to visit him for three hours just two days before he passed away wrote and told me that he was very weak and gaunt, could not keep down any food or liquids, but was lucid enough for a meaningful visit, though just barely so. Although I know his death was inevitable and imminent, I'm surprised at how much it has affected me. I've seen an awful lot of death during my many years in prison (way too much death, in all its myriad variations), including some friends, but Tom's has knocked the wind out of me. I still catch myself starting to call over to him when I read something interesting or see something on TV that would pique his interest, and I sometimes swear I hear his voice calling me. A part of me is happy for him because I know he's finally free, but I can't lie; I really miss him.
As you know, we had an execution scheduled for last night, a guy named Paul Howell, but some hours before his appointment with death the US Court of Appeals in Atlanta unexpectedly granted him an indefinite stay and ordered a briefing schedule to resolve his legal issue. Nowadays, last minute stays of execution are very rare (at least long-term indefinite stays are rare, as opposed to those brief stays that just keep you strapped to the gurney for an extra hour or two until the courts inevitably give you that final thumbs down). Later last night they moved Paul off death watch on Q-wing and put him in the lone empty cell on my floor. That's gotta be a Hell of a transition; you are hours away from execution, you've had your final visits (imagine how emotional that is), made your peace with the inevitable, perhaps eaten your last meal, then, in a finger snap, you're told you won't be dying after all (at least not that night) and you are back on a regular death row cell talking with the Fellas. I've seen a number of guys go through this over the years, one of whom was just twenty minutes from execution in the electric chair when he got his unexpected stay. They moved him next to me and I was startled to see that his hair had turned almost entirely white during the six weeks he was on death watch. He died quietly in his sleep from a heart attack about six years later, right here on this floor. Anyway, two of the last three guys whose death warrants have been signed by Governor Scott have received last minute stays of execution by the same Federal Appellate court and I'm wondering if this will give the Governor pause as far as signing any more warrants for awhile. We'll know soon enough...
That's it for now, Sis. Keep your chin up and stay out of mischief!