Monday, July 18, 2005

As a minister in Texas' prison system, Reverend Carroll Pickett was present at 95 executions in Texas, including one I was unfortunate enough to witness. His book Within These Walls: Memoirs of a Death House Chaplain, will be published later this month. An interesting op-ed by Rev. Pickett just popped up in my email box. It starts off like this:

NINETY-FIVE times, I personally walked a man who was sentenced to die to the death chamber in Texas. From the very first person executed by lethal injection, through 16 years of walking those eight steps from the holding cell in the death house to the impeccably clean gurney in the death chamber, I led a man - some were older, some convicted in their teens, some mentally ill, some very hardened by life and, I fully know, some who were innocent.

Each one was different. They were brought to my unit early in the morning, usually, to be held for death at midnight, so I was with them for 18 hours, and in some cases even longer if their cases went to appellate courts and stays were held until 3, 4 or 5am - or the latest which was 6.20am the next day.

More than 200 men came to the death chamber in my time as chaplain there, and of those, 95 were murdered by the state in the name of "justice", but in all reality, it was "retaliation" or "punishment" or simply "murder by law".

During those many hours I spent talking with, mostly listening to, the men who would die after midnight when needles filled with three chemicals were inserted into their bodies, there was one question that was asked by many of those waiting to die: "How can we say that killing is wrong if we continue killing in the name of the state?"

To read the whole thing, go here.

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