THERE'S NO JUSTICE IN THE DEATH CHAMBER

REV CARROLL PICKETT
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?"
When I ministered to the first man executed, in 1982, we had less than 100 prisoners on Death Row. Texas has now executed more than 300 men and women, and we have 500 on Death Row yet more and more murders are taking place in Texas.
Edinburgh-born Kenny Richey spent 18 years on Death Row in Ohio for the murder of a child he says he did not commit. That sentence was overturned in April but he now faces a retrial. Many believe there are enough flaws in the case for Richey to be exonerated but one thing is certain. If Kenny Richey is murdered in the name of the state or country, it will not bring back the victim.
And in my many years of visiting both the families of the victims and the families of the condemned, there is no so-called "closure". The loss is still there, the pain is still there, and the cry for "justice" is not satisfied.
It is plain and simply murder by law to try to tell others that murder is wrong. Even the philosophy is wrong. I
t does not work as a deterrent.
Let me add some factual reviews of "justice in a civilised society".
Once a man was brought into the death house to be executed. He had been convicted of murder. To show how simple-minded (or retarded) he was, he had used a bicycle to try to escape from the scene of the crime and the highway patrol.
When he arrived at the death house, all he wanted to do was use his colours and a colouring book.
Another man was involved in a case with his "fall partner", the prison term for someone who is convicted along with him, but usually is the "snitch" who blames everything on the other one.
The one convicted had a stroke several days before his execution date, and was flown to a major hospital 150 miles away, to be put back into health good enough to be killed. He was then flown back, not in a very good condition, and I spent that day with him. He was too sick to live, and could hardly be understood, but we talked as much as possible. Is this justice, to heal a man just enough to murder him?
And I know he was innocent.
Another case was a man who was sitting in a car when his "fall partner" murdered a highway patrolman in an undercover drug bust. Everyone knew who did the shooting, but the murderer got off with a short sentence and the innocent man, by action, but not by Texas law, was murdered for just being there.
Is this justice?
Several of our murdered-by-lethal-injection inmates were 17 when they committed their crime.
International law forbids their being put to death. But Texas, under the leadership at the time, said: "We do not have to obey international law." Yet we expect to receive help from the international community when we want it.
And on and on it goes - and I am certain that others have been innocent.
One man has been declared innocent this year by the courts, but he was murdered by our state years ago. Is this justice?

The Reverend Carroll Pickett was minister to 95 executions in Texas. His book, Within These Walls: Memoirs of a Death House Chaplain, will be published on July 28 by Vision.