By Richard Cartwright and Gabriel Gonzalez
It is now 12 noon as I roll up my mattress and stack my pillow on top of that so I can climb up and look out the slit of a window I have high up in my cell wall. My view is mockingly cruel. It is a view of the walkway that all death row prisoners have to walk to go to visitation. Why would a walkway to visitation be so cruel to view? Well, on this particular day, as on many days, there is an EXECUTION scheduled. I am watching a man walk this walkway as he comes back from his last visit with his loved ones, family friends. Today it happens to be Kevin Zimmerman’s MURDER date. Kevin is a man I have known for a little under seven years. I have tears in my eyes as I see him coming down the walkway, hands cuffed behind his back, completely surrounded by guards from co3 to Majors, and others as well.
“I refuse to let the tears fall from my eyes,” I say, talking to myself. Yes, but then I would be the cold blooded, no feeling killer that this systems presumes me to be. I owe Kevin these tears, and I owe them to myself. It is called humanity. They are taking Kevin back into 12 building, the building that death row prisoners are caged in, to strip search him one more humiliating time before they shackle him from head to toe in handcuffs, shackles, and chains on last time.
My view also gives me the ability to see the death van waiting to drive Kevin to the Walls Unit. This is the MURDER HOUSE, also known as THE TEXAS KILLING MACHINE. Here he will supposedly receive his state sanctioned justice, otherwise known to everyone else as MURDER. Is it justice or is it murder? Is there a difference? No, there is not. Murder, state sanctioned or otherwise, is still just that – MURDER! So now I await the six 0’clock news to find out my friend’s fate. I already know his fate. But to lose hope at this point cements my own fate, and that is something I refuse to do. I will wait, I will pray. I will remember the nonchalant attitude all the guards had when they surrounded Kevin as he was loaded into the van. There were approximately 19 of them, maybe more, that stood around and waited for the death van to leave.
When the van pulls out, at that point they pat each other on the back, shake hands (as if they’ve collectively done a great deed and justice), hell – tell a few jokes…I don’t know. Some are here to just do a job, some even enjoy their job. Some actually, dare I say it, are saddened by what their job makes them participate in, but the majority just move on.
After the death van leaves, I see business as usual outside my window. Was Kevin just here? You can’t tell by what I’m looking at. I stop to listen at the front of my cell. What do I hear? People playing chess over-the-run. Others in mundane conversations – is it a defense mechanism? Do they think that if they don’t talk about it, it didn’t happen? If it is a defense mechanism, it is one I will never use. Life goes on? It wasn’t me? I didn’t know him?
I know I hurt inside. In fact, I RAGE INSIDE. I rage to keep the hurt away. Hurt, crying, both are signs of weakness in prison society. Anger and rage – prison. I am just glad that I do hurt, and I do rage. I will revel in my emotions, as painful as they are, because they prove my humanity. Maybe not to others, but to myself. Damn this place. It is eating me away a little at a time, from the inside out.
How can I express what I feel to those of you out there in the free world? Do you understand? Do you care? Do you say, “Good for you, Scumbag?” Do I deserve your sympathy? I don’t want it. I just want to share my feelings with the world. I want you all to become personalized with the death penalty. Not the sterile and just picture you hear on the radio, TV, or newspapers. If you are for the death penalty, then that is okay too. But you need to know what you support to the fullest. To err is human. Therefore, it is a fact that innocent men are executed. That is what you must think about. This man’s execution is in the name of justice for the victims of whoever he is accused of killing. This execution/state sanctioned murder is in the name of the loved ones of the murdered persons who have felt terrible loss. At the same time, Kevin’s murder is starting another vicious circle of victims. How, you ask? What about Kevin’s family? His Mom, Dad, his children, brothers, sisters . . . what did they do to deserve this pain? Nothing. Yet they become victims in the name of Justice for the Victims. Where is the justice? Who wins?
Gabriel Gonzalez speaks:
Today, January 24, 2004, a man and a friend, Kevin Zimmerman, has been murdered by the State of Texas. I have known him for 6 years. He was a friend who played a big part in my spiritual journey and enlightenment I will miss him dearly! You would think that with me knowing that he will no longer suffer and will ultimately be spiritually free, that I would feel nothing but joy. But, though I am happy that he will suffer no more, and will be free from this world of pain, I am still saddened, angered and enraged at the loss I have taken toady.
Today I watched Kevin leave from here at Polunsky Unit to the Murder House, the Walls Unit. I’ve shed many tears, of sadness, of anger, of rage, of insanity. Yes, even insanity. Because as I sit in this cold steel and concrete cage suffering the pain of loss and the grief of Kevin’s family, I feel like I am going insane being here in the ruthless grips of a malicious mass murderer. I feel like I’ve been kidnapped by a mass murderer and have been taken to this dungeon and put in one of his kidnapping cages. And as I sit here, isolated in my own little cage, my kidnapper and killer is thinking up ways he could possible mentally torture me and others. I can only sit here and try my best, in a defenseless situation, to endure and survive it with my sanity still intact.
But as every day passes and the torture continues, and I keep seeing other kidnapped victims being brutally murdered by the killer, I feel my sanity slowly slipping away . . . It is like watching someone lock people in a cage, grab an assault rifle, and just start walking from cage to cage, shooting and murdering each persona and getting a kick out of it. And as I sit here watching this sick game, or what the killer considers a game, I wonder – who will be next? when will it end? will it ever end? when will he get enough? or will he ever get enough? As I watch him steadily killing people, my fear sets in, my mind races, my grief and pain cuts through to my very soul. I try to hold on to my sanity and hope, but I’ve been locked in the steel and concrete house of murder and insanity so long that its sickness has seeped through to my pores and infected me and so many others. But still I try to hold on while this brutal and sick mass murderer, the State of Texas, continues its sick game of revenge and MURDER.
I hurt deeply for Kevin and his family. They are now suffering his loss. My soul is screaming and crying out for them, and yet at the same time my soul smiles for Kevin. He will no longer have to suffer. I wonder when man will get tired of the self-centered living and thinking that revenge is justice and brings closure to people. The death penalty only reinstates the code of justice by bloodshed, and creates more victims.
A victim loses his or her life, and the judicial systems claims they will get justice for that family. Yet in their so-called justice, they are victimizing another family of innocent people by killing their loved one, leaving that family with never-ending grief. Where is the justice in that? There is none! This is only a vicious cycle of REVENGE-MURDER-REVENGE and it seems like it will never stop. I really do wonder – will it ever end? Or will it continue to be what another executed friend of mine said in his last words before he was executed? My friend, Napoleon Beazely’s last words before he was executed were “NOBODY WINS!”