I’ll be there tonight

May 19, 2010

May 19, 2010 | 6 p.m. EST

Dear Friends:

This afternoon I had a 25-minute conversation with Rogelio. He was already in the Walls Unit, in Huntsville, in a room next to the execution chamber.  With him was a chaplain. He was drinking sweet iced tea and had asked for a cigarette. They had offered him some cookies from a tray nearby but he refused because he wanted to save room for his last meal: beef and cheese enchiladas, two cheeseburgers, fried chicken and strawberry cake. He hadn’t eaten all day because he wanted to be able to eat everything.

He was in amazingly good spirits, at peace understanding that even though technically it was still possible for the courts to intervene, he will likely be dying at 6 this evening. He spoke of “three amazing days” of visits with his beloved Norma and his family. The days were divided into 10-15 minute visits with each of his siblings and Norma. Pictures of them together were taken and he promised that Norma would share them.

“It was good,” he said. “Very, very good.”

He spoke of his sister’s breaking down during one visit and his admonishing her not to. “Don’t tell me not to cry,” she shot back. “I raised you and I’ll cry if I feel like it.”

“’OK,’” I told her. “’OK, cry, go ahead.’ She needed to get it out of her system. I can understand that. But I can’t do that, I don’t have the luxury.”

About his execution, he said: “I’ve always been a realist, so I knew this was coming. But I don’t feel any fear. I’m proud that I’m OK. I won’t allow myself the luxury of weakness. If I die, I will die with my head held high. If I have to go, it is what it is. I’m going to a better place, better than what I’ve been in all these years.”

I told him about the many wonderful comments and prayers on this blog site and he asked that I pass on his gratitude “for everyone who reached out to me, who understood, who supported me. I appreciate it and thank you them for it. An injustice was done but I’m a big man and I have held my head high.”

He said that the last time he came close to being executed he wasn’t ready. “But I’m ready this time.”

After our call, he was planning to speak with his siblings, Isabelle, Tina and his attorney. And, of course, Norma.

“I don’t have any last words thought out,” he said. “Of course, I’m going to express my gratitude.” He expressed regret that “it’s going to mess with them (his loved ones who will witness the execution) bad.”

He said he’d been talking to the chaplain about the drug administered to put him to sleep before they administer the lethal injection. “He said it is just like when they put you under for surgery,” he said. “You don’t feel a thing.” And he talked about “los queridos” (the loved ones) who have gone on before him.

“They will be waiting for me,” he said. “I’ll be there tonight.”

Later, he said he is sure there is a God, “and I have to get right with God, whatever that Supreme Being is.”

His cigarette arrived, a Marlboro Lite, and he lit up. I could hear him inhaling and savoring. “Man,” he said, laughing. “I’m smokin’ now! That’s the first cigarette I’ve had in 17 years.”

I asked how it tasted.

“Man,” he said again. Then he started coughing. “This stuff is bad for you. Cigarettes will kill you,” he said, then he started laughing at his own joke.

He talked about the conversation he’d had with the warden when he arrived, when the warden explained the procedure to him. He told the warden that when 6 o’clock came he was not going to walk into the execution chamber.

“I’m just going to lie down and they’ll have to carry me in,” he explained. “I’m not going to walk in there voluntarily. The warden said he understood.

Finally, he thanked me for my friendship and support. “Wherever that it is that I’ll end up, I’ll be looking down on you and taking care of you. Well, maybe not down, but I’ll be looking at you, and taking care of you.”

When I found out last night that I could speak to him today, I was not looking forward to it. I was scared. I had heard he had been in bad shape during the first part of the week and I didn’t know what condition he would be in, and I didn’t know what condition I’d be in. But within seconds of the start of the conversation, I was at ease. It was as if I was sitting in front of him, looking through the plate glass partition on a regular visit. I have been dreading this day for weeks, and my heart has been heavy with grief, but following our conversation, I feel as if a great weight has been lifted. It got an opportunity to say goodbye to my friend and he reassured me that he is OK.

When I got home a while ago, there were two letters from Rogelio, his last two, with several blog entries. I will post them later. I don’t have the strength to do that tonight.

I just heard that the Fifth Circuit Court had turned down Rogelio’s appeal. It is being appealed but his lawyers don’t have much hope, so in about an hour, Rogelio will be carried into that room. He’ll say his final words and he’ll be gone.

— Juan Ramon Palomo



To the morons who keep attempting to post their sick comments here:

May 17, 2010

You can keep on trying as long as you want, but your evil thoughts will never make it onto the pages of this blog as long as I am the gatekeeper. I must say I feel sorry for you. What miserable existences you must lead to take joy in attempting to post cruel and sadistic comments on a condemned man’s blog site. Do you really think that I’d allow him or his friends to be exposed to what your simple minds emit? Go ahead, write whatever you want (actually, I’m surprised you can write at all), if it gives your emply lives pleasure. I will continue to take great pleasure in killing each of them as they come in. — Juan

I am not ready to give up on myself yet

May 13, 2010

May 2nd, 2010 | Sunday

I was just speaking to my neighbor who is scheduled for execution a week before I am.  He says that it is over for him and he was asking about my thoughts of the afterlife.  Honestly speaking I have my two feet firmly set in this life and am not ready to give up on myself yet.  I entertained his conversation though because eventually death is just as certain as taxes. 

 So the Afterlife…  God.  Heaven?  Nirvana?  Home.  Who can be sure where we go?  We talked about near death experiences.  He told me of having been in an auto accident and that he was medically dead for 5 minutes.  He says that he felt safe where he was and did not want to come back but was forced to.  I don’t understand why he has an ugly feeling in the pit of his stomach if he experienced such a profound calmness that he was forced from.  I told him that.  He says that he has become attached to this world again.  Of this I can understand.  I came close to being executed before and I recall the acceptance that I felt which gave me great relief in the face of death.  It was more than religion.  It was God’s will itself holding me steady.  I did not make it to the afterlife, obviously, and am really happy about that.  I can tell you about a man I met a month after my arrival on death row.  I was let out into a large recreation area among other men however next to this large recreation area was a smaller cage.  In that smaller recreation area was a man who was scheduled to be executed that night.  I walked past and he called me so I stopped to speak with him.  I had not known that he was to be executed that night.  I recall the glossy look in his eyes as he spoke of his pending death.  I thought that he was deranged when he told me that for years he had wondered about the afterlife.  He said that on this night he would finally find out.  His curiosity got a grip of me and he knew because he looked at me and said that if I wanted to know, at 6:00Pm when his execution was taking place for me to turn off my radio and to look around me for a sign.  He said if there was any way that he could communicate with me, he would.  That night I sat and concentrated on everything around me.  Nothing happened.  No screeching or sounds of chains.  No cup tipping over or the toilet flushing on it’s own.  Nothing.

The separation is agonizing at times…

May 13, 2010

May 1st, 2010 | Saturday

It is another long quiet night here on death watch.  I have no idea what time it is although it must be close to midnight.  My expected visit did not arrive and I am wondering what was the cause.  Life cannot be easy out there for our family and loved ones.  The separation is agonizing at times…  The night will run it’s course and another morning will come.

[Norma writes:  The unit denied the visit Rogelio was expecting and should have been able to receive from his family. ]

There is a light at the end of the tunnel and God is there for us always…

May 13, 2010

April 30th, 2010 | Friday

I was looking up into the ceiling thinking about the insanity of these two decades past.  About how unjust my incarceration is and how I have been unable to prove my innocence.  Of others who are faced with this same dilemma too.  I was thinking of prison at it’s worst.  The heat of aggression, the riots, the exploitation.  Caught in the middle of radical racial hatred and territorial violence… Texas Syndicate, Aryan Brotherhood or Mexican Mafia.  Gangsters of all sorts.  The immature psychological games, the ignorance and insanity of prison life.

I have also come across a few good men.  I have witnessed acts of unselfish compassion which defied the  moment.  From these thoughts I was gladly distracted as the loud speaker advised me that I had a minister visit.  My spiritual advisor was here to see me.  Mrs. Kathy Cox is 86 years of age, young actually given her extraordinary health.  Mrs. Kathy Cox is a Major in The Salvation Army and has been ministering to death row prisoners for over 30 years…  I could very well be her great grandson.  She tells me that there is a light at the end of the tunnel and God is there for us always.

I am isolated but aware…

May 13, 2010

April 29th, 2010 | Thursday

For being in this isolation cell I cannot see much of anything.  However, I hear very well.  I have learned to adapt to my environment.  I recognize voices and attach names to them almost as well as recognizing someone’s face.  I hear steel doors crashing shut and and can distinguish what door was likely exited.  I am isolated but aware.  I hear irregular noises and know that something is happening which isn’t normal in the day’s bustle.  Even my sense of smell tells me things although I may be kept in isolation…  In the air there is a slight smell of pepper gas.  Somebody is out in the recreation cage and I am able to communicate with them through a crack in the door.  Well, he just confirmed that a death row prisoner was sprayed with pepper gas out in the large hallway that extends the length of this building.  My nose is sensitive to pepper gas and food. 

For days I have heard the sounds of  drills and have caught  glimpses of men dressed in matching shirts.  Signs of cameras being installed on death row are evident everywhere…  To overlook who?  Guess.  Death row prisoners was your guess?  You may have guessed wrong.  The security cameras are more for the officers than for us!  You ought to know how ironic that is.  It’s funny because this whole place is a joke and a scam…  Tours come through and I have stood and listened to the lies.  Death Row is not where you heard the whistles, the hooting and hollering.  The trouble here is deliberate and calculated by the administration. 

In fact it’s so laid back in here that last year as a ranking officer stood and lied to a large group of rookie officers the mood seemed too… eerily quiet?  The rookies stood in wide eyed wonder at the horrors death row prisoners were supposed to put them through.  Cowboy Roy kicked the steel door as hard as I could and the ranking officer almost jumped out of his uniform.  Turning to the cell door he glared and the rookie class began to smile and then quietly laugh as we in our cells laughed uncontrollably.  What a joke.  Retirees work here as Death Row Officers because the economy has gotten them back into the workforce.  These officers are safer working among death row than in the general prison population.  If anything, it’s they who abuse us!

What a day this has been…

May 8, 2010

April 28, 2010 | Wednesday

I just found out that it is an hour before noon and am wondering about today’s expected media interview.  I don’t know what or who to expect…  I just do not know.  I have thought about all that needs to be said and doubt that he will believe.  That an investigator killed himself?  That the state prosecutors knew that he lied and perjured himself but still sent me to prison?  That the judge himself possibly knew?!  Hard to believe, I know.  This didn’t just begin.  I just had no way to prove it.  If this man is an investigative reporter I hope that I do sound outrageous to him.  My hope is that he will investigate what I will say to him.  At 12:00 noon on Wednesdays is when media visits are held.  That is today.

It’s 4:00 in the afternoon now.  I was looking at the clock on my way out of the visiting room.  That was roughly 10 minutes ago.  What a day this has been so far.  The reporter, I think that he seemed intrigued?  I watched as he wrote down alot of what I said but it just seemed that he was casting for something…  I don’t know.  However this goes I only hope that he attempts to verify things that I told him.  That he does not put me off as a lunatic and an unbelievable story without investigating what I have said.

I wasn’t the only one out there being interviewed…  This man who is next to me, Billy Galloway…  I have know Billy for years now although it has only been in brief moments because like others who have an escape case on their record, they are moved from cell to another cell every 2 weeks.  Billy has been next to me on several occasions.  The reporter took several pictures of both Billy and I.  He showed me on a digital screen the pictures he took of me.  I looked ugly… ugly, as in mean.  Angry?  Something like that.  He told me that I did not look threatening, unlike others he has interviewed.  Also said that my story was sad.  That surprised me because of my preconceived notions of media.  I just hope that he does in fact investigate what I have said.

Things have to be said, my struggle brought to light

May 7, 2010

April 27, 2010 | Tuesday

A MEDIA CONSENT form was brought to me yesterday while I laid on my bunk and stared up at the ceiling. I was lost in thought when an officer rattled the door to this cell. He asked if I wanted to talk to the media. I quickly said no, then changed my mind even quicker. Media?

I recall my arrival on Death Row in 1997. We were still housed in Huntsville. Back then Death Row prisoners were allowed to recreate together in a large area for 2 hours on weekdays. I was among a group when they were in uproar about a story that had just been printed. The subject of this story was in the crowd. The gist of their displeasure was how media will twist words to make us all look like monsters of the worst kind.

I HAVE NEVER really dealt with media but recall too well how the local media where I am from painted me. Not once did they even request to speak to me either. For so long I have kept a negative impression that has stopped me from speaking to the media. I decided to go out to this interview and say all that has transpired. Will my words be twisted? Things have to be said, my struggle brought to light somehow. How else will anybody ever know what has been kept secret for so long? My ignorance was exploited and I was unjustly convicted for a murder that I did not commit.

I may have grown accustomed to this horrible environment, but I doubt that I will ever get used to death

May 7, 2010

April 26, 2010 | Monday

Another day in paradise.  That is obviously an exaggeration but at least it’s how I’ve viewed things because I’m still above ground.  The man next to me, Billy, feels the same way.  I have been in this situation before although my attorney found substance to a claim I made years ago, an investigator who testified against me conspired, lied and perjured himself to send me to prison when he swore under oath to tell the truth.  This kept me from being executed on the 19th of November, 2008.  I hope to stay above ground.  However, I am still set to be executed in less than a month’s time.  I’ll remain hopeful.

Billy knows that on the 13th of May (in 17 days) he will be executed.  Billy talks about lies that his co-defendant says about him.  He talks about how he hates that his dad will see him go and he says there is a nagging feeling in his gut which won’t go away.  I have been here before.  Years ago I thought that I would probably fall apart if I ever got to this point.  Years of being screwed around have made me stronger than I thought possible.  Deep down inside I am still that teenage kid who used to roam around a small town named La Feria…  Population, 5000?

I have looked into the eyes of men on their way to the execution chamber and heard their last words to me.  I may have grown accustomed to this horrible environment, but I doubt that I will ever get used to death.  Never that.

I can’t see myself dying for something I did not commit

May 6, 2010

April 25, 2010 | Sunday

Still with me?  I just heard somebody say that the barber is coming on the cellblock and I really do need a haircut.  Haircut or hairviolation?  Hairviolation is more accurate because most barbers who come from the general population to cut our hair on Death Row are less than amateurs, the bums.  In fact they may have been left looking mangy themselves and are out looking to spread that hairstyle.

Was standing at the door waiting to lay eyes on the hair butcher but instead found some distinct marks on the door.  Somebody before me pressed stick marks on the door and the words, “61 Days Left.”  Somebody counted his last days in this cell.  It shouldn’t surprise me, afterall I am in the same state which is most active in carrying out executions.  I am on Death Watch section itself.  I can’t see myself dying for something I did not commit.  It certainly is a morbid situation that I am in.  Too many years and still I am unable to prove my innocence.  It’s times like these when I feel an ugly lump in my throat, frightened but after all these years of being forgotten this fright has become a source of strength of sorts.  It clears my mind.  This feeling of fright forces me to identify the cause and admit to myself that a problem exists.  Words are too easy in expaining how I manage to contain such a strong emotion as fright.  Gaining control is a bit more difficult but given my circumstances what choice do I have?  We have to hold steady, think.