At the Death House Door: 3-1/2 Stars

The handful of people who read this blog—and anyone who knows me—knows that my only opposition to the death penalty is the innocence issue.  I have absolutely no problem with killing people like Derek Todd Lee and many others like him, and in fact, I think the death penalty is too brief and merciful for them.   

That being said, I watched a film called “At the Death House Door” tonight, and it was pretty good.  The film revolves around two people: Pastor Carroll Pickett, the Texas Department of Corrections chaplain who oversaw 90-odd executions and gradually came to oppose the death penalty, and Carlos De Luna, a young man who was almost certainly innocent of the crime for which he was executed.

It’s a good movie, and I recommend it.  But I can only give it 3-1/2 stars because there was absolutely no effort made to describe what the executed men did, or to show their victims, or to interview their victims’ families.  “At the Death House Door” presents a very thoughtful look at the death penalty from the anti-capital punishment side, and it does it extremely well.  But it’s not a one-sided issue.  I have always been disturbed by how easily those opposing the death penalty dismiss the horrendous suffering of victims (while professing their utmost sympathy, of course). 

Anyway, it’s a good film.  I recommend it.  But immediately after you’re through watching it—if you’re interested in getting a balanced look, that is—do a little research about the victims of the people executed in this country each year.  If the two together don’t make you feel some uncomfortable and tumultuous feelings, I don’t know what will.

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~ by lewdandlascivious on May 5, 2008.

2 Responses to “At the Death House Door: 3-1/2 Stars”

  1. Can Rev. Carroll Pickett be trusted?
    Dudley Sharp, Justice Matters, contact info below

    Rev. Pickett is on a promotional tour for the film “At the Death House Door”, a film partially about the Reverend’s experience ministering to 95 death row inmates executed in Texas.

    Rev. Pickett’s inaccuracies are many and important.

    Does Rev. Pickett just make facts up as he goes along, hoping that no one fact checks or is he just confused or ignorant?

    Some of his miscues are common anti death penalty deceptions and the Reverend is an anti death penalty activist.

    Below are comments or paraphrases of Rev. Pickett, taken from interviews, followed by my Reply:.

    Pickett: “A great majority of them (the 95 executed inmates he ministered to) were black or Hispanic.” (1)

    Reply: The “great majority” were 47 white (49%) with 32 black (34%), and 16 Hispanic (17%).

    Pickett: “Out of the 95 we executed only one that had a college degree. All the rest of them their education was 9th grade and under.” (1)

    Reply: Not even close. In a review of only 31 of the 95 cases, 5 had some college or post graduate classes and 16 were high school graduates or completed their GED. Partial review (Incomplete Count) , below.

    Would Rev. Pickett tell us about the educational achievements of all the innocent murder victims and those that weren’t old enough for school?

    Pickett: spoke of the Soldier of Fortune murder for hire case, stating the husband got death, while the hired murderer got 6 years. (1)

    Reply: In this well known case. John Wayne Hearn, the hitman, was sentenced to life imprisonment for the murder of Sandra Black.

    Pickett: speaks of how sincere hostage taker, murderer Ignacio Cuevas was. Rev. Pickett states that “between 11 and midnight (I) believe almost everything” the inmates say, because they are about to be executed. (1)

    Reply: Bad judgement. Cuevas lied when on the gurney, stating that he was innocent. This goes to show how Rev. Pickett and many others are easily fooled by these murderers.

    Pickett: I knew (executed inmate) Carlos (De Luna) didn’t do it. It was his big brown eyes, the way he talked, he was the same age as my son (transference). I felt so sympathetic towards him. I was so 100% certain that he couldn’t have committed this crime. (Carlos) was a super person to minister to. I knew Carlos was not guilty. Fred Allen a guard, said “by the way he talks and acts I don’t believe he is guilty, either. (1)

    REPLY: Experienced prison personnel are fooled all the time by prisoners, just as parole boards are. This is simply Rev. Pickett’s and Fred Allen’s blind speculation. It means absolutely nothing.

    Pickett: believes that, no way, could someone, so afraid of lightning and thunder, such as Carlos De Luna, use a knife (in a crime). (1)

    Reply: Rev. Pickett talks about how important his background is in understanding people and behavior and he says something like this, destroying his own credibility on the issue. If the lightning and thunder event occurred, we already know what De Luna was capable of. In 1980, “De Luna was charged with attempted aggravated rape and driving a stolen vehicle, he pleaded no contest and was sentenced to 2 to 3 years. Paroled in May 1982, De Luna returned to Corpus Christi. Not long after, he attended a party for a former cellmate and was accused of attacking the cellmate’s 53-year-old mother. She told police that De Luna broke three of her ribs with one punch, removed her underwear, pulled down his pants, then suddenly left. He was never prosecuted for the attack, but authorities sent him back to prison on a parole violation. Released again in December of that year, he came back to Corpus Christi and got a job as a concrete worker. Almost immediately, he was arrested for public intoxication. During the arrest, De Luna allegedly laughed about the wounding of a police officer months earlier and said the officer should have been killed. Two weeks after that arrest, Lopez was murdered.” (Chicago Tribune) Being a long time criminal, we can presume that there were numerous additional crimes committed by De Luna and which remained unsolved. Was De Luna capable of committing a robbery murder, even though he had big brown eyes and was scared of lightning? Of course. This goes to Pickett’s poor judgement or something else.

    And there is this major problem.

    In 1999, after Rev. Pickett had left his death row ministry, he was asked, “Do you think there have been some you have watched die who were strictly innocent?”

    His reply: “I never felt that.” (3)

    PIckett: “In my opinion and in the opinion of the convicts, life in prison, with no hope of parole, is a much worse punishment (than the death penalty).” “Most of these people (death row inmates) fear life in prison more than they do the possibility of execution.” (2)

    REPLY: That may be Rev. Pickett’s opinion, but we know that isn’t the opinion of those facing a possible death sentence of those residing on death row. This gives more support to my suspicion that Rev. Pickett is putting words into the inmates’ mouths. His assertion is totally contradicted by the facts.

    Facts: What percentage of capital murderers seek a plea bargain to a death sentence? Zero or close to it. They prefer long term imprisonment. What percentage of convicted capital murderers argue for execution in the penalty phase of their capital trial? Zero or close to it. They prefer long term imprisonment. What percentage of death row inmates waive their appeals and speed up the execution process? Nearly zero. They prefer long term imprisonment. This is not, even remotely, in dispute. How could Rev. Pickett not be aware of this? How long was he ministering to Texas’ death row? 13 years?

    Pickett: stated that “doctors can’t (check the veins of inmates pending execution), it’s against the law.” (1)

    Reply: Ridiculous.

    Pickett: Pavulon (a paralytic) has been banned by vets but we use it on people. (1)

    REPLY: This is untrue and is a common anti death penalty deception. The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA): “When used alone, these drugs (paralytics) all cause respiratory arrest before loss of consciousness, so the animal may perceive pain and distress after it is immobilized.” Obviously, paralytics are never used alone in the human lethal injection process or animal euthanasia. The AVMA does not mention the specific paralytic – Pavulon – used in lethal injection for humans. These absurd claims, falsely attributed to veterinary literature, have been a bald faced lie by anti death penalty activists.

    In Belgium and the Netherlands, their euthanasia protocol is as follows: A coma is first induced by intravenous administration of 20 mg/kg sodium thiopental (Nesdonal) (NOTE-the first drug in human lethal injection) in a small volume (10 ml physiological saline). Then a triple intravenous dose of a non-depolarizing neuromuscular muscle relaxant is given, such as 20 mg pancuronium bromide (Pavulon) (NOTE-the second drug, the paralytic, in human lethal injection) or 20 mg vecuronium bromide (Norcuron). The muscle relaxant should preferably be given intravenously, in order to ensure optimal availability. Only for pancuronium bromide (Pavulon) are there substantial indications that the agent may also be given intramuscularly in a dosage of 40 mg.

    Just like execution/lethal injection in the US, although we give a third drug which speeds up death.

    Pickett: said an inmate said “its burning” “its burning”, during an execution. (1)

    REPLY: This may have occurred for a variety of reasons and does not appear to be an issue. It is the third drug which is noted for a burning sensation, if one were conscious during its injection. However, none of the inmates that Rev. Pickett handled were conscious after the first drug was administered. That would not be the case, here, as the burning complaints came at the very beginning of the injection process, which would involve a reaction where the burning would be quite minor. Has Rev. Pickett reviewed the pain and suffering of the real victims – the innocent murdered ones?

    Pickett: “Most of the inmates would ask the question, “How can Texas kill people who kill people and tell people that killing people is wrong?” That came out of inmates’ mouths regularly and I think it’s a pretty good question to ask.” (2)

    REPLY: Most? Would that be more than 48 out of 95? I simply don’t believe it. 10 out of 95? Doubtful. I suspect it is no coincidence that “Why do we kill people to show that killing is wrong” has been a common anti death penalty slogan for a very long time. I suspect that Rev. Pickett has just picked it up, used it and placed it in inmate’s mouths. Furthermore, we don’t execute murderers to show that murder is wrong. Most folks know that murder is wrong even without a sanction. The murder is wrong and there are various sanctions for committing that wrong, including execution.

    ————
    Incomplete count
    this is a review of 31 out of the 95 death row inmates ministered by Rev. Pickett

    21 of the 31 below had some college or post graduate classes (5)
    or were high school graduates or completed their GED (16)
    ———–
    1) Brooks 12
    3) O’Bryan post graduate degree – dentist
    41 james russel 10th
    42 G Green sophomore college
    45 David Clark 10th and GED
    46 Edward Ellis 10th
    47 Billy White 10th
    48 Justin May 11th
    49 Jesus Romero 11th and GED
    50 Robert Black, Jr. a pilot (probably beyond 12th)
    55. Carlos Santana 11th
    57 Darryl Stewart 12th
    58 Leonel Herrera 11th and GED
    60) Markum Duff Smith Post graduate College
    33) Carlos De Luna 9th
    95 Ronald Keith Allridge 10th and GED
    93 Noble Mays Junior in College
    92 Samuel Hawkins 12th
    91 Billy Conn Gardner 12th
    90 Jeffery Dean Motley 9th
    89 Willie Ray Williams 11th
    86 Jesse Jacobs 12th
    85 Raymond Carl Kinnamon 11th and GED
    84 Herman Clark sophomore college
    83 Warren Eugene Bridge 11th
    82 Walter Key Williams 12th
    72 Harold Barnard 12th
    73 Freddie Webb 11th and GED
    75 Larry Anderson 12th
    77 Stephen Nethery 12th
    79 Robert Drew 10th

    Dudley Sharp, Justice Matters
    e-mail sharpjfa@aol.com, 713-622-5491,
    Houston, Texas

    Mr. Sharp has appeared on ABC, BBC, CBS, CNN, C-SPAN, FOX, NBC, NPR, PBS , VOA and many other TV and radio networks, on such programs as Nightline, The News Hour with Jim Lehrer, The O’Reilly Factor, etc., has been quoted in newspapers throughout the world and is a published author.

    A former opponent of capital punishment, he has written and granted interviews about, testified on and debated the subject of the death penalty, extensively and internationally.

    Pro death penalty sites

    homicidesurvivors(dot)com/categories/Dudley%20Sharp%20-%20Justice%20Matters.aspx

    www(dot)dpinfo.com
    www(dot)cjlf.org/deathpenalty/DPinformation.htm
    www(dot)clarkprosecutor.org/html/links/dplinks.htm
    www(dot)coastda.com/archives.html
    www(dot)lexingtonprosecutor.com/death_penalty_debate.htm
    www(dot)prodeathpenalty.com
    www(dot)yesdeathpenalty.com/deathpenalty_co
    yesdeathpenalty.googlepages.com/home2 (Sweden)
    www(dot)wesleylowe.com/cp.html

    1) “Chaplain Discusses ‘Death House’ Ministry”, Interview, Legal Affairs, FRESH AIR, NPR, May 19, 2007.

    2) THE FAILURE INTERVIEW: REVEREND CARROLL PICKETT—AUTHOR OF “WITHIN THESE WALLS: MEMOIRS OF A DEATH HOUSE CHAPLAIN” Interview, by Kathleen A. Ervin
    www(DOT)failuremag.com/arch_history_carroll_pickett_interview.html

    3) “The Execution: Interview with Reverend Carroll Pickett”, PBS, FRONTLINE, 1999
    www(DOT)pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/execution/readings/pickett.html

  2. Wow! That’s the all-time longest comment on this blog. Very interesting and informative–thank for giving the other side and filling in blanks!

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