Haunting – Dead Men Walking
Unless you have walked into that death house yourself, you have no idea what it feels like. Realistically, history can tell you who has walked there and how they died. However, being there in person is so much different than reading about it. The rigorous execution process is confidential and as a former member of an execution team, one can’t divulge specific death house information but can share the human emotions when the day comes and the death warrant is read to the last dead man walking into the Florence Arizona death house.
Based on witnessed acts and rehearsed drills of executing a precision filled procedure, the process is all about making sure that justice is served to those who are dead men walking. Although practiced many times over and over, there are no guarantees that on the day of the death sentence being imposed, nothing will go wrong and chaos replaces the air of temperance, tolerance and spectacled sensations.
Today, hundreds of prisoners, sitting quietly on death row, are waiting to wake up and find themselves walking their last haunting walk from their cell to the hygienic killing table situated with leather straps and Velcro strips, where the lethal needle will put them to sleep – forever. Each have their own story how they ended up on death row – some are gruesome and others don’t seem to fit the crime details but nevertheless, here they are on death row – segregated from the general population and held in a cold concrete box until their time to die arrives giving them a brief moment of fresh air on the ride to the death house and within the 24 hours scheduled, die behind an obscure curtain and window of the death room.
Some are unwanted, some fiercely hated and some despised for the crimes committed. Regardless, soon they will be disposed of and put into the ground if their body remains unclaimed and face being buried in the Florence graveyard along with the rest of those incarcerated prisoners who died while inside this Arizona prison environment. Since the law now binds and bounds them all together by the fact they are all committed to die by lethal injection, the mood is often somber as those who walk these mostly empty hallways fall to a hush that is deafening to those around the death house.
Arizona was recently caught red-handed by the feds in their attempts to purchase illegal death drugs from India and other sources since domestic vendors refuse to make these drugs anymore. Whether it was a moral decision or purely business, it makes access to the death drugs difficult causing administrations to seek black market sources at a very high and elusive price. The irony is the state is willing to break the law to impose the law of putting people to death for a sentence given to them decades ago and now meeting the lawful deadline.
Nobody could imagine these officials would go to such an extreme to put someone to death in Arizona but it happens quite a bit as some drugs in the past have been bought, borrowed and traded with other states making midnight rendezvous on the interstate highway a novel means to transfer drugs from one state to another while skirting the law to do so. In the end, the means justifies the will to kill people with untested drugs and follow up on their destined role to be the executioner once again on a Wednesday early morning
The death warrant triggers a sterile stone-faced process that begins with a read in the attorney room located in the visiting room with a meditative acknowledgment that the warrant is real and the prisoner is set to die. A short conversation with a witness ensues as the warden reads the warrant verbatim. A short question and answer session follows. The warden nods and leaves the room. Then, the prisoner is taken to the ID intake room where he or she is stripped searched, and dressed in new and fresh clothing. The same goes for the cell that is searched, inspected and then put on a 24 hour constant surveillance watch with an officer sitting in the front of the cell until it is time to move the prisoner to the death house.
The food is inspected daily, recorded and visually inspected by a supervisor. The purpose is to make sure the prisoner eats, and gets his or her meals before they are put to death. The last meal is written on a form that gives them the choices of their preferences and then given to the food service manager to procure and prepare. The process is as clean as a whistle and the area becomes restricted to all non-authorized traffic as a special team of officers are selected to work in the area now set up as the pre-death house cellblock.
There is no sense of a tragedy waiting to happen. There is only the haunting image of a fully shackled prisoner shuffling their feet slowly as they move to the van that takes them to the death house , a mere ten ,minute slow paced drive with sentries and road guards along the way to ensure a safe delivery to the Florence complex death house.
The escorts are selected by name and qualification on weapons used to ensure a safe journey to the death house by armed escorts and posted armed correctional officers along the way. The entire complex is still and the silence is noted as all the other prisoners are locked down temporarily to allow the move to go unhindered and without complications or disruptions. The presence of law enforcement is heavy on the execution day. The press, visitors and witnesses are all neatly horded into the visiting slots of the death house as they walk across the yard of the old Central prison with its high walls and shimmering razor wire.
The final walk is less than fifty feet – the holding cell is located to the immediate right as you enter the solid door that blocks your entrance or imprisons you if you are standing outside. Every officer there is a volunteer for the execution – everyone is hand-picked and selected based on duty and ability to carry out the job of putting a human being to death. More are selected to handle crowd control, escorts, and perimeter watch and population mood assessments are made to ensure no disruptions are created or detected among the prisoner population within the complex. Methodically, the plan goes as well and it’s just a matter of hours before everything returns back to normal.
There are press reporters taking notes feverishly and asking questions. No photographs allowed as only those visual images on the mind and brain of witnesses, is all that is left for the last moments of someone’s life. They capture something different – something rarely seen by others as this event is something most people will never observe. The mood is calm – the team is prepared and ready. This is something the public doesn’t get to see. The mood is somber, there are no jokes, only small talk as the commands commence and the final act begins.
The silence is deafening. The moment is shattered with the thoughts of grief, pain and sorrow. In an instant moment, or so it seems, a person’s life was taken away, the name will be printed and the story will be lost in time as to why this person died and what crime they committed to be lost to the human race. Some will move on, and some will not be so easily forgotten.
The mood is mixed and once the event comes to an end, the lockdown is lifted, the prisoners are released and life goes on the way it did before the needle hit the skin and the drugs were injected into the veins that took the poison to the heart and brain for the final time as the prisoners draws his last breath and dies.
As a former death row administrator, it wasn’t easy to confront the faces or the reasons why these prisoners were housed on death row. Each had their own story to tell – some claim innocence and others brag about the way they took a live or lives.
Looking at them as pure human beings is replaced by looking at numbers and not faces, making the task of making sure they live until they are set to die an obscured priority in this irony of keeping them alive so they can die at the hands of the state that committed them to death ensure once and for all, they walk their last haunting walk to the death house to face euthanasia and death by lethal injection.