Dead Man Walking
Tales from death row: Justice for Rodney Reed
I visited Rodney yesterday with his mom, Sandra. We arrived in the visiting area at 11:30. At 11:45, the visit room C.O. came over to us. She began explaining the "Dead Man Walking" protocol there at the Polunsky Unit. There was an execution - a state sanctioned murder - scheduled for that day. She informed us that once the process of escorting the condemned prisoner is initiated all traffic in the facility stops, everyone stays where they are until notified by the Warden that the prisoner has been escorted out of the building. The process had begun for Preston Hughes, the 15th human being to be murdered by Governor Rick Perry and the state of Texas this year. The 253rd of Perry's tenure as governor. She informed us that it would be some time before Rodney would be brought out for our visit.
For the next 55 minutes, while we sat in the desolate visiting room awaiting Rodney, my heart ached for Preston, his family, for Rodney, and all the other death row prisoners who had been through this entire process just the day before, when Texas murdered Ramon Hernandez. I felt so powerless, so helpless and tried but couldn't even remotely imagine what Rodney or the other prisoners were experiencing. I prayed. I meditated. I raged inside. I cried. I sat quietly and witnessed. I noticed a thought pass through my mind, "Thank God this is the last murder for this year." I noticed another, "Maybe there will be a last minute stay." The minutes ticked by so slowly. There was no activity in the hallways, no activity outside. Finally, some TDCJ staff were in the hallways. Preston Hughes was on his way to the death chamber in Huntsville and in less than 6 hours the state of Texas would murder him with impunity.
Rodney arrived in the visit area, the pall of "death" in his eyes and posture, in his face. He spoke some about having known Preston since he arrived at death row 14+ years ago. He spoke about how difficult the past 2 days had been. He told us he knew we were waiting, that TDCJ staff had come to escort him to the visit area at 11:35 only to leave Rodney there in his cell and not return in time to escort him before the "Dead Man Walking" protocol had been initiated. Just another of the many ways that prisoners' lives are made living hells. So, he was left to sit alone in his cell those long 55 minutes.
All I kept thinking once Rodney arrived to the visit was, "I'm so, so grateful we are here." Over and over and over. As always, a transformation, a shedding of that place seems to minute by minute magically happen to Rodney as we visit. It is so profoundly poignant, that each time I get to witness it I know I am being graced. Literally. I can't find the words to do that "being graced" justice but oh, do I know it in my heart, my soul, my bones. With each passing minute in that visit cage, Rodney becomes Rodney again, the strain, the tension, the stress, the horror seem to drop away, and before long the Soul Man smile is really there. He slips into an ease that is so genuinely him and ever so briefly all of us can almost forget where we are.
"...in the land of the free" - injustice time 5,606 days, 136,947 hours - Free Rodney Reed. In solidarity. In struggle. Abolish the Death Penalty. Execute justice, not people.
R.I.P Ramon Hernandez
R.I. P. Preston Hughes
Caitlin Adams is a resident of Bastrop, Texas. After meeting the family of Texas death row prisoner Rodney Reed outside of their home earlier this year, she began writing with Rodney. She has developed a friendship with Rodney's mother Sandra and his family in Bastrop, as well as making regular trips to death row to visit Rodney.
After learning about the facts of Rodney's case, Caitlin has become an advocate for Rodney Reed – here we present Caitlin's story about her journey for justice.