The Insanity of Capital Punishment

By: Richard Tully

At the time that I agreed to move cells, I didn't know who Mr. Kelly was. I only knew that I was moving into a cell next door to a friend of mine and that the guy moving out (Kelly) was known as a J-Cat, meaning he was considered insane by the inmates and staff alike.

The actual happening of the move was a joyous one for myself and my new neighbor. But, for me, the joy was very short-lived. The moment I stepped into that cell the odor hit me at about the same time as the sight of the filth. It was an overpowering odor of feces - stale and fresh - that came from every direction. Never, even during my experience in the Marine Corps, have I experienced anything as overwhelmingly pungent as I did when I stepped in the cell that Mr. Kelly had just vacated. I tried to back step out of that cell but the door was already closing behind me that quick. I couldn't protest since I had wanted to make the move in the first place. The only thing left for me to do was bite the bullet and get to doing a clean up like I've never cleaned before.

It took me more hours to clean that cell than I counted. The cop was good enough to keep bringing me disinfectant and industrial-strength cleaners as I needed them. The walls, the floor, the solid steel bed frame, and even the ceiling all had feces encrusted on them. As I scrubbed, I recall thinking that painting the cell might help to get rid of the odor. But I figured that all I needed was the smell of paint and feces combined for 24/7. My best bet was to just scrub it out; which I did. But that's not the point of this writing.

The point of writing this is that now, a couple of years later, a jury voted nine out of twelve that Mr. Kelly is sane. The implications of that verdict are well known by many inside and outside of these walls, including those nine who voted that he was sane.

I can't help but think that if any of those nine jurors were to have experienced firsthand, up close and personal, the living conditions that Mr. Kelly intentionally subjected himself to as a constant way of life, they would see and truly understand that he is NOT sane at all. Indeed, he left the threshold of sanity a good distance back. It doesn't take x amount of years at Harvard or x amount of paper proclaiming one's ability to discern such things. If one or all of those jurors could have stepped into Mr. Kelly's cell and had that door closed behind them for even a few minutes, much less for one full night, it would seem impossible that they could come to the conclusion they did. But that's not the reality of it all.

The reality is that those nine jurors didn't vote on the issue of insanity. They voted on the issue of execution, a death of a man at the hands of the state, a death they could execute without feeling personally responsible. That jury came back in two hours' time. Am I to understand that the jury went to their jury room, went over their instructions, debated the issue, voted, and wrote the verdict all in two hours? Or did they already have their minds made up before they even reached the jury room?

Very Truly Yours,
In Christ,
Richard C. Tully, H-58500
3 E 109 San Quentin State Prison
San Quentin, CA 94974