Saturday, July 16, 2011

63 Days to live

by Steven Woods on Saturday, July 16, 2011
I’m terribly troubled by the media and our society.  Recently, we got this wonderful spectacle of this woman, Casey Anthony, who “allegedly” killed her little girl. We’ve got this fantastic look at the United States justice system at work. For weeks, we were able to peer behind the curtain. The result here, apparent outrage.  The verdict, NOT GUILTY.   
"What?  How could this happen?  INJUSTICE!!  They got it wrong!  They let her get away with murder!" (..Or did they?)

Of course, the death of a 2 year old girl is tragic.  More than tragic.  If she really was murdered, it’s an atrocity!  That said, the justice system worked here. Here’s how it is:
The DA has to prove every element of an offense, which they failed to do.  Period.
They relied on emotion, illusions and non-science.  They couldn’t even prove if it was murder, let alone who did it. I agree: Casey’s actions were questionable and downright hideous, but how many of you have ever gone through the trauma of losing a 2 year old daughter? 

There are 2 possible scenarios that would have lead to this verdict:  Either the state didn’t do their job, or they couldn’t do their job. A majority of Americans are disgruntled about this injustice. Do you want to know what the real injustice is?  Casey will make a huge profit off this, and in that, you’re complicit.
YOU are the one’s saying her name, letting her shine in the media.
YOU are helping her profit from the death of a child.

Don’t be mad at her… mad at yourselves.  Then if you don’t think it works, be mad at the system. Be mad at the media, who’ve sensationalized this whole ordeal! Do you know how many MILLIONS of dollars those scavengers have made off of this disaster?  And do you know who’s paying them? YOU are.

What deeply bothers me about this whole situation is how everyone can be so outraged, can spend all their energy screaming about how 'this system doesn’t work', but turns a blind eye when the STATE is doing it. The only way these people care is when you rub their noses in it, and even then, it’s just a another commercial. If you actually care about justice being brought forth, take initiative and DO something about it for a change.

My friend here is innocent- he can prove it with expert scientific evidence yet he has an execution date for August 18... because the courts don’t care.
I’m innocent- the real killer has confessed, but I have an execution date for September 13th..  because, again, the courts don’t care.
We don’t see you raising a fuss about any injustice here, and it's genuinely disturbing. (The few you who are actually helping, please disregard).

“Two thirds of Americans are outraged with Casey Anthony verdict". Yeah, nice. Where are the two thirds of Americans who are outraged that innocent people are going to be put to death?

You know what I think?  Had I been tried through the media, like OJ or Casey, or anyone who gets the coverage in the courtrooms, I wouldn’t have never ended up in here.  Because if there was a camera crew on the DA, he wouldn’t have been able to play the lies he played.  He would have had to play it straight.  And my own counsel?  I’m sure they would have about ten times more competent than they had been.
 I feel like I’m talking out of two sides of my mouth here: 'the system works; it doesn’t work. Media scavengers are evil; I could have used the attention.'
It all goes to prove that there is an undeniable amount arbitrariness in the way America handles legal cases- and it just isn't right.


Friday, July 8, 2011

78 Days to Live: Death 101

I was just talking to another inmate here. He just got an execution date. This is the third execution date he has gotten so far this year. This September is going to be really busy. 4 of us will be executed in a matter of 8 days. He will be there in September for his third time around. I, for my first. I started asking him to tell me what he'd gone through previously. I was wondering what it was like, getting to the Walls Unit, being so close to death.
This inmate was telling me about what stuck with him the most was how fast the time went. I was trying to get as much information from him as I could, to sort of prepare myself. I'm pretty sure it's impossible to be prepared. Just hearing about it, I  could feel panic coursing through me.
Here's what I learned:
At 1:30pm or so, you will be delivered to the Walls Unit. Upon arrival, they take you out of the van and take all of your chains and handcuffs off, but only after you tell them that you're not going to cause them any problems. So after all these years you'll finally be able to walk without your hands cuffed behind your back. Imagine that. The warden over there gives a rundown about how the remaining 4.5 hours of your life will look like.
You will go to a cell about 10 feet from the execution chamber. The door is like one of those bulkhead doors on a ship. There is a chaplain over there, Chaplain Collier, who is supposed to cater to your needs. You will get access to a telephone until around 3.
At 3, if you have a spiritual adviser, they'll go in an adjacent cell and they'll talk to you. If you choose to opt out of the spiritual adviser ordeal, you can stay on the phone instead. I imagine I'll probably want to stay on the phone.
At 4, they bring your final meal. It's nothing special, just what's in the kitchen commissary. I'll probably forgo the last meal. You can stay on the phone until 5pm and then it's prep time.
At 5, you sit in a room and prepare to die. You sit, you wait, you try not to hope, and you finally come to terms with what is about to happen to you- you're going to die and there's nothing you can do about it. Once they find out that your last minute appeals have been denied, they ask if you're going to walk. If not, what they'll do is pick you up, strap you to a board and carry you to the gurney. You will be secured by straps and will have a shunt in your vein hooked up to a saline solution IV.
At 6, Warden Jones will ask you about your last words. He says that if you become vulgar or spew profanities, he will push the button, this will signal to the executioner that he should start the execution. The first drug, he says, will paralyze me. He says he'll give the drug about 5 minutes to take hold. Then, the other drugs flow. The two others? They'll cause your lungs to collapse and your heart to explode. It will take about 9 minutes to die.
Please excuse me for a second while I vomit.
Once you're dead, your family will have a chance after 10 or so years, to finally hold you. You will never be able to feel it. I am not ready for this, but it will be happening in 78 days. It's maddening to be this powerless, unable to say anything or do anything about it. The utter feeling of helplessness we must cope with, silently... This is probably the worst part about these past 10 years spent in Polunsky.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Steven Woods is Scheduled to Die September 13 2011.

I was wrongfully convicted by the state of Texas for capital murder in 2002. Three months after I was convicted, the real murderer, Marcus Rhodes stood up in court and testified that he was the one who knowingly and intentionally killed both victims. He never once mentioned me. There is no physical evidence connecting me to the crime scene. Marcus' fingerprints were all over the murder weapons. Mine were not. The victims' backpacks were in Marcus' car, which was littered with bullet casings. Most, if not ALL of what the prosecution said about me was false. My family will be happy to confirm this. It makes no difference though. I am here to take blame for this crime, so that a rich, well-connected family would not have to deal with negative media and the burdens that come with death row. How convenient. Well, not really. Not for my family. The next time my mom will get to hug me or even hold my hand will be this September, after I'm dead. Funny how at some point I believed I was going to have a future. I somehow convinced myself that everyone would know that something just isn't right, and they'd act on it. So much for that.

I'm not sure when I lost all hope. Not that it matters. Either way, all I can ever do is sit around in confinement 23 hours a day, waiting to die, expecting it. Imagine waking up every day in a hot humid cell, knowing that you didn't do anything to find yourself there. Knowing that so many people know that they got the wrong person, but no one can be bothered to waste their time fighting for you. Knowing that you will be executed on September 13 2011, at the age of 31. It will be a Tuesday. At around 5:45 a man in a suit will come to get me. He'll have 6-8 large men with him in case I'm not willing to cooperate. We'll go about fifteen feet to another room. This one's centerpiece will be a kind of table, it will be the same table all my friends lied down on before they died. Each side of the table will have boards and heavy duty straps. They'll get me on this table and strap me in, and a man who isn't a doctor, but will be wearing a doctor's smock, will put a shunt in my vein. I'll be completely restrained, barely able to even move my head. Facing the table, there will be windows. The curtains will be pushed aside, so that some spectators can look at me die. On one side people are hoping for my painful death, the other completely devastated by what's about to happen. I will have a moment to make a kind of statement, never to talk again.

Time's up. Someone behind a window will push a button and poison will flow from a hose into the shunt in my vein; First an anesthetic, second something to shut my lungs down and third a sedative and enough barbiturates to explode my heart. I will suffer both cardiac arrest and suffocation. It just does not seem right. I've seen my friends go through it and it terrifies me. Even writing about it gives me a panic attack. Can you imagine it? What it would be like? The build up sitting in a cage for a decade, completely removed from the world without having any human contact what-so-ever? Living with the knowledge that whenever they decide it's your time they can simply shut you off? I hope you don't ever have to experience it. I'll take some kind of terminal illness over this hell anytime. Then at least there would be a reason or explanation for it...I just don't get it.

Steven Woods on Death Row


To write Steven personally:
Steven Woods #999427
Polunsky Unit
3872 FM 350 South
Livingston, TX 77351

[Thanks to our friends for spreading the word about Steven Woods!]

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Dear Reader

Dear reader,
It’s not only possible but likely that by the time you read this I will be a corpse.
If that is the case you now gaze upon the likeness of a man murdered by the state of Texas. As I pen this I wait for a panel of men to decide my fate, I've been sitting inside this cell for more than 7 years, waiting and I can feel the time passing me by. It is strange to think about what’s going to happen to me in the near future. My appeals are gone and despite the fact I've never murdered anyone I'm going to be strapped down and pumped full of poison.

I know I know go ahead roll your eyes... everyone innocent aren't they?
But I'll say it again I’ve never killed anyone but you don't have to kill anyone in the state of Texas I have come to learn.

I have trouble wrapping my head around the whole situation, about what's happening here. I mean.. I have a co-defendant, Marcus. Now I want you to listen to this and really think about it, seriously cause if I'm dead when you read this I lost... anyways... I was convicted of killing two people a friend of mine and his girlfriend. Marcus was arrested months before I was. I had been questioned, because I survived the murder but the police didn't arrest me after questioning.  I was arrested months later in California.

Despite that I went to trial before Marcus, even though all the forensics, all the evidence was tied to him. Marcus came from a well-to-do family and I came from nothing.
I was found guilty and sentenced to death without my attorneys even trying to help.
Marcus didn't have to go to trial.  3 months after I was sentenced he confessed to killing both victims, both Ron and Beth.
He was sentenced to life in prison. He never mentioned me in court.
Not once does he say anything about me, and then he confesses to a different murder, and given life for that one too, and here I am, waiting to die for a murder another man confessed to.
Waiting to die and there's nothing I can do about it.

Never in my wildest thoughts did I imagine I'd end up in a situation like this its like something out of a horror novel only the villain in my story is the state, and there is no hero who can come in and stop it. The law says its alright for them to come and kill me, because for some reason he decided to let me survive when he killed my friends in front of me.

I don't understand.
I don't understand how this can be happening and it terrifies me like you wouldn't believe that they can take this thing so precious, a life, my life, without any regard what so ever  and so clinically... 
I'll just go to sleep and never wake up I think that the manner of my death terrifies me almost as much as the fact of it.  Strapped down, unable to do nothing but watch, my family afraid crying on one side, a bunch of strangers gleeful and praying for my life to end on the other, all the years waiting for it to happen... I think it would be better if they just shot me in the head when I wasn't looking.

This process is so barbaric, and we call ourselves civilized.
How can a civilized people devise a whole legal process that allows them to torture and kill people?  Spend millions of dollars doing it? And for what?  I've never killed anyone, how does my death make the world a safer place?
How does even the guiltys death prevent crime?
Yet, while they are killing me, my co-defendant, who confessed to the murders, gets live.
Real murderers got to live.

It doesn't make any sense.

That my life is so being taken on the whim of a politician.
You see in all these movies, read in all these books, someone running from the most horrible thing that can happen to them.
You see them fight struggle to preserve their life.
Running, hiding.
We're shown all over the fear, the terror, of the knife, of the gun, of the man with the axe... how do I run from a politician with an agenda?
From a pen and a piece of paper? 
Where can I hide?

How can I fight back when all the power is taken from my hands, my life is put into some one's whose not paid enough to care?
Can you ever begin to imagine how this feels?
I have spent the last several years looking back over my life, so little of it I've had. I was locked up shortly after my 21st birthday. This is the first time I've ever been to prison and I suppose my last.

I have never really asked much out of life. All I've wanted was to live, to experience things as much as I could; to rest my fingertips on the pulse of the world and follow its beat wherever it leads me, maybe one day find its heart.

I have spent all my "adult years", from my late teens, living on the street, hitchhiking from here to there.  Looking back, I can't really say I have too many regrets, at least, not anything serious.
 Up until this deal here, I got to spend my life as I chose, and that's something a lot of people can't say.  Never once have I had to pay rent, have something tying me to a single place.
Of course, I missed a lot of things most people enjoy, but hey, oh well, right?
But now that's gone now, all that freedom, and I'm dying.

I wish I had the time and energy to tell you exactly what my life was, so that maybe someone would miss it when it's gone.
By the time you read this, hopefully I'll still be alive.
Its doubtful but stranger things have happened.
 But if I am gone, I want you to question it.
Question how an innocent man can be put to death while the murderer lives, is allow to live the people killing me. Believe me, I'm not the first I won't be the last.

But before you leave, look at my portrait here one last time, and ask why? How?

Love and Revolution
Steven Woods

Saturday, June 18, 2011

85 Days to Live: Challenging the Protocol

I was sitting here the other night, thinking about my situation, and my line of thinking lead me to ask myself a question: How is each dose of the execution drug properly determined and distributed to each inmate that is up for execution?
Do they just guess the correct dosage?

After a bit of thought, I spoke to my neighbor about it. He told me that it is a doctor who prescribes the dosage, which makes a lot more sense. After all, pentobarbital is a USA schedule 2 controlled substance. This means that it is not available over the counter and TDCJ must have a medical license to acquire it, and a state controlled substance prescription to distribute it. This got me wondering: is there there actually a medical doctor here that fills out a prescription for each condemned inmate in order to fulfill a death warrant? If so, something really needs to be done about that. I am no legal expert and I have no idea if this has ever been challenged in court, but it's my understanding that a medical doctor cannot actually prescribe a drug, knowing that the drug will be used to take a human life.

Remember Dr. Jack Kevorkian? He did time in jail for assisting in his patients deaths. At the very least, I'd say that my MD prescribing a lethal dosage of pentobarbital with the intent of killing a perfectly healthy human, should have his license suspended or revoked.
I may be completely off base with this, seeing as I don't have a clear idea as to how this system works. You see, Texas has taken great pains to shroud it all in secrecy.. But I just don't see how TDCJ can administer a controlled substance without a prescription from a care provider. If a death row inmate feels anxious and needs to take just one benziodiazepine pill (another controlled substance) a prescription is ALWAYS needed.  So someone's signature is on a prescription pad for lethal drugs and I think we should find out who it is. We should also see if this is being done with their knowledge and recommendation or not. If a medical professional is knowingly using their DEA number to hand out lethal drugs, they are acting against the basic oaths & ethics of the medical profession and this individual should be reported. (more info here) If not, something very illegal is going on and legal action must be taken.

If there is a doctor that does in fact prescribe inmates these drug dosages and he has written out a prescription for pentobarbital under MY name, it is my American right to see my own medical records and see whose name is on that prescription.

Now, If I am wrong (and I very well could be) I would like to know how the state has the power to prescribe a fatal dose of a controlled substance without a prescription?
If I had a computer, or even a phone, I would be researching this. Unfortunately, I cannot access either of these devices and have to ask you, the readers, to PLEASE look into the matter at hand.

I know, I know, you probably think I keep grasping at the straws here and you might just think it's hopeless.. but in the next 90 days, Texas will be killing 8 more men with the help of a physician's signature on a pad of paper. It's a matter of life and death. So before you click on the little "x" on the top of this window, please take these 8 healthy beating hearts into consideration. Take 8 mothers into consideration and take the families who have witnessed their loved ones die in front of them into consideration and please, please help us all find some answers.
Something's got to give here. There has got to be something we can do here, this just doesn't add up and it's beyond disturbing.
After 10 years alone in a tiny cement cage, all I can do about this now is write you these letters, hoping someone on the reading end will not overlook them. Hoping that you can fathom how hard it is knowing that even though I've never killed a soul, no one cares enough about my innocence to prevent me from being put down like a rabid dog.

I'm still heartsick. I try and try to have hope that somehow, some way, I will survive this.... But with every passing day, hope wanes. Being on deathwatch & witnessing other men go die has really shown me how serious my situation is. I don't think I ever really believed that this would happen to me. I mean, I knew I was on death row, sure, but in the back of my mind I was always convincing myself that there is NO WAY that the state of Texas would just kill me for a crime everyone knows I didn't commit.  I always assumed that this is all some sort of mistake and that they'll finally realize it and let me out of here alive.
Ha. Joke's on me.

It's difficult to come to terms with the fact that barring a last minute miracle, I am really about to die. I honestly don't even understand why I'm about to die; I never killed anyone, and I never knew that Marcus was going to. I still wonder if Marcus had intended on killing me too that night. I was so grateful to have gotten out of the situation alive after he killed my friend and pointed the gun at me. Little did I know, there wasn't a whole lot to be grateful for.. Ten years later and it looks like despite letting me live that night, Marcus is just going to end up killing me anyway.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

89 Days to Live

We have another execution here this evening.
I can't say we were best friends, but I've spoken to him every day since I've been on death watch. He was walked off the section not too long ago. They just came and picked up his property. He's never coming back. I don't even know how to come to terms with that. I haven't really paid enough attention to all the executions in the ten years I've been here, but now I have to deal with them all up close. I can't even begin to describe what I'm feeling. We're all human beings, yet they just took this man out to slaughter him like he's nothing. As far as they're concerned, he's been dead since he got here. They had a chaplain come out to keep him passive, watching the property officer roll a couple of bags of what consists of the life he lived for more
than a decade. It was heart breaking.
This is surreal. The guards are all walking around, life is normal.
The fact that a man they've been guarding for a decade is likely going to be killed in a few hours doesn't even slow them down.
The whole wing over here is silent. Occasionally you here someone call out "You hear anything?? Did the courts turn down his last appeal?" or, "Turn it to the Eagle! They're talking about it him" followed by more eerie silence. It's too early anyway, and we won't know anything until later. Suddenly these men, who you all assume are monsters, show a supportive, sympathetic side. They show far more compassion than any of the guards. The rest of the pod I live on, all the inmates are just living what's left of their lives, oblivious, just like I have been for the past 10 years. For 10 years, my life have been consistently filled with death. I used to bury my head in the sand, thankful that the executioner passed me by. Ignore it, ignore it, ignore it and it won't touch you... but it's hard to ignore it, when the man is standing in front of you, telling you he is all alone and has no one coming up here to visit him on his last days.
It's hard to ignore it, when he walks off the wing, knowing where is going, knowing what's going to happen to him.
It's hard to ignore it when they wheel out all of his belongings, probably just to throw them all away.
It's hard to ignore it when you have to look it in the face every time it happens..
... and it's harder to ignore it when you too, have an execution date.
I wish the people could see the way we're forced to. I can understand why so few people out there actually care about what's really going on in here; you don't have to face it every morning, every afternoon, every time you close your eyes at night. You don't hear our voices, look into our eyes. I'm hoping I can make this a little less impersonal for you.
In two hours, this man will be dead. He got a 30 second blurb on the evening news. It's upsetting how a mans whole life has just been reduced to two small bags of property and 30 seconds of acknowledgment. He should be eating his last meal right about now.
There's a chaplain running around the wing, trying to act supportive. I can't say I'm too fond of these Chaplains; they're only here to pacify us so that we go meekly to the slaughter. It's not very ethical, if you ask me, for a minister to assist the state in murder.
I can't help but wonder what's going through this man's head right
now. He wasn't handling the situation very well. I imagine the whole process is nerve wracking, sitting ten feet from the death Chamber, wondering what's going on with his appeals. Its got to be hell. If he's one of  "the lucky ones", he will get a stay. He may also get a temporary stay that could be followed by another execution date, only to go through the same morbid, agonizing pre-death ritual again, the moment the stay is lifted.
There's another painful side to these temporary stays: have you thought about the executed men's families?
Picture this: You're traveling out to Texas to part with your son, father, brother or spouse. You say farewell through a thick layer of plexiglas, acknowledging that this is the very last time that you will see your loved one breathing. Just like in any other death row visit, you can't even hold their hand, no matter how bad you want to. You will only be able to hug them when they're dead and TDCJ releases you their body. If you're "lucky", their body will still be warm. Now, imagine having to go through the parting process on several different occasions. There are men here that have received 2 or more stays, only to end up with another execution date. Every time this happens, these mens' families have to pay to venture out, make funeral arrangements, suffer, grieve and say their goodbyes. If you ask me, putting people through this is torture and It fits the criteria for cruel and unusual punishment, since so many innocent people end up hurt.
The reason these temporary stays repeatedly occur is because a panel of judges, at the very last minute, realizes that there's actually a good chance that Texas may just be executing yet another innocent man. You would assume that whoever made the hasty decision to execute a man without looking at all the facts would pay for their inattentiveness. Unfortunately, this is not the case. The only people that end up terribly wounded in this long, torturous process are the inmates and their dedicated friends and families. Bear in mind that due to the Texas Law of Parties, you don't actually have to murder anyone to get the death sentence.

Knowing this, along with the fact that Texas HAS executed innocent men in the past, please tell me, how would you feel if this happened to
someone you love?

Friday, June 10, 2011


"Today is my last Friday."

That was my friend Lee's response to my "Good morning".

He's in the day room. I didn't even know how to respond to that. I don't even want to think about it. From here on, it will be his last this, last that. Soon as he said that, I started feeling a tightness in my chest. I started getting shaky. I'll be going through what he's going through in 3 months. The time's been going by so fast. I can't imagine how fast it's going for Lee. It seems like I wake up, and the day is over before I know it. I don't want to sleep. I don't want to miss out on even a second of life.

"I'll get enough sleep in 92 days...."

"I'll sleep when I'm dead....."

At least we can joke about it. He looks so worn down. We've been through a lot together.  "This is my last Friday,".... I mean, fuck man. In less than a week they're going to kill my friend and there is nothing I can do to stop it. I keep wracking my brain to come up with something that could get him a stay.. I have an issue for him but he'd have to file his last minute appeal by Tuesday and there's just not enough time. It's so fucking sick that a man with less than one week to live can't get on the phone with his attorney in a last minute effort to save his life.