blogadmin | 03 February, 2009 14:35
By Myriam Stubbe
On the 22nd of January I witnessed the legal murder of Reginald W. Perkins.
I know it sounds surreal because an execution cannot be a part of my life. That awful deed cannot take place in a civilized country, can it ?
On the morning of January 22nd, we shared our very last visit.
Reggie was maybe a little bit more tired, maybe he had not that hearty appetite he had always, maybe there were more silences than usual, but words were not so much needed. There’s a time for words and a time for silence.
That morning was a time for silent connection most of the time. Maybe also I was trying to grasp each minute for memory … maybe, maybe.
Still Reggie was as he was always, kind, smiling and worrying for me.
How should I face the end of the day? He was not really believing me when I said that I would be okay. I was crying, drops of rain.
Eleven fifty-five a.m. came too early, so much too early. The escort didn’t really give me the time to say “see your later”. I was quickly escorted to the parking. I didn’t say a word but tears were streaming down my cheeks.
My friend Sylvia was awaiting me, and we drove together to Huntsville to the Hospitality House where we had to await till 5:00 p.m.
I knew Reggie would call there.
He called at 2:00 p.m. We talked a little, and he said that he had to call his family and would call me back before 5:00 p.m.
The four chaplains explained very precisely the procedure. It was like a bad dream but I knew it had to be done. There’s no place for wavering in what I was going to live through. It would have opened the door to a breakdown. They were helpful and compassionate.
At 4:25 p.m., Reggie was on the phone and we talked for about 25 minutes. Sometimes Sylvia took the phone but it was only for a very little time.
Reggie had tried to phone his family in Texas, but all he got were voicemail recordings. None of them gave him the favor of a last word, the little bit of love he needed so much. Was it too hard for them? Were their hearts that full of rejection? How could I know? The only thing I know is that he was deeply hurt. Luckily he could talk to his two daughters in Ohio. At least he could hear the voices of family members on the very last day of his life.
At 4:50 p.m. time was up and we said a very quick “bye bye” knowing that the next time we should meet he would be in the shameful death chamber and in the hands of the executioner.
Sylvia and I left for the TDCJ building at the front of the Walls, on the other side of the street. We were searched and immediately after the search we met one of the chaplains. He told us that Reggie didn’t want to die but was ready to die and that he was in peace.
At 5:00 Reggie had again claimed his innocence to a reporter of the Associated Press.
Anyone looking in Reggie’s eyes when he said his innocence knew that he was not lying. Looking in his eyes, hearing his baritone voice claiming his innocence and still thinking he was guilty would have been blasphemous. I know it deep in my heart.
At 6:05 the guard came to escort us to the witnesses’ room. II knew at that time that there was no more hope and that I would have to shake my head making a “no,” because Reggie wanted to know the reality of his fate only by me.
I don’t remember if the weather was nice or not, if the birds were singing or not… those funny birds that are always flying joyfully in the sky above the room where men murder another man ….
I remember that I walked like a robot, or was I told that later?
For nothing in the world would I have made a spectacle of myself in front of the inscrutable faces of the TDCJ officers. We entered the building and had again to wait in an office. I had lost track of the time but had in the same time a kind of clock ticking in each pore of my skin. That awful, horrible clock that comes at the worst times of our lives to tell us, “It’s over.”
Two reporters were there … speaking about nothing and everything ... like they were in a tea-room … Blasé young people ?
They said we had to go. We went in a very small garden and on the left side at the end of the wall was a door, We entered.
It was so small! The death chamber was so small as well. Reggie was on the gurney.
When he saw us, he had one of those radiant smiles that belonged only to him. “Hey there!”
I ran to the window, put my hands on it and smiled to him the same way … just as if I had forgotten “where” we were and “what” they were doing. We just were smiling to each other in a brief flash of time … Life was still there.
He, who never wanted to wear his glasses, was lying on the gurney with his glasses , and I suddenly remembered that in the morning I had told him how much he was good looking (like a professor) with his glasses.
Reggie turned his head to the victim’s witnesses. He had already said his last statement one hour before and was not ready to really speak anymore, but he looked at them and I heard him saying ,“Hey, you over there, Love you”…There was no more smile in his eyes … I read in his eyes, “You wanted me here, you have me here and I am not guilty. Why did you do that to me?” Then he looked again to Sylvia and me and spoke his love, “Girl, love you, take care."
He closed his eyes and we heard three groans … I was crying, tears running on my cheeks, whispering “please go away very quickly, please go away very quickly, please do not suffer !”
Silence was now so heavy … I knew life had faded.
The doctor came and said “06.24 !” and my own heart stopped beating for a few seconds.
We left, it was so astounding to see that the buildings were still there, also the trees … Everything seemed to still be the same.
Was it twilight ? I can’t remember, maybe it was ... Anyway twilight was in me …
But it was not the “same” because I will never be the same anymore even if my faith in the human being’s perfectability is still alive.
Texas again had murdered a man in the name of its citizens, in the name of the world’s citizens … Texas again was unworthy to be called “civilized”… Nothing had changed except me.
Killing Reggie, they had killed something in me as well, in Sylvia, in Bonnie, in each and every friend he had. I felt empty, I felt “amputated.” There are no words to say the hurt, the anger, the revolt.
We went back to the Hospitality House where they gave me his properties and we drove, Sylvia and I, to Huntsville Funeral Home. Everything was closed even though they knew we were coming. Reggie was in the chapel; we could see him through the window of the door.
Reggie had always been very funny and he made jokes of everything ... Between my tears I saw Sylvia knocking on the door saying, “Come on Reggie, let them know we are here.”
It took such a long time before someone came and opened the door. For the first time we could hug him … I still don’t know how I could walk, speak or even breathe.
The day after, I could spend the whole morning with Reggie at the Brooke funeral home where everything had been done to help and comfort me.
Did I say good bye to Reggie? I will never! Nobody who has known Reggie can say good bye to him … "Till later,” Big Daddy.
On the 28th of January a letter came to me. He had written it very early in the morning of his execution’s day.
He asked me to please not grieve because they just killed his body but never his spirit, that I had to be very strong and never let what happened to get the best of me. That on the contrary I had to continue the fight to clear his name and to fight for abolition and to live life at the fullest because life is God’s gift.
Texas murdered a good person. It seems that a member of his family said after the execution that she had awaited for that for 8 years and was proud to live in a state where “justice is served”… Which justice? Retaliation? Hate? Legal lynching? It seems that there’s still a tremendous amount of work to be done.
The atheist I am wonders …. how come in a Christian state people are so bloodthirsty? How come I have found sometimes more compassion in atheists’ hearts than in some believers’ hearts? How come a human being can wish another human being to be executed ? How come an aunt can speak like that? How come? How come? I will never understand, and when they add to their words of hate the name of Jesus, I am ashamed for all the true Christians I know, respect and love.
Today, I cannot help myself to see him always dying on that gurney. Today I fear to go to bed because I know that I won’t sleep and if I do it will be with nightmares. Today I know that I will never stop the fight.
R I P Reggie … till later, Big Daddy.
Elizabeth Ann Stein produces EXECUTION WATCH on KPFT FM Houston 90.1, HD-2 and www.executionwatch.org. The program, hosted by Ray Hill, airs at 6 p.m. Central Time any day Texas executes someone. It is designed to counteract the virtual news blackout in the mainstream media when prisoners are executed. She has worked as a political reporter for United Press International, police reporter at a daily newspaper, and an editor for PC Week.