HRLR
Los Tocayos Carlos
Chapter 16
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When Carlos finished his family phone calls, it was almost 10:00 p.m. The time set for the execution was a little over two hours away. It was at this point that Pickett explained to the inmate exactly what would happen as they strapped him into the gurney and prepared his veins to receive the injections.168 "Now, I want you to follow me in there," Pickett would tell them. "And don't fight. Because I'll have some guys with me. You'll be two feet behind me and just follow me."169

It was in those final two hours, Pickett said, that the inmates often became eager to confess their crimes to him, even crimes for which they had never even been convicted.170 Curious to know whether inmates were embroidering their records for his sake, Pickett said he checked out some of the things he heard with friends in law enforcement. "They were true," he said. "There was a lot of confession. At ten o'clock to midnight is a very traumatic situation."171

Pickett didn't leave anything up to chance, however. He spent the whole day preparing each inmate for this moment, gaining the inmate's trust, promising that he himself would tell the truth about anything the inmate asked, no matter what.172 He did this repeatedly with Carlos.173 Then he would calmly and in detail explain the procedures the executioners would use to inject three drugs into his veins to kill him, and the violence the guards would have to use if he resisted. Again, he would invite as many questions as the inmate had, promising to answer each honestly and in detail, which he would do.

Finally, Reverend Pickett would ask the guards to leave, to give him complete privacy with the inmate, and he would invite the prisoner to do just what he had been talking about doing, and doing himself, all day: tell the truth. "It was our program, our philosophy," Pickett explained, "that I will ask questions and guide [the inmate] and talk to him. Whatever he wanted to confess to or talk about, that was fine."174

As a final step in the program, Pickett would ask a set of questions he carefully tailored to each inmate.175 In Carlos DeLuna's case, Pickett had repeatedly talked to Carlos about Kathy Fair's November 30 article in the Chronicle and the account it gave of the killing of Wanda Lopez and Carlos's arrest.176 Using that account, Pickett worked out two simple questions to ask DeLuna, one about the arrest—which Carlos would surely recollect—and one about a detail of the crime that only the killer would know.177

"So, I explained all this to Carlos," Pickett told the investigators, at the point in his narrative where he had just taken DeLuna through the steps that would be used to execute him.178 Then the chaplain put the question directly to Carlos. Did he want to tell the truth? "I did them all that way," Pickett explained.179

Carlos said he did.180

"Go ahead," Pickett said. "I want to know the whole story."181

Carlos told him first what was at the front of his mind and had been all day. He was scared. He was "not so afraid of dying," Pickett said, but of "how, and what's going to happen after that."182 Mainly, Carlos wanted to know what it would feel like. Would it hurt?183

Pickett explained the process to Carlos again, letting him ask questions and answering as honestly as he could. "[It]'s going to take . . . nine to twelve seconds for that first medication to go to work. And you'll be totally asleep, you won't feel another thing."184 He promised Carlos that, apart from two pin pricks when they put the needles in each of his arm, the process would be painless. Carlos asked him, "Will you be with me, daddy?" Pickett assured him, "I'll be right with you."185

Pickett then sent the guards away so he and Carlos could talk privately.186 "Carlos wanted to talk about" the crime, Pickett recalled. The Reverend was ready himself with "those two issues"—the questions he'd formulated for Carlos using the Chronicle article.

Transcribed Videotape Interview with Carroll Pickett, Texas Death House Chaplain, in Huntsville, Texas (Feb. 26, 2005) at 22:03:50–22:07:39:

It was our program, our philosophy, that I will ask questions and guide [the inmate] and talk to him. Whatever he wanted to confess to or talk about, that was fine. We'll talk about anything in the world . . . . The most vivid and most remembering part about executions begins after ten o'clock at night. Because at ten o'clock at night, I would move the guards out of the way, and I would explain to them [the condemned inmates] exactly, in detail, what was going to take place. From what was going to happen, what telephone they would hear. You hear two telephone rings. And it's a traumatic process. I would explain to them how many straps would be put down. How, at 12 o'clock, I would wait till I got a call from the governor or a call from the attorney general. I would say, "It's time. Now, I want you to follow me in there. And don't fight. Because I'll have some guys with me. You'll be two feet behind me and just follow me." So I explained all this to Carlos.

Transcribed Videotape Interview with Carroll Pickett, Texas Death House Chaplain, in Huntsville, Texas (Feb. 26, 2005) at 22:03:50–22:07:39.

Transcribed Videotape Interview with Carroll Pickett, Texas Death House Chaplain, in Huntsville, Texas (Feb. 26, 2005) at 22:05:50–22:07:39 ("So I explained it all to him. And then [Carlos DeLuna] said, 'Can we talk privately?' So we began to talk privately. And many of the convicts, between 10:15 and midnight, confessed to a lot of things for which they were not convicted. I began in the beginning saying some of them are just bragging. I began to check them out with friends of mine, without telling them. They were true. There was a lot of confession. At ten o'clock to midnight is a very traumatic situation.").

See generally Carlton Stowers, Final Passages: The Reverend Carroll Pickett Leaves a Grim 15-Year Legacy of Very Personal Ministry, Houst. Press, Nov. 2, 2000, available at http://www.houstonpress.com/2000-11-02/news/final-passages/:

For 15 years it was Pickett's job to help strangers—men with evil histories of unspeakable violence and lost hope—through the final hours of their lives. He would talk with them, sing with them and grant their wishes, however trivial, if within reason. They would pray together and read from the Bible. Often they would speak of the grim circumstances that led to their final meeting.

The inmates were men convicted of capital crimes, waiting to receive lethal injections ordered by the state of Texas. Pickett was the prison chaplain, there to serve as their final confidant, the last friendly face they would ever see.

On one occasion, an inmate's tearful description of the unspeakably torturous crime he had committed was so graphic that a nearby prison guard became sick to his stomach . . . .

During those final hours after all appeals had been exhausted, Pickett says, often a stark degree of honesty would haunt him for days: details of murders committed, confessions to additional crimes for which the inmates had never been convicted, tales of troubled lives that set their course to death row. "They were talking from somewhere deep inside, from years of carrying around the knowledge of crime and sin and immorality. They were heavy burdens most of us can't begin to imagine . . . ."

In the final hours before he was executed, [one inmate] admitted to the chaplain that Ignacio Cuevas was not even his real name. Instead, it was the name he had taken from a man he'd killed years earlier.

Transcribed Videotape Interview with Carroll Pickett, Texas Death House Chaplain, in Huntsville, Texas (Feb. 26, 2005) at 22:05:50–22:07:39.

Transcribed Videotape Interview with Carroll Pickett, Texas Death House Chaplain, in Huntsville, Texas (Feb. 26, 2005) at 21:45:38–21:47:35:

My responsibility, according to the warden, was to be there in the death house, which is in the northeast corner of the unit, which is only about 50 feet from the house where I lived. My responsibility was to be there when he walked in. I was to be the face that he [the condemned prisoner] saw outside the guards. That was important. Because every inmate distrusts guards. They have to. They're taught that. They're abused by them. Not all guards are abusive, but some are. So it was my responsibility to be there. His charge to me was, and these are his words, "to seduce their emotions so they won't fight getting out of the cell or getting up on the table." And that was primarily what I was supposed to do. I could be a pastor to them, I could be a minister to them, I could work with them whatever their religious presence was. But he told every one of them, the first warden did, and all the other ones that followed him that I worked with, which was about six. They would tell them, "I suggest you talk to him because he's a good counselor. If you don't want to talk about religion, that's fine. But whatever you do, just talk to him." And all but one of those ninety-five talked to me. Of course there were fifty or sixty more that came in and got stays. But as far as going to the table, I did that ninety-five times.

Transcribed Videotape Interview with Carroll Pickett, Texas Death House Chaplain, in Huntsville, Texas (Feb. 26, 2005) at 22:03:50–22:07:39:

It was our program, our philosophy, that I will ask questions and guide him [the inmate] and talk to him. Whatever he wanted to confess to or talk about, that was fine. We'll talk about anything in the world. But I had those two things on my mind [when he talked to Carlos DeLuna] and I had that article [by Kathy Fair in the Houston Chronicle]. I had that article in my file. He brought that article up three times during the day. We discussed that article. The most vivid and most remembering part about executions begins after ten o'clock at night. Because at ten o'clock at night, I would move the guards out of the way, and I would explain to them [the condemned inmates] exactly, in detail, what was going to take place. From what was going to happen, what telephone they would hear. You hear two telephone rings. And it's a traumatic process. I would explain to them how many straps would be put down. How, at 12 o'clock, I would wait till I got a call from the governor or a call from the attorney general. I would say, "It's time. Now, I want you to follow me in there. And don't fight. Because I'll have some guys with me. You'll be two feet behind me and just follow me." So I explained all this to Carlos. He told me, he said, "I'm not [going to fight]"—And I asked him, did he want me to tell him the truth. He said, "Sure." I did them all that way. . . .

See supra notes 96–98, 105, 170–77 and accompanying text.

Transcribed Videotape Interview with Carroll Pickett, Texas Death House Chaplain, in Huntsville, Texas (Feb. 26, 2005) at 21:45:38–22:05:50.

Transcribed Videotape Interview with Carroll Pickett, Texas Death House Chaplain, in Huntsville, Texas (Feb. 26, 2005) at 21:45:38, 22:03:50–22:10:44:

It was our program, our philosophy, that I will ask questions and guide him [the inmate] and talk to him. Whatever he wanted to confess to or talk about, that was fine. We'll talk about anything in the world. But I had those two things on my mind [when he talked to Carlos DeLuna] and I had that article [by Kathy Fair in the Houston Chronicle]. I had that article in my file. He brought that article up three times during the day. We discussed that article. The most vivid and most remembering part about executions begins after ten o'clock at night. Because at ten o'clock at night, I would move the guards out of the way, and I would explain to them [the condemned inmates] exactly, in detail, what was going to take place. From what was going to happen, what telephone they would hear. You hear two telephone rings. And it's a traumatic process. I would explain to them how many straps would be put down. How, at 12 o'clock, I would wait till I got a call from the governor or a call from the attorney general. I would say, "It's time. Now, I want you to follow me in there. And don't fight. Because I'll have some guys with me. You'll be two feet behind me and just follow me." So I explained all this to Carlos. He told me, he said, "I'm not [going to fight]"—And I asked him, did he want me to tell him the truth. He said, "Sure." I did them all that way. . . . "Go ahead, I want to know the whole story." He said, "I'm not so much afraid of dying, it's how, and what's going to happen after that." So I explained it all to him. And then he said, "Can we talk privately?" So we began to talk privately. And many of the convicts, between 10:15 and midnight, confessed to a lot of things for which they were not convicted. I began in the beginning saying some of them are just bragging. I began to check them out with friends of mine, without telling them. They were true. There was a lot of confession. At ten o'clock to midnight is a very traumatic situation. I went to my doctor, and he told me, "One of these days you're going to pay for all this, because you're taking in a lot of stuff you can't get out." And he was a cardiologist in Victoria. And I may be, right now, in that position at this very minute [given heart trouble Pickett was suffering at the time of the interview]. But Carlos wanted to talk about it, and we discussed those two issues: Why did you let her talk on the phone? And why did you stay on the truck? And he said, "I didn't do it." That's as clear as a bell to me. . . . And I believed him.

Transcribed Videotape Interview with Carroll Pickett, Texas Death House Chaplain, in Huntsville, Texas (Feb. 26, 2005) at 21:45:38, 22:03:50–22:10:44.

Transcribed Videotape Interview with Carroll Pickett, Texas Death House Chaplain, in Huntsville, Texas (Feb. 26, 2005) at 21:45:38, 22:03:50–22:10:44.

Transcribed Videotape Interview with Carroll Pickett, Texas Death House Chaplain, in Huntsville, Texas (Feb. 26, 2005) at 21:45:38, 22:03:50–22:10:44.

Transcribed Videotape Interview with Carroll Pickett, Texas Death House Chaplain, in Huntsville, Texas (Feb. 26, 2005) at 21:45:38, 22:03:50–22:10:44.

Transcribed Videotape Interview with Carroll Pickett, Texas Death House Chaplain, in Huntsville, Texas (Feb. 26, 2005) at 22:05:50.

Transcribed Videotape Interview with Carroll Pickett, Texas Death House Chaplain, in Huntsville, Texas (Feb. 26, 2005) at 22:05:50.

Transcribed Videotape Interview with Carroll Pickett, Texas Death House Chaplain, in Huntsville, Texas (Feb. 26, 2005) at 22:05:50;

see Kathy Fair, Executed Murderer Asks Forgiveness, Chaplain Says, Hous. Chron., Dec. 8, 1989, at 1 ("'He was very much afraid,' Pickett said. 'He was not afraid of dying; he was afraid of the unknown.'").

Transcribed Videotape Interview with Carroll Pickett, Texas Death House Chaplain in Huntsville, Texas (Feb. 26, 2005) at 22:26:53–22:28:55:

Telephone rang at midnight. All the guards stayed away from the cell. He [Carlos DeLuna] didn't want to talk to anybody but me. And we had made that last telephone call—We'd made calls that night. His family visited in the daytime, and then I went over to the hospitality house to visit them, and they decided they . . . didn't want to witness [the execution]. And he wanted to talk to me about it, and to tell them goodbye, and the family wanted to tell him goodbye. And we worked out a deal over at the hospitality house. Bob Norris was super. That house wasn't built for that purpose but we turned it into that. But he called. I got permission for him to call. The warden always—he never asked me why he wanted to do all these things. So he made that call to his family, and called to the one sister who couldn't come, and called . . . [TV reporter Karen Boudrie] in—I think it's Cincinnati, Ohio, somewhere up there, I may have to look it up. And then after that it was all just me and him. He just wanted to talk. We'd talk about anything. He would ask me a question about what it's going to feel like, and I told him. I told him it's going to take—To my knowledge, it will take nine to twelve seconds for that first medication to go to work. And you'll be totally asleep, you won't feel another thing. And he said, "Will you be with me, daddy?" I said, "I'll be with right with you." He said, "Will you hold my hand?" I told him before we got in there, "There are only certain times I can hold your hand, only certain times." This was the only inmate—all of them asked me to maintain contact, or wipe their brow, or don't let anybody see sweat, things like that. But Carlos wanted me to hold his hand.

See supra note 183.

See supra note 183.

See supra notes 172, 175, 183.

Chapter 16
Page: 10 of 16