HRLR
Los Tocayos Carlos
Chapter 16
Page: 14 of 16
Text: A | A | A
All Chapter 16 Footnotes

The warden took off his glasses—his signal to the executioners to start the process of dripping the three chemicals into Carlos's veins—and then he focused his eyes on his watch.251

The first drug, Pentothal, was supposed to put Carlos to sleep in seven to twelve seconds. The second, Pavulon, would start to flow after twenty-four seconds and would paralyze him, so that he couldn't breathe. The third, potassium chloride, would stop his heart.252

Pickett had promised Carlos that he would be asleep within twelve seconds. But after the twelve-second mark passed, Carlos raised his head and fixed his brown eyes on Pickett again.253 That scared Pickett. "I knew the time had passed. The other guys had gone to sleep. They'd given their cough or whatever it was. And I wonder, to this day, what was he thinking," Pickett said, and what he was feeling.254

If the first drug failed—and Pickett was sure it did, at least at first—then Carlos would be awake when the second drug started suffocating him. He also would feel a torturous burning when the third drug entered his veins. But the paralysis from the second drug would prevent him from showing any distress. Carlos would be tortured to death, but only he would know it.255

Ten seconds later, over twenty seconds into the execution, Carlos raised his head again.256 Pickett was frantic, though he kept himself stock-still so none of the observers would be alarmed. "Nobody had ever done this," Pickett explained, "Those big, brown eyes were wide open. Here I am, five inches from his knee, five feet from his face, and he's looking straight at me. . . . And I don't know what the question was in his brain. I don't know what he was thinking. If I wanted to be paranoid, I could say he was thinking, 'You lied to me.'"257

After the twenty-four second mark, the paralytic drug flowed into the tubes. Carlos closed his eyes and didn't raise his head again.258 The whole process was supposed to take six minutes.259 Carlos was not pronounced dead until ten minutes had passed.260 The extra minutes were excruciating for Pickett.261 No one will ever know what they were like for Carlos DeLuna.

* * * * *

DeLuna's execution haunted Pickett. He was unable to sleep for the next five nights running.262 For the first and last time, he had to seek counseling.263 "That's when I started thinking," he told the private investigators, "We are killing innocent people. We are killing children. We are killing [the] mentally retarded."264

* * * * *

The day after the execution, the Associated Press summarized the intersecting tragedies of Wanda Jean Lopez and Carlos DeLuna in two sentences early in its short article:

The lethal injection began at 12:14 A.M. [Carlos DeLuna] had insisted all along that he was not responsible for the death of Wanda Jean Lopez, 24, whose final words of terror on Feb. 4, 1983 were captured on a police emergency dispatcher's tape recording.265

Transcribed Videotape Interview with Carroll Pickett, Texas Death House Chaplain, in Huntsville, Texas (Feb. 26, 2005) at 22:35:15–22:39:30:

He loved his family very much. He was sorry that he'd ended up like this. But we had been talking all day about how his life had not been a good life. He'd messed with the wrong crowd, moved with the wrong people at the wrong time. And then he told these guys out on Death Row to hang in there. And then he looked up at me, and he had these big old brown eyes. I'll never forget those brown eyes. I can dream about those brown eyes. So, since I had not told the warden what his last words were going to be, I nodded to the warden that that was it. His sign for the executioners—there was a two-way mirror there, behind the mirror—was to take off his glasses. The warden's responsibility was—that meant start the sodium tri-pentathol. Then he looked at his watch. All he did was watch his watch. I watched the inmate; the inmate was mine. The legal stuff was his. . . . But I was squeezing his leg, and holding him. I saw the fluid change in the drop, the sodium tri-pentathol started. I had told him, it's going to be nine seconds and you'll be asleep. Well, about ten, fifteen seconds, he raised up his head. Our heads aren't strapped down in Texas. And he looked at me, and it really hurt me, because I knew the time had passed. The other guys had gone to sleep. They'd given their cough or whatever it was. And I wonder, to this day, what was he thinking? And then about another ten seconds passed, and he raised his head again. Nobody had ever done this. Those big, brown eyes were wide open. Here I am, five inches from his knee, five feet from his face, and he's looking straight at me. And I don't know what the question was in his brain. I don't know what he was thinking. If I wanted to be paranoid, I could say he was thinking, "You lied to me," but he was not that type of person. In a way, he was telling me, "I'm innocent. I didn't do this." So I could imagine a million things. And he lay back down. And I saw the bubble come at twenty-four seconds. Then the tubocurare started, and that's what froze his muscles. And his eyes closed. We waited. Then I saw the next bubble come, and it was the potassium which froze his heart. And he was pronounced dead ten minutes after the first drug. They used to keep records, and they tried to beat [i.e., complete the entire procedure and induce death within] six minutes. His was ten minutes. And that's what hurt me.

See Kathy Fair, Murderer DeLuna Is Put to Death, Hous. Chron., Dec. 7, 1989 at 33A (noting that DeLuna repeatedly lifted his head from the gurney to look at Pickett).

See, e.g., Baze v. Rees, 553 U.S. 35, 44 (2008):

The first drug, sodium thiopental (also known as Pentothal), is a fast-acting barbiturate sedative that induces a deep, comalike unconsciousness when given in the amounts used for lethal injection. The second drug, pancuronium bromide (also known as Pavulon), is a paralytic agent that inhibits all muscular-skeletal movements and, by paralyzing the diaphragm, stops respiration. Potassium chloride, the third drug, interferes with the electrical signals that stimulate the contractions of the heart, inducing cardiac arrest. The proper administration of the first drug ensures that the prisoner does not experience any pain associated with the paralysis and cardiac arrest caused by the second and third drugs.

Rev. Carroll Pickett with Carlton Stowers, Within These Walls: Memoirs of a Death House Chaplain 57–58 (2002) ("If all went according to plan . . . [t]he first drug would sedate the inmate, the second would relax his muscles, then collapse the diaphragm and lungs, and the third would stop his heart from beating . . . . The entire process would last no more than a few minutes."); see also Susan Montez's Notes on Interview with Carroll Pickett, Texas Death House Chaplain (July 17, 2004):

Reverend Pickett then explained to me about the drugs used in executing prisoners in Texas. The first drug administered was sodium pentothal, which is supposed to put the prisoner to sleep within 7 to 12 seconds. Looking at the tube, you knew the sodium pentothal was on the way when you saw the first bubble. When you saw the second bubble, the second drug was on its way. This was pabulon [sic—Pavulon], which froze the muscles. It has been banned by the American Veterinary Association because it is harmful and painful to animals. The third drug administered was potassium chloride, which froze the heart. All prisoners got the same dosage, regardless of their size and weight. Each dose cost the state $70.10. Reverend Pickett said that usually, after the sodium pentothal was administered, the pulse would stop right away. It was different with Carlos. His pulse did not stop and he did not go to sleep.

See supra note 251.

Transcribed Videotape Interview with Carroll Pickett, Texas Death House Chaplain, in Huntsville, Texas (Feb. 26, 2005) at 22:35:15–22:39:30:

And I wonder, to this day, what was he [Carlos DeLuna] thinking [when he raised his head and looked at Pickett]? And then about another ten seconds passed, and he raised his head again. Nobody had ever done this. Those big, brown eyes were wide open. Here I am, five inches from his knee, five feet from his face, and he's looking straight at me. And I don't know what the question was in his brain. I don't know what he was thinking. If I wanted to be paranoid, I could say he was thinking, "You lied to me," but he was not that type of person. In a way, he was telling me, "I'm innocent. I didn't do this." So I could imagine a million things. And he lay back down. And I saw the bubble come at twenty-four seconds. Then the tubocurare started, and that's what froze his muscles. And his eyes closed. We waited. Then I saw the next bubble come, and it was the potassium which froze his heart. And he was pronounced dead ten minutes after the first drug. They used to keep records, and they tried to beat [i.e., complete the entire procedure and induce death within] six minutes. His was ten minutes. And that's what hurt me.

See Susan Montez's Notes on Interview with Carroll Pickett, Texas Death House Chaplain (July 17, 2004) at 4:

Reverend Pickett said that Carlos was concerned about whether the execution by injection of drugs would hurt. Reverend Pickett told him he would be asleep in 7 to 12 seconds. Unable to hold Carlos's hand when the time came, Reverend Pickett held his ankle, where he could feel a pulse. Carlos was looking into Reverend Pickett's eyes. "There he was, looking at me with those big brown eyes, AND HE DID NOT GO TO SLEEP. I knew when I saw that second bubble coming that he was going to hurt. And I knew that he thought I had lied to him." . . . Reverend Pickett then explained to me about the drugs used in executing prisoners in Texas. The first drug administered was sodium pentothal, which is supposed to put the prisoner to sleep within 7 to 12 seconds. Looking at the tube, you knew the sodium pentothal was on the way when you saw the first bubble.

When you saw the second bubble, the second drug was on its way. This was pabulon [sic—Pavulon], which froze the muscles. It has been banned by the American Veterinary Association because it is harmful and painful to animals. The third drug administered was potassium chloride, which froze the heart. All prisoners got the same dosage, regardless of their size and weight. Each dose cost the state $70.10. Reverend Pickett said that usually, after the sodium pentothal was administered, the pulse would stop right away. It was different with Carlos. His pulse did not stop and he did not go to sleep (emphasis in original).

See Baze v. Rees, 553 U.S. 35, 71–73 (2008) (Stevens, J., concurring in the judgment):

Because it masks any outward sign of distress, pancuronium bromide [also known as Pavulon] creates a risk that the inmate will suffer excruciating pain before death occurs. There is a general understanding among veterinarians that the risk of pain is sufficiently serious that the use of the drug should be proscribed [forbidden] when an animal's life is being terminated. As a result of this understanding among knowledgeable professionals, several States—including Kentucky—have enacted legislation prohibiting use of the drug in animal euthanasia. It is unseemly—to say the least—that Kentucky may well kill [capital prisoners] using a drug that it would not permit to be used on their pets. Use of pancuronium bromide is particularly disturbing because—as the trial court specifically found in this case—it serves "no therapeutic purpose."

Baze v. Rees, 553 U.S. 35, 113–114 (2008) (Ginsburg, J., dissenting):

It is undisputed that the second and third drugs used in Kentucky's three-drug lethal injection protocol, pancuronium bromide and potassium chloride, would cause a conscious inmate to suffer excruciating pain. Pancuronium bromide paralyzes the lung muscles and results in slow asphyxiation. Potassium chloride causes burning and intense pain as it circulates throughout the body. Kentucky's protocol lacks basic safeguards used by other States to confirm that an inmate is unconscious before injection of the second and third drugs. I would vacate and remand with instructions to consider whether Kentucky's omission of those safeguards poses an untoward, readily avoidable risk of inflicting severe and unnecessary pain.

Transcribed Videotape Interview with Carroll Pickett, Texas Death House Chaplain, in Huntsville, Texas (Feb. 26, 2005) at 22:35:15–22:39:30:

And then [after giving his last statement] he [DeLuna] looked up at me, and he had these big old brown eyes. I'll never forget those brown eyes. I can dream about those brown eyes. So, since I had not told the warden what his last words were going to be, I nodded to the warden that that was it. His sign for the executioners—there was a two-way mirror there, behind the mirror—was to take off his glasses. The warden's responsibility was—that meant start the sodium tri-pentathol. Then he looked at his watch. All he did was watch his watch. I watched the inmate; the inmate was mine. The legal stuff was his. . . . But I was squeezing his leg, and holding him. I saw the fluid change in the drop, the sodium tri-pentathol started. I had told him, it's going to be nine seconds and you'll be asleep. Well, about ten, fifteen seconds, he raised up his head. Our heads aren't strapped down in Texas. And he looked at me, and it really hurt me, because I knew the time had passed. The other guys had gone to sleep. They'd given their cough or whatever it was. And I wonder, to this day, what was he thinking? And then about another ten seconds passed, and he raised his head again. Nobody had ever done this. Those big, brown eyes were wide open. Here I am, five inches from his knee, five feet from his face, and he's looking straight at me. And I don't know what the question was in his brain. I don't know what he was thinking. If I wanted to be paranoid, I could say he was thinking, "You lied to me," but he was not that type of person. In a way, he was telling me, "I'm innocent. I didn't do this." So I could imagine a million things. And he lay back down. And I saw the bubble come at twenty-four seconds. Then the tubocurare started, and that's what froze his muscles. And his eyes closed. We waited. Then I saw the next bubble come, and it was the potassium which froze his heart. And he was pronounced dead ten minutes after the first drug. They used to keep records, and they tried to beat [i.e., complete the entire procedure and induce death within] six minutes. His was ten minutes. And that's what hurt me.

See Kathy Fair, Murderer DeLuna Is Put to Death, Hous. Chron., Dec. 7, 1989 at 33A (noting that DeLuna repeatedly lifted his head from the gurney to look at Pickett).

See supra note 256.

Transcribed Videotape Interview with Carroll Pickett, Texas Death House Chaplain, in Huntsville, Texas (Feb. 26, 2005) at 22:35:15–22:39:30 ("And he lay back down. And I saw the bubble come at twenty-four seconds. Then the tubocurare started, and that's what froze his muscles. And his eyes closed. We waited. Then I saw the next bubble come, and it was the potassium which froze his heart. And he was pronounced dead ten minutes after the first drug. They used to keep records, and they tried to beat six minutes. His was ten minutes. And that's what hurt me. Those 24 seconds were hard.").

Transcribed Videotape Interview with Carroll Pickett, Texas Death House Chaplain, in Huntsville, Texas (Feb. 26, 2005) at 22:35:15–22:39:30.

Transcribed Videotape Interview with Carroll Pickett, Texas Death House Chaplain, in Huntsville, Texas (Feb. 26, 2005) at 22:35:15–22:39:30.

Transcribed Videotape Interview with Carroll Pickett, Texas Death House Chaplain, in Huntsville, Texas (Feb. 26, 2005) at 22:35:15–22:39:30.

Transcribed Videotape Interview with Carroll Pickett, Texas Death House Chaplain, in Huntsville, Texas (Feb. 26, 2005) at 22:39:30–22:39:51 ("I had to go talk to somebody [a therapist] about it. I didn't sleep for days. Next time I went to sleep was December 12th. I can remember sleeping December 12th. I didn't sleep December 8th, 9th, 10th, 11th. That's a long time to stay awake for one kid.").

Transcribed Videotape Interview with Carroll Pickett, Texas Death House Chaplain, in Huntsville, Texas (Feb. 26, 2005) at 23:08:08–23:09:45:

And maybe—I have to say this the right way. It's in the book [that Reverend Pickett wrote about his experiences as the Death Chaplain], and in the book it's said right, because I quoted Dave Erb. Doctor Dave Erb was my counselor in Dallas. He was my therapist, he was my teacher. He helped me get my doctorate in Clinical Pastoral Education, and I went to him for a year in training. A C.P.E.'s a big deal. I told him everything about how I felt. I explained practically the whole day, particularly those last few minutes when those big old brown eyes raised their head up and—I don't know what he's thinking. Incredible guilt. . . . But that's the point that Carlos DeLuna made me start more and more going to "let's look into these things." That's when I started thinking, we are killing innocent people. We are killing children. We are killing mentally retarded [individuals]."

See supra note 263.

Michael Graczyk, Associated Press, Texas Inmate Executed for 1983 Robbery-Slaying, Dec. 7, 1989:

Convicted killer Carlos DeLuna, saying he had no hate and professing support for his fellow death row inmates, was executed early Thursday for the 1983 Robbery-Slaying of a Corpus Christi Woman.

"I want to say I hold no grudges, I hate nobody," DeLuna, 27, said while strapped to the Death Chamber Gurney. "I want my family to know I love them. Want to tell everyone on Death Row to keep the faith up, to keep going. Everything will be all right."

The lethal injection began at 12:14 A.M. He was pronounced dead 10 minutes later.

DeLuna had insisted all along that he was not responsible for the death of Wanda Jean Lopez, 24, whose final words of terror on Fed. 4, 1983 were captured on a police emergency dispatcher's tape recording. The Woman had called police for help after customers tipped her they saw a man with a knife outside the convenience store-gas station where she worked.

Eyewitnesses identified him at his trial as the knife-wielding man.

See also Associated Press, Texan Is Put to Death by Injection for Killing Woman in a Robbery, N.Y. Times, Dec. 8, 1989, at A24, available at http://www.nytimes.com/1989/12/08/us/texan-is-put-to-death-by-injection-for-killing-woman-in-a-robbery.html ("[DeLuna] said another person committed the crime . . . ."); Anne Michaud, Inmate Executed at Walls, The Huntsville Item, Dec. 7, 1989, at 1 ("Carlos DeLuna used his last minutes of life to tell his family he loved them. . . . The First injection began at 12:14 a.m. He was declared dead at 12:24. While at the "death house" in Hunstsville's Walls Unit awaiting his execution Wednesday, DeLuna visited with his sisters, Rosemary DeLuna and Vicky Gutierrez; his friend, Brad Rhoton; Daniel and Maria Conejo, his half-brother and sister-in-law; and Maria Arredondo, his half sister.");

Cindy Tumiel, Convicted Killer Executed After Court Rejects Appeals, Corpus Christi Caller-Times, Dec. 7, 1989, at B1:

Carlos DeLuna was put to death early today for the robbery and slaying of a Corpus Christi service station attendant whose pleas for mercy were monitored by a police emergency dispatcher.

. . . .

Before dying, DeLuna gave a short statement to those present, "I want to say I hold no grudges. I hate nobody. I love them. I want to tell everyone on death row to keep the faith up—to keep going. Everything will be all right," he said.

. . . .

DeLuna has continued to maintain his innocence, claiming that the murder was committed by a friend named Carlos Hernandez. But those whose lives were touched by the crime doubt the story. "He'll be lying until he dies," said Mary Vargas, Lopez' mother. "He'll lie like he's been lying. Now he has to pay for what he did to my daughter."

Chapter 16
Page: 14 of 16