HRLR
Los Tocayos Carlos
Chapter 16
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Figure 37: Carlos DeLuna on October 27, 1989, when he was brought back to Corpus Christi for the hearing at which his execution was set for December 7, 1989.

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Reverend Carroll Pickett would soon dig more deeply and expertly into what Carlos DeLuna was thinking, and how well equipped the young man was to understand what was going on.

Between 1982, when Texas ended an eighteen-year break in executions, and 1995, Reverend Pickett quite literally ushered ninety-five men to their death by lethal injection.35 He also ministered to dozens of death row inmates who began the day thinking they'd die at midnight but ended it alive, with a stay of execution.36 If Texas went through with DeLuna's execution, it would be Pickett's thirty-third.37

A bit of a historian and chronicler of Texas's modern executions, Carroll Pickett was aware, even before meeting DeLuna, that the date scheduled for his execution was the sixth anniversary of the first-ever court-sanctioned execution by lethal injection in the world, on December 7, 1982.38

Reverend Pickett had stood beside Charles Brooks, Jr., the man executed that day.39 The minister had been handpicked for the job by the prison warden, a member of Pickett's former Presbyterian congregation in Huntsville, where the Death House was located.40 Not long before, Pickett had given up the large congregation, believing his mission there was complete. The warden asked him to become chaplain at the Walls Unit of the Texas Department of Corrections—"the Walls," everyone called it—and to move his family into a home on the prison grounds.41

Pickett was impatient with the many people who mistook him for a death row chaplain.42 Death row chaplains ministered to "the living," Pickett explained. He ministered to the soon-to-be dead.43 He had never in his life visited death row,44 at the Ellis Unit sixteen miles outside of Huntsville.45 State law required Texas to execute people "at Huntsville," and so the Death House—the small building where executions occurred—was located at the Walls Unit inside that city's limits.46 Pickett was the "death chaplain"—or a "Death Angel," as he preferred to be called.47 His ministry was to be with each man for a single day, the day he was to die.48

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Figure 38: Reverend Carroll Pickett

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Transcribed Videotape Interview with Carroll Pickett, Texas Death House Chaplain, in Huntsville, Texas (Feb. 26, 2005) at 22:10:44, 21:42:50–21:44:42 (noting that he "watched ninety-five die in the execution chamber");

Susan Montez's Notes on Interview with Carroll Pickett, Texas Death House Chaplain (July 17, 2004) at 4 ("Reverend Pickett's grandfather was murdered. His father was a policeman. The Reverend was raised with the idea of 'kill 'em,' and actually did support the death penalty for many years. After ministering at 95 executions, he no longer supports the death penalty, and has become an outspoken advocate against it.").

Transcribed Videotape Interview with Carroll Pickett, Texas Death House Chaplain, in Huntsville, Texas (Feb. 26, 2005) at 21:45:38–21:47:25:

In those days we were executing at midnight. They'd bring them in early in the morning. 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 . . . . 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 all but one of those ninety-five [executed on his watch] 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 22:02:26:

The only thing I knew about Carlos [DeLuna when he arrived at the death house] was an article that Kathy [Fair] had written in the Houston Chronicle. I think it was probably November the 30th, or about a week before he came in. He came in on December the 6th. I remember that because it was the anniversary of the first execution. Charlie Brooks came in on December 6th and was executed on December 7th, 1982. And here, number thirty-three comes in on the same day. I read in that article, Kathy's article, some details about the case. I had questions before I ever met Carlos about Carlos's guilt or innocence.

See also Executions in the U.S. from 1976–1986, Death Penalty Information Center http://www.deathpenaltyinfo.org/executions-us-1976-1986 (last visited Mar. 23, 2012) (listing Texas executions since it reinstated the death penalty and began executions anew in 1982, among which, Carlos DeLuna's was the thirty-third).

Transcribed Videotape Interview with Carroll Pickett, Texas Death House Chaplain, in Huntsville, Texas (Feb. 26, 2005) at 21:42:50–21:44:53:

Two and a half years . . . after I started to work there [at the Walls Unit] as my ministry . . . they scheduled an execution. Of course, there hadn't been any executions in Texas since 1964. So none of us knew what it was going to be like. None of us knew what we were going to do. None of us knew what was going to take place. But it was started on December the 7th of 1982, when we did our first execution by lethal injection. First one in the world . . . . As it developed after that, after the first one [execution by lethal injection] was done, with Charlie Brooks, it began. We did a couple, then we laid off for a while. Texas [later] became real active in doing executions.

Transcribed Videotape Interview with Carroll Pickett, Texas Death House Chaplain, in Huntsville, Texas (Feb. 26, 2005) at 22:02:26:

The only thing I knew about Carlos [DeLuna when he arrived at the death house] was an article that Kathy [Fair] had written in the Houston Chronicle. I think it was probably November the 30th, or about a week before he came in. He came in on December the 6th. I remember that because it was the anniversary of the first execution. Charlie Brooks came in on December 6th and was executed on December 7th, 1982. And here, number thirty-three comes in on the same day. I read in that article, Kathy's article, some details about the case. I had questions before I ever met Carlos about Carlos's guilt or innocence.

Transcribed Videotape Interview with Carroll Pickett, Texas Death House Chaplain, in Huntsville, Texas (Feb. 26, 2005) at 21:44:53–21:45:38, 21:42:50–21:44:53, 22:02:26;

see Executions in the U.S. from 1976–1986, Death Penalty Information Center http://www.deathpenaltyinfo.org/executions-us-1976-1986 (last visited Mar. 23, 2011) (Charles Brooks was the first person in the U.S. executed by lethal injection).

Transcribed Videotape Interview with Carroll Pickett, Texas Death House Chaplain, in Huntsville, Texas (Feb. 26, 2005) at 21:42:26–21:43:39:

Then I came to Huntsville [from south Texas] to work with another church. After I completed all I felt God had intended me to do there, I resigned. I gave them six months notice so they could find another preacher. I didn't have a job. Everybody told me I was crazy for resigning from that job because I had four kids getting ready to go to college. One was in high school, three were in college. And the director of the prison system, Mr. Estelle, who was a member of my church, asked me to come work at the prison for a year, just for a year, until my youngest daughter got out of high school. 'Cause he knew my family real well. So I agreed to work for a year, and I went to the prison and worked sixteen years. Never filled out my paperwork, but I've worked there for sixteen years at the Walls unit. I went there primarily to develop a program for twenty-two hundred inmates and minister to the hospital, which at the time was the only hospital in prison, and the mental ward, which was the only mental part of the penal system in Texas. That was my pastoral area.

See supra note 40.

Transcribed Videotape Interview with Carroll Pickett, Texas Death House Chaplain, in Huntsville, Texas (Feb. 26, 2005) at 21:42:50 ("I never went to Death Row. There's a difference that a lot of people don't understand. Death Row was 16 miles out in the country [at the Ellis Unit], the death house was in town. By law, in Texas, they had to be executed in Huntsville, in the town. And the death house was on my unit [the Walls unit].").

Transcribed Videotape Interview with Carroll Pickett, Texas Death House Chaplain, in Huntsville, Texas (Feb. 26, 2005) at 22:01:48–22:02:06 ("When the [execution] program was set up, Mr. Estelle [the warden] said, 'I want the living chaplains [chaplains for the living on Death Row] out at Ellis, where it [Death Row] was . . . They'd take care of them all during their term [in prison]. And I want to have one person, who knows what they're doing, to be the death chaplain. I was called the death chaplain. I didn't particularly like that term but—Carlton Stowers wrote a couple of articles called 'Death Angel.' It was in the Dallas newspapers and Houston newspapers. And I would go with that [name].").

Transcribed Videotape Interview with Carroll Pickett, Texas Death House Chaplain, in Huntsville, Texas (Feb. 26, 2005) at 21:42:50 ("I never went to Death Row. There's a difference that a lot of people don't understand. Death Row was 16 miles out in the country [at the Ellis Unit], the death house was in town. By law, in Texas, they had to be executed in Huntsville, in the town. And the death house was on my unit [the Walls unit].");

see Susan Montez's Notes on Interview with Carroll Pickett, Texas Death House Chaplain (July 17, 2004) at 7 ("Reverend Pickett was present at the executions of 95 men. He never visited with the prisoners on death row, but once they were at the place of execution [in the Walls Unit in Huntsville], they had his total attention.").

Transcribed Videotape Interview with Carroll Pickett, Texas Death House Chaplain, in Huntsville, Texas (Feb. 26, 2005) at 21:42:50–21:44:42 ("Death Row was 16 miles out in the country, the death house was in town. By law, in Texas, they had to be executed in Huntsville, in the town.").

Transcribed Videotape Interview with Carroll Pickett, Texas Death House Chaplain, in Huntsville, Texas (Feb. 26, 2005) at 22:01:48–22:02:06 ("When the [execution] program was set up, Mr. Estelle [the warden] said, 'I want the living chaplains [chaplains for the living on death row] out at Ellis, where it [Death Row] was . . . They'd take care of them all during their term [in prison]. And I want to have one person, who knows what they're doing, to be the death chaplain. I was called the death chaplain. I didn't particularly like that term but—Carlton Stowers wrote a couple of articles called 'Death Angel.' It was in the Dallas newspapers and Houston newspapers. And I would go with that [name].");

see Transcribed Videotape Interview with Rose Rhoton, Sister of Carlos DeLuna, in Houston, Tex. (Feb. 26, 2005) at 21:11:45–21:16:38:

We all went to go see Carlos [on the day set for his execution]. Actually, I believe it's called the Walls. That's where they take you. The first time he was scheduled to be executed [in 1986], he was still in Huntsville [sic, the Ellis Unit] inside the Death Row, he was never taken to the Walls. And he was able to receive his stay, which was a very happy moment. Second time that he was scheduled to be executed, he was taken to the Walls. We never went to [Ellis], we actually were told to go to the Walls. And I believe that's known as where you go to these smaller cells—I think there's only two of them, or three—and that's when they're getting ready to execute you. That's your time. . . . [W]hen you go to the Walls, that's it. The chances of you getting out of there are very thin, knowing now what I know, it's very slim, getting out of there.

Transcribed Videotape Interview with Carroll Pickett, Texas Death House Chaplain, in Huntsville, Texas (Feb. 26, 2005) at 22:01:48–22:02:06.

Transcribed Videotape Interview with Carroll Pickett, Texas Death House Chaplain, in Huntsville, Texas (Feb. 26, 2005) at 21:42:50–21:44:42 ("I went to the prison and worked sixteen years. Never filled out my paperwork, but I've worked there for sixteen years at the Walls unit. I went there primarily to develop a program for twenty-two hundred inmates and minister to the hospital . . . .").

Chapter 16
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