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At the Death House Door screening 7/16/08

New Yorkers Against the Death Penalty

EVENT TOMORROW!
Wednesday, July 16
6:30pm

Film Screening at the NY Society For Ethical Culture, 2 W. 64th St. at Central Park West

From the director of Hoop Dreams: AT THE DEATH HOUSE DOOR
Doors open 6:30, movie starts at 7

Suggested donation to NY Ethical Society & NYADP: $10 ( donation not required). Popcorn, soda, and beer provided

Post-screening discussion with NYADP Organizing Director Colleen Eren.

At The Death House Door is a personal and intimate look at Texas Death Row through the eyes of Pastor Carroll Pickett, who served 15 years as the death house chaplain to the infamous “Walls” prison unit in Huntsville. During Pickett’s remarkable career journey, he presided over 95 executions, including the world’s first lethal injection. After each execution, Pickett recorded an audiotape account of his trip to the death chamber.

The film also focuses on the story of Carlos De Luna, a convict Pickett counseled and whose execution troubled Pickett more than any other. He firmly believed De Luna was innocent, and the film tracks the investigative efforts of a team of Chicago Tribune reporters who have turned up evidence that strongly
suggests he was.

5 Responses

  1. Can Rev. Carroll Pickett be trusted “At the Death House Door”?
    Dudley Sharp, Justice Matters, contact info below

    Rev. Pickett is on a promotional tour for the anti death penalty film “At the Death House Door”. It is partially about the Reverend’s experience ministering to 95 death row inmates executed in Texas.

    Rev. Pickett’s inaccuracies are many and important.

    Does Rev. Pickett just make facts up as he goes along, hoping that no one fact checks, or is he just confused or ignorant?

    Some of his miscues are common anti death penalty deceptions. The reverend is an anti death penalty activist.

    Below are comments or paraphrases of Rev. Pickett, taken from interviews, followed by my Reply:.

    1) Pickett: I knew (executed inmate) Carlos (De Luna) didn’t do it. It was his big brown eyes, the way he talked, he was the same age as my son (transference). I felt so sympathetic towards him. I was so 100% certain that he couldn’t have committed this crime. (Carlos) was a super person to minister to. I knew Carlos was not guilty. Fred Allen a guard, said “by the way he talks and acts I don’t believe he is guilty, either. (1)

    REPLY: Experienced prison personnel are fooled all the time by prisoners, just as parole boards are. This is simply Rev. Pickett’s and Fred Allen’s blind speculation and nothing more.

    More than that, it appears that Rev. Pickett is, now, either lying about his own opinions or he is very confused. Read on.

    2) Pickett: believes that, no way, could someone, so afraid of lightning and thunder, such as Carlos De Luna, use a knife (in a crime). (1)

    Reply: Rev. Pickett talks about how important his background is in understanding people and behavior and he says something like this, destroying his own credibility on the issue. If the lightning and thunder event occurred, we already know what De Luna was capable of. In 1980, “De Luna was charged with attempted aggravated rape and driving a stolen vehicle, he pleaded no contest and was sentenced to 2 to 3 years. Paroled in May 1982, De Luna returned to Corpus Christi. Not long after, he attended a party for a former cellmate and was accused of attacking the cellmate’s 53-year-old mother. She told police that De Luna broke three of her ribs with one punch, removed her underwear, pulled down his pants, then suddenly left. He was never prosecuted for the attack, but authorities sent him back to prison on a parole violation. Released again in December of that year, he came back to Corpus Christi and got a job as a concrete worker. Almost immediately, he was arrested for public intoxication. During the arrest, De Luna allegedly laughed about the wounding of a police officer months earlier and said the officer should have been killed. Two weeks after that arrest, Lopez was murdered.” (Chicago Tribune) Being a long time criminal, we can presume that there were numerous additional crimes committed by De Luna and which remained unsolved. Was De Luna capable of committing a robbery murder, even though he had big brown eyes and was scared of lightning? Of course. This goes to Rev. Pickett’s poor judgement or something else.

    There is this major problem.

    In 1999, 4 years after Rev. Pickett had left his death row ministry, and he had become an anti death penalty activist, and 10 years after De Luna’s execution, the reverend was asked, in a PBS Frontline interview, “Do you think there have been some you have watched die who were strictly innocent?”

    His reply: “I never felt that.” (3)

    For many years, and since the 1989 execution of Carlos De Luna, the reverend never felt that any of the 95 executed were actually innocent.

    This directly conflicts with his current statements on Carlos De Luna. Rev. Pickett is, now, saying that he was 100% sure of De Luna’s innocence in 1989!

    If he was 100% sure of DeLuna’s execution in 1989, what’s up with the PBS interview?.

    How is it that an anti death penalty activist can forget the only “innocent” person executed – he was 100% sure of his innocence – on their watch? Anti death penalty or pro death penalty, wouldn’t that be 100% impossible to forget, particularly when you are asked, specifically, about it during a formal interview?

    When is the first confirmable date that Rev. Pickett stated he believed in DeLunas’ actual innocence?

    It appears the reverend has either revised history to support his new anti death penalty activism – he’s lying – or he is, again, very confused. Reverend?

    3) Introduction: In 1974, prison librarian Judy Standley and teacher Von Beseda were murdered during an 11 day prison siege and escape attempt. Ignacio Cuevas was sentenced to death, as one of three prisoners who were involved. The other two died in the shootout.

    Ms. Standley and Ms. Beseda were part of Rev. Pickett’s congregation, outside of prison.

    Pickett: After Cuevas was executed, Rev. Pickett alleges that he met with Judy Standley’s family and they told the reverend that “This (the execution) didn’t bring closure.” “This didn’t help us.” According to Rev. Pickett, “They didn’t want him (Ignacio Cuevas) executed.” (1)

    Reply; There might be a big problem. Judy Standley’s five children wrote a statement, before the execution, which stated: “We are relieved the ordeal may almost be over, but we are also aware that to some, this case represents only one of many in which, arguably, `justice delayed is justice denied,” “We are hopeful the sentence will finally be carried out and that justice will at last be served,” said the statement, signed by Ty, Dru, Mark, Pam and Stuart Standley. (4)

    Sure seemed like the kids wanted Cuevas to be executed. Doesn’t it? Reverend?

    4) Pickett: “A great majority of them (the 95 executed inmates he ministered to) were black or Hispanic.” (1)

    Reply: The reverend’s point, here, appears to emphasize the alleged racist nature of the death penalty. There is a problem for the reverend – the facts – the “great majority” were 47 white (49%) with 32 black (34%), and 16 Hispanic (17%).

    5) Pickett: “Out of the 95 we executed only one that had a college degree. All the rest of them their education was 9th grade and under.” (1)

    Reply: Not even close. Rev. Pickett’s point, here, seems to be that capital murderers are, almost all, idiots who can’t be held responsible for their actions. But, there are more fact problems for the reverend. In a review of only 31 of the 95 cases, 5 had some college or post graduate classes and 16 were high school graduates or completed their GED. Partial review (Incomplete Count) , below.

    Would Rev. Pickett tell us about the educational achievements of all the true innocent murder victims and those that weren’t old enough for school?

    6) Pickett: spoke of the Soldier of Fortune murder for hire case, stating the husband got the death penalty, while the hired murderer got 6 years. (1)

    Reply: Rev. Pickett’s point, here, appears to be the unfairness of the sentence disparity. More fact problems. John Wayne Hearn, the hitman, was sentenced to life imprisonment for the murder of Sandra Black.

    7) Pickett: speaks of how sincere hostage taker, murderer Ignacio Cuevas was. Rev. Pickett states that “between 11 and midnight (I) believe almost everything” the inmates say, because they are about to be executed. (1)

    Reply: Bad judgement. Minutes later, Cuevas lied when on the gurney, stating that he was innocent. This goes to show how Rev. Pickett and many others are easily fooled by these murderers. Pickett concedes the point.

    8) Pickett: “In my opinion and in the opinion of the convicts, life in prison, with no hope of parole, is a much worse punishment (than the death penalty).” “Most of these people (death row inmates) fear life in prison more than they do the possibility of execution.” (2)

    REPLY: More fact problems. We know that isn’t the opinion of those facing a possible death sentence of those residing on death row. This gives more support to my suspicion that Rev. Pickett is putting words into the inmates’ mouths.

    Facts: What percentage of capital murderers seek a plea bargain to a death sentence, rather than seeking a life sentence? Zero or close to it. They prefer long term imprisonment. What percentage of convicted capital murderers argue for execution in the penalty phase of their capital trial? Zero or close to it. They prefer long term imprisonment. What percentage of death row inmates waive their appeals and speed up the execution process? Nearly zero (less than 2%). They prefer long term imprisonment. This is not, even remotely, in dispute. How could Rev. Pickett not be aware of this? How long was he ministering to Texas’ death row? 13 years? So, what? Did he just make this up?

    9) Pickett: stated that “doctors can’t (check the veins of inmates pending execution), it’s against the law.” (1)

    Reply: Ridiculous. Obviously untrue.

    10) Pickett: Pavulon (a paralytic) has been banned by vets but we use it on people. (1)

    REPLY: This is untrue and is a common anti death penalty deception. The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) stetes, “When used alone, these drugs (paralytics) all cause respiratory arrest before loss of consciousness, so the animal may perceive pain and distress after it is immobilized.” Obviously, paralytics are never used alone in the human lethal injection process or animal euthanasia. The AVMA does not mention the specific paralytic – Pavulon – used in lethal injection for humans. These absurd claims, falsely attributed to veterinary literature, have been a bald faced lie by anti death penalty activists.

    In Belgium and the Netherlands, their euthanasia protocol is as follows: A coma is first induced by intravenous administration of 20 mg/kg sodium thiopental (Nesdonal) (NOTE-the first drug in human lethal injection) in a small volume (10 ml physiological saline). Then a triple intravenous dose of a non-depolarizing neuromuscular muscle relaxant is given, such as 20 mg pancuronium bromide (Pavulon) (NOTE-the second drug, the paralytic, in human lethal injection) or 20 mg vecuronium bromide (Norcuron). The muscle relaxant should preferably be given intravenously, in order to ensure optimal availability (NOTE: as in human lethal injection). Only for pancuronium bromide (Pavulon) are there substantial indications that the agent may also be given intramuscularly in a dosage of 40 mg. (NOTE: That is how effective the second drug in human lethal injection is, that it can be given intramuscularly and still hasten death).

    Just like execution/lethal injection in the US, although we give a third drug which speeds up death, even more.

    11) Pickett: “Most of the inmates would ask the question, “How can Texas kill people who kill people and tell people that killing people is wrong?” That came out of inmates’ mouths regularly and I think it’s a pretty good question to ask.” (2)

    REPLY: Most? Would that be more than 47 out of 95? I simply don’t believe it. 10 out of 95? Doubtful. I suspect it is no coincidence that “Why do we kill people to show that killing is wrong” has been a common anti death penalty slogan for a very long time. I suspect that Rev. Pickett has just picked it up, used it and placed it in inmate’s mouths. Furthermore, we don’t execute murderers to show that murder is wrong. Most folks know that murder is wrong even without a sanction.

    12) Pickett: said an inmate said “its burning” “its burning”, during an execution. (1)

    REPLY: This may have occurred for a variety of reasons and does not appear to be an issue. It is the third drug which is noted for a burning sensation, if one were conscious during its injection. However, none of the inmates that Rev. Pickett handled were conscious after the first drug was administered. That would not be the case, here, as the burning complaints came at the very beginning of the injection process, which would involve a reaction where the burning would be quite minor. Has Rev. Pickett reviewed the pain and suffering of the real victims – the innocent murdered ones?

    Bottom line. Reverend Pickett’s credibility is as high as a snakes belly.

    Time to edit the movie?!

    ————

    Incomplete count
    this is a review of 31 out of the 95 death row inmates ministered by Rev. Pickett

    21 of the 31 below had some college or post graduate classes (5)
    or were high school graduates or completed their GED (16)
    ———–
    1) Brooks 12
    3) O’Bryan post graduate degree – dentist
    41 james russel 10th
    42 G Green sophomore college
    45 David Clark 10th and GED
    46 Edward Ellis 10th
    47 Billy White 10th
    48 Justin May 11th
    49 Jesus Romero 11th and GED
    50 Robert Black, Jr. a pilot (probably beyond 12th)
    55. Carlos Santana 11th
    57 Darryl Stewart 12th
    58 Leonel Herrera 11th and GED
    60) Markum Duff Smith Post graduate College
    33) Carlos De Luna 9th
    95 Ronald Keith Allridge 10th and GED
    93 Noble Mays Junior in College
    92 Samuel Hawkins 12th
    91 Billy Conn Gardner 12th
    90 Jeffery Dean Motley 9th
    89 Willie Ray Williams 11th
    86 Jesse Jacobs 12th
    85 Raymond Carl Kinnamon 11th and GED
    84 Herman Clark sophomore college
    83 Warren Eugene Bridge 11th
    82 Walter Key Williams 12th
    72 Harold Barnard 12th
    73 Freddie Webb 11th and GED
    75 Larry Anderson 12th
    77 Stephen Nethery 12th
    79 Robert Drew 10th

    Dudley Sharp, Justice Matters
    e-mail sharpjfa@aol.com, 713-622-5491,
    Houston, Texas

    Mr. Sharp has appeared on ABC, BBC, CBS, CNN, C-SPAN, FOX, NBC, NPR, PBS , VOA and many other TV and radio networks, on such programs as Nightline, The News Hour with Jim Lehrer, The O’Reilly Factor, etc., has been quoted in newspapers throughout the world and is a published author.

    A former opponent of capital punishment, he has written and granted interviews about, testified on and debated the subject of the death penalty, extensively and internationally.

    1) “Chaplain Discusses ‘Death House’ Ministry”, Interview, Legal Affairs, FRESH AIR, NPR, May 19, 2007.

    2) THE FAILURE INTERVIEW: REVEREND CARROLL PICKETT—AUTHOR OF “WITHIN THESE WALLS: MEMOIRS OF A DEATH HOUSE CHAPLAIN” Interview, by Kathleen A. Ervin
    www(DOT)failuremag.com/arch_history_carroll_pickett_interview.html

    3) “The Execution: Interview with Reverend Carroll Pickett”, PBS, FRONTLINE, 1999
    www(DOT)pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/execution/readings/pickett.html

    4) “Appellate court refuses to stay killer’s execution”, Kathy Fair, HOUSTON CHRONICLE, Section A, Page 1, 2 Star edition, 05/23/1991

  2. The Death Penalty: More Protection for Innocents
    Dudley Sharp, Justice Matters, contact info below
     
    Often, the death penalty dialogue gravitates to the subject of innocents at risk of execution. Seldom is a more common problem reviewed. That is, how innocents are more at risk without the death penalty.
     
    Living murderers, in prison, after release or escape or after our failures to incarcerate them, are much more likely to harm and murder, again, than are executed murderers.
     
    Although this is, obviously a truism, it is surprising how often  folks overlook the enhanced incapacitation benefits of the death penalty over incarceration.
     
    No knowledgeable and honest party questions that the death penalty has the most extensive due process protections in US criminal law.
     
    Therefore, actual innocents are more likely to be sentenced to life imprisonment and more likely to die in prison serving under that sentence, that it is that an actual innocent will be executed.
     
    That is. logically, conclusive.
     
    16 recent studies, inclusive of their defenses, find for death penalty deterrence.
     
    A surprise? No.
     
    Life is preferred over death. Death is feared more than life.
     
    Some believe that all studies with contrary findings negate those 16 studies. They don’t. Studies which don’t find for deterrence don’t say no one is deterred, but that they couldn’t measure those deterred.
     
    What prospect of a negative outcome doesn’t deter some? There isn’t one . . . although committed anti death penalty folk may say the death penalty is the only one.
     
    However, the premier anti death penalty scholar accepts it as a given that the death penalty is a deterrent, but does not believe it to be a greater deterrent than a life sentence. Yet, the evidence is compelling and un refuted that death is feared more than life.
     
    Some death penalty opponents argue against death penalty deterrence, stating that it’s a harsher penalty to be locked up without any possibility of getting out.
     
    Reality paints a very different picture.
     
    What percentage of capital murderers seek a plea bargain to a death sentence? Zero or close to it. They prefer long term imprisonment.
     
    What percentage of convicted capital??murderers argue for execution in the penalty phase of their capital trial? Zero or close to it. They prefer long term imprisonment.
     
    What percentage of death row inmates waive their appeals and speed up the execution process? Nearly zero. They prefer long term imprisonment.
     
    This is not, even remotely, in dispute.
     
    Life is preferred over death. Death is feared more than life.
     
    Furthermore, history tells us that lifers have many ways to get out: Pardon, commutation, escape, clerical error, change in the law, etc.
     
    In choosing to end the death penalty, or in choosing not implement it, some have chosen to spare murderers at the cost of sacrificing more innocent lives.
     
    Furthermore, possibly we have sentenced 20-25 actually innocent people to death since 1973, or 0.3% of those so sentenced. Those have all been released upon post conviction review. The anti death penalty claims, that the numbers are significantly higher,are a fraud, easily discoverable by fact checking.
     
    6 inmates have been released from death row because of DNA evidence. An additional 9 were released from prison, because of DNA exclusion, who had previously been sentenced to death.
     
    The innocents deception of death penalty opponents has been getting exposure for many years. Even the behemoth of anti death penalty newspapers, The New York Times,  has recognized that deception.
     
    To be sure, 30 or 40 categorically innocent people have been released from death row . . . (1) This when death penalty opponents were claiming the release of 119 “innocents” from death row. Death penalty opponents never required actual innocence in order for cases to be added to their “exonerated” or “innocents” list. They simply invented their own definitions for exonerated and innocent and deceptively shoe horned large numbers of inmates into those definitions – something easily discovered with fact checking.
     
    There is no proof of an innocent executed in the US, at least since 1900.
     
    If we accept that the best predictor of future performance is past performance, we can reasonable conclude that the DNA cases will be excluded prior to trial, and that for the next 8000 death sentences, that we will experience a 99.8% accuracy rate in actual guilt convictions. This improved accuracy rate does not include the many additional safeguards that have been added to the system, over and above DNA testing.
     
    Of all the government programs in the world, that put innocents at risk, is there one with a safer record and with greater protections than the US death penalty?
     
    Unlikely.
     
    Full report -All Innocence Issues: The Death Penalty, upon request.
     
    Full report – The Death Penalty as a Deterrent, upon request
     
    (1) The Death of Innocents: A Reasonable Doubt,
    New York Times Book Review, p 29, 1/23/05, Adam Liptak,
    national legal correspondent for The NY Times
     
    Dudley Sharp, Justice Matters
    e-mail sharpjfa@aol.com 713-622-5491,
    Houston, Texas
     
    Mr. Sharp has appeared on ABC, BBC, CBS, CNN, C-SPAN, FOX, NBC, NPR, PBS, VOA and many other TV and radio networks, on such programs as Nightline, The News Hour with Jim Lehrer, The O’Reilly Factor, etc., has been quoted in newspapers throughout the world and is a published author.
     
    A former opponent of capital punishment, he has written and granted interviews about, testified on and debated the subject of the death penalty, extensively and internationally.
     
    Pro death penalty sites 

    homicidesurvivors(dot)com/categories/Dudley%20Sharp%20-%20Justice%20Matters.aspx

    www(dot)dpinfo.com
    www(dot)cjlf.org/deathpenalty/DPinformation.htm
    www(dot)clarkprosecutor.org/html/links/dplinks.htm
    www(dot)coastda.com/archives.html
    www(dot)lexingtonprosecutor.com/death_penalty_debate.htm
    www(dot)prodeathpenalty.com
    www(dot)yesdeathpenalty.com/deathpenalty_com
    yesdeathpenalty.googlepages.com/home2 (Sweden)
    www(dot)wesleylowe.com/cp.html

    Permission for distribution of this document, in whole or in part,  is approved with proper attribution.

  3. Dudley,

    Thank you for your participation, but your opinions are at odds with the cold hard facts.

    Innocent people are regularly incarcerated. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eF-Fr8B5uGE

    peace
    Ian

  4. Ian:

    Is anyone planning to bring GP ballot access petitions to the movie tonight? I think I’m gonna come and I can bring some if that helps.

    Cheers,
    Karl Riukas

  5. excerpted from Colleen Eren’s response:

    Because Reverand Pickett may have based his beliefs on intuition gained through decades as a prison chaplain, this does not take away from the powerful claims to innocence Carlos De Luna has through the evidence compiled by the Chicago Tribune. See these articles:
    http://www.deathpenaltyinfo.org/article.php?&did=1813

    This interview was done for the release of “At the Death House Door,” which spends almost 1 hour talking about Carlos DeLuna’s case and how the Chaplain believed him to be innocent. It would make sense that he would not restate something that had been stated many many times before—that he thought Carlos was innocent, the first one he felt to have been so.

    This statement was written before the execution. It is After the execution that Pickett says the children told him “This didn’t bring closure, this didn’t help us.” After witnessing the death of Cuevas, perhaps they realized the empty promise of the death penalty to bring closure.

    Which makes, by my count, 48 people of color. Considering that blacks and Hispanics are minority populations, this is clearly evident of their overrepresentation on death row. As the Austin Chronicle reports on the death penalty in Texas, “Race Matters”

    I think Pickett would know better about the thoughts of inmates whom he spent countless hours ministering to would know more than Mr. Sharp.

    Actually, there is dispute. Statistics from 2007 shown that out of 1111 executions since 1977, almost 12% have been “voluntary.” It is ludicrous that public defenders would allow their clients to argue for execution, for legal as well as political reasons. A client who wishes for execution rather than life without parole would most likely, any way, to be deemed incompetent of making such decisions.

    Where is your evidence??? As reported by the Associated Press, In Texas, doctors merely have the role of declaring death. See Ron Word “Doctors May take execution role.” September 23, 2007.

    More bald-faced lying from pro-death penalty activists. That paralyzing drug has been removed entirely from the veterinary standards for euthanasia so that veterinarian can make sure the animals have been rendered unconscious.

    Colleen’s reply: If it is a common anti-death penalty slogan, why wouldn’t the inmates know this? I think they’d be thinking long and hard about their own punishment.

    Then what is the purpose? You say that the death penalty deters crime, how does it do this? By showing that killing people is okay?

    Numerous studies have shown that lethal injection is far from painless and that prisoners would indeed experience burning, as a many of them are conscious at the time of the injection of the 3rd drug.
    Scientists from Virginia and Florida “ examined post-mortem blood levels of anaesthetic and believe that prisoners may have been capable of feeling pain in almost 90% of cases and may have actually been conscious when they were put to death in over 40% of cases.”

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