Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Lethal Injection

When I was in elementary school, waayyyy back in the 1980's, I knew a boy named David. He went to the same school I did and we sang in the same children's choir at church. He got teased sometimes because his nose was kind of a funny shape; it looked kind of like he'd smeared it down a pane of glass... and it had stuck like our mothers told us it might. I remember him being in trouble often enough that his name was synonymous with "in trouble". It was probably because he had a short temper, because I remember times where he'd be fun with me, then suddenly cold to someone else.

He was in my grade, but he was older. As a kid, it takes a fair amount of thought to figure out why that is. I seem to recall him bragging about already having been taught things we were just learning. It's the kind of subject that doesn't quite receive a straight answer from your parents when you ask.

On February 5th of 1996 (the year I was later to graduate high school), David murdered his adopted grandparents. The next day, David approached some police officers and confessed to the killings. He has been in the custody of the state ever since.

On February 5th, my journal talks about me wondering if a girl could be interested in me because she passed on a chain letter to me in band. She was "kind and gentle as well as very pretty", so I was in the midst of talking through whether or not I should think about having a relationship with her, and whether or not that would mean tacitly admitting defeat regarding the other silent relationship I'd been having with a different girl.

David was found guilty, sentenced to death, and was remanded to the Department of Corrections on May 2, 1997. Missouri does not have a physical "death row", so he and all other inmates are housed in the general prison population in Potosi.

In May of 1997, my journal indicates I was celebrating the fact that the girl I had a crush on (in college, this time; totally different) had finally broken up with her boyfriend. However, I was worried that I wouldn't be able to make my move before my sophomore year ended in June.

Since the day I graduated high school and began my adult life, David has been in jail. When I went to Ireland, he was in jail. When I told a girl I loved her for the first time, he was in jail. When I got in a fight with a Russian on the streets of Chicago, he was in jail.

David will never leave jail. I'll most likely outlive him. By freak accident, I may die before him, but he will never again be a free man. This is not one of those cases where his guilt is in doubt; where people march in the street and pass around bumper stickers with his name on them. David is guilty. And he will either die for his crimes or spend the rest of his life in prison if his sentence is commuted.

I can't help but follow David's life. He has to live in a hell of his own making. He is living his life "gone wrong". Not just one mistake to point at: a hundred thousand small and big oversights; ones he made, his birth parents made, his adoptive parents made, his friends made, etc.

It's sobering to think of all the things I've done in my life, while David has been sitting in jail. Not great and noble things: I'm talking about moving from city to city. Driving across Kansas just to audition for an orchestra. Spending a godforsaken 13+ hours on a bus in one day a couple of weeks ago! For all purposes, he surrendered the rudder of his fate on that day.

And while I have created this website about me, David also has a webpage with his story. It was generated by "the Missourinet", an objective program that seeks to act as a record of the past and present death row inmates. David's page has a Department of Corrections mug shot, taken in 2001, and the narrative court report of his crimes in detail. It's found HERE.

It's very surreal to be able to follow the appeals and court documents through the detached filter of a state archives web page. Reading the briefs of years ago as his appeals are rejected, one by one. Listening to audio recordings of hearings. It makes the life and death of someone I know seem very ... academic, almost like a chapter in a course at college. "Write an essay about how his story makes you feel."

Teacher, I've finished my essay.

No comments:

Post a Comment