Do I Even Believe in the Death Penalty?

I got three letters this time from Garry. He sent me our typical letter, an Easter card, and a beautiful drawing of Jesus with the crown of thorns and a tear in his eye. I don’t have the heart to tell him I don’t believe in Jesus, or God, or any religion at all–he’s very religious and spiritual. I wouldn’t want to make any trouble or anything. I don’t lie to him, of course–I just don’t mention religion at all. It’s ironic, I guess. I mean, the program is through a church I’m not a part of, but they didn’t ask about my religious beliefs or anything when I signed up, so I assume it’s not a problem.

photo 2I found myself staring at the drawing for a while–tracing the perfectly drawn lines–it’s amazing what he can do with a simple red pen.

His letter was typical, I guess. He told me about the corrupt cops he knew–I guess to make me feel better about Ryan’s situation, but it didn’t. It just made me more mad to see just how many corrupt cops there are. Are we supposed to feel safe or targeted? I wrote back to Garry and after I was done praising him for his art, I told him all was almost clear for Ryan. It’s still fucked up he has to pay fines for something he didn’t do, but at least he’s not a felon and won’t have to put it on future job applications.

And then I did it.

In a very round about way, telling him of course there’s no pressure to answer, and that I’m sorry if it’s too soon or too uncomfortable to ask, but what eventually did get him caught and convicted? As soon as I wrote the words I got very very nervous. But I feel like I need to know now–like once I know it’ll be out there and that would be that. There would be no more questions and we’d finally have complete trust and honesty with one another.

Apart from Ryan and my family, I only ever talked about him with my friend Anna, and that happened yesterday. She didn’t judge me like my parents and siblings had–she just listened and seemed really interested.

We started talking about death row in general. She didn’t know how long prisoners had to sit and wait to die. I don’t really know either, but I knew it was years and years. Garry said he was already locked up for fourteen years–I still don’t know how long he has left–and I don’t know that I even want to find out. I don’t have “strong” feelings for the man–that would be absurd, we’ve only sent a few letters back and forth. But knowing he’s going to die in like five years, two years, a few months–I’d feel very bad and awkward. What do you say to someone when you know they’re going to die?

Anna and I also talked about whether or not we even believe in the death penalty. I have no idea if I do. I mean, I consider myself to be very liberal, so I’d like to say I wouldn’t want to see anyone die, regardless of the situation, but in my heart I don’t think that’s’ right. There are some people out there who are just sick and disturbed and they can’t help themselves and they can’t change–like the guy from the Aurora, CO Batman shooting. I believe whole heartedly that he should die for what he did to those people.

photo 3But then again, why do I feel like that guy should be killed but someone who killed one person or two should have life without parole? I guess for me it’s situational, I don’t know. That’s why I can’t take a stand on either side. I want to see murderers punished severely for what they do–but I also don’t want to see more killing. I’m always on the fence about almost all political issues, which gets annoying. I spend too much time in my head for my own good. Life would be simpler if I could just make up my mind!

But as I’ve worried before, obviously since Garry’s on death row and has been for fourteen years–clearly he’s a killer.

Ryan suggested a few weeks ago, and I agreed, that he’s probably in a gang. He’s from LA and said he’s known some of the guys he’s locked up with for over twenty years, even though he’s only been on death row for fourteen. His art is graffiti style–which also makes sense. If this is the case, maybe I can give him the benefit of the doubt…at least until I get his next letter. Maybe he got roped into a gang killing or something–maybe he didn’t actually kill anymore, but was just at the wrong place at the wrong time with the wrong people. Maybe.

Garry’s letter also conveyed a lot of peace. He seems content with where he is and content with his future. He says he’ll be reunited with his freedom before long. It was sad and hopeful at the same time. It made me uncomfortable–I still don’t know how to feel.


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