I once knew a man named Billy Galloway. His entire body, including his bald head was heavily tattooed. He was a professed Aryan Brotherhood ranking member, thou I never hear him use a racial epithet towards any minority. He had a congenial voice-very soft and polite. Almost in line with a Yale or Harvard grad. He wasn’t handsome, but he was quite charming in his own right. He was on death row because he and three others (two females and another male who was also sentenced to death) was inspired by the movie, ‘Natural Born Killers’, and drove down the highways shooting and killing people, at random. He never shied away from his guilt. Nor the madness behind his drug-crazed actions that lead to the lost of innocent life.
One day he and I was having a civil debate about what it meant to be a killer and the accountability of a killer’s actions. He was saying he took a life (lives) and therefore should be killed for it. I never want to play Jedi mind tricks with anyone’s remorse, then nor now, but the thing that kept nagging me was, “Ok. I get it. You killed. You’re a bona fide killer. But whoever kills you, what does that make them? Judge? Jury? Prosecutor? All three?
He didn’t know. Or wouldn’t say, for fear of questioning the legality of his murder with his own conscious. When Cain killed Abel wasn’t that the whole idea of God’s command that no harm should come to Cain or the wrath of God be upon them? For another murder would only produce another...murder. All Billy would do in the coming days leading to his execution/murder was denounce any allegiance he had with white supremacy and proudly declare, “I’m a Christian now.”
It was only two-thousand-twenty-one-years ago that the Jews chanted, “Crucify him!” as Jesus hung, nailed by feet and hands to a wooden contraption that for many looked like a cross. A holy image sheared into the minds of the faithful who now looks towards the cross for salvation. Perhaps there’s no significance to the way modern executions are handed out when an inmate is strapped down (not nailed) to a gurney, that to any imaginative mind looks like a cross too, or perhaps the significance is simply a pun.
But in Jesus’ day as he witnessed all those he loved cheer at his demise, he said something that I found and still find profounding: “Father. Forgive them for they know not what they do.”
Them. Meaning the Jews. Them, meaning the soldiers who nailed him down, punched him, mocked him. Them, who claimed to follow him and did nothing to aid him. They who declared, “I wash my hands from this mess,” as a way of saying they are not responsible for killing The Christ. Others, or circumstances are at fault.
Dr. Martin L. King Jr. once said, “I do not think that God approves the death penalty for any crime. Capital punishment is against the better judgment of modern criminology and, above all, against the highest expression of love in the nature of God…” He went on to add, “The death penalty makes killers out of us all.”
Texas is a unique state. The state’s moniker is, “Everything is Big in Texas.” It’s the only state where egotistical white supremacy can have a seat at a political table on all sides and disguise its racism as Texas frontier justice. It’s the only state that lynched Mexicans for their land and lynched blacks because they could.
To be fair, today’s Texas people seem cordial enough. Mind their business. Keep their views tucked tightly within their circles. They vote and express themselves by the ballot. And those they put into position of legal power carry out their true essence, under the banner of Law & Order. But what does that entails really, when 90% of the time the law is more lenient towards white defendants in Texas than they are towards minorities-namely black people? They vote in people to the Criminal Court of Appeals (CCA) who are ex-prosecutors (for the most part), and who are overwhelmingly white and conservative. These judges become nationally famous by making some of the most racist and ignorant decisions ever, that determines the life and death for so many people of color without a care one to the wrongness of their decisions. I once read where a white trial prosecutor told a all white jury, “If you sentence him to death, you are not responsible for his death. He is. And he is the only murderer at fault.”
I totally disagree with this particular prosecutor’s claim and it’s what i wanted Billy to understand. For me, murder is murder. No one should do it - but mostly everyone is tied to it in some form. Be it a act or a vote. Being on death row don’t make an allege crime any more horrendous than any inmate in population, where there are sixty-times more serial killers, rapists and mass murderers in population, learning about redemption, rehabilitation, or dogmatic mental rendundantcies that keep them in a cell alone. A few years ago I read a study that had 98,000 people incarcerated for aggravated murder(s) that could have easily been death penalty cases. There’s three-million people incarcerated in America. There’s less than 4,000 men and women on death row across America. Half of the death row population is black, in America. Black Americans only make up 12.5% of the population in America, and yet blacks make up nearly 50% of all incarcerations? What am i missing? If there was nearly 100,000 men and women on death row in America - then perhaps I could agree that Justice is blind. Since that isn’t the case, Justice can see pretty damn good with her racist ass.
In the book, “Let The Lord Sort Them”, by Maurice Chammah (i highly recommend every advocate for Justice reads), he tells a real account that took place after then ADA Elsa Alcala, had just argued and won a conviction that sent her first human being to death row. Her boss, the notorious racist (he asked for the death penalty in 80% of the time when it was a black defendent, no matter the crime. He was tough on crime only for a certain race of people), and former District Attorney for Harris County, Johnny Holmes, calls her into his office. His feet sat comfortably crossed on his desk. He had a celebratory cigar in his mouth. He has a wide smile on his face and he greets his ADA by telling her, “Congratulations, killer!”
Which proves my point.
Written by: Charles ‘Chucky’ Mamou/2021
Words by CHARLES MAMOU
Photography by TEXAS LETTERS
Polunsky Unit, Livingston, Texas
22 years in solitary / ad seg