It was a short five years ago today; I walked into the Walls Unit in Huntsville with my mother, sister, and two aunts. We watched as the State of Texas executed my brother, John Wheat. We were informed ahead of time the exact steps that were to occur. We would be searched, and then led across the street to the Walls Unit. We would be in a room separated from my brother by wire reinforced glass and bars. There would be a microphone so we could hear everything. He would be given a chance to make a final statement. He could talk as long as he wanted. We would know when he finished because he had provided the warden with a “code word” he would use to indicate he was finished speaking and the process could begin. The first drug to be introduced into his body would paralyze him. Three minutes would pass with him strapped to the gurney totally immobilized. Then a second drug would be introduced into his body to cause his lungs to collapse. We were warned that a sound might occur at this point, but it would just be the air rushing out of his body. It would not be speech or an attempt to speak. Three more minutes would pass. Six minutes after he was immobilized, the third and final drug would be injected. This drug would stop his heart. Again, three minutes would pass before a doctor would be brought in to examine him and pronounce him dead. Five years later, I remember every step, especially the loud “thump” as each drug was introduced. Nine minutes – three drugs – death. Just nine minutes from start to finish. I still recall how little the doctor spoke after the examination. “Time of death 6:13.” Nine minutes from life to death. Five years later and the questions still linger in my mind. Did anyone else notice that none of the drugs were to avoid pain? While my brother was strapped down for those nine minutes, was he in pain? Had he not been immobilized would he have been screaming out for help? Where is the humanity?
To those who stood outside the Walls Unit, those who stood outside the governor’s mansion, and those who held vigils in other cities around the world my eternal thanks. I would also like to extend my thanks to those who gave support in other ways. The kind emails, flowers, and food were greatly appreciated. Thanks also to all those who traveled to Huntsville to insure that none of the family who witnessed the execution had to drive afterward. I also want to thank all those whose efforts continue for this cause. If I have forgotten anyone, thank you too.
Note: I have lost the email addresses of many who have supported me over the years, please feel free to forward this message as appropriate.