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Gradess wrote, “that Texas pays up to $2 million for each execution and the total cost of the 19 executions conducted in Texas between 1982 and 1986 was nearly $50 million. A Pennsylvania journalist has estimated the cost of a single capital case at $5 million to $7 million.” Oddly, however, during the interview reported here Mattox estimated that the cost of a death penalty case in Texas ranges between $200,000 and $300,000. A practicing Baptist, Mattox said he “cannot fault opponents of capital punishments on religious grounds; there is ample Biblical justification for that.” But he himself does not have religious scruples on the practice, he said. By being present at the executions, he said, “I believe that I receive a better understanding of my job and also my life. I have a religion that basically teaches me that man is really spiritual, and things on earth are purely secondary to the hereafter.” The state’s killing condemned men is not, then, a religious problem for him? “In some form, it is,” he replied, “although I do not find it something that I consider to be outside my religious beliefs to do it. Government existed and the death penalty has existed throughout mankind, and I do not find it offensive to the Christian religion as such.” ONE TEXAN WHO is closer to the men Texas executes than even Jim Mattox is Chaplain Carroll Pickett, the Presbyterian preacher who has ministered to all 27 of the men Texas has killed since 1982. “I’ve been with every one of them,” Pickett told me in his small, almost cell-like office just off a hallway leading into an exercise courtyard at the Huntsville prison. “From the time they get here until the time they carry the body out.” What can and does he do for these men? “There’s no textbook on it,” Pickett replied. “Basically I want to be his friend. The ministry is 100 percent honesty.” He figures that if he tells them wrong on any question they ask him he’ll lose their trust, and once he does, it will be soon too late to regain it. . He goes over the condemned man’s last words with him. He does not try to influence what they want to say, but often he writes it down with the man and helps him memorize it, he explained. With a puzzling fixity, Pickett insisted that the condemned men are glad they’re going to be killed. “A common denominator among many of ’em,” he said, “is the attitude, ‘we are better off in many ways. We know how and when it’s coming. You don’t know what you’re gonna do tomorrow.’ ” He would give no ground to the interviewer’s incredulity about this. “They consider themselves that they’re lucky, that they are gonna die without suffering.” At first he had to tell them that straps binding them might hurt, but now they use Ace bandages that don’t hurt at all. “Some of them are not disturbed about dying,” Pickett said. And others? “Others have felt like they are a continuous drain on family and that this will be much better. Many times they feel like everybody will be better off.” Their death “is freedom. . . . Most of ’em do not want life without parole.” Pickett takes his last break from his companionship with a condemned man a little before 10 o’clock the night of the killing. “Between 10 and 12 is their most honest and their most needful time,” he said. “Many have described their crimes down to the last detail. . . I deliver lots of messages. . . . Mainly we talk about family.” The day before we talked he had been with Calvin Williams, a condemned black man from Houston, from seven in the morning until about 11 that night \(when Williams was returned to the Ellis unit, the and they had discussed everyone in Williams’s family. “That’s a family of 17. That’s a long time; we had a lot of discussion.” The condemned men are concerned about lack of education. One told Pickett, “I was a superb athlete. I didn’t have to study because I was a star. At the tenth grade I couldn’t read or write. ‘All of us’ are great basketball players. I want to be sure my sisters, my nieces, my nephews go to school. If he’s a good athlete, let him pass.” Pickett always carries into his sessions with these men the list of the persons Texas has executed before. “They wanta remem WROCIONAU Electric chair at Huntsville ber who’s gone before ’em,” he said. The blacks facing death “think that more blacks are executed than anybody else. ‘Seem like the white guys get off and we don’t get off.’ ” So Pickett shows them that in Texas more whites have been executed since 1982 than blacks. “Everyone that I meet down there teaches me something about life,” said the Chaplain. “My idea about the second child syndrome has been strengthened. It taught me to be much more careful about my second grandchild. The position of the child in a family makes a difference. “So often parents don’t accept the child. Accept ’em, treat ’em as children, as human beings, and give ’em a little. Some of these guys were never taught that they’re worth anything.” “I don’t speed anymore. Somewhere we gotta obey the law from all the way. I believe in obedience to all the laws. Nobody gets in to see a. man waiting to be taken through the Green Door “without him knowin’ in advance,” Pickett said and’ when asked about seeing Jim Mattox, “some of ’em don’t want to talk to him. Some of ’em don’t want to talk to anybody.” Others Pickett remembered like to see Mattox because he represents the other side, “the leader of his opposition. ‘We get to meet each other.’ But some of ’em just ask, `Why? What’s he wanta come down here for?’ Some of them see him outa curiosity.” The killings themselves leave everyone wrung out, exhausted. “The first one,” Pickett said, “I was really bad off after it was over. I’ve had to come to grips with my own mortality.” And, he said, “I’ve spent a lot of time with staff members because those who are down there a lot of people have problems.” One who does not, though, is Waller County Sheriff Darrell White. He has the right under the law to attend executions in Huntsville, this being his county, but he is not’required to do so. Last year he told the Austin newspaper that at first, initiating the new method of lethal injection, officials did not have the right mixture of chemicals, but this had been worked out. “It’s just like cooking a cake,” said the sheriff, “how much salt you put in, how much anything you put in.” “I’ve always believed in capital punishment,” White said. “If you don’t have somethin’ like that they don’t have anything to be afraid of.” Of the 25 or 26 executions he has attended White says, “There’s nothin’ to it. When we go in there, he’s strapped down to the gurney. The needles are in. You walk in. The warden asks if he has any final words. Usually they tell their parents they love them, they’re sorry.” He has missed only one or two of the 27 state killings since 1982. “It’s within my right to do it,” he said. “In a way I’m kinda standin’ there for the injured party. They can’t be there. That’s kinda my personal feeling about it.” THE TEXAS OBSERVER 9