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., $.4..4 \\’,km *A.:,%’.. ‘ Death Chamber, Walls Unit, Huntsville one time. Sort of like bills come due at one time, when you don’t pay them….If you’re going to kill them, you go on and do it, if the appellate process is over with. If four or five fall due at the same timethat’s the law.” From that perspective, Robert West is simply another discouraging legal statistic, his death the inevitable result of his own criminal actions and the inexorable workings of the legal system. He is among 438 condemned men currently awaiting execution in Huntsville’s Ellis Unit \(seven condemned women are inpeople who have come to know him and have some affection for him, his passing will hardly be mourned. His name and number will be quietly added to the steadily growing ledger of Americans killed since the U.S. resumed executions in 1976. The family and friends of DeAnna Klaus will have their satisfaction, and even most abolitionists will turn their attention to other men, whose lives might yet be saved. And according to supporters of the death penalty, we will be one murderer safer from potential future crimes. \(“You hear people say it doesn’t do anything toward stopping people from killing,” said Judge Shipley, “but it sure stops fifteen years of incarceration have thus far also prevented Robert West from killing anybody. But it remains true, to those who have met him, that there are certainly many more aspects to Robert West, who, as I write, is still alive in all his maddening humanity. West is, by all accounts, a difficult, volatile, occasionally violent man, but he is also straightforward and emotionally honest, to a fault. “He’s a character,” says prison spokesman David Nunnelee. “He says exactly what he thinks. He is real defiant, and he once told me, ‘My job is to try to beat you, and your job is to try to beat me.'” Betty Matthews, a minister who has worked with death-row prisoners for eleven years, says that West’s frankness is refreshing among prisoners who are inevitably guarded with outsiders. “Bobby is what you see,” Matthews said. “He doesn’t pull punches, and you better not try it on him. But if you give him courtesy and respect, he will return it.” Although quick to take offense, West can be very charming with visitors, particularly women; since arriving on death row, he has been “married” twice, each time to an Englishwoman involved in the abolitionist movement. West’s current wife, Jessica Kelly, is returning from England to attend his execution. I would not pretend to psychoanalyze Robert West, or to judge his character, based upon our very brief acquaintance. But in nearly three hours of conversation in the last weeks of his life, West certainly confirmed the common opinion of him: an intelligent, forthright, angry, complex, diffi Alan Pogue cult, contradictory, manipulative, talented, calculating, bitter, probably dangerous man. Abolitionist activist Marta Glass, who knows West fairly well, provided a convincing summary. “Bobby is someone I would not let out anytime soon, if the death penalty were to go away tomorrow. Do I think he ought to be killed? No. But I think that it would take more rehabilitation than he would ever get in any prison I know about, to release Bobby into society. The things that should have been handled when he was a youngster were not handled….But Bobby very definitely has the capacity for caring, for caring about the men around himBobby’s not dead inside, and I have seen some I couldn’t say that about.” West says he’s ready to meet his death, and though bitterly angry at the state and the courts, he does not begrudge the outrage of the Klaus family. “They got every right in the world to this execution, and to this system….They can come [to the execution] and eat popcorn and drink Coke and have music playing in there and dance a jig in that thing, and they got that coming. I wouldn’t take that from them. I understand them, anyway. I understand where [DeAnna’ s mother] is coming from. That revenge factor. You had somebody killed that you loved and cared about; something’s gotta be done. I understand that. I went through that.” The feelings of the Klaus family are certainly understandable. The blood of DeAnna Klaus cries out for justice, and it is the responsibility of the community and the state to provide justice that is serious, proportionate, and fair, and that recognizes the criminal’ s violation of both the victim and the community. Yet in its growing identification with, and promotion of, “victims’ rights,” the state has instead steadily and effectively adopted the moral logic of the man it intends, on July 29, to kill. Robert West murdered DeAnna Klaus in a mad, horrific, brutal, unmediated act of revenge. The state of Texasquietly, efficiently, in a quasi-ceremonial procedure Joseph Fernald, Assistant Warden of the Walls Unit, described to me as “compassionate, dignified, solemn, and professional”is about to do the same to him. THE TEXAS OBSERVER 9 AUGUST 1, 1997