Saturday, October 20, 2007

On execution of Michael Dewayne Johnson

On October 19, 2006 my life would change in a drastic way. The truth of the matter is each day/month/year on death row changes me – even if only gradually like drops of water falling onto a rock. The change is there even if only seen by the most vigilant eyes.

For me, when a date of execution is at hand I find myself, mentally and spiritually, in another place. I'm solemn and spacey, yet my senses are acutely aware that on this day someone will die. Premeditated murder is a hard adversary to face. In Texas it's become more like highway scenery, something that we see coming, passes us by quickly, but comes back again and again.

I have no balm, spell nor medicine to deal with this death ritual that induces pain, madness and horror. Truth, rage and fight is all I have. But the day of October 19, 2006 would be a day that would plunge me into a hell that I didn't know existed; a trauma that I didn't know I could feel. It would become a day that I would allow no one to ever forget.

The state-sanctioned murder of Michael Dewayne Johnson was scheduled to be carried out in the sadistic catacombs of the Criminal's Jest/us System. But instead of the glee that is System and its minions get from ushering a man to his murder, they would finally come face to face with a reflection of the horror of this process.

I would receive the news around 8am that in the middle of the night Michael Dewayne Johnson, instead of going to the gurney, chose to leave a lasting impression on all our minds, committing suicide by cutting his own throat with a razor. Like a 100-foot drop my stomach would plummet to depths of nausea that I didn't know existed and I felt that I would regurgitate up my entire being. In a state of shock I read those lines over and over again and each time it hit me harder and harder: "Suicide by cutting his own throat!" Dear God what has become?!?

For hours I would spiral out of sanity. Reports I got said the scene was unreal; thought to be macho and heartless, male officers were in tears and female officers were having nervous breakdowns. Blood would not only flood the floors, but it would also tell a story. Accounts vary, but it was said that in his own blood Michael Johnson wrote words declaring he didn't do the
crime, which right next to he posted a statement from his co-defendant who confessed to the crime. This is where I've made this event my personal business.

I knew Michael Johnson. I first met him in 1997 when I got to death row. Let me state for the record that Michael was NOT mentally ill. Michael was a highly intelligent man; the type of guy who might be a computer technician or an engineer. Michael was a very respectful person. He never caused anyone problems, he was always cordial, he recreated practically daily and he lived a peaceful life. He would help you if he could and something else many don't know is that not long before this tragic incident, Michael (in the face of critics and a bias prison setting built on black, white and brown separatist rules) embraced Islam, choosing the name Hamzaa for himself.

Outside of the reasons that this was a man of Peace and Kindness, whom the death penalty had to brutalize, I am making it my personal business to staunchly fly the flag of his name, but also for the reasons that he and I found ourselves bound to Death Row under the same means – The Law of Parties.

While in Michael's case there was a question raised on who shot the victim (unlike my case where the shooter admitted it) there was evidence (the statement that was said to be on the wall) that showed Michael's co-defendant admitting to the shooting. After stealing a car and joy riding, Michael and his friend went to a gas station to do a gas run (meaning fill up with gas and drive off), but when the gas attendant unexpectedly came out to approach them, acting on independent pulse, Michael's co-defendant shot the man and they drove off.

The combination of standing on his innocence of the crime of Capital Murder and his co-defendant quickly accepting a deal to shift blame, the state led Michael to death row. There are uncanny similarities between his case and mine. And due to the fact that I have passionately spoken out against this contradictive and unconstitutional law of parties for 10 years and having
those cries fall on deaf ears I am here to say that the anti-death penalty movement is failing us. It failed to know Michael Johnson and it is failing to be a force to save us from these horrors.

I'm here to make a powerful declaration – what Michael Dewayne Johnson did was not because he lived a suicidal life nor because he was mentally deranged, he did it to make a statement to YOU ("you" being all of you pro and anti-death penalty who think activism is monthly dues and meetings; yearly marches and speeches; but your work extends no further. Not into the
abyss of death row, not into the personal lives of death row inmates, not anywhere passed your own comfort zone). Genocide is not comfortable. Sensory deprivation housing is not comfortable.
The bloodthirsty cries of pro-death penalty people are not comfortable. When Michael Dewayne Johnson cut his own throat it was not comfortable nor made to make you feel comfortable. It was done to provoke you and make you remember how sick, demeaning and horrific death row is.

How does a man who never killed find himself on death row anyway? When is the anti-death penalty community going to start asking that question? I've begged and pleaded for 10 years for this anti-death penalty movement to do that, but now look. This is blood on your refusing hands. What has our movement become when it won't speak out for men they KNOW have not killed?
They'll speak out for sensationalized cases, cases where men have big backing, but for us no name people we find no favor in your sight. None of you knew Michael Dewayne Johnson, but may his name and plight now be forever burned in your psyche.

Do you think that Michael did this to avoid pain? NO WAY!! Michael is not the first to attempt suicide before his execution. He's not the first to commit suicide on Death Row. I wonder how many of you reading this is aware of that. Some of these men tried to go by pills, fire, cutting their wrists; and ones did go by hanging themselves. But to slice open your own neck is a
statement so potent that it brings tears to my eyes. It brings tears to my eyes because no one gave a damn to fight for this man.

I wonder what you all are doing at the sound of this news. Will it just be another event that you look at and say "That's so sad," or will you let this shocking event act as a fuel to attack this death penalty how it needs to

I tell you that EVERY politician, TV and radio station in Texas needs to know what happened. They all need to see what their death row is, because that's been the reason we fail to bring change – these massacres have been made to seem too polite. Was the botched execution of the man in Ohio polite when needles were popping out of his arm? The people in this system don't
seem to care, because executions continue. Michael is dragged out and we prepare for the 6 other scheduled executions. This is a heartless killing machine that doesn't stop. What are we doing about it?

Then I have the additional unfortunate news to say that I – a man who has killed no one - awaits an execution date as my appeals proving my Innocence and that I'm not death eligible were denied. And I think strongly about Michael's statement. Why do we dignify the gurney? It has been successful in fooling the people in society that it's something humane and easy about this process. It's not! Thinking of all this I feel I'd rather die fighting, or at the end of a firing squad, the guillotine – let it be, in a fashion that exhibits what this country is really about: Systematic Genocide!

Are you going to put Michael Johnson in the back of your closet? Are you going to allow that statement to go unread by the world? Are you going to put myself and many others who have not killed anyone, against the horrors of the gurney and/or the razor?

I feel sad to say that I think you are, because I barely hear you and barely see you unless it's at the yearly galas. I think so because even in our own anti-death penalty movement there are people stealing from death row inmates, lying to their faces, blowing off their struggles because they don't have the fame or the fortune. And so where is Texas? At the bottom of the success and unity, and at the top of the executions. Have you thought to ask why? Why? Why? Why does a man find more solace in cutting his own throat than going to the gurney? I wonder if you'll have the courage to ask someone. Will you explore the depths of this hell? How long will you deny what this place is and what it's doing to men here, their families and society? The concept of politeness went out the door on October 19, 2006!

Now I'm left to the nightmares. I'm left with the burden to continue to find a way to smile, stay positive, sane and non violent. I'm left with people who are supposed to be advocates but they don't answer letters, make calls or visits. What is it going to take? Can we stand for anything more horrific than October 19, 2006? I fear to entertain the thought.

Men aren't walking to their executions in Texas. If you don't believe it go read:

Leave the illusion world of candles ending murder and signs stopping slaughters. If we're not putting forth Aggressive and Concerted Actions to deal with the systematic murders of people, then we will not make anymore progress than what we have seen.
Dear Michael,
I'm sorry that your fight was unheard. I'm sorry it was futile. I'm sorry that I've failed to get people to fight against the trash law of parties. I'm sorry that we are all being punished here like dogs. I'm sorry people lie to us and steal from us. But I promise you that I'll keep on keeping on. I promise that people won't forget the statement you made as long as I am alive, because we were bound by a common injustice.

Do people want change? I don't know, Michael. I do know DRIVE wants change! And I want your name forever in mind and I hereby mark October 19, 2006 as a day of Martyrdom for you. We will keep on fighting and I'm afraid that I may never see the Peace and Justice until the day that I see you. Until then........... The struggle continues.

Charles Perroud

"I have found that among its other benefits, giving liberates the soul of
the giver." - Maya Angelou


Anonymous said...

You are wrong. I did get to know Michael Johnson, I saw him every day in that trial. I saw as he walked over to the widow of the man he killed and the prosecutors and with evil in his eyes and voice said "Fuck you motherfuckers, you call all suck dick and die"--those were his words to the widow of the man he murdered. Dont picture that sick man as a "hero." You werent there to hear the facts of the trial.

Anonymous said...

As the state of Texas was cheated by the cowardly suicide of Michael Johnson, I think you should kill yourself to atone.

Anonymous said...

this man is not a cowered! he did not give the state a change and satisfaction to murder him! i believe whole heartedly that michael johnson was an innocent man set up by a so called friend. the prosicution withheld the co defendents own signed confession... michael johnson was about to be murdered by the state of texas for a crime he did not do!!! yall need to take a long hard look at yourselfs!!!!

Anonymous said...

I do not believe that a murder needs to be punished by murder that's ridiculous. No one really knows what happened that night apart from the victim and the two perpertraitors and it's not for us to judge. God Bless you Michael and may you make peace with Jeff.

Anonymous said...

I came across this after searching for info about this man. Seeing his story on tv. The letter that is written here is truly beautiful. I am genuinely shocked by some of the responses it got. There was evidence to suggest the man was innocent, I personally am undecided. Some attitudes in america, in fact, all over the world are no different to lynch mob attitudes. Does a man or woman deserve to die because they verbally abuse someone regardless of who they are. No, absolutely not. In the Uk we have taken on many americanisms and I am grateful that the Death penalty is not one of them. Even in the bible it states eye for an eye is not acceptable, for such a religious nation there are many hypocrites. The Death penalty was stopped in the U.K decades ago, it was seen as barbaric. Am I questioning the intelligence of some, yes I am. It makes me angry that some people can't seem to think for themselves and believe what they are told by authorities. Let's get it right people, we know for a FACT, authorities get it wrong, often and is capable of corruption as we have all seen in our lives. So why do we put such faith in those who not only err, but make substantianal effort to cover up their mistakes. Courts are not infallible and there have been many cases of innocents being imprisoned or murdered by the state. It is against the law for an individual to kill in retaliation, yet those in power have that right? Does anybody not see a problem with that? Some states then have a right to kill whomever they decide is guilty? how is that ok? There are people on death row, who have learnt and grown as people who have sought forgiveness. I am not a christian, but I know of the bible and know a great deal of americans believe in God. Yet, after experiencing the loss of a loved one or a tragic incident, their faith fails them. Death penalty should be stopped worldwide. There is enough death in the world, enough anger and fear. Why should we condone it because our government states it is ok. Think for yourselves and try alittle empathy, as hard as it is. Forgiveness is the only way to healing.

Anonymous said...

I fully agree with the post and comment above. Forgiveness is the only way forward. Who are we to say and judge, a murder for a murder? It does put us on the same step doesn't it?. I just watched this case for a second time together with my teenage kids, and they do agree, seeing the bigger picture, that death penalty should no longer be practice. I don't know what is like to lose someone in such a way like Jeff's family has. But here is what I do know, or feel very strongly about; Michael did send a message by taking his own life.
From personal experience I learnt that forgiveness is 'THE ONLY WAY' to keep moving forward. Two of my three girls have been raped in the same year and nobody ever has been brought to justice, the system is corrupt and fails us over and over to protect us and I don't need no longer the system to be happy. My only CHOICE was to forgive, it doesn't mean I excuse the act but it enables me to move forward. Forgiveness can lessen its grip on you and help you focus on other, positive parts of your life. By embracing forgiveness, you embrace peace, hope, gratitude and joy.No matter what anyone does to you, no one can take away from you your capacity to do well. You lose it only by willingly giving it up yourself.
The blog written speaks so much truth, and is powerful and its very beautiful.
I am neither or no longer a Christian, I believe we all are ONE- we are spiritual beings experience human life. We have come to life to assist each other, help and teach one another a life lesson. Yet many forgot and corrupt the system, deceit and lie for their own good consumed by greed and how much money they can make. Governments-Politics are lead by men possessed by greed and power trips so called EGO. In the past centuries has life changed, gotten better, have we as humans evolved, live in harmony and peace together, do we treat each other the same-equal? In fact what has changed- nothing exactly?
Each one of these senseless deaths, killings, rapes, murders is sending a message, a cry for change a cry for help that we no longer can continue on this distracted path we call life, including people on death row as the case of Michael. What is missing is morals, values and awareness of oneness teach these things in school and our kids might teach us a lesson at home.
I applaud the writer of this text for his courage for it takes courage to be courageous. It's too easy to judge, nobody knows what happen only the people present at the time and scene.
What I did see that even a jury can be blinded and a system that is corrupt. Too many cases of innocent people being in jail and death row come to light, for only light can cast out darkness, light always wins. Many still will die before someone really courageous reaches the top and make a stand that can no longer be ignore!

Yve said...

Having just finishing watching this documentary on Michael, his story intrigues me.
Why up till this day was the signed confession used in the trial? It's absurd!
How can anyone with-hold this VITAL piece of evidence knowing that the outcome would bring unnecessary death.
Whilst watching, I took to my iPod and googled Michael Johnson in the hope to find him alive and well and true justice served but to see the word 'suicide'. My heart jolted and sank to the pit of my stomach.
I continued to watch the documentary to the end.
My heart goes out to the victims family, I understand how they feel cheated but I feel the wrong man was sentenced to death and to a death he had to carry out himself, which I also understand.
11 years was taken from him whilst his "friend" walks the streets freely,knowing what he had done and maintaining his innocence. Of course he can. Michael is gone.
Michael took his life because it was the only way to save himself. Last chance to actually make a decision on HIS own life. As drastic as it may seem it was far from cowardly.
Michael may have pulled the trigger but the fact remains that the trial was marred by evidence being with-held.
Why aren't lie detectors used? At least they would have got the right person.
I feel he was innocent, his last actions prove this.
All you people who are supposed to be looking out for prisoners welfare, don't let them down. Fight for them. The law is wrong, especially when the person never committed the crime.
R.I.P all involved.

Anonymous said...

Good God, hasn't this sorry excuse for a state not learned anything from the sham executions of David Spence, Carlos DeLuna and Todd Willingham??!! I find it incredible that a state within the United States in the 21st century still continues to use medieval methods to convict people on capital punishment trials. A person convicted (ESPECIALLY in a capital punishment hearing) ought to be judged guilty BEYOND REASONABLE DOUBT. This man clearly was not - as his prosecution knew full well and as the evidence now demonstrates. Furthermore, how on earth was his accomplice able to get a sentence of just eight years if he was supposedly convicted in the course of the same crime??! To insinuate that he deserved his fate because of things said in the court is NO excuse. Whilst admittedly being an undeserved retort for the victim's family, in light of what we now know, has anyone not stopped to wonder that this might well have been the outburst of a terrified and intimidated 18 year old man - barely more than a child - who was potentially being set up for something he hadn't done?? I really think Texas ought to try and drag itself out of the gutter that these farcical trials have now become. Even Russia (who the US ironically enough, continually berates for "Human Rights" issues)have moved on from the dark ages. Whilst I have not vehemently opposed DP in the past for serious criminals, Texas has proved that with its dire record of purchasing dubious testimony at all costs, its corruption, and the questionable intelligence of just about everyone involved in its CJS, the DP just cannot be trusted. Even an age of advanced DNA technology has not eliminated the ugly spectre of wrongful (or unlawful as I prefer to call them) executions. With this in view, the DP surely cannot stand. Many a pro-death advocate has even suggested that wrongful executions are a worthy sacrifice to ensure the continued existence of the system, but such a rhetoric can surely only be taken seriously if THOSE advocates are willing to sacrifice themselves for the cause that they so proudly uphold. In all honesty, no one has the right to demand such a sacrifice, not the government, not society and not even the victims' families, and this does NOT uphold the credibility of the DP, societal values or fight crime.
To an extent, the only consolation I can draw from this sorry affair is that this young man was able to regain control of his end, without the demeaning, gleeful and bizarre spectacle that an execution would have ensured.
Best wishes to all involved in this incident, as well as to everyone else caught up in the gruesome spectre of wrongful convictions.

Anonymous said...

Michael Johnson did it...I suggest all those who think he didn't kill Wetterman to watch Cold Case Files from A&E, you'll see the truth in this tragedy