The Last Rites

Roland Clements, 48 years of age, from Little Rock, Arkansas; you were convicted of four counts of murder in the first degree and sentenced to death by lethal injection by the court of the state of Arkansas. At precisely 11:58pm on this night, September 15th 2017, we will begin the lethal injection process, ceasing only when you have been pronounced dead by the attending physician. May God have mercy on your soul.

You know. Much be said about last meals. Death Row inmates and their last meals that is. They get to pick anything, they say. Whatever their heart desires. Their favourite food. Their favourite meal from when they was just a boy. It’s the last bit of true happiness a Death Row inmate will experience. Now some of that may be true, yes. And, well, I did get to pick my last meal; chicken fried steak with gravy, fried okra, freshly made biscuits. But there ain’t nothing in the rule book that say it has to be nice. Holy mother above, no there ain’t. And lemme tell you, the only thing worse than being strapped to this gurney right now, literally awaiting my death, is being strapped to this gurney right now which a belly doing all kinds of somersaults and complaining. Hell, I don’t know what the hell the chef put in that gravy but my body certainly don’t agree with it whatever it was. Course, this ain’t nothing new. Ever since I set foot in Supermax, or Varner’s Unit, I ain’t exactly had the kindest of receptions. Being a black man would see to that. And being a black man who has killed a family of four in cold blood, kind of adds to that kind of reception. And oh, just to be clear, the family, all four of them, were white. No-sir, it’s not been the most enjoyable stay for me these last seven years in this fine Arkansas establishment. Kinda made me hanker now and again to take the long walk from Death Row all the way up here to the Cummins Unit. Yessir, the triple cocktail up here at Cummins certainly do look appealing when you’re suffering yet another beating with your hands tied behind your back.

Once the prisoner is securely fastened into the gurney, their arm is swabbed with alcohol before two IVs, complete with saline drip, are connected to the prisoner’s arms. One of these is used primarily as a back-up safety measure incase the main IV drip fails to work. Once this preparatory work has been completed the curtain is opened to allow the witnesses to view the inside of the chamber. At this point the inmate is allowed to make a final statement. Once finished, we begin administering the first of the three drugs through the IV. The first drug administered is Sodium Thiopental – a fast acting barbiturate general anesthetic. This, if all goes to plan, should render the subject unconscious within 30 seconds.

Talking of the walk from my cell to this place. Jesus. Is there anything more morbid in this world? Walking to your certain death. With your hands, your feet in chains. I imagine it must be like some of them soldiers in the World War I, or those in the Civil War – or as they knows it round these parts, the ‘war of northern aggression’. You always used to read or hear about soldiers in them wars just walking slowly or charging to their deaths. Running into gunfire. I imagine that must be like the walk from the cell to this chair. Only, I didn’t feel any kind of heroic, I can tell you that much. Certainly not with this prison jumpsuit hanging off me. And especially not with last night’s meal playing havoc with my insides. No it ain’t good. I counted the steps at first. One, two, three, four…and so on. But I just as soon stopped. What does it matter how far you have to travel when the journey you’re making is your final one anyway? It don’t. And that’s the truth. All that matters is the journey you’ve taken throughout your life. That’s what the prison chaplain told me before I started the walk anyway. And I believes it. You know, I ain’t really been religious these past some of years, not since my boy died all those years back at least, but I have to say the chaplain seemed like a good kinda guy. He don’t discriminate you see. Black, White, Asian, Mexican; it don’t matter to him. And hell, we get more than our fair share of the opposite of that in this state than we need. We are all God’s children he said. We are all imperfect and make mistakes that we all regret. Every single day. Only, as decent as he was to me, or maybe it’s because of how decent he was to me, I could not tell him a lie. When he asked if I seek forgiveness for my actions I could not lie. And so I said no. I do not. And I never done. I knows what I was doing when I committed those murders and I would do it all over again. Not for one little second would I change what I did to that family.

Once the inmate is rendered unconscious by the injection of Sodium Thiopental, guards will then administer the second drug of the three drug protocol method. This time Pancuronium Bromide is administered into the inmate’s veins. This drug is an aminosteroid muscle relaxant which, with the right dose, will seize the victim in a state of paralysis. This drug has absolutely no effect on the consciousness of the inmate itself which is why it is paramount that a state of unconsciousness has been reached prior to the injection of said drug.

That’s right, not one bit of remorse for what I did. You see, I’ve always been under the impression that you reap what you sew. And right now baby, well I’m all kinds of reaping for the actions I took. Well, about to anyway. And that’s fine. I never challenged it. I never expected nothing less. Let me explain. This poor innocent family? Well let’s just say they weren’t so innocent after all. Certainly not to me. Or my family. Certainly not to my son Roland Jnr who took his own god damn life all those years ago because of them. No. Not one bit. My beautiful boy. My only boy. My beautiful, beautiful boy. The two young uns in that family see, the brothers, they teased Roland Jnr. Mercilessly. For years. At school, on the way home from school. For the crime of being black. And gay. Now the first of those two ain’t exactly favourable in this state but the second one? That’s a big no. And both at the same time? Well, that made him a target for these folks. He never said. He never said nothing. Not until it was too late.

I’ll admit, I had some trouble adjusting to my boy saying he was gay, I’ll admit that and I am sorry for that. I loved my boy and that is all that matters. So at first I ignored the signs. He was going through hell. In a mainly white school. And then when it started to come out a bit at a time I went over there. To the boys house. Figured I would talk sense into their father, man to man. Reasonable, serious, you know. But when I went there? Man, this guy, he looks at me like I’m some kind of dirt on his shoe. Looking down his nose at me. Mocking me. Telling me I should teach my son to stand up for himself, teach him to toughen up. That’s what he did and why his two boys were both playing in varsity for the school football team. It wasn’t his fault I had raised a Sissy, he said. Well I tell you, maybe if I had dealt with things then and there, things might have been different. But I reigned it in, all the anger I was feeling. And I walked away. I thought, the Principal of he school will deal with this, we’re decent hardworking citizens, we’ll do this the right way. But of course when it came down to two high school varsity football champions, who happen to be white and whose Dad happens to donate money to the school board, and a troubled black kid who struggles to make friends, well there was only going to be one winner. We all let Roland Jnr down. He had long since lost any hope. Any way out of the torment. A few days later his Momma found him hanging in his bedroom one morning before school. My beautiful, sweet boy. My sweet, sweet boy.

The school told us how shocked they were, how they were there for us should we want for anything. They even held a special assembly for Roland Jnr. To show us how loved he was. It was all bullshit. The kids looked embarrassed, some looked bored. But you know what did it for me. Those kids, the two that had been bullying him, teasing him. They were laughing. Along with their father. During a eulogy to Roland Jnr. Laughing. With that same look. That one I saw when I went to this man’s door to talk. Laughing. I knew then what I had to do. I knew what I would do. The next day I parked down the street from their house. Waiting. Waiting. Until eventually the three of them and the wife/Mom got into the car and took off. I followed them. For miles. For what must have been hours. Until they finally stopped at Cedar Falls, in Petit Jean State Park. They must have gone for the day. To enjoy family time. I followed them into the park, caring not for any passers-by or civilians close by, I grabbed the biggest rock I could find and I marched straight up to that son of a bitch and cracked his skull open with it. The boys and the Mom were too paralysed to even move as the Dad lay there in a pool of his own blood. And so I quickly did the same with the boys. And then their Mom. Opening their skulls. I enjoyed it. It was vengeance. Retribution. They took my boy away from me and now they had what was coming to them. Like I say, I deserve to be here. If I had to do it all over again, I would.

The third and final drug administered is Potassium Chloride. This is the most vital of the three drugs in that it delivers the fatal blow to the inmate in question. It increases the blood concentration of potassium sufficiently to stop the heart beating in a normal fashion via an abnormal heart beat. This causes death by cardiac arrest. A physician on the scene will follow the heart monitor attached to the inmate so that the occasion and time of death is known. Death by lethal injection usually takes an average of seven minutes for the process to complete. On isolated occasions it can take longer due to a number of variable factors – a 2007 case took up to two hours to conclude.

And so that’s why I have peace as I sit here strapped to the gurney. I knows what I did was right. I ain’t ever had an urge to kill before in my life or since so I know that, if there be a God, he must have directed me to this task. I felt it within me. A need to right the wrong. And that is why when they asked me for my final statement all I said was ‘I’m sorry that the world is the way that it is’. There be too much pain, too much suffering in this life, in this world. Too much wrong. But one thing I always held to be true is that when you or your family have been done wrong you make sure and set things right.

And I….I…I feel it.

It’s in me…it’s…

Burning my veins…it’s…

Pulsing…within me…stabbing me…

Burning my…my soul…my…

Suffocating…

Burning…

Killing.

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