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      "... we remained locked down. Martin GuruleNo visits, no showers, no TV.
       "But, we had our radios and heard on the news that seven death row inmates had tried to escape and that one, Martin Gurule, had made it over the fence. ..."

  Departure, Part I
  Area maps and photos in both sections
  Next: Part II

  by Gene Hathorn
  Author of Self Land: A Death Odyssey,

For more about the Gurule incident, see Gene's other article:
Friday Morning, 12:20 a.m.: The first hour after Thanksgiving.

Gene HathornThe water from the shower, hot and steamy in my moment of solitude, enveloped my body in caressing sheets, velvet hands massaging away another day of loneliness, emptiness, and despair.

Map of TexasTexas Death Row. A monument to society's attitudes of subjugating the poor, the disenfranchised, the unwanted.

     For almost fourteen years I have lived here. Because I am a third-shift porter, I get to shower late. The other inmates shower earlier in the day. Friday is a late rack-up, which means the lights and TVs stay on until 1:00 a.m. But, everyone had already gone to their cells. I was alone with the water and my thoughts.

      I stood steady as the stream pelted me belligerently, for the onslaught was relaxing and conducive to dreams of the free world and how it would be to live there again.

     I would live far away in a land of regal forests and hills, sheltered from the eyes of men, for I would not wish my presence to offend those whose conditioning predisposes them to hate.

       Latent hatred needs scant reason to pull its trigger, and how convenient a reason is an ex-death row inmate? Even if he's a person of compassion and possesses the understanding born of a walk through society's most punishing fire? These virtues would not matter to someone whose guiding force is the hatred that symbolically places him above the untouchables.

     My reverie was broken by the strident announcement over the unit loudspeaker to "Rack up!" Then: "Rack UP! All wings count time!"

     As I stepped from the shower, I encountered the wing officer. He said, "They're racking up kind early, aren't they?" I said yes, something must be wrong. I went to my cell, applied deodorants, powders, and lotions, and commenced to write, but noticed a throb of anxiety had settled over the place.

     The officer had left the wing. Using my mirror to look down the run I could see ranking officers, hardly ever seen on 3rd shift. They are usually off reading, sleeping, or speaking to their wives or girlfriends — or husbands or boyfriends — — on the phone, moving resolutely in the hallway, their portable radios crackling and hissing with disembodied voices.

     Something was indeed amiss.

     At 4:45 a.m., the wing officer returned. Instead of allowing us to fix our breakfast trays with a hot meal, generally the case in the work program, he left us locked in our cells and passed out sack lunches consisting of an egg sandwich, a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, an orange, and a half-pint carton of milk.

      When he arrived at my cell, I asked why we were locked down. He said, cryptically, "I can't talk about it."

     The rest of the day, we remained locked down. No visits, no showers, no TV. But, we had our radios and heard on the news that seven death row inmates had tried to escape and that one, Martin Gurule, had made it over the fence.

Gurule's Escape Route

     There was a massive manhunt in progress. The prison administrators, citing their exemplary record of quickly retrieving escapees, assured the public that Gurule would be captured and returned to the unit in a matter of hours.

     We were allowed hot meals from that point, but the guards serving them made sure we heard their opinion that Gurule would not be free for long.

Someone had actually escaped from Texas Death Row.

    Excitement was high among the convicts. We had never heard of such a thing. There had been numerous attempts through the years. But, these were thwarted, and one wonders whether they were genuine attempts, or just window dressing to give certain individuals bragging rights.

But, Gurule had made it. He had, at least for now, bested the walls, fences, and the machinery of state-sanctioned death.

(go to Part II ... "Every day we hear what we can on the radio. ...")

spacer writings
Gene Hathorn # 800
Ellis Unit D/R
Huntsville, TX 77343
Gene and Son Brian
For more about the ramifications from the Gurule incident, see Gene's other article:

"Today, as promised, the snitch packets were collected. Hours later, we remain locked down.. "

e.n.c.a.p.s.u.l.a.t.e.d . c.o.n.t.i.n.u.e.d



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