David Goff was a Board Member of the Lamp of Hope. He has an execution date of April 25th, 2001.

Part 4 (Final Part)

by Paolo Pergolizzi

Click here for Part 1, 2 and 3

Q. What is your idea of a good time?
A. Watching a bunch of friends have fun and being a part of their gay spirits celebrating life. I am what some call a pleaser or giver. A good time for me is making someone happy.

Q. While growing up who were some of the people who influenced, inspired and impressed you?
A. My grandmother Jimmie Burrell, My uncle Donald, the character Captain Kirk on Star-Trek the television show, Martin Luther King, Al Green the singer, my cousin Jason and my mother—not in good way. She gave me the best lesson of all. How not to be. To me most important, I was touched by most everyday people like my grandfather Tome Johnson who was cranky but loving and understanding. People who did the best they could with what they had and refused to complain if complaining would not change the facts that they that they faced. Oh, and I have to say that the U.S. Secret Service impressed me during my entire childhood and still does. These men and women put their lives literally on the line every minute they are on the job. It is their job. No shield,; they are the shield. And often no time to pull a weapon to protect their charges. They use their bodies in a way that many would refuse. If America has any true heroes or heroines then it is these men and women who are aware that each day one of them could be called upon to do what no other profession ask so often. There is not any ducking for cover for them because they are the cover of safety; of life. I just had to say that.

Q. Understand. You have expressed thoughts of being tired and feeling as though your death would be a welcomed “relief” from the “strain of the weight” you have borne now and most of your life.
A. The years of frustration. Of not being able to get anyone to listen to me has been draining. The years of battling with attorneys who were appointed by the courts to represent me has been draining..

Q. Wait. You have battled with your attorneys?
A. Yes. Every attorney that I have had on my case has took the position that they would handle the case the way that they wanted to and that was that. And these attorneys have all been closely associated with one another so they were not trying to do anything that would hurt any previous attorney that had worked on my case and thus hurt me in the end. One so bad that in reality my appeal of my case ended a few years ago because of his actions without any of my facts having been heard by the courts. Like my innocence. So all of this stuff takes its toll after a while. I have been fighting not to be run over by a truck again most of my life. I feel as though I don't have anything left to give. No fight left in me. And yet...

Q. And yet you keep on.
A. yeah, I am either too stupid or too stubborn.

Q. What sort of work did you do?
A. Well, I am a carpenter and have done some work in construction. But after my release from prison in 1989 I worked mostly in Stewarding departments of hotels. Assisting the person in charge of special events like conventions and meetings to set up and to account for every dish, fork and glass. Not glamorous or noteworthy but I enjoyed the work and the feeling of making a huge difference even if from behind the scenes where no one will ever know you. The Hyatt Regency by far was the best hotel one could be employed at. They believe in people both as customers and employees.

Q. Films, actors, singers and writer, who-are your favorite?
A. A lot of good ones. A lot. My favorite films are “Boys Town” with Spencer Tracy, “ -Roots” Alex Haley, “The Outsiders” with among others Tom Cruise, Patrick Swazey, C. Thomas Howell and Diane Ladd, AND “Lonesome Dove” with Tommy Lee Jones, and the bunch. These movies are everything that good movie making is about. Every element needed. I can only think of one actor who I am impressed with and that is Denzel Washington. Since I have not seen many foreign films that is my choice. Currently no other American actor comes close to his level of art. Of those who do he learned from them and perfected the act. As for singers I enjoy all sorts of music but the old Motown sound is what really moves me. All of them and Al Green, Sam Cooke, Frankie Lemon, Gladys Knight, The Temptations, The Four Tops and I like B.B. King a blues man. As far writers, first I like all things Star-Trek (they just don't let anyone write the books). John Irvin (a must read is “A Prayer For Owen Meany”), James Baldwin (most of his poetry), John Steinbeck, Walter Mosley, and the Apostle Paul (one of the best teachers I have had).

Q. Turning back to your current situation, many look forward to your execution...
A. Yes, and it is sad for so many reasons but more so because I am the wrong guy.

Q. Have you ever met the parents of the man that was killed?
A. No. I saw some of the family in the court room but there were no words passed between us. Just a few stares filled mostly with pain than anger. At least that was my perception. There was lot I wanted to say but what do you say when they are convinced I am the one because the prosecutor said that I am the one?

Q. What is your feelings about the death penalty?
A. Look, in this country very few people are still attempting to convince anyone that they support the death penalty because it is a deterrent or “justice” or “God's” law. No. The majority of its supporters acknowledge that it is needed to soothe the pain of the victim's family and loved ones. The only way that they can put their anger away and move on is the see the killer die. The death penalty is wrong and any decent person knows this but because we are all animal of instinct—revenge being one very human instinct—we are prone to giving in to our instincts. And when we do we create good strong arguments as to why we are not really bad people for doing so. Cheat on your husband or wife? But love was what it was all about. You needed to be fulfilled. Lie on your tax forms? But the government cheats tax payers every day. It's not like I'm robbing anyone. Good people making excuses because they give in to animalistic instinct. But I have questions ,” for—and I mean all—if one innocent person is executed by any nation, government, then of his family and loved ones do you not then make enemies of the state? And are they not justified in seeking revenge for that unjust death? Giving in to that same animalistic instinct. Does it make them bad people? Why?

Q. Did you see Tim Robbin's “Dead Man Walking” focusing on the death penalty and if so what did you think?
A. Me personally I did not like it at all. And I know that quite a number of other men on death row did not like the movie either. I have no doubt that Mr. Robbins and Susan Sarrandon had good intentions but terrible advisors. First, the book that it was based on is not a very good look at the system of death in America. It is a well intended book but not very accurate. The perceptions in the book and movie are those of a person who is caring and giving but who has little experience of true criminals. She put together a “composite” and said this is what a death row prisoner is like. But that was far from the truth. She does not understand that there are some robbers who will not kill and some killers who will not rob. There are lines drawn always in any dark hole of a neighborhood filled-with the criminal element. And in prison there are the same. And though there are some pretty messed up individuals in prison and on death row there are a lot who are on the other side of that and some in between. The average death row prisoner does not exist. Dead Man Walking gave a terrible view of death row. A view that many hold because it is what they want to believe. Over the years I have been surprised every time a new guard comes to work death row. The first thing that they always say is that they are surprised that it is so quiet. That the prisoners are not yelling crazy stuff and are not just wild. They say that they would rather work death row than with the general prison population. “You could get killed out there” they say meaning every word. And they seem muted whenever they execute someone they have witnessed do nothing more than draw, read and laugh with other prisoners for years. You can see the question longing to be asked, “Did have to be done? At least in this case?” A better movie that should have gotten the attention that it deserved for a more realistic view of death row was a movie made for cable called “Last Light” with Kiefer Sutherland and Forrest Whiteker. '(Show Time). I do not know anyone who did not pause in silence at the end of the movie and afterwards proclaim that someone got it right.

Q. Very opinionated. In the past ten years what have you been doing to stay busy? What was going through your mind?
A. I have read, worked on my spirit some and wrote a poem or two here and there. Trying to stay up on my case consumed a lot of my attention so the years seem a blur at times. Often I forget what took place in 1996, 1997, 1998 or whatever. I get the years mixed up all of the time. My thoughts have been a lot like a leaky balloon. With each apparent defeat in court and each attorney who refused to answer my letters or inform me of anything about my case before or after it happened thoughts of hope leaked away little by little. The place where I find myself I realized a few years ago that unless I found a attorney who was not connected to my trial attorney in any way and who would try to save my life and regain my freedom, then I was likely to be executed (soon).

Q. What is a normal day on death row?
A. Now that death row in Texas is at a new prison unit in Livingston (was in Huntsville about 30 miles away) it is bleak. Prisoners are allowed only one hour a day to walk about a caged-in area roughly 16 feet by 22 feet. This is inside the building. Twice a week that hour can be taken on what is called a outside recreation yard. But in truth it is only a room without a roof (bars covering the top allowing air, rain and sunshine in). Meals are served by way of a slot that opens set within the steel door. The food is fine by some standards but that depends on whose standards you are using. You will not starve but no one eats the food every day. It becomes difficult to do. We are handcuffed behind the back before being moved anywhere as well as stripped naked and searched every time. And there are the attitudes of guards. They range from indifferent to hostile. If you just stay quiet in your cell and keep the light off most of the time (it is really dark in the cell without the light on) they will leave you alone mostly. But there is always one or two who need to make their day go by faster by having a little fun with the prisoners. Sometimes it is prison supervisors as well joining in the fun. They get bored I guess.

Q. Why don't you get visits from your family and friends you knew before your arrest and conviction?
A. Well, after my conviction in 1984 my family stopped having any contact with me then. Even though I was only 15 in a adult prison and had never been incarcerated anywhere or in any trouble before, they were gone. I guess I “let them down” –in their way of thinking and they simply wrote me off. After my release I was not running to reunite with them. I was polite but distant. They were distant and demanding. They wanted me to forget that they had other things to do than to hold my hand while I was in prison. “You put yourself there” my heroine said to me, breaking my heart allover again. My grandmother was the one who lead and everyone else followed. (But in all fairness she and my older brother Roy would tell people who asked about me that I was fine and that they had seen me recently and such. When the truth was that I never received visits or letters from them or anyone. They had no idea how I was doing; if a 300- pound hairy smelly guy was doing unspeakable things to me or what. I would not be surprised if the same thing is not going on now with most of the family). When I was arrested on this case and said I had nothing to do with it, no family came running to my defense. I was left on my own. The closest it came to my receiving help from my family was my mother was there to give her support. I have to say that she was at my trial every day and took in everything that was said. But beyond that she was lost as to what she could do for me. All the alcohol and drugs had not left her in great shape. No, I was on my own. Some of my family even said that they thought I was “capable” of having committed the crime. This they based on the fact that I was angry-looking most of the times they saw me. Prison had no doubt changed me for the worse. The same reasoning of the police but the prosecution was not going to say that. It might give me some kind of defense to beat the death penalty. My family does not visit me because they...are busy, I guess. I don't know. And the friends that I had--I guess they found another friend to replace me. I have stopped racking my brains to figure it out. It is about that emotional toughness. Those feelings of being unwanted, uncared for and unloved try to creep back into my soul but I am stronger now. No one can dictate to me how I feel. Not by their words or actions or lack of actions. Not any more.

Q. If you had more time, you would...?
A. Make a difference where and however I could. A positive difference. Now you do believe in the existence of God.

Q. Are you Catholic or Protestant?
A. I am a Christian. I do not adhere to any organized doctrine. I embrace all fellow Christians and show the same love and understand to all that Christ showed as he walked this earth. Though my beliefs may lean more towards Protestant I have plenty room to fellowship with those of the Catholic doctrine as well. As much as they and any Christians allow.

Q. Anything you want to share that you have not yet?
A. Not really. I have been pretty chatty.

Q. Well, what is your abiding philosophy in life?
A. Life is a full circle, so remember that to serve God is to serve mankind; To serve mankind is to serve God. Make a positive difference where you can whenever and however you can. There is no other “purpose” to living.