by Charles “Chucky” Mamou
I’m standing on my folded mattress peeking through the thin frame window that is located on the back of my cell’s wall. Beyond layers upon layers of gated fences, razor wires, and look-out towers, it seems so peaceful, so radiant, and for a split second, I wish I could have been in an open country field sniffing up the fresh scents from the lilies and other wild flowers-laying on the ground with them, with the sun’s rays beaming down upon my face.
Then I grab hold of reality. I had no choice actually, because in my view, pulled up a small white T.D.C.J (Texas Department of Criminal Justice) van. The driver opened the back of the van, and then opened up the doors to the cage inside. If y’all ever saw a dog catcher’s van, then the T.D.C.J. van was equal in description. The difference was, no dog was going inside the van, a human being was going to be put inside I watched carefully as each man smiled with each other, picked up on their pants and stood in place like they were a bunch of rodeo cowboys. Their demeanor was of a confident nature, almost overly cocky. I turned my head to see the time on my radio clock, it was now five minutes after noon, and I knew exactly why that van was parked, and why those men were here… today is the execution / murder of Joseph Nichols, whom we all knew as Nick Bey.
When I peeked out my window, a fast moving image caught my attention out of the corner of my right eye: six riot gear officers marched down the gated sidewalk coming from the visitation area, holding Nick Bey by force on a gurney. Quickly , about twenty more officers came out of the building, then several free-world dressed supervisors came out, all talking on their respective cell phones; looking like a bunch of sport agents on draft day. Then two nurses came on the scene, as well as every warden on the unit.
Nick Bey (Joseph) was lying on his stomach as they rolled him into the death row building. An officer Smith cheerfully followed them recording every move on her hand held digital camera. It is policy that all death row inmates, on the day they are designated to be murdered, switch clothes. They are given a different D.R. jumpsuit and are given paper slippers. I have no clue as to why this is so important to these murderous bastards, but it is 12:37 PM. Nick is rolled out of the building with just a pair of state issued boxers on. Since I am located next to the entrance of the building, we could smell the stench of chemical gas…They had gassed Nick Bey because he refused to wear their mockery D.R. clothing. Because Nick Bey revealed to them that he wasn’t just a man, he was an innocent man. An unwilling participant in his own murder. That if he was going to be killed on this beautiful day, he was going to make sure that they were accountable for having his blood on their hands, both literally and figuratively. Oh, I forgot to mention that Nick Bey was heavily handcuffed, and he wasn’t resisting, nor provoking an altercation, but he laid on that gurney in a pool of his own blood.
Do the clarification on your own, just weigh in these truths…It’s the racist South and you have a handcuffed man, who is motionless on a gurney, surrounded by forty red neck white folks and one Clarence Thomas-esque Negro (Captain Bailey) all with smiles on their faces. All of them are shaking hands the way they do on these types of days. A few were giving each other high-five leaping hand claps. They were enjoying this. One warden even had the nerve to demonstrate to his other tie-wearing buddies how they slammed Nick Bey onto the gurney. He got so into it, that his face turned redder than boiled crabs from Louisiana. He had an enjoyable insane look on his face.
The six massive men in riot gear forced Nick Bey up off the gurney, then threw him….did y’all hear what I just said. They threw this man into the van, as if he were a bag of trash. Then they slammed the vans gate. He must have got cut again, because the nurse was called to look at him. I can only assume he ignored her, because she waved her hand in a disgusted motion and walked away. Then the Major took photos of his kill— I mean, of the bloody man. Another officer came with a different camera and a few of t he ranking officers got on both sides of the van and took more pictures. Once the photo shoot was over, they close the van doors and left. At 12:58 the van slowly rolled away. The crowd that had gathered to view this modern day lynching quickly scattered into different directions, as if nothing ever took place.
I was overcome with a tsunami-like rage of anger that made my heart sad and heavy. The man in me was proud of Nick Bey, for he did not walk the plank to his own murder; he was man enough to make a non-violent stance towards his humanity and his “right to live”. Yet, the warrior in me was angry at all of the cowards that beat Nick Bey without provocation. Even more so at those that threw him into the van without mercy or care. Those that laughed and mocked his existence. He is a creation of God, and they should have recognized that. I wish we could have fought them all. Knowing that I couldn’t help him enraged me even more, because a cloud of hopelessness stormed my inner thinking’s. Soon after, depression engulfed my tiring spirit.
It’s now 2:38 and I’m still standing on my folded mattress peeking still-through the window. I’m once again glaring into the blue skies, although I’m not focused on it, nor am I aware of what I’m looking at. The only thing on my mind is trying to convince myself that at any second, that white T.D.C.J van will pull back up and escort Nick Bey out, admitting that they made a mistake. That everything will go back to normal for me, and that my eyes can somehow erase what I had witnessed. But, even I have to remind myself to “get real”. Anyone that enters that van, hardly, if ever, returns. For all its worth, that death van symbolizes the cliché about the Fat Lady, and how she’s about to sing.
I began to listen to the local news on the radio, only to hear the state argue against Nick Bey. The D.A. admitted that Nick Bey did not kill anyone, in fact, the killer within Nick Bey’s case was executed in 1995. But the state said that the higher courts should disregard that fact, because although Nick Bey did not kill anyone, he was there as an accomplice to the robbery (not Murder) and should be held accountable anyway. Sure its not legally binding, but nothing in Texas is legally comprehensible. You know all those right wing conservatives who support the death penalty are quick to say that every person on death row is guilty of committing murder, and therefore should be murdered. But I question and say how do you explain the case where the accused did not kill anyone? If Nick Bey’s case was in any other state, he would not have been placed on death row.
“ONLY IN TEXAS” is an arrogant saying that is founded on a noose and tree-like mentality that has a belief and agenda rooted in prejudice hypocrisy. Reality will reveal the ‘bigger picture’. That being said, we have been duped into believing in the bureaucratic justice for ‘b.s.’ It’s not about whose innocent or guilty. It’s about politics. We are witnessing a political genocide here in Texas. Where those that are hunted down, beaten, arrested, and executed, are those that are poor (regardless of race), mentally retarded, gullible to their constitutional rights, or some other type of environmental outcast. The same crime Nick Bey is accused of, another guy gets 10 years in prison for. Go figure…
As I began to ramble on within my mind, my neighbor beats on my wall and tells me through a small crack “Chucky, let it go”. Though he can’t see me, he felt that I was looking out my window after witnessing the events earlier in the day, and felt that I needed to let it go.
It was after 6 p.m. that the sun began to dim out, a different work crew was coming in to begin their work shift and the newscast pronounced Nick Bey dead, murdered by the state of Texas. A few minutes later, a profoundly added twist of poetic irony played on the radio in a song by Guns n’ Roses. A song that began saying “I’m a cowboy, on a steel horse I ride, I’m wanted DEAD, or ALIVE” and in Texas “wanted DEAD NOT ALIVE” would be the appropriate alternative.
I said a prayer for Nick Bey, may he rest in peace.