Tag Archives: death penalty

Ultimate Price


Very rarely in my life have I had to deal with death. Most recently, a friend paid the ultimate price in a fiery wreck during the time I was out on bail from my drug charge, back in March of ’14. Most likely she had fallen asleep while driving, as I had done so many times in the past. Unfortunately for her, she was pinned inside the truck and more than likely burned to death along with her dog when the gas tank exploded, as evidenced by the claw marks inside the plastic by the door. I have seen pictures of the vehicle and the body after the accident, and I wish I had not. I have seen a lot in my day, and I have seen a lot of death on the internet. But nothing could have prepared me for seeing somebody I actually knew. I could make out the features, especially the teeth and facial bone structure. It was unsettling, if not disturbing.

I met Christie and Mackenzie (names changed) at a mutual friend’s house in Chatfield in the Winter of 2012. They were both alcoholics and low-level drug dealers (allegedly), and had formed up as a lesbian couple a number of years before I met them and were living together in **. *******.  I took a liking to them right away because they seemed like they were still fun people, a rarity among meth users.  I started selling to them (allegedly) pretty quickly after that, so I would often go to their house.  It is there that I started to see the devastation more common to our kind.

The house was in complete disarray.  Shit everywhere, broken glass on the floor, rotting food on the counters, and paraphernalia abundant.  What I wasn’t expecting was the blatant domestic arguments that would occur directly in front of me.  These women would really get heated.  On more than one occasion I saw bruises and lesions on both of them but they would never come to blows in front of me or anybody that I knew.  It got really uncomfortable for me on more than one occasion, and one of them would leave, or, more commonly, I would.  Over and over, of course, they would come back to each other, make up, and start over.  My guess is that the accident occurred on a morning after the evening of a fight, although this would never be confirmed.

An early Thursday morning on U.S. Hwy. 14 in Lewiston, MN in March of 2014 would be a day any friends of the couple would never forget.  A westbound pickup truck crossed the center line and smashed into a construction vehicle head-on and caught fire, killing my friend and her dog.  I’m not going to provide any more details, but the internet has all sorts of resources, and it would be pretty easy to find.  Just keep the names private please.

What transpired afterward was even worse for me, because her partner went crazy, very slowly, before I went to prison, and she was eventually arrested for robbery, possession of meth with a handgun, and a number of lesser charges.

Christie frequently suffered delusions after the accident, and often accused her friends, myself included, of being responsible for Mackenzie’s death.  Contributing to the  insanity was the lack of sleep that is the result of methamphetamine use, and depression, a result I’m sure of losing one’s life-mate or partner.  She would ramble incoherently and shout at the walls.  She would speak of conspiracies involving women breaking in through cracks in the walls.  She was arrested for robbing somebody of $400 in her own living room at gunpoint.  The person she robbed had reported seeing an earlier robbery in which she twisted somebody’s arm behind her back, accusing her of being responsible for Mackenzie’s death, then took $500 from her purse.  She was arrested three days later and her house was searched yielding scales, bags, drugs, and a loaded rifle on the couch.  She’s not currently in jail or prison that I can find.  I wish her the best.

Mackenzie– I am sorry I wasn’t a better friend. I will never forget your laugh, or your cry. Go be with the angels now.

Prison News Round Up


I am leaving for Berlin in two days, so I’m going to review a pile of prison-related articles that I’ve accumulated—over a period of one weekend—that’s how often prison is in the news.  I’ll give you the downers first, then the positive ones.

Ohio is having trouble obtaining drugs used to execute people, so the Ohio DOC has obtained an import license from the Drug Enforcement Administration to buy sodium thiopental and pentobarbital from overseas.  Wow.  Where overseas, I wonder?  They “decline” to name the countries.  I’m thinking China, North Korea, Iran, or Yemen, since these are our fellow members of the death penalty club.  In case that doesn’t work, Ohio legislators passed an “execution secrecy law” (I am not making this up) in hopes it would get small-scale drug manufacturers called compounding pharmacies to sell them the drugs.  These are unregulated companies that have been in the news for sickening people with contaminated pharmaceuticals.  But hey, if you’re trying to kill someone, who cares what the quality of the drug is?

In Wisconsin, there is a prison guard shortage that has prompted two correctional facilities to call in guards from other institutions and pay overtime.  So let me get this straight—we pack our prisons full of nonviolent drug offenders, which costs us taxpayers an arm and a leg, then we have to pay overtime to get guard coverage, which costs us more.  Great system!

Which leads me to this editorial in the Minneapolis Star Tribune, “Finding solutions for overcrowded prisons.”   I like the opening line: “Either Americans are the most evil-people on Earth or there’s something terribly wrong with their criminal-justice system.”  They mention something that’s news to me: “It’s a stretch to suggest that the bloated prison population is due mainly to the sentencing of nonviolent drug offenders.  It’s not.  Most of the increase comes from locking up greater numbers of thieves and violent criminals and keeping them behind bars longer.  Even if all nonviolent drug offenders were set free today, the prison population of 2.2 million would drop to only 1.7 million … Still, on the margin, granting early release to nonviolent offenders and shortening sentences to better match crimes seems a sensible step….”

This information is new to me, and I wonder why I haven’t read it elsewhere.  Everywhere else, the narrative is that, if we just release all the nonviolent drug offenders, our prison population will be drastically reduced.  But if there are more violent criminals in America than elsewhere, maybe we are the most evil people on earth.

Still, 2.2 million total prisoners minus 1.7 million nonviolent drug offenders is 500 thousand people—not insignificant.  And when you figure it costs (on average) $31,000 a year to keep someone in prison, that’s over $1.5 billion a year.

On the same day, there was this feature article about Damon Thibodeaux, an 18-year-old who was wrongly convicted of rape and murder who spent 16 years on death row before being exonerated and freed, in large part due to the efforts of Minneapolis attorney Steve Kaplan.  Thibodeaux had been raped and beaten on a regular basis by his step “father” since the age of five and so he was easily bullied and manipulated into confessing to the crime.  It’s a heart-rending story, but it has a happy ending.  As I’ve written before, an important element of recovery from anything is feeling that you belong.  And Kaplan has gone the distance to help Thibodeaux adjust to life after prison by including him in family and other social gatherings.

And there was this little factoid in The Week: that every day, on average, a dozen people die behind bars.  The leading cause?  Suicide, in local jails; cancer elsewhere.

Below are some prison-related images.  The bully one made me shudder, because it’s how I felt when I was kicked out of Moose Lake for wearing “revealing clothing.”  It wasn’t about my clothing; it was a power trip.  Related to that is an interview with Richard Zimbardo, who led the Stanford Prison Experiment in which students were assigned to be prisoners or guards.  The “guards” quickly became sadistic.  “I lost my sense of compassion, I totally lost that,” said Zimbardo.

Next time, the good news.