Witness to an Execution

Why I decided to watch my father’s killer die.

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Glen E. Lich (left), who was killed in October 1997, and his son Stephen Lich, who recently attended the execution of his father’s murderer.

Stephen Lich was a college student when his father, Glen Ernst Lich, 48, was murdered in October 1997 by Ramiro Hernandez Llanas, a 28-year-old Mexican laborer. The crime took place at the family’s home, near Kerrville. In 2000 Hernandez was found guilty and sentenced to death. When, early this year, the convict was given an execution date, Lich, now a professor of economics at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, chose to attend. But the decision filled him with anxiety and dread—as well as curiosity. What would it be like to witness the death of the man who slew his father? What follows, in Lich’s own words, is an account of how he came to terms with his decision—and what he saw on April 9, when Hernandez was put to death.

Warning: The following contains profanity and descriptions of graphic violence.

I’ll never, ever, ever forget October 15, 1997. In my memory, it’s as vivid as anything I did earlier today. I was living in an apartment in College Station, and the phone rang at about three in the morning. Kerr County sheriff Frances Kaiser identified herself. She put my mother on the phone. My mother was sobbing hysterically. “Daddy’s been killed. We think he’s dead.” My first thought: What kind of accident were my parents in that killed him but she survived? Then Sheriff Kaiser took the phone back, and she told me the general details. My mother was robbed and attacked. They assumed the body behind the house was my father, but it had been beaten so badly the face was not recognizable.

A suspect had been caught, and his name was Ramiro Hernandez Llanas. Back in August my father had hired a carpenter to work on the house, and Hernandez was his assistant. I never met either of them because I had already gone back to school. But apparently there were some problems with the carpentry job, and in September my father fired the carpenter—quite angrily. Of course, Hernandez was out of a job then too. He showed up at my parents’ house a couple of weeks later, in early October, and said he was looking for work. My father said that he couldn’t hire him because of his illegal status, but he could at least offer him a place to stay and food, in exchange for help with some odd jobs. My father didn’t hold any grudge against Hernandez for the carpentry mistakes; in fact, he praised Hernandez for his strength (he was a big guy) and gave him the nickname El Toro. Hernandez slept in a barn, where the tools were kept.

On the night of October 14, he lured my father outside, claiming there was a problem with the generator. Hernandez beat him to death with a heavy metal bar that’s usually used for cracking rocks—bashed in his skull like a pumpkin. Then he went inside the house, took jewelry and money and raped my mother at knifepoint. I’m certain that he intended to kill her too. But through some miracle—which we’ll never explain—he fell asleep just long enough for my mother to break free.

It was horrible. The sheriff’s office arranged for a cleaning crew on the morning after my father was killed. Even so, spots of blood were still on the rocks outside the shed. Blood and gray gunk and flakes of bone were stuck between the floorboards. After his funeral, I spent the afternoon trying to scrub it out. It was my twenty-first birthday.

My father was an impressive and ambitious person. He was born and raised in the Hill Country and wound up having dual careers—one as an academic and another in military and government service. In his academic career, he went from being an assistant professor at Schreiner College, where he was the authority on the German Texans of the Hill Country, to holding a distinguished professorship in German Canadian studies at the University of Winnipeg. 

He volunteered for the U.S. Army in 1972 and started as a buck private and a specialist in Eastern European languages. During summer breaks from teaching he worked as an army reservist and rose to the rank of colonel. He served as a military attaché and later as a diplomat. His team established a partnership with the Romanian military shortly after the Ceausescu government fell—a partnership that led directly to Romania’s membership in NATO.

My father was always proud to be a Texan, no matter where he was working. He once wrote a piece called “Texas Pissing” in his travel journal, about how, whenever he’d travel abroad, he’d go outside and urinate on the ground, marking his territory with a map of Texas. It represents the image he liked to portray: crass, yet intellectual; a Texas country boy at heart, while serving as a diplomat in Eastern Europe.

In 1993 he quit the academic life and retired to a mountaintop between Kerrville and Medina with a stunning view of the Hill Country. My brother and I helped my parents build a home there, one room at a time. We built a hydraulic ram to bring water up from a creek; we built a septic system. My father wouldn’t let the electric company spoil his view by putting power lines up his hill, so he and my mother lived without electricity, except for a generator that they ran for a few hours each day to charge some batteries, print papers, and send or receive faxes. He kept busy doing some work for the government, and he did consulting under the name Hill Country Institute.

He was hard on people. He was determined and demanding. His expectations were very high, especially for my brother and me. I don’t think he understood adolescents; he expected us to be intellectually mature from birth. He never understood why someone would want to read Stephen King books instead of classic or modern literature.

Though the two of us butted heads over the years, in the summer of 1997, when I was a senior studying economics at Texas A&M, he and I finally began seeing eye to eye. We were starting to understand each other. I had reached a point where I understood economics better than he did, and we could have discussions where I explained how to think about economic problems. I did research for him on portions of his job that related to business, finance, or economics. The last conversation we had was on the telephone a few nights before he was killed. At the end of it, I expressed gratitude for the guidance he’d given me. Those were our parting words.

Before the crime, I was against capital punishment. It was part of the party platform I adopted as an educated, moral person with liberal tendencies. But about a week after my father’s death, Kerr County district attorney Bruce Curry called and asked my input as to whether he should pursue the death penalty. I had just heard that Hernandez had sworn from jail that he was going to come back and kill my mother and grandmother, who lived at my parents’ home. While I stayed with my mother during the next few weeks, I slept with a shotgun under my bed, prepared to kill him myself if necessary. At that time, I had absolutely no doubt whatsoever about what the State should do. I told the district attorney that I supported pursuing the death penalty.

If ever there was a person who deserved to be executed, it was Hernandez. It turned out he had escaped from prison in Mexico while incarcerated for a previous brutal murder. Earlier in the fall of 1997 he raped a local teenage girl. Then he killed my father and raped my mother. Then he threatened he would escape again and kill my mother—and while in jail he threatened to kill a jailer with a homemade shank. If ever there had been a person who should be eliminated from the earth, it was Hernandez. 

The trial took place in 2000, but I didn’t go. I didn’t really need to hear people recite the details. I had no interest in listening to my mother repeat her horrible ordeal or hearing the sheriff and deputy go through the evidence piece by piece. By the way, nobody ever questioned the evidence—there was no question of whether or not Hernandez did what he was accused of doing. When he got the death penalty, it felt like a battle had been won. 

Afterward, I got on with my life. Looking back, I realize that I followed my father’s footsteps. He had done his graduate studies at the University of Texas at Austin, so I figured I might as well try the same. (My department—economics—was housed in the building adjacent to the one where he had studied.) He lived and taught abroad, so I tried the same. It suited me too. He was proud to be a crass, intellectual Texan. I was the same. And he had a particular style of mentoring students. They respected and admired him so much. I consciously try to emulate his teaching style.

One thing I wish to hell that I had had: advice. A young man needs this from his father. Advice on his career, advice on how to be a parent, advice on how to be a man. And I never got that. I’d go to his grave—he’s buried in a family cemetery outside Comfort—and talk to him about what was going on and what I needed advice on. Of course, I didn’t get anything back. He never said that he was proud of me when the top economics department in the country was going to interview me for a job. I couldn’t get his wisdom on choosing between positions at different universities. It was a one-sided discussion when I asked him about work-family balance.

But as I said, I was living my life. In 2004 I married a woman named Kristen Hassmiller, and two years later I started teaching at UNC. Kristen and I have three children; the oldest is named in honor of my father. And all through this time Hernandez was going through the appeals process. That was an emotional roller coaster: a long period of inaction, a new appeal resulting in more anxiety, waiting and waiting for the resolution, a sigh of relief when it was over, followed by another long period of inaction. I resented the teams who championed Hernandez’s case. Did they think about what would happen if they got the conviction overturned and Hernandez was released while he awaited a new trial? What if this two-time murderer were allowed to walk the streets? When they argued that he posed no further threat to society, would they have welcomed him to stay at their homes?

The defense attorneys dug up and paraded every detail of Hernandez’s past—but they weren’t completely honest about it all. I know that it’s their jobs to make every possible claim they can, no matter how ludicrous, in order to win. But once a claim is determined to be false, it should be buried. For example, the claim that Hernandez was retarded [the Supreme Court ruled in the 2002 Atkins decision that states could not execute the mentally retarded]. I understand, and share, sympathy for defendants who are “intellectually disabled.” But Hernandez was not retarded by any stretch of the imagination. Look at his cunning escape from the Mexican prison before he killed my father. Look at his behavior and the planning that went into my father’s murder. Look at the evaluations of other psychologists. Only the defense attorneys’ hired guns claimed he was mentally incapable. A panel of judges determined the claim to be meritless. That should be the end of the discussion. So many people believe it to be true, simply because his lawyers wanted to see if an Atkins claim would go anywhere. 

I watched the news closely. There was more coverage in the Mexican news than the U.S. They portrayed him as a young man who simply went to work in Texas to earn money to send home to his elderly mother; then he became the victim of a cruel criminal justice system. I read a news article with quotes from his mother, and I found a video of a television interview with her. I wanted to know exactly what she said, so I hired a student to transcribe it. I found it interesting that she contradicted the allegations of retardation. What was his mental illness, she was asked. He sometimes fainted. Was it serious enough to get treatment? No. The interview showed his house—not the slum that witnesses at an evidentiary hearing had talked about. I went to Google Maps to look at his neighborhood and saw the “dump” where these witnesses said his family lived. It looked like a typical salvage yard. The news stories sought sympathy based on his upbringing and his claimed intellectual disability, but did the reporters do any research? 

Before his lawyers brought up his supposed mental disability, there was also the affair with consular rights and Mexicans on death row—that he wasn’t advised of his consular rights when he was arrested. This went to the International Court of Justice. That was a big deal, and I wondered how it was going to play out. I felt relief when it was over, with no consequences for the case. More recently, there was concern about the execution drugs, but then Texas found another supplier of pentobarbital—just in time before the execution.

Over the past few years, I would occasionally check on the status of the case. In December, I did an Internet search and saw an article in the Kerrville Daily Times that there was, finally, an execution date: April 9, 2014. I searched further back, and I found an article with the words “exhausted all appeals.” It would be over soon. No more emotional roller coaster. We could wrap up this long, painful affair. I had never understood what people meant by “closure.” But maybe there would be a feeling of relief at the end of this long, painful chapter.

On January 9, I got an email from the Victims Services Division of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice setting the wheels in motion for me to be a witness to the execution. And instantly, reflexively, I knew I would want to be there, in Huntsville. Then they sent a formal letter with a packet of information about witnessing the execution. It explained which family members were eligible to attend. It said that we could bring “support” people with us, to accompany us but not watch the execution. They would wait in an adjacent room during the actual execution. It talked about the logistics of the execution. It had some advice on interacting with the news media. (I suspect that almost all victims’ families have had bad interactions with the media.) As a witness, I underwent a background check. They also offered to arrange travel plans, to find a spiritual or emotional counselor, to reimburse me for any costs. I declined. My only requests were to receive notification about media interest and the status of any appeals.

My mother and sister decided not to go, but I wanted to watch the execution. Why? What did I hope to get out of it? I asked myself this question a lot. I didn’t really know. I second-guessed my decision to attend—a lot. I knew I would be watching a person put to death against his will, a potentially gruesome event. At first, I envisioned that he would just fall asleep. Then I realized that he might struggle or strain. My initial vision had him calmly accepting his fate. But likely, he could be freaking out as they executed him. Or maybe it could be the other extreme. The killer would enter the room complacently, the IV would be administered, and the fluids would flow. An uneventful minute later, it would be finished. Would that leave me unfulfilled? 

I have seen someone die before. Two years before my father’s death, a loved one died in my arms after ingesting cyanide. I had tried to stop the suicide attempt. The last moments were horrible; the final words, about the physical sensation, still haunt me. Maybe I didn’t want to watch another death. So I kept wondering whether it was a good idea to attend.

I asked myself, How would I feel if he simply passed away in his prison cell one day? I thought, well, I’d be okay with that. But would it be more reassuring if I saw it myself? I thought so. Another question I asked: Was it important to have retribution? Hypothetically, would I get more satisfaction if they tortured him to death? No. I was certain of that. Splatter his brains, just for the hell of it, because he did that to my father? Definitely not. I was not comfortable with that.

I asked myself, If I were to meet Hernandez face-to-face, what would I say or do? And I thought, I would say “fuck you.” Fuck you for hurting my family; fuck you for making it so hard for people to relate; fuck you for depriving my children of their grandfather; fuck you for depriving me of the guidance I’ve needed as I’ve grown up. Fuck you for everything. Then I realized that there was no bigger insult to Hernandez, no bigger way for the world to say “fuck you” to him, than by condemning him to death.

The reaction that I heard the most from others before the execution: “I can’t imagine what you’re going through.” No, I thought, you can’t. I couldn’t imagine what I would be going through either. I had so many thoughts and questions, and there was no guide, nobody who had written about their experience as a family member witnessing an execution.

Despite moments of clarity, I had just as many moments of doubt and confusion about the whole issue of capital punishment. One thing I was certain about, even before the execution, was that people are naive when they say that they are absolutely opposed to executions or absolutely for them. Nothing can be black or white. I could debate this for hours, though in truth, I won’t discuss capital punishment with others—and I have almost never discussed the murder with others.

But I debated my feelings with myself. And I did understand why I wanted the execution. I felt I would have peace of mind when Hernandez was gone and this ordeal was finished. My father’s death has dragged on for sixteen and a half years. Time doesn’t heal all wounds. I pick at scabs, and sometimes they fester. I haven’t let go of my father’s death. I don’t want to. If I let go of it, then I let go of a piece of him. If I make his death less important, then I make his life less important too. 

***

The week before the execution was filled with a flurry of appeals and petitions, mainly about Texas’s new supply of pentobarbital, the execution drug. Lawyers for Hernandez and another murderer, Tommy Lynn Sells, argued that the TDCJ needed to reveal the source of the execution drugs to confirm their quality so they wouldn’t cause a cruel death. Their executions were stayed by a federal judge—but then the stay was overturned. On April 3 Sells was executed. Sells’s failed appeals guaranteed that Hernandez would be executed too.

On the evening of April 7 Kristen and I got in the car and began the trip to the execution. It’s a long drive from North Carolina to Texas. I was tired during the drive—I hadn’t slept well in weeks—but determined to make it to Huntsville in time. On the way I thought a lot about my father. He loved to drive—that’s another thing I got from him. I wondered what he would be doing if he were still alive. I thought about my kids and realized the thing that I regret the most about his murder: I wish my dad had known his grandkids. Having grandkids would have been important to him. He deserved to know them—and they deserved to know him.

I also thought about how well my father treated Hernandez. He let him stay at his place, made sure he had food, bought him tequila and beer. And this person turned around and took advantage of that so brutally. My father had always been a curious man, and I had inherited that curiosity. I wanted to know what it would be like to watch Hernandez die. Now I was going to find out.

When we got to Huntsville we checked in at the prison’s administrative offices and met two women with the TDCJ’s Victim Services Division. Anyone who thinks the TDCJ in Huntsville is a bunch of merciless people needs to meet the two women who were assigned to us. They were wonderful and compassionate. They showed us a video of what the prison looked like, what the execution chamber looked like. They told us all about the wide range of experiences they had seen. They were very good at explaining what to expect. The worst thing that had happened to a family member, they said, was that someone had fainted. They drove us over to the Walls Unit, warned us where the media would be hiding, where the protesters would be.

The prison building is old. It looks like a castle, with guards walking along the parapets. In the center, there is a courtyard. In a corner of the courtyard, looking very much like a garden shed, is the Death House. We were led into the prison and taken into the first room, where they patted us down for electronic devices or weapons, then we were taken to a second room, where we waited for about ten minutes. The phone rang at about six minutes before 6 p.m., and it was time. I felt a deep sense of dread as we walked down this long corridor and into a room looking into the actual execution chamber, which was smaller than I’d imagined, like a doctor’s examining room, but even smaller.

And there he was. I’d never seen Hernandez in person before, and he was a huge and hideous man, lying on the execution table. A sheet covered him from his feet to his chest, and an enormous, thick leather belt strapped his chest to the table. His arms were stretched out to the sides like—I hate to use this comparison—he was about to be crucified. IV tubes ran to his hands, which were wrapped tightly with Ace bandages. The bandages weren’t for any medical purpose; rather, they were to prevent him from making obscene gestures.

I stood right at the window, and he was only two or three feet away. He looked like Marlon Brando in the climactic scene of Apocalypse Now, but even more heavyset. Looking back on it, I could use that scene as a description of how it felt—the tension as Captain Willard walked into Kurtz’s tent, to hack him to death while he lay helpless. I felt extremely angry, like I was stepping up to someone to start a fight, confronting someone who had really hit hard at my family and now we were hitting back at him. He was strapped down, helpless, defeated, staring at the ceiling, blinking rapidly, licking his lips, biting his upper lip. He seemed nervous, but he wasn’t angry or freaking out.

Our witness room was the size and shape of a walk-in closet. Two people could stand abreast, and we could stand four rows deep. I could hear muffled talking on the other side of the wall and knew that’s where his family was. Every part of the day had been choreographed so that Hernandez’s family and I never came into contact with each other, but now I could see them in the reflection of a mirrored window on the opposite side of the room. A large middle-aged man and a large middle-aged woman stood at the front. I believe they were his brother and sister. I was told that behind the mirrored window were a team of guards and the medical staff who administered the drugs. (“Medical staff?” I thought. “Wouldn’t it be more accurate to describe them as executioners?”)

After everyone was inside the execution room and the door was locked, Warden Jones—a small man, dressed in a fine suit, with a soft voice—asked Hernandez if he wanted to make a final statement. He said, “Yes, sir,” and he began his statement in Spanish. He talked about how he loved his family, was sorry for what he’d done to them. He looked at them as he talked and blew them kisses. He went into a kind of public service announcement, telling kids to listen to their parents and do right. Then he turned and looked at me and said, “And to the family of my boss, I want you all to pardon me, I want to let you know I love you.” He didn’t say “my victims”; he said mi patrón, “my boss.” And at this point he started making these big smacking kissing noises. It was grotesque.

Then he went through the whole statement again, again turning toward the witness rooms and making these giant smacking sounds with his lips, blowing kisses at us in the witness room. That was gross, and it made me furious when he did it a second time. So this time when he turned to us, I flipped him off. I hope he saw it, and I hope he recognized me as the son of his . . . boss? No, his victims.

Then he did the whole statement a third time. And when he again turned to us, I told him “fuck you” with my middle finger. All of that talking and talking was a performance. He was an eloquent, well-spoken man, especially for one who was “intellectually disabled.” He kept talking. Maybe he was trying to buy a few extra minutes. Apparently the warden had enough and gave the signal to start the drugs. The very last sentence—and the first time that he deviated from his rambling about loving everyone—was something like “De verdad, estoy viendo a la luz y al ángel de Dios”: “I can honestly see light and the angel of God.” Then he made a quick grunt and a snort and stopped breathing. You could see the moment when his body just switched off. It wasn’t gruesome, but it was clear when it happened. A few spit bubbles started forming on his lips as the last of the air came out of his lungs, and a line of drool ran down his cheek.

We stood there in silence for another eight minutes or so, kind of awkwardly. No one said anything; we just watched him. Finally, a doctor came in to check his vital signs and pronounced him dead. The warden noted the time of death: 6:28. A guard unlocked the door of the witness room, and everyone walked out without talking, back through the courtyard, into the prison building. That was it.

How did I feel? I had gone into the room, confronted the horrible thing that had brought such badness into my life, and I walked out feeling that I had won. The confrontation was over, and he had lost. I hadn’t wanted him to die in agony. I just wanted it to be over. I’ve heard assault victims talk about feeling trapped by their fears of their assailants and feeling empowered when they take back their lives. Certainly that was true when I saw Hernandez die and when I walked out. It was done. It was good to be there, good to witness. Watching it made it very, very real; made the end very real. It didn’t traumatize me. It wasn’t overly unpleasant to watch him die. It was reassuring to have it right in front of me. I thought, “I’m satisfied with this. Done. The end.”

His final statement affected me more than I ever could have expected. I won’t ever know what to make of that last sentence, about seeing the angel of God, in the instant before he switched off. Three possible explanations: it was the way that he planned to end his statement, or it was a physical phenomenon when the brain shut down, or it was a spiritual phenomenon. I would rule out the first hypothesis—it was so different from everything else he said, and he must have been barely conscious at the time. That leaves the other two.

At one point, he said, “I am content. I am no longer carrying any guilt.” In my interpretation, that implies that he had known that he was a person who deserved to feel guilty for the horrible things he had done, and that he regretted who he used to be. He knew that he had wrecked the lives of everyone in that room. I thought, “Good, the execution forced you to come to terms with what you did.” If this forced him to realize and think through what he’d done and how he’d affected people and changed the world and done something horrible and he was being punished for that—that was satisfactory. I’ve since read the final statements of other executed killers, and I see the same statement in some of them. Maybe that’s an argument for capital punishment: the killer doesn’t have to confront his sins when incarcerated indefinitely. The killer doesn’t face that moment where he asks himself, “Can I make peace with myself?” He wanted to believe that he regretted being a monster. (Did he truly feel it in his heart? I don’t know.) He was trying to be at peace with who he was. Would this have happened if he had never been incarcerated? No. Would he have been forced to come to this understanding if he had been given an indefinite sentence? I doubt it.

But don’t get me wrong. He didn’t redeem himself to me with that final statement.

Right now I feel two huge sources of relief. First, I don’t have to worry about him being out there anymore, about his conviction getting overturned and him walking the streets. I don’t think that the purpose of sentencing a person to death is punishment. Removing a threat, or a perceived threat, is the real goal. Putting down a rabid dog.

Second, the legal process is over. I’ve hated every moment of it, how protracted it was, how much of a game it was between lawyers on each side. I don’t think anyone was looking for truth or justice—everyone was looking to score a victory. They just wanted to win. From the start the DA was so pleased to get this case happening in Kerr County, he was so enthusiastic about prosecuting it; he was going to score some points with the citizens of Kerr County who elected him. Then the appellate attorneys were trying to score points—overturning a death sentence would have been a huge win. But they weren’t interested in truth. If they had gotten a psychological examination that showed that Hernandez was intellectually capable, they wouldn’t have accepted that truth; they would have just purchased a different psychologist, one who would support their position. Though quite clearly, the prosecution did that too—they hired Dr. James Grigson, a psychiatrist who was likely to find Hernandez a continuous threat to society—Grigson, who testified that almost every single one of 167 defendants was a sociopath.

This whole experience has made me think a lot about capital punishment. I would encourage people to think about executions on a case-by-case basis, not in terms of being “for” or “against” the principle of the death penalty. I am not “for” the death penalty any more than I am “for” abortion. Neither is a decision that can be taken lightly, and neither is a pleasant outcome. But there may be circumstances where each is appropriate. When there’s a murder, a person should ask: Was this crime particularly brutal, above and beyond a simple murder (if there is such a thing)? Was the evidence undeniable? And, importantly, does the person continue to be a threat? Put all that together. In this case, I tell people all the things Hernandez did—the murder in Mexico, the rape of the teenager, the murder of my father and rape of my mother, the attack on the jailer—and I say, “Maybe you understand now why the jury sentenced him to death.” No one disputed what happened—there was no dubious eyewitness testimony or junk science. I think we’re right to be hesitant about using executions when we have doubts about innocence, when we have shady evidence. And if the person can still be rehabilitated, then that’s another thing to consider. That wasn’t the case here.

Would I recommend witnessing the execution of the murderer of a loved one? My biggest fear was that seeing another death would traumatize me in the same way that my father’s murder did—but no, lethal injection is not gruesome. It’s like watching a person being given anesthesia before surgery. It’s almost the cleanest way that a person could die. Families of victims will definitely be contrasting the way that the killer dies to the way that the loved one died.

Don’t expect vengeance or punishment. Don’t expect that it’ll cure your anger or sadness. But you will know that the killer is no longer a threat to your family or your emotional well-being. And it will give you an opportunity to confront your emotions and opponent, and you will win. When the murder happened, the killer took control of your world. The killer had the power to radically change your life. After the execution, the killer is powerless. You aren’t controlled anymore. Watching the execution drives the message home, drives the message into your heart and mind.

I hadn’t expected that the confrontational moment would be so helpful, when I stepped into the execution house and saw him there. I hated this man. I still do. And it’s human nature to want to avoid unpleasant confrontations. This was as unpleasant as it gets. And I also had to confront my inability to talk about the murder. I’ve always been terrified that people will see me as a freak when they know. Probably, they still will. I look at my own face in the mirror, and I can’t believe that it’s someone who deliberately chose to walk into the most notorious execution house in the nation in order to see someone die. I hope people don’t judge me harshly because of it. But the murder is so important in shaping who I am, so they really should know.

It was such a relief to get home after this trip. As soon as we drove up to the house, my kids came running out, and I jumped out and hugged them tightly. I missed them so badly. Usually I get miserably homesick when I stay at work past six or seven; this trip was only the fourth time in seven years that I’ve been away from the kids overnight. So lots of hugs and kisses when I got home. It wasn’t just about me missing them but also having spent five days thinking about how their grandfather was missing them. We went and checked to see how the chickens were doing, how the vegetable garden was doing. We looked at the thousands of flowers that had burst into bloom over the past week.

Whenever my father went on a trip, he always brought back some relic from the place he had been. It might be a wooden carving from Mexico, hand-knitted socks from Romania, or a unique rock from Arizona. I brought back a present for my kids too: illegal fireworks smuggled into North Carolina from a neighboring state. My father would definitely not have approved of such a frivolous thing. But his grandkids loved it and so did I. We celebrated him until the fireworks were gone.

As told to Michael Hall

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  • P. Kevin Wells

    Mr. Lich,
    What an extraordinary story you have shared. You and your family have certainly endured almost unimaginable pain. You are not a monster because of your willingness to witness the execution of your father’s murderer.
    May you find peace and solace in raising your family. The greatest honor you can bestow upon your father is to live your life well. That is what any father would want.

  • From Canada

    TL;DR: Self centred guy approves of state-sanctioned murder because someone murdered his father. Thinks two wrongs make a right. Flips off another human being who is facing death. Writes the private details of the state-sanctioned murder for the world to see. Does so in a degrading and slanted manner because he thinks his own pain justifies his choice to humiliate/hurt others in revenge. Robs a state-murdered man and his family of their privacy on his deathbed. Uses this to glorify and validate his own story/behaviours.

    I can feel compassion for your situation, and I’m sorry to hear about the loss of your father, but I disagree with your assertion that the wrongdoings of others justify your own wrongdoings decades later. I hope that one day you see the error of your ways. When you do, I hope that you find the compassion for yourself that you were unable to find for your fathers killer.

    • JD

      Pretty much. Of course, you (and now I) will be lambasted for this opinion in 3, 2, 1….

      • Millard Fillmore

        And that, it seems to me, is exactly why you say things such as that: to be “lambasted.” You get off on it because, as you see things, it signals your precious nobility. Indeed, you invite belittlement and go out of your way to seek it.

        I’m troubled by the death penalty; I don’t laugh it off, as you and “From Canada” do. My compassion, such as it is, is reserved for the victims and their survivors. I hope Mr. Lich finds a measure of peace from having written this, and I hope he doesn’t make too much of what you two have written here.

        • maria

          I am also from Canada, and what I read here from the author was not gloating or evil. It is a heartfelt and moving testimonial of what he experienced. My heart goes out to him and his family. He is justified at being angry that he lost his father, that his children will never know their grandfather, and that his family has been so badly hurt. How on earth can you judge him for expressing his feelings of pain and anger? To the author, I hope you and your family are doing as well as is humanly possible.

          • dragonfly310

            Oh yes, he did indeed gloat. Remember, he did compare the whole process as a confrontation. He said that after he walked out of the room after Hernandez died that he felt like he won. He also said that he, “… felt extremely angry, like I was stepping up to someone to start a fight, confronting someone who had really hit hard at my family and now we were hitting back at him.” That sentence shows his desire for revenge. Next sentence: “He was strapped down, helpless, defeated, staring at the ceiling, blinking rapidly, licking his lips, biting his upper lip.” And there was more than likely a large amount of satisfaction from the author in kicking a man while he was down.

            Also remember the author made it a point to describe how Hernandez’s hands were tied (so that the inmate couldn’t make obscene gestures). Guess what the author also made a point to do: flip off the criminal, not once, but multiple times, just to rub Hernandez’s nose in it. Yep, plenty of revenge seeking in the author’s character.

            Mr. Lich knows that what he felt isn’t right. He spent the time and effort writing this in an attempt to justify his actions and emotions. But how can you justify being an accomplice to murder? Two wrongs really don’t make a right, and he knows it. Now he has to live with the fact that he felt satisfaction in another man’s death.

          • From Canada

            Because it’s been decades. Because he’s writing a story of a dead man from his own perspective without any respect or decency. Because he couldn’t control his own behaviours enough to let the man die in peace without flipping him off. Because his article advocates for murder instead of forgiveness.

            There are appropriate and compassionate ways to express emotions, even if he is against forgiving. There are appropriate and compassionate ways to discuss his fathers murder, and even the murder of his father’s murderer, on public forums. Despite what he has duped people into thinking by waxing poetic, he’s not doing that here. At all.

          • Oh Canada

            Let’s see how you feel if a loved one is brutally murdered.

    • professor.plum

      I regret that you judge me harshly. But I think that you misunderstand the reason why I went. It’s wasn’t to humiliate or degrade. Rather, I wanted to offer people an honest perspective on how I felt and what an execution does to a family member. And I told you the honest truth — and yes, I still hold anger and hostility. You know that now. Yes, seeing him blow kisses at me was very upsetting, and I made a vulgar gesture in return. If reading the story strengthens your opposition to execution, that’s fine. And if reading the story makes you think that family members are uncompassionate hypocrites, that’s fine too. But regardless of what you make of it, I hope that you have some insight into the experience of a member of the victims’ family.

      • dragonfly310

        I’m appreciative of your honesty. It just irritates me when someone asks for a free pass on their own moral defects.

      • From Canada

        I think considering that this dead man doesn’t have the basic ability to publish his own account of his own story, didn’t have the right to die without you flipping him off, and was senselessly murdered by the state after you advocated for it, the least you could have done was keep the story off the internet.

        There are ways you could have written this account and chosen to withhold information that the family might find private or sacred. There are ways you could have written about this scenario without painting this man in the worst possible light. You chose not to do that. You chose to wax poetic, to play to the emotions of the crowd, and to narrate in a very particular manner. You didn’t restrict the account to your own experience. You passed personal judgements and publicly asserted things about the man. Strictly speaking, an account of ones personal experience would have been much more reflective and less externally oriented than this. Perhaps you were not capable of that yet, in which case you should have waited.

        Not even getting in to the implications of leveraging your fathers murder into an advocation for state sanctioned murder. Totally fucked.

    • C.d. Gibson

      While in CanaDUH you let murderers out of jail to murder again after just a few years. How dare you judge someone because a murdering oaf beat his father to death with a piece of iron, raped his mother, & then threatened to come back & kill his mother & his grandparents. I hope it happens to you so YOU can forgive & YOU can find out what this brave man went through!!!

      • From Canada

        1. You clearly don’t know anything about our legal system.
        2. How dare you judge a dead man based off another persons account? At least I base my judgements off of the words the person wrote himself. And yeah, maybe I could tone it down on the judgement level, but then again he’s alive and able to write responses in his defence.
        3. You shouldn’t wish that on anyone.
        4. I hope that I would forgive that person too. But I’m fairly certain even if I didn’t forgive him I still wouldn’t advocate for state sanctioned murder, write an article like this publicly, or defile a man’s last few moments of life. There’s understandable difficulty in processing emotions, and then there’s flagrant carelessness of behaviour like the author demonstrates. Frankly, it’s disturbing.

        • C.d. Gibson

          Hey Canada, you have never been through anything like this so don’t judge. Poor, poor Hernandez Llanas. He can’t tell his own story after murdering a man who took him in, fed him & gave him a place to sleep. Well hell!! Just because he then chose to beat Mr. Lich’s father to death with an iron bar, rape his mother & threaten to kill her & his grandparents, gee whiz. He should be able to speak & tell the world how good it felt to kill shouldn’t he? I don’t know about the Canadian legal system? I lived there for 4 years & they were miserable years. I hate it there. I saw first hand your legal system letting murderers out of jail after 10 or 15 years claiming they were “rehabilitated”. It was none of my business as I am not Canadian. It is NONE OF YOUR BUSINESS how we run things in Texas. Don’t like it? Stay away. That illegal bastard had years in jail to tell his story & he did not.

    • C Crouch

      Canada, where do you get off with this statement? What could you possibly know about your father being murdered and your mother being raped and almost murdered? It is easy for you to choose this position…I take it you’re against the death penalty? Doesnt matter, however, you haven’t any idea what you might feel had this murdering bastard taken the lives of your family. Rob this murderer on his deathbed? Are you kidding me? Compassion? Where was Mr. Hernandez’ Llanas compassion when he chose to take a man’s life that had taken him in and fed him, given him work and a place to live? You are way off base, Canada. Let me remind you of something….there is no right way or wrong way to grieve. We all do this differently. I could not imagine having to deal with this much pain and suffering. Canada, you haven’t the right to judge this man for his feelings. You sound like a Westboro Baptist Church follower. Shame on you!

      Mr. Lich’s feelings and reactions are not to be questioned here. They are true blue. Hernandez Llanas doesn’t deserve anything other than what he received. He chose to take another man’s life, to rape this man’s wife and leave her for dead. If there ever was a poster child for the death penatly…this guy certainly qualifies! Total 1 % r. There should be a special place in Hell for Mr. Hernandez Llanas.

      • From Canada

        There is no wrong way to grieve, except for when you take it out on others (state sanctioned murder) and especially in a public forum (this article).

        Lich goes beyond feelings and reactions in the article. And your judgement of Llanas is based entirely off of one mans highly-biased account.

        Your comment wreaks of an attitude of “eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth”. The death penalty does nothing more than create more victims than there already were to begin with, and it clearly doesn’t bring closure to the situation in any way. It just saves the state money so they don’t have to pay to keep them locked up.

        • C.d. Gibson

          The illegal bastard had years to tell his side of the story & chose to remain silent because HE DID WHAT THE JURY SAID HE DID!!! Further, it would have been cheaper to let him rot in jail instead of the countless appeals & lawyers WE paid for before he got what he deserved. When we build a prison where there is no chance of escape. When we can cut off all entertainment, tv, books, gyms, even socializing with other prisoners. When we can lock someone into a cell & the ONLY human interaction they can have is someone handing them food through a slot, THEN I might say that life without the possibility of parole is a good thing.

        • LawyerNSC

          Judge not lest ye be judged. Morality is an incredibly difficult and personal subject. Like Mr. Lich said it’s not black and white. This topic is at the intersection of so many important and conflicting themes of both moral and social codes that it deserves deep thought, reflection, and enlightened debate. In my opinion what Mr. Lich has done is add a very personal and rare glimpse into the perspective of a victim’s family member which in turn enriches our knowledge on the matter. Whether you like his honesty or not, whether you condone his personal reactions or not, you should thank him for contributing in a very meaningful way to the discussion of such a polarizing topic.

    • Wisconsin

      Nice. At least read the whole article.

      Why are you against a convicted criminal paying the consequence of his actions? Why is so hard for you to hear a hurting victims side of the story?

      What are you hiding canada?

      • From Canada

        “TLDR;” doesn’t mean I didn’t read the whole article. It signifies a short summary for those who are not interested in reading the whole article.

        I believe in forgiveness, even if you can not trust a person. We can not trust those who have murdered people, but we can choose to treat them with compassion, to understand them, and to forgive them. We have to keep them locked up for our safety, but anything beyond that is nothing short of abuse. Abusing and murdering people is wrong no matter where they come from or what their past.

        It is hard for me to hear a “hurting victims side of the story” because I recognize there are multiple victims here (including the family of the man who was murdered by the state, and the man himself) but their side of the story will never be heard because it doesn’t fit with the social narratives people want to hear. People want to read a story like this one where they can demonize a murderer, feel pity for a victim who “bravely pours his heart out”, and see revenge served all in the span of a nice afternoon reading session. This particular kind of flock mentality causes social issues that are systematically perpetuated in this society. When the author went public with this it became no longer a single case. Now it’s a part of a larger social discussion and I’m sorry to say it’s probably doing more harm than good.

    • http://Www.theirishatheist.wordpress.com/ The Irish Atheist

      For someone who readily admits he didn’t read the article, your reaction shows a far greater lack of humanity than the man you are deliberately trying to wound.

      • From Canada

        “TLDR;” doesn’t mean I didn’t read the whole article. It signifies a short summary for those who are not interested in reading the whole article.

        Yeah that’s right. I’M the one who’s deliberately trying to wound here.

    • Far Out Man

      Shaddap, nitwit.

  • dobiegillus7

    A rare look into the world of the victums of crime.
    Eloquently written and illuminating to those who
    oppose this punishment for the most egrious of
    crimes.

  • Jamie

    I found this disturbing for many reasons, as this is a complicated issue to begin with, and reading a victim’s feelings laid bare is heartbreaking. I deeply appreciate the honesty with which Mr. Lich shared his story. I’m sorry for your unimaginable pain and hope you find some peace and relief. May your father rest in peace.

  • C.d. Gibson

    Stephen Lich I applaud you. You have told your story with grace & with heartbreaking truth. I doubt that many could be as strong as you have been. I hope that you now find peace. My prayers are with you & your family.

  • Kathy Hilburn

    We’re from Kerrville and I remember when this piece of dog poop did this to your family. I hate that ya’ll had to endure such a long ordeal in order to put this monster where he belongs, dead! I too, faced my monster before he died and it gave me such peace and eventually healing. I told him I forgave him, he owed me nothing and I didn’t owe him anything. Saying that to him, didn’t make what he did alright or just, it just took away the anger and hatred from me, so I could go on with my life without his power over me. I think what you did, was brave and I commend you for facing your fear. I hope you and your family can find peace now. I know I can, knowing these monsters are no longer walking among us and controlling our emotions.

  • Guest

    Thanks for sharing this story.

  • http://www.willmatheson.com/ William Matheson

    We shouldn’t write the rules of society with the aim of appeasing angry people. Instead, we need to find ways to transcend / make unnecessary our retributive impluses. This whole thing amounts to “eff you” “eff you, too”. By attending the execution, the victim’s son is lending execution a legitimacy it doesn’t deserve, even if the system didn’t put innocent people to death.

    Paul Lutus has an excellent summary of the arguments for and against capital punishment: http://www.arachnoid.com/opinion/capital_punishment.html#arguments

    • professor.plum

      Please don’t place blame on the families of the victims. We were not the ones who sentenced the offender to death. Many of us carry guilt about the sentence, because people view us as part of the system. But why should *we* be the ones carrying guilt for a crime was committed against the family? Why should we be made to feel like evil ones, the killer to seem like the victim; and the death sentence imposed by the jury is our crime against him? Again, please do not criticize us. We did nothing to deserve this.

      • http://www.willmatheson.com/ William Matheson

        In general, no, you should not carry any guilt for a transgression committed against your family, assuming you weren’t doing the equivalent of torturing a chained dog and then complaining when it bites you.

        But for being complicit in the delivery of morally questionable punishment or retribution, guilt may be appropriate. For example, if the practice of cutting off the hands of a thief went on, and the people whose possessions had been stolen went to see the hand being cut off and wrote a story about how it was satisfying and relieving to see it, that itself is a new sort of evil and the transgressor in fact does become a victim.

        It’s a fallacy that only one party may be the Victim™.

      • From Canada

        When you wrote this article, fingered a man facing death, and advocated for the death penalty you also assumed the role of oppressor. For example, while you have had over a decade to recover, the victims who have just lost their family member to state sanctioned murder have enough on their plate without you running around publishing this sort of junk. Another example, if extra people die due from the death penalty and due to this article then we have you to thank for that. So while you are a victim, you are also not so squeaky clean yourself anymore. That makes me critical of you.

        You shouldn’t carry guilt over a crime committed against the family. You should carry guilt for the laundry list of things you have done since that were oppressive and unethical at best, and an advocacy of murder at worst. No matter what your background, there is no excuse for that the same way as there is no excuse for what your oppressor did to your family. Understandable, possibly. Excusable, no. Forgivable, always.

      • Chris Castillo

        I am a murder victim family member who is against the death penalty, but I believe you have the right to feel the way you feel about what happened to you. You did not ask for this to happen to you, quite the opposite. You were taken into this situation. It is not your fault that this man died. And I can’t say I would act if I were in your shoes with this man blowing kisses at you. Your reaction is understanable. The killers of my mother have never been located. I know, from years of working with victims, that you are justified for having the feeling that you have. You should feel not guilt for anything. Many survivors do. Family members are often put in a bad light and the person who committed the crime is raised up to celebrity status. That sucks. You family deserves to live in peace.

  • Back home

    Stephen,

    This is a beautifully written piece and I thank you for sharing your story. I too have struggled with my thoughts on the death penalty and do believe it was justified in this case. The man who murdered your father took advantage of a kind man who was trying to help and the evidence was concrete. I thank you for the decision to remove him from the streets where any one of us could have been unfortunate enough to cross his path. Your decision to attend the execution was clearly a hard one to come to but I am glad you did and were able to bear witness to the end of his life. I hope you are at peace and wish you and your family nothing but the best. I am so very sorry for your loss and all that has come with it. I wish you the very best.

  • NurseHCB

    I am a murder victim family member. One takes a risk when they “step up” to share and express a devastating life event such as Stephen’s. It’s not for one to judge who has not walked in his shoes. His opinions and feelings are his own from the grief, pain, and loss he’s lived with. Those of you who make negative comments or pass judgment…that’s just not fair. When you lose a loved one to murder, it changes your entire world view. You don’t have any control over it. Life as you knew it is gone. I do not mean that as “Oh, woe is me”…it’s just a statement of fact. When my mother was brutally murdered by my father in 1985 it changed the course of my life forever. Back then I was for the death penalty and thought our justice system was perfect. The Assistant DA’s that worked the case in Los Angeles, CA explained how much harder a death penalty case was on the family/victims as opposed to seeking a sentence of life without the possibility of parole. Although it was a capital murder case, with the agreement of myself and my 3 brothers, the DA’s office pursued life. My father remains in prison to this day. Over the years I learned that many mistakes have been made (and are still being made) as well as biases when it comes to criminal convictions. I came to believe that not only have we as a nation executed innocent people, but executing someone does not make anything right or better. It does, however, leave more victims. The criminal leaves behind loved ones who had nothing to do with the crime but are left to live out their lives with that devastating loss of losing their loved one (as awful as he or she may have been) to execution. I’ve met several of those folks. One had a grandfather executed when she was young. It still haunts her to this day. One lost a brother to execution. One lost a father to execution. We created more victims. There is no such thing as closure. My mother will never be back. Stephen’s father will never be back. All we can do as murder victim family members is reconcile what has happened in our respective lives. In my case, I do volunteer work as a way to honor my mother’s memory. It’s my way of having a little of my mom live on every day. I once read a phrase that said, “The man who angers you conquers you”. That must come from scripture but I couldn’t tell you where. It is profound. Think about that phrase. I refuse to allow the situations from my past and those involved ruin my life with anger. I choose to be better. That is empowering. It’s also been a better example for my children over the years as they grew into adulthood.

  • Amy

    “I would encourage people to think about executions on a case-by-case basis, not in terms of being “for” or “against” the principle of the death penalty.”

    I must respectfully disagree with this. Anyone who thinks about executions on a case-by-case basis is for the death penalty, because they’ve already conceded the point that the death penalty is appropriate in some cases.

    I am against violence and killing on principal. The Ten Commandments don’t say, “thou shall not kill, unless you are the state of Texas.” I believe killing is wrong both for criminals and for the state. I’m against the death penalty.

    “Was the evidence undeniable?”

    This is a slippery slope. At the time they were executed, many believed the evidence against Cameron Todd Willingham and Carlos DeLuna was undeniable. Subsequent investigations have shown that they may have been innocent. I believe it is better to abolish the death penalty than to risk executing even one innocent person.

    “And, importantly, does the person continue to be a threat?”

    Life without parole permanently eliminates the threat. We have supermax prisons where there is absolutely zero chance of escape. Why was a sentence of life without parole unsatisfactory in this case?

    I’ve heard some family members of murder victims say that they’d rather have the killer suffer for a lifetime in prison, thinking every day of the consequences of their actions, than have the easy escape of execution. I wonder what Mr. Lich thinks of that notion.

    BTW, this article was beautifully written. Credit goes to Mr. Lich and his bravery in sharing the intimate details of his experience, but kudos also to Michael Hall and the editors of Texas Monthly. Bravo.

    • Derp

      Actually, if you read the Hebrew text, the bible says “thou shalt not murder” – murder, not kill. As you certainly know, the death penalty was applied to various and by today’s standards relatively minor sins. The Old Testament at least can not be construed as a document that opposes the death penalty, not really.

      • From Canada

        The death penalty is murder in my opinion, and the bible, especially the Old Testament, is open for interpretation based on modern contexts. Our understanding of the scriptures is supposed to change, not stay where it was 3,500 years ago.

    • http://kafkettes.com/ kafkette

      supermax, super isolation, is worse than execution. it’s horrific, unbelievably bad.

      i think the author, who understands the pain from the inside, is more than a little profound in his position. i truly, truly appreciate the considered thought & the nuance–both of which are so lacking in the present moment.

    • professor.plum

      “I would encourage people to think about executions on a case-by-case basis, not in terms of being “for” or “against” the principle of the death penalty.”

      I know this sounds like a clever way of disguising pro-penalty feelings, but that wasn’t what I meant. I strained to find the best words to explain it. Perhaps I can try some another analogies, though they’re extreme. I am very strongly opposed to military interventionism — very strongly. But could there be cases where interventionism is justified? I wonder about the Rwandan Genocide. Should the U.S. have intervened? I think that answer might be yes. But it’s important to think about the circumstances themselves, combined with our opposition to the action, rather than to take an absolutionist position. Entertaining the idea that military intervention could be appropriate in some situations, that doesn’t make me pro-intervention. Does that example make sense?

      But I’m not trying to deny the fact that I have a lower threshold regarding the death penalty.

      And that’s why I encourage people to think about the case; combine that with your own position. If a person opposes the death penalty on the basis that there have been too many mistakes: well, would you still oppose it if there were a case where the evidence were absolutely convincing? If a person opposes the death penalty because it simply takes other lives: well, what about a case where the killer would still continued harming or killing others? (Remember, Hernandez Llanas very nearly killed a jailer, and he continued to be violent as long as he was alive.) That’s why I encourage people to think about what their oppositions are, and think whether the case meets their criteria.

      I hope this helps you understand my position better? Again, I am encouraging people to step away from absolutionist positions. But that doesn’t mean that they should become “for” the death penalty.

      As for suffering forever in prison: yes, I asked myself about that a lot. I believe that being locked away forever in isolation would be a far worse punishment than execution. (Do you know the short story, “I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream”?) I have a big, jumbled-up, cloud of emotion about Hernandez Llanas and his sentence. (And sometimes, my feelings are contradictory.) But I’ve convinced myself that I wasn’t interested in his suffering. A life in solitary confinement would have been worse for him. And if you go back and read through the article, you might notice that I avoid talking about a death “penalty”, and I never say capital “punishment”. I don’t think that execution is an effective way of punishing.

      Thanks for reading, and thanks for thinking about it.

      • Amy

        Thanks for your reply.

        The military intervention analogy is interesting. I am also strongly opposed to military intervention, but could imagine some hypotheticals when I might make an exception and support it. The thought of “what if we’d found a way to stop the Rwandan genocide?” does give me pause. I will need to think about that, and try to figure out why I have somewhat contradictory views on the death penalty and military intervention.

        Your article, and your willingness to engage in debate in these comments, is a great benefit to everyone who struggles with this issue. Thanks again.

      • From Canada

        Yes it does. Straying from an absolutionist position on the death penalty necessitates that one thinks it should be a legal option, which means that one is “for” the death penalty.

        The terms “for” and “against” the death penalty are used to denote whether or not a person thinks the death penalty should be a legal option. They do not indicate ones specific thoughts on case-by-case matters or vice-versa.

        Once you start saying you’re “against the death penalty” but “think it should be a legal option” then it’s incredibly subjective. Someone could say “I’m against the death penalty but this person wears tattoos so I think we should have the option of killing them” and it would be valid provided wearing tattoos were a crime punishable by law.

  • http://kafkettes.com/ kafkette

    i am grateful to this article for pointing up something that, almost always & worryingly, goes unnoticed: the contest that our system of justice has become. this is another instance in which the spectacle is now more important than the truth that underlies it. & not just more important–almost obliterating. this is the way we live now–in a worldful of faux–never good, but most horrifying, perhaps, when it comes to criminal justice. not to mention that, if we continue, the center will not hold.

    i am very very sorry the author of this article, & his family, & our world, had to go through any second of this pain.

  • Richard Corey

    Mr. Litch,

    You have my utmost respect and admiration. You have survived the unimaginable with dignity. Even gesturing to the prisoner was, in my opinion, extremely restrained under the circumstances.

    I agree, rabid dogs must be put down. Quickly, cleanly, and with as much kindness as possible. It is an ugly task, but one which must not be shied away from if we are actually to remain civilized. Keeping these predators alive harms our community and its members.

    The message from the anti-death penalty person from Canada is full of hubris, which is not an admirable trait at all. Please ignore that kind of tripe when it crawls out of the gutter.

    Harold

  • adrtitan88

    So, from Canada…my assertion of your stance is that killing of any kind is murder…and wrong, correct? So put yourself in the situation that night…put yourself and your family members there…you have just seen your dad brutally murdered…he’s gone..now your mom is being raped and assaulted and you have a chance to stop it (to preempt anyone saying Mr. Lich wasn’t there…duh, this is just for context). From your post, is it logical to think you wouldn’t shoot/stab/etc him because killing him to save your and your mother’s life would be wrong? You have a chance to kill him and keep your mom from being beaten to death and you what…allow him because you don’t want to do anything wrong? Are you really that high-and-mighty? Would you really have compassion for the guy as he was killing the rest of your family…

    I’m sure the point will be made that it’s not the same thing…that killing him now doesn’t make sense because he’s in jail and being “punished” and isn’t a threat anymore..(oops, except for a security guard…there went that). But your point was that killing period is wrong…so if you would kill to defend your family, where does that put you? Wouldn’t that be a death penalty?

    I agree with Mr. Lich…but while I am “for” the death penalty I don’t believe everyone who ends up in jail deserves the death penalty. Besides, he made a choice to kill someone knowing the death penalty could be a consequence…people do stupid things all the time while already knowing the punishment beforehand. He made a choice to take that chance. If I speed, I already know the consequence is getting a ticket…so I can’t bitch and moan if I get caught and receive a ticket! You don’t want the death penalty? Don’t kill anyone!!!

    Mr. Lich, you and I have a mutual friend. I applaud your honesty and your lack of fear in telling your story. I say to the rest of the people, you just can’t know unless you are in his shoes, not everything is cut and dried or absolute.

    • From Canada

      That’s the stupidest analysis of what I wrote yet.

      It’s murder if you attack someone.
      It’s not murder if you defend yourself or others.

      State sanctioned revenge murder, like the one described by Lich, is murder plain and simple.
      If he had walked in and protected himself or his mother then it would not be murder, even if the guy died. And yes, I would protect myself in that situation. Hopefully I could do it without killing another person in defence (i.e. it’s better to maim than to kill) but if it’s life or death then it happens. I like to think I wouldn’t WANT anyone to die though, no matter who they are or what they’ve done.

      The difference is that I wouldn’t advocate for the murder of a person a decade later, and then disrespectfully slander the person on the internet who is now dead (regardless of how terrible the things he did during his lifetime were). Instead, I would have used that decade to forgive and move on, perhaps understand how he could have become so heartless or what caused him to snap. Use that to forgive him and move on. In practice it might not be that simple, and I might harbour long-term resentment until my grave, but I would at least curb my behaviours. I wouldn’t egocentrically divulge another mans dying moments from my own warped perspective and broadcast them to the world. I wouldn’t flip off a man facing death.

      • adrtitan88

        “That is the stupidest reply….”
        Lol…Ok so I touched a nerve. Maybe because you can’t explain yourself or justify the two sides to your story. Sure, you can assert all the idiocy you want…

        Your absolute of “it’s not murder if…” is flawed. What actually do you stand for? You’re calling out this man for writing HIS take on an execution…judging him. So I guess you are the god of everything correct?

        Ok see if you can wrap your argumentative and loves-to-say-idiotic-things-because-you-get-off-to-arguing mind around this (which you avoided “owning me” on: One of the possible punishments for killing someone in Texas is the death penalty. You kill someone knowing this…you bitch about Mr. Lich telling the reality of it and dealing with it in his own world…so what is your genius answer to the death penalty if you know you’re going to possibly be caught and killed? Your incredibly ingeniuos mind maybe can shed some light on all us morons incompetent of the most base common sense available to humans as to what happens when you kill someone in Texas…

        So, genius…it’s not murder to execute a murder/rapist when the law states that this is a possible outcome of the murderous decision of this “saint.” It’s the law of the land. It’s like saying incarceration is slavery. Ludicrous.

        You’re heroic claim of trying to maim in that situation…good luck with that Thor. What if you were trying to maim (I laughed at this…considering you can kill someone attempting this) and you accidentally killed the guy? Would you be a murderer or because you didn’t “mean to” you should get off scott-free?

        The thing is with people like you…you judge without knowledge, wisdom, and damn-sure common sense. What is your determination of when lethal force is needed and when it’s not? Have you EVER been in a fight? Have you EVER needed to make that decision? I doubt it…since you have so much time on your hands to keyboard-jockey all day long. The point is, you have no idea what it would be like in his situation. People like you never do…Is the killing of anyone wonderful? No…hell no. Required? yes. If the law states is beforehand and you do it, genius, then you chose to die.

        You judge Mr. Lich…but sir, you are a coward. I would have flipped him off too. Too bad if you don’t like that. You can call me all the names you want but it will never change that people like you are why crime grows..why society becomes more lenient on heinous crimes that go unpunished. If you commit assault on a police officer and the punishment was sweeping the floor of the courthouse for one day, don’t you think people would be less afraid of the consequences and take their chances? Wait, let me answer that for you…compassion. Genius.

        Mr. Lich can forgive. What you don’t realize is that forgiveness doesn’t trump consequences. If you jump off a tall building the consequence doesn’t change from death to say..a broken nail just because you don’t think you should die from it. People don’t jump off of buildings because of this!!! Well unless they actually WANT the consequence. So, genius and god of all absolute thought…nothing I say will change your mind. I know this. The Bible (yes, dude..I said the Bible) says that quarreling with a fool leads to nothing. Well, whatever your response is, I doubt it falls out of line with you being a fool. So keep on your crusade to “own” someone on a comment section of an online magazine, and go to work full of confidence that you are the man and as such leader of all who can dominate. You win, you’re the best and most amazing, I’m going to go watch Breaking Bad and enjoy a glass of wine…You enjoy you full glass of “whine.” Cheers

        A couple more things…I realize that you are one person in billions out there. The comforting reality is just that. You will never affect change, you will never change the fact that Texas has a death penalty and that despite your incalculable IQ and comment-section prowess, your arguments are meaningless..as are mine. Somehow your life has lead you to seek out those you believe you can intellectually dominate. It’s rather sad actually. Your focus is on proving everyone who doesn’t agree with you wrong, meanwhile Mr. Lich has gone through something no one would ever wish on their enemy (I could be wrong). Instead of compassion (your fake compassion is obvious) you and others chose to light him up about writing about his experience and his own OPINION of the matter. I even question my own lunacy by wasting time answering low-level practitioners of common sense like you. I guess I get tired of it all. I feel for Mr. Lich. You don’t have to agree with him. It’s not like congress is going to pass laws forcing “from canada” to lethally inject people…so I guess I just don’t get it. There’s all kinds of crap in this world that is awful and you choose to judge one man on his experience with such an awful thing. The token “I am sorry for your loss but…” is so blatantly pious it’s sickening. Why don’t you get off your anus and instead of trying to prove your point on a comment section…actually put your money where your mouth is and really change something? It’s Texas Monthly…seriously dude, don’t you have better things to do? I guess not. Good luck with that. Mr. Lich is a brilliant guy and can take care of himself, and doesn’t need your approval and doesn’t even need to prove one single point to you or anyone else. He wrote his story (more than anything you’ve done I’m sure) and that’s that. Since you are so brilliant, build a time machine and go back in time and end all violence. That would be useful.

        Am I a hypocrite? Yes…we all are. But maybe you should go do something productive. I’m sure you can think of something :)>

  • sprinklerman

    Dear Mr. Lich,
    I am amazed with the level of courage you have shown and it is a credit to your father and you that you shared this story with all of us. Thank you. I do hope that you and your family find peace and find it in your heart to someday forgive the person who took your father from you.

    Evil truly walks among us. Mr Llanas was one of them. He no longer occupies this earth and while he may have seen the Lord it is most likely that his visit with the Almighty was short. He can bring no more pain or fear to those of us who occupy this world.

    However what is most reprehensible is the motivations and actions of those in the legal profession. It isn’t about justice for them anymore, it’s about victory, profit and political power on both sides of the scales of justice. How sad and tragic!

    • Chris Castillo

      My mother was murdered in 1991, and the killers were from Honduras. They fled the country and the case remains unsolved. I am against the death penalty for many reason. Most importantly, is the fact that we kill someone to show that murder is wrong. So we, as a State, commit the same sin that we detest. That makes no sense. Yes, we should look at each case on an individual basis, and I agree that the criminal justice system takes too long to get justice in a death penalty case. That is why I would prefer Life in Prison without the possibility of Parole. In another way, it gives the family some end to the criminal justice process without having to make them suffer for more than a decade through appeal after appeal. My daughter was a year old when her grandmother was murdered, and she too will never know the beauty that was her grandmother. This deeply saddens me. But I think it is up to us, as individual crime victim survivors, to take control away from the killer or killers. It is the only way I have found peace. I put it in God’s hands. I believe in natural life to natural death – as my church teaches. It is not up to Man to decide who will live or die, but God.
      In addition, I think that the death penalty offers false promises to family members of homicide victims. I believe, in many cases, murder victim family members are told they will have closure when the murderer is executed, but in the end they don’t have it. The man in this story says he received some satisfaction from the death penalty. Unfortunately, I don’t think it is the same in all cases. The death penalty only creates more victims, in my view, and doesn’t give crime victims what they need – an end the pain. For many, like myself, that pain never ends.

      • sprinklerman

        Chris,
        I’m saddened that you lost your mother to evil people. But we do not kill convicted murderers to “show that murder is wrong.” We as a civil society should have the death penalty because like Mr. Lich points out there are cases where the criminal needs to be removed from our society. The person who killed his father, and raped his mother, had committed both of those crimes previously in Mexico. He almost succeeded in killing one of his jailers. He threatened that if he ever got out he would go to the home of his mother and grandmother and kill both of them. As Mr. Lich pointed out in his article if there ever was a poster child for the death penalty, this guy was it. Life in prison without parole doesn’t mean that that person will never get out of prison. Put in the same position as Mr. Lich, and his mother and grandmother would you be so willing to allow your fathers murderer and your mothers rapist the same lenient sentence?

        • professor.plum

          The article doesn’t have every single detail, and there are some things that I wish I could go back and insert. The escape attempt was at the county jail, which was about 10 miles from home. True to see this through my eyes: just been through this terrible murder and rape; everything that I thought I know about a nice and gentle world had been shattered; and then the escape attempt just down the road — right after discovering that he’d previously escaped prison on a different murder charge. A few months later, a Death Row inmate in Texas did escape from prison. (Look for the Texas Monthly story, “The Getaway”.) The following year, 3 Louisiana inmates escaped from Death Row. The year after that, there were the “Texas Seven”. (Another TM story: “Maximum Insecurity”.)

          So I’m not making this up: the threat was very real. Everyone was on edge. Deputies were coming to the house ever couple of hours to check on us. I wasn’t sleeping with a shotgun just because I’m a trigger-happy guy. So my decision at the time was clear: he needed to be removed.

          • sprinklerman

            “So I’m not making this up: the threat was very real.”

            Mr. Lich,
            Never said that you did. I admire your courage dealing with this in the manner that you did.

            Chris Castillo has also suffered a loss that I can only begin to imagine. But there are cases, like yours that demonstrate the need for the Death Penalty. Chris “prefers” life in prison without the possibility of parole. That just isn’t real life and I wanted to point that out to him and that what really happens has real life and death consequences for the victims when the life without parole ends up being something very different.

          • professor.plum

            I hope that didn’t come out wrong! I didn’t mean to say that you did. I just wanted to fill in that part of the story, so that people understand better why I have felt that there was always a risk involved with him; always a threat.

          • Chris Castillo

            I know real life. And live it every day. As Mr. Lich and I have lost a loved one to murder. I must live with that. But I choose to be part of the solution in a society that teaches criminal how to be more violent in prison.
            I don’t live in a dream world and I am not a bleeding heart. As Mr. Lich, I have the right to my opinion. You may disagree. Mr. Lich is right about the escapes from the “old death row.” And murders do happen in prison. That is a reality. But we currently have a system that exists that keeps society safe. Life in prison without the possibility of parole can do that.

          • sprinklerman

            Chris, I think that we just have to agree to disagree on this. As a Christian, I believe in forgiveness, and I can only imagine what you and Mr. Lich must have endured. You do have a right to speak your mind, but not to your own facts. There are and will continue to be people who for various reasons will be either able to escape from prison or will be released when they have been previously incarcerated for life without the possibility of parole. That has very real consequences for the victims of that persons violent past.

        • Chris Castillo

          What we have is a system that is about revenge and not about justice. It is about hatred, not about healing – not even healing the murder victim family members. It’s about an eye for an eye.
          If we want to keep someone in prison for life, that is possibly. I am very sorry Mr. Lich and his family have suffered. And Mr. Lich has all the right in the world to feel the way he does, but I disagree with the death penalty as another murder victim family member. If you look at the facts concerning race, the death penalty is an unjust system. It is totally bias. Yes, it is the law of the land in many states, but that doesn’t make it right. Also, “in a civil society” we may judge others based on emotion, but is that good for society. If we can keep a person locked up for the rest of their life we have kept society safe. I believe that is a fact.
          Now, inmates in aggravated segregation spend 23 hours a day in one room with no physical contact. They get one hour a day for recreation – alone. They keep those inmates very secure. They do not deserve pity if they are guilty. They should be taken out of society to keep us all safe.
          I have a friend who works on death row and most of them, in his opinion, would prefer to stay in the limelight on death row where they get more attention. They don’t want to live a long life in prison because that is a long hard sentence to serve.
          I do agree with you about one thing. The death penalty system is not about justice in the end.
          I believe the system is a runaway train that only stops with the death of another human being. It’s about winning a case against a murderer in the end, it’s just about winning and proving that everyone has covered their bases. This is not a case or wrongful conviction, although there have been at least two people put to death in recent years, including Todd Willingham, who prove that that system is broken.
          I agree that Mr. Lich does who much courage in sharing his journey. I pray that his family finds some peace.

          • sprinklerman

            As I pointed out to you previously you and I will just have to disagree with the fact that a person who has been incarcerated for life without parole isn’t able to get out of prison. As long as they are able to draw a breath, the possibility of being released or being able to escape remains. Therefore the potential fear that the victims have will always be present. However this post I find offensive for two reasons.

            One, this case had nothing to do with race and neither I or Mr. Lich mentioned it, but you interjected it.

            Second you stated earlier that you are not a bleeding heart, yet you spend an inordinate amount of time in this post describing the conditions under which a person convicted of a violent crime must endure. REALLY? How about the victims who must endure the never ending fear that the convicted murderer placed them in with no fault of their own? If you are truly a family member of a violent crime victim (which I now doubt) how could you spend so much time on the “injustice” of the “justice” system.

            I don’t agree with you about the criminal justice system being broken. I wrote that in Mr. Lichs’ case the attorneys were more concerned about other things than justice.

            Lastly, while our justice system isn’t perfect (few are) it is the best system anywhere in the world. Does that mean we shouldn’t continue to improve it? No, but to say that it is broken, is not accurate. I have seen the system work first hand and I frequently am frustrated at the end result, but my concern has and will always be for the victim not the perpetrator.

          • Chris Castillo

            I am concerned for the victims. That is why I got involved in a program called Bridges to Life about 12 years ago in Texas. It is a program that takes crime victims into prison and teaches inmates the impact of crime on the individual. This was very painful for me at first, considering my mother was murdered (you can google me if you like and see my story. My mother’s name was Pilar Castillo, 52).
            I took a different journey than many people. I went into the prison to try and change the hearts and minds of offenders. I did this for one reason – I didn’t want anyone to go through the pain that I felt when I lost my mother. Also, I realize that most men and women in prison who are incarcerated will be released some day. I would rather them released with more information about how their actions impact people. I would like them to know the pain they have caused victims and that nothing can take that pain away. Some people stay in fear for the rest of their lives based on the crime.
            All I know is that I must try to cause a positive change to make our community safer. And this program is proven to work in Texas. Just because I don’t believe in the death penalty doesn’t mean I don’t believe in justice.
            I know for a fact, as a former police reporter and reporter that covered the court system for a Texas daily that a burglary can turn into a murder in an instant. That is one of the things I am trying to prevent. Future crimes.
            And, I must agree to disagree with you concerning the statement that this had nothing to do with race. The killer was Hispanic, and the numbers show that minorities and inmates with no money are more likely to be sentenced to death. Fifty five percent of all people on death row are Black or Hispanic. Does that mean that minorities are more likely to commit capital murder or that they are more likely to get capital murder because the system is bias? I think the truth is that this system is bias. There are many people serving life in prison for capital murder for very similar crimes. The only difference, in many cases, is that the offender could afford a better attorney and the offender was not a minority. You might not believe this, but it has been proven by research.
            I also must agree to disagree about the ability of people to escape who are in aggravated segregation. I have seen those secure units and know the precautions that correction officers take to keep us and the community safe. Yes, there are some monsters in the world that will kill and kill again without remorse, but I believe there is a better way of dealing with them.
            You can believe what you like, but I am a murder victim family member – not that I am proud of it. I would rather not be. I would rather have my mother back so she could see my daughter get married next month, but that is out of my hands.

          • NurseHCB

            The death penalty is a failed government program that is very expensive. It is costly to taxpayers. I concur with Chris that Life Without the Possibility of Parole is a better punishment to fit the crime for capital murder. That means NEVER having an opportunity to go before a judge or board to petition to get out…ever. It’s true, there have been several escapes as well as guards killed in prison. A death penalty case costs approximately 3 times the amount of money as it would to house a prisoner for life with NO parole. If the state didn’t have to waste all that money on death penalty cases, the state could invest in more corrections officers, guards, adequate prisons for maximum security, solving cold cases, and for services to help crime victims. THAT would help all of us and keep from creating more victims by executing someone else’s family member. I was FOR the death penalty when my mother was killed. It wasn’t until I became a murder victim family member that I decided I would not wish my anguish on anyone, even family members of murderers. The criminal has to be segregated from society to keep each one of us safe. Who’s to say “Oh that crime was so heinous the criminal has to die” but the next murder, well…maybe it wasn’t so bad so the criminal gets life. That’s BS. Every murder is heinous and equally devastating to the victims that are left to live with the sorrow. As a society we should not pick and choose who lives and who dies.

          • professor.plum

            Let me throw in one comment. In large part, I don’t want to say whether I think that people should be “for” or “against” the death penalty. My only piece of advice is that I encourage people to think about it, and especially think of the circumstances of the case. (If you still come down on the side of against, I respect that.) For me, you can see the situation through my eyes at the time. To me, I suddenly realized that it was all about the situation I was faced with: my mother (and grandmother, and sister) were being threatened; he himself attempted an escape, after having escaped before; and escapes were happened from other prisons at the time. See this through my eyes, as a young man who had suddenly been felt in charge of his family’s safety. As I write in the story, “…my decision at the time was…” That doesn’t mean I would make a different decision today, but that’s the way the situation I had to think about.

            In the end, it didn’t matter a hill of beans what I said to the DA. He was simply looking for allies to back him up. In the end, I chose not to make a victim impact statement during the sentencing part of the trial, and I chose not to weigh in during his clemency hearing.

            I totally respect your decision. Family members have such a hard time with the whole nasty mess that we didn’t want or deserve. You had to deal with your situation, along with your own feelings regarding the punishment. When you came to the realization that you didn’t support capital punishment, I respect that it was the right decision for you.

            Peace to you and all who were affected by your tragedy.

        • From Canada

          All of this should be taken with a huge grain of salt, because Lich stands to profit socially and emotionally by painting the guy to be a terrible person and because he does not have access to the full story. Quite frankly, I don’t believe anything Lich says about the person because the person can’t say anything back. He’s dead and never got a chance to share the story from his perspective while he was alive. We don’t know where he came from, why he killed, or why he became the way he did. Sure, it wouldn’t excuse his actions, but it’s completely ridiculous to just accept Lich’s accusations without even considering that his story is almost certainly warped by Lich’s own trauma and involvement with the scenario. Lich will never be able to see his fathers killer objectively. There’s nothing wrong with that, but honestly think for yourself and don’t accept what Lich says word-for-word. Expect a one-sided-story because that’s all Lich has.

          • sprinklerman

            “Quite frankly, I don’t believe anything Lich says about the person
            because the person can’t say anything back. He’s dead and never got a
            chance to share the story from his perspective while he was alive.”

            Your whole post can be summed up in these two sentences. Despite the facts, your mind is made up and your too lazy to examine them to see that your opinion is wrong.

            As far as him never getting the chance to share his story from his perspective, while he was alive, he had every chance we wanted to at his trial in 2000 and every day after until his execution in 2014. I think that 14 years is a pretty good chance of saying whatever he wished.

            As for the facts: http://www.khou.com/news/texas-news/Mexican-national-executed-for-1997-Texas-slaying-254668941.html

            http://www.usnews.com/news/us/articles/2014/04/09/mexican-national-executed-for-1997-texas-slaying

          • professor.plum

            The whole story is intended to be my perspective, which is affected by anger and vulnerability and sadness. I’m honest about that. I know that I can never see this objectively, and I hope it wasn’t interpreted that way.

          • Paul

            I don’t get your hostility. And it isn’t true that the killer didn’t have a chance to share his perspective. He had a trial and there was a lengthy appeals process. The opportunity was there.

  • dragonfly310

    “Before the crime, I was against capital punishment. It was part of the party platform I adopted as an educated, moral person with liberal tendencies. ” … ” I told the district attorney that I supported pursuing the death penalty.”

    Against the death penalty, until a horrible crime happens that affects you. Got it.

    • From Canada

      Other people who are family members of victims have commented and they didn’t come to the same ridiculous conclusion.

  • DRSA

    I have been, and continue to be, against a death penalty administered by the State.

    I believe that the real point of the death penalty is and should be vengeance, and that if the injured party or parties agree to “push the button,” or whatever mechanism is used in the execution, then the offender may be executed.

    NPR did a week-long series of articles on the people who work at the death house in Huntsville a few years back, and it was obvious that putting others to death was taking an immense spiritual and physical toll on them. I don’t believe the State should subject non-involved parties to the guilt and emotional distress for a few extra bucks in pay.

    The fact is that some people earn a mortal penalty be their actions. If Mr. Lich had killed Mr. Hernandez in the midst of his horrific attack, no one would have a second thought or shed a tear. If someone is willing to shoulder the potential burden of guilt, second thoughts, and the possibility of executing the wrong person – personally – it makes the State the arbiter and monitor of the process, but not the executioner.

    • From Canada

      That’s ridiculous. Revenge won’t bring anyone closure. That’s only going to hurt victims more. This Lich guy is clearly scarred enough. I don’t want to think about how much worse he would turn out if he had to press the button too.

      I’m against the death penalty, but I’m even MORE against the death penalty for the purposes of vengeance.

      • professor.plum

        “Don’t do it for a sense of vengeance. Don’t do it for a sense of punishment. You will not get it. Don’t expect it to cure the sadness or anger in your hearts.”

        That’s the best that I could say to families in similar situations.

      • DRSA

        I think you miss my point. No one would be forced to administer the penalty, and if one truly is against it the penalty would automatically be life without parole. It is easy to hold an opinion when you aren’t required to follow through on it. If one is going to talk the talk, then one should be willing to walk the walk – with all of the potential pitfalls that presents.

  • Luis L Montemayor Sr

    Only wish I have had a chance to go with the family of Mr Lich and witness the execution of the monster that committed the crime on this family… He got exactly what He deserved for his crime…Rest in Hell you Monster!!!

  • adrtitan88

    I guess I’m too stupid to understand…but is a possible penalty for gruesomely (added for emphasis) murdering someone death? Seriously…if you know the penalty for murdering could be death, and you kill someone, is it cruel to actually be given the death penalty if it’s determined that’s what the final consequence is? Why is this all of a sudden about how awful it is and that it’s “revenge killing?” How is it revenge if the sentence for murder is death, and you choose to do it? Everyone knows it’s a possible sentence, it’s not like it’s a surprise…so if you murder someone, aren’t you, the individual, choosing the death sentence?
    Is it not like knowing that jumping off a tall building would result in death, and then griping when someone actually dies from it…should we whine and moan to whoever is in charge of the laws of physics? If you smoke all your life and you get lung cancer and die…30 years after you start smoking…knowing it was a possibility, who is the bad guy in all that? Who is the morally reprehensible actor?

  • Jon

    Realizing I’m a bit late to this discussion, I just thought I’d add my .02. I’ve always been “against” the death penalty, as much as a neutral person with no immediate ties to a specific murder can be. I think that rationally, one would argue that killing in response to killing is immoral.

    Having said that, the moment a matter becomes personal is the moment you can throw rational thinking right out the window. If anyone ever killed my son, wife, mother, brother, sister, father… My immediate reaction would be that I’d not only want the person to be killed, I’d probably want to be the one to do it. The account offered by Mr. Lich seems completely understandable to me, if anything toned down by years of reasoning. Why the hell should he have to keep quite about the man’s last few moments alive? Why should that be held sacred when the brutal murder and last moments of his father’s life have been spewed out in the media for the past few decades?

    I don’t see how anyone here can possibly chime in here claiming any kind of BS about how a person should feel in this situation without actually having been in this kind of a situation themself. Here’s to hoping that all of the people with their critical opinions on whether he is “right” or “wrong” in his views/actions/writing never have their beliefs put to the test in a real occurrence of a horrible murder of this nature.

    • NurseHCB

      It’s never too late to join a conversation about such a difficult topic that most will shy away from. This was something I wasn’t even involved in until my mother was murdered in 1985. I was fortunate to have a DA staff in Los Angeles who had compassion for me and my family and took our input into account. They assisted me every step of the way to understand a confusing, devastating time of my life. The trial from start to finish took just under 2 years. In my case as we opted to pursue life without the possibility of parole instead of the death penalty, the state was able to able to win the case because of the insurmountable evidence. The jury unanimously voted for life without the possibility of parole. In California, life with no parole is just that. It does not mean that the convicted prisoner gets a chance to get out down the road. In my case I gave a victim impact statement, part of which included that justice must be served. I was shocked when the judge ended up overruling the jury and made the sentence 25 years to life with the possibility of parole. It was a slap in the face to me. Judges should not be allowed to do that when 12 jurors unananimously arrive on a verdict. Since that time I keep track of the status and now have to write letters every few years to the parole board as to why he should stay in prison. My 3 brothers do the same. If I had to do it over again I would still not have asked for the death penalty. Even after all these years it has cost less for the state of California to keep him incarcerated than a death penalty case costs, and I personally don’t have to live with knowing that other secondary victims were created by his being executed. Stephen did not benefit from not having his article published and it is not one sided. Anyone can read transcripts from murder cases. It’s not hard to find out the history of the bad guy that murdered his father and brutally raped his mother. This discussion has to take place. It has to be an ongoing conversation. For someone to say that Chris isn’t a murder victim family member is just ludicrous. He writes succinctly and from the heart. One does not have to agree with his views but you can’t dispute his life experience in this arena. If you haven’t lost a loved one to murder, I thank you for not criticizing Stephen or any one commenting who has. I wouldn’t wish that walk on any one of you reading this…
      Let’s keep the conversation going though, in our families, cities, states, and countries. The Justice system is political and has its fair share of corruption, back room deals, winks, hand shakes, and false promises. It is not always just. Keep in mind people who have served many years in prison, on death row, some with execution dates and years later found to be innocent. Some lived to be set free and talk about it, others have not. there are 2 sides to every coin. Let’s look at both sides and try not to judge.

  • John Kyle

    Condolences on your loss. You father chose to play with a rattlesnake, and paid the price. Just another death to appease those who promote open borders.