It’s paradise, really. The Waverly Gardens Apartments sit at the crest of a hill in Silver Lake, California, one of those charming little Los Angeles neighborhoods full of bungalows that don’t match, deco patios, and outrageous growths of bougainvillea. The building itself is nothing special: light brown, four stories, with a garage and security gate. But it is surrounded by a lush landscape of multicolored flowers growing alongside deep green grass, sculpted bushes, and hundred-foot trees.
He was a beautiful, proud thoroughbred, headstrong and demanding, the kind of horse who would snort impatiently if he decided the grooms were not paying him enough attention. Each day, his oak- paneled stall was swept, mopped, and replenished with fresh straw. His richly colored chestnut coat was constantly brushed. For his daily exercise sessions, he was taken to his own three-acre paddock, where he could frolic alone in perfectly tended bluegrass.His name was Alydar.
“I’m trying to show what prison looks like to people who’ve never been there,” says photographer Andrew Lichtenstein, who began taking pictures in Texas prisons in 1995. His initial assignments came from European magazines and newspapers, feeding the Old World’s fascination with Texas justice, especially the death penalty. But Lichtenstein soon found a much richer world—one that is captured in the photographs that follow. “The story is so much bigger than death row and the death penalty,” he says.
Now that the saga of the not-so-Magnificent Seven is over—and isn’t it a little embarrassing that the escapees’ idea of freedom was to spend nearly a month cooped up in an RV playing Christian music and putting yellow dye on their hair?—it’s time to try to figure out what this whole mess has taught us. Namely, was this escape a total fluke, carried out by some convicts who, as it turned out, weren’t half as smart as we thought they were? Or was it one more sign of a Texas penal system gone awry?
Theirs was the most Texan of love stories: the good-hearted woman in love with the two-timing man.
It’s a gun, all right, and Detective Robert Merrill is holding it to the back of Mike Scott’s head. The detective is standing as if braced for action; the suspect is sitting at a small, round table, his left hand resting on the white surface. From the camera’s angle, up high in the cramped interrogation room, you can see Scott’s receding hairline. His body language says he is sitting perfectly still.
Almost from the day he made his arrival in Houston in the early fifties from Harvard’s MBA program, he was known as the Sphinx. Fayez Sarofim, the son of a prosperous Egyptian landowner, dressed in suits tailored in London and spoke in a baronial, perfectly modulated voice. To the monied old guard of the city, he was an exotic, almost mysterious figure, taciturn, restrained, and formidably intelligent—a financial genius with an uncanny ability to pick stocks that were about to soar.
Gregory Ott, Texas Department of Criminal Justice #282372, is the pluperfect inmate, the poster boy for the way a parole system ought to work. For more than two decades the TDCJ has repeatedly taken note of his cooperation, work ethic, initiative, upbeat attitude, and selflessness.
To the cops who patrolled Dallas’ richest and most exclusive neighborhoods throughout the 1990’s, Mitch Shaw and his cute girlfriend, Jennifer Dolan, must have looked like a couple of rubes. For one thing, they cruised through the neighborhoods in a turquoise Toyota Tercel. Turquoise! Jennifer always drove, usually with her window down, her magnificently teased hair and dangling costume earrings fluttering in the wind.
Harry Fikaris and Roger Wedgeworth miss the flashing red lights, the yellow strips of crime scene tape, and the stench of dead, bloated bodies. With little provocation, they’ll wax nostalgic about the adrenaline rush of a call in the middle of the night and the frantic, sleepless chase that follows. This, after all, is why they got into the crime-solving business in the first place.