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Death Row is my Home

Death Row's My Home

In memory of Thomas Walker

by Michael Wayne Hunter

One of the few values, functions of my life at this point is to write about what I see from my perch on San Quentin's death row. What value my observations are I can't say, I only know I feel the need to write as much for myself as anyone else. You must understand when you read my thoughts; my view is through the distorted lense of my functioning dysfunctional beliefs. I'll try to be as sincere as I am capable, but I'll be the first one to advance the concept that truth can be selective, and I want to own up to my own limitations of truth before I proceed.
If they're honest, anyone who has killed humans on more than one occasion will tell you it becomes easier with each death. It's a powerful truth, strong words just to hear, now imagine living this truth, feeling this truth, intimately embracing this truth.
When I was young, thirteen, I was impressionable, confused, and direct experiences led me to devalue human life.
By twenty-three, I was at rock bottom, my life ruled by anger, loneliness, and fear.
At twenty-four, I was put on trial for murder and this experience made a deep impression upon me. It wasn't the prosecutor, judge, jury, or the possible penalty of death that made such a huge impact on me. It was the cardboard boxes stacked high inside the courtroom that so deeply affected my life. My whole life had been gathered up and placed inside those boxes, no stone left unturned, no fear or secret of mine left undiscovered. I was the contents of the boxes, the contents of the boxes were me. Each day at trial as yet another box was opened and the ugly contents revealed to the light, viewing what I had made of my twenty-four years was the emotional equivalent of slamming into a brick wall at a hundred miles per hour. Nightly, lying awake in my cell in chaos, I wondered how I was going to survive the opening of the next box, and then the next, and the next. . . . the boxes had forced me to look squarely at my worst enemy -- me.
Amid the turmoil of this experience, I discovered a yearning, not for freedom because I knew I'd forfeited my right to walk within society; but a desire to reconnect with humanity. I wanted to find inside myself something I had lost, I wanted to once again to feel in full awareness -- love.
Now at thirty, after years on Death Row, I find myself beginning to feel the value of life growing inside me. this, of course, does nothing for those whom I have killed. But then again, unless I kill myself today, I must either stagnate and regress toward chaotic emptiness or progress toward humanity, and I very much want to progress. I want to leave San Quentin, in death, a better man than the day I walked on to Death Row. I am ready to pay my debt. But in the meantime, while my legal appeals wend their way through the courts, I want to give back what little I can and also find out if I can develop Tom into someone I can live with. Simply, I'd like to find out if the capacity for humanity is within me before I die.
I owe a great deal to friends, they've seem me through my years on Death Row, they gave me encouragement when every good reason to continue caring was long gone. As I've begun to remould myself from the wreckage that has become my life, they gave me models to reflect upon. In essence, they have lent themselves to help me build something recognizable from the ashes.
I know I will not ever fully understand the sanctity of life, not like normal people do -- do they realize how lucky they are? I will die long short of the mark, but until that they I intend to be a work in progress, forever with a hope to get as close to the truth as I can.

Dare I have a hope?