Death and Delusion Of a Gangster Preacher
“Have you not heard of that madman who lit a lantern in the bright morning hours, ran to the marketplace and cried incessantly ‘I seek God! I seek God!’…’Wither is God,’ he cried. I shall tell you. We have killed him—you and I. All of us are his murderers.”- Friedrich Nietzsche, The Gay Science (125.I.II)
Midnight is a few minutes away and all is quiet except for the night song of crickets that have snuck into this concrete and steel Hell through cracks in the walls and doors. Security check: a quick succession of loud repetitive pops click and clanging and for the next ten minutes I’ll hear heavy metal doors slamming in intervals as the officers walk the pod. It almost seems as if the crickets are singing a protest song of the Natural World against the great mechanical behemoth—my little companions for the sad and lonely night.
I awoke a little while ago to hear that they did execute Martin Robles yesterday. My most excellent compañera sent me an article via e-mail about his execution. In it is mentioned that he had no visitors during his last days on this Earth and that his last and only words were “I love you Israel.” The TDCJ spokesman said he had no idea who Israel is and what that might mean. A lie, another depraved little sick and twisted lie—TDCJ staff knew very well and good that Martin was severely schizophrenic. I’m finding it quite difficult to write about because I’m rather disturbed right now but this must be written about.
Albert Camus is one of the reasons why I generally love the French—Camus spoke about how society keeps the death penalty shrouded and concealed under “padded words.” It is a system of illusion, falsehood. The system of capital punishment rests on a foundation of perversion, suppression and distortion of Truth. Hypocrisy forms its pillars, duplicity its roof, deception is its lifeblood and perfidy permeates through every segment, component and minute particle to its being. It’s wretched, sick, twisted, depraved. Words of Truth must be spoken.
Michael Foucault is another reason why I generally love the French. InDiscipline and Punish: Birth Of the Prison Foucault talks about how as early as 1810 the French too schizophrenia (“madness”, “delirium”) into account when engaging in judicial proceedings. People weren’t simply judged according to their crimes, but the French judiciary began looking into the causes of crimes, taking mitigating circumstances into account and they recognized that a schizophrenic should not be held accountable for crimes in the same way those of sound mind should be. That was 200 years ago. 200 years later and people suffering from severe mental illness are still being executed.
Martin’s story is sad, very sad. He got involved with gangs at a young age during the height of gang activity in Texas. When he was 17 Martin got in a gang shoot-out and he killed someone. It was a self-defense type of situation so he only did 6 years in prison for the murder. He was in prison during the largest increase of any state’s prison population in the history of the U.S. The Texas system was insane then—all of the Latino prison gangs were at war and he was right in the thick of this. And he stepped right out of the thick of this war zone into the streets of the freeworld and less than a year after two rival gang members attempted to murder him but failed he responded. He and a fellow gang member retaliated and killed two rivals. Sad all the way around—without getting into an in-depth discussion of the psychosociopolitical causes of crimes, that’s all I’ll say.
I met Martin years ago and he was always a cool, quiet laid back dude. At one point he became a born again Christian and carried his bible to the dayroom every day to hold bible studies. Martin took bible correspondence courses, gained many course certificates and essentially became an evangelical preacher. I’d joke with him and call him a “Gangster Preacher” because he was very sincere in his Christianity but he still had a hardcore gangster presence. Check martin out: Gang tattoos, muscular build, a predatory manner of walking and talking that developed from spending 95% of his adult Life in prison. Imagine him in the dayroom, early one Saturday morning…
“Hey, Y, you finish that bible study I sent you last week?” said in a cool and calm manner. “No?” and his body language immediately changes to that of one in prison who has been conditioned to take even the slightest contradictory gesture toward oneself as a possible threat. Without taking his eyes off of whom he’s speaking to, without blinking, he reaches behind his back to an envelope on the dayroom table and in doing so exposes the large gang insignia tattoo on his forearm.
Martin slowly brings the envelope forward and with a deliberately slow stride takes 4 or 5 steps forward. Reaching into the envelope he grips his weapon tightly and quickly gets it out: “What is this?” he asks as his right fist strikes the well-worn bible in his left hand and without waiting for a response says, “This is the word of God brother and it seems to me you’re playing with the word of God, seems like you’re not as serious as I thought you were about our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Another step forward. “What is today? Saturday. That means tomorrow is Sunday, the holy day of Christ.” He flips open his bible and with precision goes right to a particular page and finds several verses that just came to mind. He reads them. Martin lifts his eyes to meet those of the person he’s talking to. Silence. One second. Two seconds. Three seconds. He leans slightly forward, points. “I want you to have that bible study done by tomorrow Brother. I’ll be back in this dayroom Monday and we’ll fellowship and share in the Love of the Holy God and his only son our Lord Jesus Christ. Don’t disappoint me.”
And when I’d tell him he was a gangster preacher he’d laugh and tell me,“That’s crazy, I don’t know why you always say that!” Martin was very sincere with his religious belief but he had spent most of is life in prison so he still had certain ‘gangster’ physical mannerisms and ways of speaking that were deeply bred within him. There is a vast amount of scholarly literature that states that solitary confinement viciously attacks the human psyche and prolonged solitary confinement can cause severe schizophrenia. Martin and I were moved away from each other and maybe a year later I heard rumors that he was “going crazy.” Everyone here experiences bouts of “going crazy” to one degree or another so I didn’t think much of it.
Around maybe a year after I first heard these rumors—which I pretty much forgot about—Martin and I ended up on the same pod again. Right before we were previously moved away from each other we were working on putting together an interview type piece on a restorative justice and crime prevention vibe aimed at the young gang members or those thinking of joining a gang. He was on the next section over so I sent word that we could pick up where we left off on the writing piece.
The next day I went out to the yard and Martin was already in the adjoining cage. I was shocked to see him. Martin’s deliberate Alpha-male bulldog stride was replaced by an uneven clumsy unsure step. He no longer had a muscular physique. Martin had lost probably 50 lbs. and his gangster stare was replaced by a hollow-eyed vacant look. “Did they send you?” was the first thing he said to me in a weak, shaky voice as his eyes darted back and forth as if he expected someone or some thing to leap from behind him at any moment. He was gone, completely gone.
I know all of the academic diagnostic criteria for schizophrenia and as I was talking to him I was checking them off in my mind while fighting back tears that fought hard to flow at the sadness of the situation. Many forms of Christianity can be absolutely beautifully wonderful but there are some forms that can be deplorable—for some reason those who practice the latter send out a lot of literature to guys here. I’m talking about real whacked out stuff: Hillary Clinton and Oprah are whores of the Devil and brides of Satan, Obama is the anti-Christ and the Pope is his satanic communist ally who is coming to get you, like right now.
The solitary confinement of this environment made Martin lose his mind but that crazy literature was like potent fuel that strengthened the fire of schizophrenia that ate at his psyche. It took me about 20 minutes to convince Martin that “they” didn’t send me “to get him” and once he was apparently convinced of this he went off half-incoherently non-stop talking about…Have you ever witnessed schizophrenia? Ever heard a schizophrenic talk? It’s something really indescribable. (I’m sure videos of such things can be found online and you should research this a bit and watch some examples).
Martin went on and on in a paranoid delusional state. The Catholics were out to get him. He pointed out a list of officers who were Catholic operatives; he didn’t eat when they worked because they poisoned his food with satanic spells. He needed to get to Israel. Sometimes he’d go but then he’d end up back here. The people on the radio would talk to him and tell him the truth but then demons would possess them and they’d tell him lies. Catholic demons couldn’t go to Israel. The newspaper gave him secret messages…I’m on the verge of tears writing about this so I’ll stop with the description but it was extremely sad, his mind was gone.
I left the yard and went back to my cell and after this I’d go over to the dayroom in Martin’s section and help him as I could; he’d go ‘in and out’ sometimes as many schizophrenics do but he had crossed a point of no return. Martin had the support of his family and friends but he started refusing their letters and visits because he thought they were part of the conspiracy to get him. They did moves again and I was moved next to Martin for a while. He stopped corresponding with one friend because of something to do with the type of paper they sent the letter on. It contained messages from the Pope, satanic messages that would appear then disappear. he started to refuse all mail. This is why, as the article states, “Robles requested no visitors.”
Another sorrowful thing: Martin avoided a lot of the type of persecution many mentally ill prisoners face because he believed that staff here, the satanic Catholic operatives, could steal his words and thoughts if he spoke and use them against him so he rarely spoke. Sometimes he would speak to staff though—not long before Martin received an execution date he got into it with the major and that imbecile wrote him a fake threatening case and put Martin on disciplinary status. I guess the ultra right-wing fundamentalist “Christian’ major who runs the Polunsky Death Camp didn’t like being called an evil satanic Catholic.
Martin died alone and insane. This is sad, so very sad. He died with no one by his side lost in the dark labyrinthine realm of schizophrenia. Sad, terribly sad—but I guess at least in his mind he finally made it to Israel.
“It has been further said that on the same day the madman entered divers churches and there sang his requiem aeternam deo. Led out and called to account, he is said to have replied each time, “What are these churches now if they are not the tombs and sepulchers of God?” Friedrich Nietzsche, The Gay Science (125.IV)
The water has been shut off all night. Two weeks ago it was because some toxic substance was found in the water, today some pipes broke. We’re packed in here like sardines—no toilets can flush and the smell of piss and shit is becoming nauseating. I’m about to wrap a wet towel around my face or something. The crickets are still singing their night song, a soothing ballad of the Natural World bouncing off the abominably Huxleyian steel bars and concrete walls of the Polunsky Death Camp…
From the Belly Of the Beast With Unwavering Dedication and Loyalty To Struggle and Those Who Fight With Me:
* I’m pretty sure Martin had a typical no good Texas court appointed attorney. Where are the Progressive attorneys who could ensure injustice like this doesn’t happen? (And it’s a damn pitiful shame that I still only have a court appointed attorney and no Progressive attorneys have gotten involved with my case).