Former Texas Execution Chamber Chaplain Speaks Out Over Death Penalty

Reverend Carroll Pickett knows a lot about the death penalty in Texas – too much to get a good night’s sleep at times.

Pickett is the former chaplain of the Huntsville state prison, the busiest execution chamber in the nation. Now he is speaking out about his experiences and his conviction that some inmates were wrongly put to death.

An article in Voice of America, chronicles Pickett’s campaign against the death penalty. While concerns that innocent people have lost their lives have led to limits on the use of the death penalty in a number of U.S. states in recent years, Texas has been immune to such considerations and continues to lead the nation in terms of executions.

The article stated the state has put to death more than 500 people since capital punishment was reinstated here in 1982. Pickett saw 95 of them put to death on his watch as the chaplain at Huntsville.

He kept a kind of diary of the executions in the form of tapes.

“I made the tapes the next day, or the next night, to get it all out,” he said. He kept a scrapbook of a 1974 prison siege that left two church employees dead. The article said he initially favored executions after Texas reinstated then in 1982. That all changed with the 33rd prisoner he saw executed – Carlos DeLuna.

DeLuna was convicted and executed for the killing of a gas station attendant. Pickett talked with him at length and became convinced he was innocent of the crime and DeLuna was a victim of mistaken identity.
“And while he promised DeLuna his death would be painless, it was far from that,” the article stated.

“It was horrible. I couldn’t sleep for days and days,” he said.

After he retired in 1995 he became a powerful voice in the movement against the death penalty.
Although many in the church have moved against the ultimate sanction, Texas Governor Rick Perry remains a staunch supporter of the death penalty.

Last month a report by the American Bar Association warned of the high risk of innocent people being executed in Texas.
“Notably, the Lone Star State appears out of step with better practices implemented in other capital jurisdictions, failing to rely on scientifically reliable evidence and processes in the administration of the death penalty and providing the public with inadequate information to understand and evaluate capital punishment in the state,” the ABA stated in the report.

Texas has also been criticized for the execution of prisoners with low IQs, such as Marvin Wilson, who was executed on August 7, 2012, after the U.S. Supreme Court rejected the arguments of his lawyers that he shouldn’t have been eligible for the death penalty because of his low intelligence.

Mick Mickelsen is a nationally recognized criminal trial attorney with more than 30 years of experience defending people charged with white-collar crimes, drug offenses, sex crimes, murder, and other serious state and federal offenses.