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The Execution of Michael James Perry
Yahoo Contributor Network
K. D. Adams
Sep 13, 2010
At 6:00 PM CDT, we were lead through the visitation area which was empty and out into a tiny courtyard. From there I thought we would be lead into a room to see this carried out. I was wrong, we walked into a dark hallway that was about ten feet long with a window at the end of it. It was about the size of your bathroom but I wouldn’t call it a room, it was more of a closet. So it was Gay Perry, his Aunt Joy, his Pastor, A Texas ranger, a corrections officer , a state police officer , Michael Graczyk and myself that were crammed into this little closet. The window was only big enough for the four “family members” to see out of; the rest stood in back of us.
As I looked through the window, I saw Michael strapped down to this gurney in a crucifix position. He had IV tubes running into his skinny arms and a sheet that was pulled up to his waist. His hands were wrapped in ace bandages were the needles went in. There was a microphone that hung from the ceiling over Michael’s head. I would guess we were not more than 4 feet away from him. I was almost shocked at how close he was to us. He looked at me with that big beautiful smile of his and mouth the words “I love you”. I started crying almost uncontrollably and looking back on it, I wished I hadn’t. The other pastor was in the chamber with him and just like he said, he had his hand on Michael’s exposed ankle. The warden of the Walls Unit stood behind Michael’s head and asked him if he would like to give a final statement. Michael did.
“I want to start off by saying I want everyone to know that’s involved in this atrocity that they are forgiven by me.” He then said “I’m ready, Warden“. He sobbed briefly, then whispered, “I love you, Mom. I’m coming home, Dad. I’m coming home.”
Remember when I said I wished I hadn’t started crying? I think when Michael saw that he started to panic and that’s why he didn’t finish his final statement. I think he had a lot more to say and couldn’t but I could be wrong.
The warden looked over at someone we could not see and gave a nod to begin the execution. Michael’s eyes fluttered for a moment and then he just fell asleep. What came next was the most horrifying thing I have ever seen. After about 2 minutes of him being unconscious, his body began to gasp for air. It was a sound I will never forget. The papers would later say it was the hiccups. It was not, I assure you. It was the most frightening sound you could imagine. I remember saying out loud “Oh my God, he suffering!” It seemed like an eternity standing there waiting for something to happen. Then, a doctor appeared from around the corner and walked up to Michael. He opened Michael’s eyes and looked at them with a little flashlight. He felt Michael’s neck and throat for a pulse and then checked for a heartbeat with his stethoscope. He then looked up at the clock and simply said “six seventeen”. Then he grabbed the sheet that had been around Michael’s waist and pulled it over his head. He had, in fact, pronounced Michael James Perry dead.
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July 15, 2010
A couple days ago I researched “Casa by the Sea,” the “summer camp” in Mexico to which Michael Perry (the 28-year-old man executed on July 1st here in Texas, who was diagnosed at age 7 with ADHD and started on Ritalin and Prozac by his parents) was sent in shackles as a teen. What a hell-hole that place must have been!
Operated by World Wide Association of Specialty Programs and Schools (WWASP), a Utah-based organization founded in 1998 and controlled by Robert Lichfield, Casa by the Sea was shut down in 2004 by Mexican authorities due to substantiated claims of child abuse. Perry said that conditions for him on death row were better than at Casa by the Sea.
One thing which grabbed my attention is that parents would spend more than $25,000 a year to incarcerate their ADHD kids at Casa by the Sea or the numerous other “treatment” mills operated by WWASP. Parents mortgaged their houses and depleted their savings to pay for services which (according to Perry) included serving beans and rice at every meal, except on Sundays, when spoiled fish was served. Staff members at Casa were poorly educated and poorly paid, even the teachers. Kids were subjected to physical, mental, and sexual abuse.
I haven’t been able to find out anything about Perry’s parents except that they are “good Christian people who did all they could to help their son.” The same person who said this—a friend of his parents—explained that Perry’s birth mother, who was on drugs, gave him up for adoption. “Michael Perry was condemned from birth due to his birth mother’s actions,” this family friend said.
Hmmm, maybe so—but maybe not. Administering psychotropic drugs to a 7-year-old may have been the actual start down a slippery slope which took Perry through a succession of treatments, mental health facilities, prisons and “programs” which seem to have only made a bad problem worse.
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Herzog is a notoriously liberal editor, and—like any storyteller—he had to select carefully when deciding which facts to focus on in Into the Abyss. One of the facts he omitted, however, seems arguably quite relevant to the case. In a recent interview for The Boston Phoenix, Herzog breezily told film editor Peter Keough, “Actually, what the film doesn’t mention is in the second round of murders there was witness [sic] there who testified who got immunity.”
That witness, according to a court transcript of Perry’s confession (later recanted), was Burkett’s then-girlfriend, Kristen Willis. Burkett and Perry drove Willis’s truck to Sandra Stotler’s house on the night that they killed her, and, after disposing of the body in a nearby lake, they picked Willis up from the sports apparel shop where she worked and returned to the Stotlers’ subdivision. It was there that Burkett, Perry, and Willis intercepted their victim’s son and his friend, and convinced the two boys to follow them into the woods. Willis sat in her truck while Perry and Burkett committed their second and third murders. When the killers reemerged from the forest, Willis—per Perry’s confession—asked Burkett, “What happened?” Then, before he could answer, she said, “Never mind; I don’t want to know.”
In 2006, Burkett told an interviewer that he thought the local government had protected Willis after the murders because “her father has been a Montgomery County Sheriff for as long as I could remember.” And Perry, after recanting his confession to the murder of Sandra Stotler, allegedly posted a message on a website set up to raise awareness of his case indirectly accusing Willis of the murders. (If there ever was a message, it has since been removed.)
Herzog—and the court documents—leave little doubt that Perry and Burkett were indeed guilty of the crimes for which they were convicted. But why did Herzog leave Kristen Willis out of Into the Abyss? Did she refuse to be interviewed? Did she threaten legal action against Herzog if he implied that she might have been involved in the murders? Or is it just that her presence at the scene of the crime didn’t fit into the narrative Herzog wanted to tell about the murders? A love interest with ties to local law enforcement might not jibe with Herzog’s portrait of two neglected, alienated young killers.
An exchange that came later during the Boston Phoenix interview might shed some light on the answer. In response to a question about some compelling evidence that Burkett had white-supremacist sympathies, Herzog replies, “He denies it, and that’s why the film doesn’t make any fuss over it.” Whatever Herzog’s reasons for leaving the existence of a key witness out of Into the Abyss, it’s clear—as it always has been—that Herzog is an artist, not a journalist.