The Storms of Our Lives

By Robert Pruett, on death row in Texas
December 16, 2014

Over the years I have worked hard to achieve self control, inner balance, equanimity. Last Friday night I admit that I was momentarily knocked off of balance as I read the news of the CCA rejecting my subsequent writ. I felt frustrated, disappointed and even some fear. I did immediately become aware of these emotions as they were happening. I tried to be the awareness behind my thoughts and emotions instead of being them, but I rode the waves of my feelings as I read my mail and connected to the people I’m closest to in life. All of the love and support they expressed, as well as their anxiety, reverberated throughout my being. I feel so very thankful to have such kind and loving souls who are with me through everything. I love you all.

So, here’s the deal with this case: Six out of nine judges on the CCA think that I don’t meet the standard outlined in Texas’ law regarding subsequent writs. Basically, the law states that we get one shot at habeas corpus proceedings…. unless there is new evidence uncovered that’s material and couldn’t have been discovered by our attorneys for one reason or another. In my case my appellate attorney through my first round of appeals was extremely negligent and ineffective in that there were countless things he could have done to uncover the evidence that my new attorneys have discovered, but he didn’t do much of anything. My new attorneys discovered that the prosecution in this case made secret deals with at least one of the inmate witnesses against me. Their investigation required a little more effort than the poor one my first attorney put forth. They also found about 12 family members who would have testified in my behalf in the punishment phase of my trial had they known they could. No one from my original legal team ever informed them that they could…. my new legal team, the Texas Innocence Network, have gathered lots of evidence to support my claims that my other attorneys were ineffective and that there is merit to the issues we’re raising. The three judges on the CCA that dissented from the majority ruling wrote a four page Dissenting Statement in which they outline in detail why I DO pass the procedurally hurdles for a subsequent habeas corpus petition, whereas the other six judges give no reason why they think I don’t meet the standard: they simply said my subsequent writ is an abuse of writ and I’m procedurally barred. No explanation at all.

So, the next step is to ask the federal district judge over my case to review these new issues and allow me to argue them. The CCA said I can’t even argue these claims. There are avenues through the federal courts that we can pursue. All hope is not lost. It’s just frustrating that the hardcore conservatives in the CCA are so closed minded, but I am thankful that at least a few of them on that court see the error in this case and think I have the right to present my argument and the new evidence. My attorneys will definitely use their Dissenting Statement on the federal level.

After I read the news last Friday night I took a deep breath and regained balance. The fear I felt was a psychological / biological reaction to the threat of death. I was immediately cognizant of that. It’s attachment to form… a desire to survive. Once I became calm again I started reading the December 12-14 edition of the USA TODAY newspaper.

On the front page there is a picture of two preteen boys playing with a shopping cart in the middle of a flooded street in Healdsburg, California. I was profoundly affected by this image. There they were, in the midst of tragedy (the flooded streets were up to their waists and I heard caused billions of dollars in damage in California. I’m not sure how many were killed and injured….), yet they had a look of utter bliss on their faces. I think these boys can teach us all a few things. Mattie Stepanek said we should play after every storm; they are doing just that. What I see when I look at them are two kids making the most of a bad situation. They are focused and dejected by what has been; they aren’t worrying about what will happen next; they seize the day and are in the bliss of their moment. To me they exude powerful energy, the very pulse of all being, and I was just so touched and inspired by them. In life we are bound to have great struggles, tragedy, and experience so much pain. It’s so easy to become entangled and overwhelmed after a storm, even easier still to become afraid of what will happen next. These boys are focused and aware in their moment, and they vibrate at an extremely high frequency.

I want you all to know that I’m not sweating this negative ruling from the CCA. Yes, there was that initial jolt of fear and disappointment. I recognized it for what it was: a desire to live and go on, to know something besides these fucking prison walls, gates and razor wire as a man… But I also believe that we come into form for a reason(s). To learn and experience certain things. Once we have done what we’ve come here for, it’s time to pass form. I’m not going to sit around and worry about when my time will be over. Instead, I want to follow the example of those Healdsburg boys and make the best of my situation and the moments I do have now. When there are storms in my life, no matter how tragic, I wan to stay aware and remain balanced. In the Bhagavad Gita Krishna counsels Arjuna about self-realization: “When the senses contact sense objects, a person experiences cold or heat, pleasure or pain. These experiences are fleeting; they come and go. Bear them patiently, Arjuna. Those who are unaffected by these changes, who are the same in pleasure and pain, are truly wise and fit for immortality….”
The same life force that’s flowing through those Healdsbury boys flows through us all.
I try to stay aware of that, the fact that we’re all eternal energy, and not be overwhelmed by the ebbs and flows, the storms of our lives….

Love and Light,
Robert