Ask Tod Anything: Part I

[Anna’s Note: Submit questions for Tod anytime using this contact form and I’ll pass them along to him.]

Hello again, and I want to thank those of you who asked me questions! Being new to this blogging stuff, I am not real sure what anyone is interested in knowing, so questions help a lot.

I will try to answer all of them as best as I can in the order I received them, although there may be one or two that I will have to write a separate post about on their own. So don’t think I am ignoring you if it seems like your question is not getting answered this time around. You will just have to keep visiting Muninn’s Roost and I promise you will get an answer eventually.

So, as the old adage goes: “There are no bad questions; only bad answers.” (I hope I don’t give anyone one of those.)

Oh, before I begin, I have no names to go along with the questions (with the exception of Anna’s “favorite pseudonym” in the form of “Seymour Buttz”… I hear ya! I’ve been locked in a cage for a long time; I could put up with Seymour Buttz myself! Or seeing any butts, for that matter!)

But back to what I was saying… I have no names so I will just state the questions and answer them the best I can.

1.) Why are you on Death Row? 

Outside of general and basic answers, it is difficult to address questions of this nature, especially in so public of a forum. Let me explain. When someone is given the death penalty an appeal process begins immediately. This appeal process lasts up until the very instant that the caustic chemicals are pumped into a human’s veins. (Lethal injection is the method of execution in Arizona at this time.)

So other than generalities I will refrain from saying more than that I was convicted of killing two people.

However, my case is a matter of public record. The number is CV-03-1810-PHX-SRB. You can no doubt answer your own question with that.

I don’t attempt to hide anything with “non-answers”. It is simply  that my lawyer would jump up and down and scream at me for addressing such things so publicly.

2.) If you had to guess, how much time do you have left? 

Another question that presents difficulties… “the system” is very arbitrary and capricious so [answering this question] is impossible to do other than generalize.

Let me give an example of what I mean. Two men were convicted of committing the same crime. The system says they were both present, and both involved. One died about four years ago, executed by lethal injection. The other may have decades to go before he sees the same fate. Why? Because that is the way it is going to work for those two cases. It is like playing craps. Sometimes you roll your point; other times you crap out.

How long do I have? I will be here for a while. Long? Short? Can’t really chew a finer point than that, sorry.

3.) Do you believe yourself to be innocent or guilty of the crime for which you were sentenced to death? If you did do it, do you feel remorse about it? Do you think you deserve to die? 

I am going to have to refer you to the above answer I gave concerning appeals for some of this one. (No point repeating myself and boring people.)

“Do I feel remorse?” In general, contrary to what the system would have you believe (that those on death row are unfeeling sociopathic monsters) yes I am capable of feeling remorse, and do… about a great many things in my life… although I cannot get as specific as you might like, and I do apologize for that.

“Do I deserve to die?” Now there is a philosophical question… does anyone truly think they “deserve to die”? There are those who think it might be “easier” if they die, those who think life is too difficult and “give up on living… but to think one deserves to die… (and I mean truly “deserves” it)… Now, it is easy to think others deserve to die, but oneself? I may just have to make that the subject of a whole blog. I know I want to think about that one some more.

Interesting idea/topic… thank you… I will get back to you on that one.

4.) Do you agree with the practice of capital punishment on principle? Why or why not? How has being sentenced to death yourself affected your stance on the death penalty? If you do support the death penalty, do you feel that it is being applied appropriately in your particular case? Why or why not? 

I love philosophical questions! And these are good ones! (And yet another set I could make a whole blog post out of!)

Do I agree with the practice of capital punishment on principle? Some may find this difficult to believe, but in a word, YES! But there are a great many problems with it in practice. The big easy questions: whom do you apply it to? Why do you apply it? Who decides? My idea of who deserves it may (or may not) be different than yours. The reasons I think it may be appropriate could be vastly different than someone else’s.

So, who do you empower to make such decisions? Politicians? (That is who does it now!) Do you really want to rely on someone who lies, cheats, and even steals to get votes to hold a person’s life in their hands?

(I was actually told I was sentenced to die because the judge was up for re-election that coming year and a “tough stance on crime” would look good in his campaign!)

It was so much easier to answer questions like this before I personally became involved in the system.

There is actually a point in my appeal process that if someone came forward and said, “He didn’t do it! I did! He’s innocent!” it would not matter and the system would still kill me. How can a system, any system, that functions like that be trusted at all? Much less with someone’s life?!

So, while I may agree with the principle of capital punishment, I am intelligent enough to understand that it cannot be applied properly under the current system. It is simply too broken to do so. (I could give as an example this last presidential election cycle as ample evidence of that statement.)

I think I have answered all the parts of that question, if not to your satisfaction then please feel free to ask for clarification.

5.) Do you have any advice from the perspective of an inmate on what makes a pen pal good, and more specifically, what makes a first letter good or bad? Is there anything I [a prospective pen pal] should avoid asking or saying? What do you think an inmate on death row might like to know about me? 

First… “inmates”, simply put, are people. Their wants, desires, needs, likes, dislikes, etc. are just as varied as someone you meet out in the world. So you may “click” with a person you write to, or it may be a chore every time you get a letter. (Not everyone is as lucky as Anna– ha ha.)

So just try and see what happens. If it doesn’t work out, try not to get discouraged. You may find someone who can be a friend for years. (It is often easier to open up to someone that you will likely never meet.)

As far as what makes a good first letter? Just be yourself, open up only as much as you feel comfortable with. Tell them what your intentions are. (To be friends, to help them out, you’re bored because you have a lot of time on your hands and house pets are so messy…okay, maybe not that last one.) I personally kind of like to have a picture as that helps to personalize who you are writing to. (I sent a picture to Anna with my first letter for the same reason…and to get the “scare the crap outta her” part over with real quick…like ripping off a bandage.)

It would be irresponsible of me if I did not say be careful! This is a prison, and to be honest, there are a lot of people in here I would not invite to my home or allow around my family or anyone I care about. (Of course, writing a letter…that can be controlled and stopped at a whim if need be.) But still, care is needed.

One reader suggested that I write a future blog post about being a pen pal for someone on death row and I think that is a stellar idea. (There are a few in this place that I would/could actually recommend. Anna and I are friends and I mentioned that very thing to her before the blog started, that mail is always a welcome distraction to anyone who exists in this environment.) So I will expand more on the pen pal idea coming up in the future– as soon as I am able, in fact.

6.) How often do you interact with women?

Besides Anna? NEVER!

No… this is a male prison, so as you might imagine there are not many women around.

There are a few female guards, but as I have a kind of “us against them” attitude toward guards in general, my interaction with them is kept pretty professional from my side.

My lawyer is a woman…but she is a lawyer… so that pretty much says it all there. Saying “I keep it professional” would make it sound too friendly. (I simply can’t stand lawyers in general, although I can’t say I have had a relationship with any outside my involvement in the system.)

I have a daughter-in-law I love dearly. That is about it.

Why? You offerin’? Cause my contact information is there someplace!

I have a lot more questions to answer but I do not want Anna to wear her fingers down to the bone posting this stuff for me, so I will give her a break for right now.

Thank you so much for all the great questions and I promise I will get to all of them. I stopped before #7, Anna’s personal favorite, because I too like it and want to consider it before answering.

Take care, everyone, and thanks for your input!

(P.S. That joke about Anna being lucky to get me as a pen pal… in truth I am the lucky one! Very lucky!)


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