In a strange and complicated reminder of the humanity of all of us, even the condemned, an Arizona paper has published excerpts from the diary of Robert Towery, executed last night in Arizona for the 1991 killing of 69-year-old philanthropist Mark Jones. Nothing I can write will come close to Towery’s own words, so I’ve reposted the article below.
Convicted murderer Robert Towery was executed Thursday morning for the 1991 murder of Paradise Valley philanthropist Mark Jones.
Beginning Feb. 2, the day he was taken from his regular cell at the Arizona State Prison Complex-Eyman in Florence and put on “Death Watch,” Towery chronicled his life for his attorneys. There, he was housed with fellow Death Row inmate Robert Moormann, who was executed Feb. 29.
On March 7, his last night on Earth, Towery was taken a few miles down the road to “Housing Unit 9,” in the main prison, where Arizona carries out executions by lethal injection. He made his last diary entry the next morning.
These are excerpts from that diary – Towery’s words, his descriptions of the tedium, the rituals, the security, the indignities and the humanity, precisely as he wrote it – right up to the morning of his execution.
And so it begins… First let me apologize for the messiness of these first letters as I was not allowed my reading glasses as they had a crack in them and I was holding them lens in with tape. So I can’t see. […] Furthermore, I was not given my watch, so for the most part, all times will be best guesses.
6 a.m. They came to my cell, stripped me out and then took me to the shift commander’s office where I waited for about 20 min for everyone to show up. […]
The unit warden began to read the warrant only to discover they were missing pages, So I offered my copy and they sent a (correctional officer) to my cell who brought back the box containing my copy. In the meantime, the unit warden went over the changes in my confinement. How I could have access to indigent supplies, and could have one box of legal work/personal papers, and one religious box. For everything else I would have to put in a written request.
At noon […] they took me back to medical where the nurse went over my daily meds with me and how the meds, which have been coming to me in monthly supply packs for fifteen years or so are somehow now so dangerous that the nurse has to bring them to me every morning on a “watch swallow basis.”
A few notes about my cell. They have a TV pushed up in front of the cell, so looking through the holes (in the security screen) is difficult at best, and nauseating/vertigo inducing to the point where I really just want to listen to it, but there is a problem there. The earbud extension they stretch through the hole barely reaches to the table, a good five or six feet short of the bunk.
6:30 a.m. They asked me if I wanted rec or a shower. I asked for a shower. They stripped me out with a female officer present. (Now, personally, I’m not the shy type, but having a female officer on death watch is just one more humiliation.) Anywho, as I came out the nurse was there to take my vitals. […] they also took my temperature and pulse. Don’t know why they were.
So I take a shower with the generic soap and shampoo they provide. I asked about conditioner, there is none. […] so after my shower I asked for a palm brush. No. Asked for a comb. There isn’t one. […] So I told them I could just use the clippers and shave my head. No big deal to me. If I can’t take care of my hair properly, I’d rather shave it. I usually do for the summer. […]
Approx 9:00 a.m. or so, psych dr came in and asked me if I was alright. I told him I was all good and sent him on his way.
Approx 11:00 a.m., assistant deputy warden woke me up with “I heard you wanted to shave your head.” (I guess the COs made it sound like I was flipping out when I was completely calm. Long hair, bald, I’m fine with either.)
The feeling of complete helplessness and hopelessness grows by the hour because of the way all of this is done. Every time you want to blow your nose or go to the bathroom you have to ask for toilet paper. […] 3:00 p.m. (approx) the psych nurse just came with the same questions. Are you suicidal? Homicidal? Anything you want to talk about?
You are allowed one book. Okay, I got Jodi’s novel (Towery was pen pals with the novelist Jodi Picoult), which I will read as soon as I get my glasses.
No way I can work out without my knee braces, shoes, ankle sleeves, all the things my busted old body needs. Oh, and motivation. Don’t have that either to be honest.
5:00 a.m. Oh my gosh! Now a nurse is in here. Bob [Moormann] was feeling a bit out of it (his blood sugar), so she’s come in to check. He is speaking in ultra-hushed tones, and she is practically yelling, “What? I can’t hear you Mr. Moormann, I’m really hard of hearing.”
Look at Bob. As I was saying on the phone, Bob is one of the meekest, polite and quiet man I have ever met. I truly believe they are committing a crime against nature if they execute him. He doesn’t get this. Sure, he knows right from wrong. He knows they are going to kill him. He knows he committed a horrific crime. Sure. But he knows these things as a child does. I’m not a doctor, but I can tell you from knowing Bob for nearly 20 years now, he doesn’t really get it. He is guilty, no doubt, but there is no way he is culpable in it. What I mean is, he should have been in a hospital from the very beginning. His stepmother and what she did to him broke him in a way that made him a man-child. I liken him to Lenny in the old book Of Mice and Men.
6:33 a.m. My weight, 221, officially 10 lbs lost since coming here on the 2nd. My B.P. was 138/80. I have my phone call with [blacked out] at 10:15 and a visit at 11:00 a.m. Woo hoo!!! Today is going to be a great day!!
Oh! One more observation, and for me, it’s a good one!! I have not seen a single roach, water bug, scorpion, stink beetle or spider. Woo-hoo!! Over on the other side I lived next to the rec pen and I went on Safari daily!
Okay, this is funny. Exactly who is watching whom? I’m sitting here watching the news, and happen to glance up to see both COs with their chins on their chests and their eyes closed. Good for them! Second to the stress I feel, my family feels and of course the stress you’ll feel, I’m sure this has to be stressful to them too. So a moment’s relaxation is well earned. I also enjoy the irony.
8:50 a.m. They just called an ICS. Something is wrong with Bob. He had told the nurse this morning that he had problems sleeping last night, and then he was throwing up and barely responsive. They took him to medical in a wheelchair, and the officer went in and cleaned up his cell.
10:14 a.m. It just came across the radio. Bob is leaving the unit to go to the hospital.
4:16 p.m. They just brought Bob back in a wheelchair!! He’s been up at medical the last two hours, but I don’t have any details yet. What amazes me is that he can barely walk or respond, and still they make him come to the front of his cell after they close the door to remove his restraints.
6:40 p.m. Bob called and asked me what ya’ll had to say from today’s [federal court] hearing. I let him know we figured about right as to Judge [Neil] Wake’s position. But I told him that if Wake rules tonight or tomorrow against us, that we will appeal to the 9th [U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals]. He asked me, “Then who will give a stay?” I told him it would be up to the 9th. He said, “Yeah, but what judge will give me a stay?” and I told him we would have a 3 judge panel most likely and they would rule on the injunction. He said “Okay, you know I don’t understand this legal stuff. I’m sorry if I bothered you.” I told him it was no bother and he could call me any time. He’s so lost!
6:09 p.m. WORST NIGHT YET! […] They just did shift change and we have a female on watch! Which I think is completely inappropriate! I don’t have an issue with women working the prison, or anywhere, generally. But, in a situation like this when you can’t go to the bathroom without someone being 10 feet away staring at you, it’s just not right.
Bob is gone. May God forgive them.
6:52 a.m. The Sgt. asked me what happened with Bob, and of course I told him I wasn’t here when they took Bob out. He said that apparently Bob started freaking out and made himself sick. I think his system just wasn’t used to the food and two pints of ice cream.
The [clemency] hearing went as I expected. […] My sisters were amazing, but the board had no intention of granting clemency. […]
The staff was visibly upset by it. They remained professional, but they were clearly affected. They are human after all.
Hey now! I hope this, my last log finds you doing great! As for myself? Well, things are about as I imagined. They showed up at about 10:20 p.m. to strip me out. They did the whole naked dance and the squat and cough. Then they gave me a pair of boxers and a pair of deck shoes. I was grabbed on both sides, firmly, but not roughly. I was taken to the boss chair, and from there I was taken to a day cell, given a pair of socks, t-shirt, and a pair of pants with A BUTTON + ZIPPER!! Woo-hoo!!
Anywho, I was then put in a belly chain, shackles and then led out to a waiting van. Again, I went nowhere without hands on me. Even when they were putting the cuffs on, someone was holding my arm. We rode over here. Nice ride, and they kept up the small talk. It was cool watching one of the COs with what I assume was an iPhone.
Once arriving here, they ushered me in. All the while they are telling me they will be respectful and ask that I be. The warden warned me about my final words. I’ve been told that I should think about my statement and that he will (or someone will) rehearse it with me in the morning.
One more thing: there are four officers watching me, carrying on conversations and two are female. AND I’M SUPPOSED TO SLEEP?!
The two female officers disappeared around the corner, so I took the opportunity to urinate. But they came right back. The male officer said I was using the restroom, and the response was, “I work in an all male prison.” True, but still, there can be respect! Then I had to ask for some soap and a towel. I was given a bar of soap and one paper towel. And had to give them back!!
7:00 a.m. Good morning! Well, I actually slept well. I woke up about 5:00 a.m. I was given a doughnut and a fairly large container. […] The orange juice was great! (First orange juice I’ve had in I don’t know how long!) The doughnut was prison issue. Enough said.
I just finished my visit with Deacon Ed and receiving communion. Now I’m just waiting for y’all, at which point I’m going to give you my legal work and my Bible. Please give my Bible to [name blacked out].
As this is my last entry, I just want to say thank you. Thank you all for the kindness. Please give everyone my best and know that I will carry y’all on my lips to God.
My best wishes to you all.
May God Bless!!
Robert Charles Towery.