The last innocent person they executed at Walla Walla was in 1918. That was before DNA evidence could prove his innocence. Imagine that—you get framed for murder, they kill you for it, and decades later science catches up and proves you didn’t do it. I heard the guy’s hair caught on fire during the electrocution. Terrible way to go out.
DNA testing couldn’t help me. I was convicted by the least reliable form of evidence: eyewitness testimony. The problems with that kind of evidence have always been known. All it takes is a single person to point the finger at you from the witness stand, and, next thing you know, you’re on death row.
I don’t stand out in a crowd. So I guess that’s why it was easy for her to mistake me for someone else. I’m just a regular guy, average height, weight, and build. She said the culprit was running down the street after the crime happened. How could she be so sure it was me if she didn’t even see my face?
I told them from the beginning it was Jericho. He was an acquaintance of mine, and he looks like me. He was crafty, though. He could change. Not just his appearance; he was like an actor. A real character. I imagine he was very good with the investigators. I’m sure he twisted things around and told a believable story. He was good at that, twisting things and making stuff up.
My attorney said the jury would never believe my alibi. He said it was my life though, and this was a life-and-death matter, so I could take the stand if I wanted to. They didn’t buy it, obviously.
The Warden had a bunch of psychs visit me during my time here. Everyone wanted to ask questions, not just about the crime, but what makes me tick. I get it. What causes someone to commit such a heinous act? I told them, “I’m innocent! I’m no good for your reports and studies.” They’d leave, then they’d come back, I guess to see if I’d change my story. I told them about Jericho. They were curious about him, but no one ever seemed interested in hiring an investigator to check him out. My psych evals always said the same thing: “Highly intelligent. Danger to self and others.”
I maintained my innocence right up to the end. It was Jericho, I tell you. The guards hear all the stories. Everyone in prison is innocent, the saying goes. Still, I gave them an earful, right up to the end. It wasn’t me.
One of the bigger guards, Tony, asked me about my last meal. He was one of the few guards I liked. He said I could have anything I wanted, but he recommended the prime rib or salmon, with a side of twice-baked potatoes. He said they just got the salmon in from the coast and the other inmates were raving about it. Even the Warden had a piece.
I said, “I’m not eatin’, y’all are killing an innocent man!” Tony looked at me as if I stole a cookie from the cookie jar and had crumbs on my face. Tony said, “Sometimes you gotta take your lumps.”
“I’m not hungry,” I told him. But maybe Jericho is, I thought. “Fine then, the fish!,” I barked back at Tony.
After all, somebody’s got to feed that monster inside me.
Michael Carter is a full-time ghostwriter in the legal profession. When he’s not lawyering, he writes short fiction and creative nonfiction, fly fishes, and spends time with his family. He also enjoys cast-iron cooking and occasional India pale ales. He’s online at www.michaelcarter.ink and @mcmichaelcarter.