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Indifferent - Nightreports - Nightreport 4

Date: 05.05.1999
Subject: Manny Babbitt


......Yesterday was a wonderful night to die....

Yesterday I had a somehow different night shift. I was standing in front of the gates of the San Quentin State Prison, California. I was not alone about one hundred people have been there. They all waited for a miracle. Death penalty, execution, death row... expressions I only knew from TV or cinema. "Dead Man Walking"... I didn't know that almost every week a man walking to his immortality. I didn't know that women walk too. I didn't know that the majority of the states still have death penalty. I didn't know that sometimes there isn't any justice and that there are people on death row because they couldn't afford a good layer. Probably I did know, but I never was that close. In the beginning I felt like in a boring movie. Everything seemed artificial. The cops, who guarded the prison gate. The people praying, talking, screaming, and singing for someone I don't even know. The TV teams on the little roof. It was a kind of festival without candies and popcorn. But when the time went by there was no doubt: Somebody will die tonight. And when there where only five minutes to go and the crowd calmed down and there was nothing left than silence. I couldn't believe how wrong this felt. Finally they donated him another half an hour... for a last review of the file Babbitt in Washington. Than silence again and I sent this man my prayers, they were clear in my mind even I never memorized them. I send them up to the heaven to a place with an entity I never believed in. I could fell the warm salt water flowing down my cheek. I could see his spirit rising up the prison, maybe it was the glitter of a TV camera. I saw his ghost dancing on the sea, dancing hand in hand with the moonlight. Free and happy, sad and beautiful. He waved me and wished me luck for the rest of my life. He faded away under the sky and dived into the night to a place somewhere we all have to go, sooner or later, naturally or per purpose, murdered. He killed, we made him to kill, they made him to kill, now they killed him. "First he killed for his country, now his country kills him", one of the signs said. I heard the people talking who were close to him. I heard them telling tales from a man: healthy, friendly, aware... there is no doubt of his crime, but is there only revenge on the other side? I was an observer, a witness of this wonderful night. Not more, not less... and this thoughts from my little different night shift that last night....

                        ..... that wonderful night to die...

                                                             ..... that wonderful night to be alive...

Newspaper article from the San Francisco Chronicle 05/06/1999

Vietnam Vet Babbitt Executed 
Ex-Marine dies at San Quentin for 1980 murder of Sacramento grandmother

Vietnam veteran Manny Babbitt was executed early today at San Quentin prison for beating an elderly grandmother to death, despite his protests that he could not recall the crime. After his final legal plea was rejected, Babbitt was led by guards from a "death watch cell,'' where he had spent his last hours, to the execution chamber only 13 steps away.
The execution was delayed 28 minutes past its scheduled time of 12:01 a.m. to give the U.S. Supreme Court time to consider a final appeal. When that was rejected, the execution began and Babbitt was pronounced dead at 12:37 a.m. from a lethal mixture of drugs pumped into his veins.
According to Acting Warden Jeanne Woodford, Babbitt's last words to her and the San Quentin execution staff were, "I  forgive all of you.'' The execution began at 12:29 a.m. Two white curtains were parted, revealing a green-painted steel- and-glass death chamber. Babbitt, dressed in prison blue dungarees, lay on his back, strapped to a gurney.
He seemed calm. At one point, he yawned and nodded his head. About four minutes after the execution began, his body shook and twitched convulsively for nearly a minute. Seven relatives of Babbitt's victim, 78-year-old Leah Schendel, watched impassively from the witness chairs next to the chamber.
Schendel's granddaughter, Laura Thompson, looked away when Babbitt's  body began to twitch. Eight minutes after it began, Babbitt was pronounced dead. "Today is not a joyous occasion, it is not a  reason to celebrate,'' a slightly shaken Thompson said after the execution. "It is  the unpleasant but necessary conclusion to a  horrible crime.''
Bill Babbitt, the condemned inmate's brother, witnessed the execution with  Babbitt's chief counsel, Chuck Patterson. Manuel Pina Babbitt, who turned 50 yesterday, was the seventh inmate and the first black person to be executed in California since executions were resumed in 1992. His death came 17 years after he was sentenced to die for the murder of Schendel in 1980. The Sacramento woman, a mother of two and grandmother of seven, died of a  heart attack after she was robbed and severely beaten in her home. Hours later on the same day, Babbitt sexually assaulted another woman. Schendel emigrated from Romania as a child. After her husband died in 1973, the diminutive woman lived a quiet life, playing cards with her friends and sometimes
visiting Reno to play the slot machines.
"It's been 18 years of tears, and it shall turn into 19 years, and 20 years, and on and on, till I pass on,'' Don Schendel, the victim's  son, said before the execution. The condemned inmate chose not to have a  "last meal.'' He began fasting 48 hours earlier, and asked prison officials to donate the $50 allotted for his last meal to
homeless Vietnam veterans. Babbitt, who received the Purple Heart for his wounds in Vietnam, lived through the
77-day siege of Khe Sanh -- one of the Vietnam War's bloodiest battles. When he returned from the war, he got into trouble with the law. He had convictions for 28 burglaries and two armed robberies. He  spent two years in mental institutions, and was found to be a paranoid schizophrenic.
Babbitt's appellate lawyers and mental health experts argued that he should not be executed because he was having a Vietnam flashback when Schendel was attacked. Post- traumatic stress disorder was a new concept in 1982 and not a central element of his defense at trial.
On Friday, Governor Gray Davis denied Babbitt's request to have his sentence commuted to life in prison without possibility of parole. In rejecting the clemency request, Davis said that the trauma Babbitt suffered during his childhood and his military service was not sufficient reason to spare his life. "Countless people have suffered the ravages of war, persecution, starvation, natural disasters, personal calamities and the like. But such experiences cannot justify or mitigate the savage beating and killing of defenseless, law-abiding citizens,'' he wrote. Babbitt's defense lawyers then filed petitions in the California Supreme Court and the U.S. Court of Appeals in San Francisco, requesting an emergency stay of execution based on new allegations that histrial lawyer was racially biased and drank heavily during the trial.
Late yesterday afternoon, the state Supreme Court denied the inmate's plea for a stay of execution. Hours later, the federal  courts rejected his appeal, allowing the state to carry out his death sentence. "I said goodbye to Manny, and I told him how fighting for justice for him had given meaning to my life,'' said Jessica K. McGuire, a state deputy public defender who had worked on his case since 1989.
As part of their last-ditch attempt to save his life, Babbitt's lawyers relied on Dr. Charles Marmar, a psychiatry professor at the University of California at San Francisco and a leading expert in post-traumatic  stress disorder. After studying Babbitt's case, Marmar concluded that Babbitt was suffering from a combat-induced flashback
when he committed the murder. In a videotape that was part of Babbitt's plea for clemency, he had urged the
governor to "show compassion.'' But prosecutors and Schendel family members say that Babbitt knew what he was doing when he broke into Schendel's apartment. Whatever emotional scars he had from an abusive childhood and the cruelties of war, they said he cannot escape responsibility for severely beating to death a helpless, elderly woman.
Kit Cleland, who prosecuted the case, said the claim that Babbitt was having a flashback on the night of the slaying is "wishful thinking based on psychiatric guesswork.'' Babbitt received support from two jurors who stepped forward last month to say that, had they known about his family's history of mental illness and the long-term effects of Babbitt's combat experience on his mental health, they would have argued for life in prison.
In addition, former employees of Babbitt's trial lawyer, James Schenk, filed affidavits stating that Schenk was often inebriated during the three-month trial -- a charge that he denied -- and that he often made derogatory remarks about blacks. The defense team claimed Schenk's bias "led to an all-white jury,'' tainted the verdict and resulted in an unusually harsh sentence.
Several thousand Vietnam veterans, including 800 survivors of Khe Sanh, signed petitions calling for clemency. One of them, retired Detroit detective Lynn Dornan, said hat Babbitt saved his life during an artillery attack in 1968. In March 1998, the inmate received the Purple Heart in a ceremony at San Quentin State Prison.
Babbitt, of Cape Verde descent, grew up in extreme poverty in the town of Wareham, Mass. His father was an alcoholic who often beat his mother as well as the children. Babbitt, who has two grandchildren, spent his last days receiving visitors, including his mother, Josephine Santiago, and his five children, as well as friends and lawyers. More than 100 protesters, including about a dozen of Babbitt's family and friends from New England, gathered outside San Quentin's gate in the hours before his execution.

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