WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Rogelio Reyes Cannady dreams of earning a degree that would lift him from his hardscrabble Texas roots to become a paralegal.
But he is most unlikely to realize that hope. On November 19, Texas plans to execute Cannady for murdering three people, two of them teenagers he killed in 1990 and left in a ditch.
In the runup to his scheduled execution, Cannady has put his daily life on display via an Internet blog, published in English, French and German, that has gotten over 17,000 views.
“I’m waking up again to the sight of this cold steel door,” Cannady wrote on September 24. “I am staring down an actual day when the state plans to take my life.”
Barring the unexpected, Cannady will end 11 years on Texas’ Death Row when he is injected with a mix of drugs to render him unconscious, paralyze him and stop his heart.
He is one of the more than 3,000 people awaiting execution in 36 states across the country, according to the NAACP.
Texas officials presented Cannady, 36, with his execution date on August 22. Since then he has been hand writing the daily diary he mails to a friend, who posts it onto the blog, giving the world a rare glimpse into the life of a condemned man.
That friend, Juan Palomo, has visited him on Death Row at least 30 times. During those meetings, “At various points he has expressed remorse ... about the way he lived his life, about the deaths of those two young people and the heartache it brought to their families and his family,” Palomo said.
“In the past he (Cannady) has said if he had only two choices, life behind bars in the Texas prison system or death, he’d choose death,” Palomo added.
That attitude may have shifted. “I won’t give in to the idea that my life will end on the 19th of November. I still harbor thoughts about a future ... although it hasn’t always been this way,” Cannady observed on September 19.
A week earlier, with Hurricane Ike bearing down on Texas, Cannady wrote, “I love the cleansing nature of rain. I like to watch it come down but, more, I love to walk in it.”
Cannady’s lyrical writing contrasts with a Texas official’s stark description of the scene investigators found 15 years earlier, after the third murder: “Someone stomped in a puddle of blood or stomped on the victim lying in the blood or that the victim’s head bounced up and down in the blood.”
He first entered prison after being convicted in a double-murder just after his 18th birthday. According to a 1991 Dallas Morning News story, the victims, a 16-year-old boy who was stabbed to death, and his 13-year-old girlfriend who was strangled, were found dead in a ditch. She was naked.
Cannady was sent to prison for life. But on October 10, 1993, he committed his third murder, according to Texas law enforcement documents, when he brutally kicked and beat his cellmate, who was serving a 15-year sentence for murder.
In one of the few diary references about what landed him on Death Row, Cannady claims his cellmate made sexual advances.
Now, his days are a mixture of isolation and mundane tasks, sometimes interrupted by the oddities of prison life, such as the tour groups that come through to look at the condemned.
At times, the nuts-and-bolts of Death Row operations preoccupy him: “Who gets executed first if two death row inmates are scheduled to die on the same day?” he wondered.
Other days, Cannady is still able to look with amusement at his predicament, as when a letter arrived “advising me that they rescheduled my execution date, yet failed to tell me for when the date was rescheduled. Very funny.”
Writing on September 25, he said: “I think about a friend who was executed. I was told by a witness how it seemed that he fell asleep once the poisons began to flow. Minutes later, he was pronounced dead and his eyes came open. His eyes started blinking into the ceiling.”
Since 1977, shortly after the U.S. Supreme Court let a 10-year death penalty hiatus end, Texas’ Death Row has been the most active, killing 420 of the 1,130 convicts who have been executed in the United States over the past 31 years, according to records.
Amnesty International says the United States was fifth in the world in the number of executions in 2007, behind China (470), Iran (317), Saudi Arabia (143) and Pakistan (135). Those five countries accounted for 88 percent of all known executions.
Cannady's "DeathWatchJournal Weblog" can be accessed here
With the possibility he may have only days left to live, Texas prisoner 999245 is doing what he can to create something distinctive about himself, beyond the notoriety of his crimes. He has grown a beard, in violation of prison rules.
“I’ll keep this little bit of personality,” he wrote.
Editing by Frances Kerry