I spent 20 of the most formative years of my life living in a 9 by 11 foot cell, in the prison system of New York City.  The first 2 1/2 of those years were in a death house cell, where I was isolated from the rest f the prison population.  However, I preoccupied myself with learning and creativity though drawing and meditation.  Some people under similar type circumstances create their own alternate states of reality.  It’s difficult to explain because each individual reaches for whatever they have inside them to help them get through each day.  But know that the survival of the human mind, emotions and Spirit depends on each individual’s ability to cope with living under the shadow of a death sentence and the reasons that brought the death sentence upon them.  I can not speak for others, but for me, I remember a moment, in the dead of night, just before I went to sleep, after having had the sentence of death pronounced upon me, when time itself seemed to stop and all reality became focused on one moment and one question, “what am I going to do now?”    In my mind, it was like being in the very center of a surreal glass bubble where everything that lead to that moment was reflected and flashed on the bubble’s surface.  The moment wasn’t traumatic or dramatic, it was calm and noiseless and honest, it was, for all intents and purpose a moment of personal truth.  I was not aware of it back then, but much passing of time and thought and growth has helped me to realize that that moment and that question and my response to it would define the rest of my life.

The facts were clear in my mind, emotions and sense of Spiritual reality, I was not completely innocent of the circumstances what  lead to the loss of two human lives.  I was an active part of the circumstances, but I knew that none of the people with me that night  had any intent to physically hurt or harm anyone.  I grew up with my friend and comrade, Torch, (who fired the fatal shot) and knew in my heart that he wasn’t a man bent on killing anyone, that in fact the single shot he fired was a mistake, caused by a physical reaction to being shot.  He wasn’t a military trained killer or practiced weapons expert, he was my only childhood friend.  Torch was human.  He cared about human beings and life in general.  And, while that didn’t excuse our reckless behavior, it was evidence enough for me  to reason that, although I was laying in a prison bed, under sentence of death, I was not the murderer the State had made me out to be.  The District Attorney and media had suppressed the truth and twisted, bent and spent the facts and circumstances of the case to produce a neatly spun packag to justify my sentence of death.

Just before I was sentenced to death, I was asked if I had any last words before sentencing, and I said words to the efect, “What is happening here is a grave injustice.”  Those were obviously words that no one in the court room had expected to come from a then 20 year old black boy from the ghetto’s of America.  Just before falling off to sleep, I remember feeling and thinking, “I’m alone.  My Mommy and family can’t come to my recue now.  From this point on it’s only me.”  As strangely as it occurred, my last thoughts were.  “I liked who and what I was, leading up to that moment, “the person I am.”


There was a lot I had to learn and understand about the world I was born  and the circumstances I had been cast into, but I was a good person and would to continue being me, trusting in me to get through whatever the future had in store.”



By: Lawrence Hayes

Lawrence Hayes is a writer based in USA