Robert Murray died last June, I believe from natural causes. My last letter from him, written a few months before his death, was the first that I had had from him for several months. He excused his apparent apathy with a lengthy description of cancer treatments that he had been receiving during that period. I believe the death was from cancer. His last letter sounded as if he was in a very bad way physically. Further, the listing of executions over the last few years did not list him.
The entire experience of knowing and visiting Robert was rewarding intellectually, though emotionally disturbing on occasion. Rewarding because I was suddenly viewing “life” (whatever that means when separated from a biological meaning) from a broadened perspective that I would never have tried to do before Robert. Disturbing in the grand scene because it forced the question of capital punishment upon me in a way that I could not ignore. Disturbing in the small scene because I did not keep the correspondence going with the vigor it deserved. Also disturbing because it forces a feeling of guilt of omission upon me. Not just for my apathy, but also for my failure to help him financially to hire a typist for one of his book manuscripts. This particular manuscript was an autobiographical retrospective on how he had ended up on death row. From the handwritten table of contents that he sent me, I believe that he had built the entire book on the notion of “bad decisions” that he had made. Taken this way, the book might have had value as a lesson to many young folks. In spite of my confusion of feelings, thanks for arranging the experience for me.
Here are excerpts from a letter we received from a man who had regularly corresponded with a prisoner: