Cemetary for texas death row inmates

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Texas Prison Museum, Huntsville

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Death Row of the Texas Prison System

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The inmates dig the graves with a backhoe and shovels, serve as pallbearers and chisel the names on the headstones by hand using metal stencils and black paint. The cemetery was named for an assistant warden at the Walls Unit who helped clean and restore the graveyard in the s, and even today, the warden or one of his deputies attends every burial. In a state known for being tough on criminals, where officials recently eliminated last-meal requests on death row, the Byrd cemetery has been a little-known counterpoint to the mythology of the Texas penal system.

Often, as in Mr. View all New York Times newsletters. Though all of those buried here were unclaimed by relatives, many family members fail to claim the bodies because they cannot afford burial expenses and want the prison agency to pay the costs instead.

The Texas Death Row (Documentary)

The same relatives who declined to claim the body will then travel to Huntsville to attend the state-paid services at the cemetery. Wilson, an assistant professor of criminology at Indiana State University who is writing a book about the cemetery. Prison officials have verified 2, inmates who are buried at the cemetery, but they say there may be additional graves. Professor Wilson recently photographed every headstone and estimated that there were more than 3, graves. In some ways, the cemetery and the funerals held there lack precision and formality.

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Coffins are transported from the altar at the center of the cemetery to the gravesite on a trailer hitched to the back of a green John Deere tractor. Names and words are misspelled on a few headstones and markers. Of the thousands of graves, only a handful have flowers on them. On the day of Mr. Vandals had entered the cemetery and set a large brush pile on fire, filling the morning air with smoke.


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Neither Mr. Gibson nor the inmate workers knew any of the men they were burying. Gibson, 38, a father of two from Houston. Two of the seven inmates who were buried, including Mr. Davis, were serving life sentences for murder, and the others had been imprisoned for drunken driving, theft, assault, sexual assault of a child or burglary when they died.

Davis spent nearly 34 of his 54 years behind bars.

In the ground in Huntsville, he was finally free of his prison uniform. Tell us what you think. Please upgrade your browser. See next articles.

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