September 2004 : Meeting Mark for the first time Part 2

 

THIRD  BLOG IN THE SERIES

On October 28 2016  my film EYE FOR AN EYE  the story of my relationship with serial Killer Mark Stroman  ( who was executed in 2011) is finally arriving on the big screen.  The film ,released  in several cities in the US and Canada  tells the amazing  story of Revenge, Change and forgiveness . It is a film that carries such a poignant message in the times of hate, division ,Islamophobia  that live in. In the coming weeks  I will publish a series  of blogs detailing  the history of my relationship with Mark , the first serial killer I met and over the years grew to call  my friend.

To learn more about the film and news about the upcoming release  please go to our Facebook page

https://www.facebook.com/aneyeforaneye.film/

Mark Stroman2

“I like your barber.” Those were Mark’s first words to me after he entered the interview booth.

Death Row prisoners are never allowed to be left un-cuffed unless they are in a locked cell. They travel inside prison escorted by two armed guards.

There is a ritual. The prisoner is led handcuffed into the small interview booth. The door is locked. He then extends his hands through a slit in the metal door and the guard removes his shackles.  It was then that Mark turned to me and “complimented” my barber. We both laughed since both Mark and I had bald shaved heads. Yet his comment threw me off. After all these weeks of anticipation, Mark was not whom I had expected. Yes, his outward appearance conformed with that of a “skin head” or “white supremacist” – bald shaved head and body covered in tattoos. Yet his manner and warm eyes told a different story.

Nothing in his letter consenting to the interview had prepared me for that. It was a formal letter:

July 28th, 2004

Texas Death Camp

God Bless America!

Greetings and respect! 

So I hear through the grape vine you are still doing the ole documentary. Since we last spoke a lot has happened. The appeal I fear has been denied. Some hot shot attorney told me I had 24-32 months till my execution. I have a few requests that I ‘d like to make and I know are within your power to grant me. My terms for an all-out interview are as follow:

  1. One full year subscription to the Dallas Morning News. I ‘d love to see home town news before my death.
  2. A donation of $200 for a typewriter and all the needed ribbons so I can write a short book before my death.

I fulfilled the conditions and now I was sitting across the glass from him, ready for the “all-out interview.” However, his joke about my “hair style” had put me off my well-prepared interview. I worked hard preparing for the interview and now I had forgotten my planned opening question! I improvised:

How do you feel locked up for 23 hours in a cell. What do you do for the 23 hours?”

Now it was his turn to be surprised. He told me years later that he was sure I would ask him what everyone else did: “Why did you do it?” The personal nature of my question threw him off. No one had ever asked him that. His eyes teared up as he told me about the hours he spent thinking about his life and what had happened and about the nightmares he had. Somehow, without knowing it, the question opened a flood gate of emotions, crying and ramblings. I felt sympathetic, but I also thought that I had lost the first, and what I was sure would be my only chance at an interview. It would be impossible to edit this rambling interview, jumping from subject to subject, and the prison would be reluctant to give me a second chance. They rarely do, since they deal primarily with news interviews.

What I did not realize at the time was that although I might “lose the interview” (I was of course proven wrong), I had gained Mark’s trust. More importantly, I gained a unique insight into a man who was already seized with doubts about what he had done. I did not realize at the time that Mark was losing faith in the narrative he had built to explain his murder spree to himself. Of course, he talked about September 11th and the need he felt to seek revenge, but you could tell he had lost the zeal with which he had defended it when he was interviewed in the County Jail soon after his arrest and later during his trial. Only years later would I realize how horribly confusing it must have been to be left with two dead men and destroyed families (including his own) on his conscience and no longer have a reason. It was way deeper than remorse. Mark was “existentially” confused.

It took me a long time to analyze and understand all of this, but at the end of the interview I was already intrigued. Mark was not whom I thought he was. Who was he? Why did he explode in such a murderous way? I had no idea, but I was intrigued enough to accept when he asked for a second chance realizing that he was rambling and incoherent during the interview. I immediately said yes, I would come again. That would give me the second chance, I thought, to conduct a more organized interview.

Little did I know that it would be that second interview that would change both our lives and our relationship forever!

To be continued…

 

 

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