Thursday, October 4, 2007

Voices of Families of the Executed - Part 2

We continue our series of excerpts from the MVFHR panel of families of the executed at the Third International Women's Peace Conference in Dallas this past July. See the original post announcing this series, the current issue of our newsletter with more about the peace conference panel, and MVFHR's report about families of the executed.

More from Lois Robison (see yesterday's post for the first excerpt from Lois):

One of the things that always worried me was that I knew they would set Larry’s execution date 30 days in advance, and I wondered how I was going to go into my classroom and teach my little third graders while the clock kept ticking and there was nothing I could do to stop it.

It was very difficult for all our family. Our daughter, who was 12 years old when this happened, was teased at school. It affected her terribly and affects her to this day. As a matter of fact, she too is mentally ill. I know she had the genes for it, but I think that this precipitated her breakdown, because she began to have trouble from that point on and was finally diagnosed as bipolar and schizoaffective when she was 19. Many of our family members have had depression. I have been taking medication for depression for years.

Some people were very kind to us when this happened and others were not. My principal told me just before I retired that every year there were parents who came to him and told him they did not want their child in my classroom because they knew my son was a murderer. He always told them that he would not honor their request, but if they came back at midterm and still wanted their child transferred to another classroom, he would do it. He said in every case they came back and apologized.

The church where we were attending was very kind when Larry was arrested, they came and brought us food, they were there when it hit the television. But later on when we became involved in groups working to abolish the death penalty, they were not as supportive. We finally ended up going to another church, where we were asked to speak about the death penalty.

Larry’s execution date was set once before and it came within three hours of his execution and then he got a stay. We had tried to get ourselves prepared for it and then he got the stay, and we had to go through it all again. Two of our children got hysterical and said I can’t go through this again. But we did; we had to.

I would like for our country to be educated about the nature of mental illness because it is an organic brain disease, and it is treatable, but there is very little available treatment for it, especially in Texas. Texas is right at the bottom of the heap in treating the mentally ill and it’s right at the top in executing the mentally ill and there’s something wrong with that picture. If we would use just one tenth of the money that’s spent on imprisonment and execution to have some prevention, if we had mental health treatment for anybody who needs it, these horrible, horrible crimes like Larry committed would not happen. But instead our state and our federal governments are cutting the benefits for the mentally ill.

1 comment:

Kristin Houle said...

Thanks so much to Lois Robison for her courageous efforts on behalf of her son Larry. Unfortunately, Larry's case is not unique - the State of Texas has executed more than 20 individuals with documented diagnoses of schizophrenia or bipolar disorder. Many, like Larry, had sought treatment but were denied long-term care for their illnesses.

For anyone interested in learning more about the intersection of the death penalty and mental illness in Texas, please visit

There also is a new postcard campaign calling for a prohibition on the death penalty for offenders with severe mental illness in Texas and for increased funding for the state's mental health system. To request postcards to share with your friends and family, please email Kristin Houle at Thanks!