It was 6:28 a.m. Thursday when I texted Darlie Kee, telling her to drive safely.
Kee was driving from her home in Wills Point that morning to women’s death row in Gatesville to visit her daughter, Darlie Routier. The state and a jury said that Routier killed her children. Routier and her mother say otherwise.
As the morning wore on, there were a few other texts back and forth.
“I’m in West. Breakfast kolachies,” Kee texted at 8:40 a.m.
I requested that she ask Darlie about Kimberly McCarthy, the Lancaster woman who was set to die by lethal injection on Tuesday, but received a stay just hours before the execution was to be carried out. She had the same prosecutor as Darlie. He’s put 20 people on death row.
There are two things in particular that I have learned about Texas justice since I started writing two statewide newspaper series that are being sponsored by the Hood County News. One is that justice is a very complex issue. The other is that many people just flat don’t care.
My phone dinged again with another message from Kee at 11:09 a.m. Thursday.
“Prosecutor killed in Kaufman. Everyone on lock down. Waiting for guards here.”
I quickly went online and found the first breaking news reports about Kaufman County Assistant District Attorney Mark Hasse. As he arrived for work at the courthouse, Hasse was shot five times by two masked gunmen dressed in black, one wearing a tactical vest. After assassinating the prosecutor, they fired warning shots into the air to ward off bystanders before speeding away in an older model silver Ford Taurus.
Hasse, who handled drug and murder cases, reportedly had been involved in an Aryan Brotherhood investigation. The man who had fought crime became the victim of it.
I gazed at the online photos of the crime scene taken by former Dallas Morning News colleague David Woo. I looked at the texts from Kee, and the card from Routier that has been propped beside my computer monitor for several months now.
The card features a drawing of Jesus, dressed in white against a calm sky, a resolute expression on his face. He is arm-wrestling a horned, muscular Satan, who is pictured against a backdrop of storm and turbulence.
At first, the card reminded me of a velvet painting of Elvis or dogs playing poker. But the more I gazed at it, the more I was drawn to it. In a justice system net that has been proven to sometimes ensnare the innocent along with the guilty, who is on the side of good and who is on the side of evil is sometimes open to interpretation.
At the bottom of the card is Routier’s handwritten message: “God has the victory.”
Let’s hope so.
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