TAVP Interviews with Law Enforcement Officials

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Interview with Arthur G. Cárdenas

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Captain Arthur (Art) Cárdenas is a member of the Command Staff of the Travis County Sheriff's Office. A founding member of the Travis County SWAT Team, then-Sergeant Cárdenas trained Keith G. Ruíz in "SWAT School." Deputy Ruíz died in the line of duty on February 15, 2001, while attempting to serve a warrant on a suspected narcotics dealer in Del Valle, Travis County. In this interview, Captain Cárdenas recalls the perseverance, dedication, skills, and humor of Deputy Ruíz, and describes the emotional intimacy and sense of family that develops among officers. Captain Cárdenas also recounts his own path, from seminarian to law enforcement officer, married father of three sons, boxing coach, and writer. This interview took place on July 23, 2008 in Austin, Travis County, Texas.

 
Interview with Darren Long

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Darren Long is a Major in the Command Staff of the Travis County Sheriff's Office, and was a friend and colleague of Deputy Keith George Ruíz. Deputy Ruíz died early on the morning of February 15, 2001, when, as part of a SWAT team, he attempted to serve a narcotics warrant and the person sought shot through the door of the house, hitting Deputy Ruíz. In this interview, Major Long describes his background, his friendship with Keith Ruíz, the night of the shooting, and the resulting criminal investigation, trial, and sentence. Major Long also shares his own reactions and that of his colleagues both to Deputy Ruíz's death and to the decision of the District Attorney not to seek the death penalty for this capital crime. Major Long also explains the origin of SWAT teams and the process with which law enforcement agencies decide when to deploy SWAT teams. This interview took place in Austin, Travis County, Texas on August 25, 2008.

 
Interview with Dennis Longmire

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Dennis Longmire is an anti-death penalty activist and a professor of sociology at Sam Houston State University in Huntsville, Texas. In Video 1, Longmire discusses his background, his residence in Huntsville, his interest in the death penalty as a topic of research and activism, his first silent vigil outside the Walls Unit and his role in the case of Eric Nenno, including his experience witnessing Nenno's execution on October 28, 2008. In Video 2, Longmire expands on his role in Eric Nenno's case, and discusses the role of religion in his intellectual and activist commitments. In Video 3, Longmire discusses Eric Nenno's trial in more detail, expands on the history of the prison system and executions in Texas, and compares the hospice movement with standing vigil outside the Walls Unit. In Video 4, Longmire discusses his prayer vigils and witnessing in the context of other activist strategies, and talks about the role of the Hospitality House in Huntsville. In Video 5, Longmire elaborates on his experiences standing on the corner outside the Walls Unit during executions, and considers trends in attitudes towards both the death penalty and abolition of the death penalty in Texas. In Video 6, Longmire discusses the wider communal effects of the death penalty on the town of Huntsville, media coverage of executions, and the interactions between families of the executed and families of murder victims. This interview took place on October 29, 2008 in Huntsville, Walker County, Texas.

 
Interview with Edgar Fincher

Video 6 of 6

Edgar Fincher worked as a correctional officer on the Ellis Unit (Death Row) in Walker County, TX from 1989 to 1994. He then went on to work for the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) as an internal affairs investigator from 1994-1997 and with the State Jail Division from 1997-1999. In Tape 1, Fincher describes his childhood background; how he became involved with TDCJ; his early career as a correctional office in the Ellis Unit; and his experiences with trauma resulting from his work. In Tape 2, Fincher describes what a typical day working on death row was like. In Tape 3, Fincher elaborates on his work on the death row and the strain associate with it; displays materials and documents collected during his career; and describes his later career in TDCJ Internal Affairs and with the State Jail Division. In Tape 4, Fincher discusses the transition from correctional officer on death row to a career with Internal Affairs; discusses the issues that arise when working in a high risk job; describes his current career; shows materials collected during his career as a correctional officer; and describes experiences with inmates executed between 1989 and 1994. In Tape 5, Fincher describes his experience with inmates who were executed between 1989 and 1994 while he was working in the Ellis Unit. In Tape 6, Fincher gives his concluding statements about his work with TDCJ and his experiences working on death row. This interview took place on April 17, 2011 in Austin, TX.

 
Interview with Edgar Fincher

Video 1 of 6

Edgar Fincher worked as a correctional officer on the Ellis Unit (Death Row) in Walker County, TX from 1989 to 1994. He then went on to work for the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) as an internal affairs investigator from 1994-1997 and with the State Jail Division from 1997-1999. In Tape 1, Fincher describes his childhood background; how he became involved with TDCJ; his early career as a correctional office in the Ellis Unit; and his experiences with trauma resulting from his work. In Tape 2, Fincher describes what a typical day working on death row was like. In Tape 3, Fincher elaborates on his work on the death row and the strain associate with it; displays materials and documents collected during his career; and describes his later career in TDCJ Internal Affairs and with the State Jail Division. In Tape 4, Fincher discusses the transition from correctional officer on death row to a career with Internal Affairs; discusses the issues that arise when working in a high risk job; describes his current career; shows materials collected during his career as a correctional officer; and describes experiences with inmates executed between 1989 and 1994. In Tape 5, Fincher describes his experience with inmates who were executed between 1989 and 1994 while he was working in the Ellis Unit. In Tape 6, Fincher gives his concluding statements about his work with TDCJ and his experiences working on death row. This interview took place on April 17, 2011 in Austin, TX.

 
Interview with Edgar Fincher

Video 2 of 6

Edgar Fincher worked as a correctional officer on the Ellis Unit (Death Row) in Walker County, TX from 1989 to 1994. He then went on to work for the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) as an internal affairs investigator from 1994-1997 and with the State Jail Division from 1997-1999. In Tape 1, Fincher describes his childhood background; how he became involved with TDCJ; his early career as a correctional office in the Ellis Unit; and his experiences with trauma resulting from his work. In Tape 2, Fincher describes what a typical day working on death row was like. In Tape 3, Fincher elaborates on his work on the death row and the strain associate with it; displays materials and documents collected during his career; and describes his later career in TDCJ Internal Affairs and with the State Jail Division. In Tape 4, Fincher discusses the transition from correctional officer on death row to a career with Internal Affairs; discusses the issues that arise when working in a high risk job; describes his current career; shows materials collected during his career as a correctional officer; and describes experiences with inmates executed between 1989 and 1994. In Tape 5, Fincher describes his experience with inmates who were executed between 1989 and 1994 while he was working in the Ellis Unit. In Tape 6, Fincher gives his concluding statements about his work with TDCJ and his experiences working on death row. This interview took place on April 17, 2011 in Austin, TX.

 
Interview with Jim Willett

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Jim Willett is a retired prison warden of the Walls Unit who worked in the Texas prison system in various capacities for forty years, until his retirement in 2001. In this interview, Willett describes first learning about jobs in the prison system after moving to Huntsville to start school at Sam Houston State University; the training process and his trajectory from officer through captain to assistant warden and warden at both the James H. Byrd, Jr. Unit and the Huntsville Unit, or "Walls Unit"; his responsibilities as warden during executions at the Walls Unit; his experiences as warden during executions and funerals of inmates; his role as public spokesperson and his activities and accomplishments as a writer and speaker since his retirement; and his reflections on prison reform and the relationship between wardens and the prisons they run. This interview took place on March 2, 2011, at the Texas Prison Museum in Huntsville, Walker County, Texas where he is director.

 
Interview with Roger Wade

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Roger Wade is  Public Information Officer (P.I.O.), for the  Travis County Sheriff's Office. He was a friend of Deputy Sheriff Keith George Ruíz, an officer who died in the line of duty on February 15, 2001, while part of a SWAT team attempting to serve a narcotics warrant at a residence in Del Valle. In this interview, Roger Wade explains how he came to work for the Sheriff's Office, his work as P.I.O., and in particular his actions and feelings as on the night of Deputy Ruíz's death. In this interview, Wade also thinks out loud about his reaction -- at the time of trial and years later -- to the Travis County District Attorney's decision not to seek the death sentence in the shooting of Keith Ruíz, even though murder of a law enforcement official is a capital crime in Texas. Wade also describes Deputy Ruíz's personal qualities, the danger of law enforcement work, and the effects of Deputy Ruíz's death on his coworkers in the Sheriff's Department.