To all of us who knew and loved Bro. Abdullah Tanzel Hameen, may Peace be upon that beautiful Bro.! Among many other accomplishments, Hameen built an organization, BLAC (Because Love Allows Compassion) and did outreach from behind the walls on behalf of prisoner’s rights, working tirelessly to try and make them and their family’s lives better. One of the most surreal moments of my life is when i received a card from him in the mail shortly after he was murdered by the state of Delaware, thanking me for all that i tried to do to help save him and comforting me in my own grief from beyond. That’s who he was/is!
His wife, Gray-Haired Witness Sis. Shakeerah, has shared with me the gripping testimony she gave regarding some of the most traumatic experiences of her life and has given me permission to share them here. Please take the time to read it and let it reverberate deep within. As you will see, he was greatly loved by all who knew him and touched many you wouldn’t suspect could be touched.
February 10, 2005
I am writing this testimony because I feel that the public is entitled to know how an execution affects not only the offender’s family, but the guards, lawyers, and all those involved.
On May 21, 2001 my husband, Abdullah Tanzel Hameen, was murdered by the State of Delaware. My mother-in-law and I were among the many witnesses that stood by and watched this murder occur.
The day was beautiful; there was a warm breeze, a clear sky and the brightest sunshine you ever wanted to see. As I opened my eyes to this magnificent day I realized the irony in the beauty that surrounded me because on this day my best friend, my lover, my companion, my precious husband was going to be murdered and there wasn’t a damn thing I could do about.
All of our appeals were exhausted and we had been turned down by the Pardon Board, although, they said that they agreed my husband was exceptionally rehabilitated, BUT the jury found him guilty and the jury recommended DEATH BY LETHE INJECTION, so there was no other choice but to set a date for his execution.
Preparing for the first scheduled visit of my husband’s last day was like being in a fog.
I took my shower, made salat, drank my coffee and walked out the door. As I started the car I began to think this is not really happening, this is not for real. How can they possibly murder my husband and think that it is right. How can any one believe that this is not premeditated murder?
I drove to the prison, parked the car and headed for the newly built Death House. The guards who knew me kept their heads hung low as they escorted me, barely speaking to me, not knowing what to say. I had an exceptional relationship with the guards as did my husband and I think they thought this day would never come; after all the Pardon Board said he was exceptionally rehabilitated. When we got to the Death House I was patted down, searched and then led inside.
My husband was in a cage with a bed; on the bed was his prayer rug and Koran. At a desk was a guard writing down every movement my husband made and every word that we spoke. As I looked at my husband I thought this is really it, this is really the last day I will ever see my husband again. My head was pounding and my heart was racing; I felt as if I was going to pass out. What do you say to someone you love before they are put to death? I looked into his beautiful eyes and when I started to talk I choked and just started to cry. I cried and cried and cried. My husband sat quietly and tried to console me as best he could through the cage that separated us. Our first visit of the day, which was an hour, was spent awkwardly. When I got up to leave he asked that I not let them see me cry again and to stand strong.
Two hours later I was back at the Death House but this time with my mother-in-law. With the second visit there were fewer tears and even some nervous laughter, but the pain of what was happening was excruciating for all of us. There are simply no words to describe it.
Two hours later I was back again to the Death House, alone this time and my husband and I talked, I mean really talked. We talked about the love we shared and the happiness we had despite the sentence that hung over his head for ten years. We talked about how blessed we were to have discovered each other. Yet, the pain, the stress, the torture of knowing my beloved was going to die in a few hours, permeated my senses.
Two hours later my mother-in-law and I returned to the prison. We were led into a bathroom and searched, not just patted down, but the guards searched inside our bras, around the rim of our underwear and made us lift our dresses. The female guard who did the search apologized the entire time she was doing it and we could tell how horribly uncomfortable she felt.
This time we were told to wait in the waiting area of the main lobby because my husband was visiting with his attorneys. As we waited we saw people come and go with food and drinks all dressed up as if going to a party. We sat there and waited and waited for almost an hour and a half. People who knew me looked down as they passed me except for the Bureau Chief of Prisons and one of the Wardens; they came over to me and hugged me and said they were sorry, as they walked away I saw tears in their eyes.
Eventually a guard came and escorted us to another room where my husband’s attorneys were waiting for us. Both had been crying; they told us that instead of talking to my husband they ended up sobbing.
It was about 7pm and all I could think about was my husband; what was he doing, was he okay, was he scared, did he feel all alone. We sat in that room and waited and waited and waited. Around 9pm the Warden came in and said since my husband had been such a good boy that he was going to let us see him one more time.
We were escorted back to the Death House for our last visit and were permitted a two second embrace and peck on the cheek and allowed to say a five minute good bye.
Back in the room I thought let’s just do this, why wait, just kill him for God’s sake and get it over. At 11pm the Deputy Warden and two other people led me and my mother-in-law out a back corridor to a car. We got in the back seat and were driven to the Death House.
We noticed a bus full of people; it was the media and the Wardens from all over the state. In another car were the victim’s sister and two guards. We waited and we waited until 11:30pm and we were led into the Death House. As I walked into the room I saw my husband strapped to a gurney like he was on a crucifix and I thought of the irony of the way they strap a condemned man down. In the room with my husband were the Warden and another Deputy Warden and the Chaplain who was a Christian holding onto his Bible in the corner. I mention the Chaplain’s religion because we are Muslims and were promised that there would be an Iman in the room with my husband. We were led to an area at the front of the glass area that separated the room where my husband was and we just looked and all I could think
was that this was insane.
After we were all in our perspective places the Warden read the death warrant and asked my husband if he had any last words. He strained to look in my eyes and he said to the victim’s sister “I pray this brings you peace” and then he looked at his mother and I and said he loved us and that he would wait for us.
The Warden nodded his head and the deadly drugs were released into his body. He strained and gasped; as he did so his body lifted somewhat and he was dead. His mother and I were praying as they killed my husband because that was all we could do, we were powerless, we just stood there and watch the state murder him.
After he was announced dead they led us out, took us to another building and gave me his belongings. The attorneys were waiting for me and so was the media. The media asked how it felt to see my husband die. I am not sure of my response but our attorneys told me Hameen would have been proud of me.
My mother-in-law walked over to hug me and I remember pulling away and saying that I was ok. I did not want to be touched or to have anyone tell me how sorry they were. I could not handle having to deal with any emotion. My friend drove me home and as I went in the house and prepared for bed I started to sob uncontrollably, it was over, Hameen was dead.
In the morning I woke up so sick that I could hardly function. My body ached and my head was pounding. As I lay in the bed I looked over at the window and there sat a bird. The bird was looking at me and as I looked back it fluttered and flew away. I believed then and I will always believe it was my husband’s spirit checking in on me and saying good bye.
You can dress this killing up all you want; you can try to disguise it in bizarre rituals and traditions – in the name of security or whatever – but you can’t take away that searing pain. You can’t take away what it does to a lawyer who will forever know he failed to save his client’s life. You can’t take away what it does to a mom or a child or a wife of the executed person. The damage is permanent.
Because of the rituals, people think that lethal injection is a humane way to commit murder; it is all very neat and over very quickly. Society puts to death the condemned and life goes on. This is far from true for the guards, the lawyers, the victim’s family and the offender’s family they will remember that night always. No matter how neat and clean an execution is it is still murder. It is a painful reminder that society is vengeful and that some still want their pound of flesh. It is a horrible example of how little we have learned from the mistakes of our past. Murder is murder no matter who pulls the trigger.
Today I am on disability, unable to deal full time with a society that is so hateful, I have aged tremendously and death preoccupies my mind constantly. I am so afraid of losing another loved one that it is hard sometimes to function. I have problems sleeping and problems trusting people.
My step-son, Hameen’s son, is facing 1st Degree Murder Charges and is scheduled for trial March 8th of this year, 2005. My mother-in-law has been sick off and on since the execution.
Prior to my husband’s execution I was a bright, vibrant and active woman. I believed that anything was possible and that I conquer the world. Today I struggle just to complete the everyday task of conquering my own world.
The people should know the extent of the needle’s reach. There is much more to an execution than those final minutes. I know.