Ministry of Presence

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As death house chaplain at the Walls Prison unit in Huntsville, Texas, Carroll Pickett's job was to accompany death row inmates during their final hours on earth. After each execution, Pickett would go home and speak into a tape recorder about each man he had come to know before they said goodbye.

This story originally appeared on KCRW's UnFictional, and was inspired by Steve James and Peter Gilbert's 2008 documentary At the Death House Door.

Pew Research: Five facts about the death penalty
At The Death House Door to Ministry of Presence: Matt Holzman on the origins of this episode 

Texas death chamber

Rev. Pickett's memoir


Documentary clips in today's intro:
F for Fake (1973): "Almost every story is almost certainly some kind of lie." Orson Welles' perplexing film essay unpacks trickery, fraud and fakery of all kinds. (Amazon, iTunes, Kanopy)
Chicken Ranch (1983): Nick Broomfield and Sandi Sissel's observational film is a fascinating look inside a legal brothel in Nevada. (Amazon, iTunes)
Koyaanisqatsi (1982): This cult classic doesn't need dialogue or plot to mesmerize, thanks to incredible timelapse footage and that unforgettable score by Philip Glass. (Amazon, iTunes)
Quest (2017): Jonathan Olshefski's gripping and beautiful verité portrait of a North Philadelphia family, filmed over nearly ten years.

Photo: Reverend Carroll Pickett (Kevin Horan/IFC and Kartemquin Films)




Matt Holzman