Voir Dire is an oath that potential jurors are asked to take during jury selection. It's an oath to tell and seek out the truth during the selection process and throughout the trial. This oath takes on a strong meaning for Vincent Paul Candelaria as he tells his life story in Voir Dire. A life filled with emotional and drug endues highs and lows in the streets of Albuquerque NM. His life develops into a lifestyle that most children are exposed to. This lifestyle puts him in Santa Fe prison during America's most violent and brutal prison riot in its history. It puts him in New Mexico's, courtrooms for the murder of an Albuquerque police officer. Vincent Paul Candelaria's story is about life and death, about living free and living locked up. His story touches an array of issues that exists across America today. He expresses those issues when talking about the death of his father and how he feels about his life of crime. What he thinks about the injustices he's endured and the cruelness incarceration brings to the world. His memories explode with killings and rapes he witnessed during the 1980 Santa Fe prison riot. His personal memories of these events are the history of New Mexico and the history of America. It affects everyone directly or indirectly. Like the explosion of the space shuttle Challenger or the tragedy of 911. His story expresses issues worthy of everyone's resolve.
|Publisher:||Toplink Publishing, LLC|
|Product dimensions:||6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.60(d)|
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An oath to tell and seek the truth
By Santiago Camarena
AuthorHouseCopyright © 2013 Santiago Camarena
All rights reserved.
Life's Trials: Who's the guilty one?
In a prison cell, I searched my soul and looked at it from every corner. My thoughts would bounce off of one wall and be different on the other wall: they would range from wanting to get high and having a smoke afterward to the injustice I'd endured and what could be done about it. Somewhere in between wanting to get high and what could be done, I grew in my heart and in my mind. I found myself by being honest. My desire to get high disappeared, and the desire for the truth to be known began to grow. I played over and over the sequence of events that put me where I was. The scenes became clear in my mind; possibilities of what I could have done began to appear. I would pinpoint my mistakes and play out the scenes without them. Next time I'll get it right. Sometimes, right when you pinpoint your mistakes, you realize you've been wrong. Inclinations of changing your life will enter your thoughts, but a quick look around will dismiss any goodwill. I struggled to keep focus and be honest with myself through all those good and bad times.
There's a repeated experience of joy and pain, going in and out of prison. It becomes part of your life; it's a full cycle, and it means you've graduated. You're proud of yourself because you've done more than most and survived—that is, if you're not raped or killed. You justify all your wrongdoings because by society's standards, you've paid for them. Getting busted for only a fraction of your crimes makes you think you're one of the best. That's when it's growing—the seed of your environment. This seed of environment was planted a long time ago by circumstances beyond your control. The first incarceration and the first release develop into an attitude or belief that grows with repeated incarceration and release. Your metal defenses go up, and you enter a world that only exists in your mind. As you're sitting in a cell, with everything taken from you, you're thinking you're a champion, a vato chingon, a bad dude.
Champion, Champaign, chick-monk—what difference does it make? Some find it difficult to decipher while in prison or jail; that's why it's a different world. It makes a difference who you are and how you come in contact with the judicial system. These differences will vary depending on socioeconomic circumstances. But hell, what's a kid to know about all that stuff? However, as a kid growing up, all that stuff plays a big part in your life. The difference will be from what side of the wall you look at the world. To some guys, because of their economic or social circumstances, a different life is possible, and the incarceration will do its job. This result will vary, depending on what stage of maturity one is at and the surrounding influences. To others the possibilities are limited; these hard realities are all they've ever known, so they adapt.
This adaptation happens in phases, or what I prefer calling generations. Usually by the third generation, you have completely different set of circumstances and motivations; you perceive life differently. This perception is especially so in the world of incarceration. The dehumanization and extremities that occur with each incarceration create a complete cycle. To visualize this third complete cycle of dehumanization, I use this analogy: after three generations of living in the wild, pigs or dogs become more like wolves and boars in their behavior; they are the product of their environment and become dependent of that way of life. Aggressive behavior and irrationalities become the way to do things, the way to survive.
Many men try to make sense of their lives by trying to figure out how everything got so screwed up. It isn't easy. There are a lot of men like me who have spent most of their lives in one institution or another. After a lifetime of the revolving door of prison, you see and live through many grotesque and foul situations. Your life has been raped by the judicial system and is on display to the world as an example of a fallen human being. Your past and present experiences keep you from having normal thoughts; suicide is contemplated and becomes the answer for some. After so much time behind walls, you learn to deal with it by keeping your mind clear. Everyone has his or her own way; mine was by learning to be honest with myself. It helps you hold on to your sanity and deal with the madness you live in. Being honest with yourself is easier said than done—it's something you need to learn and practice daily. That little seed of my environment has grown, and I know now that how I perceived life was wrong. Now those brief thoughts to change seem to be the only answer to life's puzzle. I still remember mistakes I've made. I guess I'm still searching, still looking for "Who was the guilty one?"
Needless to say, I had a lot of time to think of my life's experiences. I thought a lot about my childhood and where I was raised: the barrio of San Jose in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Both of my parents are American citizens, my father being of Spanish descent and my mother of Mexican descent. The Spanish descent thing is kind of unique for New Mexico. The way I understand it, we're all Chicanos. I had two older brothers, an older sister, and two younger brothers, and my mom was pregnant with my little sister. We were a very close and happy family. My dad was a big man, six feet tall with dark brown curly hair and hazel eyes that would change depending on what color of clothes he was wearing. He was a mailman and a good provider. We were far from being rich, but we never went hungry or cold. There was no lack of food, clothes, or love.
My two younger brothers and I always played together. We played until my dad got home, and as soon as he walked in, all of us would be glad to see him and played with him until supper was ready. "Leave him alone so he can eat," my mom would tell us, but we continued playing until our plates were on the table. It seems like every minute he was home, he would play with us. On weekends he always took us somewhere, even if it was just to the airport to watch the planes land and take off. Those were the happiest days of my childhood.
Then the ugliest day of my life happened, and the world stopped. My brothers and I were playing, and my mom was taking a nap when a police officer knocked on the door. The officer came to take my mom to go and identify my dad's body; he had drowned in a canal while swimming with friends. They said he dove in and must have hit his head. The water apparently took him under, and they found his body a mile downstream. We were all sent across the street to our uncle Ben's house, and although I was very young, I knew what had happened.
That was the day I started hating cops. You see, even though I understood what had happened to my dad, I couldn't understand why. I felt in some way that that cop was responsible for the suffering taking place in my family, and I was really suffering. Back then, the viewing of the body still took place at the home of the family. I remember people lined up all the way outside. My father had many friends, and they were coming through to see him and give their last respects. I stayed outside by myself because I didn't want anyone to see me crying. Finally when everyone left, I went inside to stand by his coffin. All that night I begged him to get up and play with me. When he wouldn't, I cried and cried. I found it very hard to accept the fact that I had lost my father forever. I was hurting so badly, and I didn't know where to go for comfort or support. I no longer had a father.
Shortly after my dad passed away, my brothers and I would stand on Broadway Street and throw rocks at passing cars. It wasn't long before I was arrested for busting windshields. I was taken to the police station, and the cops gave me hell until Mom came—or at least, that's the way I felt. I guess they were trying to scare me into staying out of trouble, but they didn't scare me and only made me angrier. The anger began to control my attitude and made me hate them even more. I felt that they abused me and that they hated me too. I felt unsafe around them. If you're treated like an animal, either you get furious and lash out, or you become scared. I took to the former. After my father died, I started fighting a lot; I was filled with rage and was always in trouble with the law.
Without my father's income, my mother had to raise all seven of us by herself. Although we were poor, my mother always made it a point to give whatever she could to the church, even if it was just one or two dollars. At that time I was an altar boy and got to see all the money that was donated to the church. I'd see the priest drive away in his brand-new car to play golf every Saturday. They had so much leftover food that could've been given to the street people, but instead it was thrown away. My mother would say, "God would punish us if we threw good food away." I rationalized it wasn't right for my mom to help pay for his luxuries when we had nothing compared to him, so I started taking money from the church collection box. I would buy food with the money and take it home. My mom would ask, "Where did this come from?" I wouldn't say anything. I think she thought God put it there. I guess that in a way, He did.
You see, I believe in God, but I don't believe in churches. However, my mother's faith is greater than mine, and she had us all in St. Francis Catholic School. I had a lot of problems with the nuns there except for one, Sister Mary Martha. She was the only one who seemed to understand me and treated me with kindness; the rest were hard on me. While growing up I spent a lot of time with my friend Landy, who lived next door. We were raised like brother and sister, and she always helped me out many times in many ways. We still share that closeness today, and she remains a very special person to me. In the seventh grade I went to Lincoln Junior High Public School. However, before I finished the school year, I was thrown out. If I wasn't skipping school, I was fighting or getting into some kind of trouble. I was sent to Esperanza, a school for boys who were always in trouble. I didn't make it there, either. After I was thrown out of Esperanza, no one else would take me, so that was the end of my schooling.
I started breaking into houses and cars for money, and by the time I was thirteen, I was shooting heroin. I feel that was my real downfall. The first time I did it, I knew it was bad, but somehow it didn't seem to matter that much. The next time it was the same: I remember thinking I had already screwed up, but as long as I kept control of it, I'd be alright. Smack was just a different high, and I wanted to try it. But I liked it because it put me in a different world, and that was the ticket for me. I used it as a means to escape reality. Back then my realities were very hard ... but I eventually found out being in prison was harder. Now I've spent more of my life locked up than being free. I kicked heroin cold turkey the first time, in the detention home, and since then I can't even count the times I've tried to stop. Every time I quit, I'd say to myself, "I'm never going to go through that hell again." But it seemed I always did, and every time it got harder and harder to kick. With the stealing and heroin, I was always getting busted for one thing or another.
My mom, although it was very hard on her, was always there trying to help. She tried everything she possibly could to straighten me out. She tried talking to me, hitting me, and getting my oldest brother to hound me, but nothing worked. Still, she never gave up. To this day, she is still standing by me, and I love her very much. She is probably the most law-abiding person there is. If I were ever in trouble with the law, out of love and respect for her, I would never go to her home. Besides Mom, the only true friend that would never turn me away was Landy. Once I escaped from the detention home, she was the first person I called. She picked me up right away; somehow I knew she would. I really appreciated that feeling of knowing that she was there for me. I've asked her for a lot of favors and she's never turned me down. I'm truly thankful to her for many things. I remember when I was fourteen years old and had a date with a girl; I asked Landy to lend me her car. I didn't have a driver's license, but she still loaned the car to me. She was always there for me, even at the cost of getting busted along with me.
The first detention home escape was not the only one with which she helped me out. As I got older, my escapes got more adventurous. Call it what you want: beating the system, a personal challenge, or the will to be free. I can't put one specific reason why, but it was the life I lived. Once, I lost weight so that I could fit in this garbage shoot and escape from the lousy county jail. I wasn't sure if I could do it at first, but I did what had to be done. That's how things happened for me. I escaped from the Albuquerque County Jail by taking my clothes off to fit through the garbage shoot, which went from the inside to a dumpster outside. After making it outside, I put a sweatshirt that I had over the coveralls, I rolled up my pant legs, and I put socks over my shoes. I pretended to be a jogger and even waved hello to a cop as I left the area. I made it a few blocks away and called Landy up to come get me and to bring me some clothes. She came right away and took me to her apartment. I ended up staying with her for about a month that time, living day to day with no real plans for the future. I had a lot of good times back then with Landy and other people who were in my life, and I wouldn't trade them for the world. I was dubbed the Kissing Bandit once, because I kissed this girl right after I held up a taxicab—or so they say.
My stay with Landy came to an end one day when we were taking food to her son, little Franky. We were taking it across town in one of those pinto cars. It was Landy, two other girls, and me in the car. This particular day was no different from any other, except that it was that day that the police decided to act on information given to them by someone who knew me and of my escape from the county jail. Landy was driving and saw a police car behind her. She kept going, thinking maybe it wasn't following her, but it continued to follow us for what seemed like miles. Then she saw another one and some narcotics cars too. She had a gun in her purse and wanted to get rid of it somewhere, but there was nowhere she could put it that they wouldn't find it. I told her not to say anything unless they asked—and if they did, to say that it was mine and that I put it there. I hadn't even finished saying this when they put on the lights. I wanted to get out and told Landy so, but it was too late. It was a scary situation because when she pulled over, we saw that there were a lot of them, and they all had their guns out. They yelled at us to put our hands up where they could see them and to start getting out of the car, one at a time. The door on the driver's side didn't open, and Landy had to yell through the door at them several times to let them know. As we were getting out, the cops yelled at us and said to put our hands on the hood. I did and was handcuffed right away. They put their guns to my head and said they would kill me if I even blinked. They searched the car, and when they found the gun, I heard a cop's remark, "Aha, what do we have here?" They had smirks on their faces like they were enjoying our misery. Landy and I went to jail together that time.
At family emergencies she always kept the boat from rocking. Landy was very dependable and gentle, yet she was quite firm when the need arose. She and I used to go nightclubbing; she's a lot of fun and very open. Landy speaks her mind when she gets a few drinks down, and I sit back and laugh at her. I really enjoy her company and how she always tried to help me with my problems. When I was fourteen, I was sent to Springer Boy's School for breaking into a house, and I didn't see Landy for a time. They had quarantine at Springer, so they decided to send me to a forestry camp in Sierra Blanca. I started getting homesick after being there for about ten months. It was around that time that a friend of mine arrived and told me he had seen my girlfriend with some guy, so that night another inmate and I escaped.
Excerpted from Voir Dire by Santiago Camarena. Copyright © 2013 by Santiago Camarena. Excerpted by permission of AuthorHouse.
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Table of Contents
Acknowledgements & Gracias.................... ix
Chapter 1 Life's Trials: Who's the guilty one?.................... 1
Chapter 2 The Riot The Beast Says Hi.................... 20
Chapter 3 The Aftermath: A Band Aid Solution.................... 35
Chapter 4 Newspaper Stories Who Points The Finger Of Guilt?................ 49
Chapter 5 Finally, My Trial Begins.................... 76
Chapter 6 Prison Life and Courtroom Strife.................... 120
Chapter 7 The Truth Unfolds.................... 164
Chapter 8 Out Of The Horse's Mouth.................... 199
Chapter 9 Unshackled Reality.................... 232
Chapter 10 The Quiets Of My Trial.................... 254
Chapter 11 VOIR DIRE.................... 276