Charlie Hess won't be witnessing the execution of Texas Seven ringleader George Rivas after all.
Speaking by cell phone just outside of Dallas at about 2 p.m. today, Hess reports that Texas prison authorities contacted him to say Rivas had Hess removed from his list of allowed guests at the execution, scheduled for 5 p.m. Mountain time on Wednesday.
The reason? Rivas found out Hess is in favor of the death penalty for someone who kills a cop.
Hess is baffled as to how Rivas found out.
"It boggles my mind that he could have thought otherwise," Hess says, who interviewed Rivas for seven to eight hours last November at the Polunsky Unit in south Texas. "The only discussion that came up about the death penalty was that time when he had just found out that he had a fixed [execution] date, and I said, 'I can't understand this. You come out and you're smiling, and here you've just found out you have a date. How can you do that?' Then he said, 'You don't understand, do you? I'm going to a better place.'"
Hess, his wife, Patti, and Fountain Police Chief Todd Evans interviewed Rivas and other members of the Texas Seven who also are on death row in preparation for a book about the January 2001 takedown of the gang in Woodland Park and Colorado Springs. Evans was the El Paso County sheriff's SWAT sergeant at the time.
Hess says prison officials told him it's not unusual for those scheduled for execution to change their minds about who is allowed to attend in their behalf.
"I can tell you I wasn't terribly surprised," Hess says. Though the topic of Hess' support of the death penalty never arose during his talk with Rivas, "a reasonable person would know a guy who's been in law enforcement and that sort of work for 60 years would be in favor of the death penalty for shooting a cop. And of course I am."
Hess co-authored the book Hello, Charlie, an account of his four years of contact with Robert Browne, who claimed to have killed 48 people, including 13-year-old Heather Dawn Church of Black Forest in 1991.