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– I already knew, Donte. Your father never doubted you. He died knowing you were innocent. Roberta wiped her face with a tissue. I have never doubted you either, son.

Roberta nodded, but was unable to answer. At that moment the door behind Donte opened and a tall, burly guard appeared. Donte hung up the phone, got up, and put both palms on the Plexiglass. His family did the same. After the last hug he left.

They led him out of the visiting wing, his hands handcuffed again, and through a series of metal doors that clicked open, they emerged from the building onto a lawn crisscrossed with a zigzag of paths. From there they entered a wing where he was led for the last time to his cell. Now it was all the last time, and as he sat on his cot and stared at the box of his belongings, Donte almost convinced himself that leaving would be a relief.

His family was given five minutes to recover. As they left the room, Ruth gave them a hug, saying she was sorry. They thanked him for his kindness.

They nodded, not quite sure what to answer. Then they went through the security check at the entrance hall, collected their driver’s licenses and bags, and left Polunsky for the last time.

The “highway troubles” mentioned by Ruth were an undercover Facebook conspiracy that was driven by two black students at Sam Houston State University in Huntsville. The code name was Detour, and the plan was so simple and so clever that it attracted dozens of volunteers.

In 2000, shortly after Donte arrived on death row, the inmates were transferred from Hunstville to Polunsky; they were transferred, but not the execution chamber. For seven years – and two hundred executions – the condemned had to be brought from Polunsky to Huntsville. Convoluted movements were planned and implemented, but after a few dozen transfers without ambushes, no heroic efforts to rescue the convicts, or any other suspicious evidence, the authorities realized that there were no observers. Deep down, that didn’t matter to anyone. Since then, regardless of complications, the same route was used for each transfer: they left the jail at one o’clock, turned left onto 350, then left again onto 190 (a four-lane highway, with a lot of traffic), and in an hour the trip was over.