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Executioners' View On Their Work
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Thread: Executioners' View On Their Work

  1. #1
    Senior Member CnCP Legend Mike's Avatar
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    Executioners' View On Their Work

    Death row executioners discuss life on the other side of the needle

    IN Missouri, one of a handful of US states where the death penalty still applies, executioners are handed an envelope filled with hundred-dollar bills.

    On the envelopes are instructions not to open until services have been completed. The envelopes vary in weight, depending on the nature of the assignment.

    The nurse, for example, gets less than the anaesthesiologist. The anaesthesiologist gets less than the drug supplier.

    Until this week, that information was kept a closely-guarded secret. It was revealed when Buzzfeed audited payments and cash withdrawals from Missouri Director of Adult Institutions David Dormire.

    They found almost $US300,000 had been paid in cash to a small group of individuals since November 2013. Those individuals were responsible for ending the lives of America’s condemned.

    It’s easy to understand why the money is paid in cash. It’s part of a culture of secrecy that helps maintain the executioners’ anonymity, but not every executioner wants to remain anonymous.

    Over the years, those brave enough to pull back the curtain have spoken about a job that few people want and even fewer escape without some form of trauma. This is the other side of the story on death row.


    It’s not your normal 9-5 job. In fact, nothing about it is normal.

    Kenneth Dean, 52, described in 2000 his role on the “tie-down team” in the busiest death row chamber in Texas. He said his colleagues described him as a “teddy bear” and he had been a part of more than 130 executions.

    Dean told The New York Times he survived in the job by embracing the routine. That routine meant including his family — Dean had a daughter, 7, and a son, 13, at the time — in the process.

    “I told (my kids) ‘Daddy has to work late tonight, he has an execution’,” he said. His daughter followed up by asking him to explain what he did in detail.

    “It’s hard explaining to a seven-year-old,’’ he said. “She asked me, ‘Why do you do it?’ I told her, ‘Sweetie, it’s part of my job’.”

    Jerry Givens executed 62 inmates in Virginia between 1982-1999. Sometimes he used lethal injection. At other times he carried out the executions by electrocution.

    In an interview with The Guardian in 2013, Givens described his role in detail. He explained how long he waited in the room as 3000 volts rushed through a prisoner’s body and what happened on the day of an execution.

    “We would test the equipment frequently, whether we had an execution or not. But on the day of an execution or during that week, we would have all sorts of training. We train for the worst. We train for the man to put up resistance. Most would not, but sometimes it would get rough.

    “Most of the time, during the actual execution, I’m back behind the partition, behind a curtain with my equipment. I’m alone as the executioner, but we had a crew that would go and escort the inmate and place him on the gurney or in the chair and strap him down and a doctor who would confirm the heart had stopped after.”

    He said he preferred electrocution because it’s simpler and “more humane”.

    “That’s more like cutting your lights off and on. It’s a button you push once and then the machine runs by itself. It relieves you from being attached to it in some ways. You can’t see the current go through the body. But with chemicals, it takes a while because you’re dealing with three separate chemicals.

    “You are on the other end with a needle in your hand. You can see the reaction of the body. You can see it going down the clear tube. So you can actually see the chemical going down the line and into the arm and see the effects of it. You are more attached to it. I know because I have done it. Death by electrocution in some ways seems more humane.”

    Givens said the role affected him in ways he didn’t foresee. He “never enjoyed it” but after 25 years he said he wished he never started.


    Executioner Fred Allen said he “snapped” several years after leaving his role in a Texas prison. In 2000, he told documentary makers his role on the tie-down team came back to haunt him.

    “I was just working in the shop and all of a sudden something just triggered in me and I started shaking … And tears, uncontrollable tears, were coming out of my eyes. And what it was, was something triggered within and it just — everybody — all of these executions all of a sudden all sprung forward.”

    His boss, prison warden Jim Willett, said no person can never prepare themselves for their first execution.

    “The first one was very difficult in more than one way. I had never witnessed an execution. I wouldn’t wish that on anybody.

    “In the first one I had a lot of anxiety and worried about me a lot. I got caught up in that on the first one. The other thing that sticks out in my head is just the matter of dealing with an execution, of having somebody who is (healthy) strapped down to a gurney and in a few minutes you’re going to give a signal to an executioner that’s going to end this guy’s life. I was going to do that and the guy was perfectly healthy.”


    Executions don’t always go to plan. Clayton Lockett’s 43-minute-long botched execution is a perfect example of that.

    Lockett, 38, was convicted of kidnapping, beating, raping, shooting and burying alive a 19-year-old woman and sentenced to death. His execution was supposed to be simple but turned into a nightmare for the inmate, those administering the drugs and the state’s politicians.

    At 6.23pm on April 29, 2014, Lockett was administered with a sedative. It took 10 minutes for doctors to declare him unconscious. He wasn’t.

    Doctors tried to administer three lethal drugs but 20 minutes into the execution the prisoner was still not dead. Lockett was lifting his head and writhing on the bed. The execution was called off before Lockett died at 7.06pm from a heart attack. Autopsy results showed Lockett’s vein had collapsed and the drugs had absorbed into his tissue.

    Reporter Bailey Elise McBride witnessed the execution and said Lockett was “conscious and blinking, licking his lips even after the process began”. She said Lockett was unconscious at 6.33pm and “began to nod, mumble, move body” at 6.34pm.

    Sometimes it’s the fault of bad drugs. Sometimes it’s incompetence, as was the case with Dr Alan Doerhoff.

    Dr Doerhoff, a Missouri surgeon, was banned by a federal judge in 2008 over the execution of Robert Comer and the testimony of fellow doctors.

    According to the St Louis Dispatch, a doctor told a Missouri court that Dr Doerhoff oversaw more than 54 executions despite being dyslexic and “improvising” dosages of deadly drugs.

    Experts say they are seeing a trend across America away from the death penalty, perhaps in part because of the testimony from those on the front line.

    Thirty-one states including California, Florida, Oklahoma and Utah use the death penalty. Last year Nebraska became the 19th state to abolish the death penalty.

    Peter Norden, a member of the World Coalition Against the Death Penalty and adjunct professor at RMIT University, told news.com.au there’s been a “big shift” in the way Americans view capital punishment.

    “It’s happening,” he said. “Abolition of the death penalty is happening throughout the world quite rapidly. The states are the toughest nut to crack but it’ll definitely happen. There are signs of it already.”


    ( It would be great if we could edit the titles of threads.)
    We all live in a clown world.

  2. #2
    Senior Member CnCP Legend Mike's Avatar
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    Punjab’s hangman makes only Rs 500 per execution ($7.53)

    With over 5,000 death row convicts in Punjab awaiting their fate, there are only two hangmen in the province. However despite the demand, all that these hangmen make is Rs 500 per execution, BBC Urdu reported on Friday.

    With most of these hangings were carried out in Punjab (around 170), there are only two hangmen for carrying out executions in the 36 jails across the province.

    Sabir Masih, one of two government employees executing death penalties in Punjab, told BBC Urdu that he often travels hundreds of miles to perform his duties for which he is paid a mere Rs 500.

    Lamenting the fact that some jail officials neither pay him his fee nor give him any travelling allowance, Sabir says sometimes he has to pay travel and other expenses from his own pocket.

    Claiming that he has executed more than 200 men in his career, Sabir said since December last year, he has hanged around 60 convicts in half a dozen jails across Punjab.

    Among those he has hanged was Dr Usman, who was found guilty of attacking the convoy of former president General Pervez Musharraf and the General Headquarters in Rawalpindi.

    Sabir, who makes Rs 15,000 per month ($225.84), reveals even his forefathers were associated with the profession and his grandfather worked as a hangman during the British era and would get Rs 20 ($.20) for it.

    His grandfather’s brother, Tara Masih, is the perhaps the most well-known from his family. Tara is the one who hanged Pakistan’s first elected prime minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto in 1979.

    Tara had to be flown from Bahawalpur to Lahore for the hanging after the executioner in Lahore, Sadiq Masih, Tara’s nephew and Sabir’s father, excused himself from hanging the popular leader.

    We all live in a clown world.

  3. #3
    Moderator mostlyclassics's Avatar
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    IN Missouri, one of a handful of US states where the death penalty still applies . . .
    Uhhh . . . not quite. Thirty-one states have the death penalty. Only 19 do not.

  4. #4
    Senior Member CnCP Addict TrudieG's Avatar
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    Jul 2013
    In the Lockett case while his execution was gruesome because his vein collapsed his death was easier then his victim who was buried alive.

  5. #5
    Senior Member CnCP Legend Mike's Avatar
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    THE EXECUTIONER'S TALE: Former San Quentin warden reveals how he killed prisoners in the jail's 'coughing box' without any training . . . or remorse

    Without any experience or medical training, Dan Vasquez was employed by the government to kill other human beings.

    As warden of San Quentin, one of the most notorious prisons in the world, put inmates to death in the gas chamber - known by his staff and those on death row as the 'coughing box'.

    The day before an execution he would bring in a psychologist to help his team prepare to watch a condemned criminal die, in a bid to avoid post-traumatic stress.

    Then, just hours later, he would ask the prisoner for his last words as he was strapped into a chair inside a tiny metal green room.

    Then he would start the chemical reaction that has been deemed the most dangerous and expensive way to kill an inmate.

    Vasquez insists he was never fazed by putting an inmate to death, as it was his job.

    In his first interview since stepping down as California's state executioner, Vasquez has told Daily Mail Online his role as California's state executioner has never haunted him.

    For more than 30 years he has been involved in the death penalty, either carrying it out or testifying as consultant at capital murder trials.

    The grandfather-of-two also believes in an 'eye-for-an-eye' when it comes to the death penalty - that condemned inmates should be killed in the same manner they killed their victims

    A controversial policy like that, he believes, would send a strong message to would-be criminals and act as a deterrent,

    'In my opinion, if you want to stop human beings killing other human beings, when you execute the first person in the manner that they killed their victim.

    'I think it would get rid of the need for the death penalty.

    'For example, if I rape a woman and strangle her, then they would rape and strangle me.'

    'If that happened, maybe other people would get the message of murder under special circumstances.

    'I shoot you to death, then maybe I should be executed by being shot.

    'It should be an eye-for-an-eye. If it's done that way, I guarantee you that you are going to go a long way to stopping the criminal offense of killing another person.

    'If I stab you to death and cut you into pieces, maybe I should be stabbed and cut into pieces.'

    Vasquez is a father-of-two who has been married for 51 years to wife Juanita.

    As warden at San Quentin, Vasquez was the state executioner between 1983 and 1993.

    For the first nine years, he didn't put any inmates to death, as the 1976 US Supreme Court decision of Gregg v. Georgia had put a moratorium on the death penalty.

    But when it was lifted, he carried out the first execution in San Quentin for almost 25 years.

    'I knew it was part of the job.

    'I prepared for it by preparing the procedure and putting it all together.

    'I made sure the gas chamber was working, made sure maintenance was done on it. I prepared in that manner.

    'I also practiced in running the lethal gas. We had a chemical engineer from Indiana who would come in and measure the toxicity of the lethal gas inside the chamber.'

    'I didn't receive any training, but I prepared myself. I didn't need the department to help me with anything.'

    He killed two inmates by lethal gas - Robert Alton Harris and David Edwin Mason.

    The gas chamber was never as popular as the electric chair in the United States but was used widely in Arizona, Wyoming, Missouri, Mississippi and California.

    Still, it was considered the most expensive and most dangerous way to kill an inmate.

    The prisoner, strapped into a metal chair inside a tiny chamber, waits as potassium cyanide pellets are dropped into a bath of sulfuric acid below. The chemical reaction would generate fumes of lethal hydrogen cyanide.

    As a result, the inmate would then suffer terribly before dying of hypoxia, a form of oxygen starvation

    Harris, who killed two teenage boys in San Diego in 1978, was originally scheduled at 12.01am on April 21, 1992.

    He finished his last meal - a 21-piece bucket of Kentucky Fried Chicken, two large Domino's pizzas, a bag of jelly beans, a six-pack of Pepsi, and a pack of Camel cigarettes - before he was led into the death chamber.

    But a series of four stays of execution issued by 9th circuit appeal court delayed the execution until just after 6am.

    At one point he was strapped into his seat in the gas chamber when the phone rang. According to witnesses, he urged the prison guards to get over and done with, but they couldn't.

    Moments later, the guards opened the doors and Alton Harris became the first prisoner to leave the gas chamber at San Quentin alive - even if it was for just a short time.

    Aside from the delays execution was however remembered for his bizarre choice of last words:

    He said: 'You can be a king or a street sweeper, but everybody dances with the grim reaper,'[12] a misquotation of a line from the 1991 film Bill & Ted's Bogus Journey.

    Vasquez said he was frustrated by the constant delays, but when it came to it, the prisoner was killed without an issue.

    David Edwin Mason, who murdered four elderly people in 1980 and his cellmate in 1982, would be the last person in California to be put to death by lethal gas.

    His execution was far smoother, as he kept his vow not to go through any final appeals.

    Instead of having a traditional last meal, he instead opted to dine with his family on sandwiches provided by the prison.

    When Mason was in the chamber, Vasquez asked if he wanted to proceed, knowing that his attorney could stop the execution at any time.

    But Mason refused.

    He died on August 24, 1993, 12 months before a federal judge said the execution method constituted cruel and unusual punishment.

    It would be the last execution Vasquez carried out, but a year later he was invited to watch the lethal injection procedure in Texas.

    As a witness, he returned and offered his advice to the then California Attorney General Dan Lungren, on the new method that has been used to kill inmates ever since.

    Despite his involvement in the controversial system, Vasquez insists capital punishment hasn't had a damaging impact on his life.

    'They don't haunt me. I didn't put the inmates on the row, they put themselves on their with their actions.

    'I have never received any complaints from my execution team nor from the department of corrections in California.

    'I have never received any kind of disability initiation for participating in the executions.

    'It hasn't affected my life at all.'

    Capital punishment in the United States is still frequently part of political debates. Recently, Virginia's legislature said they were bringing back the electric chair as a back-up way to kill inmates.

    Vasquez says it will never happen because of the courts, but insists he is still for capital punishment.

    'I'm for the executions. I would be a hypocrite if I wasn't'.

    But he does believe that a sentence of life without parole is more punishment than an execution.

    'In California there hasn't been an execution in ten years. It is held up in the courts right now.

    'The policy of the state of California is the death penalty.

    'The citizens of the state of California have been asked on three different occasions on a ballot if they wanted to do away with capital punishment in California.

    'Three times they have voted for the death penalty. I don't have any problems with the death penalty. But I don't have any problems with life without the possibility of parole either.'

    There hasn't been an execution in California since 2006, when Clarence Ray Allen was put to death by lethal injection.

    Legal cases and problems with the lethal injection procedure led to a moratorium being signed in California. As capital punishment was brought to a halt, the death row population swelled

    A quarter of condemned inmates in the United States currently sit on death row in California.

    Now, it has been lifted, and some of the 764 rapists, murderers and kidnappers on death row are facing their sentence.

    Seven have been there since the 1970s.

    It could be at least a year until California puts another inmate to death, but Vasquez thinks the questions surrounding the death penalty will prevail, and will never be answered.

    'Attorneys are always raising issues. It's like the question a philosopher once posed: 'How many angels can dance on the head of a pin.

    'It is a question that can never be answered, but is a question that will always exist.

    'Does it hurt when they execute you? How many angels dance on the head of a pin?'

    Now, Vasquez is a consultant, and still has a role in the whole execution process.

    He said: 'When your watch is over at San Quentin then you don't do anymore executions.

    'Now the closest I get to any issue of executions is when I testify in the penalty phase of capital trial in California.

    'What that requires is for me to educate the jury that is going to make the decision on an inmate who has been charged with a capital crime.

    'Whether to sentence them to death or sentence them to life without the possibility of parole.'

    He explains to the jury what prisons in the California state system are like, and how life without parole will impact a prisoner.

    'The defense usually hire me,' he added. 'It does not involve pros or cons. It only involves educating the jury on all the policies involved in incarcerating a prisoner'

    Vasquez also does a variety of consulting on prisons. He has testified on death in custody, either by suicide or at the hands of the prison guards.

    He has also been involved in informing prisons on how to avoid escapes.

    In January, four inmates managed to flee the Orange County Central Jail through the roof.

    They went on the run for almost a week before they were spotted and captured.

    Vasquez slammed the prison, claiming their regime, the decision to lock the criminals together and the fact they left so long between headcounts, was the cause of their escape.

    We all live in a clown world.

  6. #6
    Senior Member CnCP Legend Mike's Avatar
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    Meet the Texas warden who supervised the most executions

    HUNTSVILLE, Texas -- People against the death penalty protest outside the Walls Unit in Huntsville, Texas.

    It’s execution day, and there have been no last minute reprieves.

    "I don't think we've ever executed an innocent person,” said retired warden Charles Thomas O’Reilly.

    The condemned killer now walks to the death chamber, knowing nothing can save him now.

    “Myself and the chaplain, we're in the death house with the inmate,” O’Reilly explained.

    It’s a process O'Reilly knows intimately.

    Between 2004 and 2010, O’Reilly supervised 140 executions. The retired warden says each one was different.

    “We had one guy that got in there, and he cracked jokes the whole time he was in there,” O’Reilly said.
    Among those executions, one was a woman, Frances Newton, in 2005.

    “She didn’t give us any trouble. We treated her with as much dignity as we would anybody else that would be in there,” O’Reilly said.

    He also watched over the execution of one of the most notorious criminals in Texas history: Angel Resendiz, the so-called “railroad killer” who traveled the country by rail, killing as many as 14 people, including Dr. Claudia Benton of West University Place.

    “These are evil people,” O’Reilly said. “While I believe there's a lot of good in the world, there's also evil in the world."

    O’Reilly says he sleeps well at night -- no nightmares, no regrets.
    “If you’re a warden at the Walls, you're gonna preside over executions,” O’Reilly said. “If that’s a problem for you, don't take the job."

    On the day of execution, the prisoner would be brought to Huntsville from death row in Livingston. O'Reilly would meet with the prisoner that afternoon, explain the process to him or her, and as the final hour approached, he would say, “It’s time.”

    A team of guards would strap the inmate into the gurney and then, IVs would be inserted into his arms.

    O’Reilly’s would be the last voice the condemned would ever hear.

    After that, by remote control, O’Reilly would turn on a light in another room where someone whose identity would be kept secret started the flow of drugs.

    “He makes his final statement and then he goes to sleep,” O’Reilly explained.

    The retiree looks back at his career and says supervising more executions than any warden in Texas history is not what he wants to be remembered by.

    O’Reilly says he'd rather be remembered as a good and fair warden who was just doing his job.

    We all live in a clown world.

  7. #7
    Senior Member CnCP Legend Mike's Avatar
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    Here is a three part series from the BBC from interviews with the former Texas Department of Corrections spokesperson (1995-2005) Larry Fitzgerald.




    If you want to read more about Fitzgerald and his ten years on the job you can read it here.


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