Contemporary Portrait Artist



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Reclaiming Childhood

Death Row

About Claire




The Human Face of the Death Penalty - Soundtrack Transcripts

The exhibition is accompanied by a sound track of interviews with the subjects of some of the portraits and an audio recording of the narration of an execution of a death row inmate.

Kathleen Hawk Norman - Foreperson of a capital case jury 

Dan Bright - Exonerated death row inmate

Robert Elliott - Brother of executed inmate

Execution Tapes Commentary on the execution of Ivon Stanley

Pauline Matthews - Mother of exonerated death row inmate

Don Cabana - Prison warden and executioner

Bill Wiseman - Legislator for introduction of lethal injection 

Marietta Jaeger Lane - Mother of murdered child

Clive Stafford Smith - Capital case lawyer


Kathleen Hawk Norman - Foreperson of a capital case jury 

Kathleen: As I say, I didn’t really know where I stood on the death penalty but I knew that it was the law. But of course at that time I really believed that the system…basically worked, you know. You know, I believed what we’ve all been told, which is – it’s the best system in the world, you know. But Dan had no defence at all, I mean this guy was just…if he wasn’t drunk during the trial he was at least severely hung over, I mean, he was really bad, and-

Mike: the defence lawyer that was?

Kathleen: Yes, yes. And he has since died of his drinking problems. But there’s a weird circular logic that happened in the jury room and that was - if no defence was presented it must be because there is no defence. And if there is no defence it must be because the guy is guilty. And,  you know, the whole setup of the courtroom is geared, first of all you’re invited there by the state, not by the defence.

There’s one side of the room where the jury sits and on that side there are the prosecutors and the police officers, you know, suits and uniforms, law and order over here, and then on the other side you’ve got this, you know, one guy and his defence lawyer and, you know, there’s nothing on their side of the room. So, you know, the whole idea of the presumption of innocence is sort of already skewed, you know.

So it’s kind of shameful for me, you know, to admit this, and of course, you know, I’ve read the transcripts, you know, five hundred times since the trial but - and now I can see all kinds of things that I just didn’t notice, you know, when I was in there and part of its because, you know, they use fear and hysteria, you know, and, you know, and so for example, you know, they showed us the bloody t-shirt that Murray Barnes died in. And, you know, that’s very inflammatory, you know, it in no way connected Dan to the crime, but they parade this bloody t-shirt around and, you know, the jury starts to feel like – somebody has to pay for that!

You know, and there’s only one guy in the room that is available to…to pay for it! And it happened to be Dan Bright. Dan didn’t testify and we found that difficult. And when we, when we sentenced him to guilt, then they went into the sentencing phase. And in the sentencing phase, the people who testified for Dan, his mother, and what Rose said on the stand, and we’ve since become, you know,  very friendly, but,  what she said on the stand was, you know, please don’t execute my son, I’ve already lost one of my sons has…has already died. And, you know, was killed on the streets, and, you know, at least allow me to visit my remaining son. Well, you know, something again happens to the jury while we’re thinking – well, this must be a bad family, you know, these must be bad people. One kid’s already dead, and again that’s not right, but a good defence attorney would point that out and say that has nothing to do with this. And, of course, his defence attorney said nothing.

The other person who testified was the mother of his twin girls and, I remember those girls so clearly, I mean they were, you know, adorable little toddlers, you know, all dressed up and cute in the court room. And, you know, when…when she got up there  she was, you know, angry, and, you know, arms crossed and she’s, you know, scowling at everybody, well, you know, I think back on it know and I think, you know, the father of her children was being wrongfully convicted; of course she was angry! But, what we took it as was something very different, you know, and I don’t think there was any preparation done with her to, you know, to soften that and make her feel human. Nobody did anything to make Dan feel human, you know. So it was kind of all done in the abstract, if that makes any sense. You know, there was no real face on this other than the murder victim. Ok. The entire trial, including selecting the jury, from the time that we started the selection of the jury until the time that I stood in open court and said…that I sentence this man to death, was a day and a half.   

Four years later, on a Saturday morning I get a knock on the door, and, its one of Clive’s lawyers and, and then they told me that they believe Dan to be innocent. I just felt like I’d been hit by, you know, a truck. I just thought – innocent? And, and,  then, even then, I wasn’t really angry because I thought – ok, well, we made a mistake, you know, we just go back to the court and we tell the court that we made a mistake and they’ll fix it, ‘cause this is the system that works, right? So I went back to testify in one of the post-conviction hearings. And, we went back in more procedural stuff and, and I testified a second time. Um, and I was blown off the second time too. And Clive brought a motion for bias, you know, just saying that this judge can’t be trusted, he obviously has bias here. The judge ruled on that himself, (laughter) and he said, ‘there is no bias’, and he dismissed the motion.

By the time that they had, that, that Ben came to my house, Clive had already gotten the Supreme Court to overturn the death sentence. So Dan was now sentenced to life, he was off of death row he’d been four years there and then he was off of death row. But now we’re looking at life imprisonment for an innocent guy! And this was just haunting me, you know, just haunting me. And, and so it was, you know, six more years of continually fighting.

So, when we finally got the Supreme Court to say to, to the prosecution - either retry this guy or let him go, because there’s so many errors here that, you know, this, this can’t stand, and so then we had to go back to the trial court judge, again, and they continued to fight us. And it took, it took several more tries after that and then finally the judge told the prosecution that they either had to make a decision to, to retry Dan or, you know, to let, to release him. And so they finally released him, but, so that was the first time I got to have contact with him. And, and Clive waved to me and called me up to the front of the court room and he said, ‘I think there’s somebody here that you wanna meet.’ And it was very emotional, even when I think about it now it’s very emotional. And Dan was, you know, shackled, you know, ankles and his, to his waist with his wrists, and his ankles were shackled. I went to shake his hand, which of course he could do, and so he took my hand in, in his hands and, um, and he said, ‘none of this is on you’, you know, ‘you didn’t do anything wrong. You were a victim like I was a victim.’ And, you know, we both stood there crying, and, and then we sat outside of the court room like that for a few minutes. And, we were talking and he said that, don’t forget about the others, that they’re still there. And, I thought, ok, well, this is bigger than just me and Dan, I’m gonna have to get more involved, you know.

So, that’s when I got involved in this building, and I’m now chair of the board of the innocence project and, and so, and I started an organisation – jurors for justice. And I’ve worked with other jurors in wrongful convictions around the country. Sort of advocacy work, counselling work with other traumatised jurors because I, believe me; every juror on a capital case is traumatised. Even if they, you know, believed as I did, that they sent- that they did the right thing. You know, they’re traumatised, it’s a horrible responsibility, to hold somebody’s life in your hand like that.

Claire: So what was it that convinced you- when Clive came and said actually he’s innocent, now you probably would have taken some convincing, you wouldn’t just take his word on that. Was it just that he showed you that there was no evidence or was there actual?

Kathleen: No, there was specific stuff like, for example, there was a FBI document, that… that said that Dan didn’t do it. And it actually named the real killer. And, and the judge knew about that document, the prosecution knew about that document, and the defence attorney knew about that document before the trial and nobody ever introduced that document. So, when I saw that document, and it was all, you know, redacted, it was all blacked out, except for, you know, one line that said, you know, the murder committed-, the murder of Murray Barnes was not committed by Dan Bright it was committed by – all blacked out again; so there was no name on there. So, we sued the federal government, and the, federal judge that looked at that said, you know, the prosecution said, you know, we can’t, you know, there’s sensitive security information in there. We can’t possibly release that information, and the judge said, ‘it’s also information that says the wrong guy’s in jail. So, you know, give me the in, the whole document, without any black marks. I’ll read it. If I think that the defence deserves this information then I’ll give it to them.’ And he did. And he gave it to us. And so, you know, that gave us the, the guys name who actually did the killing. That guy was never, um…arrested, never tried, never…nothing. He’s still out there on the streets he’s…

Claire: What’s the agenda behind that then? If they knew it was another guy, why did they carry on?

Kathleen: They didn’t like Dan.

Claire: They just thought, he’s a bad kid (Kathleen: right), we’ll get him off the streets (Kathleen: right), it doesn’t matter whether he did it or not.

Kathleen: right, right. They knew he didn’t do it. So the police didn’t like him, at all. Um, but in- its- they just wanted him off the streets, you know, they just, you know, so they’ll tag him with this and…

Mike: If they couldn’t get him for what he was up to they’ll get him with something else?

Kathleen: That’s exactly right. Yeah, that’s exactly right and that’s not the way our system’s supposed to work. But that happens a lot. And, you know, in our, you know, a lot of it is obviously is institutional racism. You know, one black guy behind bars is as good as another, you know, as, you know, put ‘em all behind bars, you know, that’ll make our society safer, you know. But, you know, when you look at it, I mean, you know, the innocence project has one white client, one. All of our clients are black. And, you know, Louisiana incarcerates more people per capita than any state in the union. So if we have the highest incarceration rate, then surely we have the highest innocence rate. And we have thousands of cases on backlog, thousands of cases. That we can’t get to just because we don’t have the money or the people. 

It was just horrible. And then for it to go on for so many years.

Claire: Ten years.

Kathleen: Yeah. and, you know, just, you know, every time thinking, you know, this is… somebody has just gotta see how wrong this is, I mean. And why are they so invested in this decision, you know? I mean, why does it matter to them so much? Why is it so personal? Because it was personal, I mean, you know, the district attorneys, it was very personal with them. And, you know, with the judge it was personal, and, you know, and I just, you know, I think…I’m thinking why doesn’t anybody-, why isn’t anybody concerned about… the truth? You know, why is it just the conviction rate? And here are the citizens, you know, with all of these thousands of people in prison and we’re all walking around thinking how much safer we are because they’re in prison. Unfortunately, Tracey Davis, who committed the murder, is walking the streets, and Dan Bright, who didn’t, is behind bars! How does that make us safer?  

Kathleen: When Dan and I, the first time that we went out? I took him to lunch one day and we, you know, we talked, this is several weeks after he was out. And, and I said, you know, I just need to ask you because, you know, and I hope that this isn’t painful for you, but, you know, what…what is, what did you feel like? You know, being sentenced to death, I mean, knowing that you were innocent, you know, what does… you know, what…what does that mean? And he said, ‘it saved my life’. And, you know, if he had been sentenced to life, he never would have met Clive. Because Clive was only doing death penalty.

Claire: So, he would have still been in the prison for life?

Kathleen: So, he would still be there. He would still be there now.

Claire: There’s an irony in that isn’t there?

Kathleen: Isn’t it.

Claire: Yeah

Kathleen: And, you know, and I’ve talked about that a lot in- in the speeches that I’ve done in that ironic way. The guys that are sentenced to death are the lucky ones, because they get an automatic appeal. Somebody works on it. If you’re sentenced to life, you’re just done. Unless you can afford to hire a lawyer, and they wouldn’t be there if they could’ve afforded to hire a decent lawyer to begin with! You know, people with money don’t get sentenced to death and they don’t get sentenced to life, you know, it just doesn’t happen. There’s a very famous quote of a man, who was in fact executed, and he said that…that, ‘the reality of capital punishment is the people with the capital don’t get punished.’ That was right before the state killed him.

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Dan Bright - Exonerated death row inmate

Claire: Tell us about your story, Dan. It must have been really…

Dan: Horrifying?

Claire: Yeah

Dan: Yeah, I don’t know where I’ll start. I think I should start with the judge. This judge wouldn’t do nothing to right a wrong – we had to really force him, even though he knew ahead of time. It’s like, in order for me to paint you a picture I would have to put you in like an average size of bathroom – that’s my cell. My cell was the size of an average size bathroom and I stayed there for 23 hours a day. I’d only come out for one hour a day. I did this for 5 years.

Kathleen: That’s standard on death row that they have 23 hours a day in their cell.

Dan: I would come out for an hour walk up and down the hall, take a shower use the phone and then go back in. The only thing that really kept me sane was that I knew I had people, family, you know lawyers who … You know it’s like if you have hope you don’t give up. A lot of guys gave up and I witnessed that and I didn’t - even though I knew the dice was stacked against me even coming off death row – I never gave up. I knew a guy that was given execution dates and I never put that in my mind that I was going to go through that and I didn’t. Thank God.

Kathleen: Was anybody executed when you were there?

Dan: A guy… 2 guys …Dobie. A guy was executed maybe like a week before I got there. Another guy - a black guy – came out of the …

Kathleen: And you were in there when he was executed?

Dan: Yes

Kathleen: I’ve never asked you that question. What did that feel like?

Dan: I tried to block it out. If you don’t entertain… this is what I was saying, that if you don’t entertain in your mind what you might have to entertain yourself and you don’t want that so I tried to always breathe and just block it out. I wouldn’t really never have hope. I never put myself in the same category as these guys because I didn’t belong there so I was, like, looking at it from a positive point of view. I only got familiar with two guys – I didn’t really want to get familiar with anyone because I didn’t want to see them die. I didn’t have anything to do with them. The two guys I got kind of cool with they had just come so I knew they had a way to go before they were executed. I tried to distance myself from all that. I’m not a very emotional guy so I tried to stay away from all of that. 

It’s just this corrupt system. I was in the wrong place at the wrong time. They not only lied to the jurors, they lied to the public, period. This thing went on for pretty much… they made it seem like I was this type of … type of guy. My last name was not… (inaudible)… so why would she go through all that for me? But as time went on I realised that you tell a lie you gotta tell another lie to cover that lie up so before they could admit they was wrong they had to keep doing what they were doing. And the jury admitted they were wrong and the DA’s admitted they were wrong and we still can’t find … but she knew.

Kathleen: She quit practicing law.

Dan: And I heard that David…(inaudible)… got in trouble in…(inaudible)… while he was there. He came in and said it was her fault and she hid the evidence that he couldn’t find it ... it was just …People go on and on and on about my case but it’s just… Even when the third court told Dennis Waldron to give me a new trial he refused to do it. Even when they realised they was wrong they still didn’t give me a new trial, they still didn’t cut me loose, they just downgraded my charge to “Life”. That’s still a death sentence to me – it’s just a slow death sentence. I don’t know if they thought I was gonna be happy with that or take that and run – go “I’m happy I’m off death row” but why would I accept that if I didn’t do anything. And it didn’t get any better for me to go from death row to population because now I’m in population with all these crazy… you know you’ve got some guys in prison who belongs in prison. Big old guys, you know what I’m saying, this guy gotta get raped, get stabbed, I witnessed a guy get burnt up, a guy threw gas on him in his sleep. And I’m sitting here looking at them, like, I don’t belong with them.

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Robert Elliott - Brother of executed inmate

Robert: What you come to realise that the state of Texas…everything is about process, you know. A long time ago, we had an attorney general for the state, his name was Daniel Morales, a Mexican American and, he’s now in jail right now for fraud. They said, ‘they’ve got this evidence here that might prove this…this person on death row innocent don’t you think you should, you know, postpone the execution until we can, you know.’ And, his statement was, ‘it doesn’t, it doesn’t matter, he got a fair trial.’ And that right there, I think, more than anything else just… just delineated the philosophy of the state, it’s about process. I always thought the justice system was about justice, you know, how much, I mean, how much is too much to spend? Or how much time is too much time to take? Before, you know… you commit such a finality on a person, you know, and the sad part about it is, if you make a mistake, there’s no correcting it.

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The Execution Tapes

The Execution Tapes is an audio recording of a commentary of the execution of Ivon Ray Stanley is played as part of the soundtrack to this exhibition. This is a telephone conversation between department of corrections officials in Atlanta and the prison personnel in a room adjacent to the death chamber. The main speaker is Willis Marable, an assistant to the warden at the Georgia Diagnostic and Classification Prison. Marable watches the execution through a one-way mirror and describes exactly what happens.

Speaker 1: This is a recording of the execution of Ivon Ray Stanley EF103603, July the twelfth nineteen-eighty-four.

Marable: Colonel Low, Mickey?

Speaker 2: Yes

Marable: The witnesses are now entering the witness room.

Speaker 2: Okay

Marable: The state witnesses have entered the witness room and have seated themselves on the front row. At this time the news media witnesses are entering. All witnesses have arrived and have seated.

Speaker 2: Let’s proceed. We can proceed if you’re ready.

Marable: Colonel Low, Mickey, the warden has entered the execution chamber at this time. Approaching the microphone and is in the process of briefing all witnesses to remain quiet and to avoid any unnecessary movement. He is also advising them that medical assistance is available if needed. (Background talking) The warden, at this time, is in the process of confirming all witnesses. All witnesses have been confirmed. The warden is in the process of advising all witnesses that we will now proceed with the court order of execution of Ivon Stanley. Mickey, Colonel Low?

Speaker 2: Yes

Marable:  We’re still waiting for the execution team members to bring him in to the execution chamber. Colonel Low, Mickey? The execution team is now in the process of escorting the condemned into the execution chamber. He is walking, unassisted, he walks straight to the chair and has seated himself at it. One of the execution team members is now in the process of securing the back strap. The other members are in the process of securing the arm straps and leg straps. The back strap is secure at this time. Both arm straps are secure at this time; they’re still in the process of securing the leg straps. At this time, the condemned has been secured in the chair, he is not moving, he is just sitting out there, passively staring out at the witnesses.

The superintendent has afforded the condemned an opportunity to make a last statement. He has declined to make a last statement. He has afforded the opportunity for prayer, he declined this also. The warden is now in the process of reading the essential court order to the witnesses and to the condemned.

Ralph Kemp: The court has (inaudible) the defendant, Ivon Ray Stanley, on the 15th of January, 1977, in accordance to the laws of Georgia

Marable: The condemned is still sitting there very passively, no movements, staring out into the witnesses. The superintendent is still in the process of reading the court order to the condemned.

At this time the superintendent has completed reading the essential court order. The execution team members are now entering the execution chamber with the head set and the leg band. One member is in the process of securing the leg band to the fleshy part of the inmate’s right leg. Two members of the execution team are in the process of securing the head set to the condemned. The condemned has offered no resistance throughout; he’s just sitting there, very passively, not moving. The leg band has been secured to the condemned’s right leg and also the head set has been secured to his head. Perspiration is now being wiped from the forehead of the condemned, and he is secure and ready for execution, with the exception of the hood being placed over his head and the wires being attached to the leg band and to the head set. The electrician now has entered the execution chamber and is in the process of securing the wire to the head set.

Speaker 3: They’re moving very well. It must be time to do it right now.

Speaker 2: Marable (yes sir!) stand still. Mickey? Put William Hill on.

William Hill: Hello?

Speaker 2: William? Ok, the Attorney General’s here

William Hill: Ok

Michael Bowers: Bill, it’s Mike

William Hill: Yep

Michael Bowers: Have you got any reason why the execution shouldn’t be carried out.

William Hill: No I don’t.

Michael Bowers: Thank you

Marable: Colonel Low

Colonel Low: Yes

Marable: Mickey, the wires have been attached and secured to the head set and to the leg band. The perspiration has been wiped again from the condemned’s forehead and the hood is being placed on at this time. The face hood has been secured, all of…, the warden and all of the execution team member have departed the execution chamber. Stand by for the warden’s last telephone check.

Colonel Low: Ralph, this is the commissioner.

Ralph Kemp: Yes, sir.

Colonel Low: There are no stays. You can proceed to carry out the official order of the court.

Ralph Kemp: Very well. On my count of three press your button. One…two…three.

Marable: Colonel Low?

Colonel Low: Yes

Marable: Mickey? The execution is now in progress, the…when the first…surge entered his body he stiffened and I heard a ‘pop’ as if one of the straps broke but I can’t tell from this vantage point. He is still, at this time, sitting there with clenched fists with no other movement. He’s slowly relaxing, at this time. The first phase of execution is completed we are now into the second phase. The second phase is completed at this time; we are now into the third and final stage. From my vantage point it seems that the inmate has relaxed somewhat, his fists are still clenched but there’s no movement from the condemned. There’s still no movement from the individual he’s still just sitting there. Third phase in execution is completed we’re now into the five minutes lapse time. It appeared when the execution was completed and the power was off, he relaxed somewhat more than he was. It is pretty visible that he relaxed even more than what it seemed before.

Speaker 2: Any reaction from the witnesses?

Marable: They’re sitting very still just observing. No, I see one or two of the media writing notes, taking notes, but other than that they’re just sitting staring out into the execution chamber. We have completed one minute of the five minute lapse time. Colonel Low, Mickey?

Speaker 2: Yeah

Marable: We have now completed two minutes of the five minutes lapse time. There’s still no…, very little movement from any of the witnesses, no one even taking notes at this time. They’re just sitting there staring into the execution chamber. Colonel Low, Mickey?

Speaker 2: Yes

Marable: We have now completed three minutes of the five minutes lapse time. Colonel Low?

Colonel Low: Yes

Marable: There’s nothing to report on the witnesses they’re still just sitting there, very still, looking into the execution chamber.

Speaker 3: Approaching the fourth minute now, alright?

Marable: Yes sir. We have now completed four minutes, one minute remaining.

Speaker 4: Are we about ready to go in?

Speaker 3: We’ve got a few more seconds.

Marable: Colonel Low, Mickey?    

Colonel Low: Yes

Marable: We have now completed five minutes lapse time. Standby for the… the doctors are now preparing to enter the execution chamber to check for life signs. One of the physicians is now in the process of doing this. The first physician is still in the process of checking for life signs. The first physician has completed his examination; the second is now in the process of making his check. The second doctor has now completed his examination; the third and final doctor is in the process of making his check. The examination is completed. Standby for the superintendent's ‘time of death’ and ‘confirmation of death’. The superintendent has advised all witnesses the death has occurred at 12:24 this day. He has instructed all witnesses to depart the witness room and to be transported back to the front of the institution; the curtains are drawn at this time. Colonel Low? Mickey?

Colonel Low: Yes

Marable: That completes it.

Colonel Low: Marable, see if you can find out what that snap, pop, bit you were talking about a while ago.

Marable: I think it was just the electricity arc, I don’t think any strap broke or anything, he just  jerked real hard and cause the electricity to arc.

Colonel Low: Ok

Marable: They have removed the hood, the face hood, and are in the process now of taking or removing the head set. The head set has been removed. The electrician is now in the process of removing the electrical wires from the leg band. The execution team members are now in the process of removing the straps. The stretcher has been brought in, to place the inmate’s body on once they have removed him from the chair. (Dialling tones) ok, the electrical wire has been removed from the condemned’s right leg he has been removed from the electric chair, at this time, and then placed on the stretcher. He is being removed from the execution chamber, at this time, and the execution team members are taking him to the autopsy room. That’s all I can see, Colonel Low.

Colonel Low: Is the warden available?

Marable: Just a minute.

Ralph Kemp: Hello?

Colonel Low: Your staff did an excellent job, we appreciate it very much.

Ralph Kemp: Ok, but we had a little bit of a scare. I don’t know if they relayed it to you or not?             

Colonel Low: The pop.

Ralph Kemp: The popping sound.

Colonel Low: Yes

Ralph Kemp: We were thinking that what happened was, because he sat there for that three minutes, that the water in the sponge on his leg ran out – rather by his foot. And we’re thinking it was just like a little bolt of lightening.

Colonel Low: Did you see anything?

Ralph Kemp: No. They said, Colonel Hardison and the other people in the witness room said they didn't see anything like that. Now, I still feel good about it, really.

Colonel Low: It ran too smooth, Ralph, but don't screw it up next time.

Ralph Kemp: OK.

Colonel Low: Mike Bowers wants to say something now.

Ralph Kemp: OK.

Michael Bowers: Ralph. I second what Dave said. Very smooth job.

Ralph Kemp: OK. We appreciate it. Give us another one.

Michael Bowers: Thank you, Ralph

Ralph Kemp: OK. Thank you

Colonel Low: Marable?

Ralph Kemp: Just a second, Colonel.

Marable: Colonel Low?

Colonel Low: Marable?

Marable: Yes, sir.

Colonel Low: I want to thank you.

Marable: You're quite welcome, sir. Anytime.

Colonel Low: Good night.

Marable: Good night, sir.

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Pauline Matthews - Mother of exonerated death row inmate

Mike: Was there ever a point that you thought – my god, they’re gonna kill my boy? Did you ever get to that point where you thought it might really happen?

Pauline: You know, I thought it and I had hope, hope was what kept me alive. ‘cause, you know, I felt like when Clive and them came in, you know, Clive told me in the beginning that if Ryan had to go to death row, and he did, that was the best place. If he had to go to prison, death row was the best place for him, because he wasn’t with the population, being so young. And so he told me, he said, ‘but believe me, nobody’s gonna die’. You know, and I believed him. He said nobody, you know, you don’t have to worry about that, he told me that about a week after the trial he met with me at his house. And he said, ‘nobody’s gonna die’. And, you know, I believed that, you know, you even though Ryan wasn’t that old and went through a lot of changes and stuff, you know, and had hope and I had faith.

Mike: So how did you feel when you saw Clive and his colleagues turning up in court?

Pauline: Like, the heavens opened up and these people came to save us. I’m serious because everything changed. When they came in the court room… you know, like it was a lot of… you could feel the prejudice, you could feel that they were playing, they were… they were doing all kind of things. You know, it was like…all these people against you, you know, the detectives, the police, everybody, even your own attorneys, you know, it felt like… you had nothing. And when these people came up in there it was like the heavens opened up, and everything changed. We wasn’t able to talk to Ryan - they were able to go up there and talk to Ryan. You know the whole scene in the courtroom changed. It’s like, you know, they had, you know, like they were just… they had respect for these people. They knew, like they were on their p’s and q’s cause, you know, and I guess they were… I, I guess they know who they were. You know, because I almost didn’t know, I didn’t know who they were until, you know, they got there, I didn’t know they were coming. But, it was a whole different scene, it’s like, you had people behind you, you had support. They came and they stayed… they were with us, from that time till then end.

Claire: How long then did it take…from the time they came in ‘til the time they got Ryan out?

Pauline: It took…Ryan was convicted in…he stayed on death row…five years.

Claire: So it took another five years – wow, seven years of his life.

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Don Cabana - Prison warden and executioner

Don: And this is where some of the surrealism really just jumps out at you, you have to go and sit down and have a conversation with the inmate and say, ‘you need to tell me what your family’s plans are for claiming your body, or should we plan on giving you a funeral and burying you here, in the prison cemetery?’. What an odd thing to have to discuss with some twenty-six year old kid, you know. And then there’s the…the infamous, ‘what do you want for a final meal?’ routine. You have to decide what the ground rules are gonna be for his final visits with family and dealing with the family is challenging, you know. In Evans’ case his mother and father, he came from a, a really good family and, you know, the hardest thing was to have to tell a mother that it was time to say a final goodbye to her son. And when I told her that Sunday before the execution that it was time she came over and she rested her hand on my arm and she said, ‘I…I’ve known you now for six years and I know you’re a good person and I know you have children of your own, please don’t…don’t kill my child’. And, that’s…that’s…that’s difficult. 

Wardens also, I think, deep down inside they secretly hope for absolution from the…from the inmate. And that’s important because I think, at least my experience, was that every time I executed somebody it was like a little bit of me was dying along with them. And had any of the inmates that I knew well and had gotten close to and executed, failed to give me absolution it would have left me with a very empty, empty feeling.  

It’s interesting that in the last ten years you’ve had several Supreme Court justices who, after they retire, say, you know, ‘I’m greatly troubled by the death penalty’. Not, not on moral grounds, necessarily, but in terms of the cases that I handled in the Supreme Court that came to me, the process of who gets the death penalty, who goes to death row? It ought to be troubling to know that if your black and your victim is white, you’re four times more likely to get a death sentence, ok. Death row is pretty much fifty-fifty black-white, but the problem with that…and folks will say, ‘see, you know, they’re… they’re not the majority’. They only represent fourteen per cent of the American population, you know, but they constitute fifty per cent of death row, and they constitute over fifty per cent of the prison population. You’d think that Americans would have already taken a step back and said, ‘you know what, Jesus, the Governor of Illinois says that fourteen people went to death row mistakenly, on his watch. We, we need to stop and take a look at this system’. That hasn’t happened.   

I walked out into the lobby yesterday to go across to the other side and this black gentleman was sitting out there and he said, ‘Warden, can I talk to you for a minute?’. He said, ‘you won’t remember me’, he said. ‘The first institution you ever ran,’ he said, ‘you were so baby-faced, I, I thought to myself, you have no business being a warden ‘cause you’re not much older than I am.’ And he said, ‘I was one of the first prisoners to come in there when they opened it up.’ And he said ‘that’s the only time I ever got in trouble in my life,’ and he said, ‘I want you to know that I have always followed your career, and I’ve always been so proud for you.’ And he said, ‘I just wanted to tell you after thirty years, I never had a chance to tell you thank you for what you did.’ And I said, ‘I didn’t do anything.’ And he said, ‘Yes you did. You treated me like a human being and you gave me a chance’. And so once in a while, you know, you don’t know it most of the time, but you do make a difference. And, and that’s what makes this job so interesting. And there are people who change their lives and you like to see that.

I was on a TV programme in New York one time and this lady from Texas was there and her daughter and son-in-law had been murder victims in a robbery. And she had attended the execution of the guy that…that murdered them. And she said to me, she said, ‘I’m catholic like you, but (she said) I don’t understand how you can, how you can take the position that you do. She said are you, are you just, do you just blindly follow, what some bishop tells you?’ and I said, ‘no. I said as a matter of fact, I tell you when I was a warden and I would talk with my bishop about this execution stuff, and, you know, his thing was, the church doesn’t dictate to somebody what they should believe. It…it…encourages you to form some conscience about it and, and make decisions. But I think it’s the churches responsibility to among other things to say here’s the churches position, and, you know, hope that folks understand the position and see the value in it.’ And she said, ‘well, I, you know, I consider myself to be a good practicing catholic, but I don’t buy this hog-wash about these guys all being spared and so on.’ I said, ‘well I can understand, your personal experience is very different.’ And she said, ‘besides that, she said executions are important to bring closure to the victim’s family’. And I said, ‘well, you know, that’s interesting because I said I’ve had to deal with victims’ families and, I’ve watched. And I said you know, I’ve never seen one walk away from an execution satisfied. They didn’t find what they were looking for and, in some respects, they left with more baggage, emotional baggage’. And she said, ‘no, not in my case. That’s absolutely not true’.

Well, ten or fifteen minutes later she came back and she said, ‘I know you’ll be able to understand this as a catholic yourself, she said, every night she said I wish I could commit suicide so I could be with my daughter and son-in-law again but I can’t, because it’s against the churches rules. So, she said every night I pray that I’ll die during the night’. And I just looked at her, and I know I sounded probably cruel at the time, but I was just kinda stunned. I said, ‘honey, that doesn’t sound like the emotional closure you were talking about. That’s, that’s not emotional closure, that’s terribly painful.’  

In the case of Edward Earl Johnson, because he insisted on his innocence and prison officials are used to hearing that all the time. But where a death roe prisoner’s concerned, once they, they know they’re gonna be executed, you know, invariably what happens is, I mean, they’re not gonna jump up and say, ‘well, Halleluiah I might as well ‘fess up, tell the truth, I did it’. They will say that…in, in…in their way, you know, if they, if they say, ‘warden, would you apologise to the victim’s family for me’, well hell, if you didn’t do it then there’s nothing to apologise for. Or, ‘tell my momma I’m sorry’. You know, um, but in Edward’s case, you know, he, when I asked him if he had any final words, you know, he, his statement was, ‘I’m innocent. I haven’t been able to make anybody listen to me or believe me, and warden, you know, in a few minutes your about to become a murderer’.

Well, you know, there’s a certain amount of role play that goes on too and inmates and prison staff alike sometimes think they’re supposed to play these macho roles to the very end, you know. And, because I knew this kid and his grandmother who raised him, and I knew that he came from a religious family and in the prison he was very observant, he was, he didn’t wear it on his sleeve for everybody to see. And so, I thought – you know what, if what we have here is the bravado thing to the very end. And so I, I leaned down and whispered to him, I said, ‘son, I’m gonna step on out of the chamber here in a few minutes and as soon as that red phone rings, we’re gonna have to proceed. And I said 'You know what, there’s twenty something people standing around here witnesses and staff and stuff, it’s not important for any of them to hear you say – ‘I did it’, ok. That doesn’t matter. But what is important is that whatever the truth is, that, before I have to give the order, you have made peace between you and your god about the truth. He needs to hear you say what the truth is. Nobody else here needs to and they’re not entitled to. You don’t owe anybody here anything. But you owe yourself and you owe the god that you profess to believe in that clear understanding’. And I thought, you know, this is pretty good stuff I’m saying here if he’s just playing a role and he really did the crime and stuff, maybe this’ll bring him around because I think you really think about…. I said to the governor one time, ‘look, um, you know, part of what Christianity preaches is redemption. And I said what if some prisoner that I execute might have achieved redemption next week, next month or next year? Once we’ve executed them that possibility’s gone forever’.

And so that was important to me for this kid and he looked at me very calmly and he said, ‘warden, I’m at peace with my god, how are you gonna be with yours?’ And, I walked out of that chamber convinced that he was innocent, I really did.   

The person that I appointed to have the, the horrible task of having to mix the chemicals for the gas chamber. I said, that person retired in his thirties on a medical retirement and he is under mental health care and probably will be for the rest of his life because he just hasn’t done a good job of coping with his role in the execution process. I said, people suffer as a result of it and it’s not just the inmate. And I said, people pay a price, and I said, you have to understand that in the states the prison officials don’t determine who lives and who dies they’re simply carrying out the mandate of a jury and a judge and, therefore, a society in that state. And I said, you know what, we pay a price for doing that. It’s our hands that get dirty not the citizens. And I said I, you know, I watched this man who literally had a nervous breakdown, because of his role. And I said, that’s a horrible price to ask anyone to pay. But it’s one that people don’t see and don’t know about, see, they don’t get that insight.       

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Bill Wiseman - Legislator for introduction of lethal injection 

Bill: I was a first term freshman legislator when the results of the case called Furman v. Georgia trickled down on all the states and our death penalty laws were all abolished as unconstitutional. I was in a quandary because I’d never…I mean capital punishment  is a…I think there are reasons to kill people sometimes perhaps but capital punishment is a cold act, I mean, just doesn’t make any sense to me. And it really didn’t then but I was… (inaudible)… about it, I…I loved this job. And, so, I didn’t know what to do. I knew better but I wanted this job, I didn’t wanna piss everybody off, get kicked out of office when I’d just gotten in. I’d  worked so hard to get there. So I voted for it. I mean, I knew we were doing this stupid thing, and I knew it was a sort of a bone-headed, really the worst of us that was this vindictive kind of…, I think there were a lot of racism behind it too. And, I made a…passionate speech against it, sat down and hit the green button. I mean I told them I didn’t want to vote, but I said, ‘I’m gonna vote for this thing, ‘cause I’m afraid not to, but I know this is a bad idea’. And I did feel terrible about this. 

We had an electric chair that hadn’t been used in years so it was an old sparky that had to be fixed. Someone offered an amendment – David Riggs offered an amendment that said... come up with a more humane form of execution. Then I got in touch with some medical people and tried to figure out if there were a decent way to do it. I got…I called my doctor, went to see him, and asked him…told him what I wanted to try and do. And I said, ‘vets can put dogs down and it’s, you know, it’s no big deal. I mean it’s… I’ve seen it done, why can’t we… but I…I don’t know how to do this’. And he said, ‘well that makes sense’. And he took it to the board and they said, ‘no absolutely not. We can’t get involved in this at all’. So I thought about literally calling a vet, and then Jay Chapman called me up and he was the state medical examiner, and he’d heard I was trying to figure out how to do this. He came over and we sat down in my office and wrote it out - he dictated. And it was one of those ideas that the timing, I guess, was just right and it… everybody said, ‘yeah, well, that makes sense’. And we passed it.   

My idea was to have a method which didn’t hurt. And so these people in, I think, Florida and Tennessee, I mean they were, they were screwing up, they were not getting enough barbiturate in so they weren’t out, they weren’t knocking them out first. What happens is this – when you give a dog or a human being the sodium thiopental they go to sleep. And when you shoot them with the potassium chloride they snap like a jack knife, I mean, it’s just…wrenching, wrenching.

Mike: The bodies move?

Bill: Oh yeah! Now they don’t know what they’re doing, it’s involuntary muscles and they’re seizing and contracting, ‘cause they’re fighting off the drug. It’s like someone reaching in and stopping your heart, that’s literally what it’s doing! But, people found this very upsetting, so someone came up with the idea of using a derivative of curare, and it paralyses the skeletal muscles, and so the idea is that, you knock ‘em out, then you paralyse the skeletal muscles so they can’t really move, they’re rigid and…. Then you hit ‘em with the shot of potassium chloride so (clicks fingers)…it will happen but they won’t react and everybody will think – well, that’s alright, there’s nothing to that. The problem happens, if you don’t give them enough barbiturate they’re gonna feel the pain of the potassium chloride, but they can’t let you know that they feel the pain. And that’s terrifying, I mean, and that happened!

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Marietta Jaeger Lane - Mother of murdered child

Claire: How did you feel before…before your daughter was snatched away like that, how-, what-…did you have a view on the death penalty before that?

Marietta: No, I didn’t. And it’s because I lived in Michigan which has never had the death penalty and still does not, it’s one, in fact it’s, Michigan is the first English speaking government to constitutionally abolish the death penalty, way back when it became a state. So it never came up in my daily life, you know, I didn’t pick up the paper and read somebody’s gonna get the death penalty. It, and I was busy raising five kids, you know, and so I wasn’t that much in tune with what was going out there in the world, but I knew that Michigan didn’t have it. And it, so it really never, never crossed my mind. And it wasn’t until Suzy was taken here, and I was told they had the death penalty. But it was clear that, you know, if they caught this…person who had taken her, that he would…if he had taken Suzy’s life he would be liable for the death penalty. And so I…I knew that…I mean Montana is a…an amazing place, I knew that I would have some input on what happened to that person. And that may not have been true in a lot of other places, like in Detroit; I don’t think it would have ever been true. But I just knew that I would have some input.  

It was at the end of a day that was very, very difficult. We were at the camp ground still, and our tent was camped right and, and my folks’ trailer was right next to the river. And that was the day that they were dragging the river for, they, the deputies had decided to drag to see. And all day long the boat was going up and down the river next to us, and, standing there watching it and when it would stop my heart would stop, you know, because I didn’t want her to be found there. And they’d reel up the net and then I’d be relieved, you know, and then, they’d throw the net back in and then it would move again and then stop, and it was a very intense difficult day.

And it just, that day was a tough day for the rest of the kids, I mean, I could just see the toll that was being taken on them, with, you know, this horrible upheaval in our lives. And it was just, it was just very, very painful and that was the day that I allowed myself to get in touch with my rage. And I, you know, in that horrible kind of a situation. Cause my focus was – where is she? How can I get her back? What’s she having to endure? You know, that was my focus, but, but that day was so intense on so many levels that, that’s like my control was evaporated and my rage just came up, and roiling up. And it just, it just accelerated during the day and I began to imagine, you know, what would I do if the kidnapper, if the FBI found the kidnapper and put him in front of me and said, ‘ok, Marietta. Have at him. Do what ever you want’. You know, what would you do? And, and I imaged it all day long over and over, I mean, I was just almost obsessed with it. And I, I knew that I could kill him with my bare hands, that was how, that was how furious I was. And just, well, you know, allowed myself to experience that rage, which I’d never done before. And I felt absolutely justified, and I didn’t care what my mother or father said, I didn’t care what God said. I, you know, that’s the right way for me to feel, and, under the circumstances. And, so getting ready for bed that night I said to my husband because, for me it was a matter of integrity, I felt like – this is where I am, I have to own this and I can’t pretend that I’m anywhere else with it. And, so I said, ‘even if the kidnapper were to bring Suzy back alive and well this moment, I could kill him for what he’s done to my family’, and turned over to go to sleep.

And, um, God initiated the wrestling match in the sense that I just heard God say, ‘but that’s not how I want you to feel’. I knew myself that I’m, I’m an ‘all or nothing' kind of person and I knew if I were to give myself to that rage and that desire for revenge, that it would just obsess and consume me. And I’d be no good if, you know, if when we got Suzy back, which I was expecting to do, or for any of the rest of my kids, and so I knew that what God was asking of me was the best direction I could go. But I felt like one,, two thing that I struggled with were that I, to be willing to think of the offender with compassion would be to give up my control, which actually is just a reverse, I mean, it’s what that person was doing that was in control of my emotions, but I didn’t realise that then. And the other thing was – would I be betraying Suzy by being willing to forgive? And, but, you know, God was just persistent, and finally, because, just because I knew that, that if I were to go on filled with this hate and this desire for revenge then I would just destroy myself. And so, with some initial reluctance, I surrendered, and, but that was, that’s not to say that I said, ‘ok, I forgive him’. Because I couldn’t deny where I was and the feelings I still had. So I did the only thing that I could do, and that was, you know, I said, ‘ok God, that’s how you want me to feel I’m putting the ball in your court. And, you make it happen, but I promise that I will try to co-operate.’ And  that was the best that I could do at that point in time.             

So initially of course, all anybody knew was that…this person had taken Suzy. You know, but in the end it became clear that he was a very sick young man, and he, when he made his confession, only because we were not gonna press for the death penalty but the alternative, he confessed to four deaths, here, in just this county. And they, they felt that he was liable for the death of some of the other children who’d been killed in other counties here in Montana. But the prosecutors there were holding out for the death penalty, and so he would not confess to them.

Then, for me, the bottom line was – how do I best honour Suzy’s life? Once I found out that it had been taken. And then in a most horrible way and there isn’t anything you can think of that happened to her…that didn’t happen to her either before she died, or after she died.

I felt that I couldn’t deny him the opportunity for rehabilitation and restoration by participating in his death. And, by becoming somebody who wants to kill people, I was becoming that which I abhor, you know, somebody who had taken Suzy, the same mind set as had taken Suzy’s life. And that wouldn’t honour her memory, you know, I wanted to aspire to something that was more fitting for the goodness and sweetness and beauty of her life, for me, and so for me that meant aspiring to a higher moral principle than getting even. And that was to say that all of life is sacred, and all of life is worthy of preservation. And even somebody who’s done something as terrible as what this young man, David, did. I had to tell myself over and over again that however I felt about him, in God’s eyes he was just as precious as my little girl.  

Clive Stafford Smith - Capital Case Lawyer

Clive: I got this opportunity to go study in America when I was eighteen. I was on this incredibly generous programme in North Carolina, where they let you do whatever you wanted to do, so they funded me to go down and work in Georgia on death penalty. And it was astounding to me to discover that these people had no right to lawyers. You know, here you are in the richest country in the world and someone sentenced to death doesn’t have the right to a lawyer.

Claire: Is that still the situation, that they don’t have the right to a lawyer once they’re sentenced?

Clive: there is only one state in the US that recognises the constitutional right to a lawyer, which I’m proud to say, is Mississippi.

Clive: it was May 21st 1987 they killed Edward Johnson. And yes, I qualified in 1984, and his was the first case I’d lost, you know, with the arrogance of youth, I never thought…but there you have it. I mean, you look back on it and you know, certainly, if I knew then what I know now I don’t think he would have died. Um…it’s very sad. You know, I’d just sat in the execution chamber and watched them gas the poor guy to death! And whatever theoretical view one might have about the death penalty become very much humanised when you meet the people involved, when you watch some guy dying in front of you, who you actually rather like – it’s obscene. So yeah, I was angry and there are other things too, I had just come from talking with the family and I had to tell these poor people who had been trodden on all their lives, that the government had just done it to them again. And one of the fascinating things about having the BBC there, was it actually injected such a level of unreality – you kept thinking that someone was going to call ‘cut’ and it was all going to be over. And thankfully, for Edward’s sake, he believed that too. When I went into the…I actually walked with him into the gas chamber and he said to me, ‘is there something you know that I don’t know?’ and I didn’t quite understand what he meant to begin with, but I figured it out – that he really thought they weren’t going to do it. And in that sense it was good to have the journalists.

It was horrendous for him, you know. It’s frustrating later to discover this woman who had been with him at the time of the murder, who could have said that he couldn’t have done it. But, you know, when I talk to her about why she didn’t do anything, it actually illustrates the total powerlessness of someone in Edward’s position and many of these other guy’s position. She said, ‘who am I gonna call? I can’t call the FBI, it’s not like in the movies where the FBI come swooping in to do the right thing.’ And she said, ‘Look, I went to the police, I told them he hadn’t done it, and they told me to buzz off and mind my own business.’ And that’s the ultimate powerlessness and, of course, it’s true of so many poor people in Mississippi and else where.

Well, it took forever. I mean, one thing is people always act like this is over instantaneously, its absolute nonsense! They had him sitting in that chair for fifteen minutes. And if you think how long a minute can be if we just sit here in silence for a minute right now. You imagine if those was the last fifteen minutes of your life, it just when on and on and on. And it was about half way through that poor old Edward finally worked out that no one was going to call him. And, you know, he said, ‘well, lets get it over with’. And then what he goes through, you know, you always have these perverse discussions where the doctors say, ‘oh, don’t try and hold you breath that just makes it more painful’. Well, that’s just not a human reaction, of course. And so, it took forever!

We’d raised a legal issue in Edward’s case which the courts rejected, and then about ten years later the Supreme Court said we were right. And the Supreme Court said, ‘well, the best we can see is …(inaudible)…were simply wrong in Edward Jonson’s case’. But, you know, that’s not much consolation because the guys cold in his grave.

Well, I very rarely discuss why the death penalty’s wrong, because it seems to me that is the wrong question. The real issue is - why is the death penalty right? What does it achieve? And, you know, when I’ve watched people die, it’s always at night and you come out of the execution chamber, and you look up at the stars and you say, ‘well, you know, how did that make the world a better place?’ and it didn’t, and it achieved absolutely nothing positive. So we can argue about all these different things, about, you know, whether it’s a deterrent or not – and of course it’s not, my clients…(inaudible)…. don’t know what the word deterrent means. Is it a way to save money – no it’s more expensive. Are we going to make mistakes – of course we make mistakes. I mean there are hundreds of intellectual arguments about why it’s wrong, but I just think we don’t need to go that far because no one can justify why it’s right.  

The worst experience I had of …(inaudible)… by far was Niki Ingram. I mean Niki Ingram was very different from everyone else because represented Niki for twelve years. Niki and I were born in the same hospital in Cambridge and he and I were very close friends. I went through a divorce while I was representing him – he was a very good friend through that and we used to talk about it a lot. And the way they tortured him to death, with the electric chair, was shocking. You know, we got a stay on the Thursday evening at 6:15 for a seven o’clock execution and they didn’t tell them, and they went ahead and shaved his head anyhow. And they did that intentionally and then they boasted about it. And then they lifted the stay that afternoon……(inaudible)……that evening, and it was the electric chair, no matter what people say, and you do end up dead regardless, the electric chair is still a thousand times worse than anything else. And then I can still see in sort of, very vivid black and white in the back of my mind, the images of them electrocuting him and those don’t go away, but on the other hand, you have two solutions, one is to say, ‘oh I can’t deal with that!’ and the other is to get annoyed and make sure it doesn’t happen again. You know, I think our obligation is to remember in that situation that the person who is really suffering is the person who they kill.

Claire: There seems to be an issue over there, that if you don’t have evidence at the trial your not allowed to bring it in after a certain period – new evidence?

          Clive: Ah yeah, well that’s certainly true. The US Supreme Court said that because nowhere in the US constitution does it say, ‘thall shalt not execute an innocent person’ there is no constitutional right not to be executed if you’re innocent. Therefore, logically, proof of whether you’re innocent or not, is not legally relevant under the US constitution to whether you should be executed. You know, if you’re at trial and you have a really bad lawyer, like Linda Carty for example, and you get a terrible trial, you don’t have a real chance at trial. But then you don’t have a chance on appeal either because your lawyer didn’t object to anything so when you get time for appeal……(inaudible)……because your lawyer didn’t give you a decent trial. So it’s this system which is, almost inevitably designed to make sure it makes mistakes.


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