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
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
Claire: What’s the
agenda behind that then? If they knew it was another guy, why did
they carry on?
Kathleen: They didn’t
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
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?
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.
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: 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.
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?
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
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
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
Speaker 1: This is a
recording of the execution of Ivon Ray Stanley EF103603, July the
Marable: Colonel Low,
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
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,
William Hill: Yep
Michael Bowers: Have
you got any reason why the execution shouldn’t be carried out.
William Hill: No I
Michael Bowers: Thank
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
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
Speaker 2: Any reaction
from the witnesses?
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
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,
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?
Colonel Low: Yes
Marable: That completes
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: Is the
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
Colonel Low: The pop.
Ralph Kemp: The popping
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
Colonel Low: Did you
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,
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
Ralph Kemp: OK. Thank
Colonel Low: Marable?
Ralph Kemp: Just a
Marable: Colonel Low?
Colonel Low: Marable?
Marable: Yes, sir.
Colonel Low: I want to
Marable: You're quite
welcome, sir. Anytime.
Colonel Low: Good
Marable: Good night,
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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
Claire: How long then
did it take…from the time they came in ‘til the time they got Ryan
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
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,
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
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
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
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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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
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
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
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
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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