Tuesday, October 22, 2013
CAPITAL PUNISHMENT: THE EXECUTED AND THE EXECUTIONERS
"One searches in vain for the execution of any member of the affluent strata of our society."
--William O. Douglas, Supreme Court Justice
At the start of this chapter, I raised the possibility that attorneys who put so much emphasis on their relationships with clients might be making themselves even more vulnerable to loss and grief when their clients are executed. Without question, the losses hit them hard--the loss of any client, as we have seen, but especially those to whom they have formed a close personal attachment
"I was with him all day until five minutes before he was executed," says Adam, describing for me his last hours with a client who meant a great deal to him. The two men sat talking together on opposite sides of the cell bars for hours. Adam continues,
"The warden comes down and says it's time for the execution, and they were going to take him through that door--"
Adam motions across the length of the small room where we are having our interview, to show me how close to the execution chamber he and his client had been having their final visist. "We get up, and the warden reads, 'Having been found guilty of first-degree murder, the laws of [the state] and the jury have duly sentenced you to death,' you know, blah blah blah, all this bullshit, and I say to the warden, 'Can I give him a hug?' He says, 'No, we don't want hi to get upset emotionally.'
Adam pauses. "It was a very, very painful no," he says, his voice breaking. "To be told I couldn't give him a hug. I'll never forgive that man for saying no."
--From Fighting for Their Lives: Inside the Experience of Capital Defense Attorneys, by Susannah Sheffer
And then there was my other friend, Connie Ray Evans. He and Earl, as he referred to [Edward] Johnson, had become friends. They had arrived on the row within a short time of each other. Connie believed in Johnsons’ innocence and spoke of it frequently. Did I think Johnson had killed a man, Connie asked me one afternoon shortly before [Johnson’s] execution. I tried to avoid the question, choosing the easy way out. The courts had found him guilty and had reviewed his appeals numerous times, I repeated matter-of-factly. It was not up to prison officials to debate a convict’s innocence or guilt. Connie pressed on, however. What if I, as a prison official, was convinced Johnson was innocent—knew he was innocent. What would I do? I protested that I would have no way of knowing that. I did not investigate the crime, prosecute the case, or sit as a juror. “Damn it, Mr. C., just answer the question straight and honest. If you had evidence in your hands that Earl was innocent, what would you do?” Connie was uncharacteristically agitated, frustrated with what he perceived as my attempts to avoid answering truthfully. Finally, I said I would probably present the matter to the governor; the final decision would be up to him. Connie sprang to his feet rattling his cell door in anger, and bitterly asserted, “Yeah, it’s good to have someone else to blame. Y’all always accuse us of blaming our parents, schoolteachers—anybody but ourselves for ending up in the joint. Hell, Warden, y’all do it to. You didn’t commit the crime, Earl did. You didn’t convict him, the jury did. You didn’t sentence him to die—the judge or the jury or some damn body else did. And when you kill him, it ain’t really you that’s doin’ that, either. It’s the state, the folks out there that’s doin’ it.”
--From Death at Midnight: The Confession of an Executioner, by Donald A. Cabana