Thursday, June 27, 2013

Recollections from hundreds of executions in Texas

Michael Graczyk 

In this photo taken June 12, 2013, Associated Press reporter Michael Graczyk leaves the Huntsville Unit after witnessing the execution of confessed killer Elroy Chester in Huntsville, Texas. Chester was convicted of the 1988 the fatal shooting of Port Arthur firefighter Willie Ryman III. (AP Photo/Pat Sullivan).

HUNTSVILLE, Texas (AP) — About once every three weeks, I watch someone die.

Beginning in 1984 when I arrived in Texas for The Associated Press, I've been just a few feet away as one convicted killer after another took a final breath in the Texas death chamber in Huntsville, where the state's 500th execution in modern times took place Wednesday.

I really don't know how many I've seen. I lost count years ago and have no desire to reconstruct a tally.

While death penalty cases are not the only assignments I cover, those certainly leave the strongest impressions.

One inmate, Jonathan Nobles, sang "Silent Night" as his last words as he was receiving the lethal injection. He got to "Round yon virgin, mother and child" before gasping and losing consciousness. Christmas, for me, never has been the same.
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