Florida death row inmate William Van Poyck has written a blog post about what it’s like to sit on Florida’s death row and watch a fellow inmate go to his execution. I thought it was worth reposting here:
Robert Waterhouse was scheduled for execution at 6:00pm this evening. In accordance with the established execution protocol he was strapped to the gurney and the needles were inserted into each arm about 45 minutes prior to his appointed time. Just before 6:00, however, he received a 45-minute stay which morphed into an almost 3-hour endurance test as he remained on the gurney as the seconds, minutes and then hours slid by at an excruciatingly slow pace, waiting for someone to tell him if hope was at hand, if he would live or die. Just before 9:00 he received his answer, the plungers were depressed, the syringes emptied and he was summarily killed. Here on the row we can discern the approximate time of death when we see the old white Cadillac hearse trundle in through the back sally port gate to pick up the body, the same familiar 1960’s era hearse I’ve watched for almost 40 years, coming in to retrieve the bodies of murdered prisoners, which used to happen on a regular basis back when I was in open population. I’ve seen a lot of guys, both friends and foes, carted off in that old hearse. Anyway, pause for a moment to imagine being on that gurney for over three hours, the needles in your arms. You’ve already come to terms with your imminent death, you are reconciled with the reality that this is it, this is how you will die, that there will be no reprieve. Then, at the last moment, a cruel trick, you’re given that slim hope, which you instinctively grasp. Some court, somewhere, has given you a temporary stay. You stare at the ceiling while the clock on the wall ticks away. You are totally alone, not a friendly soul in sight, surrounded by grim-faced men who are determined to kill you. Your heart pounds, your body feels electrified and every second seems like an eternity as a Kaleidoscope of wild thoughts crash around franticly in your compressed mind. After 3 hours you are drained, exhausted, terrorized, and then the phone on the wall rings and you’re told it’s time to die. To me this is cruel and unusual punishment by any definition. Consider this: Florida, like every other death penalty state, uses a list of statutory aggravators which the jury and judge use and weigh in determining whether to impose a death sentence. As an example, some of the aggravators are, the victim was young; the victim was elderly; the victim was a law enforcement officer; the homicide occurred during the course of a felony, etc… Well, the Florida Supreme Court has repeatedly held that the two (2) most serious aggravators in Florida’s capital sentencing scheme are: 1) Heinous, Atrocious and cruel (HAC); and 2) Cold, Calculated and Premeditated (CCP). The Court has, in a slew of cases, held that the HAC applies when a victim is held captive and conscious and knows he is about to die; forcing a victim to consider his imminent death while he is helpless to escape it constitutes HAC. Likewise, CCP applies when there is “heightened premeditation”, over and above “regular” premeditation, and when the killing is the result of a well thought out plan. By that definition HAC and CCP apply to all executions where we spend years reflecting on our imminent death and the killing is done with heightened premeditation, part of a well thought out plan or scheme…Just a little something to consider…
You know, from time to time, I write about America becoming a “prison nation”, and about the prison industrial complex here; some readers may doubt what I say given my status as a prisoner (sour grapes and all). Anyone interested should read an excellent article by Adam Gopnik titled The Caging of America, in the January 30, 2012 issue of The New Yorker. It should be mandatory reading in all law schools and all Criminal Justice classes in colleges across the nation…
That’s it for now!