Texas carried out its 500th execution since capital punishment was re-instated back in 1982. The condemned woman was Kimberly McCarthy, a 52-year old black woman who was the country’s first female inmate to die by lethal injection in nearly three years. McCarthy was sentenced to Texas’ death row after being convicted of the robbery and murder of a college professor in 1997.
Her death marks a grim milestone in a state that kills more people than any other in the country. Texas has carried out more than 40 percent of the roughly 1,300 executions that have taken place in the United States since the Supreme Court re-instated capital punishment in 1976. A 2011 study found that 92 percent of men sentenced to die in Texas were black.
As Texas got ready to kill its 500th person, Associated Press reporter Michael Graczyk reflected at the Huffington Post on what it’s like to witness so much state sanctioned death. Graczyk writes that he’s seen roughly one execution each week in Texas since he arrived at the AP in 1984. He goes on to describe in heartbreaking detail the scenes he’s witnessed. Read an excerpt after the jump. Trigger warning: these scenes are graphic.
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.
When I walked into the death chamber to witness Bob Black’s execution, he called my name, said hello and asked how I was doing. What do you say to an otherwise healthy man seconds away from death?
J.D. “Cowboy” Autry was the first lethal injection I saw, in March 1984. A female friend of his who was a witness loudly sobbed about his “pretty brown eyes.” Moments later, Autry’s eyelids popped open as he died, revealing for a final time his brown eyes.
Autry’s case was a memorable one. Six months earlier he was on the gurney with the needles in his arms when the U.S. Supreme Court issued a last-minute reprieve. To make sure no one had to make the final walk twice again, the prison stopped taking inmates to the death chamber until all appeals were resolved.