Last week Warren Lee Hill, who is mentally disabled, was granted a last minute stay of execution by the 11th US Circuit Court of Appeals. He came within 30 minutes of being executed by lethal injection in Jackson, Georgia.
Since this country's last public execution in 1936, there have been no known photographs or recordings of an execution. In 1998, however, audio tapes of 22 Georgia executions -- recorded by members of the state's Department of Corrections for their own records -- were discovered and subpoenaed by criminal defense attorney Michael Mears in a lawsuit he brought challenging the state's use of the electric chair. I soon became aware of these recordings, and soon thereafter broadcast them on public radio.
Here is a recording of one of these, the execution of Ivon Ray Stanley, who had an IQ of 62, in 1984. Note that the tape is edited -- extended silences, repetitive phrases, and unintelligible comments have been removed.
This is a recording of the 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, where all of the state's executions are carried out. From the small room adjacent to the death chamber, Marable watched the execution through a one-way mirror and described in detail exactly what transpired to officials in Atlanta. The "clunking" sounds on the tape are prison doors slamming elsewhere in the institution.