Sunday, January 29, 2017

Reporter describes witnessing the execution of Ricky Gray in Virginia

Below is a description of the execution this month of Ricky Gray in Virginia by The Virginian-Pilot reporter David Harki:

The witness room inside the execution chamber (Greenville Correctional Center, Jarratt, Virginia) is equal parts prison cell, hospital room and theater. It’s cinder block walls and harsh lighting. Curtains hang in front and in back of the main floor space, with seats neatly arranged.
And, of course, there’s the gurney, front and center.
On it sat neatly arranged medical lines – IV tubes, maybe – that strung to holes in the back curtain. Behind that curtain, the executioners would push the three-drug cocktail into Ricky Gray’s veins. Their identity was shielded from us.
The gurney was less than 12 feet in front of me. Officials stood on each side of the chamber. I felt as though I was caught up in someone else’s disturbing routine.
On the right of the chamber: a door with a window. The window’s blinds were closed. Behind that, I was told, was Ricky Gray.
A red phone was on the wall beside the door – a direct line to Gov. Terry McAuliffe. An official picked up the receiver and the witness room fell silent.
If the execution was to be stopped, the announcement would come from that phone. Minutes ticked by. We’re all watching a clock on the wall.
The phone call ended at 8:51 p.m., and Gray entered the room – a large man surrounded by other large men. He was wearing a blue-gray, button-up prison shirt, rolled-up blue jeans and sandals. His hands were cuffed in front of him. The faces in the room were expressionless.
Everyone appeared numb, and I felt numb.
Gray staggered or wobbled. Was it the sight of the gurney? Or maybe he was sedated. Eight corrections officers quickly walked him to the gurney. They enveloped him. One stood at his head, one at his feet and three to each side, securing him to the gurney with leather straps.
The thick, blue vinyl curtain in front of the witnesses closed at 8:54 p.m.
The IVs were being inserted. From what I’d read, this was supposed to take around 10 minutes. We waited in silence, staring at each rustle of the curtain.
By 9:18 p.m., I was getting concerned. It had been too long. I asked Frank Green of the Richmond Times-Dispatch if what was happening was normal.
“No,” he said.
I steeled myself for what I might see when that curtain opened.
Finally, at 9:27 p.m., it was pulled back. Gray’s arms were outstretched, his hands wrapped tightly in bandages. He moved his feet, wiggled his toes. His sandals sat on top of one another between his legs.
Gray was asked if he had any last words. He didn’t.
Then the execution truly began. The IV started to twitch. The first drug – a sedative — was coursing into his body. Gray raised his head. It slowly fell back.
Things were moving fast now. By 9:29 p.m., Gray’s breathing seemed to become labored. His legs still moved. He started snoring loudly – as if he had simply fallen asleep. After he was tested for consciousness, the deadly drugs start flowing. I watched Gray’s chest – rising, falling, rising, falling. I was watching for that to stop. To be done with it, for everyone’s sake.
His chest went still. A physician opened Gray’s shirt and used a stethoscope.
I could read his lips: “He is dead.”

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