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1Wfai MK, ,..,”if,,,..06.161.0011.1111011.711.44644,M6 -4:47/61..**\(taiONIOO,j.i40410.111 1111041 To the Editor: During my testimony before the House committee considering the bill to abolish capital punishment, it appeared that none of the committee members had witnessed a legal execution and that I had. After I was excused, you asked me to drop you a note describing my impressions of that execution. I saw an electrocution in the Cook County Jail in Chicago while working as a newspaper reporter in 1949 or 1950. The volume of capital sentences from Cook County was such that the legislature required the county to kill its own prisoners \(executions from other counties are conducted either at the Menard or Statesville The prisoner was a Negro. I do not recall the nature or the details of his offense, and I had no personal contact with him before he was electrocuted. The execution chamber in the Cook County jail is divided into two rooms. One room contains the electric chair itself, and the other, separated from the actual execution chamber by a glass wall, is for the spectators. This arrangement has the beneficient effect of protecting the spectators from the offensive smell of roasting flesh. The “subject,” to use appropriate police terminology, was escorted into the room containing the electric chair by two large officers, one holding each arm. I cannot say that this man was physically carried into the room: his legs were moving, and his feet appeared to touch the floor from time to time. I can only report that the officers were considerably larger than he was and that they were gripping him under the armpits so that it wasnot necessary for his feet to touch the floor in order for him to get from the door to the electric chair. The people in charge of the execution do not, of course, wish to have any kind of unseemly “scenes,” and thus all of this was done with great speed and efficiency. After the subject was strapped into the chair and the electrical connections fastened to his body, a metal mask, somewhat like the movable face-plate on the helmet of a medieval armor, was brought forward over his face, so that the spectators would not see any gruesome facial contortions at the time of execution. My strongest memories of the moment of execution are the body of the prisoner snapping into complete rigidity and straining against the straps, and wisps of steam rising from moistened pads, which had been placed next to the electrical connections at the prisoner’s body to conduct the electricity more efficiently. Illinois law, like Texas law, permits relatives of the prisoner to witness the execution. There were relatives of this man in 8 The Texas Observer the room with us, and I distinctly remember the tears and emotions of these people as they saw this execution. After one look at the prisoner’s body stiffening under the electric current, they could not bear to watch any further. Some of the spectators, several of whom had been drinking, made various remarks which could not help but be offensive to In Huntsville: Austin An 18-year-old Negro boy, Charles Elbert Williams, was accused of raping a 47-yearold white divorcee in East Texas. He told his lawyers he didn’t do it; that she had seduced him and then said he had raped her. He had signed a confession; he said he had been beaten. His lawyers, fearing, they said, the jury’s reaction to a Negro man saying a white woman was not telling the truth in such a situation, chose to defend him without using what he said the truth was. They let him plead not guilty, but they told him not to tell his story to the jury, and he did not take the stand; they did not tell the jury what he had said. The jury sentenced him to death. All his appeals were finally denied on June 2, 1961. I drove that day across East Texas to the prison at Huntsville, where I had interviewed him before for a series of three articles I had done on his case, and I wrote in the Observer of June 10, 1961, what happened to him just after midnight on June 3, 1961. It’s the only execution I’ve ever seen. Reporters are barred from these events now at Huntsville, so there cannot be any more stories about them. Here is an excerpt from my long story on that night it is a quarter to twelve: Warden Moore sits glumly at a desk in the corridor. Major Williamson has some keys lowered by a wire from the overhead cage where they are kept for safety. Moore goes out the front gate, comes back, tells a man inside he will have to move his truck from the front. Dr. Hartmann whispers, “I guess they have to make room for the hearse,” the last word in a shouting kind of whisper. Outside a white hearse with a red light on top and a pale blue cross on the window backs into position. “That’s good,” the Warden says. [ Reporter Don] Reid and Hartmann are discussing the tremendous improvements in the Texas prison system since only a few years ago when it was rightfully called the Alcatraz of Texas. They are agreeing on the family and to any other person with any sensibility. I don’t think that anyone who has not seen an execution can fully appreciate what is really involved. There is something about the spectacle of kind family men deliberately setting out to kill a human being who has done them no personal harm which is very difficult to describe. To anyone who has seen the courts in action, either as a lawyer or a newspaper reporter, and who knows how fallible all of us are in the administration of justice, the certainty that our judgment is good enough to take a life in this cold and deliberate way is just not overwhelming. William F. Walsh, attorney, 1955 Richmond Ave., Houston, Tex. the wisdom of pre-trial conferences on mental commitments as two Negro trusties dressed in white bring in a stretcher \(the blue sheet, the pink cover, the red robe a base on rollers, and they roll it on into the prison. It is 9 to 12. A guard has a trusty get the two stretcher attendants chairs and tells them, “Y’all just sit down there if you like . . . ‘n wait.” Hartmann stands holding his stethoscope as Reid tells him the mental doctors ought to take the proverbs out of the Bible, that would answer all their problems. One of the principals says hurriedly to the reporter then that Eusebio Martinez was examined in both Spanish and English. “He had a mental age of about six. He never should have been tried.” Why was he executed? “Mexican. No money. No influence.” And as for Williams, “I think there’s considerable veracity to his story but he’s going to burn, he hasn’t got any influence and he’s going to burn.” It is 4 to 12. Through the corridors and offices, the long visiting hall, \(several agree the air coming through the vents at night feels like thiough the little room, the Warden looking at his pocket watch, into the courtyard, \(the man beside me is Bud Yates, deputy sheriff of Houston County and one of the up to the door in the brick wall. We are a little early and wait. It is a very small room. The walls are glistening red brick and the floor is rubber matting. A black hand rail at waist level is all that divides the witnesses from the participants. The chair is in the middle of the room; it faces the rail. It is appalling, the’re is no way to move out from front of him, one shunts oneself a little to the side. The wood of it is blond; its angles are sharp right angles; it has a high back like an old-fashioned straight chair, but higher ; the headpiece has two rubber clamps that A Communication: A Metal Face-Mask Tied,Gagged,He’s Ready