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death penalty

18 articles
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The Witness

A profile of Michelle Lyons, who viewed 278 executions as both a local reporter and a spokesperson for the Texas Department of Criminal Justice.

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The Last Executioner

The mysterious life and death of Dow B. Hover, the man who ran New York’s electric chair.

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If King Hammurabi

With two children in tow, a woman prepares to witness her lover's execution by lethal injection.

"Lyell gave her a shove, then she gave him a shove, and they raced to the guest bedrooms and put on their nicest outfits. Twenty minutes later they sat at Cornelia’s dining room table, waiting for her to speak. She inhaled deeply. Her fine blond hair was wrenched from her scalp into a tight, high-sitting barrette. 'Where we are about to go,' Cornelia whispered, 'must remain a secret. Can you children remember that?' They nodded. 'Today, we embark on a farewell mission,' she said, 'a goodbye mission for a friend who will enter the other side—which is to say, children, that he will be killed.'"

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The Politics of Killing

Two men named Nathan committed murders. Only one received a death sentence.

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Dallas DA Craig Watkins on Witnessing His First Execution

An interview:
Watkins: And then, all of a sudden, you notice that it appears that he is falling asleep and gasping for air—like he is snoring, basically. You could classify it as snoring or as gasping for air. You see his chest moving, and then I guess very quickly—maybe two minutes in—his chest stops moving. And we stand there, I guess, for another 10 minutes, and everybody is just kind of standing there. D Magazine: In total silence? Watkins: No one’s talking. No one’s saying anything. And then you notice that the condemned, he starts to turn this bluish color. So I guess that’s when all his functions have stopped. And then a doctor walks in and takes his vital signs and announces that the person is—he looks at the clock and announces, “The person died at 6:22.” And then they open the door and we all walk out.
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Why Americans Still Support The Death Penalty

Three primary reasons: A desire for vengeance, the sanitization of executions and, ironically, the reliability of DNA evidence.

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The Mitigator

How mitigation specialists are changing the application of the death penalty:

In Texas, the most prominent mitigation strategist is a lawyer named Danalynn Recer, the executive director of the Gulf Region Advocacy Center. Based in Houston, GRACE has represented defendants in death-penalty cases since 2002. “The idea was to improve the way capital trials were done in Texas, to start an office that would bring the best practices from other places and put them to work here,” Recer said recently. “This is not some unknowable thing. This is not curing cancer. We know how to do this. It is possible to persuade a jury to value someone’s life.”

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Could You Forgive the Man Who Shot You in the Face?

In the days after 9/11, Mark Stroman went on a revenge killing spree in Texas. Rais Bhuiyan survived and, a decade later, tried to stop Stroman’s execution.

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On the Death Sentence

In 1976, newly appointed Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens voted to reinstate capital punishment in the United States. Thirty years later, he argued that it’s unconstitutional. Here, he explains why he changed his mind.

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Outcasts: Inmates of the Black Eagle

Russia has ended its death penalty, leaving in its place five prison “colonies” to house its most hardened criminals, nicknamed “The White Swan”, “The Black Dolphin”, “The Vologda Coin”, “The Village of Harps”. Inside “The Black Eagle.”

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In the Face of Death

There was no doubt: Jeremy Gross had brutally murdered a convenience store clerk. All that was left to decide was his punishment. Death or life without parole? The story of a capital murder trial, as seen from the jury box.

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Innocence Lost

In 1992, Anthony Graves was arrested for brutally murdering a family in the middle of night. He had no motive. There was no physical evidence. The only witness recanted. And yet Graves remains behind bars.

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Trial By Fire

The arson case that may have led Texas to execute an innocent man.

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No Angel, No Devil (Part II)

The second installment of the Gaile Owens story. A former churchgoing mother of two from suburban Memphis, Owens is the first woman to be given the death penalty in Tennessee in nearly 200 years.

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No Angel, No Devil

Gaile Owens was a churchgoing mother of two boys in suburban Memphis. Now she’s the first woman sentenced to die in Tennessee in nearly 200 years. The jury never heard her whole story; this is it.

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Too Weird for The Wire

When the Feds sought the death penalty for four African-American drug dealers in Baltimore, the accused found a defense in the unlikeliest of places: the legal theories of white supremacists.

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Convincing a Murderer Not to Die

When Christian Longo, who brutally murdered his family, was on the lam in Mexico he posed as a NYT reporter named Michael Finkel. From Death Row, Longo asked the real Finkel to attend his execution.