Texas Should Not Have Executed Robert Pruett

Update: Robert Pruett was executed by lethal injection on Thursday.
Robert Pruett is scheduled to be executed by the State of Texas Thursday. He has never had a chance to live outside a prison as an adult. Taking his life is a senseless wrong that shows how badly the justice system fails juveniles.
Mr. Pruett was 15 years old when he last saw the outside world, after being arrested as an accomplice to a murder committed by his own father. Now 38, having been convicted of a murder while incarcerated, he will be put to death. At a time when the Supreme Court has begun to recognize excessive punishments for juveniles as unjust, Mr. Pruett’s case shows how young lives can be destroyed by a justice system that refuses to give second chances.
Mr. Pruett’s father, Sam Pruett, spent much of Mr. Pruett’s early childhood in prison. Mr. Pruett and his three siblings were raised in various trailer parks by his mother, who he has said used drugs heavily and often struggled to feed the children. Wh…

Georgia to resume executions

Kelly Gissendaner on Georgia death row
Kelly Gissendaner on Georgia death row
Georgia is preparing to resume executions as a Gwinnett County judge signed a warrant Friday that said Kelly Gissendaner is to be put to death in less than two weeks.

The state put executions on hold in March because the lethal injection drug prepared to put Gissendaner to death then was cloudy and could cause pain or not be effective.

In mid-April, DOC said the drug appeared off because it had been stored in conditions too cold. Otherwise, the drug was fine, Corrections said.

In the interim, a federal lawsuit challening her execution was pending and last month the judge dismissed it.

According to the execution warrant signed Friday, Gissendaner is to die between noon Sept. 29 and noon Oct. 6. The Department of Corrections sets the specific time and date, usually at 7 p.m. on the first day specified in the warrant, which would be Sept. 29.

If she is put to death for the 1997 murder of her husband, Gissendaner will be the first woman the state has executed in 50 years.

As many as four other Death Row inmates have completed the usual round of appeals and could have execution dates set for them soon. Georgia executed two men this year, Andrew Brannan on Jan. 13 and Warren Hill on Jan. 27, before the moratorium on lethal injections was implemented.

Gissendaner was scheduled to die March 2. But the appointed time came and went. For more than three hours she waited in a cell adjoining the death chamber. Then in the span of 10 minutes she got news her execution wouldn’t happen then told it would and finally that it was postponed indefinitely because the problem with the pentobarbital.

Gissendaner’s lawyers filed a complaint with the U.S. District Court in Atlanta, saying her constitutional protection from cruel and unusual punishment was violated when she was prepared for her execution then was told it would not happen and then that it would and again that it would not.

Gissendaner’s lawyers said she suffered “prolonged fear and uncertainty as to whether she would be subjected to a torturous death” and she was in mental agony while the state “dithered.”

Her lawyers also used the lawsuit to, again, challenge the state law that keeps information about the provider of lethal injection drugs a state secret. Georgia is among many states that adopted secrecy laws because they said they could only secure lethal injection drugs if they protected providers from public pressure.

Within days of calling off Gissendaner’s lethal injection, the state also cancelled the March 10 scheduled execution of Brian Keith Terrell, condemned for the 1992 murder of an elderly Walton County man who was a friend of his mother. His execution also was delayed while the Department of Corrections determined the problem with the powerful sedative made specifically for Gissendaner.

Last month, U.S. District Judge Thomas Thrash dismissed Gissendaner’s lawsuit. But then last week, her lawyers filed a motion for reconsideration. That motion is pending.

Source: MyAJC, Rhonda Cook, September 18, 2015


Yesterday the state of Georgia issued an execution warrant for Kelly Renee Gissendaner. In 10 days she will die — unless we act now.

Despite the tireless efforts of Kelly Gissendaner's legal team and the outcry from people of faith all over America, despite Kelly's powerful story of transformation and redemption, state officials are determined to execute Kelly.

We must convince the Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles to grant Kelly a new clemency hearing in order to hear new testimony about why Kelly should live.

As people of faith in Georgia, we aren't giving up.

We're putting together a last ditch effort to convince Governor Nathan Deal's Board of Pardons and Paroles to rethink this terrible decision and commute Kelly's sentence to life in prison without parole. We're purchasing ads in local media markets — including the state's major newspapers — to tell Kelly's story and remind the State of Georgia that the world is watching.

If we can raise just $10,000, we can make a big splash in Georgia media and make sure the Board of Pardons and Paroles gets our message loud and clear.

You can also take action right now on social media. If you're on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram, tweet and post @GovernorDeal and @GA_ParoleBoard using the #KellyOnMyMind hashtag. Remind Governor Deal's Board of Pardons and Paroles that they must give Kelly a new clemency hearing.

Kelly has expressed deep remorse for her role in the murder of her husband, Douglas Gissendaner. And she has reconciled with her children. While they continue to mourn their father's death, they are asking Georgia to spare their mother's life.

If they can forgive their mother for killing their father, then surely the state can show mercy.

People every day are waking up to the fact that Kelly's death would be a great wrong, whether they oppose the death penalty in all cases, or are moved by Kelly's story of redemption. It is time for people of all political backgrounds to speak up.

Kelly is still alive today because of the power of this movement. Now is the time to pressure Georgia's decision-makers to do the right thing.

With gratitude and hope,

The Reverend Kimberly S. Jackson, Letitia M. Campbell, and Rev. Dr. Melissa Browning

P.S. If you know anyone who hasn't heard Kelly's story, send them to www.kellyonmymind.com to learn more and take action!

Related article:
- Georgia's Only Woman On Death Row Sues Over 'Mortal Fear' During Delayed Execution, March 12, 2015. A "botched" execution caused the only woman on Georgia's death row to endure 13 hours of “immense mental anxiety” and "mortal fear" -- and was heinous enough to make a future execution unnecessarily cruel and therefore unconstitutional, the woman's lawyers argue in a new lawsuit against the state.

Cruel, not unusual, and yet constitutional

Strapped to a gurney, waiting for death... or a stay

"Robert Waterhouse was scheduled for execution at 6:00pm this evening. In accordance with the established execution protocol he was strapped to the gurney and the needles were inserted into each arm about 45 minutes prior to his appointed time. Just before 6:00, however, he received a 45-minute stay which morphed into an almost 3-hour endurance test as he remained on the gurney as the seconds, minutes and then hours slid by at an excruciatingly slow pace, waiting for someone to tell him if hope was at hand, if he would live or die. Just before 9:00 he received his answer, the plungers were depressed, the syringes emptied and he was summarily killed. Here on the row we can discern the approximate time of death when we see the old white Cadillac hearse trundle in through the back sally port gate to pick up the body, the same familiar 1960′s era hearse I’ve watched for almost 40 years, coming in to retrieve the bodies of murdered prisoners, which used to happen on a regular basis back when I was in open population. I’ve seen a lot of guys, both friends and foes, carted off in that old hearse. Anyway, pause for a moment to imagine being on that gurney for over three hours, the needles in your arms. You’ve already come to terms with your imminent death, you are reconciled with the reality that this is it, this is how you will die, that there will be no reprieve. Then, at the last moment, a cruel trick, you’re given that slim hope, which you instinctively grasp. Some court, somewhere, has given you a temporary stay. You stare at the ceiling while the clock on the wall ticks away. You are totally alone, not a friendly soul in sight, surrounded by grim-faced men who are determined to kill you. Your heart pounds, your body feels electrified and every second seems like an eternity as a Kaleidoscope of wild thoughts crash around franticly in your compressed mind. After 3 hours you are drained, exhausted, terrorized, and then the phone on the wall rings and you’re told it’s time to die…"

- William Van Poyck, Death Row Diary, February 25, 2012. Van Poyck spent nearly 26 years on death row in solitary confinement. He wrote to his sister about his life in prison, and in recent years she published his letters to a blog called Death Row Diary. In these letters, Poyck wrote about everything from the novels and history books he was reading and shows he watched on PBS to the state of the world and his own philosophy of life–punctuated by news of the deaths of those around him, from illness, suicide, and execution. The excerpt selected by Death Penalty News focuses on the inhumane treatment he and other individuals on death row endure as they move ever closer to their own finalities. William Van Poyck was executed on June 13, 2013. Read more here.

It all started when I got "the date" in September. Up until then it was just something in the distance. Now it was all too real. It seemed like a giant weight descended onto my shoulders. Suddenly the calendar seemed bigger and every number on it had ominous portent. Every day, hour and minute that passed I kept having these recurring thoughts like "Well, I’ll probably never get to do (or: see, hear, say, read, etc.) this again. Everything seemed to take on this flavor of oppressive finality. My mind would run on and on and on for hours and hours. Every new day I woke up to the realization that it’s one less I’d be here.
I remember sometimes thinking of people I’d known in the world who’d died horrible deaths and I found myself envious of them. For them, bad as it was, it was still over and done with in a few minutes/ moments. For me, it’s stretched out over eleven (11) years. It’s always been there (death). But now it’s right on top of me. Yet still days away. I couldn’t imagine how in the world I was going to survive it until the end, then laughed at myself for the insanity of that thought.
On the day of execution I haven’t slept at all. I don’t seem to think cohesively for any length of time at all. It seems like an eternity, yet I keep wondering where the time went. Then the regrets start in, as I’m mostly thinking of my family and how this is hurting them. I keep thinking about things I should’ve said to my family but forgot. Things I should’ve written. But now it’s too late. It seemed time kept growing less and less, as I visit with them and tell them over and over that I love them and goodbye.
The next think I know I’m being shackled and loaded in the van and it’s too late to say anything. All those thoughts and regrets are repeated over and over in my mind during all those hours I sat in the death house waiting to die at any time.
In the death house, I keep thinking of my family. I pray for some way to release them from the pain and torment, for me to just go on and handle this alone, as my problem, to face it. Then I caught myself thinking of the thoughts I had during the ride to Huntsville, with my senses heightened to the point of being painful. I hear the van tires on the pavement as a rushing noise in my ears with every car, tree, building or house we passed I thought, "Well, I’ll never see that again". Then, I start to hear every beat of my heart as if I’m holding it up to my ear. But at the same time, it really hurts and I can’t figure out how it can keep beating and beating that hard.
Then my thoughts are broken when the warden comes into the death house to tell me what will be taking place when the time comes. He points to a door I can see from my cell and tells me behind that door is the execution chamber. When the time comes they will come and get me. If I can’t walk, they will carry me, but either way I’m going. He tells me the chaplain will be here soon.
The chaplain comes and tells me, while I’m on the gurney he will be there holding my ankle to offer comfort.
As these people talk to me, I know they’re people, but at the same time I think of them as something else or, in a bad way. As these thoughts just seem to hang there and it seems to be getting dark but it’s the middle of the day and there’s lights everywhere. Then I see the door that the ambulance will back up to, to pick up my body and that’s when it strikes me all over again, "this is it". There’s no way to describe the pressure I feel as I pray they’ll hurry up and get it over with.
Every time the walkie-talkie bursts to life, a door slams, the phone rings, I nearly jump out of my skin. This is almost constant for six (6) hours. The chaplain tells me that if I hear rustling and movement in the back, he says It’s just the execution team getting ready and for me not to be "alarmed", (they’re just coming to kill you. Don’t be “alarmed"! H.W.S.). They kept me "alarmed" for those long hours of torture.
I talk to the chaplain some while pacing the cell. I’m thinking I’m going to have a heart attack before they get me onto that horizontal cross with needles in my arms instead of nails. I’ve been broke out in a cold sweat for 2 hours. Can’t think. Just pace, pace, pace. Back and forth, back and forth. 3 ½ steps. I can’t remember the subjects or details of anything the chaplain said, just a bunch of words.
I eat some of my last meal but I can’t taste a thing. I just look down and see that some of it is gone.
Six o’clock comes. Nothing. Pace, pace, pace those 3 ½ steps. Seven o’clock. 8 o’clock. Same thing. My mouth is so dry no amount of water can wet it. I know they’re going to open that door any minute and confront me with that gurney and those needles. This is it. This is it. Every time I blink the sweat out of my eye I see it open, I think, that door.
Nine o’clock. I’m still pacing. I can’t take any more of this! Can’t escape it. "Lord," I pray, "just let it be over. Just let it be done one way or another". It feels like my mind has been stretched in a million directions until it has stress holes like Swiss cheese.
Ten o’clock. Pace, pace, pace. I know the attorneys are filing stuff and I want to have hope, but that door… I believe, if a stay was coming they’d already have announced it.
Eleven o’clock. Pace. Pace. My whole body feels like it’s going to explode into a mist. This can’t be real.
Ten minutes to midnight. I’ve gotten so confused and fuzz-minded that all these jumbled thoughts, in pieces, are plying through my mind every direction, so fast it just seems like a constant hum or moan. They say it’s too late, they can’t do it. Tell me to get ready to go back to Polunsky. I can’t comprehend this. I’m supposed to be dead. I barely remember coming back. I can’t walk straight.
The next days I feel so strange, like I’m out of place, out of reality somehow. I’m not able to think, I can’t believe I’m still here. They let the warrant expire. I think now that they must be required to give me life. I got only one set of appeals so it follows they get only one chance to execute me, right? There was no legal reason not to they just failed to. Maybe I should feel lucky but I just feel cheated and cursed. I can’t even get executed right! Yet, I am so grateful and happy to be alive, just for my family. My greatest worry was thinking of them having to go through all this with me, on account of me.
Then, last week I found out from my lawyer that they have set me another execution date. On January 28th, 2004 I’ll have to go through all this again. I can’t believe it. I don’t know what in the world I’m going to say to my wife and kids. I sit down in my cell, trying to comprehend this and start crying. I think I have never shed so many tears over others over so many days in a row or had my heart twisted out of socket this bad. There just are no words for how this feels. Now the whole nightmare starts all over again. I cannot believe it. I know I won’t last through another round of this.

- Billy Frank "Sonny" Vickers, January 2004. On December 9, 2003. Billy Frank "Sonny" Vickers waited until midnight (time when the death warrant expires) in a death watch cell next to the execution chamber at the Walls Unit in Huntsville. Billy Vickers wanted to share his experience with as many as possible. Billy and Hank Skinner were in cells next to each other and Billy no longer had the strength to write. He asked Hank to transcribe their conversations about the last weeks of his life, between two execution dates. Billy was executed on January 28th, 2004.

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