FEATURED POST

Anthony Ray Hinton Spent Almost 30 Years on Death Row. Now He Has a Message for White America.

Image
Anthony Ray Hinton was mowing the lawn at his mother's house in 1985 when Alabama police came to arrest him for 2 murders he did not commit. One took place when he was working the night shift at a Birmingham warehouse. Yet the state won a death sentence, based on 2 bullets it falsely claimed matched a gun found at his mother's home. In his powerful new memoir, "The Sun Does Shine: How I Found Life and Freedom on Death Row," Hinton describes how racism and a system stacked against the poor were the driving forces behind his conviction. He also writes about the unique and unexpected bonds that can form on death row, and in particular about his relationship with Henry Hays, a former Klansman sentenced to death for a notorious lynching in 1981. Hays died in the electric chair in 1997 - 1 of 54 people executed in Alabama while Hinton was on death row.
After almost 30 years, Hinton was finally exonerated in 2015, thanks to the Equal Justice Initiative, or EJI. On April 27…

My grandfather was a death row doctor. He tested psychedelic drugs on Texas inmates.

An Austin-based writer's quest to learn his grandfather's story leads to death row — and a little-known series of experiments that involved giving hallucinogens to inmates in the early 1960s.

Editor's note: In this special contribution to The Texas Tribune, Austin writer Ben Hartman tells the story of his search for the truth about his late grandfather, a prison psychiatrist on Texas' death row who performed little-known medical experiments on inmates in the 1960s.

Eusebio Martinez was polite — even happy — as he entered the death chamber that August night in Huntsville in 1960. He may not have understood his time was up.

A few years earlier, Martinez had been convicted of murdering an infant girl whose parents had left her sleeping in their car while they visited a Midland nightclub. He’d been ruled “feeble-minded” by multiple psychiatrists and had to be shown how to get into the electric chair.

As he was strapped in, a priest leaned in and coached him to say “gracias” and a simple prayer. Just before the first bolt knifed through his brain, Martinez grinned and waved at the young Houston doctor who would declare him dead a few minutes later.

That doctor was my grandfather.

For three years at the end of his life, Dr. Lee Hartman worked as a resident physician and psychiatrist at Huntsville’s Wynne Unit. From 1960 to 1963, he witnessed at least 14 executions as presiding physician, his signature scrawled on the death certificates of the condemned men. All of them died in the electric chair – “Ol’ Sparky” – a grisly method that left flesh burned and bodies smoking in the death chamber as my grandfather read their vital signs.

I had always known from my father that his dad, who died before I was born, worked for the prison system as a psychiatrist.

But I had no idea that he’d worked in the death chamber, witnessing executions. Or that he’d been involved in testing psychedelics on prisoners to see if drugs like LSD, mescaline and psilocybin could treat schizophrenia. Or that he’d been hospitalized repeatedly during his lifelong struggle with depression.

And I didn’t know the truth about his death at age 48, when he was found on the staircase of his house in Houston’s exclusive River Oaks neighborhood.

My obsession with my grandfather’s life grew from my father’s sudden death from a stroke at his Austin home in 2014. Last summer, I came back to Austin after 14 years overseas and began searching for clues about my grandfather – in the state archives, in Huntsville and in boxes of old family keepsakes kept by my aunts.

I reported on crime and police and prisons for several years as a journalist in Israel, and now I wanted to investigate a mystery in my own family tree. I wanted to learn about the man whose story had always seemed more literary than real – a Jewish orphan from the Deep South who fought in World War II, sang in operas and became a successful doctor before tragedy cut the story short.

I wanted to know the man my father was named for, and to use the search as a way to beat a path through my grief over my own father’s death.

Through my grandfather’s personal papers, newspaper clippings and long-buried state records, I found a man – brilliant, thoughtful and sensitive – who witnessed great human drama and suffering in the Death House, and in the process became a determined opponent of capital punishment. He outlined his thoughts in a collection of diary entries and a 19-page handwritten treatise I found in my grandmother’s old keepsakes.

“The death penalty,” he wrote in 1962, “is irreparable.”

For three years my grandfather shuffled back and forth between Huntsville and Houston, where he’d established a part-time psychiatry practice in Bellaire and in his spare time sang on stage as part of the chorus of the Houston Grand Opera.

Early in my research, I was searching an online newspaper archive for my grandfather’s obituary when an unrelated article stopped me.

The United Press International wire report from May 1962 is headlined: “Stickney Dies In Electric Chair.”

“At 12:26 a.m. Stickney was strapped into the chair. He made no last statement, so to speak. Three charges of 1,600 volts charged through his body. At 12:30 a.m. Dr. Lee Hartman, the prison doctor, pronounced him dead.”

Twenty executions were carried out in Huntsville in the three years my grandfather worked there, and he wrote about the 14 he presided over.

He has the same erudite, wordy writing style of my father, peppered with historical references and written in handwriting eerily similar to that of his son. Each entry begins with the date and the dead man’s name, race, crime and victim. In small print above the list, he wrote “1500 volts X 15 sec – 200 volts X 30 sec – 1000 volts X 15 sec – 200 volts X 30 sec” — a morbid list of the fatal series of shocks in the death chamber.

➤ Click here to read the full article

Source: The Texas Tribune, Ben Hartman, July 5, 2017

⚑ | Report an error, an omission, a typo; suggest a story or a new angle to an existing story; submit a piece, a comment; recommend a resource; contact the webmaster, contact us: deathpenaltynews@gmail.com.


Opposed to Capital Punishment? Help us keep this blog up and running! DONATE!

Most Viewed (Last 7 Days)

20 Minutes to Death: Record of the Last Execution in France

New Hampshire Governor Vetoes Death Penalty Repeal

Las Vegas judge signs Scott Dozier’s execution warrant

Anthony Ray Hinton Spent Almost 30 Years on Death Row. Now He Has a Message for White America.

Thailand carries out first execution since 2009

Thailand: Resuming Death Penalty a Major Setback

Texas assures court it can carry out aging death row inmate's execution

Texas executes Dale Devon Scheanette

Nebraska: Court orders correction department to release execution drug information

Thailand: 2nd suspect hunted in wake of Monday's execution