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"And you're told it's time to die": A Personal Contribution to the 2021 World Day Against the Death Penalty

The following text is excerpted from Death Row Diary, by William Van Poyck.

William Van Poyck -- who maintained his innocence -- was executed by the state of Florida on June 12, 2013. 

The 58-year-old, convicted of the 1987 murder of Glades Correctional Institution guard Fred Griffis outside a West Palm Beach doctor’s office, offered his views on everything from prison food to movies to the blood lust of politicians who support the death penalty via letters he posted online with the help of his sister. 

After his conviction, Van Poyck, with a reform school education, authored three books, one of which won first-place honors in the memoir category in Writer’s Digest 2004 Self-Published Book Awards. 

Locked up with what the courts have deemed the worst of the worst, Van Poyck opened the doors to a secret world few can imagine...

The following piece is excerpted from William Van Poyck’s dispatches written during the last two years prior to his own execution.


"Robert Waterhouse was scheduled for execution at 6:00 pm 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 frantically 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."

Source: Death Row Diary, William Van Poyck, February 15, 2012


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"One is absolutely sickened, not by the crimes that the wicked have committed,
but by the punishments that the good have inflicted." -- Oscar Wilde

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