Living on Death Row

Living on Death Row

Living on Death Row

Living on Death Row

Synopsis

Living on Death Row represents a 13-year ethnographic study of men awaiting their execution while confined on Ohio's Death Row (DR). Lose was granted unprecedented access to conduct confidential interviews in a supermax environment. Slowly he developed a mutual trust with the inmates, and they began to open up about their crimes, lives, hopes, fears and impending executions. Reading Death Row statistics can be a blasé experience to some, upsetting to others. But nothing compares to confronting the rampant injustices, horrendous misconceptions and lies about the culture of Death Row. A few are innocent, most are guilty, but all were found guilty of capital murder - not because of their crimes - but due to poverty, mental illness, or minority status. Equally upsetting were the frank, open discussions of their homicides.

Excerpt

As a young Boy Scout I was enamored with the concept of living off the land and surviving in the wilderness. Two friends and I purchased leg-hold traps in a misguided effort to learn to forage and hunt for our meals. Donny’s dog lost a corner of her tongue in one trap, yet I still did not realize leg-hold’s were a bad idea. I had this false image that a leg hold trap would snap the neck of some critter and cause instant and painless death. I set mine in the back yard and snared a squirrel by the hind leg. The poor animal was terrified and could not get free. I could not release it for fear of getting bit, and could not stand to leave it there to suffer and starve. In a panic I decided to kill it by smashing it’s head with a sledgehammer. It did not die easy; it took many bashings and the poor squirrel screamed in fear and pain. I felt awful inside and that ended any desire to ever hunt or fish again.

Even the mere thought of killing another animal brought back all that young-boy guilt and shame, and I could not fathom how anyone could do that to any creature, much less a human. After the trapping incident I could no longer enjoy fishing, my Dad’s favorite father-son together time. Many years later I became fascinated with serial killers: how could someone enjoy the repeated killing of humans? What kind of person were they?

As part of my studies at the University of Cincinnati I took many courses and seminars on homicide, sexual assault and serial rape and murder, and watched countless taped interviews of death row inmates. Most of the Death Row inmates we watched were celled in solitary fashion. I have always been a bit claustrophobic, and I was terrified at the thought of being housed in isolation for 20-plus years while awaiting execution. When something scares me I want to learn more, and I learn best when I research, experience and write about the topic.

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