Magazine article Newsweek

Execution: The Grisly Play-by-Play: Confronting the Cold Reality on Audiotape

Magazine article Newsweek

Execution: The Grisly Play-by-Play: Confronting the Cold Reality on Audiotape

Article excerpt

The language is dry and bureaucratic, as if the narrator, a Georgia-state-prison official named Willis Marable, were describing the best way to install a piece of office equipment. But the event is the execution of a convicted murderer named Ivon Ray Stanley on July 12, 1984--the somber and ultimately dreadful moment when the state uses its legal power to take a life. "The execution is now in progress," Marable says in his down-home drawl. "From my vantage point it seems that the inmate has relaxed somewhat... His fists are still clenched, but there is no movement from the condemned." Ivon Ray Stanley is dead.

The audiotape, 11 minutes long, was broadcast last week by National Public Radio and ABC's "Nightline" and got heavy news play nationwide. Part of a trove of 23 execution tapes made by Georgia officials to document their policies for legal reasons, it is a chillingly detailed narrative of a procedure few Americans ever encounter. Though first broadcast on radio and TV in Georgia, it was brought to NPR by Dave Isay, an independent producer who said he wanted to "get people to talk" about capital punishment in America. The timing--two weeks before the scheduled execution of Timothy McVeigh--was no accident, although Isay won't state his view on the death penalty. The Georgia tapes sound "like mission control," he said. "It's a countdown. It's totally bizarre."

One of the more bizarre moments is a matter-of-fact discussion about the source of a mysterious popping sound heard during Ivon Ray Stanley's execution. …

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