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The Execution Tapes

The Execution Tapes

Title Details

Running Time
53 Min.


Since this country's last public execution in 1936, all U.S. executions have been carried out solely in front of state-selected witnesses. Courts have consistently ruled that, although the media do have a place in witnessing executions, they have no right to record the scene. In 1998, however, audio tapes of 22 Georgia executions - recorded by members of the state's Department of Corrections for their own records - entered the court record when criminal defense lawyer Mike Mears subpoenaed the tapes in a lawsuit challenging the state's use of the electric chair. The Execution Tapes is an hour-long public radio special hosted by Ray Suarez featuring excerpts of recordings made in Georgia's death house during electrocutions. This broadcast marked the first time a national audience was able to hear what takes place during a state-sponsored execution. In addition to audio of the 1984 execution of Ivon Ray Stanley, the program features audio of a botched execution in which the inmate was still alive after being electrocuted for two minutes, requiring that he be electrocuted again. You will also hear a selection of inmates' final statements, recorded immediately before their execution. Excerpts of the tapes are followed by two roundtable discussions about the implications of the tapes' broadcast. Participants include 60 Minutes co-editor Mike Wallace, First-Amendment lawyer Martin Garbus, former Georgia Attorney General Michael Bowers, professor of psychiatry and psychology Robert Jay Lifton, and Diane Clements, president of the victims' rights organization, Justice for All. After you have listened to this program, check out The Execution Tapes: A National Discussion, featuring a special report from NPR's On the Media. When you are done, you can step up on the WNYC Soapbox.

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