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Texas Execution Procedures and History
Source: Texas Department of Criminal Justice, Institutional Division

PROCEDURES

Where death row inmates are held:

Male inmates under the death sentence are housed at the Ellis Unit of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice Institutional Division, which is located 16 miles northeast of Huntsville, Texas. Female death row inmates are housed at the Mountain View Unit located in Gatesville, Texas.

Visitation

Inmates at the Ellis/Mountain View Unites may have family member(s) and friend(s) on a list of approved visitors.

The inmate may have the following visitors at the Huntsville Unit: Inmates at the Huntsville Unit may have visits from the Texas Department of Criminal Justice chaplain(s), institutional division chaplain(s), minister(s), attorney(s). All visits must be approved by the Huntsville Unit warden. With the exception of the chaplain's visits, all visits will be terminated by 12:30 p.m. on the day of the execution.

Transportation An inmate scheduled for execution shall be transported from the Ellis/Mountain View Unit to the Huntsville Unit prior to the scheduled execution. Transportation arrangements shall be known only to the unit wardens involved, and no public announcement to either the exact time, method, or route of transfer shall be made. The director's office and the public information office will be notified immediately after the inmate arrives at the Huntsville Unit. During transportation and after arrival at the Huntsville Unit, the inmate shall be constantly observed and supervised by security personnel.

Final meal

The final meal will be served at approximately 3:30 p.m. to 4 p.m. Prior to 6 p.m., the inmate may shower and dress in clean clothes. The Huntsville Unit warden's office will serve as the communications command post and only operations personnel will be allowed entry to this area. All other individuals, including witnesses to the execution, will assemble at approximately 5:55 p.m. in the lounge adjacent to the visiting room. All necessary arrangements to carry out the execution shall be completed at the predetermined time. Shortly after 6 p.m., the door will be unlocked, and the inmate will be removed from the holding cell. The inmate will be taken from the cell area into the execution chamber and secured to a gurney. A medically trained individual (not to be identified) shall insert an intravenous catheter into the condemned person's arms and cause a saline solution to flow. At a predetermined time, the witnesses shall be escorted to the execution chamber.

Witnesses to the execution shall include:

The media: One Texas bureau representative designated by the Associated Press, one Texas Bureau representative designated by the United Press International, one representative for the Huntsville Item, and one representative each from established separate rosters of print and broadcast media will be admitted to the execution chamber as witnesses, provided those designated agree to meet with all media representatives present, immediately after the execution. No recording devices, either audio or video, shall be permitted in the unit or in the execution chamber. Reporters from community where crime was committed have first choice to witness execution.

Witnesses requested by the condemned: Policy allows for up to 5 pre-approved witnesses requested by the condemned.

Victims' witnesses: Policy allows for up to 5 immediate family members or close friends of the victim to attend. The execution Once the witnesses are in place, the warden shall allow the condemned person to make a last statement. Upon completion of the statement, if any, the warden shall signal for the execution to proceed. At this time, the designee(s) of the director shall induce by syringe, substance and/or substances necessary to cause death. This individual(s) shall be visually separated from the execution chamber by a wall and locked door, and shall also not be identified.

Lethal injection saline solution consists:

Sodium Thiopental (lethal dose) Pancuronium Bromide (muscle relaxant) Potassium Chloride (stops the heart beat) After the inmate is pronounced dead, the body shall be immediately removed from the execution chamber, taken to an awaiting vehicle and delivered to a local funeral home for burial by the family or state. The inmate may request that his body be donated to the state anatomical board for medical research purposes. Arrangements for the body is to be concluded prior to the execution.

The Director of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice Institutional Division, in accordance with Article 43.23, shall return the death warrant and certificate with a statement of any such act and his proceedings endorsed thereon, together with a statement showing what disposition was made of the body of the convict, to the clerk of the court in which the sentence was passed.

DEATH ROW FACTS

Average time on death row: 8 years and 10 months. Average age of executed inmates: 37. Cost per day per inmate: $59.98.

DEATH ROW HISTORY

Death row was located in the East Building of the Huntsville Unit from 1928 until 1952. From 1952 until 1965, death row and the electric chair were located in a special building by the East Wall of the Huntsville Unit. The men on death row were moved from the Huntsville Unit to Ellis in 1965. There, they are housed in both single (5 feet by 9 feet) or double cells. Death row inmates receive a regular diet, have access to television, magazines, books and legal materials. The same mail rules apply to them as to the general population. Inmates on death row do not have regular TDCJ-ID numbers, but have special death row numbers.

Execution history

Hanging was means of execution between 1819 and 1923. Prior to 1923, Texas counties were responsible for their own executions, thereafter all executions were ordered to be carried out by the state in Huntsville. Electrocutions were means of execution beginning February 1924. When capital punishment was declared "cruel and unusual punishment" by the U.S. Supreme Court on June 29, 1972, there were 45 men on death row in Texas and 7 in county jails with a death sentence. All of the sentences were commuted to life sentences by the governor of Texas, and death row was cleared by March 1973.

In 1973, revision to the Texas Penal Code again began assessing the death penalty and allowed for executions to resume effective Jan. 1, 1974. Under the new statute, the first man was placed on Death Row Feb. 15, 1974, John Devries, No. 507, white, born Nov. 19, 1920. Devries was convicted of murder with malice while committing burglary in Jefferson County. Devries committed suicide July 1, 1974 by hanging himself with bed sheets.

On Aug. 29, 1977 Texas adopted the new method of execution from the electric chair to lethal injection.

Dec. 7, 1982, Texas became the first state to use the method of lethal injection, executing Charlie Brooks of Tarrant county for kidnap/murder of a Fort Worth auto mechanic.

The first woman executed by lethal injection was Karla Faye Tucker -- She was executed on Feb. 3, 1998. She was convicted of capital murder in the June 1983 pick-ax slayings of 27-year old Jerry Lynn Dean and his companion, Deborah Thomton, in Houston.

Electric chair history facts:

There were no woman executed by electrocution. Texas authorized use of the electric chair in 1923. The electric chair, which was used in Texas from 1924 through 1977, was the original chair built from oak in 1923-24. The electric chair, "Old Sparky," was located behind the chapel in the Huntsville Unit, now housed at the Prison Museum. The electric chair was first used on Feb. 9, 1924, executing five men on that date in the following order: Charles Reynolds, Black, Red River County, murder.

Between February 1924, and July 1964, a total of 506 men and women were placed on death row in Texas; of those, 361 men died in the electric chair. Of the 361, 229 were black, 108 white, 23 Mexican American. Texas executed its last inmate by electrocution on July 30, 1964: Joseph Johnson from Harris County for murder.

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