Left: Execution photograph from The Black Sentinel
Bob Dylan said, "The executioner's face is always well-hidden."
Well, not this time. They are coming forward to say, enough. And God bless them for it.
Former executioners sue prison officials
2 claim they lacked training, were forced to perform job
By Tim Smith
STAFF WRITER, Greenville News
December 20, 2007
COLUMBIA -- Two former state executioners have filed federal lawsuits against the prison system’s top officials, alleging the executioners weren’t trained and were forced to execute inmates or lose their jobs and rank as majors.Maybe, but not just anyone is an executioner.
Terry Bracey and Ira Craig Baxley, who both worked for the prison system for more than 20 years, filed suits against Jon Ozmint, director of the state’s prison system, and Robert Ward, director of operations for the agency.
Both executioners retired from the department on disability and have pending workers’ compensation claims against the agency, according to their attorney, Lewis Cromer, a Columbia lawyer who has represented government whistleblowers.
A spokesman for the prison system said he was aware of the lawsuits. "Anyone can file a lawsuit filled with false allegations," spokesman Josh Gelinas said. "Some lawyers will file them and send out a press release announcing it."
The lawsuits themselves are difficult reading.
The suits paint a gruesome picture of executions in the state and allege "accidental malfunctions of death apparatus." Most of the executions in the state over the past decade have been by lethal injection, but at least one was done using the electric chair, according to the suits.One wonders if this could be the beginning of a trend? Will this finally be the abolition of the death penalty?
Both men alleged they were forced to act as executioner "against their will" although they said the agency labeled the job as voluntary.
Neither man was trained or prepared for using the electric chair, the suits allege, "with its shocking smell and scene of agony."
And neither man was offered counseling, the suits allege.
"Although these executions were barbaric, gruesome and repulsive to the plaintiff, he continued to perform them under the implied threat by the defendant Ward that such service was necessary if he was to continue to act as team leader and to receive the salary supplement and other benefits of his major’s position," Baxley’s suit alleges.
Baxley killed eight inmates as executioner, according to his suit, and participated in two other executions.
Baxley’s suit alleges that in one execution the "plaintiff was exposed to poison, blood and a horrible death scene where the lethal syringe came out of the inmate’s arm during the execution."
Baxley alleged that some executions were carried out in which he alone did the executions.
Bracey alleged that he was identified as the executioner, though their identities weren’t supposed to be made known.
A third executioner who didn’t wish to do the job voluntarily later committed suicide, the suits allege.
Bracey alleged in his suit that the executioners’ treatment by Ozmint and Ward constituted "emotional distress and treatment so severe that no reasonable person should be required to endure it."
PDF file: Ira Baxley's lawsuit
Baxley sent an email to Ozmint voicing concerns about being forced to be an executioner, the lawsuit alleges.
"Ozmint responded that if he did not like it, he could transfer (losing his position and supplement) and additionally if he was being treated badly by (the worker), he could do something else," the suit alleges.
Baxley alleges Ward and Ozmint "began a ruthless and unrelenting campaign of retaliation, harassments, threats and criticisms ultimately and proximately resulting in the plaintiff’s physical and emotional collapse."
Baxley is seeking $1 million in damages, and Bracey is seeking $5 million.
PDF file: Terry Bracey's lawsuit
Godspeed, gentlemen. Sue their asses off.
Listening to: Nina Simone - I Shall Be Released