Interview with Steve Hall

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      Table of Contents 
      •  Introduction - Hall's legal background 
      •  Witnessing an execution 
      •  Questions regarding lethal injection 
      •  Watch Video 2, Video 3 of "Interview with Mr. Steve Hall." 
       
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      Transcript  
      •  HINZ-FOLEY: And you do consent to this interview? 
      •  HALL: Yes I do. 
      •  HINZ-FOLEY: Okay perfect (inaudible talking). We have our intern Jennifer at the Texas After Violence Project here, Kim Bacon and Sabina Hinz-Foley, the interviewer, and I think we're good. All right, can you tell us a little about where you're from and just a little background information? 
      •  HALL: Sure. I'm Steve Hall. I am the Director of the StandDown Texas Project, which was organized in the summer of 2000 to advocate a moratorium on executions and a state-sponsored study commission. 
      •  HALL: I came to this in some measure because previously, between 1993 and 1996, I had been an administrator of the Texas Resource Center, which was a legal services project centered around providing direct representation for Death Row inmates and to recruit pro bono counsel to represent Death Row inmates in their habeas proceedings, they're part of the post-conviction proceedings. 
      •  HALL: Part of what brought me there was my experience in the Texas Attorney General's office between 1983 and 1991. I was the Chief of Staff to Attorney General Jim Mattox and that was a time when capital punishment was really just starting to come back into being and so that's led down this path. 
      •  HALL: I'm a former journalist. Had my journalism degree from the University of Texas at Austin. I grew up in Dallas, Texas but I was born in Indiana and so I still have a little bit of an outsider's perspective of Texas. 
      •  HINZ-FOLEY: And so you've been a journalist and you were the Chief of Staff for the Attorney General's office and now you're an activist. How did that come about? How were you led from being a journalist and the Attorney General's Office to being an activist now in the StandDown Texas Project? 
      •  HALL: Quite unintentionally. 
      •  HINZ-FOLEY: Hmm. 
      •  HALL: It's been a river that I certainly didn't chart. Had someone told me twenty years ago that I'd be doing this I would have been pretty puzzled by it. And yet it also feels like a very natural continuum. 
      •  HALL: And in fact the work that I did in the early-mid 90s with the Texas Resource Center was probably the most satisfying work professionally that I have ever done. 
      •  HALL: And I felt that I contributed some valuable items to particular cases and so I was very glad to have the opportunity to work with the StandDown Texas Project and to advocate reforms that I believe and many others believe would improve our criminal justice system and at least minimize the potential for wrongful convictions and the wrongful execution of innocent people. 
      •  HINZ-FOLEY: Mmhmm. And what was your experience at the Attorney General's office? 
      •  HALL: Well in 1983, Jim Mattox, who was then a member of the U.S. Congress and a former state representative here in Texas, decided to run for the Attorney General's Office. And he asked if I would be his press secretary, and I did that during the campaign. 
      •  HALL: It was a somewhat bitter campaign in some ways.  There were four candidates in the Democratic primary from different areas of the state and Jim Mattox won the primary but not with a majority, and so there was a run off several weeks later. He won that and became the Democratic candidate to become Attorney General, and then ran in the general election and won that. 
      •  HALL: That election in November of 1982 really lead to a real progressive ticket of Texas Democrats. Lloyd Benson headed the ticket for the U.S Senate. He was an incumbent. Bill Hobby, the incumbent Lieutenant Governor and in addition to Jim Mattox, there was Mark White who was elected Governor, he had been the Attorney General. Ann Richards, Jim Hightower, and Garry Mauro, so it was a very auspicious time in Texas politics. 
      •  HALL: It was a time also, I remember the campaign, the Attorney General candidates often ran on "tough on crime" campaign themes, in spite of the fact that the Attorney General of Texas really has very little to do with criminal justice law enforcement. 
      •  HALL: There are some parts of it that fit, but by large the Attorney General is the attorney for the State of Texas and the state agencies of Texas. 
      •  HALL: To tell you the truth, I had never really thought much about the death penalty. Of course, during the period prior to that campaign for many years there had not been any executions. 
      •  HALL: In 1972, the U.S Supreme Court ruled the death penalty in America as it was on the books at that time to be unconstitutional. That was at a time when crimes other then murder were subject to the death penalty. 
      •  HALL: And particularly in the American South, many African Americans accused of other crimes including sexual assaults had been convicted, sentenced to death and executed. 
      •  HALL: The Supreme Court ruled in 1974 that that several laws that had been reenacted were constitutional and so the death penalty reentered American society at that point, slowly however. 
      •  HALL: And the first execution was in 1977, really someone who killed in order to be executed and gain public notoriety. 
      •  HALL: We had gone along without many executions in the nation and none in Texas. 
      •  HALL: And it was only in December of 1982, a period after the November election but before Jim Mattox took office as Attorney General, that Texas had its first execution and that was an inmate named Charlie Brooks in December of 1982. 
      •  HALL: So when General Mattox took office it was clear that there would be executions during his term. 
      •  HALL: At the time there were roughly 200 attorneys in the Attorney General's office divided up into about a dozen different divisions. 
      •  HALL: One of those divisions was the Criminal Law Enforcement Division, and that division represented the prison in litigation. 
      •  HALL: It also represented the State of Texas when death penalty post-conviction proceedings were in the federal courts and as such the Attorney General was the last to touch those cases on behalf of the State of Texas. 
      •  HALL: I remember in meeting with the various lawyers in the office, General Mattox particularly worked with the capital section of the law enforcement division and he told them that he wanted to be briefed on cases that were facing execution or going to the U.S. Supreme Court. 
      •  HALL: He wanted to be aware of all the issues, he wanted to look at the file himself, and he told the lawyers "if there's ever a problem with a case, I want you to let me know." And he said "I don't know what we'll do, but we're gonna do something." 
      •  HALL: And eventually that happened in a case involving Henry Lee Lucas. 
      •  HALL: Henry Lee Lucas was the only person whose sentence was commuted by then-Governor George Bush and I'm convinced that the reason for that was an investigation that the Attorney General's office did and a report that we issued showing that Henry Lee Lucas, most likely was not even in Texas at the time a murder was committed for which Lucas had been convicted and sentenced to death. 
      •  HALL: And I'm convinced that without our investigation and our report with the state seal on it Henry Lee Lucas would have been wrongly executed. 
      •  HALL: So there we have kinda the build up to this. In 1983 -- I looked back in my calendar and I see that there were a few execution dates that were set that were cancelled -- stayed -- well in advance of the actual execution. 
      •  HALL: In spite of the fact that the U.S. Supreme court had cleared the path for executions through a case, Gregg v. Georgia, that looked at the Georgia law that also examined the Texas law and Florida, you continued to see challenges and what is most telling about America's experiment with the death penalty is that ever since then, in these succeeding thirty-four, thirty-five years you can continue to see the Court "tinker with the machinery of death." 
      •  HALL: And the Court has continued to clarify and narrow and redefine the process of capital punishment in America. In looking back it's even somewhat surprising to me that some of the issues that were raised in 1983 are still with us today in 2009 without satisfactory answers. 
      •  HALL: So I mentioned that there were several executions that had been scheduled and stayed. 
      •  HALL: Finally in early October of 1983, James Autry was scheduled to be executed and the execution date was October 5th and at that time under Texas state law executions occurred shortly after midnight and in fact the warrant for execution expired at daybreak that morning. 
      •  HALL: General Mattox; a member of the Texas Board of Corrections, Harry Whittington, and an Austin lawyer; and I flew to Huntsville on the evening of October the 4th and we were driven to the prison from the nearby airport. 
      •  HALL: The Walls Unit is in downtown Huntsville—that's where the execution chamber is. It's directly behind the prison Administration Building and it was roughly 11:15 or so when we got to the prison. 
      •  HALL: And we found a crowd of several hundred occupying that area between the prison Administration Building, the street, right up to the steps of the prison, that was guarded by TDC prison guards. 
      •  HALL: There were certainly some abolition protestors out there, but by far most of the protestors were vocally in favor of capital punishment. 
      •  HALL: And not to disparage Sam Houston State University, but it appeared that many of the protestors were college age students from that college and probably had been, uh, partying before they came. 
      •  HALL: We went into the prison and frankly the situation inside was not a lot different. There were many people in the prison—presumably all were prison employees, but there was also—not quite a party atmosphere but, but certainly it was an event. 
      •  HALL: And I'd say that it was apparent that at least a few of those people who were present—uh—probably also had been partying. Frankly it was hard to tell who was in charge. 
      •  HALL: Shortly after we arrived at the prison, well the reason I was there was we were keeping an open phone line between Austin and Huntsville so that our attorneys in Austin were monitoring the situation and we'd have direct contact. 
      •  HALL: It was very quickly, very quickly after we got to the prison, I got on the telephone line and our attorneys in Austin informed us that a stay had been issued by the U.S. Supreme Court and in looking at the notes it appears that that happened at about 11:31. 
      •  HALL: And within a very few minutes of consultation it was apparent to General Mattox that the execution would not occur, that the stay would remain in place, and he informed people of that fact at the prison. 
      •  HALL: As I said there was only one execution prior to this. And at the time they already had the inmate in the execution chamber with IVs in his arms. And we had been informed of that and General Mattox was very concerned about the potential for a problem or a mistake. 
      •  HALL: And so as soon as he determined that there was a stay that would remain in place he informed the prison employees in that room that there was a stay and that the execution would not be happening and that they needed to get the inmate off the gurney. And so we were talking and visiting with different prison people. 
      •  HALL: And I think about ten minutes later or so, and this would have been close to a quarter till midnight, and someone asked if the execution was going to happen. And I don't wanna say that General Mattox blew his stack, but he was very concerned that he had already indicated that the execution would not happen and that the inmate needed to be removed from the gurney. And so he again stated that in pretty forceful terms. 
      •  HALL: And we, we eventually found out that even then the inmate was not removed from the gurney and the IVs withdrawn. And by some newspaper accounts that didn't even happen till 12:30. So apparently the inmate had IVs in his arms and was on the gurney for just over an hour. 
      •  HALL: On the flight back to Austin, there was a lot of conversation between General Mattox and Harry Whittington who was a member of the Board of Corrections or what would now be called the Department of Criminal Justice. Mr. Whittington was also very distressed at the conditions, both outside of the prison and inside the prison. 
      •  HALL: And in looking back at my notes I see that in January of 1984, so probably at the next board meeting of the Board of Corrections, they adopted new procedures. One of those and one that was of great concern to General Mattox was that the inmate not be placed on the gurney with IVs inserted until after midnight and until it was clearly determined that no state of execution was in place. 
      •  HALL: Harry Whittington was really the inside voice for reform within the prison board and the procedures that the board adopted in January of 1984 clearly represented what he wanted uh to see done. General Mattox was critical of the previous rules such as they were, and was very vocal about the board's and the prison system's need to correct that. 
      •  HALL: Governor Mark White also spoke out. It was also, at a time of great turbulence in the prison system. The Texas prisons had been sued by an inmate alleging unconstitutional conditions and for years the Department of Corrections had denied some of those allegations and in fact it turned out they were lying when they did that. 
      •  HALL: And so there was a great turmoil in the prison system at that time, and the board has a lot on its plate and in fact the director at that time was fired and an interim director came in, a person with a reputation for reforming bad systems but he came in on the, with the agreement that he would only be there for a period of a year to a year and a half. So, in addition to all of this with their procedures surrounding executions, there was also a, a general level of turmoil in the prison system. 
      •  HINZ-FOLEY: So after all that turmoil when the execution started picking up more and more it became more procedural, you witnessed quite a few. What was your experience with that? 
      •  HALL: Well I, I originally accompanied General Mattox and as I said I was on the telephone, to the Austin office, and Mr. Autry was eventually executed several months later. 
      •  HALL: And on March 14th of 1984 and one of the reasons his execution had been stayed was a review, a case that was before the U.S. Supreme Court regarding proportionality and I've mentioned that it was surprising to me that so many of the issues that we still talk about were in play even then. 
      •  HALL: The case, Pulley v. Harris, which was a California case, dealt with the question of whether or not death sentences should be reviewed for proportionality, in other words, is this sentence in proportion to the crime, and in proportion to other cases that had been decided? So, you should not just be a review of does this case meet the legal requirements for the death penalty, but does it meet the jurisdictions standards for imposing a death sentence? 
      •  HALL: In Pulley v. Harris, the Court ruled that that was not a requirement of a constitutional system. 
      •  HALL: However, subsequently that became a part of some systems and in fact Georgia was one of the states that imposed proportionality review and that is still in play, because just last year, there was a great deal of controversy over death sentences in Georgia, because the Georgia Supreme Court had really stopped reviewing the proportionality of cases where life sentences had been handed down as was intended and they were only looking at proportionality in terms of other cases that received death sentences. 
      •  HALL: I think, I've thought for a long time that proportionality review is really a critical element if you're going to have a death penalty system that you have to look at the system, you have to look at the specific crime and judgment and measure, whether or not that's in proportion to the other cases that are from before. 
      •  HALL: It's especially important, I think in Texas where we have 254 counties; we have almost as many jurisdictions, because mostly these are prosecuted on a county-by-county basis. Some of the less populated west Texas counties or some of the small east Texas counties will have a multi-county jurisdiction. 
      •  HALL: But, all of that's to say there are a lot of individual prosecutors with a great deal of charging authority. They are the ones who decide when to seek the death penalty or not. 
      •  HALL: And so, what you see when you look at Texas convictions and death sentences, is really a hodge-podge and you see jurisdictions that almost never impose the death penalty and you see jurisdictions such as Harris County over a period of probably thirty years that imposed a death penalty virtually any crime that met the letter of the law. 
      •  HALL: And sometimes you see those right up against each other such as Galveston County and Harris County. 
      •  HALL: And so you see a wide disparity on who's sentenced to death, not because of the crime, but because of which side of the county line that that crime occurs on. 
      •  HALL: So that was one of the issues that was the issue that had held up Texas executions for a period of … uh … a little over a year. That was the issue on which James Autry's October execution date was stayed. And whom the court ruled in January of '84, that proportionality review was not necessary to be constitutional, a number of Texas execution dates were set including Mr. Autry's. 
      •  HALL: One of the other things that you see in his case that we still grapple with today is mitigation evidence. 
      •  HALL: In the original Texas death penalty statute, the jury after they determine guilt, they were then reconvened for the sentencing phase and they were asked to answer two questions. 
      •  HALL: Was the, this, murder committed intentionally or should have the person have seen that a murder was a likely outcome? 
      •  HALL: And is this person a future danger? 
      •  HALL: If the jury answered yes to both of those questions, the inmate was sentenced to death. 
      •  HALL: There was no allowance for the consideration of mitigating evidence: what kind of person the inmate was. 
      •  HALL: Did they have mental illness? Did they have mental retardation? Had they had a horrible upbringing? 
      •  HALL: And it actually wasn't until 1989, in a case that has traveled through Texas capital punishment that of Johnny Paul Penry's, that the Court said that a jury must be allowed to consider mitigating evidence. 
      •  HALL: And when you look back at Autry's upbringing, you see what we find in so many of these cases. 
      •  HALL: You see a person from a broken home, he was likely abused sexually, emotionally, physically, who had troubles from the very beginning and you had a system in the state that failed him until he was in prison again and executed. 
      •  HALL: So that's one of those issues that you continue to see repeated that was right there, evident, visible, from the very beginning. 
      •  HALL: Another issue in, in looking back at the news clips of James Autry's pending execution, another issue came up, and that was the issue of deterrence. And I think that by now, no informed scholar believes that there is a deterrent effect to the death penalty. 
      •  HALL: And I think that generally the public no longer regards it as having a deterrent effect and one of the ways that this came up in the Autry case is, shortly before he was executed he urged that the execution be carried on television. 
      •  HALL: And Attorney General Mattox saw this and I think he was rather conflicted about it. But he was also very much a populist and a proponent of open government, and after conferring with his lawyers, after looking back at some past Open Records issues, he wrote to the Board of Corrections stating that as the Attorney General and as the lawyer for the agency, that he would have no objection if the Board voted to authorize some form of recording of the execution or, or live televise it. 
      •  HALL: He concluded that the Board had broad authority to determine who could witness the execution and that included media representation and that was a issue for the Board. 
      •  HALL: That was greeted with a lot of scorn by individual members of the Board as well as Governor White. And it turned out to be something of a tempest in a teapot that consumed a lot of oxygen for a period of about a month and then died away.  
      •  HALL: At heart of that issue was the question of deterrence. 
      •  HALL: And General Mattox at the time said "If you believe that the death penalty has a deterrent effect, then it might make sense that if an execution is televised or publically broadcast that that's how you have a deterrent effect." 
      •  HALL: And it was interesting that even at the time, Judge Onion, who was the Presiding Judge of the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, seemed to disregard the deterrent effect of the death penalty, which was I think at least much more widely debated at that time. 
      •  HALL: Aand he referred back to hangings in public areas, particularly in England, and they were regarded as prime opportunities for pickpockets, a crime at that time subject to death. 
      •  HALL: And so Judge Onion seemed to dismiss as out of hand any deterrent effect. 
      •  HALL: So, a lot of issues were raised prior to James Autry's execution. He was executed and many of those same issues remain with us today. 
      •  HALL: Even mitigation. While the Supreme Court ruled in 1989 that a jury had to be allowed to consider mitigating evidence, in fact, many Texas inmates did not benefit from that ruling and their death sentences were upheld and they were executed. 
      •  HALL: Only in the last few years through a string of cases represented by the University of Texas Capital Punishment has that original Penry decision, sometimes called Penry 1, it's called Penry v. Lynaugh, only in the last few years as that original 1989 decision gained some real teeth in Texas. 
      •  HINZ-FOLEY: And then through your work at - after you were at the Attorney General's Office you worked as -- actually through the Texas Resource Center, right? Was that was a lot more dealing with the problems in our criminal justice system. What did you do at Texas Human Resource Center? 
      •  HALL: Well I was in Washington, D.C. and was contacted by an acquaintance who worked at the Resource Center. And there was a particular case involving an inmate named Gary Graham. And he had an execution date in the late spring of 1993. And his at the time under state law his avenue for additional appeal had been closed and the only thing that was left open to him was clemency. 
      •  HALL: Clemency, in Texas, in the post-Furman age has really not worked, hasn't met its historical responsibilities in the least. And by that point, more than ten years after the first Texas execution there had been no commutation of a death sentence facing an imminent execution. 
      •  HALL: So I prepared a plan for a clemency petition and to get the facts of his case out to the public. And came, came back to Texas and worked with his lawyers, worked with him. 
      •  HALL: Gary was a young man who had a very troubled childhood. And he'd had a weeklong crime spree when he was seventeen. And was in jail, and was at that point, then charged with a capital murder. He always protested his innocence. And it was a case involving a single eyewitness. 
      •  HALL: And his attorneys at the time -- when he went to trial he was represented by a court-appointed lawyer who did a very, very poor job of lawyering. Did not interview witnesses, did not, apparently never even saw the crime report. Because in the witness I.D. procedures, one of the crime scene witnesses had, several did not identify Graham. 
      •  HALL: One said "Well that's not him." 
      •  HALL: "How do you know?" 
      •  HALL: "Wrong height." 
      •  HALL: "How do you know?" 
      •  HALL: "Well, these two guys were standing right next to a light stand. I could tell you exactly how high each one was, and that's not the guy who shot." 
      •  HALL: So it was an incredible case. And yet Harris County was insistent that they had it right, despite of all the problems with the case. 
      •  HALL: And so we worked. A petition was developed which was denied. 
      •  HALL: However, so many troubling questions were raised that only hours before the execution was scheduled to take place, Governor Ann Richards issued a thirty-day reprieve of execution, which under Texas law is all that a Governor can do without a recommendation from the Board of Pardons and Parole. 
      •  HALL: And the Graham case continued. 
      •  HALL: At issue, the legal issue was he had new evidence of actual innocence, and this was at a time when the notion of actual innocence was really just a blip on the radar screen of the entire criminal justice system. 
      •  HALL: You had seen a bare handful of people exonerated, and it was widely believed that the criminal justice system got it right and the appellate system insured the integrity on convictions and death sentences. 
      •  HALL: So, Gary Graham's case raised so many new issues. And at the time Texas law said if you have new evidence of new evidence period, new evidence of innocence, you have thirty days from the date of your conviction to take that evidence to the court. 
      •  HALL: Well, this was well after thirty days and in fact he didn't even have competent attorneys until much later, and so eventually the courts ruled that there had to be an avenue to take new evidence beyond the thirty day rule. 
      •  HALL: Excuse me, just a second. 
      •  HALL: So, the Court established a procedure; it also established a standard to get to court and a standard to prevail in court. 
      •  HALL: Gary lived another seven years until the summer of 2000, but unfortunately the standard that the Texas courts established to succeed with your evidence, was too high even for his case. 
      •  HALL: I think that had his case occurred later, after some of these issues had been raised and and people were more aware of the problems, I think that we would have seen a very different outcome. 
      •  HALL: But it's another excellent example of how we continue to address the same issues and in some cases we get better at it, we improve somewhat -- 
      •  HALL: But we're still addressing those fundamental issues that were on the table in 1983, in 1982, when Charlie Brooks was executed. 
      •  HALL: Harry Truman, one of his favorite sayings was "the only thing new in the world is the history you don't already know," and there's nothing like the death penalty and capital punishment in Texas to back that statement up. 
      •  HALL: We see the same issues repeatedly, throughout these cases from the 80s, the 90s, and now into the 21st century. 
      •  HINZ-FOLEY: When you were working on and started noticing these, all these different, how old was the system in which you already started noticing and kind by your feet about the death penalty and Attorney General's office? What led you to, that your line of work now, when was this? That project. 
      •  HALL: Well, The StandDown Project was organized in the summer of 2000, to advocate for a moratorium on executions, and to advocate for a state-sponsored study commission to take a top to bottom look of our system of capital punishment. 
      •  HALL: And to StandDown is a military phrase. It means to go off duty temporarily, especially to review safety procedures and that's what we believe the State of Texas needs to do with its death penalty. 
      •  HALL: It's interesting to look back over the period of time, in looking back at some of the news clips to 1984, '83, I noticed that at the time there were about a hundred and sixty six to hundred and seventy seven people on Texas Death Row. 
      •  HALL: Of course, by now, as of today, we've carried out four hundred and twenty six executions. There's another one scheduled tonight, another one scheduled tomorrow, nine more executions scheduled in February, March, and April of 2009. 
      •  HALL: Death Row at one point had a population of as many as four hundred and fifty, but several changes in law by the U.S. Supreme Court  -- excluding juvenile offenders, of which Gary Graham was one, excluding those with mental retardation -- that reduced the current Death Row population to under four-hundred [400]. 
      •  Thinking back, going back to then, the Texas prison population was about 35,000.  Today it's about 155,000. 
      •  They have more employees today than they had inmates in 1983. 
      •  And I think of those numbers and we've executed 426.   We've got a bit less than 400 on Death Row today - that's basically a population of about 800 people.  
      •  And this is probably spectacularly bad math and statistics, but when you look at that population, we've seen nine exonerations from Texas Death Row -- people who were removed from Death Row, not on a technicality but because they were innocent of the crime.  
      •  And that's about 1%.  That's about one in a hundred, a little bit over. 
      •  You look at the experience in Illinois, where they actually exonerated more people than they had executed.  They exonerated thirteen people out of population of about 160, and that's almost -- that's about 8%. 
      •  HALL: And so, you look at our capital punishment system and you've got pretty hard numbers that show we're not getting it right somewhere between one and eight percent of the time. 
      •  HALL: And again, we see some of these same issues continue to come up and critics look at it and they say that we've got a system that catches the mistakes, 
      •  HALL: and yet just earlier this week, we had an execution stayed not by a state court, not by the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, not even by the Texas Governor, but by the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals 
      •  HALL: because there's a case, the person had a very serious execution date, and yet the forensic science community seems to be fairly united that mistakes were made in an autopsy analysis and that this individual was likely in a jail cell when the person that he was convicted of murdering was actually killed. 
      •  HALL: And so we here we have yet a situation where we've gone right up to the edge of an execution without a proper review. 
      •  HALL: And that was a real issue in the Gary Graham case.  You had a lot of court review on his case, but it was all on procedure grounds, procedural issues:  Does this court have the jurisdiction to examine the case? 
      •  HALL: And not once in those seven years of judicial review did any court ever hear directly from that eyewitness who said "That's not him.  That's not the guy who shot and killed a person." 
      •  HALL: So it's clear that we've got a long ways to go. 
      •  HALL: We talked earlier about executions and I witnessed approximately sixteen executions during General Mattox's tenure as Attorney General. 
      •  HALL: It was always a very bizarre -- I call it a surreal scene.   
      •  HALL: General Mattox and I arrived and waited in an area of the prison outside of the other witnesses. 
      •  HALL: For executions there are media witnesses; the person being executed has the right to invite witnesses; and under newer state law the victim's family has a right to have witnesses present. 
      •  HALL: And so we would get to the prison and check back in with the Austin office and if an execution appeared ready to proceed we would go to this holding area. 
      •  HALL: When the prison officials were ready to bring all the witnesses in, they would pass by the area where we were and that's when we would join the witnesses. 
      •  HALL: You would go outside of the main prison building into a little runway, an exterior outside path, and then into the execution chamber. 
      •  HALL:  And the execution chamber itself was very brightly lit, and at that time, the gurney was only separated from the witnesses by a set of iron bars. 
      •  HALL: And of the course the inmate was already on the gurney. And the warden would ask if he had a last statement, and when the inmate was finished, the warden, at that time, would remove his glasses and that was hill signal to the executioner behind a wall to begin the flow of lethal drugs. 
      •  HALL:  And you would generally see the person take a very heavy breath, almost like a heave, and maybe cough or snort, like some difficulty breathing. 
      •  HALL: And then, very shortly thereafter, that was the end of movement, and for the next five or six minutes you were in this room with maybe a dozen or a dozen and a half people, no one's saying a word, the only noise being the scribbling of a journalist taking notes. 
      •  HALL: Sometimes someone would be crying or sobbing. and then a doctor would come in after five or six minutes, seven minutes, and listen with a stethoscope and pronounce time of death. And then immediately all the witnesses were, taken out. It repeated itself almost exactly.   
      •  HALL: And in recent years, of course, there've been questions about the efficacy of lethal injection. 
      •  HALL: It was widely believed to be a painless form of death and there's been some evidence that in at least some executions, that has not been the case. And there's no question that if the drugs aren't administered properly, that in fact it could be a very excruciating, painful death. A person essentially drowning. 
      •  HALL: And yet because, the second drug in the lethal injection blocks movement, it paralyzes the muscular system, a person can't call out or even signal with his eyes, that he's conscious. And that has, that has, become a newer problem, a newer issue in capital punishment that has been resolved in some states, but is still very much an issue in other states.  
       
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      Title:Interview with Steve Hall
      Abstract:Steve Hall is the director of StandDown Texas Project, which advocates "a moratorium on executions and a state-sponsored review of Texas' application of the death penalty." In Video 1, Hall describes the renewal of capital punishment in Texas, which he facilitated and witnessed in his capacity as Chief of Staff for Texas Attorney General Jim Mattox from 1983 to 1991. Texas executed thirty-six people during this period. Hall also draws on his experience, between 1993 and 1996, working for the Texas Resource Center, which was charged with both directly representing and recruiting pro bono lawyers to represent inmates on death row. In Video 2, Hall continues to discuss major issues in death penalty jurisprudence and politics. In Video 3, Hall identifies signs that the death penalty may be disappearing. This interview took place on January 28 and February 4, 2009 in Austin, Travis County, Texas.
      Sequence:1 of 3
      Contributors:
      • Sabina Hinz-FoleyRole: Interviewer
      • Kimberly Ambrosini-BaconRole: Videographer
      • Students of the Introduction to Qualitative Research class (2009) taught by Dr. Janet Armitage, St. Mary's CollegeRole: Transcriber
      Date Created:2009/01/28 - 2009/02/04
      Languages:eng
      Geographic Focus:North America--United States--Texas
      Geographic Base:North America--United States--Texas--Austin
      Type of Resource:Moving image
      Genre:Interview
      Identifier:tav00009
      Rights:
        This electronic resource is made available by the University of Texas Libraries solely for the purposes of research, teaching and private study. All intellectual property rights are retained by the legal copyright holders. The University of Texas does not hold the copyright to the content of this file. Formal permission to reuse or republish this content must be obtained from the copyright holder.

       

       

      Continues with Video 2 of the TAVP Interview with Mr. Steve Hall.

      Return to TAVP Interviews