The Marshall Project

Why This Judge Dreads Execution Day

“I wondered whether the system I have been a part of for so long was, simply, barbaric.”

The execution was set for 6 p.m. I knew because I set the date and time myself.

With a little more than an hour to go, I sat alone by the phone in my office. More than three decades had passed since the defendant was first convicted of murdering a police officer. I had been the judge at his final trial, and now there was a chance I’d be called on to spare his life.

Higher courts and the Texas governor had already denied the man’s last-ditch appeals. His lawyers had tried to broker a deal with prosecutors to keep

You're reading a preview, sign up to read more.

More from The Marshall Project

The Marshall Project5 min readSociety
What Do Abolitionists Really Want?
For years they’ve pushed a radical vision of a world without prisons. Now, the mainstream is taking note.
The Marshall Project3 min readSociety
Court Focuses on Motive as Shooter Pleads Guilty to Killing Muslim Students
DURHAM, N.C. — Murders prompted by broad hatred of non-white people are indeed hate crimes, even if current law doesn’t label them that way. That was the message prosecutors sent Wednesday as Craig Hicks pleaded guilty to shooting three Muslim stude
The Marshall Project5 min read
In Just Two States, All Prisoners Can Vote. Here's Why Few Do.
In Maine and Vermont, low literacy rates and little access to information means many inmates don’t exercise their right to cast ballots.