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May 26, 1979 - Image 10

Resource type:
Michigan Daily, 1979-05-26

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Page 10-Saturday, May 26, 1979-The Michigan Daily
Description of an execution
Reporter witnesses Spenkelink's death
STARK, Fla. (AP) - It seemed like was pale and took off his coat. chamber after the blinds were raised. but there was no blood. I had expecte
an eternity. The minutes dragged on. I heard HIS EYES met mine. They were open to smell burning flesh but, thankfully
The first jolt of 2,300 volts of elec- what I thought were chains in the death wide and seemed moist, almost im- didn't.
tricity was in his body. He sat there room. A minute or so later, prison ploring. At 10:14, two minutes aft
rigid, his hands clenched. guards began covering the small It was the most helpless expression I Spenkelink received the first of thr(
I WONDERED if he was dead. square window panes in the door at the have ever seen. , , surges of electricity, another man
Then I saw smoke rising from his leg far left side of the partition to prevent John Spenkelink was bound in this the death room removed the che
and knew it was over. any glimpse of the preparations. manner: strap, unbuttoned Spenkelink's shi
There is nothing pleasant to say about I SAT IN that room with 31 other * A leather harness or helmet and raised his T-shirt.
what I saw yesterday morning when people I didn't know, waiting to watch covered his shaved skull, held closely THEN A PRISON doctor listened1
John Arthur Spenkelink was put to the execution of a man with whom I had by a strap that seemed to press his chin Spenkelink's heart through
death in the small beige-painted death never spoken. into his face. Inside that cap was a fine- stethescope, backed away and look(
chamber at Florida State Prison. Inside, I could hear inmates in the grained sponge which had been soaked toward prison warden David Brierto
THE WITNESS room is separated cell block above us banging on their in salt water to increase its electrical who was standing in the death room. D
from the death chamber by a wood and cells and shouting indistinguishably. conductivity. On top of the cap there one moved.
glass partition. We were shielded from As the minutes passed and the seemed to be a piece of metal resem- Again, we waited. The Rev. To
the preparations by venetian blinds execution was inexplicably delayed, bling a wing nut. Feamster, who had visited Spenkelii
drawn over the windows. hushed conversations grew louder, - Wide leather straps bound him over the past two years, spoke out in t
After we were screened by a metal becoming almost casual. One of the of- tightly to the massive oak chair, witness room. Although the individua
detector and relieved of notepads and ficial witnesses told the man next to holding him across the chest and bin- in the tableau of the death chamb
pens, we were ushered into the room a him matter-of-factly that he hadn't ding his arms, thighs and calves. couldn't hear him, the Episcopal prie
few minutes before the scheduled 10 been able to get to sleep until 4 a.m. * He was wearing a white shirt rolled said: "I hope you gentlemen a
a.m. execution. Another man in the front row stood up, up at the sleeves and blue trousers. The praying that this is a just and mercif
When I entered the room, the first two apparently to relieve his tension, then right trouser leg was rolled up, and a punishment."
rows of four rows of folding chairs sat down. leather cuff with a strip of metal elec- For the first time, I caught sight
already were taken by 13 official wit- I BEGAN TO wonder whether yet trode was attached to Spenkelink's the executioner. He was standir
nesses, each a volunteer. We, the repor- another stay had been granted. shaved calf. behind a floor-to-ceiling partition in
ters, sat behind them. Then someone in the death chamber THE BLINDS were raised at 10:11. far corner of the death chambe
I WAS AFRAID - afraid because I raised the venetian blinds - leaving Less than a minute later, a man Through a slit for him to view 0
had never before watched an execution. until the last the central one with the wearing heavy gloves lowered a black execution, I saw two eyes lookir
Afraid because I don't like watching direct view of the chair. blindfold from the helmet-like cap that through holes cut in a black hood. H
people die. " I will not forget what I saw. I was would send the current charging identity is withheld, but he receiv
Then 10 a.m. came and went. First we stunned. John Spenkelink already was through Spenkelink. The fabric hung $150 for his work.
were quiet. One of the eight prison of- strapped in his chair. I had thought that like a veil, covering his whole face.
ficials standing behind us sat down. He.- he would be brought into the death The eight somber men in the death THE DOCTOR, whose name wasn

t, I


particiate in 1
(Continued from Page 3)
Track Club.
Laughlin will arrive at the starting
line in Dexter early, he added, to try to
work out an agreement with race of-
LAUGHLIN claims he is not involved
in this race just for himself. He said he
wants 'to make people aware that han-

Laughlin to
5-mile race
dicapped people don't sit at home all
One of Laughlin's long-term goals, he
explained, is to get involved in a math-
oriented profession. He also said he
would like to continue racing, partly for
himself and partly because, "if it
makes handicapped people think they
can do it, it gives them something to
shoot for."

chamber stood back, disclosed, stepped over to
And without warning, the first jolt rigid and masked form aga
surged at 10:12 a.m. At that point, I checked for a heart bea
didn't notice the executioner, but I was stood back.
- riveted by what was happening to I wondered whether Sp
Spenkelink. dead or alive.
HIS BODY lurched.-His hands began At 10:18, six minutes af
contracting; the index finger of his left surge, the doctor again api
hand pointed toward us as his other chair. He first checked for
fingers curled. His right hand was clen- then for a pulse. Then he lifi
ched in a fist. Both hands turned blue, blindfold and peered into,
especially near the fingertips. motionless figure's eyes.
I stood in my chair and saw smoke He stepped awiay again a
from Spenkelink's calf. A few inches Brierton. John Spenkelinl
below the cuff, there was a three-inch The blinds were lowered.I
wound. It looked as if his skin had split, side, into the sunshine.

in. Again, he
t. Again, he
enkelink was
fter the first
proached the
a heart beat,
ted the black
each of the
and nodded to
k was dead.
I walked out-

Proudly presents
0000 00000000 00 00000o
0 Stephen Sondheim's 0
c Oa
o °
0 - Book by James Goldman 0
First time in this area
May 31, June 1-3, 1979
Tickets available by mail: Follies, P.O. Box 1993, AA 48106
($.50-12.5.*See diagram.) or at Tix-info Jacobson's J-Shop,
State St. 662-5129.
o 55
at Power Center

'U' officers to discuss
staff salary disclosures

(ontioueadtrom Pageri3
University, Grand Valley State College,
and Saginaw Valley State College-had
previously submitted salary lists with
individual names.
Many of the nine colleges which
received letters from Hart this week
Residential College
Summer Players -
Openaditions a
technical crew
meeting for
Bertolt Brecht's
A114il and Mat,
His Hired Mon
May 25, 26, 27
at 4:00 PM
Residential College
East Quadrangle
For info call 764-0084

are planning to comply with the request
and spokespersons said they had not
sent the information previously
because nomne had asked for it.
"The ltter didn't present any
problems for us," said a spokesman for
Western Michigan Univesity. "We
complied immediately with that let-
LAKE SUPERIOR College had not
yet received the letter yesterday after-
noon, buta spokesman said that a list of
positions, names, and salaries has been
posted in the school's library for the
past year and would be sent to the
Senate Appropriations Committee if
Several schools have refused to
disclose personal salary information in
the past as the University has, and
reported difficulty deciding whether t
comply with the Senate Appropriations
Committee request.
The president of Northern-Michigan
University (NMU) in Marquette said
since he had not received Hart's letter
yet, he could not comment on what ac-
tion his school might take. He did say,
however, that NMU has a policy of not
revealing personal staff salaries.

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