Texas has gained another form of infamy today when it executed its 500th inmate. Kimberly McCarthy was killed by lethal injection Wednesday evening, becoming the 14th woman in the United States to be executed, and the fourth in Texas. In true Texas style, a Texas ex-warden was proud of his state, which executes more inmates than any other state in the union.
She was pronounced dead at 6:37 p.m. CDT, 20 minutes after Texas prison officials began administering a single lethal dose of pentobarbital.
McCarthy had been convicted of killing her 71 year old neighbor, Dorothy Booth. She had beaten her, and then stabbed her to death, cutting off her finger to steal her wedding ring. She was linked with three other murders after she became addicted to crack cocaine.
She was sentenced to death for the 1997 murder by a jury that had only one African-American member. Booth was a white woman, and McCarthy was black.
Texas began carrying out executions in 1982, after the Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty in 1976. In 31 years, they have put to death 500 individuals, averaging over 16 a year.
Charles Thomas O’Reilly said he believed in the death penalty when he presided over his first execution as warden of The Huntsville Unit, the section of Texas’ prison that houses the death chamber. He claimed to be just as proud after he witnessed his 100th.
O’Reilly presided over 140 executions in six years, more than any other warden in the state’s history. Now retired, he remarked on today’s scheduled 500th. He said he was entirely without emotion, and considered it a ‘small part of his job.’
“If you do 140 of them and then decide you can’t do them, then I think you’ve pushed it a little too far,” O’Reilly said during an interview with The Associated Press in Forney, about 175 miles away from Huntsville. “If you can’t do it, you should have made that decision after one, or maybe two.”
He retired in 2010, and is now 62 years old. He reflected on his personal contacts with those about to be put to death. “I’ll tell him that we’re going to treat him with as much dignity as he’ll allow us to,” O’Reilly said. Then at 6 p.m., he would return to the inmate’s holding cell and say two words: “It’s time.”
A five-man-team would walk them to the gurney where they would receive the lethal injection. Before the lethal injection began, O’Reilly would ask the inmate for any last words. He liked to give each inmate about three minutes, though he rarely cut anyone off.
After the inmate finished, he used a handheld clicker, and signaled the executioner to begin releasing the lethal fluid into the strapped down body. He then would wait for the expected time, and have a physician check for vital signs.
O’Reilly believes that execution is the appropriate way to deal with someone who commits the worst crimes imaginable.
“As far as I’m concerned, that person probably got a just punishment for the crime that he committed,” O’Reilly said. “Like me or anybody else, we all have to take responsibility for our own actions. Our actions are our choice. The consequences for those actions are not our choice.”
McCarthy was the eighth Texas prisoner executed this year. She was among 10 women on death row in Texas, but the only one with an execution date. Seven male Texas prisoners have executions scheduled in the coming months. Texas style punishment, and Texans are proud of their record.
The Guardian Express