Letter to CA Department of Corrections
June 26, 2009

To: Mr. Timothy Lockwood
Chief of CDCR  Regulation and Policy Management

Regarding Proposed Amendments to Title 15, Article 7.5, Sections 3349

Dear Mr. Lockwood,

All of my remarks about the proposed amendments to the lethal injection protocol center around this theme: Keep the window open. Make the torture and killing transparent.

Sadly, it is the personal experience I have had of accompanying six human beings to their deaths at the hand of the state that urges me to give this testimony.

KEEP THE WINDOW OPEN as the execution team goes about strapping down the person to be killed and as they insert the intravenous lines, including cut downs that may be necessary if there is difficulty in finding a suitable vein.

KEEP THE WINDOW OPEN during the administration of the poisonous chemicals and as the person is dying as well as after the person has been killed, as the medical professional verifies the death and as the corpse is put into a body bag and removed. Do not conceal any part of the killing process, and do not hide the identity of the personnel who carry out the killing, including the medical personnel. If we feel no need to protect the identity of legislators who have enacted death as punishment on the statute books or district attorneys who seek and secure death sentences, or juries who sentence people to die or judges who pronounce sentence, why do we hide the identity of those who carry out the killing, including those who concoct and administer the lethal chemicals and the medical personnel who supervise the proceedings?

KEEP THE WINDOW OPEN TO THE MEDIA so the citizens can witness the killings done in their name and which, perhaps, they themselves have called for. Through media coverage let legislators see the killings they have desired and mandated into law, and require district attorneys who procured the death sentences to witness the killing they sought.

DO NOT KEEP OUR EYES FROM SEEING THE DEATH AGONY of the person being killed by use of a paralytic drug. Are you aware that in hearings about lethal injection, veterinarians have testified that in the euthanasia of animals they no longer use paralytic agents because such drugs prevent them from seeing if the animal is in distress as they are dying? Use of a paralytic agent in the killing of a human being may be the most cowardly act of all. Its sole purpose is to hide the death agony from the eyes of those who witness the death. What if, for whatever reason, the sleeping barbiturate does not take effect? What if those being killed at our hands are fully conscious but, because of paralysis, are unable to move a finger or cry out as the potassium chloride burns through their veins and convulses their heart? If these killings are legitimate and legal, why do we take such pains to shield ourselves from seeing the agony they necessarily entail? The curtain that must be removed is not only the curtain on the window of the execution chamber at San Quentin, it is the curtain masking our own hearts toward these killings of our citizens, which we claim to want, yet are so reluctant to face.

I wrote the books, Dead Man Walking and The Death of Innocents, and give talks around this nation to bring people face to face with state-sanctioned killing and what it does to us all. May my testimony advance the day when the great state of California will forever consign to a museum the instruments and policies and protocols of state killing that we address today.

Sister Helen Prejean, csj