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

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