COMMENTS: Executioner’s Secret Burden

Last Thursday, NBC's Pete Williams covered New Jersey's decision to repeal the state's death penalty when the measure passed its legislature. Now Bob Orr covers the story for CBS upon its enactment into law. Orr called the law "highly symbolic" since it imposes life in prison on just eight Death Row residents. Even when the law was on the books, no one had been executed in the Garden State since 1963. Meanwhile on ABC, Jim Avila claimed an Exclusive for his profile of Jerry Gibbons, the executioner for the Commonwealth of Virginia from 1982 through 1999. First by electrocution, then by lethal injection, Gibbons, a guard at the Greensville Correctional Center, killed inmates legally 62 times.

Avila explained that medical ethics prohibit physicians from administering the deadly cocktail of medicines that form a lethal injection. "Have you had any medical training?" he asked Gibbons. "No--well, first aid, yes." Did he know the names of the drugs? "I go by the number." Gibbons kept his executioner's role secret, even from his wife: "He did not want to burden her." Concluded Avila: "It is a job this man wishes on no one else--and regrets taking himself."


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