Death Penalty Photography Documentary Project by Scott LangleyDeath Penalty Photography Documentary Project by Scott Langley
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An Hour by Hour Photo Story

Executions in the United States are not public events. In fact, video or photo cameras have never been allowed in the death houses at the time of executions. Coupled with the fact that many of the states hold executions at nighttime or early morning hours, very few people see or experience what transpires on an execution night in this country - either inside or outside the prison.

The following photos tell the story of a typical execution night. Many of the photos were taken during a media tour of North Carolina's execution facility three days before an actual execution. Much of the text here is taken directly or adapted from the narration of the death row warden as he walked media through the prison.

While the drama of an execution is rarely in the public's eye, it is carried out in the dead of night behind secure prison walls, while victims' families desperately seek closure, prisoners' families prepare for loss, and so the rest of us can safely sleep at night.

That is the intersection of state and justice.
And that is where we begin here today.

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American justice. 6:00 p.m. The prisoner is taken from population.
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Prisoner has the last meal at this table... final contact visitation with friends and family... and the last opportunity to use the phone.
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11:15 p.m. - visitation ends. Warden brings prisoner to death watch. Cell C is where the prisoner is kept.
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Inside of Cell C. The last bed to be slept on. 1:45 a.m.
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Prisoner is placed on the gurney, IVs are started. A last statement is taken. 1:50 a.m.
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Warden instructs the witnesses... in the witness viewing room. 1:55 a.m.
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Gurney is wheeled into the death chamber... and is placed at the viewing window. A curtain is pulled to hide the execution team.
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2:00 a.m. - time of execution. Outside the prison people pray... and people vigil against the execution.
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And protesters risk arrest. But not everyone is opposed. Some say the death penalty is just.
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2:17 a.m. The prisoner is pronounced dead. Family and witnesses exit the prison.
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The State announces the time of death... while attorneys grieve the defeat... and family of the prisoner mourn.
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The family of the executed weep... and comfort each other outside the prison. Meanwhile a coroner van takes the body...
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Passing a "dead end" sign. A death certificated is issued. The manner of death listed as homicide.
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Empty tissue boxes are left behind... and another body is laid to rest. And people ask, "What about
separation of church and state?"
  The State responds, "What about justice?"  

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