Witness to an execution

An Associated Press reporter based in Houston, Mr. Graczyk covers death penalty cases in Texas, the state that uses capital punishment far more than any other, and since the 1980s, he has attended nearly every execution the state has carried out — he has lost track of the precise count. Whenever possible, he has also interviewed the condemned killers and their victims’ families…

They stand on the other side of a barrier of plexiglass and bars, able to hear the prisoner through speakers. And the only sound regularly heard during the execution itself, is of all things, snoring. A three-drug cocktail puts the inmate to sleep within seconds, while death takes a few minutes. Victims’ family members often remark that the killer’s death seems too peaceful.

But before the drugs flow, the inmate is allowed to make a last statement, giving Mr. Graczyk what even he acknowledges are some lasting, eerie memories.

One inmate “sang ‘Silent Night,’ even though it wasn’t anywhere near Christmas,” Mr. Graczyk said. “I can’t hear that song without thinking about it. That one really stuck with me.”