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June 12, 2008

Texas back in the execution business

This AP story presents the basic details of Texas' (long-awaited?) return to the business of state killing or killers:

A remorseful convicted killer was executed Wednesday night for raping and killing a Dallas woman 17 years ago, the first prisoner in nine months to be put to death in the nation's most active capital punishment state.  Karl Eugene Chamberlain, with a smile on his face, told relatives of his victim, Felecia Prechtl that he wished he "could die more than once."

Chamberlain lived upstairs in the same apartment complex as his victim. In 1991, he knocked on Prechtl's door and asked to borrow some sugar.  After she filled the request, he returned with a rifle and the roll of duct tape, attacked the single mother and shot her in the head. Her son, then 5, found her body....

Chamberlain's execution was the first in Texas since September. Executions throughout the country were on hold after the Supreme Court agreed in September to consider a challenge from two Kentucky prisoners who questioned the constitutionality of lethal injection procedures.  When the court upheld the method in April, the de facto moratorium was lifted and executions resumed.  There were 26 executions in Texas last year, far more than any other state.

Before he was executed, Chamberlain stared directly at Prechtl's son, parents and brother as they stood just a few feet away, looking through a glass window.  "We are here to honor the life of Felecia Prechtl, a woman I didn't even know, and celebrate my death," he said. "I am so terribly sorry. I wish I could die more than once."

"I love you. God have mercy on us all," he said as the drugs began taking effect. Still grinning, he blurted out: "Please do not hate anybody because ..." He was unable to finish as he slipped into unconsciousness.

Ina Prechtl, who lost her daughter, said after watching Chamberlain die: "One question I ask myself every day, why does it take so long for justice to be served?"

Beyond the significance of Texas getting back to lethal injection, this execution was notable for another reason explained in this AP piece: the "condemned inmate's last meal request easily was the most extensive of the 405 inmates who preceded him to the death chamber since the state resumed carrying out capital punishment in 1982."

June 12, 2008 at 02:40 AM | Permalink

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Regarding the last meal, if you hadn't seen it check out the flash animation featuring the last meal requests of several dozen Texans, from the lavish to the utterly minimalist (e.g., one tortilla and water). See:

http://www.privatehand.com/flash/request.html

The site has an abolitionist bent, but the flash animation is worth watching as pure anthropological data regardless of ideology; it's mostly the list of their (frequently nostalgic or childish) meal requests.

Posted by: Gritsforbreakfast | Jun 12, 2008 1:39:31 PM

Let's hope a Harris County court sets a new date for Sonnier soon.

Posted by: federalist | Jun 12, 2008 9:26:38 PM

Derrick Sonnier's execution has been reset for June 13.

Posted by: federalist | Jun 13, 2008 4:45:25 PM

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