Interview With a Virginia Executioner
Meet Jerry Givens, former executioner for the Commonwealth of Virginia, with 62 state-sponsored killings under his belt. As he tells ABC News, he's sorry now and he has come to oppose capital punishment.
As the state's chief executioner, Givens pushed the buttons that administered lethal doses of electricity to the condemned. He could even choose how many volts to administer. And he is the first to admit that it was largely guesswork.
"If he was a small guy, I didn't give that much. You try not to cook the body, you know. I hate to sound gross,'' he told ABC News in a rare interview.
Givens has no formal medical training. although he once took a first aid course. He was given on the job training by his counterparts in Texas.
Among the reasons he's now opposed to the death penalty:
After the death penalty was reinstated in Virginia, Givens noted, ruefully, "crime went up.''
Givens' real doubts began with the number of wrongful convictions. He says: [More...]
"You're the American people,'' he said, growing momentarily animated. "You sentenced a guy to be executed. You give him a trial, then you send him to me to be put to death.
"Then later on you [say] that this guy was innocent. You didn't put him to death. I did. "I performed the execution. So you might suffer a little. I'm going to suffer a lot, because I performed the job."
ABC showed Givens the guidelines of the American Veterinary Medical Association that say, in essence, you wouldn't kill a dog this way and asked if it bothered him. He responded "Yes."
Givens left the job in 2000 after being convicted of perjury and money laundering related to his purchase of automobiles for a childhood friend who was also a drug dealer.
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