Headline & story (in part): The New York Times, Tuesday,May 13, 2014

Confronted on Executions, Texas Proudly Says It kills Efficiently

By Manny Fernandez

and John Schwartz


If Texas executes Robert James Campbell as planned on Tuesday, for raping and murdering a woman, it will be the nation’s first execution since Oklahoma’s bungled attempt at lethal injection two weeks ago left a convicted murderer writhing and moaning before he died.

            Lawyers for Mr. Campbell are trying to use the Oklahoma debacle to stop the execution here. But many in this state and in this East Texas town north of Houston, where hundreds have been executed in the nations busiest death chamber, like to say they do things right. ...



To kill or not to kill? ... There is no question!

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In 1993 I wrote a play, THE EXECUTION  for ABSURDLY YOURS dealing with my anti-death-penalty views. The following is a very condensed version of that play (The beginning and the ending.):






Bob Flicker







Trevor, a black man, is strapped into an electric-chair. Present are the Warden and the Executioner.  Both are wearing tuxedos. The warden has a white carnation in his lapel. The executioner is wearing a black domino (half mask). Near the warden is a table with a telephone, a bud vase with a single red rose, a glass of water and a framed picture of the warden’s mother.


WARDEN      (Addressing man in chair) Well! Trevor—this is it!


TREVOR        One last request, Warden.


WARDEN      Make it quick. We’re live on Execution TV in five minutes.


TREVOR        I don’t care about being electrocuted but not on national 



WARDEN      (Correcting. This is his big moment. He is about to become a 

                      TV star.)  Not just national!International! South America, 

                      Europe, Asia and Africa!


TREVOR        Look, Warden, I’m ready to die, but with some dignity. Not 

                      in front of a couple of million people.


WARDEN      (Turning to executioner, chuckling.) Will you listen to him! A 

                     couple million people he says! (Back to Trevor.) How does a 

                     billion grab you?


A young woman with a clipboard steps into the chamber.


WOMAN       Three minutes, Warden. (Exits)


WARDEN      Geez! Where does the time go?


TREVOR        Warden—my last request.


WARDEN      (Looking at his watch. Impatient.) Well, what is it?


TREVOR        No TV.


WARDEN      Forget it, Trevor. This was a package deal. Court TV and 

                      Execution TV. Airtight contracts. Our state gets more 

                      advertising dollars for this event then they get for the Super 



The young woman steps back into the chamber, still holding the clipboard.


WOMAN       One minute Warden. (Exits)


WARDEN      Well Trevor—show time.


Executioner stands to one side with his hand on a large, raised switch. Another young woman enters and quickly powders the Warden’s face. (Exits) There is a drumroll. Voice over speaker begins countdown:


V.O.                10 – 9 – 8 – 7 – 6 -5 – 4 – 3 – 2 – 1-!  Power On! 

(Executioner pulls switch. Nothing happens.)


EXCTNR        Damn!


WARDEN      (In a panic.)  What happened?  (To executioner looking 

                      under the electric chair.)


EXCTNR        I think we’ve got a short circuit in the chair.


WARDEN      Geez! Can’t you fix it? We’re on live TV!


TREVOR        Warden—


WARDEN      Not now, Trevor! Show a little consideration! We’ve got a 

                      major problem here!


Executioner, working under the electric-chair, connects an electrical tester.


EXCTNR        (Looking up at the Warden, shakes his head.) No juice. I 

                      don’t think I can fix it.


WARDEN      Get hold of an electrician! Quick!


EXCTNR        They’re on strike.


TREVOR        Warden, I can do it.


WARDEN      You can do—what?


TREVOR        Fix the short circuit. I’m a master electrician.


WARDEN      (Relieved) That’s right! You electrocuted your wife’s lover by 

                      wiring her diaphragm. (Suspicious) Why would you do this?


TREVOR        I have nothing more to live for. I want to die.


WARDEN      Wonderful!


The telephone on the table rings.


WARDEN      (Answering the phone.) This is the warden.... Yes, Governor.


Execution chamber goes dark. Lights come up on the Governor talking on the phone to the Warden.


GOV               (Watching television) Execution TV just announced a 

                       temporary interruption in the Trevor electrocution. What the 

                       hell is going on over there? ... A short circuit?... How soon 

                       will it be fixed? ... Who did you say was going to fix it? … 

                       He’s not looking for me to commute his sentence is he? 

                       That’s out of the question! The state can’t afford to lose 

                       that advertising money!


The governor’s secretary, Agnes, enters his office indicating that she must talk with him.


GOV               (Covers mouth of phone with his hand.) What is it, Agnes?


AGNES           Chairman Blunt of the Budget Committee says he has to 

                        talk with you immediately. He says it can’t wait.


GOV               (Speaks into the phone.) Hold on a second, Warden. I’m 

                       putting you on hold.

                           (Blunt enters)


BLUNT          The budget is deadlocked and—


GOV               Damn! It waited this long, can’t it wait a little longer?


BLUNT          It’s the 1993 budget!


GOV               If we don’t get Trevor fried in the next couple of minutes 

                       there won’t be a 1993 budget let alone money for the ‘90 

                       and ’91 and ’92 budgets we haven’t paid for.


Governor’s secretary, Agnes, rushes in.


AGNES           Governor, the executive producer of Execution TV insists 

                        on speaking with you (a beat) immediately! Line #2.


GOV               (Panic switching to exaggerated calm.) Hello, Charlie. I 

                       suppose you’re calling about the little problem we’re having 

                       with the hot seat?


Governor goes dark. Lights come up on Charlie.


CHARLIE       Look, Governor, we’ve got a worldwide audience waiting. 

                      How long do you think we can keep showing reruns of old 

                      executions? ... It’s being fixed? … How soon? ... OK. You’ve 

                      got two minutes and not a second more! That’s how long 

                      the five beheadings from Saudi Arabia will take. ...  Yeah, 

                      they’re the Saudi ladies who got caught driving their own 



Mimi, Charlie’s assistant enters. Charlie covers the mouthpiece of the phone with his hand.


MIMI             We can substitute the Jenkins execution within two minutes.


CHARLIE       (His hand still over the mouthpiece) How are they doing it?


MIMI              Lethal injection.


CHARLIE       Shit! What a bore! Our TV audience will be asleep before 

                      Jenkins croaks*. (Back to the Governor) How are you coming 

                      with that electrical problem?… The electrician is Trevor? 

                      The guy you’re gonna burn?  Great! Real human- interest 

                      stuff. We’ll put him on while he’s repairing the chair.





We are back in the execution chamber. Trevor is working under the electric chair as the Warden and Executioner anxiously watch. The repair work is being televised. The Warden, nervously, faces the cameras.


WARDEN      I have just been informed by Trevor that the electric chair 

                      will soon be in working order. Therefore, as Warden, I can 

                      assure all those fans of Execution TV that we will continue 

                      with the entertain— the electrocution momentarily.


TREVOR        (Sliding out from under the electric chair.) OK Warden, it 

                      should work now.


WARDEN      (He’s all showbiz.) Let’s give Trevor a big hand! (Executioner 



TREVOR        (Sitting back in the electric chair as officers strap him in.) I’m 

                      ready, Warden.


WARDEN      On with the electrocution!


The Executioner grips the switch. Again, there is a drum roll and a voice, over the speakers, begins the count-down: 10 – 9 – 8 – 7 – 6 – 5 – The countdown is interrupted by the ringing of the telephone.


WARDEN      (Answering the phone) Yes, Governor?




Lights come up on the Governor. The governor, obviously upset, is sitting at his desk holding a legal document in one hand and the phone in the other.


GOV               You heard me right, Warden. The Court has issued a stay of 

                       execution…   Of course that means you can’t pull the 

                       switch! ... Why? I’ll tell you why! It seems that we have a 

                       state law that makes aiding or assisting in a suicide a 

                       criminal offense. ...That’s right! Trevor committed a crime 

                       when he fixed the electric chair, technically becoming a 

                       suicide. He has to stand trial. ... You feel bad! How do you 

                       think I feel? Now we have to figure out where to get the 

                       money for the 1993 budget. By the way, Warden, you are 

                       being charged with aiding and abetting and attempted 








*That’s before Oklahoma’s bungled attempt at lethal injection two weeks ago (April 25, 2014) left a convicted murder writhing and moaning before he died. The guillotine crowd would have loved it.      

 © robert 2014