Death Chamber Tapes Aired

Official audio recordings of 23 electrocutions carried out in Georgia from 1983 through 1989 were broadcast nationally on Wednesday night.

ABC News aired portions of the tapes during "Nightline." New York City public radio stations WNYC-AM and –FM aired excerpts earlier in the evening.

The tapes, recorded by prison staff, document the events taking place in the execution chamber. Prison officials witnessing the event narrate the sequence of events taking place, from the securing of the prisoner to the electric chair to the pronouncement of the time of death and the removal of the body.

"These have been a matter of public record for years," said Scott Stallings, director of public affairs for the Georgia Department of Corrections. "They've been given out to any number of national and local media and attorneys going back to 1993. It's not news here in the Southeast."

This is not the first time the tapes have been aired.

The Fox affiliate in Atlanta, WAGA-TV, broadcast portions of the tapes in February. And Georgia Public Radio broadcast them several years ago.

"This is not something we decided to do lightly," said Laura Walker, president of WNYC Radio. "We believe this is important material in the public record. We believe we have a journalistic responsibility to air it."

The last public executions in the United States occurred in the 1930s.

The furor over the death penalty has increased recently, particularly with the planned execution of Timothy McVeigh.

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