Daniel Lopez just wants to get it over with. He got his wish on August 12, last year. Perry Williams gets the shakes and awakes in a cold sweat knowing of the time and the day of his execution. Elvis Wesbrook would take a pill now to end his waiting, which will go on for just another few days. He's scheduled to die on March 9. Bill Whitaker reports on the residents of the busiest death row in America for a 60 Minutes story to be broadcast on Sunday, March 6 at 7 p.m. ET/PT.
Three of the condemned murderers living on death row in Livingston, Texas, tell Whitaker about their crimes and voice different views of the death penalty. They express anxiety about their looming fate: a date with a gurney and intravenous drugs that will end their lives. It's a scene Associated Press reporter Michael Graczyk has witnessed perhaps more than any other person in the U.S. He has been the wire service's designated execution witness in Texas since 1984, two years after the state began using lethal drugs for capital punishment. "There's a reaction of breath, take a few deep breaths or a cough and they start snoring. The snores get progressively less and then there's no movement at all," says Graczyk. "Yes," it's like going to sleep, he says.
Graczyk estimates he's seen more than 350 executions. There have been more than 534 executions in Texas since 1982, an average of about 16 per year.
The film cliché of the prisoner choosing his last meal is no longer true in Texas, explains Graczyk. "People on the other side would say, well, you know, my loved one didn't get an opportunity to pick their last meal before they were killed. So why should he have that sort of opportunity?" The condemned get whatever the rest of the inmates are being served that day.
Lopez was convicted of killing a police lieutenant by running him down while fleeing the law in a car chase. Williams shot a medical student in the head after robbing him of $40. Wesbrook killed his ex-wife and four others at a small party.
Former Huntsville Warden Tom O'Reilly has presided over about 140 executions at the prison and tells Whitaker he has not been impacted by them. "I don't feel bad about it or anything. If you commit those kinds of crimes, I can execute you and I don't have a problem at all."