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Friday, November 10, 2000 FULL SHOW | HEADLINES | PREVIOUS: Democrats Mount Legal Challenges to Florida Vote,...
2000-11-10

Miguel Flores Executed in Texas

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Despite widespread international opposition and the intervention of Mexico’s president-elect, Texas last night executed Miguel Flores, a Mexican citizen who had been on death row for 11 years. [includes rush transcript]

Flores was strapped to a gurney at the Walls Unit in Hutsville, injected in both arms with lethal chemicals and pronounced dead at 6:22pm local time for the 1989 murder of college student Angela Tyson. Choking back tears as he lay with his arms outstretched and IV’s inserted into them, Flores apologized to Tyson’s family.

Just a couple of hours before the execution, the US Supreme Court denied Flores a stay of execution by 5-4, and fell just one vote short of those needed to get a hearing.

Mexican president-elect Vicente Fox called for clemency at a press conference, and his foreign minister telephoned the office of Texas Governor George W. Bush hours before the scheduled execution. Bush denied clemency just six minutes before the execution was set to begin. With a close vote of 5-4, the US Supreme Court also turned down requests for a hearing on the case.

The case had become a sticking point between Mexican and US authorities because Flores was not notified of his consular rights when he was arrested, as required by the Vienna Convention, which the US has signed and ratified. The State Department had sent a letter to the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles urging its members to consider granting clemency to Flores because of this violation.

Flores was the 35th person to be executed in Texas this year, and the 234th since the nation’s leading death penalty state resumed executions in 1976.

Tape:

  • Larry Fitzgerald, Public Information Officer for the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, excerpted from the film "The Back of the World" directed by Javier Corcuera.

Guest:

  • Ignacio Carrion, senior writer with EL PAIS, Spain’s largest daily newspaper. He was with Miguel Flores and his family yesterday before the execution. Speaking from Houston.

Transcript

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: You’re listening to Pacifica Radio’s Democracy Now!

LARRY FITZGERALD: Here is the area that we know is the death house. It’s where inmates in the state of Texas that face execution are brought. The area in which we’re approaching right now is where the witnesses of the execution come in. This is the actual death house here.

The inmate will be brought by a van and is taken directly into this door here. Okay, the inmate is brought into the death house. He is shackled at this point. He is brought to an area at this end of the death house. He’s asked to kneel in the chair, and his shackles are removed. His fingerprints are taken. He is moved directly into this cell. Once he’s in this cell, he’ll be met by the warden and the assistant warden, who will ask several questions. The inmate will have his final meal in here. He will be visited by the chaplain back here.

If the attorney and the spiritual advisor come to visit and are at least allowed two thirty-minute visits, he’ll be placed in this area right here. This area is a cell, which is designed for the inmate and the visitation to occur, that has the expanded metal over it, simply to prevent the passing of any contraband.

The shower is to afford the inmate the opportunity to take a shower. In most cases, the inmate will take a shower.

The inmate is offered an option of what type of clothing that he will be executed in. That is either prison whites or prison work-release clothes. Most of the inmates choose to be executed in their prison whites.

This is the actual death chamber. Here’s where the inmate is brought in. The inmate is surrounded by five correctional officers, members of the tie-down team. The inmate is asked to get on the table. Once he is on there, the officers will each one have an assigned strap. They will strap the inmate down. It takes just a matter of seconds to do that. Once the inmate is down there, the IV team will come in. They’ll insert IVs in the left arm and in the right arm.

There are five witnesses for the family, who are on this side, five witnesses for the inmate’s family, plus a spiritual advisor, plus five members of the media, who are present for all executions.

The inmate will be asked to give his final statement. That is the purpose of the microphone. The inmate’s final statement, which lasts about two minutes, is amplified into these two rooms.

Once the process starts, it takes just a matter of a couple of minutes for the chemicals to flow into the body. The first chemical is a sleep-inducing chemical. The second chemical is a muscle relaxant, which causes the diaphragm and the lungs to collapse. And the third chemical is one that actually stops the heart.

AMY GOODMAN: And that is Larry Fitzgerald, public information officer at the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, taking us through the death house in Huntsville, Texas, in a documentary called The Back of the World, that is directed by Javier Corcuera, who is a Spanish filmmaker, a film that just won the San Sebastián Film Festival Award, is making waves throughout Spain, as was the execution that took place last night in Huntsville, Texas.

Despite widespread international opposition and the intervention of Mexico’s President-Elect Vicente Fox, Texas last night executed Miguel Flores, a Mexican citizen who had been on death row for eleven years. The case has become a sticking point between Mexican and U.S. authorities. Flores was the thirty-fifth person to be executed in Texas this year and the 234th since the nation’s death penalty state resumed executions in 1976.

We’re joined on the phone right now by two people. Elizabeth Cohen, attorney for Miguel Flores, was in the death house and observed her client being executed.

Welcome to Democracy Now!, Elizabeth Cohen. Can you describe what happened last night?

ELIZABETH COHEN: What happened last night was a tragedy. Sometime in the afternoon, we heard from the Supreme Court of the United States that they had voted —- there were four votes for a stay of execution. You need five to get a stay. And there were three votes for granting cert, which would mean that the court would review the case, and we need four. So -—

AMY GOODMAN: This was from the U.S. Supreme Court?

ELIZABETH COHEN: Yes, that’s right. And as a result of the very, very close, unusually close vote, we wanted to file a motion for rehearing. Didn’t have time to do it before the actual execution. We asked Governor Bush for a thirty-day reprieve, so that we would have time to file that motion. And he refused about ten of 6:00 last night.

AMY GOODMAN: Could he focus on this with his own election up for grabs?

ELIZABETH COHEN: No. We sincerely had doubts about that. And, in fact, I had called his office around noon that day, lodging a formal protest, asking again for a thirty-day reprieve, stating specifically that it was our position that Governor Bush would not be in the frame of mind to give this case one minute of his time, much less the usual fifteen.

JUAN GONZALEZ: Well, we’re also joined on the phone by Ignacio Carrion, senior writer for EL PAIS, Spain’s largest daily newspaper. He was with Miguel Flores and his family yesterday before the execution.

Welcome to Democracy Now!, Ignacio.

IGNACIO CARRION: Hello.

JUAN GONZALEZ: Could you tell us how the family took the news and describe their state on that final day?

IGNACIO CARRION: Well, you see, they were absolutely destroyed by that. But they are — they were calm and they were accepting about what they had. They were badly advised at the beginning by the first attorney they had. They lost a lot of opportunities to protect and save the life of Miguel Flores. And Miguel himself — I saw him in the morning — was calm. And I think that in the end, he was absolutely fed up of everything, you know, after eleven years being in the death row.

AMY GOODMAN: You’re writing your piece now for EL PAIS. Why are the people of Spain so interested in this story?

IGNACIO CARRION: Well, I’m writing this piece, which is going to be published on Sunday, because I think in Spain everyone is against — I would say just the majority of people, a vast majority of people are against the death penalty, even against a life sentence. We believe that people can be recovered for society, that people can improve their behavior. And we are never thinking of that an eye for an eye.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, Ignacio Carrion and Elizabeth Cohen, I want to thank you for being with us. We have too short of time right now. Ignacio Carrion, senior writer at EL PAIS, Elizabeth Cohen, attorney for Miguel Flores. Ignacio Carrion also the father of our producer Maria Carrion, who is back with us in New York.

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