MY CLIENT, TRAVIS RUNNELS, DID NOT DESERVE TO DIE. The death penalty is the rot at the core of our culture and our values.

The Texas death chamber is painted teal, like a doctor’s surgical scrubs. The tiny room, barely large enough to hold the gurney that my client Travis Runnels was strapped to, was antiseptic in its cruelty. Travis was already in position when my co-counsel Janet VanderZanden and I, along with three of Travis’s close friends, entered the cramped observation room. Travis was alone in the death chamber on the other side of the plexiglass, lying prone with his right arm held out to his side, and a needle in his skin ready to fill him with poison. A microphone hung from the ceiling just above his head, ready to record his last words, but Travis refused to participate in that grim ritual.

Travis instead spent his final moments sharing a kind smile and mouthing “I love you” to his friends. His final actions reaffirmed what he had already told us: that he had been strong to the end, that our lives would go on, and that he would no longer have to bear the torture of isolation on death row.

This was classic Travis. He had been sent to death row for killing Stanley Wiley, a factory supervisor at the prison where Travis was serving a 70-year sentence for robbery. Since landing on death row, however, he changed his life around. READ THE REST

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