HUNTSVILLE, TX – Published in Kristeligt Dagblad.
Cody Stark has a different job than most. Like he says:
“[On] a certain day I go to work, I am gonna see someone die. There’s no way around that.”
Cody Stark is a 37-year-old journalist working for the local newspaper Huntsville Item in the Texan town Huntsville. In the same town is Huntsville Unit, which is both a prison and the building, where all inmates on death row in Texas get the final, lethal dose. Together with the news agency AP, the local paper covers all the executions and for the last six years, Cody Stark has been its journalist in the green witness room.
He uses his own sense of justice when he is watching a person strapped down to the gurney with tubes running from the arms and into a hole in a wall.
“One of the things, that I’ve learned a long time ago, is that: I have to remember what they’re in there for. I’ve seen some evil, evil human beings be executed,” says Cody Stark.
I wrote a longer article about Cody Stark for the Danish newspaper Kristeligt Dagblad and you can read the article here (if you understand Danish). I also wrote a short article about where death penalty is heading in the United States (spoiler alert: the ultimate punishment is on its way out despite three states voting in favour of it in November 2016).
In the article, Cody Stark explains in detail what his day looks like when he watches an execution. The walk to the chamber, the strong smell of cleaning supplies, the eerie sound of the key locking the door, the inmate’s last words (he has only heard a handful of inmates say sorry to the victim’s family), the solution flowing and the long minutes from ‘dead’ to ‘clinical dead’.
He also talks about what bothers him the most, how other people are more worried about him than he is, and why he probably won’t cover executions if Texas go back to the electric chair or a firing squad (this is not a far-out fantasy: Tennessee and Utah).
And then Cody says that he is neither for nor against the death penalty.
“I’m on the fence. I don’t want to be a hypocrite and be against the death penalty and then someone close to me or one of my loved ones get murdered and then suddenly I’m all like: hang’em from the tallest tree you can find! Until it directly affects me, I’ll never make a judgement on whether I’m for or against it.”