A former state chief executioner for the state of Virginia no longer supports the death penalty. After being convicted of a crime he didn’t commit, Jerry Givens found out the hard way that innocent people can and do go to jail and get death sentences.
Jerry Givens was responsible for shaving the heads of the convicts, asking god to forgive their sins and then flipping the switch on the electric chair for over 17 years. However, it only took two guilty verdicts to change his stance on the death penalty.
Givens said, “From the 62 lives I took, I learned a lot.” Given said he always believed that if someone raped and/or killed knowing they would face the death penalty then they were “basically committing suicide.”
Jerry Givens revealed that in order to be able to handle his job of executioner he had to focus on the mechanics of electrocution and not the person. “You are concentrating on the body itself.”
“With that much electricity, you are going to get burning and smoke. You want to make sure the current is right.”
“You are not going to feel happy. You feel for the condemned man’s family and the victim’s family. You have two sets of families that are losing someone.”
The first event that started Givens down the path of opposing the death penalty occurred in 1984. Earl Washington Jr. received the death penalty for the rape and killing of a 19 year old mother of three.
Washington actually confessed to the killing, with an IQ of only 69 there were doubts about whether he actually committed the crime. Earl Washington was scheduled to die in 1985 however, lawyers were able to get him a stay of execution.
Once DNA tests provided strong evidence that Washington wasn’t the killer, his death sentence was commuted to life without the possibility of parole. Realizing he almost executed an innocent man affected Givens deeply.
Jerry Givens stated at the time, “If I execute an innocent person, I’m no better than the people on death row.” The second event that triggered Givens stance on the death penalty occurred in 1999.
Givens was arrested and charged with money laundering and lying to a federal grand jury. Jerry Givens vehemently insists that he is innocent of both crimes.
Regardless of his claims of innocence, Given was convicted which left the Department of Corrections no option but to force his resignation. Jerry Givens served four years in prison for his convictions.
Speaking to the Washington Post, Givens said, “This was God’s way of waking me up.” To this day, Jerry Givens no longer supports the death penalty and will always wonder if any of the people he executed were innocent.
Jerry Givens executed 7 people via the electric chair and 25 by lethal injection. Givens said, “The only thing I can do is pray to God to forgive me if I did. But I do know this, I will never do it again.”
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