NATIONAL RADIO TO PLAY THE FIRST COMPLETE BROADCAST OF AN EXECUTION IN THE USA
A Public Radio Special Report: The Execution Tapes
The recent execution of Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh focussed international attention on the emotive issue of
New Zealand abolished the death penalty in 1961 but public opinion remains polarised. Recent crimes of violence have
reactivated the arguments and there are strong demands for informed national debate on the issue.
At 10.30am on Sunday 1 July National Radio contributes to the debate by playing the first complete broadcast of an
execution in the United States made available to Radio New Zealand by WNYC Radio, New York and Sound Portraits
During A Public Radio Special Report: The Execution Tapes listeners will hear an eleven-minute historical recording of a
state-sanctioned execution, narrated by a prison official who is witnessing the event. The tape brings the general
public, for the first time, close to the execution chamber.
Until now there have been no known audio, video, or photographic records of a modern, state-sanctioned execution. As
part of a legal action, however, Atlanta defense attorney Mike Mears learned about and successfully subpoenaed 18 years’
worth of audio recordings of executions made by the State of Georgia, where 23 men have been electrocuted since 1983.
The tapes were made to document the Georgia Department of Corrections’ internal procedures.
The execution recording itself is from 1984 and features the voices of an employee of the Georgia Department of
Corrections describing precisely what’s happening throughout the execution process.
The employee is standing in a room directly behind the execution chamber, watching the proceedings through a one-way
A Public Radio Special: The Execution Tapes will be followed by a live-to-air panel discussion which will explore the
relevance of the programme to New Zealand, as well as the ethics of broadcasting the material.
Panelists will include barrister Judith Ablett Kerr QC, Professor Paul Morris from Victoria University, and lawyer David
Garret, whose book A Life For A Life argues the case for capital punishment.
Radio New Zealand’s Chief Executive, Sharon Crosbie, has endorsed the President of WNYC Laura Walker’s statement that it
is the mission of public radio to report on, and discuss urgent issues, in a thoughtful, balanced and intelligent way.
“The death penalty and the questions surrounding the public’s right to witness executions are important issues and we
believe it is our important for us to bring this programme to air with the right context and sensitivity. This programme
is an important illustration of the role we play in providing balanced information and provoking constructive dialogue.”
National Radio is publicly-funded through New Zealand on Air.
Sunday Morning With Chris Laidlaw
Sunday 1 July