Produced by David Isay
Other pieces by Sound Portraits
Posted on September 24, 2010 at 10:46 AM
My hair was standing on end at times.
Posted on October 27, 2004 at 09:06 AM
For pub radio insiders "The Exection Tapes' will forever be linked with the story of how NPR shied away from airing exclusive audio tapes of executions in Georgia's electric chair discovered by radio star David Isay. Isay teamed up with WNYC and produced an hour-long program that includes a full recording of the execution of a 28 year old retarded man convicted of murder and put to death in July, 1984 as narrated by an assistant to the prison warden. "The Execution Tapes" aired on 60 stations, attracted lots of media attention and paved the way for PRX and alternative ways of distributing public radio programming.
The hour aired two weeks before the scheduled execution of Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh in May 2001. McVeigh's wish to have his death televised had renewed the debate over public access to executions, providing Isay and Co. with a dreamy newshook but one that perhaps makes the hour dated. Another execution provides a peg as does renewed discussion and debate about making executions public. Stations can also air Isay's material without the discussion modules (Ray Suarez interviews 60 Minutes anchor Mike Wallace and several criminal justice experts about the tapes; OTM host Brooke Gladstone contributed clips of a botched exectution and a segement on the final words of prisoners on death row).