Former Executioners Share Their Misgivings About Death Penalty
Ron McAndrew, a former prison warden, said he began to have doubts about the death penalty after seeing flames dance from the head of an inmate strapped into Florida’s electric chair.
“There was no way I could stop the execution,” said McAndrew, who was in charge of the electrocution that night in 1997. Smoke and a putrid odor filled the death chamber as the witnesses outside watched, agape. “I had to let it go on for 11 minutes.”
McAndrew, 74, was one of two former executioners who came to California this week to tell tales from the death chamber during a four-day tour of some of the state’s most conservative communities: Riverside, Bakersfield and Fresno.
The National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty sponsored the tour of churches and college campuses as Californians prepare to vote on Proposition 34, next month’s ballot measure to replace the death penalty with life in prison without parole.
McAndrew, speaking in an interview Friday before an appearance at Cal State Fresno, said being an executioner caused him psychological problems. He said he finally sought help after seeing the dead men he executed sitting on the side of his bed at night.