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killing people is psychologically corrosive

If killing a human being is not disruptive to someone's mental and spiritual well-being, that person should probably not be walking around free.

The Executioner's Lament (

"This is not normal behavior for right-minded humans to engage in," says Steve Martin, who participated in several executions in Texas in the 1980s. His job was to man the phones in case of a reprieve. He says the whole process is emotionally crippling.


"People don't realize," he says, "you just killed somebody, and you've been a part of it, and it affects all of us."

Carroll Pickett was the chaplain at 95 executions in Texas through the mid-1990s. He remembers one time when prison staff spent 40 minutes trying to find a vein until the inmate sat up and helped them. "Some of them would go outside and throw up," he says.

Over time, Pickett says, the staff unraveled. "And these were some good, good men. Basically, they all left. Every one of them," he says.

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