THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW
June 26, 2014
Guest: Marty Walz, Ziva Branstetter
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Amazing work tonight, Chris. Amazing
show. Thank you, man. Thank you.
CHRIS HAYES, "ALL IN" HOST: Thank you.
MADDOW: Thanks to you at home for joining us this hour.
OK. Check this out. Let this paint a picture for you. On September
20th, 1996, defendants blockaded the two entrances to the facility. In
order to block the entrances, defendants encased themselves in cars.
Defendant 1 in a brown Buick at the front entrance, and defendant 2 in a
dark blue Oldsmobile at the rear entrance.
Specifically, defendants sat on the ground underneath the cars with
their bodies extending upright into the cars through holes cut in the
floor. The defendants facing the rear of the cars were then restrained by
two I-beams sandwiched together with a circle cut out around each
defendant`s neck. The I-beams were fastened together by a slide bolt
mechanism and were filled with different sizes of pipes in order to conceal
the release mechanism.
When a receptionist for the dental office located in the blockaded
building arrived at 7:45 a.m., she saw a tan colored car situated in front
of the main building of the office building. She called the police and
didn`t attempt to enter.
The car occupied by defendant 2 completely obstructed the rear
entrance. The car situated at the front entrance however had not been
placed directly against the front door but rather was placed at an angle
with its right front corner wedged out against bricks that extended out to
the vestibule. That left an opening on the left side of the car, thus
individuals could enter the building if they turned sideways and squeezed
past the car.
Imagine how disappointing that must have been. I mean, you go to
really extreme effort, you cut a hole in the floor of a Buick. You cut a
hole in the floor of the car and then get on the floor and stick your upper
body up through the hole so your -- the top of your body is inside the car
and your legs are on the ground. Then, you cut a circular hole, a neck-
sized circular hole through the middle of a steel I-beam and bolt it to
your neck inside the car that you drilled the hole in.
You encased yourself in the vehicle and put your neck in an iron
block. You`re trying to become the most immovable impassable thing in the
history of immovable impassable things.
But you are not very good at parallel parking. So, you do not
actually succeed in accurately squeezing the car that encases you into a
parking space close enough to the building to keep people from getting in.
So, you`re there, you`re basically a human vault, but everybody is just
scooching around you.
It`s like getting yourself all psyched up to self-emulate, right?
The gasoline all over yourself, you`re screaming about why you`re going to
do this, you`re going to set yourself on fire and your lighter doesn`t
work. It`s so emasculating. It`s so embarrassing. Must be such a
But those tactics, building themselves into cars and all the rest of
it, those were tactics used in a 1996 protest by radical anti-abortion
activists who were trying to stop women from being able to physically get
into a clinic that did abortions and provided other reproductive health
services in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
Wisconsin has had sort of an intense history of this kind of stuff.
This is a photo from protests outside another clinic in Milwaukee a few
years before. This was 1992.
The person who took this photo in 1992 told us today what`s going on
here is that the people on the ground you see in the foreground here,
they`re crawling, they`re physically trying to get to, physically trying to
stop a woman who was trying to get into that clinic to go to an
appointment. So, the crawlers, activists are trying to stop her. The
people standing upright in the left side of the photo, those are escorts.
You can see three or four of them here in the photo, all physically
surrounding this woman so she can try to safely get inside the clinic.
You can see three or four of them here, but there are actually six or
eight people all sort of forming a pod surrounding her so that she can get
in without those crawling protesters being able to grab her and stop her
from getting in. That was 1992.
And this escort thing, this clinic escort phenomenon, this is a
common thing at reproductive health clinics.
Two years after that photo was taken, a clinic escort who was working
in the south, a man named James Barrett, retired as a lieutenant colonel
from the U.S. Army, he was shot to death in Pensacola, Florida, outside a
clinic there as he was trying to escort the clinic`s doctor into that
facility past a group of antiabortion protesters. Both the doctor, Dr.
John Britton and the man who was working to try to escort him into the
clinic, that retired colonel, James Barrett, both of them were killed and
others were wounded in that shooting.
Then six months later, a young man named John Salvi shot seven people
at two abortion clinics in Brookline, Massachusetts. He killed two of the
people he shot. He wounded five others.
Some of the people who were witnesses to that shooting were people
who were there at the clinic working as clinic escorts because of the
hostile and intimidating and occasionally violent intense protests that had
been happening regularly outside of those clinics.
That day when John Salvi went into the two clinics in Brookline and
opened fire and he shot all those people, there were antiabortion
protesters right outside the clinic when he did it, as he did it. At the
Brookline Planned Parenthood where he killed a 25-year-old receptionist
that day, the protesters outside the clinic, one of the ways they regularly
tried to intimidate people, one of their regular tactics was filming
people, filming everybody as they arrived to work at the clinic, filming
people as they arrived to volunteer, filming people who were working as
escorts for patients coming into the clinic. And they filmed the patients,
themselves, including taking great pains to be seen videotaping their
license plates, trying to be very intimidating and very scary to people so
they wouldn`t go into that clinic.
But that day when John Salvi got into that clinic and shot it up and
he killed the receptionist and wounded other people, as they brought the
bodies of the wounded and the killed out of that clinic that day, the
antiabortion protesters in the parking lot, they kept filming. They filmed
There have been these politically motivated assassinations and
shootings all over the country. Pensacola was the first one that happened,
in the `90s. Then it happened again in Pensacola. It`s happened in
Wichita. It`s happened in Massachusetts. It`s happened in Alabama. It`s
happened all over the country all over the last 20, 25 years.
And what is specific and knowable about these shootings is that they
are connected. In the sense that the people who are shooting up abortion
clinics and shooting doctors who provide abortions, they are part of a
political network and political movement of people who support that kind of
violence for political reasons.
So this group, the Missionaries to the Preborn is their name, that`s
the group that blockaded Milwaukee for the whole summer of 1992, and then
they came back in 1996 and cut holes in the Oldsmobile and the Buick and
bolted their necks into steel I-beams to try to shut down those clinics.
The same group, the last time they made national news was in 2007 again in
Milwaukee when they decided to celebrate, literally celebrate the
anniversary of that doctor and escort, that retired colonel getting killed
in Pensacola. They decided to celebrate the anniversary of that
assassination by re-enacting the murder in Wisconsin.
They re-enacted it as sort of a pageant. Celebration of what a great
thing that double murder was. They used a snare drum to signify the
gunshots during the re-enactment.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Stood there with his Scripture, heart full of
blood, veins flowing with courage. His hands holding a shotgun. With his
defender, Paul Hill had made a choice. He had made a decision. Paul Hill
had decided that no babies would die there that day.
Meanwhile, two child predators were on their way, predators seeking
easy prey. A filthy abortionist and his good-for-nothing bodyguard drew
closer and closer. They didn`t know that this day was different.
This day, the babies had a defender. This day, the babies had a
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Amen.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes! Hey. Hallelujah.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: As the child murderers pulled into the center,
Paul Hill was ready to meet lethal force with force. He fired once.
He fired again.
And then Paul Hill calmly laid down his shotgun. He raised his arms
in the air and cried out --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: One thing`s for sure. No innocent people will be
killed in that clinic today.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Amen. Hallelujah. Hallelujah
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Wisconsin antiabortion activists in 2007 re-enacting and
celebrating the assassination of a doctor and a clinic volunteer in
Florida. It`s interesting, that murder that they were celebrating and re-
enacting there and applauding, that was the second murder of an abortion
provider in Pensacola, Florida, specifically.
The guy who did that second murder, who they were praising there, is
named Paul Hill. Just as he was being celebrated by those antiabortion
folks in Milwaukee for committing that murder, Paul Hill, himself, had
published a national manifesto celebrating the guy before him who had
already killed a doctor in Pensacola. A guy named Michael Griffin who
ambushed and killed Dr. David Gunn during an antiabortion demonstration at
his Florida clinic.
In Wichita, Kansas, one of the antiabortion activists who is part of
this network that celebrates killing doctors, celebrates these murderers as
martyrs and heroes, she shot Dr. George Tiller outside his Kansas clinic in
1993. When she was in prison for that shooting, she corresponded with and
got visits from a guy named Scott Roeder who`s also part of this movement
that celebrates killing doctors in his way. When he got his chance, he
didn`t just shoot Dr. George tiller and wound him the way Shelley Shannon
had. Scott Roeder finally killed Dr. George Tiller. He shot him in the
head while Dr. Tiller was at church. That was five years, in spring of
2009 in Wichita.
When the police pulled Scott Roeder over that day, he had a post-it
note on his dashboard that contained the phone number of the local
Operation Rescue activist who he`d been in contact with, who, herself, was
a convicted clinic bomber. Now, she writes a column at lifenews.com. She
gets quoted in the "Kansas City Star" as an antiabortion leader. She`s a
convicted felon who pled guilty in 1988 to conspiring to blow up a clinic
with a gasoline bomb. She`s considered to be a leader of the movement.
People who shoot doctors and bomb clinics and try to bomb clinics and
try to set clinics on fire, they`re not run-of-the-mill, crazy killers and
vandals of the kinds who commit other sorts of crimes. They`re part of a
movement that not only does this stuff but that celebrates this stuff and
that supports one another when they do these things.
In 1918, federal courthouse in San Francisco was hosting the trial of
eight Indian nationalists. It was 1918, right? This was Gandhi`s site of
the fight, right?
They were trying to get India to be independent of Great Britain, and
this group of Indian nationalists who were on trial in the United States
for a conspiracy related to that activism. Eight of them were on trial all
at once, and all together. And that ended up being really important
because on the last day of their trial in San Francisco, one of the
defendants pulled out a gun and shot one of the other defendants and killed
him. Apparently, he thought the guy who was ostensibly on his side had
been embezzling money from their Indian independence group. And so, he
killed him there in the courthouse. And there is still a bullet hole still
in the wall of the federal court house in San Francisco from that shooting
Shootings actually inside courtrooms are very, very rare. That`s why
it was big news this spring in April when at the brand new federal
courthouse in Salt Lake City, Utah, federal marshal shot and killed
somebody inside the courtroom. The guy was actually the defendant in a
gang-related case. That ended up being interesting enough. It turns out
there are Tongan Crips in Salt Lake City, Utah. Who knew?
One of the defendants in the Tongan Crips gang-related case was
listening to a witness testify. In the middle, he reportedly grabbed a pen
that was on a table near him in the courtroom and he ran across the
courtroom with a pen and was apparently going to try to stab the witness
with a pen in the courtroom. U.S. marshal in the courtroom pulled out a
gun, shot and killed the defendant while he still held the pen and shot him
in the courtroom.
I don`t know if that had happened any time between the Indian
nationalists in San Francisco in 1918 and the Tongan Crips in Salt Lake
City in 2014. But that is a very rare occurrence.
In federal courthouses and their grounds, they do see their share of
American gun violence. A guy shot up the lobby in the Las Vegas federal
courthouse in 2010 and killed a security guard. Last year in West Virginia
an ex-police officer who was dying of cancer started shooting at a federal
courthouse. He was killed, himself, though, before he killed anybody else.
In 2012, a guy in Alabama killed himself at the federal courthouse in
Alabama. It happens. We are a country with enough gun violence that
there`s enough to go around. Federal courthouses have seen their share.
Maybe they`ve seen more than their fair share? Court proceedings can
be stressful, themselves. They can be potent symbols. Courthouses can be
potent symbols for people. So, maybe it sets some people off, arguably.
At the Supreme Court in Washington, one of the ways they have
mitigated some of the physical risk that the justices may face there is
that they have surrounded the United States Supreme Court building, itself,
with a very large physical buffer zone. This is an aerial view of the
Supreme Court building in Washington, D.C. The front entrance to the
Supreme Court is these big grand doors that make you feel like you`re
entering at least a great scene in a movie or maybe heaven, itself.
Those grand awe-inspiring doors are closed now permanently for
security reasons. They`ve got a much piddlier little entrance that you
have to go now to get into the court sort of on the side of the front of
the court. But in order to even get to that little piddly entrance, in
order to get anywhere near it, you have to cross this grand marble public
plaza outside the Supreme Court. It`s like 100 feet by 250 feet, this big
And the Supreme Court has decided for itself that the whole public
plaza, that whole big marble expanse, is a safety zone. It`s a buffer
zone. You cannot be there. You cannot walk across it if you need to get
But no matter how strong your feelings are about something going on,
or being debated or decided at the Supreme Court, you can`t protest on that
plaza. You can`t hang around on that plaza.
Must be nice for the people who work there, right? I mean, yes,
there are lots of protests whenever the Supreme Court is in session.
Protests on both sides of the lot of the cases the Supreme Court hears.
People are sometimes getting arrested at those protests. Tensions
are high. Sometimes, it`s a lot of people protesting. Sometimes, it`s a
lot of people protesting in a way that`s purposely trying to be
intimidating to people around them. It must be nice.
If you work at that court, have a little breathing room from that.
You can safely get in and out of your workplace without either the
intimidation fears or the safety fears or just the hassle or the stress.
For the people responsible for keeping the justices, themselves safe, it
must be a great relief to them to have that buffer zone outside that
courtroom, that no-protest zone.
The Supreme Court has also upheld buffer zones, no-protest zones
outside polling places on election days. You can do all sorts of things to
make your political preferences known beyond just voting yourself. You can
try to persuade people to vote the way you want them to vote.
You can hold signs, hold demonstrations. You can yell at people,
hold publicity stunts. You can reason with people and try to persuade them
to do what you want them to do. But you can`t do any of that inside the
polling place. Or in most places, you can`t do any of that anywhere near
the polling place.
Yes, you have First Amendment rights even on election day, but you
cannot exercise your First Amendment rights to protest and to agitate and
to do things you might be able to do elsewhere. You can`t exercise those
rights inside the buffer zone, sort of no-protest zone, the no-politicking
zone that exists on election day around our polling places.
The Supreme Court also not that long ago specifically affirmed no-
protest zones, buffer zones, around military funerals. If you are someone
who believes that the best use of your time is to protest at the funerals
of American service members, for whatever reason, there are people who
believe that, well, the Supreme Court affirmed in 2011 that you do have the
right to do that, however odious your speech is, you have a right to that
But the loved ones of this fallen service member, they also have a
right not to be harassed and terrorized as they attend the funeral of that
person who they love. And so, a no-protest zone, a buffer zone, can be
established at those kinds of events.
And, yes, the First Amendment survives even that. I mean, the
Supreme Court in its own interest, and in the interests of these other
settings and activities, they have been able to see that the First
Amendment can be protected and respected alongside protection and respect
for other things that people have a right to do.
After all these murders and shootings and people bolting their necks
into I-beams to block access to abortion clinics over the past 20, 25
years, to terrorize and kill people who work at those clinics, cities and
states around the country have tried to find that same balance as well. In
2000, the court, Supreme Court, upheld a Colorado rule that calls for
basically an eight-foot bubble around anybody going into a health clinic.
It`s not a fixed space. It`s basically an imaginary bubble that moves with
you where people can`t get closer to you than eight feet if you don`t want
them to, if you`re trying to get into a clinic.
They can still scream at you and show you pictures you don`t want to
see and berate you and all the stuff they may want to do, but they can`t
physically get closer to you than eight feet. In Massachusetts, where they
had those murders in Brookline, two people killed and the five people
wounded in that onslaught that day, in Massachusetts, they tried their own
Massachusetts version of that Colorado law, but the protests were so
vociferous, local police said it was not a workable law for them.
In testimony before the Massachusetts legislature, seven years into
Massachusetts trying to enforce their version of the sort of Bubble Law,
the man who`s now Boston`s commissioner of police told the legislature the
floating Bubble Law was basically impossible for police to enforce outside
He said, "I like to make the reference of basketball referee down
there. We`re watching feet. Watching hands." He said it was impossible
That year that he made that testimony, 2007, Massachusetts changed
its law basically to make the whole thing simpler. And in Massachusetts
now, there is a yellow line painted on the ground outside clinic entrances.
It marks a fixed zone, a fixed space, 35 feet from the clinic entrance that
is basically a no-protest zone, a bubble like you`ve got around polling
places, like you`ve got around military funerals. Like the justices of the
Supreme Court enjoy every day.
And that fixed zone was designed to keep those clinic entrances open
and people going in and out of those clinics safe, after decades of murder
and mayhem outside clinics just like that. Well, today, the Supreme Court
overturned that Massachusetts law.
From inside their own protective buffer zone, the Supreme Court
issued its majority ruling striking down the one outside abortion clinics.
Ruling written by Chief Justice John Roberts chastises Massachusetts for
trying to stop these petitioners who simply, quote, "wish to converse with
their fellow citizens about an important subject on public streets and
Massachusetts enacted this law, painted that stripe for a specific
reason. There`s been a lot of discussion today since this ruling came down
this morning about what options the state has now that this law has been
How are they going to respond? What are they going to do next?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He drops the duffel bag, pulls out a rifle, and I
was stunned when I saw the rifle. Before he hit -- he shoots the girl I`m
talking to, she falls.
REPORTER: Three people were injured at the second clinic, including
one woman who died at the hospital.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: That was "NBC Nightly News" coverage of a deadly shooting
incident at two abortion clinics in Massachusetts in 1994. Lawmakers in
Massachusetts eventually established a 35-foot buffer zone, basically a
protest-free zone around abortion clinics in part to deal with concerns
Today, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the Massachusetts law.
Joining us now is Marty Walz. She`s former member of the
Massachusetts state legislature and an author of now overturned law. She`s
now head of the Planned Parenthood League of Massachusetts.
Ms. Walz, thanks very much for being with us.
MARTY WALZ, PLANNED PARENTHOOD: Great to be with you, Rachel.
MADDOW: First, let me ask you your reaction to today`s ruling. A
lot of people had predicted that the law might be in trouble. Simply
because the court took it up. What do you think of their ruling today?
WALZ: Well, of course, we were disappointed. We think the buffer
zone law worked very well to maintain a safe environment for our patients
and our staff. Obviously, the court disagreed but as you observed into
your piece leading into this, they didn`t do anything about their own
buffer zone law. So, apparently, they think they have one set of rules and
women seeking health care should be subjected to a different set of rules.
MADDOW: One thing that has been interesting to me looking at the
history of how Massachusetts has tried to deal with the issue about danger
at clinics and protests at clinics, is that Massachusetts did, in 2000,
Governor Cellucci, Republican governor, I believe, signed a law that
created a different buffer zone, one more like Colorado`s which at this
point is still standing according to the Supreme Court. That was sort of a
moving buffer zone around individuals as they tried to get in and out of
clinics rather than just a fixed space that was a no-protest area.
Why didn`t that work? Why wasn`t that perceived to be working in
WALZ: That law didn`t work because it allowed the protesters to
stand in the doorway of the health center. So, for someone coming into the
health center to get health care, they had to walk up to the protesters and
try to thread their way through a big group of screaming people just to get
in the door.
So, the law didn`t work because the patients had to approach the
protesters. And in that instance, the bubble that surrounds somebody
doesn`t apply. The bubble only applied when the protesters approached the
So, the law didn`t work because just stand in the doorway and the
patients have to approach the protesters and try to figure out a way to
sneak through large groups of people standing shoulder to shoulder
screaming at you at full volume. So, clearly, that wasn`t very successful.
MADDOW: Having seen that effort and legislative effort and seeing it
fail, having been a legislator constructing the new law in 2007 that
created the fixed zone, and with your responsibilities at planned
parenthood right now to try to ensure the safety and continuing operation
of your facilities, do you see a way to respond to the Supreme Court`s
ruling today that is -- will both be workable and keep the clinics open and
WALZ: No matter what, our clinics are going to be open, and our
patient center staff are going to be safe. So, that`s a given no matter
what. We were open today. Patients came in and got their health care.
We`re going be open tomorrow, be open Saturday, and patients are going to
get their health care.
We also have tremendous support from our local police departments.
So, I was in touch with them today, and we know we will have increased law
enforcement presence at our health centers.
But that`s not really a long-term solution. You don`t want to solve
this problem by having police there constantly when women are coming in for
health care. So, what we`re doing is reviewing the laws that are already
on the books that we might be able to use, as well as what new laws we
might be able to craft.
We have great support from our Governor Deval Patrick and Attorney
General Martha Coakley, as well as our legislative leadership.
So, everyone today said, all right, let`s read the decision and let`s
find out what the answer is and what law might be constitutional and let`s
get that law through the legislature.
MADDOW: Marty Walz, president of the Planned Parenthood League of
Massachusetts, and author of that law that was struck down today by the
Supreme Court, the 2007 law, thanks for helping us understand this today.
It`s pleasure to have you here.
WALZ: My pleasure.
MADDOW: Thank you.
All right. So, a lot still to come tonight. Please stay with us.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: In Congress. Folks
will tell you climate change is a hoax or a fad or a plot. It`s a liberal
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Oh, my God, he admitted it, President Obama confirming all
their worst fears about the liberal plot, and also having considerable fun
at their expense. The president is not laughing with you. He`s laughing
at you. That story is ahead.
MADDOW: If you`re a taxpayer in the state of Oklahoma, one of the
things your tax dollars pay for one of the things the state government uses
public money to do is kill people at the state prison. Most prisoners, you
the taxpayer, are paying to feed them, shelter them and provide them health
care, but for a small number of Oklahoma prisoners as in any other state,
some of what the taxpayers are paying for is a deliberate, legal, formal
process of taking a prisoner out of his or her cell and then slowly killing
that person by injecting the person with deliberately misused prescription
And because that process is sort of medical looking, it involves
putting an I.V. line in, for example, it involves getting those
pharmaceuticals in the first place, it involves somebody pronouncing the
person dead once they`re dead. Because that process has elements of
medical-ishness to it, there are people with some level of medical training
who tend to be involved in that public activity. And the state has to pay
them for that.
But if you are the EMT or the medic or the phlebotomist or even the
doctor the state of Oklahoma is paying to help out on the nights they kill
a prisoner or two, you don`t get issued a paycheck for that. The way they
pay you is cash. They pay you in cash money that they take out of some
petty cash fund and they do it that way so there is no record of who they
paid to help with the killing that night. You just walk out of the prison
with an envelope stuffed full of cash.
In 2011, the prison system in Oklahoma asked the state legislature
there to please pass a bill that would keep secret the identities of
anybody hired by the state to do that particular work. The bill sailed
through the legislature with practically no debate, almost no decent. It
was unanimous in the House. Got three votes against it I think in the
That bill had the effect of not only keeping secret who gets paid in
cash to help with executions, it also renders secret the locations of where
the state gets its pharmaceuticals from that it uses in these procedures.
So, if you`re a prisoner who`s going to get killed this way, in Oklahoma,
you do not have the right to know whether the people charged with killing
you have any expertise in doing this sort of thing. Like inserting an
I.V., knowing what to do if something goes wrong or you have a seizure or
something and all the rest of it.
It`s also kept secret from you what exactly they`re going to inject
you with because the source of the drugs is secret as well. And that is
some of what has been reported this past week in a remarkable and ought to
be award-winning investigative series by the "Tulsa World" newspaper.
After Oklahoma had a terribly botched execution eight weeks ago, the paper
devoted significant reporting resources to figuring out whether or not that
was just an unforeseeable fluke or whether there is something wrong.
Whether there`s something fishy or fly-by-night or subpar in some way about
the way that Oklahoma handles this particular state function.
The investigation found that Oklahoma does not require any regular
training for its execution teams, unlike other states. The state does not
require there to be in any backup drugs on hand in case they start the
execution but something goes wrong with the first batch that does appear to
have been part of what happened in the screwed up execution in late April.
Other states require a backup set of drugs. Oklahoma does not.
State also has no specific procedures on hand to determine if a prisoner is
really unconscious, or what to do in the event that an execution goes wrong
in some other way.
There`s also the matter of how the execution chamber is set up. I
can`t get this out of my head. "Tulsa World" found that the drugs in these
procedures are administered from a room that is walled off from the actual
person into whom the drugs are being pushed. They describe it as a cramped
dimly lit room next to the death chamber where three volunteer executioners
push syringes full of lethal drugs into the veins of an inmate they cannot
The I.V. line runs through a hole in the wall. The room is dim
enough that they have to use a flashlight to see in the room. They cannot
see who they are drugging at all. If they need problems or have to
communicate with the warden or staff in the next room along with the
prisoner they are killing through the wall, quote, to communicate with
them, quote, "the executioners stick colored pencils through holes in the
wall where two I.V. lines feed into the inmate`s body. If you saw red,
there might be possible problems", said a deputy warden. But if you stuck
the yellow pencil or the black pencil through the wall, then everything`s
OK. That`s the system.
And then there`s the issue of autopsies. Between 2001 and 2010,
during which time the state was involved in several lawsuits over their
lethal injection protocols, state of Oklahoma stopped autopsying the
prisoners who they were killing. Not one in the whole decade. For more
than ten years, during which time the state altered its lethal injection
protocol three times, the state of Oklahoma has done nothing in terms of
physical examination to actually see how it is working or what it is doing
in the process of killing people. It`s all too secret.
Joining us now is Ziva Branstetter, enterprise editor for Oklahoma`s
"Tulsa World" newspaper. Ms. Branstetter, congratulations on this
reporting and thank you for being with us.
ZIVA BRANSTETTER, TULSA WORLD: Thank you, Rachel.
MADDOW: Let me ask you an the autopsy issue. Oklahoma used to do
autopsy of prisoners it killed as a matter of course and then they just
stopped. Why did they stop? And what medical information were you able to
access to do this story given that the autopsies stopped for so long?
BRANSTETTER: Well, we don`t know really why they stopped. So in
2000, they passed a requirement that the state of Oklahoma had to autopsy,
of course, anybody, any prisoner that died in state custody except for
those the state actually killed. It was a senator, Glen Coffey (ph), who
did not return my phone calls. They do a basic medical examiners report in
In some cases, the law says, which is determined to be in the public
interest, they actually do a full autopsy. We found that since that law
was passed in 2000, they`ve only done a full autopsy on 10 out of 50
inmates executed by the state.
MADDOW: That number, 10, does not include some of the -- according
to your reporting does not include some of the cases in Oklahoma that have
received attention for executions that seem to go wrong. Including one man
who said, "I feel my whole body burning."
That was somebody -- he was able to articulate that before he died
which would imply something was wrong since they`re supposed to be
unconscious before they could feel anything like that. He was one of the
prisoners who was not autopsied after he was killed?
BRANSTETTER: That`s correct. I witnessed that execution as well.
That was Michael Wilson in January, and there is only a very cursory report
of his, you know, of his autopsy. There`s not a full autopsy as there was
in the past from 1990, all the way to 2000.
MADDOW: In terms of what information you were able to surmise
looking at the medical examiner`s report, and the information that is
there, one of the other things I found surprising an strange, I sort of
can`t get my head around it, is this fact that in some cases prisoners`
bodies after they were killed were sent to the medical examiner along with
syringes full of drugs that were never injected into them. I`m not even
sure I understand what that means.
Do you understand it?
BRANSTETTER: In a sense, the protocol calls for all of the drugs to
be administered to the inmate, whether he appears to be dead or not. And
in at least four cases that I could find a record of, there were syringes
of full drugs that were returned with the inmate`s body.
The practice is to put all those syringes with the inmate, return it
to the medical examiner`s office. In most cases, they`re empty. But in at
least four cases and possibly more, there were full syringes -- meaning the
inmate may not have received all of the drugs, may not have been
unconscious. It raises a lot of questions in my mind as to whether those
drugs were effective.
MADDOW: When Oklahoma had this bad problem with another execution
that you witnessed in late April, with Clayton Lockett, it effectively
started a sort of mini national moratorium on executions. They`ve started
up again since then, but there was a while there for which there were none
in the country because people were shocked by what happened there.
Oklahoma is now reviewing that internally.
Do you have any sense of whether the state has an appetite to change
its policy, revamp its policies? Whether or not this internal
investigation is expected to actually bring about changes?
BRANSTETTER: I do think the prison system is pretty serious about
changing the obvious flaws in the protocol which we pointed out in my
report. My partner (INAUDIBLE) and I reviewed protocols from 20 active
death penalty states including Oklahoma and most of the states were frankly
doing it better than Oklahoma.
Training was required. Execution teams were required to train
routinely. In Oklahoma, they have, what, they called a strap down team do
a walk through two weeks before the execution and that`s it. Other states
train to place I.V.s into live volunteers. We don`t do that, backup drugs.
Obviously, the dark room with the dark situation and colored pencils
is something that`s pretty obvious that needs to be fixed. I think the
prison system will address some of those obvious issues. Whether there`s
deeper change in what drugs we use and how they handle the inmates` bodies
afterwards in terms of testing, that remains to be seen.
MADDOW: If there are changes, part of it will be because of the
reporting that you and your reporters have done at the "Tulsa World."
Congratulations, Ziva Branstetter, enterprise editor for Oklahoma`s
"Tulsa World" newspaper, it`s an incredibly dark subject but you`ve shone a
lot of light on it. Thanks very much.
BRANSTETTER: Thank you, Rachel.
We`ll be right back.
MADDOW: Remember where you were this time last year? Because it`s
one year this week from Wendy Davis` epic filibuster in Texas.
It`s one year this week since the Supreme Court struck down the
Voting Rights Act.
It`s one year this week since the Supreme Court struck down the anti-
gay marriage laws.
It`s one year this week since the Senate passed immigration reform.
I haven`t heard anything from the House on that.
It`s one year this week since the president launched his big climate
And on one of those issues, which we are now having a year-long
anniversary from, one of those issues, the popular perception is that
nothing has gone the president`s way, nothing has gone the progressive way,
everything has been stuck in the mud. That popular perception is wrong.
And I`ll tell you which one of those stories that`s about, next.
MADDOW: Being president means giving speeches, lots of speeches,
little speeches, big speeches, speeches that are so important they call
them addresses. Speeches so unimportant they call them remarks. Even in a
relatively slow summer week when Congress isn`t doing anything, and he just
got back from a big trip, President Obama does a weekly address, and he
speaks after a meeting with the prime minister of New Zealand, then speaks
at a White House summit, then he speaks at a reception, then he speaks with
a bunch of NASCAR guys, then he speaks at a fund raiser.
I mean, that`s just a few days and that`s just the stuff that`s on
the record. But for any president, maybe for this president in particular,
for all the speeches he gives, it is rare to see President Obama appearing
to genuinely have a good time when he`s giving a speech. But he gave one
last night which he obviously was having a really good time, it kind of
felt like he was ripping a little bit.
I don`t know if this was in his prepared remarks, but it didn`t feel
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: It`s pretty rare that you encounter people who say that the
problem of carbon pollution is not a problem. They may not know exactly
how it works, they may doubt that we can do something about it.
But generally they don`t say no, I don`t believe scientists say.
In Congress. In Congress. Folks will tell you climate change is a
hoax for a fad or a plot. It`s a liberal plot.
And then most recently, because many who say that -- actually know
better and they`re just embarrassed -- they duck the question. "I`m not a
scientist", which really translates into, I accept that man made climate
change is real, but if I say so out loud, I`ll be run out of town by a
bunch of fringe elements that think climate science is a liberal plot. So,
I`m just going to pretend like I don`t know, I can`t read.
I`m not a doctor either, but if a bunch of doctors tell me that
tobacco can cause lung cancer, then I`ll say, OK.
Right? I mean, it`s not that hard.
Now, the good news is, the American people are wiser than this.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: President Obama apparently enjoying himself there, making
fun of Congress is the one place on earth which it is expected you believe
And the construction the president uses there is interesting because
he sort of says that Congress -- Congress is full of Republicans who do
actually believe in science, but because they are Republicans in Congress,
they have to pretend like they don`t believe in it. Almost like he`s
embarrassed for them.
President Obama made these remarks last night on the one-year
anniversary of his big unveiling of his presidential climate agenda. That
was a year ago in a speech at Georgetown, that unfortunately was very
This was a big, important speech on a really big, important matter.
But once they got the bunting all screwy, that bunting just has a wedgy,
and that`s the one right over the president. It`s super hot day, no shade.
The president had to joke at the top so everybody could take off their
jackets. He said, "It`s not that sexy."
The whole long speech went off for an hour. It was punctuated every
couple of sentences by a plane flying over the president and drowning out
his words because the venue they chose at Georgetown was on the flight path
from national airport. They did not do a great job with the logistics on
the rollout of that agenda, at that speech a year ago this week.
But the president did roll out that agenda year ago. He reiterated
it last night with some glee.
Well, what`s now clearly important about that big speech a year ago,
and about how the president approached this issue, is that everything he
laid out in that big speech a year ago, everything he laid out in that
agenda was stuff that he could basically do himself without Congress,
because again, Congress is the one place we have to pretend that climate is
not changing. But even though Congress has gotten no better on it in the
past year, actually, despite popular perceptions, a lot has changed around
the politics of this issue.
Even in Republican politics. I mean, Republicans in Congress are
stuck exactly where they are. But Republicans outside Congress, it`s
actually been kind of an amazing year for them on this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER, ACTOR: People are used to seeing me play the
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You probably know Arnold Schwarzenegger from his
prolific film career and as former governor of California.
SCHWARZENEGGER: To see me acting strong and brave, standing up to
the toughest bad guys.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Welcome, Governor Schwarzenegger.
SCHWARZENEGGER: Thank you very much. Thank you.
But my career as an action hero was all make believe. Today, I`m
taking on the real-life bad guy, one that threatens all humanity, climate
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Climate change. That`s from the Showtime documentary
series, "The Years of Living Dangerously."
And Arnold Schwarzenegger is not alone. Last month, this guy, Jon
Huntsman, the former governor of Utah, U.S. ambassador to China, 2012
Republican presidential candidate, he authored an op-ed in "The New York
Times" about how Republicans specifically can`t ignore climate change.
Then, there`s this guy, former secretary of the treasury under
President George W. Bush, Hank Paulson, this week, Mr. Paulson joined
forces with former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and a hedge fund
billionaire to release a report they called "Risky Business", which
basically says climate change is happening and not only is it happening,
it`s costing our country billions of dollars. It`s an economic issue.
Oh, but wait, there`s more. Just last week, four former cabinet
members who served under these presidents, former heads of the EPA under
Republican presidents, came out and testified before the Senate Environment
Committee saying, yes, climate change is real and Congress should do
something about it.
It still doesn`t look like Congress is going to do anything about it
anytime soon. But the president, that`s him a year ago and last night,
appears to be acting on his own where he can, publicly asserting and
assuming that Congress will come along someday on this issue. Republicans
outside of Congress appear to be proving him right on that, so many of them
are clearly coming along on this issue.
And I think this is a big deal. On the issue of public opinion, when
the president said last night the good news is the American people are
wiser than this, meaning wiser than Congress, he`s talking about something
specific there. This is the latest NBC/"Wall Street Journal" poll, people
like what the president is doing on his own on this subject, even if
Congress is pretending it`s all about a conspiracy theory. The public kind
of down with it, they kind of like it. They strongly support what the
president is doing, even though Congress is furious and treating it like a
An increasing and large majority of the public is willing to pay more
for their utility bills, if that`s what we need to do in order to deal with
Public opinion going the president`s way. The opinion of almost all
elected Democrats going the president`s way. The opinions of increasing
numbers of very well known Republicans going his way, as long as they are
not Republicans in Congress, as long as they`re Republicans who can
actually make a decision on this.
Congressional Republicans did stand unified on being pretty flat
earth on this subject. But in the years since President Obama started
saying he was going to act on this issue with or without them,
congressional Republicans have turned into the nation`s lagging indicator
on this issue. Everybody else on board.
Now, it`s time for "THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL". Thanks
for being with us.
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