Ronan Farrow Daily   |  March 27, 2014

Mississippi set to execute female prisoner

Sister Helen Prejean discusses 57-year-old Michelle Byrom, who is facing execution in the state of Mississippi after being convicted of hiring a hitman to kill her husband.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> welcome back, at 7:00 p.m . tonight, mississippi is set to do something it hasn't done for 70 years. it will execute a woman, that's 57-year-old michelle byrum, convicted of hiring a hit man to kill her husband. in the midst of renewed tensions over capital punishment around the country. yesterday missouri executed its fifth inmate in as many months and now carried out more executions in the past five months than it has in the past eight years combined. meanwhile in oklahoma, two executions that were planned for next week have been postponed until april after the state said it was having trouble obtaining the drugs it needed to perform the executions. the stepmother of one of those men awaiting death is terrified of how this proceed will play out. we don't have a sound of her right now, but in that state, there is a debate emerging about whether these executions are painful and there are family members saying, even if we know our loved one has to die, we want them to die humanely. someone who knows a lot about this debate, about what is inhumane and what is not, is sister helen prejean , back with me now, social justice advocate opposes the death penalty and the film was based on her book, now in its 20th anniversary edition. sister, thank you so much for staying with us.

>> thank you.

>> first, i wanted to talk about this issue of how humane or inhumane the procedure can be. those of the catholic faith , i was raised catholic, believe it can never be truly u main but there are degrees in the eyes of the law. the european union banned components needed for injections and that left states to come up with creative cocktails and in ohio they did just that and the latest execution went disastrously they had a individual gasping in apparently in pain. what do you see this debate heading towards? do you think people will give up and we'll see more botched executions?

>> what's amazing is in our step supposedly for a more humane way to kill people in this country we move from hanging to the electric chair to lethal injection , a more medicinal approach. since we can't get the drugs now from europe, we have no transparency in this process so the states are going to these compounding pharmaceutical companies to get the drugs and you mentioned ohio, dennis maguire, they even admitted, we'll experimentally try this combination of these three drugs and the man that called it oxygen hunghunger, two daughters watched him struggling for two minutes to die. people say they are supposed to feel pain. don't have sympathy for them. where else do we have anything with the government involved where we don't have transparency. when build federal highways, we don't know what cement is used. veterinarians, there's more transparency for euthanizing than in the united states . there's a big legal issues about it. there's a judge in oklahoma who's declared it unconstitutional because they said we don't know what they are doing to kill people and what drugs are being used.

>> sister helen, let's talk about that issue of transparency. in tennessee make the state is refusing to disclose what drugs are being used for executions and even where they got from them.

>> right.

>> in other news a state judge in texas moments ago, i have a wire here brought in, ordered the texas prison agencies to disclose their execution drugs so they came out on the other side of this debate. how important is it in your experience working with men and women on death row for them to know how they are going to meet their end?

>> there's no way you set up a human process for human beings to die, the two red telephones and execution chamber , i've accompanied six people to their deaths from the state, three by electric chair and three by lethal injection . one of the red telephones goes to the governor and ear to the court. if you get a call at the last minute, you don't die that night. that happened with doby williams three times before he was killed, a man i was with. we not only don't know about the process because it's humanly set up with legal maneuvers to the end but we don't know what physically happens inside. with the dree drug formula, the first was to parl lies the person completely or cry out if they were in pain. they said it was for their dignity that they paralies them. not only is it not transparent about what drugs we're using and what the process might be at the last minute to get a stay, but it's a secret ritual behind prison walls. one of the reasons i wrote dead man walking and one of the reasons i go out to the american public is to bring this process close to people to show that we got to choose an alternative and not imitate the worst behavior saying we have to kill our criminals in order to be safe.

>> all right, an impassioned case you make there and your body of work makes.