350 J O D I P I C O U LT
There was an appeal that had been filed in the Supreme Court by the attorneys of a skinhead who'd written the word towelhead in white paint on the driveway of his employer, a Pakistani convenience store owner who'd fired him for being drunk on the job; some research about why the words under God had been added to the Pledge of Allegiance in i954 during the
McCarthy era; and a stack of mail equally balanced between desperate souls who wanted me to fight on their behalf and right-wing conservatives who berated the ACLU for making it criminal to be a white churchgoing
One letter sifted through my hands and dropped onto my lap-a plain envelope printed with the address of the New Hampshire State
Prison, the Office of the Warden. I opened it and found inside a pressed white sheet of paper, still bearing its watermark.
It was an invitation to attend the execution of Isaiah Bourne. The guest list included the attorney general, the governor, the lawyer who originally prosecuted Shay's case, me, Father Michael, and several other names I didn't recognize. By law, there had to be a certain number of people present for an execution from both the inmate's and the victim's sides. In this, it was a bit like organizing a wedding. And just like a wedding, there was a number to call to RSVP
It was fifteen days before Shay was scheduled to die.
Clearly, I was the only one who found it remotely hilarious that the first and only witness the defense called-the commissioner of corrections- was a man named Joe Lynch. He was a tall, thin man whose sense of humor had apparently dissipated along with the hair on his scalp. I was quite sure that when he took the job, he'd never dreamed that he would be faced with New Hampshire's first execution in more than half a century.
"Commissioner Lynch," the assistant attorney general said, "what preparations have been made for the execution of Shay Bourne?"
"As you're aware," Lynch said, "the State of New Hampshire was not equipped to deal with the death sentence handed down to Inmate
Bourne. We'd hoped that the job could be done at Terre Haute, but found out that wasn't going to happen. To that end, we've had to construct a lethal injection chamber-which now occupies a good corner of what used to be our exercise yard at the state penitentiary."
"Can you give us a breakdown of the costs involved?"
The commissioner began to read from a ledger. "The architectural and construction fees for the project were $39,100. A lethal injection gurney cost $830. The equipment associated with lethal injection cost
$684. In addition, the human cost included meeting with staff, training the staff, and attending hearings-totaling $48,846. Initial supplies were
$1,361, and the chemicals cost $426. In addition to this, several physical improvements were made to the space where the execution would occur: vertical blinds in the witness area, a dimmer switch in the chamber, a tinted one-way mirror, air-conditioning and an emergency generator, a wireless microphone and amplifier into the viewing area, a mono plug phone jack. These ran up to $14,669."
"You've done the math, Commissioner. By your calculation, what do you estimate you've spent on Shay Bourne's execution so far?"