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Witness To A Texas Execution: Part One

Lethal injection room
Wikipedia Creative Commons

On Wednesday night, the State of Texas executed Ramiro Hernandez-Llanas, a man convicted of the 1997 killing of professor Glen Lich.

Hernandez-Llanas was an immigrant hired to work on the Lich property when he lured Lich outside the home and beat him to death. He then returned to the house and attacked Lich's wife.

Lich was not Hernandez-Llanas's first murder victim. Hernandez-Llanas had escaped from Mexican prison where he was serving a 25-year sentence for murder.

Lich's son, Stephen Lich Tyler, was a 20 year-old college student at the time of the murder.  He is now an economics professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and he traveled to Texas to witness the execution last night. The State of Things host Frank Stasio talked with Lich Tyler before the execution about his expectations.

"I have no idea what to expect. It could be horrible. It could be traumatic. And then I start thinking about that and I realize it could be just the opposite experience," Lich Tyler said. "I have no idea. I keep turning over this scenario in my head and how it is going to feel to me and whether I find it traumatic. Whether I'm indifferent. Whether I find it a positive experience. I hate to use that word."

The execution by lethal injection comes more than 13 years after a Texas jury convicted Hernandez-Llanas and sentenced him to death.  His attorneys exhausted all appeals and the Texas Parole Board refused to delay or commute the sentence. "The appeals were very much an emotional rollercoaster," Lich Tyler said.

Lich knew he would attend the execution but he struggled to assess what he hoped his presence there would mean. "I've had second thoughts throughout," he said. "I have second thoughts right now."

He explained some of the thought process behind deciding to go to the execution:

Then when it comes to questions of revenge or punishment, what I ask myself is, "if I was given the option to request that this person be tortured to death, or that this person have his head bashed in like my father's, would I support that?" And the answer is no. The answer is absolutely no. That would not make me feel better. That would not be satisfactory. That would just make the situation more horrible than it is. So when I ask myself those kinds of questions I feel that it is the relief. It is finalizing things. And it’s not a sense of punishment or revenge.

Lich Tyler will return to The State of Things this month to talk about his experience witnessing the execution.

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Laura Lee was the managing editor of The State of Things until mid February 2017. Born and raised in Monroe, North Carolina, Laura returned to the Old North state in 2013 after several years in Washington, DC. She received her B.A. in political science and international studies from UNC-Chapel Hill in 2002 and her J.D. from UNC-Chapel Hill School of Law in 2007.
Longtime NPR correspondent Frank Stasio was named permanent host of The State of Things in June 2006. A native of Buffalo, Frank has been in radio since the age of 19. He began his public radio career at WOI in Ames, Iowa, where he was a magazine show anchor and the station's News Director.
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