Photos by Adam Palmer
Mary Kuchar – 1851 Staff
“What does the threat of violence really teach us?” asked Scott Langley during his “Execution Night” exhibit on November 6 in deWitt Hall. Langley, a freelance photographer and human rights activist, has devoted his life to educating others on the effects of the death penalty.
A collection of Langley’s photographs was on display before his speech. His collection included photographs taken of executioners’ family members, the outside view of a prison during an execution, and the inside of an execution room in Raleigh, N.C.
“It’s my duty as a journalist and as an activist to capture these photos,” said Langley on the secrecy behind the execution process. “The state doesn’t want us to see what happens.”
Langley described his first experience attending an execution in 1999. In his home state of Texas, he took photos of the street view of a prison execution for a history class at Southern Methodist University. “I had never been that close to a prison,” he said. From the street, Langley took a photograph of a cross on the prison roof because he was “struck by this irony” of religion being present in a place of suffering.
During the first execution he attended, Langley said he was “overcome with a sense of despair, of hopelessness, of anger as I stood there knowing literally across the street from me someone was being killed.”
Since then, Langley has attended and protested a number of executions, including the highly publicized case of Troy Davis. He told the story of Davis’ execution, detailing the protest that took place outside the prison and the events going on inside the prison at the time. He described Davis’ mother as being “literally killed” from the stress of her son’s execution and Davis’ sister died of cancer not long after. “A family lost a sister, a mother, and a brother because of the death penalty,” said Langley.
“Protestors have been arrested at every execution since 2005,” said Langley. Many protestors are also physically assaulted, including Langley himself. He was hit over the head with a wooden cross at his first protest in Boston. However, Langley joked about the incident, saying that after growing up in the “Bible Belt,” he “had to go all the way to Massachusetts to get hit in the head with a cross.”