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Scenes From an Execution

"There are gobs of reporters," he notes. He carries a T-shirt he plans to don after the execution: "My Country Killed Today."

Two young women sitting on the ground singing hymns attract the attention of four photographers, who pop flashes at them from every side.

7:30 p.m.: Davis has had his shower, McDonough reports. "The protocol is proceeding as scheduled," she says, her voice not unlike that of an answering machine.

7:55 p.m.: There's a glitch in the protocol. Davis has not yet been moved from his holding cell to the execution room, and the media witnesses are cooling their heels in the lobby of the penitentiary, wondering what's going on. Tension is building in the media center--at least, that's the story the radio reporters are barking into their telephones.

8:18 p.m.: Davis has been strapped on the table, the IVs inserted, the death warrant read to him. Lights flicker on every floor of the penitentiary.

8:28 p.m.: Chewing gum and wrapped in a black trenchcoat, KWGN's Dave Young grimaces at the camera and taps his earphone. "I hear nothing but hum," he says.

8:34 p.m.: McDonough announces that Davis was pronounced dead at 8:33. The flickering lights, she explains, are the work of inmates covering their windows with blankets or fooling with the light switches. Cameras turn obligingly to the phenomenon while the trailer erupts with live radio reports.

8:50 p.m.: The media witnesses are escorted back to the trailer to brief their colleagues. They all seem a bit numbed by what they saw, although in some cases it's hard to tell.

"Everything was fairly peaceful, if that word is appropriate," says KWGN's Ernest Gurule. "He seemed to be resigned to it."

Davis made no last statement and, except for a brief glance at lawyer Mandell-King, kept his eyes on the ceiling. "There was not much to see," explains the Denver Post's Kevin Simpson, who seems particularly spooked by the experience.

KCNC's Brian Maass is so intent on peppering the witnesses with three-hankie questions--"What's it like to see somebody executed? Kevin, do you think the image of Gary Davis dying will stay with you?"--that witness Judy Kohler of the Associated Press can hardly get a word in.

Sporting the loudest tie in the room, Adams County District Attorney Bob Grant takes the podium, his somber speech about "justice delayed but justice nonetheless" scarcely concealing his good humor. "I saw a lot better people die a lot worse deaths in the fields of Vietnam," he harrumphs, adding that Colorado killers now know that they "will have the opportunity to look the devil in the eye, just as [Davis] is doing right now."

The hit of the evening, though, is witness Rod MacLennan, Ginny May's father, who provides an eloquent, understated defense of the death penalty and pleads for a speedier appeals process and tighter control of sex offenders. "I can see that this has drawn a lot of attention, and I'm glad it has," he says. "Some of you may say we were after revenge. You are wrong. We were just spectators...Compassion was given, justice was done. It's over. What more needs to be said?"

Not much, the press decides. By the time Colorado Attorney General Gail Norton gets to unload a few prepared remarks about the legal system, she finds herself addressing a half-empty room; many of the deadline-pressed reporters have gone off to conduct their own up-close-and-personal interviews with the eyewitnesses.

9:30 p.m.: A gray Ford Aerostar bearing the body of Gary Lee Davis heads slowly toward the prison gates. TV crews and photographers line up along the road to get the shot.

--Prendergast

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