Winner 2000

Witness to an Execution

Sound Portraits Productions

This unique narrative approach to capital punishment takes listeners into the Texas death chamber where the state’s most dangerous inmates are executed by lethal injection. Narrator and co-writer Jim Willett is the prison warden who oversees all executions in Texas. His matter-of-fact voice and words add authenticity to the story by illuminating his closeness to—and distance from—the process. Interwoven throughout the warden’s commentary are the personal accounts of onlookers and prison officials who, through their varied perspectives, tell of the preparation and events leading up to a condemned prisoner’s death. Listeners are taken step-by-step through the last hours of a person’s life from the holding cell, to the last meal, to the prisoner’s final moments. Produced by Stacy Abramson and David Isay of Sound Portraits Productions, this gripping program received more e-mails and letters than any other single program in the 30-year history of NPR’s All Things Considered. For its riveting story on a topic too often sensationalized by the mass media that has an enormous impact on both storytellers and listeners, a Peabody Award goes to Witness to an Execution.