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Burning at the Wire: The Execution of John Evans (From Facing the Death Penalty, P 60-80, 1989, Michael L Radelet, ed. -- See NCJ-118827)

NCJ Number
R F Canan
Date Published
21 pages
The lawyer who represented John Evans, who was executed in Alabama in 1983, describes the unsuccessful efforts to persuade Governor George Wallace to commute the sentence and his last-minute attempt to stop the execution when the electric chair malfunctioned, resulting in an execution that lasted for 14 minutes.
John Evans killed Edwin Nassar during a robbery of a pawn shop, when he felt that Nassar was going to grab a weapon and fire upon him. Evans told the jury that he had done so. During the legal efforts to save his life, he sometimes insisted on representing himself at critical times during the proceedings. Public opinion and the media were clamoring for an execution, which had not occurred in Alabama in 18 years. When the execution date was set for April 22, 1983, his family persuaded him to contact the Southern Prisoners' Defense Committee in Atlanta to seek legal advice. The efforts to persuade Governor Wallace to grant clemency received support from family, friends, religious leaders, and many others inside and outside Alabama. However, the governor decided that it was inappropriate for him to interfere in the case. The day before the execution the governor agreed to another meeting with the lawyer and Evans's sister, who were unsuccessful in their efforts. A stay granted by an appellate court was lifted by the State Supreme Court. The execution required three applications of electricity over a prolonged period, during which the lawyer asked for clemency on the grounds of cruel and unusual punishment. Instead, Evans was burned alive and his body was mutilated by the execution process.