The Unquiet Death of Robert Harris
CRUEL AND USUAL
On April 21, Robert Alton Harris was put to death in Californra’s gas chamber for the 1978 murder of two teenagers, John Mayeskr and Mlchael Baker. His case -- California’s first lethal gassing in twenty-five years -- generated intense media scrutiny around the world. The American Civil Liberties Union filed a class-action civil rights suit challenging the use of cyanide gas as cruel and unusual punishment. A decision from US. District
Court Judge Marilyn Patel is expected shortly.
This issue is harshly illuminated by the following astonishing eyewitness account of the execution by a close friend of Robert Harris, who met the condemned man in 1984 while writing an article about Harrris’s neighbor on death row.
July 6, 1992
Reprinted in the "Utne Reader" Nov/Dec 1992
MICHAEL A. KROLL
“Ladies and gentlemen. Please stay in your places until your escort comes for you. Follow your escort, as instructed. Thank you.” The words were spoken in the manner of the operator of the Jungle Cruise at Disneyland: well rehearsed and “professional.” They were spokenby San Quentin’s public information officer, Verrnell Crittendon, as we waited to be ushered out of the gas chamber where my friend Robert Harris was slumped over, dead, in Chair B.