The state of Indiana gave Steven T. Judy almost everything he wanted on his last night -- prime rib, lobster tails, sour cream on his baked potato, a phone call from an old girlfriend in Texas that warmed his heart and 2,800 volts of electricity that stopped it.
Only the four beers -- Stroh's, he had requested -- were held back. But the state made up for that by shooting him full of tranquilizers before the end early today.
After the injection, Judy, a twisted man who laughed about being delt a bad hand by the world and laughed just as richly about dealing the same cards back randomly to society, walked the last six steps to Old Bestsy, Indiana's medieval-looking electric chair.
A black veil was taped to his forehead, shrouding his face. A metal skullcap covered his shaved head. Electrodes were attached to his head and ankles, the wires leading out in a direct line to the Northern Indiana Public Service Co. substation so the lights wouldn't dim at 12:07 a.m.
Other such precautions were taken. Most electric chairs have leather restraining straps for the wrists. Indiana uses metal bands, having learned from other states that some men react so violently to the power surge their arms rip upward through the leather in one last thoughtless protest.
Neither the state nor Judy wanted that. So it was all over in less than two minutes -- a 10-second jolt of 2,300 volts hitting him seven minutes after midnight, a 20-second charge of 500 volts added shortly afterward for good measure. The prison doctor left him sitting in the chair 4 1/2 minutes before going in to pronounce him dead at 12:12 a.m. a
Bob Carr, who became Judy's foster father after Judy was released from the mental institution to which he had been committed at age 13, watched from the other side of the Death House window.
Carr had known the background -- a kid first arrested at 10 for molesting a woman and then finally committed three years later after talking his way into another woman's home by pretending he was a Boy Scout selling raffle tickets. He raped her, stabbed her 18 times until the knife broke, then went into the kitchen for a hachet and hit her four more times in the head. She lived -- after brain surgery, open-heart surgery and her own stint in a mental hospital.
That victim later testified at the trial that brought Judy to the electric chair -- for the rape-murder of a young woman and the killing of her three children.
After the execution, Bob Carr was trying to be fair to everyone involved.
"I think it was well executed," said Carr, meaning no pun. "They did it real special. I could tell it was a treamendous amount of voltage moving through his brain. He was unconscious in seconds."
Still, it wasn't easy, watching.
"His body jerked and he reared up," Carr said. "His fingers clutched and he tightened up."
The worst part was the smoke, the wisp of smoke.
"You could see the smoke out of the top of his head. Then about 20 seconds later, his body kind of relaxed."
Fifteen minutes after that, the word got outside the prison, where a mixed crowd of several hundred had kept a six-hour vigil in the freezing night. The scene at the gates to Indiana's walled fortress was alternately bizarre, ghoulish, touching, American.
Early on a small group of neo-Nazis from Chicago showed up, uniformed and holding "Death to Jody" signs. They moved off when the church people came with their candles, their guitars, their prayers and their signs that said God doesn't want it this way.
Jody, 24, was the fourth man to die since the moratorium on capital punishment was lifted four years ago.Throughout the United States, there are 732 prisoners on death row. So the scene at the gate of the Indiana State Prison became a forum, of sorts, on the death penalty. It was an awkward forum -- but in a way the ultimate test of the wisdom of death for death's sake -- because Judy not only wanted to die but threatened to rampage on if he ever got out.
"Suicide is not the issue here," argued Henry Schwarzschild, who came from New York to represent the American Civil Liberties Union, a foe of capital punishment. "What is involved here is the state's right to homicide. Who would think our political leaders would follow the wishes of a sick and destructive killer?"
Gene McWilliams, an Indianapolis salesman who brought a van here to serve as a headquarters for a pro-death penalty group called Protect the Innocent, couldn't fathom that reasoning. If it had been his wife, his kids who had been killed, he said, he'd throw the switch himself.He said it was time to start worrying about the victims, not the criminals.
As midnight neared, the mostly quiet crowd became increasingly restless.
"Are we going to see the body?" a candle holder shouted at the state trooper guards in a bad attempt at sarcasm. "We want to see his head. On a platter." The troopers, unimpressed all evening with candles, glared back, apparently further convinced the world was filled with weirdos.
Just after 12:12 Brian Murphy, a 21-year-old student from Notre Dame, stopped by on his way home from a basketball game. "Boy, this is strange, this is awful," Murphy said. "This is the toughest question of all. Is it right or wrong? My church says it's wrong. I just don't know."
Murphy wasn't the only one who couldn't find the answer here. Even Judy, the man who wanted to die, didn't seem to have it. He had provoked and challenged the state, revealing in the final attention he was getting.
At his trial he boasted of 13 rapes, 50 armed robberies, countless burglaries. He went into such detail about the final murders that several jurors became ill.
He had taken young Terry Lee Chasteen and her children to the edge of White Luck Creek near Indianapolis on the morning of April 28, 1979. He told the jury how he raped the woman, strangled her in front of the screaming children and threw her body into the creek. Then he throttled the five-year-old and threw her in, then the four-year-old, then the two-year-old.
He told the jury he'd do the same thing to them if got the chance. Kill me, he told them.
Only at the very end, minutes before the voltage hit him, did he show the slitest hint of remorse.
"I don't hold no grudge," were his last words. "I'm sorry it happened."
Forty-eight hours earlier, however, at a prison press conference, he said he wasn't losing any sleep over it.
At that time he also was asked the ultimate question: Does the death penalty serve as a deterrent to violent crime?
"No," Judy replied. "Well, it may for a short period after that. But if someone if going to kill somebody, they don't think about a death penalty later on."