A dozen people filed into a small room to watch Matthew Eldon die. I was informed to arrive at least an hour before the scheduled execution.
Everyone was intensely searched before we were allowed to go in. Prison guards escorted us into the witness room. Inside, there were three rows of metal folding chairs. In front of them was a one-way glass separating us from the other side which contained a gurney Matt would lie on as he receives his lethal injection. The whole experience felt extraordinarily unusual for me; my mind refused to process the fact it was happening. I kept strictly to myself and didn’t engage in any kind of conversation with anyone in the room.
When they brought him in, I couldn’t see it. I closed my eyes and focused only on my hearing. Victims’ families were whispering, some were gasping, making all kinds of overwhelming noises. One thing is for sure, though: this death won’t bring them their loved ones back. It won’t resolve anything. They were most likely to exit the room with the same amount of heartache they carried in. I opened my eyes and he was already lying there, waiting to be condemned. I didn’t know what to expect going in. The room was too calm, too serene. Matt never looked to see who was on the other side. I wish he did. I wanted him to see me. I wanted him to know that among all those people, one was there to show him compassion. But he never looked in our direction. The technician entered the room and placed the IV in Matt’s arm, starting the execution process.
Reading about death by lethal injection, I learned it was supposed to be quick and painless, and at first, that seemed to be the case. Ten minutes after the needle’s insertion, though, Matt’s body began writhing on the gurney. He tried lifting his head up, but the straps were too tight that he could barely move. He seemed to be in a lot of pain. How much pain, nobody knows but him. As the disturbing episode dragged on, people in the room turned away when his back arched off the gurney. One witness fainted and fell on the ground which immediately caused the prison warden to lower the blinds so we couldn’t see what was going on inside anymore. That wasn’t what I anticipated coming here. The last thing I wanted was to witness something as brutal and inhumane. There was a lot going on on the other side that we weren’t allowed to see. Activity got less and less tense half an hour afterwards which meant that Matthew Eldon had finally died.
Time of death was 8:58 PM. It was by far the ugliest thing I’ve ever seen in my life. The intrusion into a moment so personal felt too deep that everyone coming out of the room avoided looking each other in the eye after it was over.