Shortly before 1:00 AM on the morning of March 25, 1997, I waved to the guard in the tower at Florida State Prison and waited for the outer gate to open. After it opened, I stepped inside and waited for the inner gate to open.
A prison official was waiting inside the prison and escorted me to the X Wing where prisoners awaiting execution are held. When I reached Pedro Medina’s cell, I said, “How are you my brother?”
And he replied, “I have no fear of dying. I have Jesus Christ in my heart. I am connected with God.” For the next five hours we talked together, read the Bible in German and Spanish, and prayed together. German was the only language he would use in talking to me in the last few months of his life.
As his pastor, I had been visiting him for more than two years and he had always professed his innocence. This morning he said once again, “I loved Dorothy and I would never have harmed her.” Dorothy James was the victim of a stabbing death.
Following her murder, he had been found asleep in her car at a rest stop on the interstate with a knife. But the knife did not match the stab wounds on Dorothy’s body.
Around 5:30 PM when I knew the guards would be coming to prepare him for execution, I asked if he wanted to share communion. He said that he did.
I handed him a piece of bread through the bars and said, “This represents Christ’s body.” I took a piece of bread and bowed my head for a silent prayer.
And then I looked at Pedro. Although he was Afro-Cuban, his face was gleaming white! I was so surprised and awed that I did not know what to say. I have no memory of sharing the cup with him. When I heard the guards coming down the corridor, I reached through the bars, held both of his hands and said, “I will see you again in heaven.”
An hour later, I was seated in the witness room directly in front of the electric chair. When the warden asked if he had any last words, he responded, “I am still innocent.”
As the current surged through his body, smoke and fire erupted over his head. It was gruesome. In the aftermath of the botched execution, the State of Florida abandoned the electric chair.
I oppose the death penalty because we have killed at least one innocent man.
I oppose it because it runs counter to my Christian faith. It is cruel and demeaning and does not serve as an effective deterrent to murder.
What I witnessed on Pedro Medina’s execution day changed my life forever. Our state should never have the authority to kill prisoners in our name. For all our sakes, please join me in opposing executions.
Dr. Glenn Dickson is a retired Presbyterian Pastor and Board Member of Floridians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty – FADP, the statewide Florida grassroots organization fighting for the abolition of the death penalty.
Learn more about FADP’s leadership team and how you can join them in the struggle to end executions.