Once the appeals process has been exhausted and a time and date has been set for the execution, the inmate is moved from death row to death watch, a part of the prison closer to the execution chamber and away from the general population of death row.
In their final days, the condemned is permitted visitation by family, friends, lawyers, and religious figures if so desired.
When it comes to the final few hours, protocol for the upcoming execution are as follows:
- The inmate is allowed one last meal of their choice.
- The warden and the chaplain will visit and accompany the condemned until the very
- The witnesses, usually the family of the condemned, family of the victim, warden, medical personnel, spiritual advisors, guards, state selected witnesses, reputable citizens, and selected media representatives, are allowed into the witness room and instructed to remain silent.
- The prisoner dresses for the execution and stays with their religious advisor until the warden gives the word to make the way to the chamber. (Prisoners are brought there only a few minutes before the scheduled execution time)
Once the condemned is in the chamber, they are strapped to a gurney. Arms, wrists, ankles, and body are all secured with padded restraints. The head may be left unrestrained to enable the prisoner to look at the witnesses; this is all dependent on whether or not the prison has a one way mirror or just a pane of glass between the two. When the restraints are in place two intravenous tubes are inserted, one in each arm. A curtain is pulled back to reveal the witnesses.
An execution team, usually trained personnel of the prison, is assembled to administer the three chemicals. They are injected precisely in this order:
- Sodium-thiopental- this is a barbiturate that induces general anesthesia to put the prisoner to sleep. (The executed will feel nothing from this stage on)
- Pancuronium bromide- This is a muscle relaxant that causes the person to stop breathing by paralyzing the diaphragm and lungs.
- Potassium chloride- This interrupts the electrical signaling in the heart and results in cardiac arrest.
After waiting approximately 1-2 minutes a medical examiner will pronounce the prisoner dead. The body is then rolled out and depending on the want of the family, remanded to them or to the state to be disposed of.