Edward Humboldt sat stoically and watched impassively as the men
secured him to the chair. It had been five years, six months and
twenty-two days since he had been arrested and convicted for a
crime he didnt commit. Now they were going to make him pay
the ultimate price for their foolishness; his life.
had long since given up proclaiming his innocence as it always
seemed to fall on deaf ears. He knew that he hadnt murdered
the young woman in that dark alley. He wasnt even in town
the night it happened. He had been out in the woods, by himself,
spotlighting deer to feed his family when the murder occurred.
the police came to his door later the next morning and threw him
up against the wall, he thought that they had somehow found out
about the deer. He wasnt too worried because he knew that
the judge would only give him thirty days in the county jail for
poaching and his family had two large deer hanging in the smokehouse,
enough to keep them in meat until he got out.
wasnt until he was at the station that he realized that
something was terribly wrong. The two plain clothes detectives
were asking all the wrong questions of him and never once had
he heard the word deer mentioned. They kept asking him why he
had done it and he kept telling them that he did it so that his
family would have food on the table.
mean to tell me that this was a murder for hire? One of
the detectives asked, Someone paid you to kill her?
looked at him as if he was speaking in tongues like the holy rollers
at the end of his road did. He shook his head and wished that
whatever was going on would just go away. The detectives grilled
him for thirteen hours without a break, and he was tired, hungry,
scared and totally confused. By the time they finished with their
questioning, he had admitted that everything they said he had
done was true. He had murdered the woman just the way they said
he had done it. All he wanted to do was to be put in a cell with
something to eat and then go to sleep.
detectives congratulated themselves on solving this case quickly
and after seeing Wayne placed in a cell, left the station and
headed to a local cop bar to boast to each other and all that
would listen, of their latest arrest.
sat in his cell and stared at the empty plate that had held a
dry bologna sandwich and a too soft dill pickle. He finished off
the last of the weak tea that had come with his meal and sat the
glass down beside the plate. He was dead tired and his brain was
spinning as he pondered his predicament. He had told them what
they wanted to hear so they would leave him alone. He hadnt
killed anyone, it wasnt in his nature, but every time he
told them that, they slapped him and told him that he had done
months later they hauled him to court and in a trial that lasted
just two days, heard the judge sentence him to death by electrocution
for the crime he didnt commit.
family had sat behind him during the trial and when the sentence
was read, burst into tears. The judge had pounded his gavel on
the table until all the commotion subsided and motioned to the
bailiffs to remove the prisoner from his courtroom. He turned
to take a last look at his wife and children as they roughly grabbed
his arms and pulled him from the room.
swear I didnt do it! He shouted to them, as the heavy
oak door slammed shut behind him.
allowed him no visitors or phone calls until he was transferred
to the state prison later that week, and except for his guards,
he neither saw nor heard anyone.
gray prison bus pulled into the parking lot at the jail and heavily
manacled, he was led to a seat in the rear of the bus. They placed
guards on either side of him and one in front and then pulled
the shades down over the windows so he couldnt look at anything
as they traveled.
at the prison several hours later, he was led off the bus and
into a room with three men standing beside a long table with one
chair. The guards removed his shackles and forced him to sit down
as the men took up positions in front of him.
Edward Humboldt, you have been sentenced to death and as such,
you will be housed in a separate part of this prison known as
Death Row. You will be allowed visitors only once a month, for
fifteen minutes and these visitors must be approved by us in advance.
You will not be allowed to make or receive any phone calls at
any time that you are here. Is that understood?
nodded his head and watched as one of the men placed a small stack
of dingy, black stripped prison garb on the table in front of
off your clothes, boy, and put these on. You will be issued a
clean uniform every two weeks and allowed to shower once a week.
You will spend twenty-three hours of every day in your cell and
if we feel that you deserve it, one hour out to exercise. Do you
Wayne nodded his head and watched the third man step forward.
He was fat and balding and smelled like he hadnt bathed
in quite some time.
Captain Christian and it will be my men that will be assigned
to guard you twenty-four hours a day, every day. You are not to
speak to them at any time unless one of them asks you a direct
question. You are not to speak to any of the other prisoners on
the Row at any time either. I want to assure you right now Mr.
Humboldt, that if you break any of these rules that we have explained
you will be severely punished. Do you understand me completely?
Wayne told them, as he fastened the slightly large pants around
his small waist, I understand you.
months and then years passed as slowly as if time had been mixed
with molasses before it ran out of the hourglass. He knew every
inch of his cell, how many tiles were on the floor and how many
spots were on the ceiling, from years of looking at them. His
wife had come for the first year of his confinement but began
to miss visitors day regularly, stating that she was just
too busy working and earning a living for their children, to drive
two hundred miles every month to see him.
court appointed lawyer had appealed the case to a higher court
several times but it was always tossed out because he had, confessed
to the crime. No amount of effort on the lawyers part
did any good and after a while, he too, quit trying.
warden came to see him when the date of his execution was but
a month away and told him that since he had been on Death Row,
he had been a model prisoner. As a reward, he was told that he
could shower every other day and spend two hours out of his cell
every day, until such time as he was moved to the cell reserved
for those close to their date with destiny.
two weeks remaining before he walked the last mile, he was asked
by one of his guards if he wanted some paper and a pencil to write
any last letters. Abandoned by his wife and children, he shook
his head no and continued to stare at the stark, concrete wall
in front of him.
hours before he was to die, the chaplain came to his cell and
was let inside by one of the guards.
you made peace with your Lord? He asked, as he removed a
small bible from his jacket pocket.
I have and He knows that I didnt do what they said I did.
He told me that He would be with me every step of the way until
I stood before Him in Heaven.
you wish to pray with me? The chaplain asked.
I dont, he said, Ive talked to God and
He is all that I need.
morning of his scheduled execution dawned with the prison barber
coming to his cell to shave his head and lower leg. Wayne sat
in the small chair that a guard brought in and said nothing as
the barber did his job.
three hours of life remaining, the guards brought a small table
and served his last meal to him. He had selected a steak, rare,
and a baked potato with sour cream and butter. One of the guards
stayed with him as he ate because for the first time in over five
years, real utensils were allowed instead of the usual plastic
tools that always had a tendency to break. The guard made an attempt
to have a conversation with him but he wanted to fully enjoy this
meal and so he said nothing.
warden and two large guards came to his cell and asked him to
stand. They laced the chains and manacles around his body and
then led him from his cell to a small chamber one hundred feet
Wayne saw the strange looking chair sitting by itself in the middle
of the room, his heart froze momentarily, but taking a deep breath
and steeling himself, he walked to the front of the chair and
waited as the guards removed the chains that bound him and sat
him in the chair.
prison chaplain joined them and as the guards went about their
job of securing him to the chair, and read the Lords Prayer over
and over, until finally, Wayne asked him to stop.
of the guards attached a copper band around his lower right leg
after swabbing a special liquid on the exposed flesh. He tightened
the thumbscrew on the band until he was satisfied that a good
contact had been made. The other guard secured thick leather belts
around his waist and chest, asking Wayne to release the air from
his lungs as he tightened them.
wrists were tightly bound to the arms of the chair and he closed
his eyes as he felt someone place a wet sponge on the top of his
head and then place a copper cap with a chin strap attached to
it over the sponge and secured it tightly under his chin.
was then that Wayne noticed the two telephones in the room. One
of them was black and the other, bright red. He started to ask
the warden what they were for when the black phone rang and was
quickly answered by the warden.
watched as the warden glanced at the clock on the wall and then
checked his wristwatch as he nodded to the unheard voice on the
other end of the line. He hung the phone up and announced that
the execution would proceed as planned, as no reprieve had been
guard walked to the front of the room and pulling a short rope,
the curtains opened and Wayne saw ten people sitting quietly in
seats behind the glass front. He looked at each person there and
studied them, committing to memory all that sat before him.
warden asked if he had any last words to say, any remorse for
the crime that he was to be executed for and Wayne, for the last
time, spoke loudly and clearly.
did not kill that woman. I swear to all here today that I didnt
and you folks are making a big mistake.
warden nodded and a guard fitted a black leather hood over Waynes
head and loosely secured it around his neck. A final check was
preformed by a guard and when he was sure that all was in order,
the warden motioned them from the room. The chaplain stood off
to one side and was mumbling prayers softly and the doctor, with
his stethoscope dangling loosely around his neck, entered the
room and assumed a position on Waynes other side.
a small closet off to the side of the execution room, a man adjusted
the three dials in front of him for the maximum voltage that would
soon course through the body sitting on the other side of the
wall. He carefully checked the breaker switch that was securely
mounted on the wall and finding everything in order, waited for
the signal from the warden to throw the switch.
warden solemnly removed a document from the inside pocket of his
coat and read its contents to the assembled men. It was Wayne
Edward Humboldts death warrant and when he finished reading,
he glanced once again at the clock on the wall and then at the
two phones on the table.
second hand made its inevitable sweep towards the appointed hour
and the warden motioned to the executioner to stand ready.
was taking his last, deep breaths as he waited for what was soon
to happen. He had been told that he would not be aware of any
pain as the voltage was sufficient to instantly render him unconscious
before death occurred.
hand on the wooden top of the switch, the executioner watched
as the warden raised his hand and looked carefully at the clock.
As he started to lower his hand, the red phone beside him rang,
its bell sounding as loud as one in a large cathedral.
He shouted, and the executioner stayed his slowly moving hand
warden picked up the phone and listened to the voice on the other
end. He nodded his head several times and then replaced the phone
gently in its cradle.
this execution is cancelled. He said, The governor
has issued a pardon to Mr. Humboldt as of this minute. It seems
that he was telling us the truth all along, that he didnt
commit the crime. A man was arrested yesterday and tonight confessed
to the killing of the young woman.
Humboldt, you will be removed from this room and will walk out
of this prison tomorrow, a free man.
guards hurried to remove the restraints from Wayne and return
him to his cell, but when the hood was removed from his head,
the doctor gasped and rushed forward. He placed the stethoscope
against Waynes heart and listened closely, then moved to
another spot on his chest and listened again.
man is dead! The doctor said, as he gently closed Waynes
eyes, I believe that his heart simply gave out. Im