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Archive for Saturday, January 17, 1998

LAWRENCE WOMAN DENIED SATISFACTION OF SEEING A TEXAS KILLER EXECUTED.

January 17, 1998

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Amy Grammer'slong wait for justice grew longer when the U.S. Supreme Court stopped a Texas execution.

Thursday was a beautiful, clear, cool day in Huntsville, Tex. But it ended in disappointment for Amy Grammer who went there from Lawrence to see her mother's killer executed.

Lesley Lee Golsch, 42, was scheduled to die at 6 p.m. Thursday, but the U.S. Supreme Court halted the lethal injection in response to last-minute appeals by the murderer's attorneys.

"The waiting was the worst," said Grammer, 27, in a Friday telephone interview from her in-laws' home in Arlington, Tex. "I thought it would all be over today."

Grammer and her husband, Andrew, live in Lawrence. Andrew is a doctoral candidate at Kansas University. Amy, who has a master's degree in botany from KU, works in Topeka.

Her mother, Rebecca Jo Patton, 42, was shot six times in the head with a .22 caliber pistol on Sept. 15, 1985. Amy, one of two daughters, was 15 at the time. Her sister was 10.

She was the only member of her family who asked to witness Golsch's execution.

"Emotionally, of course, it's difficult," she said. "I'm the only person in my family who chose to view, although everyone else was very much involved. Everybody took the day off from work. We were all focusing on the event, passing around pictures of my mother and remembering."

She said watching Golsch die will help her come to grips with her mother's death, something she couldn't do when it happened.

"I was 15 when my mom was killed," she said. "I was very much concentrating on being a normal teen-ager. I was deep into denial, trying not to admit her death. When I was 20, I realized I'd blocked most of it from my memory.

"I had to go," she said. "This is the only way I can participate, anyway, in the legal process. I've never seen him. I want to see the person that could do this and look at him with my own eyes."

Grammer arrived at the prison about 4:30 in the afternoon but never got to the glass booth where she expected to be with prison officials and members of the press. Although her husband made the trip with her to Texas, he wasn't joining her as witness.

"I didn't feel that was something I needed to make him do," Grammer said. "He never knew my mother. He was just there to support me."

Upon arriving at the prison, Grammer was searched, part of the routine for visitors no matter the occasion.

"It's pretty surreal. It sort of feels like it's happening to someone else," she said, describing it all. "The execution was scheduled for 6 p.m. But it's routine for them to wait for the court. Apparently it's fairly common they have to wait 10 or 15 minutes."

But at 6:15 she was still waiting. The stay from the court arrived about 6:45.

Unusual stay

Victims have only been allowed to witness executions in Texas since December 1995, said Dianne Clements, president of Justice For All, the Houston-based advocacy group that successfully lobbied for the policy change. She said she knew of no case since then that a victim has been denied satisfaction by a last-minute stay.

"This is unusual," Clements said. "We have a U.S. Supreme Court that gives victims absolutely no constitutional protection. Certainly for Rebecca Patton's family this is cruel and unusual punishment. There is no finality in this ever until the convicted murderer has actually been injected and stops breathing."

Grammer said she prepared for the execution by reading articles sent her by victim's service people at the prison. She also spoke with a Texas woman who watched the execution of a man who had killed her children.

"She told me that the execution itself was a very clinical, quiet thing, not at all upsetting," Grammer said. "The inmates are put to sleep, really. It's not traumatic to watch as I understand it. It's more traumatic because you realize it's the person who killed your loved one."

Clements said her organization is pushing for a state-financed victim's fund that would help defray expenses of victims who must travel to witness executions. The group has offered to pay plane fare for the family of the victims of Karla Faye Tucker, a woman scheduled for execution in Texas on Feb. 3.

But the Grammers paid for the trip themselves.

"I wouldn't feel that it would be right to take money from others for the cost of the trip," she said.

It was the second last-minute stay for Golsch, a former Eagle Scout who once manufactured illegal gun silencers. In 1993, he came within 20 minutes of dying, but won a court reprieve. He has been on death row 12 1/2 years, longer than average in Texas. His would have been the first of 15 executions scheduled this year in Texas. Last year 37 Texas inmates were executed.

Golsch's latest stay is indefinite. But Grammer said she thinks ultimately he will be executed.

"I will be there when it happens," she said, "however long I have to wait."

Kansas setting protocol

Kansas has yet to execute a prisoner under the state's renewed death penalty law. State prison officials continue to work on details of the protocol that will be followed when an execution occurs here.

The Kansas law allows for 10 witnesses, including a clergyman and three others selected by the inmate. The secretary of corrections designates the other six witnesses.

"Typically what they do in other states is give the victim's relatives the option to attend," said Tim Madden, attorney for the Kansas Department of Corrections. "I don't anticipate the department would be different in that regard to most states."

-- Mike Shields' phone message number is 832-7144. His e-mail address is mshields@ljworld.com.

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