Above the fold:

HUNTSVILLE, Texas—Texas executed [name of inmate or description of inmate as a killer] on [day of week] for [brief description of crime for which inmate was sentenced to death].

“[Final statement of inmate, made from lethal injection gurney],” [name of inmate] said. He was pronounced dead at [time], [number] of minutes after the lethal drugs began to flow.

[Inmate’s victim’s family members’ names] [and/or] [inmate’s family members’ names] watched through a window. “[Comment on execution]” they said / [they declined to speak to reporters] / [there was or was not eye contact between inmate and victim’s family members].

[More detailed description of inmate’s crime, perhaps explaining aggravating circumstances such as prior crimes.]

[Whether [name of inmate] maintained his innocence / said the killing was accidental.]

[Name of inmate] was the [ordinal number] person executed this year in Texas, the nation’s most active death penalty state.

Insert the name of the condemned man and some facts about the crime; add a paragraph quoting the victim’s family; note any last-minute protestations of innocence or expressions of remorse on the part of the defendant; and update the execution tally. In a matter of grave national importance—the execution of Americans by this country’s most notorious killing state, Texas—this formulaic ritual constitutes American crime reporting. After a brief suspension during the United States Supreme Court’s consideration of the constitutionality of lethal-injection procedures in Baze v. Rees, Texas resumed executions in June 2008. From that point until the end of the year, it executed eighteen people. Each of the eighteen men killed by the state of Texas raised substantial questions about the fairness and validity of their convictions and death sentences: representation by ineffective trial counsel, mental illness, violations of international covenants, and failures by state and federal appellate courts to reach meritorious issues because of procedural bars. But such information has no place in the fill-in-the-blanks template employed by the newspapers providing coverage of the executions.

 

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