Faulder Executed in Texas

Even when all his appeals had at long last run out and the life remaining to him was measured in just minutes, Stanley Faulder had little to say for himself. For 22 years, while he sat on death row in Huntsville, Tex.

Faulder Executed in Texas

Even when all his appeals had at long last run out and the life remaining to him was measured in just minutes, Stanley Faulder had little to say for himself. For 22 years, while he sat on death row in Huntsville, Tex., and watched his lawyers fight to keep him alive, he spurned almost all requests to speak out on his own behalf. Once the jailers at the forbidding old brick prison that houses Huntsville's death house had strapped him onto the gurney that would be his dying place, Faulder was offered the traditional chance to say some final words. His response was characteristically brief: "No statement."

Faulder's supporters, though, had plenty to say about the man who last week became the first Canadian to be executed in the United States in 47 years. His death at precisely 6:18 p.m. Texas time last Thursday, they argued, underlined the flaws in a state legal system that kills more prisoners than any other in the Western world. Faulder's execution for the brutal 1975 murder of an elderly widow became a cause célèbre in Canada and elsewhere - with notables from Foreign Affairs Minister Lloyd Axworthy to Archbishop Desmond Tutu, the Vatican, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, and the legal arm of the Organization of American States pleading for his life. But in Texas it was just another day on death row. Faulder was the 14th person put to death in the state this year, the 178th since Texas restored capital punishment in 1982. As the hands of the big clock on the prison known as The Walls moved inexorably towards 6 p.m. and his scheduled final walk, only half a dozen lonely death-penalty opponents shouted their disapproval outside.

Faulder had survived nine previous execution dates, as legal appeals bought him more time. This time, though, his luck had run out. Two courts last week rejected petitions from his tenacious lawyer, Sandra Babcock, to stay the execution. Texas's board of pardons and paroles refused, by a vote of 18-0, to grant him clemency. The U.S. Supreme Court turned down two last-minute requests to intervene - the second time just 65 minutes before the hour appointed for Faulder's death. Finally, Gov. George W. Bush, fresh from campaigning for the Republican presidential nomination, announced he would not grant a reprieve, and the execution proceeded with practised efficiency.

By now, Texas has it down to a fine art. Prison spokesman Larry Fitzgerald rhymed off the timetable: at 6:02 p.m., Faulder was taken from a holding cell to the death chamber. At 6:03, he was strapped onto the gurney and plastic tubes were inserted into veins at his elbows. At 6:05, executioners began pumping in saline solution. At 6:12, he spoke his final words and a lethal solution of sodium thiopental, pancuronium bromide and potassium chloride flowed into his body. Witnesses said he closed his eyes, coughed twice and let out a deep gasp. The first drug knocked him out; the second stopped his diaphragm and lungs; the third stopped his heart. At 6:18, a doctor pronounced him dead. He was 61 years old.

By all accounts, Faulder was at peace with himself. His final visitors, including Babcock and the Canadian consul in Dallas, John Morrow, said he had resigned himself to his fate after more than two decades on death row. With six of his previous dates, he had come within days, even minutes, of death before winning yet another stay of execution. "He had a long time to prepare for this," Morrow said after spending 90 minutes with Faulder on his last morning, talking about everything from death to the Stanley Cup playoffs. "I couldn't believe this was a man whose life was a matter of hours from ending." Faulder, a onetime auto mechanic from Jasper, Alta., was an intensely private man who spoke publicly only a handful of times. But last November, days before his previous execution date, he told Maclean's that he was prepared. "I'm ready to go, and I'm not afraid to go," he said then. "There's an afterlife, as far as I'm concerned, and I expect to be part of it. It's that simple."

Those who got to know Faulder in recent years found it hard to connect him with the crime for which he was twice convicted and sentenced to die. In July, 1975, he and a woman named Lynda McCann tried to rob the home of 75-year-old Inez Phillips, who lived alone in the east Texas town of Gladewater. In a written confession, Faulder said the woman resisted; he hit her on the head with a blackjack, bound and gagged her, then finally stabbed her through the heart with a kitchen knife that police had found still lodged in her chest. In 1977, he was convicted, but an appeal court ruled the confession inadmissible. In 1981, he was tried again and convicted on the strength of testimony from McCann and another associate. Both juries ruled that he should die.

Faulder's lawyers pointed to a host of irregularities in his trials. The victim's son, wealthy oilman Jack Phillips, paid $100,000 (U.S.) to hire private prosecutors to pursue the case the second time. Evidence that Faulder suffered a childhood brain injury was not presented to the jury during the sentencing phase of the trial, and a psychiatrist who testified that Faulder would be a continuing danger to society never examined him. But what brought Ottawa into the case and gave it an international dimension was that Faulder was imprisoned for 15 years before he was told of his right under international law to seek assistance from his country's consulate. With better legal help, Babcock argued, he might at least have avoided the death penalty. U.S. courts, however, ruled that aid from the Canadian government would not have changed the outcome of the trials, and Texas ignored international appeals. The result, say Faulder's supporters, is that Canada may become more reluctant to extradite anyone to the United States who might face execution there.

In the end, Faulder's story became one of redemption and forgiveness - or the lack of it. The Phillips family remained unbending. Five members witnessed the execution, and in a statement Jack Phillips contrasted Inez Phillips's horrifying end with Faulder's death by lethal injection: "He did not die with multiple skull fractures and a butcher knife through his heart, as did my mother. His punishment was much less painful."

Faulder's supporters, though, contrasted the sad-eyed, thoughtful 61-year-old who was put to death last week with the 37-year-old man from Alberta who forced his way into the old lady's house almost a quarter of a century ago. After so many delays and so much waiting, it was as if Texas was executing a man entirely different from the one who was convicted of murder. Then, he was a drifter who had abandoned his family in Alberta for a life of petty crime. After he regained contact in 1992, though, he was able to develop a close relationship with them - receiving a final visit from his sister, Pat Nicholl, and one of his two daughters, Cami, five days before he died. Even his jailers spoke warmly of Faulder, a model prisoner for 22 years. "Stan was a good guy, a real hoot," said Fitzgerald. Added Babcock: "The man I knew was a fundamentally decent human being. Whatever misdeeds he may have committed in the past, he had been redeemed." Texas law, however, contains no provision for redemption, and Stan Faulder finally paid the price.

See also CAPITAL PUNISHMENT.

Maclean's July 1, 1999