Former Executioner Opposes Death Penalty (VIDEO)

02/19/2013 04:22 pm ET
  • HuffPost Live

During his seventeen years as an executioner in Virginia, Jerry Givens executed 62 death row inmates in the prison system. But after almost executing an innocent man, Givens quit his job and began lobbying for the end of the death penalty. Givens joined Huffpost Live's Ahmed Shihab-Eldin to tell his story.

"They had a guy by the name of Earl Washington and he came within weeks before he was scheduled to be executed," Givens said. After conducting another DNA test, it was revealed that Washington was innocent, just in time to save his life.

But not everyone has had that second chance at justice. After DNA testing became more prevalent, Givens found out some of the lives he had already taken were innocent.

"You sentenced a guy to be executed. You give him a trial, then you send him to me to be put to death. Then later on you [say] that this guy was innocent. You didn't put him to death. I did. I performed the execution. So you might suffer a little. I'm going to suffer a lot, because I performed the job."

Givens started as a correctional supervisor, where he said his job was to save lives, helping inmates to readjust to society. Transitioning to what he describes as a "so-called executioner" was a dramatic change.

"You have to get away from yourself. You have to eliminate yourself," Givens told ABC.

"Prayer helped me," Givens said. Before every execution, he would pray for the death row inmate and ask for forgiveness.

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