02/24/2012 11:13 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

An Executioner's Task


Michael Selsor will soon die by homicide. The U.S. Supreme Court this week declined to hear the Oklahoma death row inmate's case. When I interviewed Selsor in 2010, he seemed resigned to his execution. This week's decision removed its final legal hurdle.

If calling Selsor's death by lethal injection homicide sounds loaded, then I suggest that you complain to the Sate of Oklahoma. Upon Selsor's passing, the state will issue a death certificate as it does for every person who dies in Oklahoma. For Micheal Selsor the cause of death will be listed as homicide, a fact that the head of the Oklahoma prison system, Justin Jones, admitted was "ironic" when I interviewed him for this episode of Fault Lines.

I plan to attend Selsor's execution, if I'm in the country, which has stirred quite a debate among my colleagues. I believe one of the most important responsibilities of a journalist is to bear witness -- especially to such grave events in which so very few are permitted.

Yet I dread doing this.

Selsor, condemned for murdering a convenience store clerk, Clayton Chandler, during a robbery 37 years ago, told me that he had not had a visitor in 10 years, so I doubt many, if any, family or supporters will witness his killing. I wonder if after all this time Chandler's surviving family members will come to see the sentence carried out.

I imagine it will be a little-attended, quiet affair. An executioner's task. A scheduled homicide in the name of justice for an electorate who demands (but will hardly notice) it.