Michael Graczyk likes to note that over the span of his 45 years as a reporter for the Associated Press, he worked in the neighborhood of 17,000 days. But it’s the 400 or so days on which Graczyk witnessed Texas execute men and women condemned to die for their crimes against the state that have become the focal point of his career. Graczyk retired this week, although he said that he has been retained by AP to report on future executions in the country’s most prolific death chamber.
In 1982, Texas became the first state to use lethal injection, executing Charles Brooks Jr. It was the beginning of a 36-year odyssey that has resulted in the executions of more than 500 inmates. In those early days after Texas reinstated capital punishment, executions were a major news story, attracting worldwide attention—as well as protesters on both sides of the capital punishment debate. Now, executions are far more routine, but Graczyk is loath to say whether that’s a good thing. In a Texas Monthly Reporter podcast, Graczyk reflects on his career, some of his most memorable reporting assignments, and how he came to be the person who is believed to have witnessed more executions than anyone in the modern era of capital punishment.