Charlie Brooks Jr. looked the witnesses to his execution...


HUNTSVILLE, Texas -- Charlie Brooks Jr. looked the witnesses to his execution in the eye as we entered his death chamber.

It was a stark, clinical scene that greeted us a few minutes after midnight on Tuesday morning. Voices hushed.


Brooks' gold pants, black cloth shoes and a light brown shirt - from the supply normally given to prisoners being freed -- contrasted with the hard red brick walls, bilious green doors and cold grey tile of the execution chamber.

Brooks, 40, had to look up from the hospital cart to which he already was strapped with a death-delivering tubes in both his arms when the witnesses arrived.

His glance was not one of fear, although he may have been nervous. He seemed in control of himself.

The source of Brooks' control became apparent after Warden Jack Pursley broke the silence and asked for any last words.

'I love you,' Brooks said to girlfriend, Vanessa Sapp, with whom he had exchanged vows to meet in the next world.

Then Brooks and two other witnesses he had chosen -- Muslim chaplains Larry Sharrieff and Akbar Shabazz -- went through a Muslim prayer ritual.


'I bear witness that there is no God but Allah. I bear witness that Mohammed is the messenger of Allah. Verily to Allah do we belong. Verily unto him to we return,' Brooks said, interspersing Arabic chants.

Sharrieff said: 'May Allah admit you to paradise.'

Brooks focused his gaze on Ms. Sapp and said 'be strong.' Pursley directed the lethal injection to begin. The time was 12:09 a.m.

A couple of minutes passed in silence. Brooks yawned and his eyes closed. Moments later, he gasped and wheezed briefly in apparent involuntary efforts to breathe. His abdominal muscles churned, unsuccessfully trying to keep him alive.

At 12:16 a.m., Dr. Ralph Gray -- assistant medical director for the Texas Department of Corrections -- finished checking Brooks' heart with a stethoscope and his eyes with a pen light and said: 'I pronounce this man dead.'

Brooks lay with his head rolled to one side, one eye half-closed and his mouth partially open.

Except for Ms. Sapp, who was upset but shed no tears, the witnesses showed little emotion other than seriousness, perhaps because the execution seemed so clinical.Brooks appeared to suffer little if any pain and there was little visible drama to his death by injection.


After it was over, the witnesses quietly filed out of the death house past the two mortuary attendants who waited to take his body away.

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