The Execution of David Hosier: The Final Full Account

The Execution of David Hosier: The Final Full Account July 9, 2024


*Earlier today, I released all of my writings on the June 11, 2024 execution of my friend David Hosier in Missouri.  Below is the chapter that I wrote about Hosier’s execution.  The entire book “THE DAVID HOSIER STORY: Writings from a Campaign” is available for purchase here.


The Execution of David Hosier: The Final Full Account



David Hosier gave me a tremendous gift.  Over the final few months of David’s life, he let me in.  While this might not sound extraordinary to many, for David there’d only been a few times that he’d let anyone into his life.  Make no mistake, I loved David Hosier very much.  Every ounce of access that he gave me into his life, I tried my best to return.  Innocent or guilty, David was loved.  It’s an important place to begin.  There is so much noise amidst an execution.  There are so many messages that so many people try to get out.  Sometimes we forget the most important message, love.  Let it be known far and wide, David and I both shared a deep belief that love covers a multitude of sins.

For hours, I’d sat outside waiting on the moment to come.  There was a large gap of time between my final visit with David and the actual execution.  To say that there isn’t much to do in Bonne Terre would be an understatement.  Luckily, I was able to find a small Mexican restaurant to pass a few of those hours, but I largely just sat in my car and thought about what was to come.  It was awful.  I just sat and stewed in my sorrow.  I was just so sad for David and so many others that were about to perpetuate a completely unnecessary evil against him.  I wondered about the families of Angela and Rodney Gilpin.  What would it be like to yearn so hard for revenge, only to find that it wasn’t as sweet as you thought it was going to be?  I knew they were about to face one of the biggest letdowns of their lives.  Killing David wouldn’t do anything to help them.  Quite the contrary, it was only going to cause them more pain.  I couldn’t keep on thinking about it all.  I had to get my mind right.  Every thought just seemed to bounce in every direction.  How do you quiet a mind when you know that murder is coming?

When I pulled up, the place looked like Fort Knox.  I was surprised by how quickly the prison became the most important place in Missouri in a matter of hours.  The car was searched very thoroughly.  Who would be stupid enough to try to bring something in at this point?  Eventually, a police van pulled up to escort me to a parking spot right up front.  I had a reserved spot for the execution of David Hosier.  The heat was overwhelming.  I fumbled around in the car to make sure that I had everything that I needed.  Of course, the guys in the van were behind me watching my every move.  It’s difficult to make sure that you have everything when you know that there are people behind you who would love nothing more than for you to make a mistake.  I didn’t.  I had my identification.  I had my copy of the New Testament with other verses and prayers written in.  I checked my pockets and robe one more time.  I didn’t want to take anything in by accident.  It’s all such a mess.  Then…  “Dr. Hood?”  One of the members of their elite squad was ready for me to follow him.  I did.   What other choice did I have?

When I reached the entrance, I saw a familiar face.  During the execution orientation (yes, it’s a thing) a few days earlier, I’d met the Assistant Warden.  I found him to be incredibly kind and engaging.  It was clear that he didn’t want to be a part of this process at all.  I found his admitted moral uncertainty to be comforting in a space of such feigned moral superiority.  While we waited to proceed toward the execution chamber, we proceeded to a few chairs.  He was shocked that I sat in the chair right next to him.  Little did he know, I sometimes struggle to hear in such spaces.  I just wanted to make sure that I could hear him.  Obviously, I wasn’t trying to get fresh.  I was curious to engage him.  We started by talking about the nature of punishment versus rehabilitation.  When I brought up the success of various prison systems in Europe that limit sentences and emphasize rehabilitation, he was quick to reply, “I really admire much of what they do over there.”  I was shocked and immediately asked, “What keeps y’all from implementing such practices here?”  He responded swiftly, “Money and will.  Nobody in their right mind looks at this prison and thinks it’s the best we can do.”  Though astounded, I wanted to ask one more question, “Do you feel guilty being part of all of this?”  He responded clearly, “It’s my job.  I wish none of it had to happened.”  I found him to be very sincere.  I appreciated his candor and wanted to ask a few more questions.  But our time was up.  On his radio, I heard a voice declare, “We’re ready.”  I knew what that meant.  The door in front of us opened.  Though I desperately did not want to, I put one foot in front of the other.  I owed it to David.

Something happened.  Everything got dark and all noises were gone.  I was laser-focused on what I had to do next.  Then, I felt a hand on my arm.  “Hey brother, she needs to see your ID.”  I couldn’t figure out why they needed to see my ID so many times.  I pushed it up against the glass.  Leaning forward, the woman behind the dark glass gave me the thumbs up and put her hands together in prayer.  It was as if I could only see her hands.  Then, the Assistant Warden led me on.  The huge door opened loudly and shut just as loudly behind us as we walked through.  The Assistant Warden kept talking to me, but I wasn’t paying attention anymore.  David was the only thing on my mind.  We were stuck at the next door.  Obviously, somebody forgot that we were coming through.  It was very strange.  One would think that as much as they practice these executions that there would be no delay.  The Assistant Warden radioed ahead.  I could sense his frustration boiling up.  Then, after a few more minutes the door opened.  I accidentally stepped on my robe and stumbled a bit.  Not so much that I was going to fall, but more so that it reminded me that I needed to remember to walk.  Once I entered the waiting area, I noticed something that I’d seen at many other executions.  Employees of the Department of Corrections were just hanging out.  I’ve never understood how people can just chat amicably when someone is about to be murdered in the next room over any second.  I didn’t have the will for any condemnations.  I had to be present for David.  We made it to the room next to the chamber, the control center of the entire operation.  The Assistant Warden knocked, and the door quickly opened.  Multiple officers guided me through a viewing room right next to the chamber to the place where I would go in to see David.  The door shut behind me and I realized that the Assistant Warden was gone.  When we passed through the next door, I noticed that the holding cell and all the equipment for the execution were right in front of me.  I was turned sharply to a door to my left.  There were so many doors that I didn’t know what was going to be next.  I started to breathe rapidly and grow more anxious by the second.  “What was taking so long?”  “Can’t this damn door just open?”  “What’s in there?”  Within a millisecond of such thoughts, the door slid open and I realized that I’d arrived at the epicenter of the house of horrors.

Imagine a hospital room with mirrors for walls.  Every direction you look, you see yourself.  I stepped in.  I looked to my right.  David was directly in the middle of it all.  There was a white sheet covering his entire body.  There were lines running out from under the sheets that went through a hole in the wall.  “Hey brother.  I’m here.  Just want you to know that I love you very much.”  I don’t know if it was the right thing to say.  I just spoke from my heart.  That’s the best you can do in a moment such as this.  David motioned with his head for me to sit down in the chair next to him.  He was clearly sedated.  Immediately, I asked him about the sedation and other accommodations.  He assured me that it was all taken care of.  The green plastic chair was the only object of color in the entire room.  It was the same as the chairs that visitors sit in in the visitation area.  It wasn’t lost on me that somebody would soon unknowingly sit in the same chair that was present for the murder of a man.  David had been unwell for weeks.  He looked like death on the gurney.  His skin was so grey and looked like it was growing greyer by the moment.  “I’m glad you’re here my friend,” David replied.  I put my hand on his shoulder and left it there the entire time.  Like we’d discussed previously, I started to read from the scriptures.  Everything looked so medical.  If one was not paying attention, it would be easy to mistake the room for something different than murder.  I guess that’s the point.  “God is my shepherd.”  Though we were the only two who were physically in the room, I wanted him to know that we were being guided by something so much greater than the two of us.

David wanted to make sure that I thanked everybody who’d listened to him.  Even in those final moments, it was clear that the biggest spot of liberation for David had been getting to tell his story.  Such an achievement was my primary goal when we first connected.  I was so grateful that he was approaching the end knowing that he’d done it.  “I love you, Jeff.”  The words pierced my heart.  I was surprised that he said them.  David was not the biggest sharer of feelings.  Yet here we were.  “Ye, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death.”  I told David that we were walking right through that valley and that he’d be meeting all that he ever loved in minutes.  “He will restore your soul.”  I wanted him to know that the restoration would soon be made completely.  I mentioned his dad.  I mentioned his grandfather.  I mentioned all those that had come before.  I wanted him to know they were going to be part of the restoration.  He then asked me a surprising question, “Angela and Rodney too?”  I replied, “absolutely.”  The mention of the victims wasn’t an admission of guilt as much as it was a genuine hope that all things would be restored.  I assured him that faith was the assurance of things hoped for.  Everything was about to be restored.

One of the things that is most shocking about Missouri’s execution chamber is that there are no instructions.  There is nobody there to tell you that the execution has started.  There is nobody there to tell you that the execution has ended.  In every other state, there are announcements throughout the execution.  Not in Missouri.  It was just David and I.  The only sound was the sound of my voice and the strained breaths of David.

We continued to pray together.  I encouraged David to repeat the following exhortation of the Apostle Paul with me, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.”  I kept telling him repeatedly how proud I was of him.  In the midst of all the bullshit, he had stood his ground.  The lawyers would not silence him.  The press would not silence him.  David was going to tell his story.  David was going to live his story.  Before I moved on to the next reading, David stopped me and said, “Don’t let what has happened to me happen to anybody else.  Give em’ hell, Jeff.  Give em’ hell.”  I told him that I would keep fighting.  I told him that what was happening to him was wrong.  I told him we would all keep fighting.  I told him to listen to the words of Jesus in John 8.  As I was flipping through the scriptures, I could hear the rustling of the curtains.  I figured we were getting close.  There was a camera above my head.  I knew they were listening.  “…this woman was caught in the act of adultery. The law of Moses says to stone her. What do you say?”  David let a slight smile come to his face.  He knew the story well.  I told him that I was with him.  I told him that I was down in the dirt with him.  “All right but let the one who has never sinned throw the first stone!”  I said it loud enough so that all the executioners could hear.  “Where are your accusers? Didn’t even one of them condemn you?”  None of the executioners were bold enough to even enter the room.  I was the only one there with David.  I told him that he was now free to embody the words of Jesus forever, “Go and sin no more.”  David exercised tremendous courage.  He refused to let them see him afraid.

Looking at my watch, I realized that time was drawing short.  I skipped over to John 14.  “Let not your heart be troubled: believe in God, believe also in me.”  David let out a few words, “I believe brother.  I believe.”  As I dug further into the verses descriptions of heaven, I could see a calm come over his face.  David was ready to see God.  David was ready to see the mansions that Jesus spoke of man centuries ago.  “I’m ready.”  When I heard him utter those two words, I responded, “Know that I love you.  Know that I’m proud of you.  Know that I love you.”  I  wanted those to be the last words that he heard.  His life was so full of missed chances and failed loves.  I repeated those words of affirmation over and over.  David responded, “I know.”

There was a line running underneath my elbow.  The tube was labeled, “2.”  Clearly, this was the second line.  When I saw the poison start to pass through the tube, I knew that the execution was in full swing.  The fact that the death tube was so close was very tempting.  I figured I could rip that thing out of the wall and buy David a little more time.  Of course, such thoughts are but fleeting fantasies.  The second such an event happened I would be removed from the chamber, never be able to help anyone again and they would still have killed David.  Once you get to that point, it’s over.  The only thing one can do is pray that God will forgive them for doing nothing to stop a murder that is taking place in front of you.  I prayed that David would forgive me too.

I could tell that the poison was started to take effect.  David’s entire body began to change.  One last time, David said, “Give em’ hell.”  I started reading the story of Jesus’ passion.  I spoke of forgiveness.  I spoke of love.  I spoke of pain.  I spoke of the promise of eternal life.  I leaned in.  I wanted to hear that he was walking the exact same road that Jesus did.  I wanted him to hear the words of Jesus on the cross, “Today you will be with me in Paradise.”  I could feel him slipping away so quickly.  I wanted to grab his soul and hold it to his body.  I knew that I couldn’t.  I also knew that he would never want me to.  David was going to be all right.  It’s the rest of us that are left to stew in this moral hell.  Right when I read “It is finished” I knew that David was gone.

When I started to pull my hand up, it stuck to David.  The sweat had gelled around his shoulder.  I didn’t want to let go.  But I needed to commend his soul to God.  I made the sign of the cross three times.  I told him to go.  I told him he was loved.  But I told him that God loves him so much more than any of us ever could.  I told him to go.  I made the sign of the cross three more times.  It was then, that I knew he was gone.

David went from grey to greyer throughout the execution.  Now, it was as if his entire body had turned to ash.  Eventually, the door opened.  One of the officers asked me to come out.  I stopped and made the sign of the cross three times over his body.  David looked more at peace than I’d ever seen him look.  I remembered his words.  Then, I looked up to see myself in the mirror.  Behind me, I saw every guy that I’d accompanied to their executions.  David was with them.  They were all saying the same thing, “Give em’ hell.”  When I exited the room, I thought I was going to get to leave.  You can’t blame anybody for wanting to get out of such deadly lunacy.  But I was forced to sit in a seat in the execution control center until everybody else had left.  That was some of the longest fifteen minutes of my life.  My mind raced about what could be happening next.  Was I getting arrested?  Did I do something wrong?  What in the hell is going on?  The guy at the desk was not interested in taking any of my questions.  Eventually, the phone rang.  It was time to go.  The big door opened.  Then, another big door opened.  Eventually, I met up with the Assistant Warden again to be escorted out.  He could tell that I was shaken.  Who wouldn’t be?  He asked, “Are you ok?”  It was a kind question.  I just didn’t know how to respond.  I simply said, “No.”

By the time we reached the parking lot, there’d been a bunch of small talk and I’d past through multiple security checks.  I don’t remember any of it.  I just knew that I needed to tell the world what just happened.  Before I got in the car, I gave the Assistant Warden a hug.  I wanted him to know that they hadn’t executed love…they’d only caused it to grow.

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