tv Death Row Stories CNN October 3, 2015 6:00pm-7:01pm PDT
on this episode of death row stories, a triple murder, execution style. >> they shot them like they were nothing. >> and the crime is caught on tape. >> most significant piece of evidence i've ever seen in a case. >> the clear images of guilt. >> the evidence establishes that he committed the crime. >> there's your guy. it's a slam dunk for the prosecution. >> only deepen the mystery. >> you're going to kill somebody. it's not even a sure conviction rnls what they didn't have is any evidence. >> there's no doubt in my mind that he's innocent. >> there's a body on the water. >> he was butchered and murdered. >> many people proclaim their innocence. >> in this case, there are a number of things that stink. >> this man is remorseless. >> he needs to pay for it with
his life. >> the electric chair flashed in front of my eyes. >> get a conviction at all costs. let the truth fall where it may. on a sunday morning in the summer of 1994, a palm beach police officer noticed smoke spiraling across the sky near bell glade, florida. as the officer drew closer, he noticed a car engulfed in flames by the side of the road. >> there was a lot of isolated land out near the everglades. the car was found burning. no one in it. >> the black mercedes had a pungent odor of gasoline, but no signs of being in an accident. >> once the fire was under control and various forensic
people began to look for evidence to see if they can identify who it belonged to, from there, that's how the case got started. >> police discovered the car belonged to casimir sucharski of miramar, florida. he was better known to locals as butch casey, the manager and former owner of the popular nightclub, casey's nickelodeon. casey's attracted hard locals with bikini contests, ladies nights and hours until dawn. >> butch was a charming womanizer. girls loved him. butch casey lives in miramar city limits. and the miramar police department, once they were notified that his car was found, they sought to locate him. a quick knock on the door, no response, no answer. >> the miramar policeman left his card in the door, unaware of the gruesome scene that lay just
inside. the same sunday that butch casey's charred mercedes was found in the everglades, police were notified by the families of two aspiring models, shannon anderson and marie rogers, that both women were missing. >> i remember it was june 26th. it was a sunday. my mom called, said she hadn't spoken to sharon. and i thought, well, she's 25. she liked to go out and have a good time. but i could hear my mother's voice that something was not right. >> police discovered the two women had been at casey's nickelodeon the previous night. >> they were there up until around closing time. casey, being a ladies man, flirted with them and invited them to come to his home.
>> by late sunday, with no sign of casey, anderson or rogers, police returned to casey's home. >> this time, the officer actually walked around the entire perimeter of the house, worked his way into the back yard, looked through a sliding glass door. he could see the bodies. >> inside the home, butch casey, sharon anderson and marie rogers had all been shot in the head at point-blank range. detective craig scarlett was one of the first officers at the scene. >> when i saw it, it was, you know, pretty hard to look at. it wasn't some random, i'll shoot you here and i'll shoot you there. they were all laid out in a row. >> certainly a gruesome scene, bloody, killed execution style.
the home, itself, was ransacked and some items missing. jewelry. butch casey was licensed to carry a gun. you could see that that gun was missing. >> they had cordoned off a giant area of the property. police officers, police cars. chief was on his way. i believe there was already news there. >> around 2:30 this morning, casimir sucharski was found murdered in his myanmar home along with two other people. >> all three people here at his home the morning of june 26th. all shot execution style. >> and my mom called, and she was very weird on the phone. and i thought, i'm really trying to keep it together. i said, is she dead? i just need to know, is she dead? she said, yes. >> to homicide detectives, the murders appeared to be a robbery
gone wrong. police found bullet casings and a bloody footprint near the bodies, but little else to go on. >> sometimes butch casey was known to carry a lot of money as well as he was thought to perhaps maybe have access to drugs. but the primary thought, since the house was ransacked, that someone was looking for something. >> as police investigated, curious neighbors gathered outside. >> some of those citizens were coming up to me and talking to me, telling me stuff. >> one neighbor, named gary foye, said he'd seen something suspicious the morning of the murders. >> gary foye told me that he saw these two guys in butch's mercedes convertible. >> foye thought it was odd that two men would be driving casey's car. >> they took off towards hollywood boulevard. gary foye followed them and looked at them. he said one of them looked
latin, and the other guy, he said, i really couldn't see, but he wasn't latin. i'm thinking, like, this guy is gold, now. he actually saw them. >> police were convinced if they found the men who drove that car they had their killers. as investigators continued to comb through butch casey's house, they discovered a cache of videotapes hidden in the bedroom. they appeared to be sex tapes, filmed from a secret camera mounted above casey's bed. an officer then noticed a souvenir film slate on a high bookshelf in the living room. >> he looked behind it, and it was a camera. and he discovered that it was attached to a vcr. >> i was outside. they were like, come here, you have to see this. and took the tape. popped it into the tv and it starts up.
and there's butch casey walking around the night before, getting ready to go to work. we start fast forwarding it. he goes out the door. then the sun comes up. the room gets bright. then he begins to walk in with the girls. and we go, we're going to watch this crime unfold on video. and it did. right in front of us. for adults with an advanced lung cancer called "squamous non-small cell", previously treated with platinum-based chemotherapy,
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detectives on the scene of a brutal, triple murder in miramar, florida had made a stunning discovery. a hidden surveillance camera had videotaped the entire crime. >> it was really amazing, because, you know, back in 1994, not many people were hooking their houses up with all kinds of video. on the video, the girls are sitting at the kitchen table. they grabbed the bottle of wine or champagne. they're sitting there and talking. and lo and behold, after a substantial amount of time, in walks the murderers. >> two men enter casey's house from the back, one brandishing a
large, semi-automatic weapon. >> it appears to be a tech 9 machine gun. >> butch is like stunned for a minute it looks like. he knows he's got a gun in the other room. one of the girls runs into the bedroom. ms. anderson tried to get away, go to another room, and the second intruder immediately then chased her. the intruder with the gun came in, took the butt end of his gun and just struck butch casey. and then they just started beating on him with the gun across the face. whack! >> the other intruder who had chased ms. anderson, secured her. you can see that he came out of the bedroom with a gun that he didn't have before, which it turns out to be butch casey's gun. laid her down on the floor. >> minutes pass. the criminals appear to be
searching for something as casey and the two women huddle on the floor. >> at one point butch casey has seized a moment when he thought he could overcome the intruder with the gun. so he grabbed the gun and began to struggle. >> he's not in the best position to put up a fight. and eventually, the suspect shot him in the back, to make him let go. and he did. finally, came time to leave, i guess they didn't get what they wanted. now that butch was shot they just lined them all up. boom! boom! boom! >> the second intruder uses the tech 9 to finish the job. >> then the other guy comes in, puts it right to the back of the head, boom! moves on to the next one.
boom! >> as the men prepare to leave, one of them makes a fateful mistake. >> one perpetrator removed a cover from what appeared to be a towel or shirt of some sort from over his head. you got a fairly and particulary clear picture of his face. the other intruder continued at all times to wear a baseball cap and sunglasses. >> from start to finish, the crime lasted 22 minutes. >> as gruesome as it was, the video was probably the most significant piece of evidence i've ever seen in a case. >> the shocking news of her
sister's murder sent deborah buoy, who was nine months pregnant, into labor. >> it forced my delivery. best moment of my life, completely robbed of that experience, to have a baby, three days after being told your sister was murdered. so the day that i came out of the hospital was the day of her funeral. >> the first thing that the police did with the video was to see if it could be enhanced in some way where you could get a clearer view of the perpetrators. they utilized the fbi to find the best images of the face, put it on the still photo, and they put it on fliers, just and pass it around to different law enforcement agencies. >> but there was little movement in the case until two weeks later.
>> there's a home invasion robbery in dade county. three men come in, tie the people up, they ask them for drugs, money, same type of m.o. very violent. >> this time one of the victims managed to call police who arrived at the crime still in progress. >> the police corral the place and grab the three of them. >> the three men were alberto rincon, 24, alex hernandez, 20, and pablo aybar, 22. >> dade county police looked at the fliers, look at their three suspects and go, hey, pablo aybar and alex hernandez, these are the two guys. >> i'm going, this is great.
this is the guy. >> gary foye came in and positively identified aybar as the man he saw driving the mercedes the morning of the murder. >> aybar seemed a good match for the mustached killer. and police soon got a second id from his roommate, john clemesco. he also recognized someone named penalver. he was referring to seth penalver from ft. lauderdale. on the morning of the murders, clemesco said they grabbed a tech 9 from the house and later returned driving a new black car. to get a second id onset
penalver, detectives went to an ex-girlfriend, melissa monroe. >> we tell her they're there about seth. eventually they take her back to the police station. they show her the same pictures and they say to her, who is this in. >> the left photograph is pablo aybar. and the right photograph is seth. >> melissa monroe had also seen seth and pablo together at casey's bar on the night of the murders. >> i saw them at casey's on the sunday, well, saturday night, sunday morning. i talked to them when i was on the dance floor. seth kept asking me to dance. >> you had all of these witnesses that corroborated and connected seth and pablo to mr. butch casey, the tech 9 gun and his car. >> seth, a high school dropout with a previous robbery to his name, soon learned he was wanted for murder. >> i actually seen all this stuff in the newspaper. they want to question me about a triple murder. they had a description of my car in there. if you know his whereabouts,
please contact us. >> seth decided to turn himself in. >> because i didn't commit this crime. i mean, what person in their right mind's going to turn theirself in, knowing that you did a triple murder. >> seth claimed innocence. but when detectives asked him where he was on the night of the murders, he couldn't be sure. >> it's like, you're talking 30 days later they want to speak to me. why would you remember where you're at 30 days ago. you have no reason to remember it. >> police latch onto it. matches the build of the killer, they think. they realize seth has a history, and he's violent. and then the game's on for the police. >> seth was about to realize he looked very similar to the killer on the video. and soon he would be facing the death penalty.
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the case is closed. we're just going through the motions. >> the guy looked like seth. it was an uphill battle the whole way. >> aybar and penalver were tried together beginning on june 23rd, 1997. prosecutors played the entire 22-minute video for the jury. >> when they finally play that video for the first time, it may as well be watching the nuclear bomb go off in hiroshima. guts are wrenching the courtroom was silent. there's people crying by the end of that video. >> prosecutors also produced a set of tire tracks found near butch casey's burned out mercedes. the tracks were left by a getaway car, which the state
said matched seth penalver's oldsmobile. >> you have outstanding evidence. and on top of everything else it probably hurt us. >> finally, the prosecution called their witnesses against seth, including kimberly sam, one of seth's former roommates. >> kim sam, she and seth were living together at a house in sunrise, florida. she said seth had come to the house with pablo aybar, in a black mercedes, had blood all over his clothes. he and pablo took them off, put them in the washing machine. red bubbles came out of the washing machine. >> and she said she saw him with aybar, changing clothes, taking a shower and driving off in the mercedes. >> kim says, i come home, see bloody bubbles flying out of the washing machine. but crime scene technicians went to the house, they luminol tested it for any type of dna and they came to our trial and said if this story was true what she said, it would have been there, i would have found it.
>> after months of testimony, the case went to the jury. but after three days of deliberations, the jury was deadlocked. >> what they didn't have is they didn't have any physical evidence. they didn't have any dna, they didn't have any fingerprints. they didn't have any of that thing that juries want. >> witness stories had also changed since the murders. for instance, pablo's former roommate john clemesco didn't remember identifying pablo. >> they asked me, do the pictures resemble anybody that i know. i told them no. they proceeded to keep badgering me. and they said, listen, we're just going to tell you. we know these are pictures of seth and pablo. we want to know which one would
be which one. i was young, i was scared. i had no clue of who was in the picture, you know. >> i was dealing with a situation in which my witnesses are changing their testimony. clearly the motive there was protection. you're not going to convict your friend. >> with the jury unable to break their deadlock, a mistrial was declared for both men. a second trial lasted seven months with the same witness testimony and the same damaging video, but this time, pablo and seth were tried separately. finally, on november 11, 1999, the second jury reached a verdict. >> you know, they came back and said guilty. i just stood there. i couldn't believe it. you know, after all that fighting, after all that time, to come to that, come to that
conclusion was earth-shattering. >> a hearing was held to determine seth penalver's sentence. life in prison or death by lethal injection. seth's attorneys wanted to argue that his tumultuous childhood should be taken into account. >> seth had a terrible childhood. his mom was a drug addict. and he was raised somewhat homeless. had to rely on himself. >> he was a middle school dropout. his dad is deceased. and his mom is a heroin addict. he had no siblings. >> i told my attorney, no, you're not going to get up there and argue any of this. i'm not going to beg for my life for something i didn't do. because, yeah, i might have had a messed-up childhood, but that doesn't mean i committed this crime.
they gave me three death sentences, two life sentences, and they close that door behind you, and it's like, damn, this is real now. this is for real. i'm not supposed to die like this. >> seth's co-defendant pablo aybar was also found guilty and sentenced to death. >> i thought that the sentence of death for both of them was fair. and i've heard people say well, you know, the death penalty is not a deterrent. well, it's not meant to be. it's called justice. >> from the time of his arrest, through years of trials, one of seth's childhood friends had been following his case from afar. after seth was sentenced, she went to visit him on death row. >> most american people think that the criminal justice system works.
they think that when you're innocent, you're going to be found not guilty. but that's not really how it works. >> renee worked as a paralegal and decided to take a fresh look at seth's case. >> when coming in to this, i didn't know what to expect or what i was going to find. but i just found things that had never been disclosed. all the evidence was hidden. there are so many leads that have gone unanswered. there's no doubt in my mind that he's innocent. can a business have a mind? a subconscious. a knack for predicting the future. reflexes faster than the speed of thought. can a business have a spirit? can a business have a soul? can a business be...alive?
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after being sent to death row for triple murder, seth penalver appealed his conviction to the florida supreme court. in their appeals, seth's attorneys argue that no physical evidence link seth to the crime and that all the witnesses against seth had changed their stories over time. >> at the second trial, prosecution argued that i was tampering with witnesses, that i tampered with melissa munroe, changed people's testimony and there wasn't a sliver of evidence. that was so damning to let a prosecutor argue that, without anybody being in charge, no type of physical evidence, no audio, no nothing. >> a decision from the supreme court would take three years to come down. but in 2006, seth got word from
his former co-defendant, pablo aybar, also on death row. >> pablo sent word, your appeal's been granted. congratulations, you got another chance at life. and i was just in such shock. >> the florida supreme court had unanimously granted seth a new trial. >> appeals are really about does the judge make errors. we were able to reverse that case on appeal and be granted a new trial for what the court called cumulative error. >> i was disappointed for the family. it was gut-wrenching that you have to go through this again. >> but for seth's lawyers who spent more time arguing seth's case than any attorneys on any case in broward county history, the prospect of a third trial was daunting. >> it was just so draining, especially third time. i'm not the young man i used to be. >> i do respect what healey does.
but there's not enough time in the day to dedicate all this time to a humongous case. >> knowing his third trial would likely be his last chance at freedom, seth turned to a childhood friend for help. >> me and renee, childhood friends, we were young, 15, 16. that's how we met. and i wound up finding out she was a paralegal. >> this is the first time i've seen seth in 20 years. and i didn't find out until later on that his mom, dad, and his grandmother all died while he was in prison. after that, i started to go see him, because i figured, you know, he's all alone. he's fighting for his life. i've seen the video, and i never thought it was him. the guy is too big to be him. >> renee read seth's trial transcripts and decided to help. >> i got a phone call from hilliard. seth wants to go through his file. will you go down and take all
the boxes down and just let him go through them one by one. i said sure, no problem. >> renee, a single mom with two kids, worked on the case for free in her spare time. >> i'd clock out at 5:30 at work, and i'd just pick up the box and start at the first folder, and i would go see seth on the weekends and go through the boxes with him. >> one by one, i'd look at it and look at it. all through the visitation booth with the big plexiglas. and the stuff that we saw, it floored me. >> we got do a box where it says that alex hernandez was a suspect in an affidavit. i heard there were no other suspects in this case. well, if he's not a suspect, how is there an affidavit stating he's a suspect. seth and i sat back and said well, what else is it that we don't have?
>> as seth's third trial loomed, his team caught a break. seth's former co-defendant, pablo aybar had gained access to files police deemed irrelevant to the case. and thus, never disclosed. >> he gets 50,000 pages of public records, everything we've gotten and a lot that we haven't, that made all the difference in the case, i think. >> seth and i, at this point, start going through the documents, and i just found things that had never been disclosed. there are so many leads that have gone unanswered. >> some of those leads concerned the man at the center of the murders, butch casey. butch's reputation of being a playboy also included reputed ties to the mob. >> you have confidential informants saying, hey, man, this guy just got beat up by the mafia. they put him in the back of the car. these are the guys who did it. >> there's been statements given that the morning of the murders, there were two latin men that
came into the club. and they say to casey, we'll see you at the house later. an hour later, he's dead. now, as a detective, that would be important to me. >> renee was also about to learn about a man named johnny mcgill. mcgill would confess to police that after the murders, he was the one who drove butch casey's mercedes to the everglades and set it on fire. when you're not confident your company's data is secure, the possibility of a breach can quickly become the only thing you think about. that's where at&t can help. at at&t we monitor our network traffic so we can see things others can't. mitigating risks across your business. leaving you free to focus on what matters most.
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just before seth penalver's third trial in 2012 he received boxes of previously unlooked-at files. the documents included a lead sheet containing a confession to police by a man named johnny mcgill. >> the theory is that pablo and seth drove the mercedes to palm beach county, but going through the documentation from the miramar police department we find a lead sheet. johnny mcgill walks into the broward county sheriff's office
and says, my boss ordered me to drive the mercedes to west palm beach county and set it on fire. you've just walked in and admitted that you've committed arson in a triple homicide and the broward county sheriff's office let you walk out. you have witnesses who all put seth and pablo in sunrise with the mercedes and seth's car. the theory is that they were together, but it doesn't add up. it doesn't match. >> a few days after talking to police, johnny mcgill was murdered at a nightclub in miami. police never verified mcgill's claims and never told the defense. other documents police withheld included an inventory of security camera footage, seized from butch casey's bar. >> butch casey had a number cameras in his club. one of the tapes showed the bar area.
another one showed the entryway. so those tapes would have possibly shown if aybar came in the club, if he came in with seth, or if he came in with rincon or hernandez. >> they always say that me and pablo were in there that night, at casey east nickelodeon. the general manager came in and said if you were in that club you were on the video. >> the defense has always said these tapes don't exist. they don't have them and they presumed to have burned up in the mercedes, but we find those tapes have been sitting in the miramar police department for 18 and a half years, no property receipt, no chain of custody. >> seth's attorneys now petition to see the tapes. >> we put them in the machine. they're blank. they're snow. we send them down to the sheriff's crime lab. they come back up and say, these are blank, but they're not blank because they're new. they're blank because they've been intentionally erased.
>> police department took out the evidence that put anybody else as a suspect and they basically molded this case to how they wanted it to be read. >> other police files pointed to pablo aybar's associates, alex hernandez and alberto rincon who were caught red-handed with aybar at a robbery in dade county. one report referenced butch casey's next door neighbor who saw a man in a white car outside butch's house on the morning of the murders. >> it was a major crime summary, and in it, it lists all the witnesses, including mr. and mrs. brainy. they live next door to casey. and at 7:00 in the morning they heard two male voices outside their window. the wife saw a white car with a stocky male outside it. the first time we'd ever heard of them.
>> a witness says that they see a white toyota outside the house with a stocky male getting into the white toyota. alberto rincon owns a white toyota and is a stocky male. so if it was alberto rincon in the toyota, he's now at the scene, and if he's at the scene, he could be one of the intruders. >> when rincon was arrested in dade county, police had also found evidence that seemed to link him to butch casey's house. >> the footprints at the crime scene were never, ever tied to seth. but that home invasion robbery that happened in dade county. when rincon gets arrested, he is wearing sneakers that match the foot prints that are found at the crime scene. >> there was certainly enough evidence to portray rincon as a suspect, especially since he's wearing the shoes, he has a vehicle that's the same color that's seen outside the residence the morning of the murders.
so there are so many leads that have gone unanswered. >> i remember the first time i seen some of that stuff, i cried. i cried. i was so angry. how could our government hide this evidence that i'm not the man? >> after spending months working together, seth and renee's relationship grew into more than friendship. >> she always has had a fighting spirit. didn't like to lose. after i think reading all that material, seeing the injustice and seeing my innocence, that was a drive. and during the time of our friendship, we began to have a bond closer than friendship. so it began to be the love of friendship and injustice all combined to one. >> it was just raw emotion. one of the things that i've always loved about seth is that he was so positive. and one of the darkest places, in the darkest time of his life,
he was very upbeat, happy, smiling, energetic. at some point, the broward county sheriff's office finds out that him and i have a personal relationship, and we had to have a hearing because they didn't want me coming into the jail and working on his case anymore. when i continued working on the case, but i wasn't actually allowed to go see seth. >> but with the trial about to begin, the state stood firm, vowing to reconvict seth and put him to death. aged. but managing my symptoms was all i was doing. so when i finally told my doctor, he said humira is for adults like me who have tried other medications but still experience the symptoms of moderate to severe crohn's disease. and that in clinical studies, the majority of patients on humira saw significant symptom relief. and many achieved remission. humira can lower your ability to fight infections, including tuberculosis.
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seth penalver's third trial began on july 30th, 2012. once again, he was facing the death penalty. chuck morton, by now, chief prosecutor of broward county, could have someone else try the case but he decided to try it himself. but 18 years after the crime, morton was facing a much tougher battle. >> years later, memories change and fade. the persuasive value of the case now was much stacked against me. >> and this time, seth's defense tried an unconventional strategy with the crime scene video.
>> we approached it much, much differently. we embraced the video and didn't run from it. >> we decided we were going to make the video our ally, a giant picture of the intruder and put it next to him and said this is not our guy. >> it's a case of mistaken identity. you definitely have the wrong person. and we talked about how law enforcement manipulated and tricked and pressured people. >> they also showed payments to an anonymous person who called seth the pent lover. clemesco and police both denied payments of a reward. >> the detective denied it under oath twice in front of a jury. and john clemenco, i asked, did you ever get a reward, no.
no. no. i called paul manzella to the stand, it's your handwriting, your notes. and he says yeah. so when that testimony finished and the jury realized that paul manzella and clemensco were ready so swear under oath to something they were going to lie about in order to have seth convicted. >> in the end, the defense fixated on seth as the man in the video, ignoring other things that failed to implicate here. >> our theory at trial was, obviously, it was either aybar and rincon or hernandez. why wouldn't it be? they were his buds. couldn't they be the image just as easily as seth penalver? >> i think they were throwing stuff up just to feel doubt. if he saw your brother walking down the street in a video, even though it's blurry, you'd know it's him.
>> after ten nerve-wracking days, the jury finally returned on december 21st, 2012. >> you're fraught with just every emotion in the world. >> the moment was captured by cell phone video. >> we the jury find, count one of the indictment, not guilty. >> it kicks in that you know what? i'm not guilty. i don't know what happened. >> i left my body. i was crying like a baby. it's too much emotion. just too much. >> i could not believe it. is this even real? i got right on my knees in the middle of the courtroom, and i went to praying and praying and praying.
>> later that night, seth penalver walked away from prison a free man. seth's case brought up serious questions about the use of video as evidence in murder trials. >> video is not 100%. sometimes video can create more issues than one would guess. >> the video is powerful for the emotions it wrenches in you. but does it always tell the whole story? >> the video is the truth it is what happened. but it's everything else that was a story. you may have known the ending, but you had to create the beginning of it. you had to create the middle of it. it doesn't portray the whole picture.
>> but just as seth claimed his prior guilty verdict doesn't match the truth, so, too, does the prosecutor. >> i was very disappointed, because i do believe that the evidence establishes that pablo aybar and seth penalver committed the crime. not guilty doesn't mean innocent. >> seth's co-defendant, pablo aybar is still on death row. in 2012 he wrote a letter to seth that raised questions for the victim's family. >> there's this handwritten letter that's full of rage from pablo aybar. it basically tells him, you're not a victim. man up. take responsibility for your actions. >> for deborah buoy, the letter and the video of the crime can only mean one thing. >> i know that seth penalver is
a murderer. he may pretend with anybody else that he's talking to and tell whatever story and thump whatever bible he wants to bring in, but that man is a cold-blooded murderer, and he may be acquitted. and he may be free, but he is guilty. on this episode of death row stories, executions around the country go horribly wrong. >> it was clear something was not right. >> you could see spasm go through his body. >> but when secrets emerge about government executions. >> you've got people carrying cash in the night across state lines. they want to create the aura that everything is smooth. >> the question is asked, does it matter how we put people to death. >> these are evildoers, these are animals, we want justice. >> who cares if he feels pain. >> you are not allowed to experiment on people in killing them. >> we make these god-like decisions without god-like