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Scott LangleyScott Langley

Photographing 17 years of death row executions

Scott Langley is a Texan photo journalist and anti-death penalty activist. He’s been inside execution chambers, capturing the faces of families, friends and protesters on the outside at the moment of execution.

In 2011, Scott covered the execution of Troy Davis, a man accused of murdering a police officer and executed in Atlanta amid many protests and appeals for clemency. He talks us through Troy's execution and some other key moments in his career.

Photograph by Scott LangleyScott Langley

"There was so much hope for Troy Davis. People spent the night outside of the Board of Pardons and Parole office in solemn vigil – hoping that they’d do the right thing and spare his life. The press were everywhere, as you can see from the news trucks in the background. You could sense that the whole world was on edge and watching at that moment to see what the Board would decide."

Photograph by Scott LangleyScott Langley

"Immediately following Troy’s execution, a closing circle was held across from the prison in a church parking lot. I was completely numb at that time. I think all of us were."

Photograph by Scott LangleyScott Langley

"I could barely even take photos. This part of the whole day is a haze in my memory. Like I was sleepwalking. The hand gesturing of the man in the centre of this photo spoke to what I was feeling at the moment - disbelief and exhaustion. Like waking up in a cold sweat from an awful nightmare."

Photograph by Scott LangleyScott Langley

"After the board denied a pardon, people took to the streets one last time, 24 hours before the scheduled execution. There was still a thread of final hope in the Supreme Court to stop the execution, and intensity was building. It was amazing to see such a diverse crowd – white, black and brown, both young and old, student and retired, militant and religious… so many people were represented in the movement."

Photograph by Scott LangleyScott Langley

"This was the first time I had ever witnessed someone being arrested. I was young and inexperienced as a photojournalist and as an activist."

Photograph by Scott LangleyScott Langley

"To see police storm into a group of peaceful protesters and throw them around, pushing them to the ground, handcuffing them and dragging them away was shocking."

Photograph by Scott LangleyScott Langley

"In 2000, in Texas, I covered the execution protests of a black, juvenile prisoner named Gary Graham. In the crowd at Graham’s execution, the KKK was on one side of the prison with signs that said things like “Die N-Word”, and on the other side was the New Black Panther Party."

Photograph by Scott LangleyScott Langley

"In my work around the death penalty, I have come to have such respect for the attorneys who work so hard to save the lives of their clients through the legal process. It is work that I don’t think I could ever handle, emotionally. This photo of two attorneys reacting to the news that the courts have denied their final appeal (thus meaning the execution would be going forward within a matter of hours) really tells the story of heartbreaking defeat. So many hours, so much paperwork, and so much energy dedicated to saving one person’s life."

Watch Life and Death Row series 2: Forgiveness on BBC iPlayer now.