Quite The Undertaker:
An Exclusive Interview with Mr. Death
by Arnab Ray Ghatak
execution technologist Fred Leuchter denies his media-proffered epithet
of "Mr. Death" and stands by his Holocaust-denying report...
Technically speaking, Fred only facilitates the fatal appointments for other folks. Over the last two decades, U.S. prisons have looked towards Fred Leuchter Jr. for cues when it came to a particular part of law that even hardboiled cops can't stomach: executions.
Part 1: Facilitating Death
Ironically for a country that has given us such well-defined 20th-century icons as The Terminator and Rambo, Fred's the only manufacturer/distributor /trainer of "execution equipment" it has. For a good part of his career and life, Fred invented electro-mechanical devices that kill people, and training other people to use them.
In fact, at one time Fred was stopping just short of "pressing the button" -- equipping jails and penitentiaries with state-of-the-art electric chairs and his own conscience-friendly invention, the computerised lethal injection machine.
On an Edgar Allen Poe-esque line of thought, it's easy to comment that Fred has -- at sometime or the other -- either manufactured or repaired everyelectric chair and injection machine used to execute convicts every year in the U.S. Although lack of competition has been an advantage, Fred says he's in the legalized death industry primarily because he thinks human life is priceless. Given a chance, Fred describes the sordid moments of executions gone wrong. "I wouldn't know how to begin to convince them [prison authorities] to use a more human method," he says about hanging, India's preferred technique of execution at the time of this e-mail interview.
"The methods used in the U.S. aren't generally administered in the most humane manner. In other words, 3 out of 5 U.S. executions aren't humane," he says. In fact, Fred says he came into the business only as botched executions were making states look bad: "I began designing and building execution equipment only because the prison wardens were torturing executees and screaming for help." Before the phrase became his company's mission statement, capital punishment, not capital torture, was Fred's personal ideology.
"I invented the lethal injection machine, built first, for the state of New Jersey. Three other states have them, most do not," he says about the impact his ideology has had on the system. "It consists of a control module and a delivery module. A computer chip randomly selects which of the two officers will activate the system." This ensures that both officers won't ever know who was actually responsible for the execution and thus avoid conscience pangs.
Fred says this ambiguity is crucial: "In most cases, the prison warden has had "care and custody" of the sentenced person for over tenyears and has taken on the role of a surrogate father." Therefore, the actual execution often becomes extremely difficult. "Some states use a paid executioner, others a volunteer executioner and some require the warden to do the execution himself. Because of this, a system that obfuscates the burden of the execution is better, much like a firing squad, where one of the riflemen is randomly given a blank cartridge to fire," he explains.
He continues: "I have designed and built an improved electric chair and have written the court-approved protocol for electrocution, gas chamber, lethal injection and hanging." He adds that: "Lethal injections are not the most humane method. Under the best circumstances the sentenced person has to wait with an I.V. line and catheter inserted, receiving saline for 45 minutes to insure the vein is open.
"He or she is strapped down and looks at a concrete ceiling for all this time. Further, many of them are former drug users with poor or less vein use. In such cases, an operation has to be performed in the groin or neck to find a suitable vein. And because doctors won't help,this is usually performed by a prison guard with 7th-grade education. It is a disgrace to our humanity!"
Part 2: Denying the Holocaust
Everything was going smoothly for Fred until he filed the controversial Leuchter Report and became a pioneer of the Revisionist Movement. It suggested that the Holocaust was actually a myth manufactured by the Jewish community and that the infamous Third Reich didn't slaughter as many innocents as usually believed.
The report obviously touched more than just a strained nerve when it mentioned that some of Nazi Germany's most notorious death camps (the Auschwitz/Birkenau complex, for instance) didn't have gas chambers for poisoning the Jewish masses. Being an expert on all forms of execution by the time Leuchter penned it, he was truly one of the very few who could actually investigate the Holocaust years.
"The Leuchter Report is accurate and has been verified by other experts, including the Polish State Police Laboratory," says Fred, "the facilities I was sent to examine as the court-appointed expert weren't execution facilities. It isn't my fault that many thought they were. Where the execution chambers are or were I do not know. I did find conclusive evidence that the death camps I studied weren't execution chambers. The report didn't have any actual repercussions except those from the Jewish groups trying to prevent free speech."
And these "manufactured repercussions" were pretty severe for Leuchter. He recalls: "I have been a target only for the major Jewish Groups who don't want the truth about the Auschwitz/Birkenau complex made public. Because I was an expert witness in the Canadian trial of Ernst Zuendel (a pro-Aryan Revisionist leader, who sponsered Fred's "research" due to charges brought against him by Jewish, for Holocaust denial). My life and that of my family and friends were threatened, my home firebombed and my life and business totally destroyed.
"I was prosecuted in U.S. Court in violation of the law, have been stalked by the Mossad and illegally imprisoned in Germany and held in solitary confinement as a political prisoner. Everyone, including the U.S. Government was afraid to intercede in my behalf," he says. "Only Amnesty International Protested. I was held in the ancient dungeon of Manheim Prison."
"The Media dubbed me Dr. Death, before filmmaker Errol Morris changed it to Mr. Death [Morris also made a critically acclaimed film on Fred titled Mr. Death]. My work was universally accepted by all U.S. prison facilities until the Jewish organizations and politicians intervened. Budget officials made it impossible, for the states prevented them from paying for work I had completed.
"Several states were forced to modify my equipment, turning it into torture devices. I still consult secretly and without pay, for if it were found out, the wardens would be fired. Many executees have been tortured to death because the Jewish organizations refuse to allow my participation for fear that I would again receive the credit. I am sure that this will continue, publicly justified only by the intent of keeping me discredited."
Looking back, Fred says he was clueless about the report's impact: "I didn't know or expect what was to happen. It's a shame and a danger to freedom when a court official can be intimidated for doing his duty and under oath. I was acting as a functionary of the court, analysing Zuendel's theories."
Today, he says, "It seems like we defeated the Nazis for nothing...I stand by my report. It is the truth and was testified into the court record as truth."
Finally, replying to whether he had ever considered an alternative career, Fred says, "I had a career long before I began with the execution equipment. I am an electrical engineer [in fact, he holds several patents in the areas of navigational, surveying and meteorological instrumentation]. It was because of my expertise that I entered the execution field."
However, ghosts of the Holocaust are all but exorcised: "I'm recognized as an electrocution & execution technologist by the U.S. Federal Court System and have testified against the use of outdated/unsafe execution processes. However, I am virtually unemployable today in any field because all my potential employers receive threats from a certain community. Wherever I find work it is secret and lower level. I cannot even get the proper pay scale!"
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