Larry Fitzgerald, a former spokesman for the Texas prison system, witnessed more than 200 executions in the nation’s busiest death chamber and answered countless media questions. He retired in August. The Houston Chronicle reprots that Fitzgerald, 66, is answering questions about death row that come from defense attorneys who pay him $250 an hour to consult with them about prison life and death and provide expert testimony during capital murder trials. “There is a certain irony there,” he said.
The role reversal began last summer when Fitzgerald got a call from Houston attorney Tom Moran, who was representing convicted killer Eugene Broxton in his capital murder retrial. He asked Fitzgerald to explain to juries why the defendant would not be a risk to kill someone else if sentenced to life in prison instead of death by injection.
Emphasizing that he is not qualified to talk about individual inmates, Fitzgerald says he can talk with confidence about how the prisons’ security systems make it unlikely any prisoner would have the opportunity to kill again. “So I basically tell the jury the same stuff about the prison system that I used to tell the media — except now I do it under oath,” said Fitzgerald. “And I don’t criticize the prison system. In fact, I tell that it works. And I can back it up with statistics.”
In 1984 and 1985, for example, there were 25 and 27 homicides, respectively, within the state prison walls. But since 1986, even as the prison population has grown significantly, the homicide figures have usually been in the single digits– a fact Fitzgerald attributes to Texas’ controversial policy of keeping troublesome inmates in solitary confinement.