Over a decade ago, four audio tapes and hundreds of execution documents were donated to the Library of the University of Virginia by a former Virginia correctional employee. National Public Radio (NPR) aired excerpts from those long-hidden tapes in January 2023. Shortly thereafter, a representative from the Virginia Department of Corrections (VDOC) then requested the return of all the materials. NPR now reports that only two of the six boxes of material remain available for viewing at the prison, by way of a public records request. The entirety of the four tapes previously aired by NPR can be heard in full on NPR’s website, as well as documents that journalists photographed prior to the documents’ removal.

Among the documents NPR recently shared with the public are a collection of Polaroid photos (pictured) taken prior to a prisoner’s execution, legal memos, autopsy reports, court records, death certificates, and handwritten notes. Originally kept secret due to purported concerns that activists would use them to stop future executions, a representative from VDOC told NPR via email that the files contain “sensitive health, security, and personnel information about former inmates, victims, and VADOC employees, which makes them private in nature.” 

According to NPR, their investigation “can now reveal the tapes show the prison neglected to record key evidence during what was considered one of Virginia’s worst executions, and staff appeared unprepared for some of the jobs they were tasked to do in the death chamber.”