Anne Holsinger 0:01

Hello, and welcome to Discussions with DPIC. I’m Anne Holsinger, Managing Director of the Death Penalty Information Center. Today’s episode is an installment in the Death Penalty Information Center’s Rethinking Public Safety series. In these episodes, we will be talking with people who have spent their careers working for public safety. We’ll learn more about their careers, and how their work has shaped their views on the death penalty. Our guest today is Dr. Karen Gedney, an internal medicine doctor who spent 30 years working as a prison physician in Nevada. She’s the author of “30 Years Behind Bars: Trials of a Prison Doctor,” and has been an advocate for the abolition of the death penalty in Nevada. Thank you for joining me, Dr. Gedney.

Karen Gendney 0:40

Thank you, Anne, for giving me this opportunity.

Anne Holsinger 0:43

Our first question is a little bit about your background. Your work as a prison doctor began in 1987, when you were given a four year assignment from the National Health Service Corps to repay a scholarship you had received. How did that short term assignment turn into a 30 year career?

Karen Gendney 0:58

Yeah, a lot of people ask me that question. And the reason it turned into that long career, and I never actually thought about it, when I started, I was just unbelievably naive, and I had really no preconceived ideas about the prison world to begin with — I just wanted to be a doctor. And I’d like your listeners to imagine when I start, the medical director at the state level, who interviewed me, basically two weeks later, collapsed his spine for metastatic cancer was out of the picture and there was no one in the state above me. And this was the time of the HIV epidemic and also, Nevada had never really had, let’s say, a legitimate doctor. And here I am a blonde female, and I get thrown into Carson City, which actually is known as the Mississippi of the West, right. And I’m married to a Black man, and out of 40,000 people in the city, my husband was the only Black person there as well. And when I go into the prison system, one out of four of my patients are Black. And so I experienced, for the first time, I think in my life, this sort of odd sexism and racism combined and also the first time as a doctor, I felt that the people in control did not want me there. And what I didn’t realize was the Assistant Warden at my facility, his wife was the director of nursing for the state and that nepotistic relationship — I did not realize I was rocking their power structure. And the reason I stayed was because the more I was there, and the more abuses I saw, I felt that I could make the greatest difference in terms of helping by not being run out, or killed. And also, I became very close to the inmate population in terms of the way they responded to me, because when you have been incarcerated for years, and no one gives you the time of day, and then you have someone who cares about you, they really cared about me, and that was more so than I had ever experienced in the outside world. So for those reasons I stayed.

Anne Holsinger 3:33

You’ve talked a little bit about how the time that people spend in prison affect them and we know that death row prisoners and others who spend long periods of time in prison often develop chronic, physical, and mental health problems. How did the conditions in prison affect your patients? And how did prison healthcare differ from health care in the wider population?

Karen Gendney 3:54

Well I’ll first start with healthcare. I mean, the reason I was placed in the prison is because the prison was not giving what would be considered constitutional right to healthcare. And in the prison, you have a lot of people who have mental ill problems or a lot of mental dysfunction and when I came, one of the lawsuits was that they couldn’t take care of schizophrenics appropriately, especially a bit of the violent ones so officers would shoot them with buckshot, okay, buckshot, yes. And then four point them — tie them down, you know, by arms and legs, you know, tie them to an iron bed until they tired out. And then they would let them up and the guy would, of course, be tired and not in the fighting. But of course, the schizophrenia, the paranoia doesn’t start and then it would occur again. Those were the type of lawsuits that brought me in — where the Supreme Court actually told the Governor that you have to give medical care, b ut they could not get any doctors to work in those days in the prison system. And then they made the decision initially to, and I didn’t know this until later, they waived doctors licenses. So if you had been stripped of your license in the real world, you could work in the prison. So when I say legitimate doctors, there were doctors who were not legitimate before me. One of the doctors before me, the warden told me that he would just talk to a parrot in an imaginary parrot on his shoulder. It’s like, you can’t make this stuff up. For advice, and the parrot was very prone to giving advice about doing rectal exams. You see what I mean?

Anne Holsinger 5:51

Oh, my goodness.

Karen Gendney 5:52

Oh, yeah. Right. Yeah, yeah. So it was a very, it was a bit wild for me. But when you say how it affects the inmates, the big thing is, if someone has had mental issues at that time, they in no way got help. And then they were, you know, taken advantage of by individuals on both sides of that fence line, right? The inside and the outside. Also, when you look at the isolation, if you have guys who were problematic custody, that was their thing, they would put them what’s known in the hole.

Anne Holsinger 6:30

And that refers to solitary confinement…

Karen Gendney 6:33

Solitary confinement, but in the old days, there’s an older prison with about two miles from my prison that I also pinched-hit at, and they still had the caves out of sandstone, where they had thrown inmates in the dark for days and weeks and months, you know, in the old days, right — and that was known as the hole. This is and I know that like in California, they talk about the SHU, you know, solitary housing unit. But in my state, they still said we’re throwing him in the hole. See the difference?

Anne Holsinger 7:11

Right, yeah.

Karen Gendney 7:13

And one of my assistant wardens, she and I became friends, you know, this is toward the end of my career. And she had one guy up in Ely State Prison, who in essence had been in solitary for 30 odd years, and they were going to release him. And she told me, “Oh, my God, he’s like a feral cat.” And she felt sorry for him and somehow she got him sort of placed on my prison yard, which was medium security, that we took care of everyone in the hospital, all security levels, to sort of try to reintegrate them from the feral cat status, you see what I mean? Then on top of it, it’s not only the solitary, it’s the men who are always, from a stress point, always worried about any day that someone could hurt them, whether it’s officers that strip them of their belongings, or mess with them, or other inmates. They’re sleeping with lights on all the time, the noise, and there’s some guys who can shut that out, and others by personality, it really affects them. And on top of that, you have the diet, and as a prison doctor, it sort of drove me crazy, because prisons statistically, they just do not give fresh fruit and fresh vegetables. One, it’s expensive and two, the guys can turn it into pruno, the homemade alcohol, fraud problems, and a lot of is just what’s the cheapest food they could give. And when I started, they were feeding actually three meals a day, when the last 10 years, they wanted to cut down on money, so the guy had to go to breakfast, to get his sandwich for lunch, and the sandwich was the same sandwich for 10 years that I was there, which was four pieces of white bread, slimy bologna that looks a little greenish, and like a hard boiled egg. And that was for the last about 10 years that I was in the facility. So diet, the stress, not getting mental health, being isolated, and of course, visits from families was always problematic in the prison system to coordinate. And then the trauma and drama of you see your family, then the kids leave, and everybody’s crying, and if they are not, let’s say learning or working, time goes very slow for them. And I saw men, because if you’re 30 years, you can watch men for a long time and I would watch men who they became early dementia, because their mind was not interacting anymore, and that was sad to see. You also would see guys who were, let’s say aggressive and violent when they were younger, and then I would watch him for 30 years and at 50, they would be complaining to me about the youngsters, and I’d have to remind him, “well, that was you 30 years ago, right.” But certainly, it takes a toll, an unbelievably constipated group of individuals because of diet and people had real, real PTSD. And I know many men, when they leave the prison, they have those problems, where they don’t want anybody coming up behind them, noises startle them. They’re very defensive about how you say something, because on a prison yard, any disrespect, if it’s not responded to, you can be vulnerable. So they overreact many times to things, which you say, which in a normal person or person hasn’t been in prison, would just go right over their head, that doesn’t happen with them.

Anne Holsinger 11:12

What about the resources that you were given to treat them? Did you feel like you were able to give them appropriate kinds of treatment for medical or mental health problems that came up? Or were you pretty restricted in what was available?

Karen Gendney 11:25

Well, it depended on the years, right, who’s in charge and this is a very problematic thing in prisons, where it’s not only a prison director, when you have a medical director as well. Are they more oriented for just security? And they’ve got nothing coming, that type of mindset? Or are they more progressive, and then things widen? And that swing is a bit disconcerting for staff and inmates, and from a medical perspective, I was always fighting for what I thought was appropriate. One of the things in the early days was with HIV. Most people don’t know this, and you might find it interesting, but Nevada was one of the few states in the entire country, where they tested every single inmate in the state in 1985, when the test first came out. So when I showed up in ‘87, I knew out of the 4,000 guys, who was positive. Now, did they actually tell those guys? Okay, you see what I mean? So the state made this decision to do this and then because they didn’t have legitimate doctors, that information was not carried to the inmate because there was no treatment in those days. You see what I mean? And then because of me coming, and then finally getting up to speed, we had to make sure that every positive we talked to, every new positive we counseled. And then, when I started, there was not a drug for HIV. I started in July of ‘87 and AZT wasn’t authorized until the fall of that year, and when that happened, because I knew about HIV, because I had come out of just recent internal medicine training, I ended up ultimately speaking for drug companies because I wanted to know what drug was coming out and what was going on. And actually, I got a Heroes for Humanity award from the US Senate for that in Nevada. And there were prisons, like Florida, for example, that made the decision: well, you know, they’ve got AIDS, they did it to themselves, they just would let them die, and they were hit with huge lawsuits, you know, back in the day. So every prison handled things differently and it always has to do with who’s in charge, and what their training or their care or what it is that happens.

Anne Holsinger 14:03

In other interviews, you’ve spoken about a traumatic event that happened early in your career. In 1989, you were held hostage and attacked by prisoners. How did that incident affect your view of safety within the prison and the measures that were most effective at keeping prison staff safe?

Karen Gendney 14:20

Well, first of all, I was held hostage by one inmate. So what happened was October Friday, the 13th. I had a inmate, Kenneth Mellor, and he was a marine vet. He had been on death row and then when the US Supreme Court changed things he went to life without. He was actually on my medium security yard as a life without because he had not done anything bad for years and he saw me for medical psych problems, and he developed what I would call like a fatal attraction to me, on top of it. So he took me hostage by force and I was assaulted, raped, it was a 10 hour ordeal, and then a SWAT team from another city was called in and they ended up getting me out by sledge hammering through a kick out panel on the wall I didn’t know existed, throwing in a concussion grenade, which blew out my eardrums. So I cannot hear like I used to hear, and shot the inmate and killed him a few feet from me. Then I got debriefed, and all what I wanted to do was get out. And, then I go back to work on Monday and no one says, here’s the thing, no one says anything to me, not the prison administrators, not custody, not the capital security, nothing. And that was, I had worked a year and a half for them, and in the first year, right toward the end, where your probation ends, they wanted to get rid of me, they did a investigation. They said, I gave preferential treatment to Black inmates because I was married to a Black man. See what I mean? They said, I gave more narcotics than the guy down in the southern part of the state. Now I was taking care of all the cancer people and all the sickest people in the state, but they didn’t mention that. You see what I mean, right? And when I got back, I will say that the inmate population sent me get well cards. Every time they saw me, they wanted to make sure I was okay. And they were the only group that showed compassion. And actually, it was the inmate population that truly helped me heal, and that also was a very eye opening experience because, to this day, I feel that there were certain people in power at that time, who let it happen. And over the years, you know, more information sort of seeps in, that makes me think there were certain people who wanted me to get hurt, kill, or be dead and I think what they miscalculated was that I was raised by a German mother, who survived World War II, and, I was built for resilience. Stubbornness — actually my father’s Dutch — so you got the Germans, Dutch, you get very stubborn, but it didn’t make me want to leave. You know, it never ever occurred to me to what should I say, sue or whine or anything? And I was angry. And I was in shock, for sure. And all those things, but what happened was about a week or two later, a call came into my office, and it was this old lady. And it turns out this old lady was Kenneth Miller’s mother, okay. And she was probably, you know, in her 70s, or 80 or something. And she was like, “Oh, Dr. Gendney, I’m so glad my son didn’t hurt you.” And then, you know, I never told the prison, and I never talked to the media. You know, the last thing I want to do is interact with media when I worked in the prison because they spin everything in bizarre ways, and when she said that, out of my mouth came, “well, no, he didn’t. He just assaulted and raped me, etc.” You see what I mean? And then she started crying. And I realized, “wow, Karen,” you know, I’m talking to myself. “You always teach that hurt people hurt others. And you’re hurting, and you really need to forgive, not only the inmate, but forgive whatever suspicions you have that people wanted you to die.” You see what I mean? And so that traumatic event taught me to not carry that ball and chain around with me. But it also made it like ice clear to me: well, if I can be put in harm’s way, and no one protects me, who’s going to protect inmates if they’re in the harm’s way? At least I have some power as a doctor to protect them. So I mean, it just made my focus even more. It wasn’t just being their doctor, I saw so much need that they needed and I tried to fill it as much as I could. I knew so many of them had addiction problems and life skill problems, so I really started all those courses in the beginning as a volunteer and taught in the evening and I saw how the vets really had problems. And this is Vietnam vets, you know, from the 80s — right. And, some second world, two guys, and Korea guys. And there was an officer, a Black officer, one of the few that came from a different city, and he was a Vietnam vet, a Navy Seal, actually. And he and my — my husband was military — and my husband and he formed the first incarcerated veterans chapter in the Nevada system. And then that sort of became so successful, other, you know, prisons started to do incarcerated vets chapters. But I saw all these needs, you know, I dragged my poor husband in to be a speaker on Martin Luther King Day. And then he ended up teaching in the prison system, you know, as one of those community college professors, because he sort of liked once he got to know them. Initially, he thought I was crazy, you know, like, lock them up and throw away the key business, but once he interacted with the inmates, he realized that many of them had just been thrown away as children, never had fathers, things like that. So, he became a teacher and a mentor and helped guys in the outside world get a foothold and are now very successful today.

Anne Holsinger 21:47

During your time working in the prison, you worked both with prisoners who were sentenced to death and prisoners who were not.

Karen Gendney 21:53


Anne Holsinger 21:54

Did you notice any difference between the two groups? Were the people who were sentenced to death truly the worst of the worst and did you see them as posing a greater danger in the prison setting than other prisoners?

Karen Gendney 22:06

What I see in any group of people is a spectrum. There were death row guys who had done something horrible or violent or stupid when they were younger and then I was meeting them for medical problems when they were 40 and 50 and they interacted with me. And you know, with death row, you’ve got two officers at a minimum with them, right, but they always acted professionally and appropriate to me. So those I did not notice. Now you had, I had some death row inmates who, let’s just say they had truly broken somewhere, you know, before or after I saw them. As an example, I had one death row guy in the early days from Ely, where he had HIV, he had AIDS and he’s on death row, Black guy, and he lashed out by doing things like trying to steal paper clips, or anything that was sharp, and then getting his blood all in it, and then shooting — like trying to poke staff with blood, HIV stuff, you see what I mean? Right? Well, then you see people like that, but I don’t know how much was AIDS because AIDS can be dementia, how much was anger, but he was considered highly dangerous, you know, to staff for that reason. And then I also saw men who, and I don’t know when this occurred, and I’ve only seen it really in two guys. And these two guys were serial killer type guys, like one was famous Gallegos, for example. And they were shipped to me when they were dying of basically cancer, and they were shipped to me. And I will say that I have never seen guys where you would look into their eyes, and you would think you were looking into like a dead shark’s eyes. Like whatever human connection there was, wasn’t there anymore. There were only two where I saw that, and both of them died from their metastatic cancer. In fact, one guy was, his name was Newt Schaffer. He was supposed to be executed in a couple of months, in four months or something, when they shipped him to me, and he had been up in the Ely State Prison and he wouldn’t walk and he would, he told them “I can’t move my legs.” And then they felt he was faking. Well, by the time they shipped him to me, and I examined him, he had metastatic lung cancer that metastasized to the spine, had collapsed the spine. His bladder was, you know, huge because he couldn’t pee either. I mean, it was just unbelievably huge. And then I’m in this position as a doctor, wow. Okay. He’s supposed to be executed in four months, he supposedly ran out of appeals and things, and then he’s got metastatic cancer. And there were some people who wanted me to keep him alive, so he could be executed. You see what I mean? Right. And then my position was to tell him his options, as a doctor. Look, I can keep you comfortable in basically a hospice and you truly have — this is back, you know, the early ’90s where metastatic lung cancer to the spine was 100% fatal, you’re not going to come back. And, I said, if we go through finding out the type of cancer and radiation and chemo, you could live a little longer, or you could live a little shorter, but it’s going to ultimately be the same, so he died. And when he died, people were angry at me, you know, for not prolonging it, so he could get executed in all those types of things with the death penalty, really, they affected me like, wow, is revenge that strong that dying from a miserable cancer and being dead, is dead? You see what I mean? It’s just, I didn’t quite get it as a doctor, as a person at all, that revenge piece.

Anne Holsinger 26:33

That’s actually an interesting segue, I wanted to ask you about the issue of medical ethics, which have played a big role in the death penalty in the last decade, especially as major pharmaceutical companies and medical associations have refused to participate in executions. In 1989, you were asked to write the prescription for drugs to be used in a lethal injection. Can you tell me a little bit about that experience and about how you made the decision that you did?

Karen Gendney 26:57

Yeah, it was only my second year and I was called up out of the blue and I was told, oh, you’re going to execute William Thompson and you got to write these drugs, here are the drugs. They were sodium pentathol, rocuronium, and potassium chloride, in those days. And I was like, that’s not my role as a doctor to write drugs to kill someone. And they said, “oh, it’s your job.” Right? And I was like - so I told them no, they did not like that and then they tried to pressure me to write the drugs, but you can’t force my hand to do something like that. And also, to me, I was put there by the federal government, to give constitutional health care, not to be part of executions. And they had to find someone in the outside world, they paid a doctor in the outside world, 500 bucks to write the drugs. Now, here’s what’s wild, Anne, is that, you know, I refuse to do this, they end up executing him. And then about two weeks later, I get this manila envelope with like, six pages of yellow legal paper. And it’s a letter that Thompson wrote two days before his execution. Now, this guy did actually not know me, okay, now he may have heard about me and it wasn’t directed to me, it was directed to who would carry on his message sort of deal. To this day, I don’t know who sent it to me, I assume it was maybe the chaplain, or maybe the inmate said, “hey, send this to the doctor.” I don’t know how I ended up getting it. But in my book, I put down some of the things he said, and when I read it, I was sort of really surprised, because I thought maybe it was going to be one of these either “poor me” or something, but it was basically six pages, telling children to literally obey their parents and their teachers and go the right path. And that police aren’t bad, they’re there to help you, and it was like, this is so different than I would have expected, but also he ended up by saying that he had, you know, found Jesus and God and that he felt that he had the remorse and the redemption and that he was okay with dying. And as I understand it, he was one of those guys who came in with something and then because of the violence in those days, he killed somebody who was trying to molest him. You know one of those types of things right?

Anne Holsinger 30:03

In the past 40 years, all but one of the Nevada prisoners who were executed waived their appeals and either acquiesced to or attempted to force their executions, and most recently, Scott Dozier, attempted to force Nevada to execute him, but then committed suicide when the courts stopped the execution. No other state has such a large proportion of prisoners who have given up their rights and asked to be executed. What do you think has caused so many Nevada death row prisoners to use the death penalty to essentially commit state assisted suicide?

Karen Gendney 30:36

Well, I think there are different ways you can look at that. One possible assumption is that those individuals actually did the crime versus possibly in some other states, if you have someone who didn’t do the crime, I would certainly expect that type of person to fight it with everything he’s got. But the other thing that I think that happens is, guys will look at death, preferential to living a life without parole, if they are 100% hopeless and 100%. miserable. And then it is not worth it to them anymore to prolong it. Now, I knew about Scott Dozier. His real reason for waving it was based on the fact that he’s out there in Ely, in boonie land, and which is where in the early ’90s, a lot of those guys ended up. Now, that is away from all the major cities in Nevada, so family members to visit, it is incredibly arduous for them to visit. And it may — and I know for Dozier as an example - he was very clear, where he did not want to put his family through it. Now that might be different, if you are sitting in a place where family can access you in a reasonable fashion. You see what I mean? So I think all those things may play into it.

Anne Holsinger 32:14

During your career, Nevada carried out 12 executions. And as you talked about before, you didn’t participate in those executions and refused to write the prescriptions, but did you see the effects of executions in the prisoners and in your colleagues?

Karen Gendney 32:29

I sat on a medium security yard, so they were not as affected as a maximum security yard up in Ely, which was like 600 miles away from where we were in Carson City. So for the prisoners, they did not, my guys did not say that much. Now, this is interesting — when I was pushing, you know, to have a voice to be against the death penalty recently, we were given these abolish the death penalty postcards, and you’re supposed to give them out to people who you know. So I gave them out to my friends, but I knew an ex-felon who it was in the outside world who had a lot of contacts with other ex-felons. And I said, “hey, would you consider giving these to your guys, you know, your buddy, right? Here, I put the stamp on it, the address just write, why you’re against the death penalty.” And he looked at me and he said, “you know, Karen, we’re not all against the death penalty.” That shocked me, right? But then I thought about it and in the prison, the way the men look at certain things, they have their own hierarchy, as you know who’s on top, who’s on the bottom and so if someone was a serial killer of like young children or something like that, that is like, or abused, like sexually abused them and then killed them, that sort of thing — that person in a prison culture in an inmates mind is so low on the bottom. And then also, a lot of the inmates are what I call “literal thinkers”: it’s this way, or it’s that way, and I find that when you talk with people about the death penalty, people who have a flexible mindset, I mean, open to new information. When they hear what really goes on in terms of the death penalty, in terms of how inequity you see with racism and being poor and everything, a lot of them will go, “God I thought it was okay. But man, I know that really sounds like we shouldn’t be doing it.” But if you have a very concrete, fixed mindset, you don’t want new information, and they just lock in and that was sort of interesting for me. Now with staff, that was different because I knew the chaplain very well because he worked out at my gym every morning, and I saw him every morning, and I would talk to him. And he would tell me about the execution because he felt he should be there, you know? Right. And he would tell me about how staff were affected by it and also where sometimes you would have staff who had a ghoulish sense of curiosity and wanted to watch it, and then afterwards threw up and stuff like that. You know, so he would tell me these stories. Yeah. And he told me, this chaplain had started in the ’70s and Nevada, Nevada is unique. I mean, it was the first state that had the gas chamber and Jesse Bishop was the last guy in the gas chamber and the chaplain was there and he said, after the guy died, an officer had to go in and stab him through the chest a couple of times to let out the cyanide, you know, so when you pick up the [uncelar], and he said, the last officer got affected so much by doing that, that he quit. You know, so a lot of people don’t realize it does take a toll on staff.

Anne Holsinger 36:31

Since you retired, you have been an advocate for abolition of the death penalty in Nevada. Why do you believe that Nevada’s death penalty should be abolished? And how did your experiences as a prison doctor contribute to that conclusion?

Karen Gendney 36:44

When I left the prison, I knew that I wanted to be a voice for holistic prison reform, right? Prevention, healing on the inside, and support when they leave and when I look at a holistic approach, to me, it’s looking at what are we doing and does it makes sense? And I look at it really almost from a pragmatic, compassionate science approach. And that is to me, why are we doing this? Is it to deter crime, like deter this from ever happening? And for me, that’s the biggest no, that does not deter these heinous acts, or deter these violent emotional acts, because it’s emotion, it’s not logic, so that does not deter these people. And then, when we do get rid of the death penalty, you know, in terms of like, studies and research, if states get rid of it, and other countries get rid of that, does violence go up? And the answer is no. Okay. Then when I look at who ends up on death penalty, it is not going to be the rich white guy with a lot of judge-friends, if you know what I mean, it just does not happen. But if you’re poor, you’re uneducated, you mentally can’t defend yourself, you’re a minority, you are at high risk, and then on top of it, if you look in the country, and you realize that it really has to do with the leadership, and if you have these prosecuting attorneys, who just want notches in their belt, you will see in certain counties, it’s incredibly disproportionate. When I was getting sort of that research, there was a study by Harvard in 2016, where they looked at Clark County, which is Vegas in Nevada, specifically. And then they looked at who got on and who was charged, but they found supposedly 47%, like literally half, had severe prosecutorial misconduct. And can I share one story because I saw it written, you know, in your Death Penalty Information Center site, and it had to do with Ronnie Millman. So imagine, this guy had done 20 years in prison and had been on death row, and then the judge let him out. Okay. And he wasn’t given an award or anything, we just let them out. Now and imagine this, I write my book “30 Years Behind Bars.,” and yes, there’s a chapter about to execute or not execute, you know, just to see it through my eyes, and I get a call from Kristen Sexton who is the religious teacher at one of those Catholic schools in Reno. Bishopville, actually, High School, and she calls me up and she says, Oh, God, I would love to talk to you. She shares with me that when she was in eighth grade in religious school, the priest had the kids write a letter to a death row inmate — that was Ronnie. Okay. And so here she writes, you know, and he writes back and this goes on for a year in eighth grade and then because obviously, one she said she liked to write, but two said she just felt he wasn’t guilty, so she continues to write to him back and forth like pen pals, you know, with her mother, looking at everything. And then she says, “man, mom, I think this is all wrong. Something’s very wrong. He did not do this.” Now, her mother and her petitioned the Governor to have a judge look at the case. This is a wild, only in Nevada do these things happen. So the judge, she said, the first judge was like sleeping through the whole trial. And there was new information, you know, there was things presented, and she and the mother going, “Oh, my God, he’s not listening.” So they petitioned the Governor again, he gives a different judge. This judge actually looks at everything and realizes that the prosecutor had hid: number one, the testimony of a guy who was on the inside who says, “You know, I did this,” two, a cooperating other person who goes, “yeah, the guy. We picked him up in the car. He was drunk. He had a blackout drunk. We pinned it on him.” So he had a blackout. So he, you know, he, in his mind, he wasn’t quite sure. Right. And so when the judge, the guy had already done 20 years, and the judge — according to the woman who’s telling me the story — said, “Look, I have to protect the state of Nevada, you’ve already done 20 years, I can let you go today. But if this goes again, to trial, it could be years.” They let him out that day. So when you had the three guys who were either innocent or let out, your organization had that name, and I’m looking at that name going, Oh, my God, I know the backstory, from this lady who was was telling me that and she asked me to come into her religious class to teach, like, I had to teach, like, five of her classes, you know, like a guest speaker, all in one day too. She said, “Karen, in the religious school, we talk about it, but not necessarily do we do it.” You see what I’m — right. So like she had done it when she was young. You know, her push and she told me that when he got out, he had been in there near 20 years, he didn’t have any family or anything, she and that priest person who got her into this, they picked him up, and they found him a place to stay and she was working for one of the casinos downtown and got him a job as a janitor and then she told me, “Karen, do you know he shows up two hours early to work every single day because he’s afraid of going back into prison for any mess up?” Yeah, yeah. So I hear the other stuff too. Right. Yeah.

Anne Holsinger 43:24

Well, thank you so much for taking the time to speak with us. Is there anything else you’d like to add?

Karen Gendney 43:28

No, I just think that your Center is doing incredible work in terms of how professional and how well researched it is and and I must say I didn’t even know about it until I got involved with the Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty. Because I have my finger in different little pots because I am more of a holistic type of thinker and, and I want to affect people and that’s why I wrote the book because I think stories because the stories have a full gamut. If it can make people interested and aware, then it can help motivate them possibly to actually do something to change it.

Anne Holsinger 44:16

Well, we’re really grateful for you to take the time and speak with us today. And for our listeners, if you’d like to learn more about the death penalty, please visit And to make sure you never miss an episode of Discussions with DPIC, subscribe in your podcast app of choice.