Victim Advocates Now Welcome At Executions

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It seems like Houston’s crime victim advocate Andy Kahan got his wish … kind of.

Last week, Kahan was frustrated that despite the desires of his friend, Randy Ertman, he was not allowed to stand by Ertman during the execution of Jose Medellin, convicted of raping and strangling Ertman’s daughter.

At the time, the Texas Department of Criminal Justice would not allow him to witness the state-killing because Kahan was a "victim advocate."

That policy, however, is no more.

Mark Odom, who took the position of interim director of victims services for TDCJ last month, has said that victim advocates can witness executions so long as the victim’s family and TDCJ’s director sign off, says prison spokesman Jason Clark.

“Previously,” says Clark, “there wasn’t a written policy.” But, “when looking at [the issue], there wasn’t a good reason why the victim advocate should be excluded.”

Kahan was struck with the irony that he was barred from being with his friend at the execution when it was Kahan who was instrumental in getting TDCJ to change its policy more than 10 years ago to allow victims’ families to witness executions in the first place.

Kahan says it’s not like he’s craving to see an execution.

“Wanting to go is not the correct word,” he says, “but when a family asks you, that’s a pretty big honor and privilege. If a family wants you there at this pivotal moment in their lives, you betcha I’m going.”

-- Chris Vogel

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