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Victim's Advocate Won't be Witnessing Execution

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Another of the six men who raped and killed Randy Ertman's daughter is scheduled to be executed soon.

And once again Andy Kahan won't be allowed to see it.

Kahan, the Crime Victim Advocate for the City of Houston, says he should be allowed to stand by the side of his friend Randy Ertman during the execution of Jose Medellin, convicted of raping and strangling Ertman’s daughter.

However, despite Ertman’s wishes to have Kahan present, the Texas Department of Criminal Justice will not allow it.

According to prison spokeswoman Michelle Lyons, TDCJ policy is not to allow victim advocates to witness executions.

Why? “Because," Lyons said, "it’s reserved for family and close friends of the family, and that a victims advocate is just that -- working as an outside entity on behalf of the victim -- but that it is reserved for the family.”

Kahan says he is a close friend of the family.

In 2006, when Derrick O’Brien was scheduled for execution, Ertman asked Kahan to witness the state-sponsored killing.

“I was profoundly touched and honored that the Ertmans would want me to be present at this extreme pivotal moment in their lives,” says Kahan. “I just find it ironic that of all categories of people to exclude, you exclude the victims advocates who are closer with these families than any entity. To find out that I was excluded for reasons that are still bewildering to me; it’s just puzzling.”

Kahan says he recently reviewed TDCJ’s policy outlining who is allowed to witness an execution.

“It says it allows close friends of the deceased or surviving relatives, law enforcement official and prosecutors previously involved in the case. So I hit two of those categories. [But TDCJ] said, ‘well, you’re still a victim advocate.’”

(Kahan is a Houston Police Department employee.)

Kahan 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.

“So dignified personalities such as Susan Sarandon, Rev. Al Sharpton, Rev. Jesse Jackson and Bianca Jagger were allowed but not the person who pursued the rights for victims families to be present,” says Kahan. “Unreal.”

Based on the precedent set with the O’Brien execution, Kahan says the Ertman family did not even ask if Kahn could attend the Medellin execution.

However, “[The family] would like me to be present at one of the executions,” says Kahan.

-- Chris Vogel

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