Facts and Issues 

    Earlier this year, Texas executed its 500th inmate since the death penalty was reinstated in 1976. The Walls Unit in Huntsville houses Texas' death chamber.

    State-sanctioned killing is a divisive issue for many reasons, not the least of which is an imperfect justice system. At the latest count, 1,369 people have been executed in the U.S. since 1976 and 144 people on death row have been exonerated, according to the Death Penalty Information Center.

Season 1: Edward Lee Elmore 

    orig death row stories 3_00003213.jpg

    Three weeks before his execution date, Edward Lee Elmore asks his attorney a heartbreaking question.
    Diana Holt

    Edward Lee Elmore would probably still be on death row if not for Diana Holt. When Holt met Elmore, she was a legal intern. From the very beginning she suspected something was wrong because Elmore seemed "so docile and gentle."

Season 1: Timothy Hennis 

    cnn death row stories hennis promo_00000412.jpg

    First, jurors ruled him guilty. Then he was declared innocent. Later, another court's verdict was guilty. The remarkable story of Timothy Hennis and the stabbing deaths of a mother and two small girls is full of shocking legal twists and turns. Experts call it a one-of-kind murder mystery that has yet to be fully solved.
    orig death row stories ep 7 clip 1_00001527.jpg

    While on death row, Timothy Hennis received an anonymous letter confessing to the murders. The note didn't produce any leads

Season 1: Kris Maharaj 

    Kris Maharaj

    A wealthy businessman claims he was framed for a double assassination that was allegedly ordered by Colombian drug lord Pablo Escobar.
    maharaj death row stories

    Maharaj passed a lie detector test and had numerous alibi witnesses. But despite contrary evidence, he was convicted of murder.

Season 1: Gloria Killian 

    When police questioned an unwitting Gloria Killian after a brutal murder, she used a poor choice of words.

    Joyce Ride -- mother of the late astronaut Sally Ride -- financed a private investigation and legal battle that eventually freed Gloria Killian, who was serving 32 years to life. "I was willing to be stubborn and do what it takes," Ride says.
    orig death row stories ep 2 p2 Locked up and nobody cared_00004226.jpg

    Well into her 32-years-to-life murder sentence, Gloria Killian met a friend on the outside who was willing to listen.

Season 1: James Duckett 

    orig death row stories ep 4 clip 2 going to death row_00002803.jpg

    "We have an innocent guy here. This is crazy." James Duckett's appellate attorney Beth Wells says. Never imprisoned before, Duckett describes what he felt during his first moments as a convicted killer on death row.

Season 1: John Thompson 

    orig death row stories ep 5 clip 2_00001417.jpg

    John Thompson describes what he felt after Louisiana set his official execution date.
    orig death row stories ep 5 clip 3_00001129.jpg

    Ex-death row inmate John Thompson now fights for the rights of fellow exonerees. "Men come home and the system has nothing in place to help them put their lives back together," he says.
    orig death row stories ep 5 clip 1_00002307.jpg

    A first-time meeting between death row inmate John Thompson and his appellate lawyers yields mutual skepticism.

Season 1: Joe D'Ambrosio 

    Joe D'Ambrosio was wrongly convicted and sentenced to death in the killing of 19-year-old Anthony Klann. Later, D'Ambrosio learned that prosecutors hadn't shared key facts with his lawyers during his trial. The case led to laws that force prosecutors to share much more information with defense attorneys.
    orig death row stories ep3 p2_00003605.jpg

    Although his conviction was overturned, prosecutors tried to keep an ex-death row inmate locked up before his new trial.

Season 1: Nathan Dunlap 

    FILE - In this Wednesday, May 1, 2013 file photo, Nathan Dunlap, 38, appears for a hearing at Arapahoe County Court in Centennial, Colo. Attorneys are deciding their next step in three potentially significant court cases involving the convicted killer. Dunlap's lawyers were pressing the legal challenges when Gov. John Hickenlooper granted Dunlap a temporary reprieve on May 22, 2013. If they're successful, the challenges could force the Legislature to rewrite state death penalty laws and require the Department of Corrections to go public with details of its execution methods. (AP Photo/The Denver Post, Helen H. Richardson, Pool)

    Convicted killer Nathan Dunlap's execution is on hold because Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper signed a "temporary reprieve" in 2013. That's painful for many of the loved ones of the four restaurant workers Dunlap shot to death.


    With Susan Sarandon and Ray Bourgeois at the School of the Americas protest, 2005

    Sister Helen Prejean, right, who gained fame as a death penalty abolitionist after 1995's "Dead Man Walking," starring Susan Sarandon, left, isn't always concerned with a convicted murderer's guilt or innocence. It's easy to forgive the innocent. It's the guilty, she says, who test our morality.
    393846 05: A view of the death chamber from the witness room at the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility shows an electric chair and gurney August 29, 2001 in Lucasville, Ohio. The state of Ohio is one of the few states that still uses the electric chair, and it gives death row inmates a choice between death by the electric chair or by lethal injection. John W. Byrd, who will be executed on September 12, 2001, has stated that he will choose the electric chair. (Photo by Mike Simons/Getty Images)

    "Mass murderers, terrorists, sadistic serial killers, contract killers or other paid assassins deserve to die," writes law professor and author Robert Blecker. "The firing squad seems to me the best of traditional methods..."