The butterflies in his stomach were playing ping-pong with the steak he had eaten a few hours before. He’d asked for it to be medium-rare, which it probably had been about twenty minutes before the cook took it off the grill. The baked potato was tolerable, but the salad was a disaster. A Coke is always a Coke though, and since he had the chance to pick the last thing he’d ever taste, he figured that would be a good one to end on.
Oscar met with his wife earlier in the day. They sat and talked for a few hours. They talked about the afterlife, what is on the other side, how Rosalie was holding up under the pressure, and so on. It was just like every other visit he’d had with her – upbeat, hopeful, positive. They always laughed far more than they cried during each visit of Oscar’s sixty-seven days on death watch. The time went by too quickly though, three hours passing like three minutes. They stood and faced each other when time was up and embraced. The rules said they could only have a short hug, but they kissed and held each other for a short eternity.
“I will see you tomorrow,” Rosalie told him as their final meeting ended. She was strong, much stronger than he, and left fully composed, even as the wardens and the Death Watch Commander wept. Oscar always admired her for her strength, as she had the much harder job. His part would be over in a few hours, but hers would go on for years.
When Oscar thought she was out of earshot he told the warden, “There goes the best human being I have ever known.”
The guards came for him at 9:30 P.M. “Oscar, it’s time,” the guard said in an uncharacteristically gentle voice. One guard opened the door and let in two more with cuffs and shackles. This is it, Oscar thought. This is really happening. The guards and he had done a dry run a week before, but Oscar knew he’d be coming back to his cell afterwards. No such luck this time.
The guards escorted him out of his cell and walked next to him as he shuffled down the hallway to a metal door that opened from the inside as he approached. The room in which he entered was made of cinder block like the rest of the prison and had one-way glass windows all the way around it. In the middle was a gurney with four thick leather straps stretching perpendicularly from one side to the other, and a fifth stretching from the upper left corner to about halfway down the right side. At the bottom there were two loops, and, on planks extending from each side of the bed were two more loops, one on each plank.
Oscar was led to the gurney and laid down upon it. He noticed it was more comfortable than the bed in his cell as the guards strapped him down. Above him were two banks of fluorescent lights in the hung ceiling. Next to them were two cameras in clear plastic hemispheres and a microphone. It was quiet there in the room. He could tell that there was activity in the room around him, but it was quiet enough that he could hear the buzz of the lights above him.
Oscar felt very relaxed, considering the situation in which he found himself. He felt at peace, confident in his faith in God, a faith he cultivated during his twenty-nine years on death row. He knew he was in the right, and the people he loved, the only people that mattered, knew, too. That’s as much as any man could hope for. My conscience is clear, he thought. Florida’s just killing me.
A nurse cleaned the inside of his left arm with an alcohol pad. He felt a slight pinch as the needle entered the vein.
“Mr. Bolin, do you have any last words?” asked the attendant.
“No, sir,” he heard himself say.
The hum of the lights above him was still audible. It was strange, he thought, the last thing he would ever hear is a fluorescent light.
Bjorn Brunvand, who had worked tirelessly on his appeals, sat in the gallery. Oscar couldn’t see him through the one-way glass, but he knew Bjorn was there. As the nurse injected midazolam hydrochloride into his IV, Oscar turned his head to the side facing the window, looked where he thought Bjorn would be, and mouthed the words thank you.
He began to feel warm. A wave of relaxation washed over his body. Sleepy. Very, very sleepy. The last thought he had is how nice it felt to be this relaxed.
Witnesses in the gallery on the other side of the one-way glass watched his chest rhythmically rise and fall, rise and fall, rise and fall, then, after falling, it didn’t rise again.
A doctor entered the room and checked Oscar’s pulse. Finding none, he looked at his watch. It was 10:16 P.M. on January 7, 2016, and there, at Florida State Prison’s death chamber, Oscar Ray Bolin lay dead, a man killed for a crime he didn’t commit.