AP reporter witnesses third execution

Local News

SIOUX FALLS, SD (KELO) — One of the people who witnessed Charles Rhines’ death by lethal injection is no stranger to the penitentiary. This was the third execution Associated Press correspondent Dave Kolpack has seen first-hand

Dave Kolpack was a witness to the executions of both Eric Robert and Rodney Berget, the two death row inmates who killed South Dakota correctional officer R.J. Johnson. Now Charles Rhines becomes Kolpack’s third execution.

“The first one was probably the most trying, I guess because of the unknown factor. I wasn’t sure what to expect. It’s a lot of hurry up and wait, I’ve realized that,” Kolpack said.

So the long wait for the Rhines execution came as no surprise to Kolpack.

“It’s both anxious, but educational. The last time I was up in a waiting room with three retired prison guards who were also witnesses and we can’t have any cell phones or electronic devices up their so guess what? We have to talk to each other,” Kolpack said.

Kolpack says he’s too focused on the details of the execution to think too much about about the fact that he’s seeing someone die right before his eyes.

“The actual execution itself, it’s almost a blur to you. You’re so busy gathering details that the actual ending of it, you know you almost compartmentalize it,” Kolpack said.

Kolpack says he strives to be objective in presenting the facts of an execution, a task that can be difficult with the victims’ family members present. But he says he looks beyond the emotion of the moment in order for him to do his job.

Kolpeck said that of all the executions he’s witnessed, Rhines’ death was one of the quickest and most uneventful of the three.

Kolpeck is based out of Fargo, North Dakota. He says the Associated Press had discussed sending another reporter to see Rhines’ execution, but decided against it, to avoid the possibility of traumatizing the reporter.

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