PROCEDURE 769, The Witnesses to an Execution

Co-presented by Death Penalty Focus

The topic is anything but viewer-friendly, yet the pic is never less than fascinating, mainly thanks to a series of often astonishing interviews with the people who saw Harris die that April morning in San Quentin. – Brendan Kelly – VARIETY

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I mouthed “I love you” – Randall Harris, brother of Robert Harris

Following the screening, stay for an important discussion featuring filmmaker Jaap van Hoewijk, former warden of the San Quentin State Prison Daniel Vasquez (who presided over the execution), attorney for the condemned Robert Alton Harris, Michael Laurence, and Harris’ friend for a decade, Michael Kroll.

Part of the proceeds to benefit Death Penalty Focus.


“He struggled a little bit, but not enough for me, unfortunately.” -VIP witness

On April 21, 1992, Robert Alton Harris, who had been convicted for killing two 16-year-old boys, was put to death in the gas chamber of San Quentin State Prison in California. Twenty-five years had passed since a death sentence in California had been carried out by this method, technically known as Procedure 769. Forty-nine witnesses watched the execution from behind a window. What drove these people to attend an event of this kind and how did they deal with the experience? Eleven of the witnesses, both friends and enemies of the convict, give their account. Among them are Harris’s brother Randall and his cousin and confidant Leon, but also the parents and a sister of the victims. They all give a meticulous description of the events on that early morning in April 1992, but as the film progresses it becomes clear that they have all seen something different, depending on their relationship to the killer. This makes the film a disconcerting study of the functioning of human observation and memory.

Silver Spire Award San Francisco International Film Festival in 1996


Directed by Jaap van Hoewijk, The Netherlands, 1995, 85 minutes, Digital.


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PROCEDURE 769, The Witnesses to an Execution: Upcoming Showtimes