In his long firefighting career, James Castetter witnessed many people take their last breath after some traumatic event like a car wreck or shooting.
On Tuesday night, he watched another man die under far different circumstances.
Castetter came from his Florida home to Missouri to see Cecil Clayton executed for the November 1996 killing of his brother, Christopher Castetter, a deputy sheriff in Barry County, Mo.
“I’m asking you to please let people know Cecil did not suffer,” James Castetter said Wednesday. “Cecil Clayton, unlike my brother, died humanely and comfortable, a way he did not deserve.”
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James Castetter takes exception to some news reports that mentioned that Clayton breathed heavily when the lethal injection process began.
“Being in the fire service/medical field since 1987, I know the difference between normal and abnormal breathing,” Castetter said.
At 74, Clayton was the oldest man on Missouri’s death row. His attorneys argued up to the end that he was not competent to be executed because an industrial accident damaged his brain in 1972.
Ultimately, the U.S. Supreme Court voted 5-4 Tuesday night to deny Clayton’s last request to stay the execution.
For James Castetter, the arguments about Clayton’s mental state — both at the time of his brother’s death and on Tuesday — never were convincing.
According to trial testimony, after shooting Castetter, Clayton told a friend what he had done and attempted to set up an alibi.
“He knew what he was doing,” James Castetter said.
And whatever Clayton’s understanding was of his impending fate, his final statement Tuesday showed some level of comprehension: “They brought me up here to execute me.”
James Castetter said having the execution over after so many years of wondering was a “big relief.”
“The state of Missouri did not kill an innocent man,” he said. “Cecil Clayton’s actions are what put him to death.”