The Story

Huntsville, Texas is a small sleepy town, like many others throughout the United States. However, something is different about this place. One notices that there are large, imposing and powerful brick walls. They are called «The Walls Unit» and surround the central state prison, a machine to kill people.

James Colburn was executed on March 26, 2003 by lethal injection. He had killed the 55 year old Peggy Murphy in 1994 after she had rejected his sexual advances. Already at a young age, James Colburn was diagnosed a paranoid schizophrenic. His family subsequently arranged to have him accepted into a psychiatric hospital. The authorities, however, refused any help and the family did not have the financial means to pay the treatment.

At court, the jury had the choice of death sentence or life imprisonment. When handing down the sentence and deciding for death penalty Colburn’s psychiatric condition was not taken into account. The simple meaning of such justice is «an eye for an eye».

Tina loved her brother all her life. She shouted in the death chamber auditorium through the glass window «I love you James» while the lethal poison was running into his veins.

The project

Committed to sustainable journalism, I would like to visit Tina ten years after her brother’s execution. The planned audio-slide-show builds on the events that took place ten years ago. The photo reportage – awarded with the «Magazin Fotopeis» in 2004 – will be complemented with new videos, interviews and pictures.

The audio-slide-show can, among other things, be used as an education module for human rights formation. We recognize that it is difficult to differentiate between good and bad: There are victims and perpetrators – but also the prepetrator can become a victim, and vice versa.

In a first step, the research in Texas shall be funded: trip, accommodation, car and meals. For that, I need your support.

The second step takes place in Lucerne at the editing site: A multimedia-based documentation will be realized that can be watched worldwide thanks to internet.


Thanks to Tina, who opened some doors to her life in 2003, I could photograph and therewith document the dreadful story of Tina’s life during the week of her brother’s execution. She had opened the door to her little house in Conroe, the door to the funeral home in Huntsville after the execution and also the door to her life and heart.

In photojournalism, one always depends on people who would open their doors. But for me, the most important thing is to treat Tina with dignity and to pay respect to her and her story. I want to make sure that Tina is not treated with hostility on the account of speaking up. After putting the «Diary of an execution» on facebook, Tina received many negative and hateful comments mostly from redneck Texans. 

As for myself, I depend on the bits and pieces Tina wants to share from her and her husband’s life, without getting herself into troubles.

Tina has assured me of her family’s full support.