LOUISIANA: Black Is the Color . . .

"I reckon dyin' is black. Some folks say it's gold. Some say it's white as hominy grits . . . I reckon it's black."

Willie Francis ought to know what color death is. The skinny, slope-headed, 17-year-old Louisiana Negro saw and tasted death on May 3 as he sat and waited for it, strapped in Louisiana's portable electric chair. It tasted "like cold peanut butter," and took on "little blue and pink and green speckles, like shines in a rooster's tail" when the executioner whispered: "Goodbye, Willie."

But the executioner was crowding fate. For the first time in 24 tries, the...

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