This man watched 400 people die
FOR 34 years, Michael Graczyk has made a living watching people die.
The veteran Associated Press journalist was assigned to his first execution in March 1984, and since then, he's lost count of just how many deaths he has witnessed.
But he estimates the total to be well over 400 - which means he's seen more death row inmates die than anyone else in the country.
But while that number may seem staggering, it's less surprising when you realise Graczyk hails from Texas - the US state with the highest and most notorious execution record.
Since America brought back the death penalty in 1976, 1479 people have been put to death.
Of that total, 553 came from Texas, meaning that state is responsible for 37 per cent of the nation's execution total.
That number is almost five times higher than the runner-up, Virginia, which executed 113 people in the same period, according to the Death Penalty Information Centre statistics.
In fact, Texas has executed eight people this year alone, far more than any other state.
But in a recent interview with the Washington Post ahead of his retirement, Graczyk was matter-of-fact about his grim job description.
"I understand there's a certain curiosity that a lot of people have about that," the 68-year-old told the publication.
"It certainly comes up in conversations with people who want to know, 'Wow, what's that like?' It's not something I generally bring up."
Graczyk can still remember the first execution he saw clearly.
It was 34 years ago, when James David "Cowboy" Autry, 29, was given the lethal injection after being convicted of murdering convenience store clerk and mother-of-five Shirley Drouet.
In the story he filed about Autry's death, the reporter described the man's last meal - a burger, chips and soft drink - as well as how the man had tried to have his death aired on TV.
He also remembers Autry's female penpal, who was also present, crying over his "pretty brown eyes".
But plenty of other deaths are also seared into the journalist's memory - including that of double murderer Jonathan Nobles, who sang the Christmas carol Silent Night while he was put to death in 1998.
"I am reminded of that every Christmas when I'm in church and the hymn is being sung," Graczyk said.
"People are celebrating the joy of the season, and I'm thinking of Jonathan Nobles."
Graczyk told the Washington Post that apart from when an execution was bungled, public interest had dropped in recent years - and so had the number of people killed by the state, both in Texas and across the States.
But he said it was still essential that journalists report on prisoners' deaths.
"It's important that someone who has no stake in the case, either the outcome or what happened, to be there," he said.
"If the state's going to take a life … then it ought to be done properly, according to the rules of law."
While Graczyk is now officially retired from his unusual job, he still plans to freelance for AP and will be present to report on the next execution scheduled in Texas.
On September 12, Ruben Gutierrez is due to be killed over the murder of an 85-year-old woman.
Graczyk said he'll be present, because "it's something I know how to do".