Executionary Inconvenience

Death by firing squad … came to be regarded as too bloody and uncontrolled … Hanging came to be regarded as still more inhumane. Under the best of circumstances, the cervical spine is broken at C2, the diaphragm is paralyzed, and the prisoner suffocates to death, a minutes-long process. Gas chambers proved no better: asphyxiation from cyanide gas, which prevents cells from using oxygen by inactivating cytochrome oxidase, took even longer than death by hanging, and the public revolted at the vision of suffocating prisoners fighting for air and then seizing as the hypoxia worsened. In Arizona, in 1992, for example, the asphyxiation of triple murderer Donald Harding took 11 minutes, and the sight was so horrifying that reporters began crying, the attorney general vomited, and the prison warden announced he would resign if forced to conduct another such execution. Since 1976, only 2 prisoners have been executed by firing squad, 3 by hanging, and 12 by gas chamber. Electrocution, thought to cause a swifter, more acceptable death, was used in 74 of the first 100 executions after Gregg. But officials found that the electrical flow frequently arced, cooking flesh and sometimes igniting prisoners — postmortem examinations frequently had to be delayed for the bodies to cool — and yet some prisoners still required repeated jolts before they died. In Alabama, in 1979, for example, John Louis Evans III was still alive after two cycles of 2600 V; the warden called Governor George Wallace, who told him to keep going, and only after a third cycle, with witnesses screaming in the gallery, and almost 20 minutes of suffering did Evans finally die.

1 Response

  1. mike says:

    Lethal injection is slow death by suffocation and more about letting the executioners feel better about themselves. If you are going to kill someone this way be honest about it and do it by holding a pladtic bag over their head or smothering tem with a pillow. That is an honest murder.

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