In 1946 Louisiana teenager Willie Francis survived his first electrocution only to be put to death a year later. The last electrocution was in Virginia in 2013 when Robert Gleason Jr. was pronounced dead after two 90 second cycles of 1,800 volt current. In 2007 Daryl Holden was pronounced dead in Tennessee after two twenty second jolts with 15 seconds in between. But there have been a string a botched executions that have lasted far longer. In Indiana in 1985 it took 17 minutes and five cycles of current to kill William Vandiver. There are other problems with the electric chair. If the equipment is not properly attached to the inmate it could also lead to smoking, extreme bleeding from the extremities, and inmates have even caught on fire. Florida moved away from the electric chair after it had several problematic electrocutions in a row. Electrocution is generally considered an inhumane form of execution because of these errors and because of potentially how graphic the death can be for witnesses to view. Although most states have moved away from the use of the electric chair only two states, Nebraska and Georgia, have outright outlawed the electric chair. There are more botched or problematic executions with the electric chair than any other form of execution. One of the most notoriously botched executions is the one of Alan Lee Davis in Florida in 1999. Davis’ execution drew nationwide media attention after he bled profusely from the nose well being electrocuted.
The United States moved away in the electric chair because it was starting to be considered inhumane. Most states moved towards the lethal injection. And every state has the death penalty now has lethal injection as the punishment. the film will explain how lethal injection works. It is not a foolproof method. Doctors and other medical personnel are not involved in the legal execution process because it would violate the Hippocratic to do no harm. Because of this there are often errors inserting the tubes, or knowing how much of the chemical to dose an inmate. Lethal injections vary widely due to the chemicals used.
Most states still rely on the three drug lethal injection protocol in which the drugs are given intravenously and are designed to first induce unconsciousness, then paralysis, and finally cardiac arrest. In cases where this works inmates have been rendered unconscious in seconds and pronounced dead in as little as five minutes. Due to the drug shortages and bans, however, many states have had difficulties obtaining sodium thiopenthol the first drug in the three drug cocktail. The chemicals used in lethal injections are hard to come by because US manufacturers have ceased producing the drugs if they are to be used to kill a human. This was largely the influence of abolitionist countries in Europe who put pressure on the for profit drug companies threatening to cease doing business with their company if they continued to manufacture and sell the death penalty drugs.
Further, Europe also banned its manufactures from exporting the drug for executions. To cope with the shortage of sodium thiopenthol some states substituted midazolam as the first drug. Midazolam is the drug that the Supreme Court most recently ruled is constitutional. Other states switched to a lethal dose of a single drug pentobarbital. And still other states procured sodium thiopenthol on the black market. Arizona, California, and Georgia purchase the drug from this pharmacy. Others use drugs passed their execution date. Though most death penalty states have since given up on sodium thiopenthol. Most states are very secretive about their lethal injection procedure. And do not provide information to the public about the drugs that were used and where they were obtained.
Lethal injection is wrought with problems because of the lack of qualified medical personnel on hand. There are difficulties, therefore, locating the veins or inserting the needles properly. In December, 2006 the state of Florida botched the lethal injection of Angel Diaz. The execution team pushed the IV catheters straight through the veins and both of his arms and into the underlying tissue. As a result Diaz required two full doses of the lethal drugs. And an execution scheduled to only take 10 to 15 minutes lasted 34 minutes. It is considered one of the worst botched executions since states began using lethal injection in the 1980s. The burn zone on his right arm was 12 by 5 inches with numerous blisters and slothing off of the superficial skin. On the left arm, the burn zone was 11 by 7 inches. By the time the autopsy began the medical examiner noted that there had been extensive skin slippage revealing white and pink subcutaneous skin. There are photographs available of Diaz’s autopsy available online.
After the problems with Diaz’s execution former governor Jeb Bush responded with a moratorium, or a temporary delay in executions. More recently in September of 2009 in Ohio Romell Broom’s execution was terminated after more than two hours when the executioners were unable to find a usable vein in his arms or legs. During the failed attempts Mr. Broom winced and grimaced in pain. After the first hour’s lack of success on several occasions the inmate tried to help the executioners find a good vein. At one point he covered his face with both hands and appeared to be sobbing, his stomach heaving. Finally former Ohio governor Ted Strickland ordered the execution stopped. He announced plans to attempt the execution again after a one week delay so that physicians could be consulted for advice on how the man could be killed more efficiently. The executioners blamed the problems on Mr. Broom’s history of intravenous drug use.
Broom is still making appeals and the Ohio Supreme Court will decide whether further attempts to execute Broom would violate double jeopardy rules or the Eighth Amendment ban on cruel and unusual punishment. Romell Broom has a constitutional right not to be subjected to more than one execution attempt under the circumstances present in this case, including the fact that a significant psychological and physical pain have already been inflicted on him in the first attempt, his lawyer said. Because of these mistakes of botched executions there always attempts to develop new methods of execution. One criminal justice analyst believed that the death penalty could one day be conducted with an ultrasound that would literally dematerialize the inmate. Despite the recent complications with lethal injection there are still fewer botched executions with lethal injection than electrocution. And lethal injection is still considered the most humane way of executions today.
An inmate’s last words are an artifact of executions from colonial America when executions were steeped in religion. It was supposed to be the opportunity for the condemned to ask for forgiveness. You can access a list of most executed inmates’ last words online. While many people still ask for forgiveness or apologize many use the opportunity to proclaim innocence, root for their favorite sports team, or spout rude words to the government or other people. There are time limits on the last statement. Two minutes in Kentucky, for example. And in Pennsylvania the inmate is only allowed a written last statement. Here are some famous or just entertaining final words. Ted Bundy, I’d like to give my love to my family and friends. John Wayne Gacy, kiss my ass. Timothy McVeigh, I am the master of my fate. I am the captain of my soul. And Aileen Wuornos I’d just like to say, I’m sailing with a rock. And I’ll back like Independence Day with Jesus, June 6 like the movie. Big mothership and all. I’ll be back. Witnesses to the execution are the people who is allowed to view an execution varies state by state. Though in all states the visitors must be approved. Most, but not all states, allow family from both sides. In Virginia, however, the condemned inmate’s family is not allowed to watch the execution. Some states allow friends in addition to family. And the two sides are separated so that the victim’s family and the offender’s family are never in the same room. Witnesses usually number between six and 12 for any given execution. For a regular citizen of the state to become a witness he or she must ask to be present at an execution and they must also send a letter or fill out a form, indicating their reasons for desiring to see the execution. They must also submit to a criminal records check and then be screened by the prison’s public relations officer.
Applicants’ stated reasons for volunteering to witness the execution were largely related to strong support for the death penalty or because of their role in law enforcement. Some of these citizen witnesses also stated that they wished to view the execution in order to reaffirm their belief in the justice of the death penalty and the rightness of the American criminal justice system. Others are concerned with moral issues and sought to resolve their ambivalence about the death penalty. Some citizen witnesses were simply curious as to what the execution was like. The media is also always present to record the facts of the execution. After the execution there’s a legally required autopsy before the body is either released to the family for burial or if the family’s not involved, or do not wish to bury the inmate, at the state will pay for cremation services
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