Wednesday, 6 May 2015

America's Worst 'Botched' Executions.

The electric chair is a secondary execution option in most States.

When the crimes of prisoners condemned to death are taken into account it can be difficult to come up with a valid reason to keep them alive. However, capital punishment in America is meant to be humane, anything different is regarded as cruel and unusual punishment. As well as psychologically damaging anyone involved in the execution process, the threat of expensive law suits and the obvious distress to the families, a botched execution never fails to reinforce the argument for abolishing the death penalty altogether. 

William Kemmler
Convicted of the brutal murder of his common-law wife and sentenced to death, William Kemmler was to be the first person in the world executed by electric chair. On his execution day, August 6th 1890, Kemmler was described as amazingly calm even trying to put the executioner at ease. Before the switch was flipped to start the execution, the warden promised Kemmler 'this won't hurt, Bill' unfortunately he couldn't have been further from the truth. At first the electrocution appeared to be a complete success, Kemmler had taken a huge volt of electricity that made his whole body rigid and appeared to be dead after ten seconds. However, as his body was being checked over by a doctor a cut was noticed on Kemmler's hand. A cut that was bleeding profusely and therefore indicating the prisoner was still very much alive. In a panic, the warden ordered another volt of electricity be administered. Before the switch was thrown for a second time, a groaning William Kemmler began to regain consciousness. As well as groaning, Kemmler spluttered and coughed as fluid ran from his mouth and nose. After what must of seen like an age, the switch was once again flipped and Kemmler was eventually dead. However, the room soon filled with a huge billow of smoke and a sizzling sound. Witnesses testified the room smelled of cooking flesh and burnt hair, an indication that Kemmler had literally burned to death. 

Brian Steckl
If anyone deserved to die a brutal and painful death, few would argue against it for condemned prisoner Brian Steckl. He was convicted of the 1994 murder of 29-year-old Sandra Lee Long, who he set on fire after raping and sexually assaulting her with a screwdriver. Not only did Brian Steckl show little to no remorse for his crimes, he sent taunting letters to the victim's mother during his trial. This included a copy of Sandra Lee Long's autopsy report to which he had added 'Don't cry over burnt flesh, she is gone forever'. Steckl did admit accountability during his trial and urged the jury to punish him properly for his 'despicable' crimes. He was sentenced to death in January 1997. His execution, on November 4th 2005, was far from straight forward. After giving his last statement, the lethal injection began during which time witnesses said audible clicks from the computer in charge of administering the drugs could be heard. This carried on for a full 12 minutes following Steckl's last statement, during which time Brain Steckl remained lucid even making comments to his attending family members. It was deduced the main IV line was blocked and so the secondary line was used. However, for reasons unknown the sedative, the first in a three drug cocktail, was not administered and Steckl began convulsing. The last drug, the heart-stopping potassium chloride, was then administered killing Steckl in a pretty excruciating way. Doctors later said Steckl will have felt like his veins had been set on fire. Some may say this was an apt way for Brain Steckl to die given the way he chose to murder Sandra Lee Long. 

Jimmy Lee Gray
Jimmy Lee Gray was convicted of the kidnapping, rape and murder of three-year-old Deressa Seales in 1976. At the time Gray was out on parole following his conviction for murdering a 16-year old girl in Arizona. Unfortunately, despite the heinous nature of his crimes, Jimmy Lee Gray is remembered most because of the graphic nature of his eventual execution. When Gray's day of execution arrived in September 1983 he was the first person to be executed in Mississippi since the death penalty was reinstated in 1976. Jimmy Lee Gray was to be executed in the gas chamber. On the day in question Gray was sat in the 'death' chair in the chamber as cyanide crystals were dropped into a dish of distilled water and sulphuric acid. This creates the deadly gas. To the shock of the witnesses Jimmy Lee Gray, as the toxic gas reached his lungs, began to choke and gag. Furthermore, Gray began violently ramming his head against a vertical metal bar positioned directly behind the death chair. The warden allowed this gruesome spectacle to go on for eight minutes before deciding to clear the witness room. Nobody knows for sure how long Gray took to die but the prison reported he had actually died a painless death and was brain dead when he began ramming his skull against the metal post. Many questions were raised following Jimmy Lee Gray's execution, why was he head not restrained? why did he not fall unconscious but instead was allowed to choke for nearly ten minutes? The prison remained tight lipped, although it was revealed much later that the executioner had been drunk during the procedure. The same executioner had been very vocal about how he felt about Gray and his crimes, calling him a 'son of a bitch'. This attitude led some people to believe the executioner purposely botched the execution to ensure Jimmy Lee Gray died in the most painful way possible. 

These are just three cases I chose randomly, there have actually been many 'botched' executions during the life span of the death penalty in America. Of course, some people will argue there is no such thing as a 'botched' execution. The aim is to kill a convicted criminal, therefore it is merely a case of job done. However, this attitude would then make the system as barbaric as the criminals it is executing. Regardless of the brutality of their crimes, and all murder is brutal, the constitution states a condemned prisoner has the right to die in a humane way. 

So what is your opinion? Do you think 'botched' executions are just part of the process?, after all human error is a fact of life! Or do you believe the executions that go wrong just highlight every thing that is wrong with this antiquated form of 'punishment'?

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