Lethal Injection

First proposed in 1888 by Julius Mount Bleyer a New York doctor, who believed it would be cheaper and more humane than the method used at that time (Hanging). Almost 100 years after he proposed this method Jay Chapman (Oklahoma's state medical examiner) proposed what is termed Chapman's Protocol. Chapman's Protocol introduced an intravenous drip into the condemned convicts arm, inwhich the toxic cocktail would be administered.

Oklahoma may have been the first state to adopt lethal injection as a method of execution, but it was Texas that was first to use this method (Charlie Brooks in 1982). Since Oklahoma implemented lethal injection as an acceptable method of execution, 37 of the 38 death penalty states have followed (Nebraska is the sole exception). Many other countries have also assumed lethal injection as a method of execution, including China, Guatemala and the Philippines.

Lethal Injection typically uses a 3 drug cocktail, the first to make the person unconscious, the second to cease all muscle movement (except for the heart) and the third to stop the heart from beating. Although this is the typical method for lethal injection, there are different methods using different chemicals that have been proposed.

 

Electrocution

The development and advancement of the electric chair was the result of a feud between Thomas Edison and George Westinghouse as a battle in the "War of Currents". The state of New York was searching for an alternate method of execution (more humane than hanging), Edison and Westinghouse did not want their specific electrical system used. Edison had developed a DC power system and Westinghouse had developed AC power system, The two icons of electrical power feared their customers would think their electrical system would not be safe, if it was used as the power system for the electric chair. Both men were determined to ensure that Electrocution was accomplished using the others power system. As history has revealed, Edison won the battle (AC is the power system used for the electric chair), but Westinghouse won the war (As AC is also the most common power system used in the world).  

The AC electric chair was adopted as the method of execution for New York State in 1889, with William Kemmler being the first person executed via the electric chair in 1890. William Kemmler's execution did not transpire as intended. After the first 17 second jolt, Kemmler was unconcious, but his heart was still beating and he was still breathing. After being examined by two doctors, one of the doctors called out "Have the current turned on again, quick ... no delay". The executioner gave Kemmler a second jolt of 2000 volts, causing Kemmler to bleed profusely and he also caught fire. After the fact, Westinghouse commented "They would have done better using an axe" and a reporter who witnessed the execution stated "An awful spectacle, far worse than hanging".

Even after that horrible beginning, the electric chair was adopted by many states and was a well utilized method during the 20th century. The use of the electric chair has declined over the last 30 years, partly due to the development of lethal injection and partly because of many botched executions. Nebraska is the only state using the electric chair as the primary method of execution, but many states still have the electric chair as an alternate to lethal injection. 

 

Gas Chamber

Although it has been claimed that Napoleon had used make shift gas chambers in the 19th century, the first documented use of a gas chamber in the United States was in 1924, when Gee Jon was executed in Nevada. Nine states adoped this method of execution, with most being in the west. The Nazi regime also utilized the gas chamber in their "public euthanasia program" and later used it to commit the atrocities of the Holocaust. The last person executed in a gas chamber in the United States was Walter LaGrand, who was executed by Arizona in 1999. Although it is still an alternate method for a few states, it is doubtful that this method will be used again in the United States. California, one state that used the gas chamber as a method of execution, has already declared it as "Cruel and Unusual" punishment. There have been recent reports of North Korea using the gas chamber for executions and experiments on humans.

 

Hanging

Hanging has been used in many countries world wide, including Canada, the UK and many states at one time. It is also a renowned method of the hanging judges of the old west and the lynch mobs of the old south.

There are 4 methods of hanging.

Short Drop 

Examples of this type of hanging is a condemned person in a wagon or on a horse with the noose around their neck and then the cart or horse are moved allowing causing the person to die of strangulation. Another way this type of hanging was accomplished is having the person stand on a stool, place the noose around his neck and then kick the stool away.

Suspension Hanging

This is similar to the short drop, but with this method the gallows were raised or a pulley system was used to hang the person.

Standard Drop

This involved the person falling 4 - 6 feet, breaking the persons neck, with the hope he becomes unconscious immediately. This was the method of hanging used to execute condemned Nazis after the Nuremberg trials.

Long Drop

Considered a scientific advancement over the standard drop, this method involved calculating the lentgh of drop, based on the weight and height of the condemned person. A chart has be created to determine the drop length. This method has caused some people to be decapitated when mistakes in the calculations have been made. An example of this occuring is the hanging of "Black Jack" Tom Ketchum (see picture), who was decapitataed.  Black Jack was decapitated due to the rope (drop) was too long. This was because the hangman was inexperienced in hanging as this was the first and last hanging in Union County, New Mexico. On an Interesting note, the crime inwhich Black Jack met his demise, "felonious assault on a railway train" was later found unconstitutional.