Execution Methods

Throughout the centuries, executions have been carried out as a form of punishment in the majority of cultures. The methods have changed throughout the years, in an attempt to make the process more effective and humane:

Death by Animals

Crushing by Elephant: This was a relatively common form of capital punishment in South and South-east Asia, although theCrushing by Elephant practice did spread to countries such as Rome and the Carthage Empire. Many of the elephants used were trained to either crush the convict quickly, or to torture them over a longer period of time, and were used as a symbol of wealth and power. Records indicate that this form of execution began around 8th century BC, and continued up until the European empires colonised the region in the 19th century.

Damnatio ad bestias: Latin for ‘condemnation to beasts’, this was a form of capital punishment in which convicts were devoured by large animals, predominantly lions. It began in Asia in the 6th century BC, and made its way to Rome in the 2nd century BC, and is the origin of the term ‘thrown to the lions.’ The penalty mainly applied to crimes considered to be heinous, and early Christians. The condemned were executed on the circus arena in front of a myriad of spectators, and used as a form of entertainment. Alongside the act of execution, the convict was stripped of their civil rights, and had their land and property removed, and were not allowed to write a will. The practice of Damnatio ad bestias was abolished in Rome in 681 AD.


Stoning is an ancient method of capital punishment, which involved a group of people throwing stones at the condemned until death occurred. Stoning dates back to the times of the Ancient Greeks and their mythology, and not relevant to one particular religion. However, stoning became incorporated into many religions, as a form of punishment for many crimes.

Stoning to death

In the Israelite Torah (first five books of the Hebrew Bible) death by stoning was punishable for many crimes, including:

  • Cursing God (Lev. 24:10–16)
  • Breaking Sabbath (Numbers 15:32–36)
  • Rebellion against parents (Deut. 21,18–21)
  • Getting married as though a virgin, when not a virgin (Deut. 22:13–21)

Whilst stoning is not referred to in the Islamic Qu’ran, it is in the Hadith, in relation to adultery:

Narrated ‘Abdullah bin Umar: ‘So the Prophet ordered the two adulterers to be stoned to death, and they were stoned to death near the place where biers used to be placed near the Mosque. I saw her companion (i.e. the adulterer) bowing over her so as to protect her from the stones.’ Sahih Bukhari 6:60:79

The process of stoning begins with the convicts hand being tied behind their back. They are then wrapped in three pieces of material which is tied around the body by rope. The fabric is used to hide the convicts face and to keep their body immobile. The convict is then made to stand in a hole, which is usually chest deep for women and waist deep for men. It is the first witness who casts the first stone, followed by the judge, then other spectators join in until the convict is dead.

As of September 2010, stoning is used as a form of capital punishment in numerous countries, including Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Iran, and Yemen. This form of execution is predominantly use for those who committed Zina al-mohsena (adultery of married persons.)


Hanging has been a form of punishment since the medieval period, and has been the official mode of execution in many countries.

The Hanging by Jacques Callot

There are four different methods used in judicial hangings:

Short Drop:  The convict would made to walk up a ladder. A noose would be tied around their neck and the ladder would be pulled away, or turned. In other occasions, the ladder would be replaced by a stool, or even a vehicle such as a horse and cart. This form of hanging results in a slow, painful death caused by strangulation, and can take between 10 and 25 minutes for the condemned to die. This method was the standard form of execution across the world until the late 19th century, but is still used in some countries and in unlawful ‘lynchings’ and suicide.

A variant of the short drop was devised by Austria, Czechoslovakia and Hungary, known as ‘Pole Hanging.’ The convict would be placed with their back to a vertical wooden pole of about 2-3 meters tall. At the top of the pole was a metal hook, to which a rope noose was attached. The prisoner was either then lifted up manually by the executioners onto a small wooden board, or by a cloth fastened under their armpits. Once the prisoner was lifted, the noose would be placed around their neck, and at the right moment, the executions would pull them downwards, tightening the rope around their neck. This led to rapid unconsciousness and a quick death, taking no longer than a minute to kill the convict. This form of execution is no longer in use, but it was last known to be used at the end of World War II in the hanging of Nazi war criminals, including Karl Hermann Frank.

Standard Drop:  The standard drop is similar to the short drop, except that the length of the rope was extended to a drop of between 4 and 6 feet. This came into use in 1866, when Doctor Samuel Haughton published his findings that this would result in a quicker and less gruesome death. The standard drop quickly became widespread around the western culture, and was deemed as a more humane method of execution, as the longer drop would cause the breakage of the neck, and immediate unconsciousness. However, when in practice, this method of hanging often caused decapitation and strangulation, just as in the case with Joachim von Ribbentrop, the Foreign Minister of Nazi Germany. The former minister was throttled for roughly 20 minutes before he died.

Long Drop: The long drop was first introduced in Britain in 1872 by professional executioner, William Marwood. He devised aHanging in prison system where the drop-length would be determined on the convict’s weight and height, to ensure their neck would be broken swiftly upon impact. Despite a reduced amount decapitations and strangulations, the long drop continued to produce a consistent amount of ‘botched executions.’ After this attempt, states in the US such as Arizona removed hanging form their execution methods and began to rely on the newly created gas chamber.

Suspension: Suspension hanging, like the short drop, evokes death by using the convict’s weight to tighten the trachea with the noose. However, unlike the short drop, the condemned reportedly struggle very little, and loose consciousness very quickly. This is because their jugular vein and carotid arteries become blocked, causing reduced blood flow to the brain. Whilst they still died of strangulation, which took between 10-25 minutes, the convicts were predominantly unconscious throughout.

Hanged, Drawn and Quartered

This form of execution became a statutory penalty in England for males who were convicted of high treason in 1351. High treason was considered to be one of the worst crimes possible, and there for, a suitable method of execution had to be created. Convicts were strapped to a wooden panel (or a hurdle) and drawn by a horse to the place they were to be executed.

Hanged drawn and quartered

They would then be hanged until they were almost at the point of death, and would then be chopped into four pieces (quartered).Their remains were often displayed in landmark places throughout the country, including the London Bridge as a warning to others contemplating crossing the King. Women were not subjected to this methodof execution,and were instead burned at the stake.

Death by Burning

Death by burning has its origins within Ancient Babalonian times. The 18th century BC law code, devised by Hammurabi, (the Babylonian King) listed several crimes which death by burning was applicable:

  • Looters of houses on fire were to be cast into the flames.
  • Priestesses who had abandoned their cloisters and were visiting local taverns were to be burned alive.
  • A son committing incest with his mother after his father died would be burned alive.

Ancient Egypt and Rome also used death by burning as a way to punish those who were rebelling against their ruling leader. For example, Senusret I(r. 1971-1926 BC) of Egypt is reported to have captured rebels and set them alight, using them as human torches.

Death by burning

In Rome, deserters or enemies of the state were burned alive, and the list of crimes grew as Constantine the Great came into power. Soon, other crimes, such as a woman marrying her slave, were punishable by burning, and it became a widespread method of execution.

Witch Hunts: Burning at the stake was also used by Christians during the infamous Witch-hunts of Europe. In 1532,the penal code known as the Constitutio Criminalis Carolina declared that any form of sorcery practised throughout the Holy Roman Empire, should be treated as a criminal offence.

salem witch trials

If any injury was to occur because of such sorcery, the witch was to be burned at the stake. This progressed even further in 1572, when Augustus, Elector of Saxony, enforced the ruling of death by burning for anyone found practising witchcraft of any kind. Whilst many figures have been divulged as to how many people died during this period, historians claim the true number to be around 40,000 – 50,000.

Mary I of England was also a keen advocate of death by burning, and ordered hundreds of religious heretics to be burned at the stake. This practice stayed in Britain after the end of her reign in 1558, but the last case of its use was in 1726, when Catherine Hayes was burned alive for the murder of her husband. The following newspaper report describes her punishment:

‘The fuel being placed round her, and lighted with a torch, she begg’d for the sake of Jesus, to be strangled first: whereupon the Executioner drew tight the halter, but the flame coming to his hand in the space of a second, he let it go, when she gave three dreadful shrieks; but the flames taking her on all sides, she was heard no more; and the Executioner throwing a piece of timber into the Fire, it broke her skull, when her brains came plentifully out; and in about an hour more she was entirely reduced to ashes. ‘

Death by Boiling

This form of execution has been used in countries in Europe and Asia, and dates back to Mongolia in the 12th and 13th centuries. Defeated Khans were sometimes boiled alive, as this method would not break the Mongolians taboo of needlessly spilling the blood of a noble.

Death by boiling

Such executions were frequently carried out with the use of a large container, usually a cauldron filled with water, liquid or tar. Usually, the convict would be placed into the boiling liquid head first, but this differed when a particularly heinous crime had been committed. On occasions, convicts have been known to be placed into the water before it reached boiling point, making their death very slow and painful. Studies show that in some cases, the convict was attached to a hook and pulley system, which would allow the executioner to control the speed of their death, giving them the option to raise and lower the condemned as they desired.


Death by decapitation has been used around the world as a form of capital punishment for centuries. The actual term ‘capital punishment’ derives from the Latin ‘Caput’, meaning ‘head’, and referred to the punishment of crimes by beheading. During the execution, it was common for and axe or a sword to be used, and later, the guillotine. In countries such as Scandinavia, noblemen were beheaded by a sword, to symbolise their class, whilst the common folk were beheaded with the axe. In England, The convicts of lower classes would be subjected to execution via the gallows or burning at the stake, whilst the noblemen and royalty were awarded the beheading.

If the headsman’s weapon was sharp and his aim was precise, beheading were a relatively quick and painless for of execution. However, when either of these factors are not addressed, decapitation can be a slow and gruesome death. It took three strikes to kill Mary, Queen of Scots, causing great pain and defying the honourable death which decapitation was meant to be. It became a tradition for the condemned to give the headsman a gold coin as a way to ensure he did his job with the care and precision necessary to make it quick and painless.

Eventually, countries began taking measures to ensure death would occur after the first strike. It became compulsory for the executioner to carry two- handed swords, and for an axe to be wielded with both hands.

Twin Guillotines

The Guillotine – The guillotine was a mechanically assisted form of beheading which was used predominantly in France, although was used in a variety of other countries. The device consists of a tall vertical frame, in which a sharp angled blade was held at the top. The condemned’s head would be secured to the bottom of the frame, and the blade would be released, severing the head from the body. Although the Guillotine was invented just before the French Revolution, earlier forms of it were used in both England and Scotland, known as the Halifax Gibbet and the Maiden.


Although not one of the most common form of execution, impalement has been known to be used from Babylonian times. Records indicate that in 1772 BC, the Code of Hammurabi dictated death by impalement for women who killed their husband to be with another man. The act of impalement involves a long stake being inserted into the body, causing a relatively slow and painful death for the condemned. There are several different forms of impalement:

Longitudinal ImpalementLongitudinal Impalement:  This means to impale the convict along the body length, and has been documented in multiple cases. One account from the 17th century in Egypt states:

‘They lay the Malefactor upon his Belly, with his Hands tied behind his Back, then they slit up his Fundament with a Razor, and throw into it a handful of Paste that they have in readiness, which immediately stops the Blood. After that they thrust up into his Body a very long Stake as big as a Mans Arm, sharp at the point and tapered, which they grease a little before; when they have driven it in with a Mallet, till it come out at his Breast, or at his Head or Shoulders, they lift him up, and plant this Stake very straight in the Ground, upon which they leave him so exposed for a day.’

Transversal Impalement: This method of impalement consists of the stake being inserted from front to back (through abdomen, chest or heart to the back). Laws in the Holy Roman Empire dictated that a woman who killed her newborn child should be punished by being placed in a open grave and have a stake thrust into their heart.

Gaunching: This practice is known to have been used in the Levant at the beginning of the 18th century. Execution was performed by hoisting the convict up by a rope and leaving them to hang over a bed of sharp metal hooks. The rope is then released and the convict drops onto the metal hooks below. Depending on the fall, convicts survived on the hooks for days, and were left to die slowly.

Hooks in City Wall:  A rare form of impalement used involved the use of hooks in the city walls in the Levant. On occasions, soldiers captured during battles would be thrown on to the city wall, and left there to die. Reports indicate that some people were left hanging there for over 40 hours before death occurred.

Execution by Firing Squad

This form of execution is also known as fusillading, and has been used as a standard form of capital punishment for centuries, particularly times of war, or in the military. Before firearms were introduced, the execution was performed by bows and cross bows. The firing squad is usually composed of a group of soldiers or law enforcement officers,and are instructed to all fire at the same time. This prevents any one member being identified as the executioner whom fired the fatal shot, and also limits any disruption made by a single member. The prisoner is blindfold or hooded, and restrained and either told to stand still or sitting. In many jurisdictions, the executions have been carried out at dawn, which gave rise to the well-known phrase “shot at dawn.”

Firing Squad

Death by Single Firearm: Although this form of execution also uses a firearm, it differs in that there is only one executioner. This has been a widely popular form of execution in many cultures for decades, and is deemed to be a quick and reliable form of execution. The shot usually takes place at the back of the head, or as in Asia, some prisoners are shot by an automatic rifle in the back. Sometimes a single shot is incorporated into the firing squad method if the influx of bullets fail to kill the convict.

Electric Chair

The State of New York established a committee in 1881 with the purpose of finding a new execution method to replace hanging. A member of the committee, a former dentist, named Alfred Southwick, heard a case of a drunk man who died after touching exposed power lines. It was reported that the drunkard had died relatively painlessly, and Southwick began to work on the theory of using this method as a form of state execution.

Southwick’s electrical device was designed to be based around a wooden chair, to hold the patient down whilst the current ranElectric Chair through them. The first chair to be produced was completed by Harold P. Brown and Arthur Kennelly in 1889, under the management of Thomas Edison. Edisono was hired to bring Southwick’s plans and designs into reality, and he did so with his team of engineers. Together, the team constructed the first electric chair, using alternating current (AC) as Edison deemed it to be more lethal than direct current (DC).

As proof of the power of alternating current, Edison and Brown publicly performed the execution of many animals for the press. This, they hoped, would show the media and public that AC was a suitable method of execution, and would teach people to associate alternating current with electrical death. It worked, and the term ‘electrocution’ was coined. Later, the word also became used in describing accidental death by electricity, as opposed to an organised execution.

The first prisoner to be executed via the electric chair was William Kemmler, a man found guilty of murdering his common-law wife with a hatchet. An appeal was made in Kemmler’s name on the grounds that death by electrocution was a ‘cruel and unusual punishment’, and therefore broke the Eight Amendment. However, this was eventually denied by the court and explained by Judge Dwight:

“Certainly it is not so on its face, for, although the mode of death described is conceded to be unusual, there is no common knowledge or consent that it is cruel; it is a question of fact whether an electric current of sufficient intensity and skilfully applied will produce death without unnecessary suffering.”

Kemmler’s execution took place in the Auburn Prison in August 1890. He was given a 17 second burst of electrical current, which caused him to become unconscious. When the physicians examined Kemmler, they found him to be still breathing, and called to the executioner: ”Have the current turned on again, quick, no delay.” The second burst of electricity was administered, and Kemmler this time received 2,000 volts. The blood vessels under his skin ruptured and bled out, and his skin singed and burned. The process took around eight minutes to perform, and one reported claimed: “it was an awful spectacle, far worse than hanging.”

Kemmler's execution

Despite the glitches, the use of the electric chair quickly spread across the US. It was first adopted by Ohio in 1897, than Massachusetts in 1900, then New Jersey in 1906. It soon became the most widespread method of execution, replacing hanging almost completely, and only began to decline in use during the 1980’s. It gradually became less popular as the Lethal injection came into fruition, replacing the seemingly inhumane method of electrifying prisoners to death.

Although the lethal injection is the most popular form of execution today, many states offer both options to their condemned prisoners. A total of 12 convicts selected to be executed via the electric chair since this option became available, including Robert Gleason, JR who was the latest be killed by the chair in 2013.

Gas Chamber

The gas chamber was created in Nevada during the 1920’s in a further attempt to find a humane form of execution. The standard method for this type of execution is as follows:

  • Executioner will place potassium cyanide (KCN) pellets into a small compartment located under the chair on which the condemned would sit.
  • The prisoner is then strapped into the chair and the air tight chamber is closed.
  • The executioner then pours concentrated sulphuric acid (H2SO4) into a tube outside the chamber, which leads to a small tank just below the potassium cyanide pellets.
  • The curtain in front of the window of the chamber is then opened for the witnesses to see the condemned.
  • The prisoner is asked if he/ she wishes to make a final statement.
  • The executioner throws a switch, and the cyanide pellets inside the chamber are released into the sulphuric acid below. This causes a chemical reaction which produces hydrogen cyanide (HCN) gas:

            2KCN(s) + H2SO4(aq) → 2HCN(g) + K2SO4(aq)

The gas is visible, and the prisoner is often advise to breathe slowly and deeply, in order to induce unconsciousness quicker. However, this is often problematic, as it relies on the prisoner actively participating in their own demise, plus, many of the oregon gas chambercondemned feel anxious and tend to panic, leading to short and quick breaths. The physical responses of the dying often shocks the witnesses, as they see them suffer violent convulsions and excessive drooling from the mouth. After an execution takes place, the chamber must be purged of the hydrogen cyanide and neutralised with anhydrous ammonia (NH3) before it can be opened and the body removed.

The first man to be executed via this method was Gee Jon in Nevada State Prison on 8th February 1924. An unsuccessful attempt was carried out on Jon previous to this, which involved pumping poisonous gas into his prison cell. This ultimately failed, due the gas leaking out of the holes and cracks in his cell.

A temporary gas chamber was then set up in the butcher shop at the prison, and Jon was led in and strapped onto a chair. The chair itself was eleven feet long, ten feet wide and eight feet high, and was positioned next to a small window, so the audience could watch him die. The attendees predominantly consisted of reporters, health officials and members of the US army.

The gas chamber was used as a main form of execution in Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, North Carolina and Oregon, but eventually fell in popularity due to the new lethal injection. There are six remaining states which authorise the use of the gas chamber: Arizona, California,Maryland, Mississippi, Missouri and Wyoming, providing the lethal injection cannot be administered, or the prisoner requests death by gas specifically.

Nazi Germany: Gas chambers were used frequently by Nazi Germany as a part of their public euthanasia program in Germany and Poland. This program, called ‘Aktion T4’ was built around the elimination of the physically or mentally impaired, along with many political prisoners.

Carbon monoxide (CO) was the first type of gas used by the Nazis, and this was provided via gas cylinders in Germany and the exhaust fumes from motors in Poland. The first mass killing of non Germans using gas was at Fort VII in Pozan in October 1939. Roughly 1,000 patients from a psychiatric home in Owinska were killed in a small gas chamber in the concentration camp in Poland, including 78 children. The use of gas vans and trailers were used at other mental facilities in Poland, and were largely carried out by SS-Sonderkommando Lange (Herbert Lange.) The use of gas was later spread onto Jewish victims as part of the Nazi party’s ‘Final Solution.’ Both vans and stationary gas chambers were introduced in the occupied countries, and were deemed as a easier method to killing, as opposed to shooting.

Experiments took place using ‘Zyklon B’ at Auschwitz in 1941, and the first mass gassing with it occurred in September that year.

Auschwitz gas chamber

The concentration camp Treblinka had a total of 10 gas chambers, making it possible to kill around 2,500 people within an hour. In such circumstances, the victims were marched into the stationary chambers with their arms raised above their heads, so they would take up less room. Often, the chambers would be disguised as bath rooms, and the victims would be given a piece of soap before entering. This was in an attempt to keep the victims calm and unaware of the fate which awaited them. Fake plumbing and showers were fitted onto the ceilings and walls of the chambers to add to the illusion of the chamber being a wash room.

Lethal Injection

This form of execution was developed in 1977 by Oklahoma’s state medical examiner, Doctor Jay Chapman. He proposed a new form of execution to replace more painful methods, such as hanging, electrocution and the gas chamber. Chapman claimed: “An intravenous saline drip shall be started in the prisoner’s arm, into which shall be introduced a lethal injection consisting of an ultra-short-acting barbiturate in combination with a chemical paralytic.”

The method was approved by the anaesthesiologist Stanley Deutsch,and it was quickly introduced into Oklahoma legislature. It was passed, and adopted by the majority of the states which practice capital punishment.

Lethal Injection

The first execution via the lethal injection occurred in December 1982,and was carried out on Charles Brooks,JR, a man found guilty of the murder of mechanic, David Gregory in 1976. The lethal injection is now deemed to be the most common method of capital punishment throughout the US.

Drugs: Conventionally, the lethal injection is composed of three drugs:

  • Sodium Pentothal – Lethal injection dose: 2 – 5 grams. A common drug used to induce unconsciousness. It is a short acting barbiturate which is often used before surgery as an introduction to anaesthesia. When used in the lethal injection, it causes the prisoner to lose consciousness within 10 seconds.
  • Pancuronium Bromide – Lethal injection dose: 100 milligrams. A muscular paralytic agent, which is often use in surgery to prevent muscle response.
  • Potassium Chloride – Lethal injection dose: 100 milliequivalents. Induces cardiac arrest. Doctors are known to prescribe potassium for patients who have a lack of it already in their blood, and can be given orally or intravenously. However, when used in high doses, it is renowned for inducing cardiac arrest rapidly after insertion into the blood stream.

Recently introduced protocols:  In September 2009, Romell Broom was set to be executed in Ohio via the lethal injection. However, the executioners attempted to maintain an IV line for two hours before Ohio Governor Red Strickland was forced to stop the procedure. Broom’s lawyers claim that this failed execution attempt was a cruel and unusual punishment. This meant that Broom’s case was to be used as a part of a larger case challenging the constitutionality of Ohio’s use of the lethal injection, and his lawyers appealed his second execution date.

MedStar Washington Hospital Center Pharmacy Repackaging Drugs

After the incomplete execution, Ohio adapted their protocol to ensure rapid death by eliminating two of the three drugs used in the lethal injection and only using Sodium Pentothal. As a secondary fail-safe measure, an intramuscular injection of Midazolam and Hydromorphone can be used in case the use of the Sodium Pentothal becomes problematic.

  • Primary: Sodium Pentothal. Lethal injection dose: 5 grams. Administered intravenously.
  • Secondary: Midazolam. Lethal injection dose: 10mg, intramuscular. Hydromorphone. Lethal injection dose: 40mg, intramuscular.

On 8th December 2009, Kenneth Biros became the first prisoner to be executed using the new single-drug protocol. He was pronounced dead at exactly 10 minutes after the injection had been administered. Other states began to follow suit, first with Washington in 2010. Currently, there are eight states which actively use this form of lethal injection, and a further five states plan to change, but have not as yet used it. Some of these states, Ohio now included (as of November 2013) are known to use the Midazolam as the first drug also, as it has proven to be equally effective.

Issues with lethal Injection

The lethal injection procedure is carried out by a technician, which causes much debate with death penalty critics. Doctors and nurses are forbidden to take part in exercising the death penalty, as it would be a direct contradiction of the Hippocratic oath they take. Many critics argue that it is the technicians’ lack of medical education and training which is often the cause for many ‘botched’ executions and painful deaths.

Angel Diaz – Diaz was convicted of shooting the manager of a strip club at Florida in 1979. Despite his pleas of innocence, he was found guilty and sentenced to death. On 13th December 2006, Diaz’s execution went ahead, but instead of taking the usual 10 minutes to kill him, he remained alive for an entire hour. A spokeswoman for the Florida Department of Corrections declared that Diaz did not suffer at all during his execution, and that it was an existing liver condition which caused the delay. However, the Diaz family knew nothing of this liver condition, and claimed it to be a ‘botched execution.’ An investigation took place, which concluded that there was negligence in the placement of the needles in Diaz’s arms. Instead of the needle going directly into the vein, it was pushed all the way through out, resulting in the drugs being injected into the soft tissue, and not the vein itself.

Lethal Injection Angel Diaz

Doctor Jay Chapman, the man who concocted the lethal injection, commented on the case of Diaz, and the lack of expertise upheld by the executioners:

“One never imagined that idiots would be doing this procedure… If the protocol is carried out as it should be, then there will be absolutely no sensation of pain.”

As a result of Diaz’s case, Governor Bush postponed all pending executions until further notice. This lasted for around 7 months, and was once again authorised by the new Governor, Charlie Crist.

Recent news

Clayton Lockett, a prisoner who was sentenced to death for the kidnap and brutal murder of 19 year old Stephanie Nieman, hasClayton Lockett died after a ‘botched’ execution attempt. It was the first time that the drug Midazolam was used in Oklahoma as the first element in its execution drug combination.

Ten minutes after the chemicals were injected, Lockett was declared unconscious. However, just three minutes after this, he began breathing heavily, clenching his teeth and trying to lift his head up off the pillow. Local news reporters claim that Lockett said to the executioner “something’s wrong.’

The blinds were lowered at this point to prevent the witnesses seeing what was happening in the chamber, and the execution was eventually called to a halt, 20 minutes after it began. Oklahoma Department of Corrections spokesman, Jerry Massie claimed:

“We believe that a vein was blown and the drugs weren’t working as they were designed to. The director ordered a halt to the execution.”

Execution Time Line

6:23 pm – The injection process begins. Lockett has heavy, slow blinks, laid still
6:29 pm – Consistently closed his eyes
6:30 pm – First check of consciousness; still conscious
6:33 pm – Announced Lockett was officially unconscious
6:34 pm – Lockett started to move his mouth
6:36 pm – Lockett began convulsing and mumbling
6:37 pm – Lockett sat up and said ‘something’s wrong’
6:39 pm – Prison officials lowered the blinds
7:06 pm – Lockett dies of massive heart attack
*Source: KJRH.com

Governor Mary Fallin has ordered a 14 day stay of execution for a prisoner who was scheduled to be executed just two hours after Lockett, Charles Warner. She has also ordered the Department of Corrections to issue a ‘full review of Oklahoma’s execution procedures to determine what happened and why during this evening’s execution.’

This ‘botched’ execution has added fuel to the already immense debate over the death death penalty. Many critics of capital punishment claim that Lockett’s execution was a ‘cruel and unusual punishment,’ and in direct violation of the Eight Amendment, demonstrating that there is no way to ensure the convict’s death will be humane. Others argue that Lockett got the justice he deserved for the cruel manner of his victim’s death, and argue that Charles Warner should not have been granted a stay of execution.

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