Electric chair
Overview
 
Execution by electrocution, usually performed using an electric chair, is an execution method originating in the United States in which the condemned person is strapped to a specially built wooden chair and electrocuted
Electric shock
Electric Shock of a body with any source of electricity that causes a sufficient current through the skin, muscles or hair. Typically, the expression is used to denote an unwanted exposure to electricity, hence the effects are considered undesirable....

 through electrode
Electrode
An electrode is an electrical conductor used to make contact with a nonmetallic part of a circuit...

s placed on the body. This execution method was created by employees of Thomas Edison
Thomas Edison
Thomas Alva Edison was an American inventor and businessman. He developed many devices that greatly influenced life around the world, including the phonograph, the motion picture camera, and a long-lasting, practical electric light bulb. In addition, he created the world’s first industrial...

, and has been used only in the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 and, for a period of several decades, in the Philippines
Philippines
The Philippines , officially known as the Republic of the Philippines , is a country in Southeast Asia in the western Pacific Ocean. To its north across the Luzon Strait lies Taiwan. West across the South China Sea sits Vietnam...

 (its first use there in 1924 under American occupation, last in 1976).

Historically, once the condemned person was attached to the chair
Chair
A chair is a stable, raised surface used to sit on, commonly for use by one person. Chairs are most often supported by four legs and have a back; however, a chair can have three legs or could have a different shape depending on the criteria of the chair specifications. A chair without a back or...

, various cycles (differing in voltage and duration) of alternating current
Alternating current
In alternating current the movement of electric charge periodically reverses direction. In direct current , the flow of electric charge is only in one direction....

 would be passed through the individual's body, in order to cause fatal damage to the internal organs (including the brain).
Encyclopedia
Execution by electrocution, usually performed using an electric chair, is an execution method originating in the United States in which the condemned person is strapped to a specially built wooden chair and electrocuted
Electric shock
Electric Shock of a body with any source of electricity that causes a sufficient current through the skin, muscles or hair. Typically, the expression is used to denote an unwanted exposure to electricity, hence the effects are considered undesirable....

 through electrode
Electrode
An electrode is an electrical conductor used to make contact with a nonmetallic part of a circuit...

s placed on the body. This execution method was created by employees of Thomas Edison
Thomas Edison
Thomas Alva Edison was an American inventor and businessman. He developed many devices that greatly influenced life around the world, including the phonograph, the motion picture camera, and a long-lasting, practical electric light bulb. In addition, he created the world’s first industrial...

, and has been used only in the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 and, for a period of several decades, in the Philippines
Philippines
The Philippines , officially known as the Republic of the Philippines , is a country in Southeast Asia in the western Pacific Ocean. To its north across the Luzon Strait lies Taiwan. West across the South China Sea sits Vietnam...

 (its first use there in 1924 under American occupation, last in 1976).

Historically, once the condemned person was attached to the chair
Chair
A chair is a stable, raised surface used to sit on, commonly for use by one person. Chairs are most often supported by four legs and have a back; however, a chair can have three legs or could have a different shape depending on the criteria of the chair specifications. A chair without a back or...

, various cycles (differing in voltage and duration) of alternating current
Alternating current
In alternating current the movement of electric charge periodically reverses direction. In direct current , the flow of electric charge is only in one direction....

 would be passed through the individual's body, in order to cause fatal damage to the internal organs (including the brain). The first jolt of electric current was designed to cause immediate unconsciousness and brain death
Brain death
Brain death is the irreversible end of all brain activity due to total necrosis of the cerebral neurons following loss of brain oxygenation. It should not be confused with a persistent vegetative state...

; the second one was designed to cause fatal damage to the vital organs. Death was frequently caused by electrical overstimulation of the heart
Heart
The heart is a myogenic muscular organ found in all animals with a circulatory system , that is responsible for pumping blood throughout the blood vessels by repeated, rhythmic contractions...

.

Although in the United States the electric chair has become a symbol of the death penalty, its use is in decline due to the rise of lethal injection
Lethal injection
Lethal injection is the practice of injecting a person with a fatal dose of drugs for the express purpose of causing the immediate death of the subject. The main application for this procedure is capital punishment, but the term may also be applied in a broad sense to euthanasia and suicide...

, which is widely believed to be a more humane method of execution. Although some states still maintain electrocution as a method of execution, today it is only maintained as a secondary method that may be chosen over lethal injection at the request of the prisoner. As of 2010, electrocution is an optional form of execution
Capital punishment
Capital punishment, the death penalty, or execution is the sentence of death upon a person by the state as a punishment for an offence. Crimes that can result in a death penalty are known as capital crimes or capital offences. The term capital originates from the Latin capitalis, literally...

 in Alabama
Alabama
Alabama is a state located in the southeastern region of the United States. It is bordered by Tennessee to the north, Georgia to the east, Florida and the Gulf of Mexico to the south, and Mississippi to the west. Alabama ranks 30th in total land area and ranks second in the size of its inland...

, Florida
Florida
Florida is a state in the southeastern United States, located on the nation's Atlantic and Gulf coasts. It is bordered to the west by the Gulf of Mexico, to the north by Alabama and Georgia and to the east by the Atlantic Ocean. With a population of 18,801,310 as measured by the 2010 census, it...

, South Carolina
South Carolina
South Carolina is a state in the Deep South of the United States that borders Georgia to the south, North Carolina to the north, and the Atlantic Ocean to the east. Originally part of the Province of Carolina, the Province of South Carolina was one of the 13 colonies that declared independence...

 and Virginia
Virginia
The Commonwealth of Virginia , is a U.S. state on the Atlantic Coast of the Southern United States. Virginia is nicknamed the "Old Dominion" and sometimes the "Mother of Presidents" after the eight U.S. presidents born there...

. In the states of Kentucky
Kentucky
The Commonwealth of Kentucky is a state located in the East Central United States of America. As classified by the United States Census Bureau, Kentucky is a Southern state, more specifically in the East South Central region. Kentucky is one of four U.S. states constituted as a commonwealth...

 and Tennessee
Tennessee
Tennessee is a U.S. state located in the Southeastern United States. It has a population of 6,346,105, making it the nation's 17th-largest state by population, and covers , making it the 36th-largest by total land area...

, the electric chair has been retired except for those whose capital crimes were committed prior to legislated dates in 1998 (Kentucky: March 31, 1998; Tennessee: December 31, 1998) and chose electrocution. In both states, inmates who do not choose electrocution or inmates who committed their crimes after the designated date are killed by lethal injection
Lethal injection
Lethal injection is the practice of injecting a person with a fatal dose of drugs for the express purpose of causing the immediate death of the subject. The main application for this procedure is capital punishment, but the term may also be applied in a broad sense to euthanasia and suicide...

. The electric chair is an alternate form of execution approved for potential use in Arkansas
Arkansas
Arkansas is a state located in the southern region of the United States. Its name is an Algonquian name of the Quapaw Indians. Arkansas shares borders with six states , and its eastern border is largely defined by the Mississippi River...

 and Oklahoma
Oklahoma
Oklahoma is a state located in the South Central region of the United States of America. With an estimated 3,751,351 residents as of the 2010 census and a land area of 68,667 square miles , Oklahoma is the 28th most populous and 20th-largest state...

 if other forms of execution are found unconstitutional in the state at the time of execution. On February 8, 2008, the Nebraska Supreme Court determined that execution via the electric chair was a "cruel and unusual punishment" under the State's constitution. This brought executions of this type to an end in Nebraska, the only remaining state to retain electrocution as its sole method of execution.

Early development

In 1887, the state of New York
New York
New York is a state in the Northeastern region of the United States. It is the nation's third most populous state. New York is bordered by New Jersey and Pennsylvania to the south, and by Connecticut, Massachusetts and Vermont to the east...

 established a committee to determine a new, more humane method of execution to replace hanging
Hanging
Hanging is the lethal suspension of a person by a ligature. The Oxford English Dictionary states that hanging in this sense is "specifically to put to death by suspension by the neck", though it formerly also referred to crucifixion and death by impalement in which the body would remain...

. Alfred P. Southwick, a member of the committee, developed the idea of running electric current through a condemned man after hearing a case of how relatively painlessly and quickly a drunken man died due to touching exposed power lines. As Southwick was a dentist accustomed to performing procedures on subjects in chairs, his electrical device appeared in the form of a chair to restrain the inmate while being electrocuted.

The first electric chair was produced by Harold P. Brown
Harold P. Brown
Harold Pitney Brown was the American credited with building the original electric chair based on the design by Dr. Alfred P. Southwick...

 and Arthur Kennelly. Brown worked as an employee of Thomas Edison
Thomas Edison
Thomas Alva Edison was an American inventor and businessman. He developed many devices that greatly influenced life around the world, including the phonograph, the motion picture camera, and a long-lasting, practical electric light bulb. In addition, he created the world’s first industrial...

, hired for the purpose of researching electrocution
Electric shock
Electric Shock of a body with any source of electricity that causes a sufficient current through the skin, muscles or hair. Typically, the expression is used to denote an unwanted exposure to electricity, hence the effects are considered undesirable....

 and developing the electric chair. Kennelly, Edison's chief engineer at the West Orange facility was assigned to work with Brown on the project. Since Brown and Kennelly worked for Edison and Edison promoted their work, the development of the electric chair is often erroneously credited to Edison himself.

Brown intended to use alternating current
Alternating current
In alternating current the movement of electric charge periodically reverses direction. In direct current , the flow of electric charge is only in one direction....

 (AC), then emerging as a potent rival to less transport-efficient direct current
Direct current
Direct current is the unidirectional flow of electric charge. Direct current is produced by such sources as batteries, thermocouples, solar cells, and commutator-type electric machines of the dynamo type. Direct current may flow in a conductor such as a wire, but can also flow through...

 (DC), which was further along in commercial development. The decision to use AC was partly driven by Edison's claim that AC was more lethal than DC. However, at the currents used for the device (as high as ten amperes) the difference in lethality between the two types of currents was only about a factor of two.

To prove the danger of AC electricity and its suitability for executions, Brown and Edison publicly killed many animals with AC for the press in hopes of associating alternating current with electrical death. It was at these events that the term "electrocution" was coined. The term "electrocution" originally referred only to electrical execution (from which it is a portmanteau word), and not to accidental electrical deaths. However, since no English word was available for the latter process, the word "electrocution" eventually took over as a description of all circumstances of electrical death with the new rise of commercial electricity. Most of their experiments were conducted at Edison's West Orange, New Jersey
West Orange, New Jersey
West Orange is a township in central Essex County, New Jersey, United States. As of the 2010 United States Census, the township population was 46,207...

, laboratory in 1888. The demonstrations of electrocution apparently had their intended effects, and the committee adopted the AC electric chair in 1889.

First executions

The first person to be executed by the electric chair was William Kemmler
William Kemmler
William Francis Kemmler of Buffalo, New York, was a convicted murderer and the first person in the world to be executed using an electric chair.-Early life:...

 in New York's Auburn Prison on August 6, 1890; the "state electrician
State Electrician
"State Electrician" was the euphemistic title given to some American state executioners in states using the electric chair during the early twentieth century....

" was Edwin F. Davis. The first 17-second passage of current through Kemmler caused unconsciousness, but failed to stop his heart and breathing. The attending physicians, Edward Charles Spitzka and Charles F. Macdonald, came forward to examine Kemmler. After confirming Kemmler was still alive, Spitzka reportedly called out, "Have the current turned on again, quick, no delay." The generator needed time to re-charge, however. In the second attempt, Kemmler was shocked with 2,000 volts. Blood vessels under the skin ruptured and bled, and the areas around the electrodes singed. The entire execution took about eight minutes. George Westinghouse
George Westinghouse
George Westinghouse, Jr was an American entrepreneur and engineer who invented the railway air brake and was a pioneer of the electrical industry. Westinghouse was one of Thomas Edison's main rivals in the early implementation of the American electricity system...

 later commented that "they would have done better using an axe," and a witnessing reporter claimed that it was "an awful spectacle, far worse than hanging."

The first woman to be executed in the electric chair was Martha M. Place
Martha M. Place
Martha M. Place was the first woman to die in the electric chair. She was executed on March 20, 1899 at age 44, in Sing Sing prison for the murder of her stepdaughter Ida Place.-Background:...

, executed at Sing Sing Prison on March 20, 1899.

Adoption

The electric chair was adopted by Ohio (1897), Massachusetts (1900), New Jersey (1906) and Virginia (1908), and soon became the prevalent method of execution in the United States, replacing hanging
Hanging
Hanging is the lethal suspension of a person by a ligature. The Oxford English Dictionary states that hanging in this sense is "specifically to put to death by suspension by the neck", though it formerly also referred to crucifixion and death by impalement in which the body would remain...

. Most of the states that currently use or have used the electric chair lie east of the Mississippi River
Mississippi River
The Mississippi River is the largest river system in North America. Flowing entirely in the United States, this river rises in western Minnesota and meanders slowly southwards for to the Mississippi River Delta at the Gulf of Mexico. With its many tributaries, the Mississippi's watershed drains...

. The electric chair remained the most prominent execution method until the mid-1980s when lethal injection
Lethal injection
Lethal injection is the practice of injecting a person with a fatal dose of drugs for the express purpose of causing the immediate death of the subject. The main application for this procedure is capital punishment, but the term may also be applied in a broad sense to euthanasia and suicide...

 became widely accepted as an easier and more humane method for conducting judicial executions.

Other countries appear to have contemplated using the method, sometimes for special reasons. Minutes of the British War Cabinet released in 2006 show that in December 1942, Winston Churchill
Winston Churchill
Sir Winston Leonard Spencer-Churchill, was a predominantly Conservative British politician and statesman known for his leadership of the United Kingdom during the Second World War. He is widely regarded as one of the greatest wartime leaders of the century and served as Prime Minister twice...

 proposed that Adolf Hitler
Adolf Hitler
Adolf Hitler was an Austrian-born German politician and the leader of the National Socialist German Workers Party , commonly referred to as the Nazi Party). He was Chancellor of Germany from 1933 to 1945, and head of state from 1934 to 1945...

 — if caught — should be summarily executed in an electric chair, obtained from the USA. 'This man is the mainspring of evil. Instrument — electric chair, for gangsters
Gangster
A gangster is a criminal who is a member of a gang. Some gangs are considered to be part of organized crime. Gangsters are also called mobsters, a term derived from mob and the suffix -ster....

, no doubt available on lease-lend
Lend-Lease
Lend-Lease was the program under which the United States of America supplied the United Kingdom, the Soviet Union, China, Free France, and other Allied nations with materiel between 1941 and 1945. It was signed into law on March 11, 1941, a year and a half after the outbreak of war in Europe in...

'.

A number of states still allow the condemned person to choose between electrocution and lethal injection. In all, twelve inmates nationwide — six in Virginia
Virginia
The Commonwealth of Virginia , is a U.S. state on the Atlantic Coast of the Southern United States. Virginia is nicknamed the "Old Dominion" and sometimes the "Mother of Presidents" after the eight U.S. presidents born there...

, three in South Carolina
South Carolina
South Carolina is a state in the Deep South of the United States that borders Georgia to the south, North Carolina to the north, and the Atlantic Ocean to the east. Originally part of the Province of Carolina, the Province of South Carolina was one of the 13 colonies that declared independence...

 and one in Arizona
Arizona
Arizona ; is a state located in the southwestern region of the United States. It is also part of the western United States and the mountain west. The capital and largest city is Phoenix...

, Arkansas
Arkansas
Arkansas is a state located in the southern region of the United States. Its name is an Algonquian name of the Quapaw Indians. Arkansas shares borders with six states , and its eastern border is largely defined by the Mississippi River...

 and Tennessee
Tennessee
Tennessee is a U.S. state located in the Southeastern United States. It has a population of 6,346,105, making it the nation's 17th-largest state by population, and covers , making it the 36th-largest by total land area...

 — have opted for electrocution over lethal injection. The last use of the chair was on March 18, 2010, when Paul Warner Powell
Paul Warner Powell
Paul Warner Powell was a convicted murderer who was executed by the Commonwealth of Virginia via electric chair. He is currently the last person executed in the United States using this method.-Murder:...

 was electrocuted in Virginia. He elected this method.

After 1966, electrocutions ceased for a time in the USA, but the method continued in the Philippines
Philippines
The Philippines , officially known as the Republic of the Philippines , is a country in Southeast Asia in the western Pacific Ocean. To its north across the Luzon Strait lies Taiwan. West across the South China Sea sits Vietnam...

. A well-publicized triple execution took place in May 1972, when Jaime Jose, Basilio Pineda and Edgardo Aquino were electrocuted for the 1967 abduction and gang-rape of the young actress Maggie de la Riva
Maggie dela Riva
Magdalena T. dela Riva in the Philippines, is a Filipino movie actress, who has appeared in about 80 films.She is most widely known outside the Philippines for an incident in her early career , when she was abducted and raped. She gave evidence against her abductors, which resulted in the...

.

Notable persons and events

Notable deaths by electric chair include: Leon Czolgosz
Leon Czolgosz
Leon Czolgosz was the assassin of U.S. President William McKinley.In the last few years of his life, he claimed to have been heavily influenced by anarchists such as Emma Goldman and Alexander Berkman.- Early life :...

, Bruno Hauptmann
Bruno Hauptmann
Bruno Richard Hauptmann was a German ex-convict sentenced to death for the abduction and murder of the 20-month-old son of Charles Lindbergh and Anne Morrow Lindbergh. The Lindbergh kidnapping became known as "The Crime of the Century".-Background:Hauptmann was born in Kamenz in the German Empire,...

, Hans B. Schmidt, Harry Pierpont
Harry Pierpont
Harry Pierpont was a Prohibition era gangster. He is perhaps most noted for being a friend and mentor of John Dillinger....

, Giuseppe Zangara
Giuseppe Zangara
Giuseppe Zangara was the assassin of Chicago mayor Anton Cermak, though United States President–elect Franklin Delano Roosevelt may have been his intended target. Roosevelt escaped injury, but five people were shot including Cermak.- Early life :Zangara was born in Ferruzzano, Calabria, Italy...

, Sacco and Vanzetti
Sacco and Vanzetti
Ferdinando Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti were anarchists who were convicted of murdering two men during a 1920 armed robbery in South Braintree, Massachusetts, United States...

, Julius and Ethel Rosenberg
Julius and Ethel Rosenberg
Ethel Greenglass Rosenberg and Julius Rosenberg were American communists who were convicted and executed in 1953 for conspiracy to commit espionage during a time of war. The charges related to their passing information about the atomic bomb to the Soviet Union...

, Lepke Buchalter, Anna Marie Hahn
Anna Marie Hahn
Anna Marie Hahn was a German-born American serial killer....

, Donald Henry Gaskins, Albert Fish
Albert Fish
Hamilton Howard "Albert" Fish was an American serial killer. He was also known as the Gray Man, the Werewolf of Wysteria, the Brooklyn Vampire, the Moon Maniac and The Boogey Man. A child rapist and cannibal, he boasted that he "had children in every state," and at one time put the figure at...

, Charles Starkweather
Charles Starkweather
Charles Raymond Starkweather was an American teenaged spree killer who murdered eleven people in Nebraska and Wyoming during a two-month road trip with his 14-year-old girlfriend, Caril Ann Fugate. The couple was captured on January 29, 1958...

, Gerald Stano
Gerald Stano
Gerald Eugene Stano was an American convicted serial killer. He killed at least 22 women; he confessed killing 41-Early life:He was born in Schenectady, New York. His given name at birth was Paul Zeininger...

 and Ted Bundy
Ted Bundy
Theodore Robert "Ted" Bundy was an American serial killer, rapist, kidnapper, and necrophile who assaulted and murdered numerous young women during the 1970s, and possibly earlier...

. There was a botched electrocution at Sing Sing in 1903: Fred Van Wormer was electrocuted and pronounced dead, but upon arrival to the autopsy room, Wormer began breathing once again. The executioner, who had gone home, was called back to re-electrocute Wormer; upon his return, Wormer had officially died. Nonetheless, Wormer's corpse was set into the chair again and electrocuted with 1700 volts for thirty seconds.

Maria Barbella
Maria Barbella
Maria Barbella was the first woman sentenced to die in the electric chair. She was convicted of killing her lover in 1895; however, the ruling was overturned in 1896 and she was freed.-Life:...

 was the first woman sentenced to death by the electric chair; however, she was released on appeal.

The electrocution of housewife Ruth Snyder
Ruth Snyder
Ruth Brown Snyder was an American murderess. Her execution, in the electric chair at Sing Sing Prison, for the murder of her husband, Albert, was captured in a well-known photograph.-The crime:...

 at Sing Sing on the evening of January 12, 1928, for the March 1927 murder of her husband was made famous when news photographer Tom Howard
Tom Howard (photographer)
Thomas James "Tom" Howard was an American photographer who worked at the Washington bureau of P. & A. Photographs during the 1920s...

, working for the New York Daily News, smuggled a hidden camera into the death chamber and photographed her in the electric chair as the current was turned on. The photograph was a front-page sensation the following morning, and remains one of the most famous newspaper photographs of all time.

A record was set on July 13, 1928, when seven men were executed consecutively in the electric chair at the Kentucky State Penitentiary in Eddyville. In 1942, six Germans convicted of espionage
Espionage
Espionage or spying involves an individual obtaining information that is considered secret or confidential without the permission of the holder of the information. Espionage is inherently clandestine, lest the legitimate holder of the information change plans or take other countermeasures once it...

 in the Quirin case
Ex parte Quirin
Ex parte Quirin, , is a Supreme Court of the United States case that upheld the jurisdiction of a United States military tribunal over the trial of several Operation Pastorius German saboteurs in the United States...

 were killed in one day in the District of Columbia jail electric chair.

James French
James French (murderer)
James D. French was an American criminal who was the last person executed under Oklahoma's death penalty laws prior to Furman v. Georgia. He was also the only prisoner executed in the United States that year...

 was executed on August 10, 1966, the last person electrocuted until 1979. French was the first person executed in Oklahoma
Oklahoma
Oklahoma is a state located in the South Central region of the United States of America. With an estimated 3,751,351 residents as of the 2010 census and a land area of 68,667 square miles , Oklahoma is the 28th most populous and 20th-largest state...

 since Richard Dare was electrocuted June 1, 1963 and the only person executed in 1966.

On May 25, 1979, John Arthur Spenkelink became the first electrocuted person after the Gregg v. Georgia
Gregg v. Georgia
Gregg v. Georgia, Proffitt v. Florida, Jurek v. Texas, Woodson v. North Carolina, and Roberts v. Louisiana, 428 U.S. 153 , reaffirmed the United States Supreme Court's acceptance of the use of the death penalty in the United States, upholding, in particular, the death sentence imposed on Troy Leon...

decision by the Supreme Court of the United States
Supreme Court of the United States
The Supreme Court of the United States is the highest court in the United States. It has ultimate appellate jurisdiction over all state and federal courts, and original jurisdiction over a small range of cases...

 in 1976. He was the first person to be executed in the United States in this manner since 1966. However, the last person to be executed involuntarily via the electric chair was Lynda Lyon Block
Lynda Lyon Block
Lynda Cheryl Lyon Block was an American convicted murderess....

 on May 10, 2002 in Alabama
Alabama
Alabama is a state located in the southeastern region of the United States. It is bordered by Tennessee to the north, Georgia to the east, Florida and the Gulf of Mexico to the south, and Mississippi to the west. Alabama ranks 30th in total land area and ranks second in the size of its inland...

.

Decline

The use of the electric chair has declined as legislators sought what they believed to be more humane methods of execution. Lethal injection
Lethal injection
Lethal injection is the practice of injecting a person with a fatal dose of drugs for the express purpose of causing the immediate death of the subject. The main application for this procedure is capital punishment, but the term may also be applied in a broad sense to euthanasia and suicide...

 became the most popular method, aided by media reports of botched electrocutions in the early 1980s.

The electric chair has been criticized because of several instances in which the subjects were killed only after being subjected to multiple electric shocks. This led to a call for ending of the practice because many see it as cruel and unusual punishment
Cruel and unusual punishment
Cruel and unusual punishment is a phrase describing criminal punishment which is considered unacceptable due to the suffering or humiliation it inflicts on the condemned person...

. Trying to address such concerns, Nebraska introduced a new electrocution protocol in 2004, which called for administration of a 15-second-long application of 2,450 volts of electricity; after a 15-minute wait, an official then checks for signs of life. New concerns raised regarding the 2004 protocol resulted, in April 2007, in the ushering in of the current Nebraska protocol, calling for a 20-second-long application of 2,450 volts of electricity. (Prior to the 2004 protocol change, an initial eight-second application of 2,450 volts was administered, followed by a one-second pause, then a 22-second application at 480 volts. After a 20-second break, the cycle was repeated three more times.)

There have been incidents of a person's head on fire
Pedro Medina
Pedro Luis Medina was a Cuban refugee who was executed by the state of Florida for the murder of a 52-year-old woman in Orlando...

; or of a burnt electrical transformer
Transformer
A transformer is a device that transfers electrical energy from one circuit to another through inductively coupled conductors—the transformer's coils. A varying current in the first or primary winding creates a varying magnetic flux in the transformer's core and thus a varying magnetic field...

. In 1946, the electric chair failed to execute Willie Francis
Willie Francis
Willie Francis is best known for being the first recipient of a failed execution by electrocution in the United States. He was a black juvenile offender sentenced to death by electrocution by the state of Louisiana in 1945 for murdering Andrew Thomas, a Cajun pharmacy owner in St...

, who reportedly shrieked "take it off! Let me breathe!" as he was being executed. It turned out that the portable electric chair had been improperly set up by an intoxicated trusty. A case was brought before the U.S. Supreme Court (Francis v. Resweber
Francis v. Resweber
State of Louisiana Ex Rel. Francis v. Resweber, , is a case in which the U.S. Supreme Court was asked whether imposing capital punishment a second time, after it failed in an attempt to execute Willie Francis in 1946, constituted a violation of the United States Constitution...

)
, with lawyers for the condemned arguing that although Francis did not die, he had, in fact, been executed. The argument was rejected on the basis that re-execution did not violate the double jeopardy
Double jeopardy
Double jeopardy is a procedural defense that forbids a defendant from being tried again on the same, or similar charges following a legitimate acquittal or conviction...

 clause of the 5th Amendment of the US Constitution, and Francis was returned to the electric chair and successfully executed in 1947.

Recorded incidents of botched electrocutions were prevalent after the national moratorium ended January 17, 1977; two in Alabama
Alabama
Alabama is a state located in the southeastern region of the United States. It is bordered by Tennessee to the north, Georgia to the east, Florida and the Gulf of Mexico to the south, and Mississippi to the west. Alabama ranks 30th in total land area and ranks second in the size of its inland...

, three in Florida
Florida
Florida is a state in the southeastern United States, located on the nation's Atlantic and Gulf coasts. It is bordered to the west by the Gulf of Mexico, to the north by Alabama and Georgia and to the east by the Atlantic Ocean. With a population of 18,801,310 as measured by the 2010 census, it...

, one in Georgia
Georgia (U.S. state)
Georgia is a state located in the southeastern United States. It was established in 1732, the last of the original Thirteen Colonies. The state is named after King George II of Great Britain. Georgia was the fourth state to ratify the United States Constitution, on January 2, 1788...

, one in Indiana
Indiana
Indiana is a US state, admitted to the United States as the 19th on December 11, 1816. It is located in the Midwestern United States and Great Lakes Region. With 6,483,802 residents, the state is ranked 15th in population and 16th in population density. Indiana is ranked 38th in land area and is...

 and three in Virginia
Virginia
The Commonwealth of Virginia , is a U.S. state on the Atlantic Coast of the Southern United States. Virginia is nicknamed the "Old Dominion" and sometimes the "Mother of Presidents" after the eight U.S. presidents born there...

. All five states now have lethal injection as the default method if a choice is not made.

, the only places in the world which still reserve the electric chair as an option for execution are the U.S. states of Alabama
Alabama
Alabama is a state located in the southeastern region of the United States. It is bordered by Tennessee to the north, Georgia to the east, Florida and the Gulf of Mexico to the south, and Mississippi to the west. Alabama ranks 30th in total land area and ranks second in the size of its inland...

, Florida
Florida
Florida is a state in the southeastern United States, located on the nation's Atlantic and Gulf coasts. It is bordered to the west by the Gulf of Mexico, to the north by Alabama and Georgia and to the east by the Atlantic Ocean. With a population of 18,801,310 as measured by the 2010 census, it...

, South Carolina
South Carolina
South Carolina is a state in the Deep South of the United States that borders Georgia to the south, North Carolina to the north, and the Atlantic Ocean to the east. Originally part of the Province of Carolina, the Province of South Carolina was one of the 13 colonies that declared independence...

, Kentucky
Kentucky
The Commonwealth of Kentucky is a state located in the East Central United States of America. As classified by the United States Census Bureau, Kentucky is a Southern state, more specifically in the East South Central region. Kentucky is one of four U.S. states constituted as a commonwealth...

, Tennessee
Tennessee
Tennessee is a U.S. state located in the Southeastern United States. It has a population of 6,346,105, making it the nation's 17th-largest state by population, and covers , making it the 36th-largest by total land area...

 and Virginia
Virginia
The Commonwealth of Virginia , is a U.S. state on the Atlantic Coast of the Southern United States. Virginia is nicknamed the "Old Dominion" and sometimes the "Mother of Presidents" after the eight U.S. presidents born there...

. (Arkansas
Arkansas
Arkansas is a state located in the southern region of the United States. Its name is an Algonquian name of the Quapaw Indians. Arkansas shares borders with six states , and its eastern border is largely defined by the Mississippi River...

 and Oklahoma
Oklahoma
Oklahoma is a state located in the South Central region of the United States of America. With an estimated 3,751,351 residents as of the 2010 census and a land area of 68,667 square miles , Oklahoma is the 28th most populous and 20th-largest state...

 laws provide for its use should lethal injection ever be held to be unconstitutional.) Inmates in the other states must select either it or lethal injection. In the state of Florida, on July 8, 1999, Allen Lee Davis
Allen Lee Davis
Allen Lee Davis was a convicted murderer executed for the May 11, 1982 Jacksonville, Florida murder of Nancy Weiler, who was three months pregnant at the time...

 convicted of murder was executed in the Florida electric chair "Old Sparky
Old Sparky
Old Sparky is the nickname of the electric chairs in Arkansas, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Kentucky, Nebraska, Ohio, Oklahoma, New York, Texas, and Virginia. It was the nickname of the long-retired electric chair at the now-closed West Virginia State Penitentiary in Moundsville, West...

". Davis' face was bloodied and photographs taken, which were later posted on the Internet. The 1997 execution of Pedro Medina
Pedro Medina
Pedro Luis Medina was a Cuban refugee who was executed by the state of Florida for the murder of a 52-year-old woman in Orlando...

 created controversy when flames burst from the inmate's head. Lethal injection has been the primary method of execution in the state of Florida since 2008. On February 15, 2008, the Nebraska Supreme Court declared execution by electrocution to be "cruel and unusual punishment" prohibited by the Nebraska Constitution.

Although the use of electrocution to administer death has waned in recent years, it is not unheard of. Paul Warner Powell
Paul Warner Powell
Paul Warner Powell was a convicted murderer who was executed by the Commonwealth of Virginia via electric chair. He is currently the last person executed in the United States using this method.-Murder:...

, whose sentence was executed in Virginia
Virginia
The Commonwealth of Virginia , is a U.S. state on the Atlantic Coast of the Southern United States. Virginia is nicknamed the "Old Dominion" and sometimes the "Mother of Presidents" after the eight U.S. presidents born there...

 March 18, 2010, is the most recent individual to choose electrocution over lethal injection.

See also

  • Capital punishment
    Capital punishment
    Capital punishment, the death penalty, or execution is the sentence of death upon a person by the state as a punishment for an offence. Crimes that can result in a death penalty are known as capital crimes or capital offences. The term capital originates from the Latin capitalis, literally...

  • Electric shock
    Electric shock
    Electric Shock of a body with any source of electricity that causes a sufficient current through the skin, muscles or hair. Typically, the expression is used to denote an unwanted exposure to electricity, hence the effects are considered undesirable....



Nicknames of various electric chairs:
  • Yellow Mama
    Yellow Mama
    Yellow Mama is the euphemistic nickname given to Alabama's electric chair.First installed at Kilby State Prison in Montgomery, Alabama, Yellow Mama acquired its yellow color when painted using highway-line paint from the adjacent State Highway Department lab. The chair was built by a British inmate...

  • Old Sparky
    Old Sparky
    Old Sparky is the nickname of the electric chairs in Arkansas, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Kentucky, Nebraska, Ohio, Oklahoma, New York, Texas, and Virginia. It was the nickname of the long-retired electric chair at the now-closed West Virginia State Penitentiary in Moundsville, West...

  • Gruesome Gertie
    Gruesome Gertie
    Gruesome Gertie was the nickname given by death row inmates to the Louisiana electric chair.-History:The 1940 Louisiana legislature had changed the method of execution, making execution by electrocution effective from June 1, 1941. Louisiana's electric chair did not have a permanent home at first,...

  • Old Smokey
    Old Smokey
    Old Smokey is a euphemistic name given to the state prison electric chair in New Jersey, which is currently on exhibition at the Newseum in Washington, DC as part of an exhibition detailing great cases of the FBI. It had previously been on display at the New Jersey State Police Museum...



State Electrician
State Electrician
"State Electrician" was the euphemistic title given to some American state executioners in states using the electric chair during the early twentieth century....

s:
  • Edwin F. Davis
  • Robert G. Elliott
    Robert G. Elliott
    Robert Greene Elliott was the "state electrician" for the State of New York – and for those neighboring states which used the electric chair, including New Jersey, Vermont, and Massachusetts – during the period 1926-1939.He was born in Hamlin, New York, to an Irish immigrant...

  • Dow Hover
    Dow Hover
    Dow B. Hover was the last person to serve as a State Electrician of the New York State, who operated electric chair and the last person to serve as an executioner in the now no-death penalty state...


External links

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