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  • In Indiana prior to 1913, all executions were by hanging. From 1913 through 1994, all executions were by electric chair. Since 1995, all executions have been by lethal injection. Current execution procedure is found at Indiana Code 35-38-6 and requires that the lethal injection execution take place inside the walls of the Indiana State Prison at Michigan City before sunrise.

    In the 37 states and federal government that currently have death penalty statutes, five different methods of execution are prescribed: Lethal Injection, Electrocution, Lethal Gas, Firing Squad, and Hanging. The vast majority of jurisdictions provide for execution by lethal injection. 20 jurisdictions provide for alternative methods of execution, contingent upon the choice of the inmate, the date of the execution or sentence, or the possibility of the method being held unconstitutional. Only one state does not have lethal injection as a primary or optional method of execution. Nebraska is the only state that provides for electrocution as the sole method of execution. No states provide for Lethal Gas, Hanging, or Firing Squad as the sole method of execution.

    In 2007 New Jersey became the first state to repeal its death penalty laws since it was reinstated in the United States in 1976. In 2008 the Nebraska Supreme Court ruled that the use of the electric chair as a method of execution violates the Nebraska Constitution. With no alternative methods of execution on the books, Nebraska is practically without a death penalty.

    Lethal Injection
    Alabama

    Arizona

    Arkansas

    California

    Colorado

    Connecticut

    Delaware

    Florida

    Georgia

    Idaho

    Indiana

    Kansas

    Kentucky

    Louisiana

    Maryland

    Mississippi

    Missouri

    Montana

    Nevada

    New Hampshire

    North Carolina

    Ohio

    Oklahoma

    Oregon

    Pennsylvania

    South Carolina

    South Dakota

    Tennessee

    Texas

    Utah

    Virginia

    Washington

    Wyoming

    Federal Government

         
    Electrocution Lethal Gas Firing Squad
    Alabama

    Arkansas

    Florida

    Illinois

    Kentucky

    Nebraska

    Oklahoma

    South Carolina

    Tennessee

    Virginia

    Arizona

    California

    Missouri

    Wyoming

    Idaho

    Oklahoma

    Utah

    Hanging

    Delaware

    New Hampshire

    Washington

         

    Alabama - If execution is after 07-01-02, inmate may choose electrocution, otherwise lethal injection. Arizona - If committed before 11-23-92, inmate shall elect lethal injection or lethal gas. If no election made, then lethal injection. California - Inmate may elect lethal injection or lethal gas. If no election, then Lethal Injection. If one method invalid, then the other method. Delaware - Lethal Injection. If lethal injection held unconstitutional, then hanging. Florida - Lethal injection unless inmate elects electrocution. If lethal injection or electrocution held unconstitutional, then any legal method. Georgia - If committed after May 1, 2000 lethal injection. If before, electrocution. If electrocution held unconstitutional, then lethal injection. In 2001, Georgia Supreme Court held electrocution, as prescribed by statute for murders before 1999, unconstitutional.Idaho - Lethal injection. If impractical due to lack of “technical assistance,” then firing squad. Illinois - Lethal Injection. If lethal injection held unconstitutional, then electrocution. Kentucky - Lethal injection, unless inmate was sentenced before 03-31-98 and chooses electrocution. Missouri - Lethal injection or lethal gas. (Unknown who decides) New Hampshire - Lethal Injection. If “impractical, then hanging. Ohio - Lethal Injection - If lethal injection held unconstitutional, then any subsequently prescribed legal method. Oklahoma - If lethal injection held unconstitutional, then electrocution. If electrocution held unconstitutional, then firing squad. South Carolina - Lethal injection, unless inmate elects electrocution. If Lethal Injection held unconstitutional, then electrocution. Tennessee - On or after 01-01-99, then lethal injection. Before 01-01-99, then electrocution, unless inmate elects lethal injection. If lethal injection or electrocution,l then any constitutional method. Utah - Lethal injection. If court holds that defendant has right to firing squad choice under prior law, then firing squad. If lethal injection held unconstitutional, then firing squad. Virginia - Lethal injection or electrocution chosen by inmate. If no choice made, then Lethal Injection. Washington - Lethal injection, unless inmate elects hanging. Wyoming - If lethal injection held unconstitutional, then lethal gas. Federal Government - Lethal Injection is general method pursuant to 28 CFR, Part 26. However, under the Violent Crime Control Act of 1994, the method is that of state in which the conviction took place, pursuant to 18 U.S.C. 3596.


    STATE STATUTES / METHOD OF EXECUTION

    Jurisdiction Statute Primary Method
    Alabama 15-18-82(a) Lethal Injection or
    Electrocution
    Arizona 13-704 Lethal Injection
    Arkansas 5-4-617(a)(1) Lethal Injection
    California Penal Code Sec. 3604 Lethal Injection or Gas
    Colorado 18-1.3-1202 Lethal Injection
    Connecticut 54-100 Lethal Injection
    Delaware Title 11, Sec. 4209 Lethal Injection
    Florida 922.105 Lethal Injection or
    Electrocution
    Georgia 17-10-38 Lethal Injection
    Idaho 19-2716 Lethal Injection
    or Firing Squad
    Illinois C. 20 - 5/119-5(a) Lethal Injection
    Indiana 35-38-6-1 Lethal Injection
    Kansas 22-4001 Lethal Injection
    Kentucky 431.220 Lethal Injection
    Louisiana 15:569 Lethal Injection
    Maryland 3-905 Lethal Injection
    Mississippi 99-19-51 Lethal Injection
    Missouri 546.720 Lethal Injection or Gas
    Montana 49-19-103(3) Lethal Injection
    Nebraska 29-2543 Electrocution
    Nevada 176.355 Lethal Injection
    New Hampshire 630:5 (XIII) Lethal Injection
    New Mexico 31-14-11 Lethal Injection
    New York C. 43 - Art.22-B,658 Lethal Injection
    North Carolina 15-187 Lethal Injection
    Ohio 2949.22 Electrocution or
    Lethal Injection
    Oklahoma 1014 Lethal Injection
    Oregon 137.473 Lethal Injection
    Pennsylvania Title 61, Sec. 3004 Lethal Injection
    South Carolina 24-3-530 Lethal Injection or
    Electrocution
    South Dakota 23A-27A-32 Lethal Injection
    Tennessee 40-23-114 Lethal Injection
    Texas TCCP, Art. 43.14 Lethal Injection
    Utah 77-18-5.5 Firing Squad or
    Lethal Injection
    Virginia 53.1-233 Lethal Injection or
    Electrocution
    Washington 10.95.180 Hanging or
    Lethal Injection
    Wyoming 7-13-904 Lethal Injection
    Federal Govt 28 CFR 26.3
    18 USC 3596
    Lethal Injection or
    State Method

    LETHAL INJECTION

    Procedure: State statutes typically provide: "The punishment of death must be inflicted by continuous, intravenous administration of a lethal quantity of an ultrashort-acting barbiturate in combination with a chemical paralytic agent until death is pronounced by a licensed physician according to accepted standards of medical practice."

    The execution protocol for most jurisdictions authorizes the use of a combination of three drugs. The first, sodium thiopental or sodium pentothal, is a barbiturate that renders the prisoner unconscious. The second, pancuronium bromide, is a muscle relaxant that paralyzes the diaphragm and lungs. The third, potassium chloride, causes cardiac arrest. Each chemical is lethal in the amounts administered.

    The inmate is escorted into the execution chamber and is strapped onto a gurney with ankle and wrist restraints. The inmate is connected to a cardiac monitor which is connected to a printer outside the execution chamber. An IV is started in two usable veins, one in each arm, and a flow of normal saline solution is administered at a slow rate. One line is held in reserve in case of a blockage or malfunction in the other. At the warden’s signal, 5.0 grams of sodium pentothal (in 20 cc of diluent) is administered, then the line is flushed with sterile normal saline solution. This is followed by 50 cc of pancuronium bromide, a saline flush, and finally, 50 cc of potassium chloride. (See California Execution Procedures).

    The most common problem encountered is collapsing veins and the inability to properly insert the IV. Some states allow for a Thorazine or sedative injection to facilitate IV insertion.

    History: Lethal injection had first been proposed as a means of execution in 1888 when New York considered it, but ultimately opted for electrocution. In 1977, Oklahoma became the first state to adopt lethal injection. Texas performed the first execution by lethal injection in 1982 with the execution of Charlie Brooks.

    Current Application: 16 states and the federal government authorize lethal injection as the sole method of execution. 20 other states provide for lethal injection as the primary method of execution, but provide alternative methods depending upon the choice of the inmate, the date of the execution or sentence, or the possibility of the method being held unconstitutional. As of April 1, 2008, 929 (85%) of 1,099 executions performed since 1976 have been by lethal injection, including 443 of the last 448 executions.

    ELECTROCUTION

    Procedure: State statutes typically provide: "The sentence shall be executed by causing to pass through the body of the convict a current of electricity of sufficient intensity to cause death, and the application and continuance of such current through the body of such convict shall continue until such convict is dead."

    The execution protocol for most jurisdictions authorizes the use of a wooden chair with restraints and connections to an electric current. The offender enters the execution chamber and is placed in the electric chair. The chair is constructed of oak and is set on a rubber matting and bolted to a concrete floor. Lap, chest, arm, and forearm straps are secured. A leg piece (anklet) is laced to the offender's right calf and a sponge and electrode is attached. The headgear consists of a metal headpiece covered with a leather hood which conceals the offender's face. The metal part of the headpiece consists of a copper wire mesh screen to which the electrode is brazened. A wet sponge is placed between the electrode and the offender's scalp. The safety switch is closed. The circuit breaker is engaged. The execution control panel is activated. The automatic cycle begins with the programmed 2,300 volts (9.5 amps) for eight seconds, followed by 1,000 volts (4 amps) for 22 seconds, followed by 2,300 volts (9.5 amps) for eight seconds. When the cycle is complete, the equipment is disconnected and the manual circuit behind the chair is disengaged. If the offender is not pronounced dead, the execution cycle is then repeated. (See Florida Execution Procedures).

    The most common problems encountered include burning of varying degrees to parts of the body, and a failure of the procedures to cause death without repeated shocks. Witness accounts of many botched executions over the years have caused electrocution to be replaced with lethal injection as the most common method of execution.

    History: In 1888, New York became the first state to adopt electrocution as its method of execution. William Kemmler was the first man executed by electrocution in 1890. See, In re Kemmler, 136 U.S. 436 (1890). The last state to adopt electrocution as a method of execution was in 1949. From 1930-1980 it was clearly the most common method of execution in the United States.

    Current Application: Only Nebraska currently uses electrocution as the sole method of execution. 9 other states provide for electrocution as an alternative method, depending upon the choice of the inmate, the date of the execution or sentence, or the possibility of the method being held unconstitutional. In 2008, the Nebraska Supreme Court ruled that the use of the electric chair as a method of execution violates the Nebraska Constitution. With no alternative methods of execution on the books, Nebraska is practically without a death penalty. Of the countries outside the United States that impose capital punishment, none prescribe execution by electrocution. Both the Humane Society of the United States and the American Veterinarian Medical Association condemn electrocution as a method of euthanasia for animals. As of April 1, 2008, 154 of 1,099 (14.0%) executions performed since 1976 have been by electrocution. Most recently, Daryl Holton elected electrocution in Tennessee on September 12, 2007.

    LETHAL GAS

    Procedure: State statutes typically and simply provide: "The punishment of death must be inflicted by the administration of a lethal gas."

    The execution protocol for most jurisdictions authorizes the use of a steel airtight execution chamber, equipped with a chair and attached restraints. The inmate is restrained at his chest, waist, arms, and ankles, and wears a mask during the execution. The chair is equipped with a metal container beneath the seat. Cyanide pellets are placed in this container. A metal canister is on the floor under the container filled with a sulfuric acid solution. There are three executioners, and each executioner turns one key. When the three keys are turned, an electric switch causes the bottom of the cyanide container to open allowing the cyanide to fall into the sulfuric acid solution, producing a lethal gas. Unconsciousness can occur within a few seconds if the prisoner takes a deep breath. However, if he or she holds their breath death can take much longer, and the prisoner usually goes into wild convulsions. A heart monitor attached to the inmate is read in the control room, and after the warden pronounces the inmate dead, ammonia is pumped into the execution chamber to neutralize the gas. Exhaust fans then remove the inert fumes from the chamber into two scrubbers that contain water and serve as a neutralizing agent. The neutralizing process takes approximately 30 minutes from the time the offender's death is determined. Death is estimated to usually occur within 6 to 18 minutes of the lethal gas emissions. (See North Carolina Execution Procedures).

    The most common problems encountered are the obvious agony suffered by the inmate and the length of time to cause death.

    History: The use of a gas chamber for execution was inspired by the use of poisonous gas in World War I, as well as the popularity of the gas oven as a means of suicide. Nevada became the first state to adopt execution by lethal gas in 1924 and carried out the first execution in 1924. Since then it has served as the means of carrying out the death sentence 31 times. Lethal gas was seen as an improvement over other forms of execution, because it was less violent and did not disfigure or mutilate the body. The last execution by lethal gas took place in Arizona in 1999.

    Current Application: Only 4 states, Arizona, California, Missouri, and Wyoming, currently authorize lethal gas as a method of execution, all as an alternative to lethal injection, depending upon the choice of the inmate, the date of the execution or sentence, or the possibility of lethal injection being held unconstitutional. As of April 1, 2008, 11 of 1,099 (01.0%) executions performed since 1976 have been by the administration of lethal gas. Most recently, Walter LeGrand elected Lethal Gas in Arizona on March 3, 1999.

    HANGING

    Procedure: Prior to any execution, the gallows area trap door and release mechanisms are inspected for proper operation. The rope, which is of manila hemp of at least 3/4"and not more than 1 1/4"in diameter and approximately 30 feet in length, is soaked and then stretched while drying to eliminate any spring, stiffness, or tendency to coil. The hangman's knot, which is tied pursuant to military regulations, is treated with wax, soap, or clear oil, to ensure that the rope slides smoothly through the knot. The end of the rope which does not contain the noose is tied to a grommet in the ceiling and then is tied off to a metal T-shaped bracket, which takes the force delivered by the offender's drop.

    Additionally, prior to an execution, the condemned offender's file is reviewed to determine if there are any unusual characteristics the offender possesses that might warrant deviation from field instructions on hanging. A physical examination and measuring process is conducted to assure almost instant death and a minimum of bruising. If careful measuring and planning is not done, strangulation, obstructed blood flow, or beheading could result. At the appropriate time on execution day, the inmate, in restraints, is escorted to the gallows area and is placed standing over a hinged trap door from which the offender will be dropped. Following the offender's last statement, a hood is placed over the offender's head. Restraints are also applied. If the offender refuses to stand or cannot stand, he is placed on a collapse board. A determination of the proper amount of the drop of the condemned offender through the trap door is calculated using a standard military execution chart for hanging. The "drop" must be based on the prisoner's weight, to deliver 1260 foot_pounds of force to the neck. The noose is then placed snugly around the convict's neck, behind his or her left ear, which will cause the neck to snap. The trap door then opens, and the convict drops. If properly done, death is caused by dislocation of the third and fourth cervical vertebrae, or by asphyxiation. A button mechanically releases the trap door and escorts then move to the lower floor location to assist in the removal of the offender's body. (See Washington Execution Procedures).

    History: Hanging is the oldest method of execution in the United States, but fell into disfavor in the 20th century after many botched attempts, and was replaced by electrocution as the most common method. There have been only 3 executions by hanging since 1977: Westley Dodd (WA 1993), Charles Campbell (WA 1994), and Billy Bailey (DE 1998).

    Current Application: Only 3 states, Delaware, New Hampshire, and Washington, currently authorize hanging as a method of execution, all as an alternative to lethal injection, depending upon the choice of the inmate, whether injection is “impractical, or the possibility of lethal injection being held unconstitutional. As of April 1, 2008, 3 of 1,099 (0.3%) executions performed since 1976 have been by hanging. Most recently, Billy Bailey elected Hanging in Delaware on January 25, 1996.

    FIRING SQUAD

    Procedure: Shooting can be carried out by a single executioner who fires from short range at the back of the head or neck as in China. The traditional firing squad is made up of three to six shooters per prisoner who stand or kneel opposite the condemned who is usually tied to a chair or to a stake. Normally the shooters aim at the chest, since this is easier to hit than the head, causing rupture of the heart, great vessels, and lungs so that the condemned person dies of hemorrhage and shock. It is not unusual for the officer in charge to have to give the prisoner a pistol shot to the head to finish them off after the initial volley has failed to kill them.

    The Utah statute authorizing execution by firing squad only provides: "If the judgment of death is to be carried out by shooting, the executive director of the department or his designee shall select a five-person firing squad of peace officers." At the appropriate time, the condemned offender is led to the execution area or chamber, which is used for both lethal injection and firing squad executions. The offender is placed in a specially designed chair which has a pan beneath it to catch and conceal blood and other fluids. Restraints are applied to the offender's arms, legs, chest and head. A head restraint is applied loosely around the offender's neck to hold his neck and head in an upright position. The offender is dressed in a dark blue outfit with a white cloth circle attached by Velcro to the area over the offender's heart. Behind the offender are sandbags to absorb the volley and prevent ricochets. Approximately 20 feet directly in front of the offender is a wall. This wall has firing ports for each member of the firing squad. The weapons used are 30_30 caliber rifles. No special ammunition is used. Following the offender's statement, a hood is placed over the offender's head. The warden leaves the room. The firing squad members stand in the firing position. They support their rifles on the platform rests. With their rifle barrels in the firing ports, the team members sight through open sights on the white cloth circle on the offender's chest. On the command to fire, the squad fires simultaneously. One squad member has a blank charge in his weapon but no member knows which member is designated to receive this blank charge. (See Utah Execution Procedures).

    History: In recent history only two inmates have been executed by firing squad, both in Utah: Gary Gilmore (1977) and John Albert Taylor (1996). While the method was popular with the military in times of war, there has been one such execution since the Civil War: Private Eddie Slovak in WWII.

    Current Application: Only 3 states, Idaho, Oklahoma, and Utah, currently authorize shooting as a method of execution, all as an alternative to lethal injection, depending upon the choice of the inmate, whether injection is “impractical, or the possibility of lethal injection being held unconstitutional. As of April 1, 2008, 2 of 1,099 (0.2%) executions performed since 1976 have been by firing squad. Most recently, John Albert Taylor elected a Firing Squad in Utah on January 27, 1996.



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