Photos: Ten executions gone horribly wrong
Capitol punishment has made plenty of news in Colorado lately, thanks to a failed attempt to ban the practice and 18th Judicial District DA George Brauchler's pledge to seek seek the death penalty against accused Aurora theater shooter James Holmes.
Big photos below.
But what about when executions go wrong? CU Professor Michael Radelet assembled a long list of examples, from which we chose nine startling stories, supplemented by one from Westword's archives. Get the details below.
Note that the text for the following items is culled from Radelet's item "Examples of Post-Furman Botched Executions," shared by the Death Penalty Information Center, except the final item, derived from Alan Prendergast's 2012 post "Eddie Ives's botched execution and replacing the noose with the gas chamber."
Frank J. Coppola
August 10, 1982. Virginia. Frank J. Coppola. Electrocution. Although no media representatives witnessed the execution and no details were ever released by the Virginia Department of Corrections, an attorney who was present later stated that it took two 55-second jolts of electricity to kill Coppola. The second jolt produced the odor and sizzling sound of burning flesh, and Coppola's head and leg caught on fire. Smoke filled the death chamber from floor to ceiling with a smoky haze.
Frank James Coppola.
Jimmy Lee Gray
Sept. 2, 1983. Mississippi. Jimmy Lee Gray. Asphyxiation. Officials had to clear the room eight minutes after the gas was released when Gray's desperate gasps for air repulsed witnesses. His attorney, Dennis Balske of Montgomery, Alabama, criticized state officials for clearing the room when the inmate was still alive. Said noted death penalty defense attorney David Bruck, "Jimmy Lee Gray died banging his head against a steel pole in the gas chamber while the reporters counted his moans (eleven, according to the Associated Press)." Later it was revealed that the executioner, Barry Bruce, was drunk.
Jimmy Lee Gray.
Continue for more examples of executions gone horribly wrong.