Photos: Ten executions gone horribly wrong

Categories: Prison Life

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Big photos below.
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.

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

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Frank James 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.

Jimmy Lee Gray

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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.

Continue for more examples of executions gone horribly wrong.


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27 comments
saveicecaps
saveicecaps

I think about the horror all their victims went through and i do not feel bad that these people suffered to their death. They made people suffer in life so it is fair that they leave this world suffering.

kimpuppies
kimpuppies

Maybe they need to bring back the firing squads,,,1,2,3, BANG!!!     Case closed.. 

janaram
janaram

The role of being a witness an execution gone wrong...that's gotta mess you up. It is devastating to watch another human breathe their last breath - especially if they do not go gentle into that good night.

Schittphaiç Magü
Schittphaiç Magü

Unfortunately for you and other members of the Internet Outrage Contignent, our justice system isn't based upon "eye for an eye." The state doesn't act as an agent of vengeance for the victims and/or their families.

Josh Bradley
Josh Bradley

No. Im sure their victims didnt have a choice to go peacefully so why should the killers? If anything we execute them too humanely.

Juan_Leg
Juan_Leg

What about when Tom Hanks oversaw an execution w/o a wet sponge ???

Stacey Rogers
Stacey Rogers

Anyone who has seen "The Green Mile" knows you must wet the (natural) sponge!

Derek Murphy
Derek Murphy

Oh no! Someone convicted of a crime bad enough to receive a death sentence had to suffer a little bit? Shucks

Johnny Genova
Johnny Genova

I think these awful posts make me think more about the Capitol punishment.

Che Harness
Che Harness

I think capital punishment is letting the criminal get away with something and less punishment than a life sentence. The death penalty scares me because we've had a few people released decades later after being found innocent. But if the person is 'beyond a doubt guilty caught in the midst of the crime'... I think we should sell them off to medical science or run a PPV "running man" type of game. Nothing can bring back the people they killed, but at least society could gain from the tragedy. (not morally, just financially)

Craig Hawkins
Craig Hawkins

I wonder how their victims felt when they were being murdered.

Kevin Richards
Kevin Richards

Should be hanging them from the Capitol steps if we really want it to be a deterrent. I don't care how they go as long as we are sure they are guilty. Whatever they did to get there was way worse.

Wesley Honegger
Wesley Honegger

I really wanted to read the full article but your website loads way to slowly.

Faycless
Faycless

This story should have a warning....Graphic details might make one nauseated....

DonkeyHotay
DonkeyHotay topcommenter

Hell has another resident -- Former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher dies at 87

Praise Jesus!


michael.roberts
michael.roberts moderator editortopcommenter

@Josh Bradley Strong words, Josh. We're going to make your post an upcoming Comment of the Day. Thanks.

DonkeyHotay
DonkeyHotay topcommenter

@Derek Murphy ... you make the Baby Jesus cry.

DonkeyHotay
DonkeyHotay topcommenter

@Johnny Genova 

Death is NOT a Penalty.

Think about it for more than a nanosecond.

michael.roberts
michael.roberts moderator editortopcommenter

@Che Harness Interesting post, Che. Thanks.

DonkeyHotay
DonkeyHotay topcommenter

@Che Harness "I think capital punishment is letting the criminal get away with something and less punishment than a life sentence."

Ding ding ding! ... we have a winner!


DonkeyHotay
DonkeyHotay topcommenter

@Craig Hawkins ... ask them how they feel now. Ask them if they still feel the "punishment".

michael.roberts
michael.roberts moderator editortopcommenter

@Kevin Richards Thanks for weighing in, Kevin.

DonkeyHotay
DonkeyHotay topcommenter

@Kevin Richards ... perhaps you'd be happier living in Saudi Arabia.

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