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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62 comments
grandma12006
grandma12006

just shoot them damn it........cant make any mistake there

Pete Copeland
Pete Copeland

everyone assumes that just because they were convicted in court they were in fact guilty and deserve to be there. The sad truth is that many people spend the better part of their life of death row and get executed under false convictions...

Laura Hermanski
Laura Hermanski

Hard to have empathy or any kind of sadness for anyone who brutally murdered anyone else. He died. Don't really care if it took longer than the usual 5 seconds. Imo you give up any right to dignity when you take the life of another.

James Sluzewski
James Sluzewski

We should just send our condemned inmates to China. They have really efficient way just put bullet behind somebodies neck in situation where they're not sure if it worked they use second bullet. Just seems more efficient

Richard VanBuren
Richard VanBuren

I really don't care. I'm sure they did not give a second thought about if their victims suffered when they took their lives

Warren Cummings
Warren Cummings

the one in oklahoma wasnt botched, he did die didnt he? doesnt matter how long it took he died regaurdless

John Elliott
John Elliott

And it's Jeffrey Fennig for the win for the most asinine comparison in the thread! Well done...be sure to show your ribbon to the rest of the kids on the short bus on the way home!

Jeffrey Fennig
Jeffrey Fennig

I find it fascinating how the same group of people that are vehemently against the death penalty are also completely gung ho for abortion! Kill the innocent babies but take special care of horrible murderers! Maybe it's because abortion makes them closer to these murderers than they care to admit!

Jeffrey Fennig
Jeffrey Fennig

The Oklahoma execution wasn't botched the dude died like he was supposed to!

Matt Pierce
Matt Pierce

I still am all for a blade to the heart, myself. But I also still believe in hard labor as a punishment until then. Not the most popular opinion, I know.

John Elliott
John Elliott

You did something to warrant getting the death penalty? Too bad...I wouldn't care if you were eaten alive by coconut crabs while staked out on a hot beach in 100 degree heat

George White
George White

Wow. You're a pretty sick person. Get some therapy, honey.

Bryan Moberg
Bryan Moberg

why fuck around with this poison nonsense, why not just bring back the firing squad and be done with it?

George White
George White

Weak argument. In a civilized society, people aren't pro-death and suffering for the sake of punishment. You should put on a burka and move to the Middle East, crazy.

George White
George White

Hick needs to get voted out since he was a pussy over the Nathan Dunlap sentence. That and his pro-frack mentality. Maybe he should stick with running a bar again.

Don Martinez
Don Martinez

Young little girls get raped, dismembered and buried alive, other people get stabbed and shot to death...they don't suffer????? Heaven forbid these asshole killers suffer when being executed????? They should all be tortured !!!!!

Legen Dairy
Legen Dairy

If they wouldn't of committed the crime, then they wouldn't of been in that position.

Barbara Hoskinson
Barbara Hoskinson

I think it's Karma or maybe a little preview of the hell that waits for them

Will Suitts
Will Suitts

If it was up to me we would just put rat poison in their meatballs.

Jessika Primavera Buffone
Jessika Primavera Buffone

Kind of torn on this story. Don't like seeing people suffer and they are paying for their crime with their life on the other hand they didn't give two sh*ts how the people felt when they were being murdered. I guess you can say they got what they deserved.

Darrell Killmer
Darrell Killmer

Ditto Charles' comment. Who cares? My issue is that it takes 12-20 years to get the opportunity to botch their executions. I think they should bring back the chair.

Bobbi Chappell
Bobbi Chappell

Well... Don't do a crime that gets you the death penalty. I have zero remorse for these scum bags.

Anthony Maestas
Anthony Maestas

Wish governor hickenlooper carry out the sentences in Colorado. Instead of saying leathal injection not humane. How the chucky cheese victims of 1996 families feel? Sure james holmes will be the same. He lost my vote

Jennifer Witkowski
Jennifer Witkowski

Seriously, what about their victims??? Where are the stories on how horrible their deaths were??? This is exactly what is wrong with this world today!!! We have forgotten who the TRUE victims are!!!!

Brent Dishneau
Brent Dishneau

They botched Stanley Williams'and no one said boo..

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)

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!


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