Methods of Execution

One man's taking of another's life is generally seen as an unforgivable
act which is punishable with death. When this is done as punishment however, it
is seen as an honorary deed by removing this criminal from the world and making
it a much safer place to live. With executions in mind, it is incredible what
ingenious methods can be thought of by the human brain and the fact that the
idea is centered around the murdering of one man does not even change how
prodigious these innovations are seen to be. Many different techniques and
procedures for execution are used throughout the world revealing much about a
country's culture and their concern for their citizens.
By far one of the most well known and publicly glamorized of all methods
of execution is electrocution. Present in nine American states, it was first
used in New York in 1890. When a condemned man is scheduled to be executed, he
is led into the death chamber and strapped to the point of immobility into a
reinforced chair with belts crossing his chest, groin, legs, and arms. Two
copper electrodes, dipped in brine or treated with Eletro-Creme to increase
conductivity, are attached to him, one to his leg and the other to his head. The
first jolt, between five-hundred and two-thousand volts depending on the size of
the prisoner, is given for 30 seconds. Smoke will begin to come out of the
prisoner's leg and head and these areas may catch fire if the victim has been
sweating profusely. A doctor will examine him and if he still shows life signs,
more jolts of two-thousand volts are administered to finish the job (Matthews).
A main reason for electrocution's original use was the thought that death was
immediate. Unfortunately this is not the case. Doctors today believe that the
victim feels "himself begin burned to death and suffocating since the shock
cause respiratory paralysis as well as cardiac arrest. Because the energy of the
shock paralyzes the muscles, he cannot cry out, and therefore is presumed dead
("This is your death..."). How ironic that one reason electrocution was kept in
use was that, although expensive, it was immensely serene as far as the prisoner
is concerned.
Still used extensively throughout the world today and in its sole
representing U.S. state, Utah, the firing squad has a much greater claim to
being humane as bullets directly into the heart generally cause instantaneous
death. Utah uses an extremely exact and well-practiced method which is immensely
centered around concern for the victim by taking almost every precaution
possible to ensure a quick and easy death. The victim is bound to a chair with
leather straps that cross his waist and head. Next a doctor locates the exact
position of his heart with a stethescope and pins a circular white target over
it. Twenty feet away, on the other side of a canvas wall, are five men with .30-
caliber rifles. Each man aims through a gun portal located in the center of the
canvas and fire simultaneously. A prisoner dies as a result of blood loss caused
by rupture of the heart or a large blood vessel, or tearing of the lungs. He
loses consciousness when shock causes a fall in the supply of blood to the brain.
Though a shot to the head causes instant death that method is not used due to
high percentage of failures (Kaplan and Danil). Some countries deliberately
alter these steps in order to cause a more gruesome death. In Taiwan, the
condemned is shot either in the back or chest four times in strategically
painful places. After nearly and hour of misery the officials take the fifth and
final shot into the heart (Hoff and Petrucelli). It is astounding how one
country will do all humanly possible to try to make death a quick and easy
procedure while another tries to do all they can to make it as painful and
agonizing as possible.
The gas chamber, most famous for its abundant use during World War II,
is the method used in Nevada and California and is also used in the Philippines.
The prisoner is led into a room and fastened to a metal chair with perforated
seats. Straps are secured across his upper and lower legs, arms, groin, and
chest. A long stethoscope is also affixed to his chest so that a doctor outside
of the room can pronounce death. Underneath the chair is a bowl filled with a
sulfuric acid and distilled water solution, with a pound of sodium cyanide
pellets suspended in a gauze bag just above. After the door is closed and sealed,
the executioner pulls a lever that triggers the release of the cyanide into