Friday, January 7, 2011

Sentenced to..... Execution.

10 Execution Methods

I came across this list of Execution Methods on Listverse, and felt that it was interesting to share. I summarised and excluded some text... Do leave a comment with your ranking of which you think is the most scary!

Lethal Injection

In the short time before an execution by lethal injection, the prisoner is prepared for his death. This can include a change of clothing, a last meal, and a shower. The prisoner is taken to the execution chamber and two IV tubes are inserted in to his arms; a saline solution is fed through the tubes. Once the IV tubes are connected, the curtains are drawn back so that witnesses may watch the execution, and the prisoner is allowed to make his last statement.

There can be one or more executioners, and sometimes in the case of multiple executioners, the lethal dose is given by only one so that no one knows who delivered it. The executioners are shielded from the view of the prisoner and witnesses. The drugs can be delivered by a machine, but due to the fear of mechanical failure, most US states prefer to manually inject the drugs in to the IV. The drugs are then administered in the following order:

Sodium thiopental: This drug, also known as Pentathol is a barbiturate used as a surgical anesthetic. In surgery, a dose of up to 150mg is used; in execution, up to 5,000mg is used. This is a lethal dose. From this point on if the prisoner is still alive, he should feel nothing.

Pancuronium bromide: Also known as Pavulon, this is a muscle relaxant given in a strong enough dose to paralyse the diaphragm and lungs. This drug takes effect in 1-3 minutes. A normal medical dose is 40 – 100mcg per kilogram; the dose delivered in an execution is up to 100mg.

Potassium chloride: This is a toxic agent which induces cardiac arrest. Not all states use this as the first two drugs are sufficient to bring about death.

Saline solution is used to flush the IV between each dose. Within a minute of two after the final dose is given, a doctor declares the prisoner dead. The body is then sent to the coroner for verification and sometimes an autopsy and is released to the family for burial or is buried by the state.

The Electric Chair

The chair was first adopted in 1889 and the first execution took place in 1890 in New York.

In execution by electric chair, the prisoner is strapped to the chair with metal straps and a wet sponge is placed in his head to aid conductivity. Electrodes are placed on the head and leg to create a closed circuit. Depending on the physical state of the prisoner, two currents of varying level and duration are applied. This is generally 2,000 volts for 15 seconds for the first current to cause unconsciousness and to stop the heart. The second current is usually lowered to 8 amps. The current will normally cause severe damage to internal organs and the body can heat up to 138 °F (59 °C). While unconsciousness should occur within the first second or two, there have been occasions where it has taken much longer, leading people to speak out against this method of execution.

The post-execution cleanup is an unpleasant task as skin can melt to the electrodes and the person often loses control over bodily functions. The skin is also often burnt.

Gas Chamber

The gas chamber has been used for executions for a considerable number of years.

Prior to the execution, the executioner will enter the chamber and place potassium cyanide (KCN) pellets into a small compartment beneath the execution chair. The prisoner is then brought in and secured to the chair. The chamber is sealed and the executioner pours a quantity of concentrated sulfuric acid (H2SO4) through a tube which leads to a holding compartment in the chair. The curtains are drawn back for witnesses to see the execution and the prisoner is asked to make his last statement. After the last statement, a level is thrown by the executioner and the acid mixes with the cyanide pellets generating lethal hydrogen cyanide (HCN) gas. The prisoners will generally have been told to take deep breaths in order to speed up unconsciousness, but in most cases they hold their breath. Death from hydrogen cyanide is painful and unpleasant.

After the prisoner is dead, the chamber is purged of gas and neutralized with anhydrous ammonia (NH3). Both the ammonia and the acid that must be removed from the chamber are highly dangerous. Guards with oxygen masks then enter the chamber and remove the body so that it can be examined by a doctor.

Single Person Shooting

Execution by shooting is the most common method of execution in the world, used in over 70 countries. Whilst most of these countries use the firing squad, single person shooting is still found. In Soviet Russia, a single bullet to the back of the head was the most frequently used method of execution for military and non-military alike. This is still the main method of execution in Communist China though the gunshot can be to either the neck or head. In the past, the Chinese government would ask the family of the executed person to pay the price of the bullet. In Taiwan, the prisoner is first injected with a strong anesthetic to render him senseless and then a bullet is fired in to his heart.

Firing Squad

While the method differs widely from country to country, generally the condemned is blindfolded and restrained. A group of men then fire a single bullet in to the heart of the prisoner. In some cases, one of the shooters is given a blank – so that afterwards he will feel less guilt. None of the shooters knows who has a blank or, in fact, if any of them do.


Hanging is carried out in a variety of ways: the short drop is when the prisoner is made to stand on an object which is then thrust away – leaving them to die by strangulation. This was a common method of hanging used by the Nazis and was the most common form used before the 1850s. Death is slow and painful. Suspension hanging (very popular in Iran) is when the gallows itself is movable. The prisoner stands on the ground with the noose around their neck and the gallows is then lifted in to the air, taking the prisoner with it.


In some nations, beheadings are still a commonly used method of execution. The most frequently seen cases involve beheading by a curved, single-edged sword.


A method of execution be devised that was quick and to be used on all people regardless of class. This is one of the two execution methods on this list which is no longer used anywhere in the world.

The device itself is a large timber frame with a space at the bottom for the neck of the prisoner. At the top of the machine is a large angled blade. Once the prisoner is secured, the blade is dropped, severing the head and bringing about immediate death. It was the official method of execution in France until the death penalty was outlawed in 1981.


Stoning to death is when a person’s movements are restricted and an organized group throws stones at them until dead. Usually used for adultery. "The method laid down for a man involves his burial up to his waist, and for a woman up to her neck (article 102). The law provides that if a person who is to be stoned manages to escape, he or she will be allowed to go free. Since it is easier for a man to escape, this discrimination literally becomes a matter of life and death.”


The garrote is the second method of execution on this list which is no longer sanctioned by law in any country though training in its use is still carried out in the French Foreign Legion. The garrote is a device that strangles a person to death. It can also be used to break a person’s neck. The device was used in Spain until it was outlawed in 1978 with the abolition of the death penalty. It normally consisted of a seat in which the prisoner was restrained while the executioner tightened a metal band around his neck until he died. Some versions of the garrote incorporated a metal bolt which pressed in to the spinal chord, breaking the neck. There was also a spiked version. Andorra was the last country in the world to outlaw its use, doing so in 1990.

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