…suppose we wish to electrocute somebody. Suppose it is yourself. Around midnight (this schedule for purposes of illustration only; times vary from state to state) we transfer you from Death Row to a cell next to the death chamber. At 5 AM or so we shave the top of your head and the calf of one of your legs, so as to permit better contact with the electrodes. A couple hours later we read you the death warrant. A few hours after that we take you into the electrocution chamber and strap you into the chair at the wrists, waist, and ankles, in the presence of witnesses. (Again, the exact number varies from state to state. Sometimes the witnesses view the proceedings from behind a one-way window.) Electrodes are clamped to head and leg.
At the designated hour, an electrician throws a switch and a high-voltage alternating current surges through your body for two or three minutes–typically starting at 2,000 volts at 5 amps, with the voltage varied periodically. Your muscles will instantly contract to a state of absolute rigidity, causing your heart and lungs to stop immediately. Some medical observers go so far as to say your blood will boil. If the guards have been careless and bolted you in too loosely, an arc may jump from the electrode to your body, searing your flesh. If you’re lucky, you die promptly. If not, you get another jolt. Nobody, to my knowledge, has ever survived this process. By and by the doctors examine your remains and certify your decease.
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