Fascinating facts about the death penalty

Arizona hits the top of list twice for fascinating death penalty facts – once for ripping off a woman’s head and again for being the last state to use the gas chamber.

Illustration by Ryn Gargulinski

Illustration by Ryn Gargulinski

In addition to being featured in a movie I watched last night, the death penalty came up twice this morning. It surfaced as the possible punishment for the driver of the van that crashed and killed 11 illegal immigrants and again as a desired punishment for the alleged killer of the 7-year-old Ajo girl.

I’ve usually been behind the death penalty, although I have to agree with the comment from one astute reader who said: “I have yet to see a victim return to their former state of health by killing the killer.”

Whether you are for or against the death penalty is not the point of this post. The point is to share some compelling death row facts.

Talking about the death penalty also seemed more fun than rewriting another press release. So here we go:


Hanging was the preferred method of execution in Arizona until 1930, when it was outlawed following a mishap. Prisoner Eva Dugan was taken to the gallows where she was dropped down to hang and her head popped off.

Firing range:

Contrary to popular belief, the person about to be executed doesn’t get to stand against a wall with a jazzy blindfold on. He is instead seated, with his head and waist strapped to the chair. He is outfitted with a hood, has a little cloth target stuck to his chest right above his heart and is surrounded by sand bags to absorb the blood as five guys take shots at him with rifles.

Electric chair:

Electric chairs blast people with anywhere between 500 and 2000 volts. A subway system’s third rail averages around 700 volts. Those executed by the electric chair are outfitted with a diaper because they inevitably soil their pants.

Gas chamber:

The first gas chamber experiment failed because executioners didn’t realize they would need the chamber part. Nevada executioners in 1924 tried to pump cyanide into Gee Jon’s cell to kill him, but the thing wasn’t airtight and he kept on ticking. Thus the chamber was constructed.

Arizona was the last state to use the gas chamber in an execution, although it is available as an alternative method in others, with the death of Walter LaGrand in 1999.

Lethal injection:

While lethal injection is the most preferred current mode of execution, it does have its problems. Since doctors are not allowed to perform executions (it’s not ethical), the folks sticking the needles into the prisoner often miss the vein and hit a muscle, causing a big delay and a lot of pain.

Others who are being executed have damaged veins that are hard to find, thanks to years of intravenous drug abuse, again delaying the process.

Much of this information was found at: Michigan State University and Death Penalty Information Center

Do you know any fascinating death row facts? Please share them by commenting below.

What would you pick as your last meal?


About Rynski

Writer, artist, performer who specializes in the weird, wacky and sometimes creepy. Learn more at ryngargulinski.com.
This entry was posted in Crime, danger, death, gross stuff, Police/fire/law and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

14 Responses to Fascinating facts about the death penalty

  1. RADC MAXIMUS says:

    The alleged Ajo killer deserves something I would not do to a suspected terrorist, torture. Followed by a slow and excruciatingly painful death if guilty. Staked out in the desert so the critters and insects can have him? Some crimes I just have no reservations about. Sorry Lefty, some things are beyond redemption.

  2. leftfield says:

    Here’s some more fascinating facts about the death penalty:

    There have been 240 post-conviction DNA exonerations in the United States.

    • The first DNA exoneration took place in 1989. Exonerations have been won in 34 states; since 2000, there have been 171 exonerations.

    • 17 of the 240 people exonerated through DNA served time on death row.

    • The average length of time served by exonerees is 12 years. The total number of years served is approximately 2,982.

    (from The Innocence Project website)

    Now, the issue of wrongful conviction is only one problem with the death penalty. I wonder how many innocent people have been murdered by the state over the years and how race and class plays into the demographics of the wrongly convicted?

    Yes, some people are beyond redemption, but we as a people are not yet beyond redemption.

    • RADC MAXIMUS says:

      You’re right about one thing, the death penalty does not seem to be working. That’s why I’m being sarcastic about the torture and punishment. You know, these penalties do deter the rest of us, just seems to be the cold hearted lunatic fringe who don’t give a …. about what they do to others or themselves. Saw an interesting story about one of the aryan brotherhoods’ founding members. Guy had killed 27 people while incarcerated, couldn’t bring himself to condone his ‘brothers’ attacks beyond the prison walls. Innocent family members of intended targets. This guy would know what I’m talking about. Sometimes you gotta put a mad dog down. (No offense to real pooches intended.)

      • RADC MAXIMUS says:

        PS- didn’t Hands Like Clouds, you and I have this out one time on the Payne story at the old Citizen….seems to me HLC was in favor of studying the creep like a nematode in biology, and you finally came around to my way of thinking….as long as Payne was a republican, hypocrite. 🙂

      • azmouse says:

        I recall that converstion as well.

        I kinda miss HandsLikeClouds. She hated my positive attitude, and would tell me to turn down my Prozac implant because I was perpectually to cheerful.
        Ahhh, the good ol’ days…..

      • RADC MAXIMUS says:

        So do I az, but this site is getting better all the time. PS Howdy. Remember the one about the grasshopper? You guys had me rollin’ on the floor!

      • azmouse says:

        I think less and less innocent people will be convicted wrongly, with all the advances in DNA. Actually, it may someday come to the point where DNA is the only way to get a conviction, besides a confession.

      • azmouse says:

        rad max-
        I do!!! LOL! HLC, what a nut!

        Hey, what was your name before RadMax?

      • RADC MAXIMUS says:

        Hey az. I was radcock on the old Citizen. I thought you knew! PS-I never got your E-mail that night because after I posted my work cell number for you I went to bed! I should have told you.(I have to get up early to support Leftys’ illegals) Sure was a fun post wasn’t it! Sorry about the confusion! I think that one was about Arpaio…

  3. leftfield says:

    Well, yes, it goes without saying that my opposition to the death penalty doesn’t cover people who might, for example, get caught with Tancredo literature in their possession. I’m not completely oblivious of the dangers certain people pose to society.

  4. azmouse says:

    In the movie “The Executioner’s Song” they do a good job of simulating a firing squad.

    The reality is, it’s a heck of allot harder to get the death penalty these days. Plus, with all the appeals, you have a good chance of dying from old age.

    Last meal??? Mexican food!

    • Rynski says:

      Does the movie use the sand bags accurately?
      I’d pick pizza as my last meal. With pineapple.

      My biggest problem with the death penalty is that it takes so dang long to carry out. I guess that give people time to get cleared with DNA, but it also lets some languish for decades. What’s the point?

      • azmouse says:

        It seems I do recall seeing the sandbags, and everything the way you were saying it should be.

        If you haven’t seen that movie, it’s worth renting. Tommy Lee Jones is Gary Gilmore, and Rosana Arquete is his girlfriend.

  5. Michael says:

    My cousin went to the electric chair and those facts are true.

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