Electrocution of Tiny Davis
forced Florida to switch to lethal injection
Post-Furman Botched Executions (Since Capital
Punishment was re-instated) 1. April 22, 1983.
Alabama. John Evans. After the first jolt of electricity,
sparks and flames erupted from the electrode attached to his leg. The
electrode then burst from the strap holding it in place and caught on
fire. Smoke and sparks came out from under the hood. Two physicians
entered the chamber and found a heartbeat. The electrode was reattached to
his leg. More smoke and burning flesh. Again doctors found a heartbeat.
Ignoring the pleas of Evan's lawyer, Russ Canan (202-292-7676),
third jolt was applied. The execution took 14 minutes and left
Evan's body charred and smoldering. Canan describes the experience in
M. L. Radelet (Ed.), Facing the Death Penalty: Essays on a
Cruel and Unusual Punishment (1989).
(See also Glass v. Louisiana, 471 U.S. 1080 (1985)). 2. Sept. 2, 1983.
Lee Gray. 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. Says David Bruck, "Jimmy Lee Gray died banging his head against a
steel pole in the gas chamber while reporters counted his moans (eleven,
according to the Associated
Press)" (Bruck, New Republic, Dec. 12, 1983 at 24-25). 3. December 12,
1984. Georgia. Alpha
Otis Stephens. After the first jolt of electricity
failed to kill him , Stephens struggled for eight minutes before a
second charge finished the job. The first jolt took two minutes, and there was
a six minute pause so his body could cool before physicians could examine
him (and declare that another jolt was needed.)
During that six-minute interval, Stephens took 23 breaths. 4. March 13, 1985.
Texas. Stephen Peter Morin. Had to probe both arms and legs with
needles for 45 minutes before they found the vein. 5. October 16,
1985. Indiana. William E. Vandiver. He was still breathing after the
first administration of 2,300 volts, and the current had to be applied three
more times before he died. Vandiver's attorney, Herbert Shaps,
witnessed the killing and said it was outrageous. The Department of Corrections
admitted the execution "did not go according to plan." The physician who
pronounced death said,
"This is very rare." 6. August 20, 1986.
Texas. Randy Woolls. A drug addict, Woolls had to help the
executioner technicians find a good vein for the execution. 7. June 24, 1987.
Texas. Elliott Johnson.
It took 35 minutes to insert a catheter into his vein. 8. December 13,
1988. Texas. Raymond
Landry. Pronounced dead 40 minutes after being
strapped to the execution gurney and 24 minutes after the drugs first
started flowing into his
arms. Two minutes into the killing, the syringe
came out of Landry's vein, spraying the deadly chemicals across the
room toward the witnesses. The execution team had to reinsert the catheter
into the vein. The curtain was drawn for 14 minutes so witnesses
could not see the intermission. 9. May 24, 1989.
Texas. Stephen McCoy. Had such a violent physical reaction to
the drugs (heaving chest, gasping, choking, etc.) that one of the witnesses
(male) fainted, crashing into and knocking over another witness.
Houston attorney Karen Zellars, who represented McCoy and witnessed the
execution, thought that the fainting would catalyze a chain reaction. The
Texas Attorney General
admitted the inmate "seemed to have a somewhat
stronger reaction," adding "The drugs might have been administered
in a heavier dose or more rapidly." 10. July 14, 1989.
Alabama. Horace F. Dunkins. It took two jolts (nine minutes apart)
to kill this mentally
retarded inmate. The foul-up was caused by
"human error:" faulty cable hookups. As a result, there was not enough current
to cause death. His attorney was Steve Ellis of Philadelphia.
Death was pronounced 19 minutes after the first jolt. 11. May 4, 1990.
Florida. Jesse Joseph Tafero. When the state replaced a "natural"
sponge with a synthetic sponge in the headpiece of the execution
apparatus, six-inch flames
erupted, and three jolts of power were required
to stop Tafero's breathing. Support for the state's faulty sponge theory
was generated by sticking a part of it into a "common household
toaster" and noting that it smoldered and caught fire. Extensive
investigation by the office of the Capital Collateral Investigator
in Tallahassee questioned this theory as other states have used synthetic
sponges with no problems. 12. October 17,
1990. Virginia. Wilbert Lee Evens. During the electrocution,
blood spewed from the
right side of the mask on Evens' face,
drenching Evens' shirt with blood. Evens' continued to moan after the first jolt
of electricity was applied. The autopsy concluded that the blood resulted
from high blood pressure brought on by the electrocution. 13. August 22,
1991. Virginia. Derick Lynn Peterson. After a physician determined
that the first cycle of electricity had failed to kill Peterson, a
second cycle was required. It was the second time this electrical
equipment had been used since Virginia's electric chair had been moved to
Greenville from the state's old death house in Richmond. In the aftermath
of the execution, prison officials announced that in the future they
would routinely administer two cycles before checking for a heart beat. 14. January 24,
1992. Arkansas. Rickey Ray Rector. It took medical staff more than 50
minutes to find a suitable vein in Rector's arm. Witnesses were not
permitted to view this scene, but reported hearing Rector's loud moans
throughout the process. During
the ordeal, Rector (who suffered serious brain
damage from a lobotomy) tried to help the medical personal find a vein.
The administrator of the State's Department of Corrections medical
programs said (paraphrased by a newspaper reporter) "the moans did come as a
team of two medical people that had grown to five worked on both sides of
his body to find a vein." The administrator said "that may have
contributed to his occasional outburst." 15. March 10, 1992.
Oklahoma. Robyn Lee Parks. Parks had a violent reaction to
the drugs used in the lethal injection. Two minutes after the drugs were
administered, the muscles
in his jaw, neck, and abdomen began to react
spasmodically for approximately 45 seconds. Parks continued to gasp and
violently gag. Death came eleven minutes after the drugs were administered.
Said Tulsa World reporter Wayne Greene, "the death looked scary and
ugly." 16. April 23, 1992.
Texas. Billy Wayne White. It took 47 minutes for authorities to
find a suitable vein,
and White eventually had to help them. 17. May 7, 1992.
Texas. Justin Lee May. May had an unusually violent reaction to
the lethal drugs. According to Robert Wernsman, a reporter for the Item
(Huntsville), May "gasped, coughed and reared against his heavy leather
restraints, coughing once again before his body froze. . ." Associated
Press reporter Michael Graczyk wrote, " He went into coughing spasms,
groaned and gasped, lifted his head from the death chamber gurney and would have
arched his back if he
had not been belted down. After he stopped
breathing his eyes and mouth
remained open." 18. May 10, 1994.
Illinois. John Wayne Gacy. After the execution began, one of the
three lethal drugs clogged the tube leading to Gacy's arm, and therefore
stopped flowing. Blinds, covering the window through which witnesses
observe the execution, were then drawn. The clogged tube was replaced with
a new one, the blinds were opened, and the execution process
resumed. Anesthesiologists blamed the problem on the inexperience of the prison
officials who were conducting the execution, saying that proper
procedures taught in "IV 101"
would have prevented the error. 19. May 3, 1995.
Missouri. Emmitt Foster. Foster was not pronounced dead until 30
minutes after the executioners began the flow of the death chemicals into
his arms. Seven minutes after the chemicals began to flow, the blinds
were closed to prohibit the witnesses from viewing the scene; they were not
reopened until three minutes after death was pronounced. According to
the coroner, who pronounced death, the problem was caused by the tightness
of the leather straps that bound Foster to the gurney; it was so tight
that the flow of chemicals into his veins was restricted. It was several
minutes after a prison worker finally loosened the strap that death was
pronounced. The coroner entered the death chamber twenty minutes after
the execution began, noticed the problem, and told the officials to
loosen the strap so that the execution could proceed. 20. July 18, 1996.
Indiana. Tommie Smith. Smith was not pronounced dead until an hour
and 20 minutes after the execution team began to administer the lethal
combination of intravenous drugs. Prison officials said the team could not
find a vein in Smith's arm and had to insert an angio-catheter
into his heart, a procedure that took 35 minutes. According to
authorities, Smith remained conscious during that procedure. 21. March 25, 1997.
Florida. Pedro Medina. With the first jolt of electricity,
blue and orange flames sparked from the mask covering Medina's face.
Flames up to a foot long shot out from the right side of Medina's head
for 6 - 10 seconds. The execution chamber clouded with smoke, and the
smell of burnt flesh filled the witness room. 22. May 8, 1997.
Oklahoma. Scott Carpenter. Two minutes after the lethal chemicals
began flowing into the body of Scott Carpenter at 12:11 a.m., he began to
make noises, his stomach
and chest began pulsing, and his jaw clenched. In
total, his body mad 18 violent convulsions, followed by 8 milder ones.
His face, which first turned a yellowish gray, had turned a deep purple
and gray by 12:20 a.m. He was officially pronounced dead at 12:22 a.m. 23. June 13, 1997.
South Carolina. Michael Elkins. Elkins's execution was delayed for 40
minutes while numerous attempts were made to insert the IV needles in a
suitable vein for the lethal injection. Because of Elkins' poor physical
condition, the first needle was ultimately inserted in Elkins's neck
(attempts to use his arms, legs, feet were not successful) and the second
needle was not used. 24. April 23, 1998.
Texas. Joseph Cannon. It took two attempts to complete the
execution of Joseph Cannon. The first time, a vein in his arm collapsed
and the needle popped out. Cannon had laid back and closed his eyes when
he realized what had happened. "It's come undone" he told witnesses.
Officials pulled a curtain to block witnesses from seeing what was happening
and fifteen minutes later the second attempt began.
RECENT DEVELOPMENTS CONCERNING LETHAL
INJECTION: June 8, 2000. Florida. Bennie Demps. Lethal Injection. It took execution
technicians 33 minutes
to find suitable veins for the execution. "They butchered me back
said Demps in his final statement. "I was in a lot of pain. They cut me
in the groin;
they cut me in the leg. I was bleeding profusely. This is not an
execution, it is murder."
The executioners had no unusual problems finding one vein, but because
requires a second alternate intravenous drip, they continued to work to
insert another needle,
finally abandoning the effort after their prolonged failures.Sept.
15, 2009. Ohio. Romell Broom. Lethal Injection. Efforts to find a
suitable vein and to execute
Mr. Broom were terminated after more than two hours when the
unable to find a useable vein in Mr. Broom’s arms or legs. During the
Mr. Broom winced and grimaced with pain. After the first hour’s lack of
on several occasions Broom tried to help the executioners find a good
“At one point, he covered his face with both hands and appeared to be
his stomach heaving. Finally,
Governor Ted Strickland ordered the execution to stop,
and announced plans to attempt the execution anew after a one-week
delay so that physicians
could be consulted for advice on how the man could be killed more
The executioners blamed the problems on Mr. Broom’s history of
intravenous drug use.
As of Oct. 1, 2010, Mr. Broom remained on Ohio’s death row.Ohio Department of
Rehabilitation and Correction spokeswoman Julie Walburn discussing the
protocols to prevent complications administering the lethal injection
process in the state.
The CCADP has offered free
over 1000 Death Row Prisoners Since 1998 "The Eyes Of The World Are
Watching Now" Last
updated December 29, 2010 Canadian Coalition
Against the Death
Penalty This page
is maintained and updated by Dave Parkinson and Tracy Lamourie