The System

Since the first recorded execution in America way back in 1608 there have been a total of 15,596 men and woman executed. Prior to the moratorium in June 1972,there had been 14,401 executions and since executions began in 1977 with the execution of Gary Gilmore by firing squad, a further 1195 men and woman have been legally murdered.


Since the restart of State-sanctioned murder in 1977, of the 1195 murdered men and woman, 19 have been executed when they did not factually murder anyone. These people were murdered due to them being part of Felony and contract killings.


In the 37 States that still use the Death penalty, the most common used method of execution is lethal injection. 20 of the 37 states offer the condemned a choice of death depending on the state, the choices are;


Lethal injection



This is a 3 drug cocktail; sodium thiopental which is an anaesthesia, pancuronium bromide to induce paralysis and finally potassium chloride. All the states bar two have this option, Ohio uses the lethal injection, they use instead a one drug injection which is a massive overdose of sodium thiopental which causes the inmate to suffer massive cardiac arrest whilst asleep.


Electric chair



Electrodes are placed on the shaven head and leg of the inmate. Whilst strapped to a chair 2000 volts of electricity is passed through their body for up to 30 seconds. The body is left to cool down for a few minutes so the inmate can be checked to make sure they are dead. If not dead another high voltage shock is passed through their body until dead. This causes the body to cook from the inside out and pathologists have reported that the inmates’ brain has been effectively cooked.


Lethal gas



The condemned is strapped to a chair in an air tight chamber. Underneath the chair, a plate of sulphuric acid sits. A cap of sodium cyanide crystals are dropped into the acid which causes the gas hydrogen cyanide to rise. The inmate usually dies of hypoxia, which is the lack of oxygen to the brain.





A length of rope is placed around the condemned’s neck. The knot of the rope is placed at the side of their head. The inmate stands on a trap door and when the doors open they fall, causing the rope to tighten, forcing the neck to snap. Death is usually instantaneous but if the knot is not positioned properly then the neck does not snap, resulting in death by suffocation.


Firing squad

firing squad


The condemned is sat down and a piece of cloth is placed over their heart. 5 people with guns take aim and fire their weapons causing the death by massive blood loss. Only 4 of the 5 have live rounds so the gun men can always have that they have a 1 in 5 chance that they did not kill the executed.Only 4 of the 5 guns have live rounds. This is done purposely so that the gun men do not have to trouble themselves over who actually fired the killing shot.


Does race have a part to play in State-sanctioned murder?


Since executions began in 1977, of the 1195 people that have been murdered legally by the State, 416 have been black, 669 have been white, 86 Hispanics and 24 from other ethnic minorities.


Of the 3237 people that sit on death row in America today, 1364 are black, 1457 are white, 379 are Hispanic and 77 come from other ethnic minorities.