Subtitles section Play video Print subtitles There's only one thing we want to tell you in this introduction, and that's the fact you really don't want to end up on death row. After hearing these 50 facts we guarantee you that your mind will be blown. 50. Ok, some hard facts first. Some of you might be wondering what exactly is death row. Well, it's simply the name for a part of prison where inmates await their execution. For instance, if you get sentenced to death in California you'll go to a death row unit at either Corcoran State Prison or San Quentin Prison. You're thinking, tell me something I don't know…ok, how about the fact that California leads the U.S. in terms of how many people are on death row. The current number is 725 as of January 1st, 2020. ' Florida is next with 347 death row inmates and Texas gets the bronze with 218 death row inmates. 49. We'll give you some more hard facts soon, but let's now add some insanity to this story. As you might guess, some death row inmates are not of a sound mind. They might not have been declared insane in the courts, but it's very likely they were very much certifiably mad. In 2004, a man named Andre Thomas killed his estranged wife and two children. He used a different knife for each killing, later saying he didn't want to contaminate them with “demons”. He removed some of their organs and subsequently stabbed himself in the chest. “He then left a voicemail message for his dead wife's parents. It went like this, “I need y'alls help, something bad is happening to me and it keeps happening and I don't know what's going on. I need some help, I think I'm in hell. I need help.” He turned himself in and confessed to what he had done. While he was in jail he removed one of his eyes, and later three doctors confirmed this guy had schizophrenia. The state didn't care, and the man stood trial and was sentenced to death. While serving time on death row he removed another eye... and proceeded to eat it. He's still waiting for his execution. Yep, that's a crazy story, and they will get even crazier. 48. So, which states have executed the most death row inmates since 1976? The top three states are: Oklahoma with 112, Virginia with one more at 113, and Texas far away at number one with 566 executions. 47. A lot of you don't know this, but it can take a really long time to get yourself executed, often between 15 and 20 years. The average time spent on death row before execution or release – yep, a lot of guys have been innocent on death row – is 16 years. 46. People literally go mad waiting to be killed by the state, and this madness is actually a phenomenon with a name. It's called, “death row phenomenon”, and we are going to talk more about that later. For now, all you need to know is it means basically losing your mind. 45. Ok, so you can spend a lot of time on death row. As you'll see, more inmates on death row have been innocent that you would believe. In fact. It's mind-blowing, and sad, just how many folks have gotten off death row. One man spent 39 years there and his name was Gary Alvord. He murdered three people and was sentenced in 1974, but like the guy we just talked about, he had a long history of severe mental illnesses including schizophrenia. The state knew very well he was totally insane, and that's why he could never be executed. He waited 39 years and saw 75 other death row inmates in Florida leave and never come back. He died of a brain tumor in 2013. 44. Ok, so one more person that spent a long time on death row was a guy named Jack Alderman, and he spent 33 years fighting for his freedom. He was accused of killing his wife, although there was no forensic evidence and the story is just plain weird. He was sentenced only on the testimony of another man…a man who might have actually been the killer. The execution of Alderman has been called a gross miscarriage of justice, because it is highly unlikely he killed his wife. He was offered all kinds of deals, and wouldn't have been executed if he'd only said he was guilty. He refused to do this every time he was offered a plea deal, and said he just couldn't admit to doing something he hadn't done. He was executed in 2008. 43. You don't actually have to kill someone to be convicted of murder. You can end up on death row having been convicted of murder, but you might not have been sentenced for actually killing someone. 42. If that's confusing to you, here's a story. One night you are hanging out at the park, but this particular night there are a couple of guys you don't know that well. All you guys get a bit drunk and then decide to go into town. Those two new guys get into a fight. They beat some dude so bad he dies. You were merely there, and you didn't even throw a punch, plus you didn't know these guys very well. But if you're poor, have a crappy lawyer and maybe a couple of minor crimes to your name, you might be charged with something called “felony murder.” If you are African American you are even more screwed. Sadly, racial bias in the American justice system is still prevalent. Ok, the point is, you sometimes just have to be there. If you do your research, you'll find lists of people who were executed for just being there. It was the other guy that pulled the trigger or stuck in the blade. You'll find names such as G.W. Green, Carlos Santana, Joseph Garcia and many more. 41. One more thing you need to know is that you could get charged for murder if one of your friends dies. Yep, if you've heard of the “Elkhart Four”, you'll know that four kids decided to burglarize a house and the house owner shot and killed one of those kids. The three other kids were charged with felony murder and were looking as 55, 50 and 55 years behind bars… for something some guy did when protecting his house. They didn't end up spending any time on death row and eventually got much lower sentences, but it's a warning to you all. 40. A guy named Nick Yarris spent 22 years on death row for a crime he didn't commit. He educated himself there, and he was later released after DNA evidence proved that he did not commit the crime. Yarris sued the Delaware County District Attorney's Office and the settlement was $3 million. You can see his story in the documentary film, “The Fear of 13.” 39. What about lethal injection, what is that? It's a three shot cocktail. The first part is usually sodium thiopental, a super-strength barbiturate that basically knocks the person out. Then, pancuronium bromide, a muscle relaxant, should make the lungs not work so well and the third part is potassium chloride. Enough of this will affect the heart and should bring on cardiac arrest. We should also say that certain states have their own recipes. 38. Actually, lethal injection, while generally viewed as the most humane form of execution in modern times, has a really high botch rate at 7.1 percent. Yep, that's a lot of botching, and you could ask if the formidable guillotine at least caused less pain for some folks. Firing squads also had a 100 percent success rate. The botch rate of the electric chair is 1.9 percent, hanging, 3.1 percent, and the gas chamber, 5.4 percent. 37. You might now be thinking, wait a minute, in recent years there have been bodies piling up all over the USA during what we call the opioid crisis. In 2018, there were 46,802 deaths related to opioids such as heroin and fentanyl and the new tidal wave of prescription opioids. The numbers were similar in 2017 and 2019. So, that's around 150,000 deaths, which if you've ever seen one, pretty much means going to sleep and not waking up. It seems pretty humane. Since 1999, there have been around 800,000 deaths in the USA because of drugs, and mainly the deaths were opiate related, although the opiates might have been mixed with another drug such as a benzodiazepine. Then there's the lethal threesome, the opioid, the benzo… and the booze. Anyway, some people have said why not give people a strong drug like Fentanyl when you want to execute them. It's obviously a formidable killer on the streets, so why not mainline murderers with it. Well, in 2018, Nebraska became the first state to use Fentanyl as part of a lethal injection and they even threw in a benzodiazepine. They knocked him out with the opioid, slowed him down with the relaxant, and for good measure they threw in some of the heart stopping potassium chloride. 36. Lethal injection often fails simply because the executioners can't find a vein, but on one occasion they actually injected the substances into the flesh of a man and not his veins. 35 minutes later and he got another shot. That kind of timeframe is what we now call “cruel and unusual punishment.” Others have just reacted badly to the cocktail, with their bodies going into spasms and moans coming from their mouths. Still, the real horror stories involved the gas chamber and the electric chair. This you'll hear about later. 35. There might also be two separate cartridges during a lethal injection. The second one is a back-up. 34. A guy named Romell Broom actually survived his execution in 2009. Over the period of two hours, the executioners tried to find a vein. Romell, reportedly sobbing at times, even helped them. But it failed. They took him off the gurney and the state was accused of “cruel and unusual punishment.” Romell is still on death row today. 33. Ok, so this was before modern death row, but when the British first settled in the colonies they had a list of 222 crimes that were punishable by death. If you destroyed a fish pond you could die. Or if you messed with a rabbit warren you could be strung up. Painting your face black at night was also a capital crime. Yep, that's crazy, but we have more “crazy” down the line. 32. Serial killer Phillip Carl Jablonski was on San Quentin's death row for many years. He was an avid letter writer, and had pen pals all over the world. He would sometimes draw cartoons on the letters, but often they were quite disturbing. In fact, his letters could be pleasant in parts, and then suddenly he'd talk about really gruesome things he'd done. He actually killed his first wife, but married a female pen pal while doing time for that murder. When he got out, they could finally be together as a real married couple. He soon killed his new wife and also killed her mother. Jablonski would kill again, and he would get caught. Believe or not, more women proposed to him when he was on death row. He recently died in his cell, so he's no longer an eligible death row bachelor. 31. In fact, a few people have gotten married while on death row. One of the worst serial killers of all time got married even though his hobby was brutally killing women. His name was Ted Bundy. Some women have a thing for killers. There is a term for it. It's called “hybristophilia.” 30. The death penalty was actually abolished for a while, but it came back in 1976. In the U.S., there are only 29 states in which you can be legally killed by the state. 29. Since 1976, there have been 1,512 executions in the US. 28. Only 15 of those executions were of women, and twenty two of the executed people were juveniles. 27. Since the death penalty there have been a total of 294 cases of clemency. This is when someone with power steps in and says this guy should not be killed. The president or the state governor could do this, but they will have to weigh up a lot of facts and also think about the public's reaction. This doesn't mean the person is released, or what we call “exonerated”. It just means the person's death sentence has been commuted to another sentence. And yes, it sometimes happens like it does in the movies. That is, it can happen just hours before the execution is due to be carried out. In 2020, a guy named Jimmy Meders was given clemency just a few hours before he was about to get a lethal injection. His sentence was reduced to life without the possibility of parole. Meders was accused of killing a store clerk, but he says another guy did it. He's even tried to get DNA evidence to support this, but that hasn't been possible yet. He claims he is innocent. He had no criminal history before the event and has a spotless prison record, which was all taken into consideration when he was granted clemency. We will soon tell you shocking facts about innocent people on death row, but we think you need to hear other facts first. 26. One Republican governor shocked the world in the early 2000s. His name was George Ryan and in 2003 he said, ok, enough is enough, something stinks here, and he pardoned every death row prisoner. Yep, all 163 men and four women who'd already served collectively over 2,000 years were taken off death row. Why would he do such a thing, you might be wondering? Ok, let's just give you his statement.