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  • As long as people have been sentenced to death, there has been the chance of a dramatic and

  • often bloody disaster.

  • Here are some of the most notorious botched executions of all time.

  • In the early days, the most common method of execution was beheading in the most low-tech

  • manner - a person swinging an axe at the unfortunate victim's neck.

  • That was the fate that awaited Margaret Pole, Countess of Salisbury.

  • A noblewoman in the 1500s, she committed a crime for which there was no pardon - falling

  • out of favor with the notorious King Henry VIII.

  • Despite no trial, she was sentenced to death and taken to the execution block.

  • But to her horror, her executioner wasn't a hulking man who had swung many an axe.

  • It was a young, uncoordinated man who had to take eleven swings to kill her - repeatedly

  • striking her head and shoulders before finally hitting the mark.

  • In Medieval England, no one was safe from a bloody execution - even the most powerful.

  • Mary, Queen of Scotts was Queen of Scotland for twenty-five years, and engaged in a bloody

  • power struggle with her cousin Elizabeth I. Mary was considered the rightful Queen by

  • many of England's Catholics, and when Mary was deposed and forced to seek refuge in England,

  • she found herself imprisoned.

  • After eight years in custody, she was accused of attempting to assassinate Elizabeth and

  • sentenced to death by beheading.

  • The first blow only glanced the back of her head, and the second killed her - but left

  • her half-severed head hanging off the neck to the horror of onlookers.

  • But these weren't the worst executioners the world had ever seen.

  • Jack Ketch was an executioner under the reign of King Charles II, and he was so bad at taking

  • heads that his name eventually became a synonym for death and the devil.

  • During the chaotic 1680s, filled with multiple coup attempts, Ketch botched the executions

  • of several noblemen for treason.

  • When William Russell came before his axe, Ketch repeatedly struck him and seemed distracted

  • as the crowd watched the gory display.

  • Two years later, the execution of James Scott, 1st Duke of Monmouth took a shocking five

  • to eight strokes.

  • The execution was so badly botched that the crowd revolted, nearly attacking Ketch and

  • forcing the guards to spirit him away before he became the second execution of the day.

  • The science of executions advanced - but they didn't become foolproof.

  • The invention of the guillotine put headsmen like Jack Ketch out of work, replacing the

  • axe with a mechanical device that would neatly slice heads off with a falling blade.

  • It became synonymous with the French revolution and the Reign of Terror, when countless nobles

  • and political enemies were beheaded - most famously Queen Marie Antoinette.

  • But when it came time for her husband, Louis XVI, to meet his end, things went horribly

  • wrong.

  • Louis XVI was a large man, and eyewitnesses said that the blade got stuck midway through

  • his neck, only partially severing his head.

  • The bloody blade had to be raised and dropped again, finishing the job and bringing the

  • King's life to an undignified end.

  • Beheading is by far the bloodiest execution method - but far from the only one prone to

  • errors.

  • In the old West, there was one popular execution method - hanging.

  • And in 1852, a Canadian soldier namedYankeeJim Robinson found that out the hard way.

  • The young man tried to steal a boat, and was shocked when he was charged with not theft,

  • but piracy on the high seas - a death penalty crime.

  • He was quickly convicted and taken to the gallows, and the tall man quickly realized

  • the scaffold wasn't nearly high enough.

  • Instead of his neck neatly snapping at the end of the drop, he spent half an hour slowly

  • strangling while hanging.

  • It's no surprise locals in modern-day San Diego claim his ghost still haunts the site.

  • But it wasn't the only botched hanging in the United States.

  • What execution was so bad it brought an end to capital punishment in Minnesota?

  • That would be the death of William Williams.

  • A miner, he carried on a secret relationship with local teenager John Keller.

  • When Keller refused to answer Williams' letters at his parents' insistence, Williams

  • came to the Keller home and murdered John Keller and his mother.

  • Sentenced to death by hanging, Williams was taken to the gallows in 1906 - but the rope

  • was too long.

  • He hit the floor and was injured.

  • But the local sheriff wanted the execution completed, so he ordered his men to pull the

  • rope back up until Williams strangled to death.

  • The horror led to the abolition of the death penalty in the state five years later, and

  • it has never been reinstated.

  • At least firing squad - execution by a hail of bullets - should be pretty foolproof, right?

  • Not exactly, as Wallace Wilkerson found out.

  • The cattle worker got into a nasty argument with bartender William Baxter over a cart

  • game, and the hot-tempered Wilkerson pulled out a gun and shot Baxter.

  • He was quickly captured and kept under guard to prevent a lynching.

  • Sentenced to death at trial, Wilkerson chose a firing squad, and although appeals were

  • filed by his lawyer, in 1879 he met his fate.

  • He was blindfolded and shot by a group of guards - only for every single one of them

  • to miss his heart.

  • Badly wounded and bleeding, Wilkerson lay on the ground gasping.

  • While officials initially talked about shooting him again, he eventually expired from blood

  • loss after less than half an hour.

  • Well, then, no one could survive poison gas - right?

  • The gas chamber was a twentieth-century innovation in the death penalty, using an airtight chamber

  • and a combination of poisonous gases to bloodlessly kill the condemned.

  • That was the fate that awaited Jimmy Lee Gray, a Mississippi child-murderer who was sentenced

  • to death for his second murder.

  • In 1983, he was taken to the death chamber - but there was a design flaw that the officials

  • hadn't accounted for.

  • An iron bar behind the death chair was within reach, and Gray's head wasn't strapped

  • down.

  • When the gas flooded in, Gray began thrashing his head violently and slammed his head against

  • the bar repeatedly before losing consciousness.

  • The room was cleared, and it's unclear whether the gas or the blows to the head ultimately

  • killed him.

  • But no execution method has caused more controversy than the electric chair.

  • A chair designed to restrain the inmate and send a fatal electric shock through their

  • body, the electric chair had been used to kill a horse effectively in testing.

  • But when it came time to execute William Kemmler in 1890, things went very differently.

  • The peddler and heavy drinker had been convicted of killing his common-law wife, and New York

  • chose to make him a test case for the new execution method.

  • The chair was turned on, Kemmler was hit with a thousand volts, and quickly knocked unconscious.

  • While he was immediately declared dead, witnesses noticed he was still breathing.

  • The attending physician ordered the current turned on again - and this time it definitely

  • worked.

  • 2000 volts hit Kemmler, the blood vessels in his skin burst, and his body caught fire,

  • sending a horrible stench through the room.

  • It wouldn't be the last time the electric chair shocked witnesses.

  • Jesse Tafero was facing the death penalty for the shooting of an officer in Florida,

  • despite only being a passenger in the car during the fatal traffic stop.

  • Many speculated the real killer was the driver, Walter Rhodes, but Rhodes testified against

  • him and Tafero was convicted.

  • His date with the electric chair was May 4th, 1990 - but things didn't go smoothly.

  • One of the critical parts of an electric chair execution is using a sponge on the head to

  • increase the conductivity and ensure a quick death - but the team had used a synthetic

  • sponge, not an organic one.

  • This caused flames to shoot out of Tafero's head, shocking onlookers, and it took a seven-minute

  • process of three jolts to kill Tafero.

  • Some even speculated that the chair had been sabotaged to make Tafero suffer.

  • To add insult to injury, Rhodes confessed to being the shooter after Tafero's death.

  • The electric chair was quickly becoming notorious - and would soon fall out of favor in Florida.

  • The last straw was the execution of Allen Lee Davis, a notorious mass-murderer sentenced

  • to death for the murder of Nancy Weiler.

  • He would remain on death row until 1999, when he met the electric chair.

  • There was just one problem - he had been on blood thinner medications before his execution.

  • Witnesses would say his nose had begun bleeding before he was electrocuted, but the guards

  • didn't hesitate - and when the shocks went through Davis' body, he began bleeding profusely.

  • An autopsy revealed severe burns all over his head, legs, and groin, and while an inquiry

  • showed the chair had worked properly, that was enough for Florida to designate lethal

  • injection the primary method of execution in the future.

  • But that modern method isn't foolproof either.

  • Lethal injection is the most bloodless modern method of execution, using a cocktail of drugs

  • on a restrained inmate to put them to sleep and then stop their heart.

  • It's supposed to be painless - but that wasn't the case for Arizona inmate Joseph

  • Rudolph Wood III.

  • Convicted of murdering his ex-girlfriend and her father, he was taken to the death chamber

  • in July 2014 - and what was supposed to be a quick execution took a terrible twist.

  • While one dose was supposed to be enough to kill Wood, witnesses reported that the staff

  • injected Wood fifteen times trying to give him a fatal dose.

  • The execution took almost two hours - long enough for Wood's lawyers to file one final

  • appeal with the Supreme Court arguing that the ongoing execution was cruel and unusual

  • punishment.

  • It was denied - a half-hour after Wood finally expired.

  • But there's another kind of execution that went horribly wrong - the one where the condemned

  • actually survives.

  • Romell Broom was awaiting death in Ohio after being convicted for the kidnapping and murder

  • of a teenage girl.

  • While he had filed an appeal and obtained a DNA test, he wasn't exonerated - and his

  • date with the needle was fast approaching.

  • In September 2009, he was strapped to the gurney and the execution began - only for

  • the executioners to struggle to find a vein.

  • The execution was called off, the Governor issued a one-week stay, and a series of appeals

  • began arguing that to execute him again would be cruel and unusual punishment.

  • Eventually, appeals were denied and Broom was scheduled to die in June 2020 - only for

  • it to be called off due to the pandemic.

  • But Broom would never meet the executioner - he died in prison in December 2020.

  • The next case faced death - and wound up cheating death.

  • Doyle Hamm was on Alabama's death row for the killing of Patrick Cunningham in a motel

  • robbery.

  • While awaiting execution in 2014, he came down with lymphatic cancer.

  • The cancer and treatments damaged Hamm's veins, making it difficult for the executioner

  • to find a vein - leading to almost three hours of the team poking him with needles.

  • The painful spectacle in 2018 led to international condemnation, and Hamm's legal team filed

  • lawsuits.

  • Ultimately, Alabama settled with Hamm and agreed not to set a second execution date

  • - meaning that Hamm still sits in prison, having successfully beaten execution and so

  • far, cancer.

  • But convicts have survived far more violent methods of execution.

  • It was 1740 in England when William Duell was sentenced to hang.

  • The seventeen-year-old had been convicted as an accessory to rape, and was to be hung

  • along with four others.

  • The execution seemed to go off smoothly, as he hung for twenty minutes before being cut

  • down.

  • His body was sent to a medical training college for dissection - when the workers noticed

  • something strange.

  • Duell was still breathing.

  • Within two hours, he was awake and had no recollection of being hung.

  • He had been sick before his execution, which some say may have led to his survival.

  • Instead of trying to execute him again, the law changed his sentence to exile to North

  • America, where he lived in Boston for another sixty-five years.

  • But could anyone survive a firing squad?

  • Wenceslao Moguel Herrera did - although no one is quite sure why.

  • It was 1915, in the midst of the violent Mexican Revolution, when he was arrested for being

  • a revolutionary.

  • It was wartime and there was no trial - only an impromptu finding of guilt and a quick

  • firing squad.

  • Witnesses say he was shot at least eight times in the body, and then shot once in the head

  • to ensure he was dead.

  • But what comes next is up for debate.

  • Some say he was found unconscious in the bodies of his fellow revolutionaries.

  • Others say he crawled to a church for sanctuary and recovered there.

  • What is clear is that he lived for another sixty years after his shooting - even appearing

  • on the Ripley's Believe it or Not radio show in 1937.

  • But no one had the sheer luck of John Babbacombe Lee.

  • A notorious thief and former Navy cadet in England, Lee was convicted in 1885 of murdering

  • his employer Emma Keyse.

  • While the evidence was weak, Lee's reputation preceded him and he was sentenced to death

  • by hanging.

  • He maintained his innocence, but the gallows were waiting at Exeter Prison.

  • That's where something odd happened - the trapdoor under the scaffold failed to open.

  • Famous executioner James Berry presided and couldn't explain the failure in the device

  • - nor could he explain how it kept happening in two future attempted executions.

  • It seems John Babbacombe Lee was the man they couldn't hang, and he soon became famous.

  • Amid public attention, Lee's sentence was commuted to life imprisonment by the Home

  • Secretary, allowing him to keep fighting to prove his innocence.

  • He was eventually released in 1907 and lived to eighty years old - becoming a celebrity

  • as the man who beat death three times.

  • Check out “50 Insane Death Penalty and Execution Facts That Will Shock Youfor more of the

  • death penalty's darkest secrets, or watch this video instead.

As long as people have been sentenced to death, there has been the chance of a dramatic and

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Executions That Went Horribly Wrong

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    Summer posted on 2021/05/22
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