“I was shot nine times by a firing squad, and once more in the face to ensure my death.” Wenseslao Moguel (pictured) was sentenced to death without trial for his role in the Mexican revolution. After being shot repeatedly he discovered he was still alive and managed to remain still until his executioners wandered off and he finally crawled his way to safety.
He then went on to live a long life touring with the “Ripley’s Believe it or Not” museum.
Many believe the executioner only gets one go at it and that double jeopardy prevents a second go. Not true! Double jeopardy only applies to the trial process and in the case of a hanging penalty a judge will order that he/she, “hang by the neck until dead”. And that means swinging on their feet if the poor buggers are still alive.
To live through an “execution” is often rewarded with a reprieve, not for any legal reason but because it’s seen as a message from God that should not be denied.
But there are hundreds of macabre instances where executions have gone awfully wrong with certain death being achieved only with the French guillotine.
It’s actually quite difficult to kill someone by other means unless your victim is tied up and unarmed and you’re a barbaric Islamic coward.
A professional hangman requires a clinical knowledge of weights and measures; the lynching expression, “hang ‘im high” was to ensure his neck was broken or he was decapitated by the length of the fall, as was Saddam Hussein.
But the aim of the modern, compassionate hangman is to allow the fall to ensure death while avoiding a messy decapitation.
In 1945, 16 year old Willie Francis was charged with murder of a drugstore owner in Louisiana. Francis pled not guilty but the state-appointed defence attorneys called no witnesses and put up no defence. Francis was convicted of murder and sentenced to death by the electric chair.
During the execution, witnesses reported hearing the teenager scream “Take it off! Take it off! Let me breathe!” Another report states that he said, “I’m not dying! I’m not dying!”
The electric chair failed to kill Willie Francis. The portable electric chair had been improperly set up by an intoxicated prison guard.
The boy appealed to the Supreme Court but the appeal was denied and he was again executed (this time successfully) on May 9, 1947… more than a year after his first “execution”.
The electric chair has killed many victims in the most horrific of ways, with the smell of barbequed flesh wafting through the witness room.
The use of a firing squad is an inexact science because death is not instant. Even when bullets pierce the heart it is reported death may not arrive for many minutes. Miss the heart and the condemned may never die.
Decapitation leaves the brain fully oxygenated for many minutes and there have been many grotesque experiments carried out on separated heads with blinking eyes and moving mouths.
Lethal injection is the most humane method of killing, but there have been instances of the three-stage automated process failing, leaving a victim’s heart still pumping away with the brain and other organs irreparably damaged.
Stoning and crucifixion are the most barbaric methods of all and only practised in Muslim States. So why has the Islamic Indonesian State opted for firing squads?
Well, they can’t speak or read Arabic, so the Qu’ran’s instructions might have been a little confusing for them.
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