Florida's Gruesome Electric Chair


Florida's Electric Chair

"There have been some very uncomfortable and painful things, and these people were crying and screaming while this was going on. It's unfortunate but it happens." So said Fred Leuchter, an expert on executions who was commissioned to fix Florida's damaged electric chair after yet another death row prisoner was essentially tortured to death.

In October, the U.S. Supreme Court ordered a stay on all executions in Florida while it decided whether the state's electric chair -- known by its sick nickname of "Old Sparky" -- constituted "cruel and unusual punishment."

No other country in the world uses the electric chair. But Florida and three other states still do, despite a long history of grisly "accidents." The most recent was the July 8 execution of Allen Lee "Tiny" Davis, who bled from the nose because the chair's mouth strap was so tight. Experts say that Davis partially drowned in his own blood prior to the fatal surge of electricity.

During executions in 1990 and 1997, flames erupted from masks put on inmates.

Earlier this year, the Florida Supreme Court voted 4 to 3 to keep the electric chair, but Justice Leander Shaw wrote a strong dissent charging that Davis looked like a man who was "brutally tortured to death."

But rather than get rid of this tool of torture, Florida politicians like Gov. Jeb Bush have defended it down the line.