Electric chair

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Execution by electrocution, usually performed using an electric chair, is an execution method originating in the United States in which the person being killed is strapped to a specially built wooden chair and electrocuted through electrodes placed on the body. This execution method has been used only in the United States and, for a period of several decades,[1] in the Philippines (its first use there in 1924 under American occupation, last in 1976). The electric chair has become a symbol of the death penalty; however, its use is in decline.

Historically, once the condemned person was attached to the chair, various cycles (differing in voltage and duration) of alternating current would be passed through the condemned's body, in order to fatally damage the internal organs (including the brain). The first jolt of electric current was designed to cause immediate unconsciousness and brain death; the second one was designed to cause fatal damage to the vital organs. Death was frequently caused by electrical overstimulation of the heart.

The electric chair was invented by Dr Alphonse David Rockwell (1840-1933)[2] and first used in 1890. It was used by more than 25 states throughout the 20th century, acquiring nicknames such as Old Smokey, Old Sparky, Old Betsy, Yellow Mama, and Gruesome Gertie. In the late 20th century, the electric chair was discontinued as a form of execution in many U.S. states, and its use in the 21st century is very infrequent.[3]

As of 2010, electrocution is an optional form of execution in the U.S. states of Alabama, Florida, South Carolina and Virginia, though they allow the prisoner to choose lethal injection as an alternative method. In the states of Kentucky and Tennessee, the electric chair has been retired except for those whose capital crimes were committed prior to legislated dates in 1998 (Kentucky March 31, 1998, Tennessee December 31, 1998) and who choose electrocution. In both states, inmates who do not choose electrocution or inmates who committed their crimes after the designated date are killed by lethal injection. The electric chair is an alternate form of execution approved for potential use in Arkansas, Illinois, and Oklahoma if other forms of execution are found unconstitutional in the state at the time of execution. On February 8, 2008, the Nebraska Supreme Court determined that execution via the electric chair was a "cruel and unusual punishment" under the State's constitution. This brought executions of this type to an end in Nebraska, the only remaining state to retain electrocution as its sole method of execution.


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