Electric Chair

Execution by electrocution, usually performed using an electric chair, is an execution method originating in the United States in which the condemned person is strapped to a specially built wooden chair and electrocuted through electrodes placed on the body. This execution method was created by employees of Thomas Edison during the War of Currents, and has been used only in the United States and, for a period of several decades, in the Philippines (its first use there in 1924 under American occupation, last in 1976).

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 individual's body, in order to cause fatal damage to 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.

Although in the United States the electric chair has become a symbol of the death penalty, its use is in decline due to the rise of lethal injection, which is widely believed to be a more humane method of execution. Although some states still maintain electrocution as a method of execution, today it is only maintained as a secondary method that may be chosen over lethal injection at the request of the prisoner. As of 2010, electrocution is an optional form of execution in Alabama, Florida, South Carolina and Virginia. 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 chose 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 and Oklahoma if other forms of execution are found unconstitutional in the state at the time of execution. It is the sole method of execution in Vermont, where treason is the only capital crime. On February 8, 2008, the Nebraska Supreme Court determined that execution by 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 for murder.

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Famous quotes related to electric chair:

    Flabby, bald, lobotomized,
    he drifted in a sheepish calm,
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    jarred his concentration of the electric chair
    hanging like an oasis in his air
    of lost connections. . . .
    Robert Lowell (1917–1977)