Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Enough to Kill a Horse . . .

Location:   Auburn, New York
Year:   1890

William Kemmler of Buffalo was the first man in U.S. history to be executed in the electric chair. Kemmler was convicted in 1889 for the hatchet murder of Tillie Ziegler, his common-law wife. 

On August 6, 1890 in New York's Auburn Prison, following an unsuccessful appeal regarding the legality of his sentence, Kemmler was put to death in the chair. By all accounts, his execution was unusually gruesome. Kemmler wasn't pronounced dead until eight minutes after an initial charge of 1,000 volts was administered (this voltage level had been tested the previous day on a horse, and was believed to be adequate). 

Several of the seventeen witnesses remaining in the room when he died reported that Kemmler's body caught fire, and that his veins ruptured, causing blood to explosively splatter the death chamber. 

Regardless of Kemmler's hideous end, 694 people followed Kemmler to the chair between 1890 and 1983.  The electric chair is still the legal form of execution in New York State, although the highest Court in New York State, the Court of Appeals, ruled the State's death penalty statute unconstitutional in 2004. 

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