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Botched Executions — Horrifying Cases in History

Botched executions makes people wonder whether the carrying out of justice is rightfully done
Botched executions makes people wonder whether the carrying out of justice is rightfully done

Botched executions are not executions; it’s torture.

In the shadowed realms of justice, where darkness shrouds the corridors of death, a macabre dance unfolds—an ominous symphony of errors and missteps. These haunting spectacles, known as botched executions, expose the fragility of man’s attempts to deliver ultimate punishment.

Like malevolent whispers in the night, they remind us of the profound consequences when the machinery of death veers off its ordained path.

Botched executions emerge from the fractures within the very fabric of execution protocols. These protocols, meticulously crafted by the norms, expectations, and professed virtues of each method, or even by the solemn guidelines of governing bodies, stand as beacons of certainty amidst the uncertainty.

They are meant to orchestrate an efficient and seemingly humane descent into the abyss, but agony and incompetence fill the void when these sacred rules falter.

In these ghastly chronicles, the condemned find themselves trapped in unforeseen nightmares. Flames engulf their bodies as the electric chair’s current surges through their veins—a fiery baptism into eternal oblivion.

Instead of a swift release, the hangman’s noose tightens, suffocating the very breath of life from their lungs, leaving them to endure a torment never intended. And then there are those whose veins become conduits for mistaken doses; their bodies wracked with unimaginable pain as lethal injections devolve into cruel experiments.

The consequences of these grotesque deviations resonate far beyond the cold confines of prison walls. They expose the imperfections of a system designed to impart justice and retribution. In the haunting echoes of these mishaps, questions of human fallibility and the morality of capital punishment emerge, clawing at the consciousness of society.

Botched executions are a sinister reminder that even in death, where finality should reign supreme, human error lurks, waiting to strip away the veneer of control. They confront us with the uncomfortable reality that the pursuit of retribution can be fraught with darkness, an unholy descent into the depths of our flawed nature.

So, gather close, for in this sinister exploration by Morbid, as we delve into the annals of shattered protocols and twisted fates. Through these tales of agony and incompetence, we confront the harrowing specter of botched executions—a chilling testament to the delicate balance between life and death, the fragility of justice, and the indomitable darkness that lies within us all.

List of Horrific Botched Executions

According to estimates, from 1890 to 2010, there were mistakes in 3% of all executions in the United States. Austin Sarat, a professor of law and political science at Amherst College, details the history of faulty executions in the United States during that time in his 2014 book, Gruesome Spectacles: Botched Executions and America’s Death Penalty.

According to Sarat, 8,776 persons were put to death during those 120 years, and 276 (3.15%) of executions were botched in some way. The majority of executions that went wrong used lethal injection.

The Botched Execution of Frank Joseph Coppola

In the annals of botched executions, one name stands as a chilling testament to the fragility of man’s attempts to exact justice. Frank Joseph Coppola, a convicted murderer, and former police officer, met his grisly fate on August 10, 1982, within the bleak confines of Virginia’s electric chair.

His crime, the brutal murder of Muriel Hatchell, had stained the pages of history, and now the machinery of death sought to claim its retribution.

In the summer of 1982, a pivotal decision loomed before Frank Joseph Coppola, his life hanging in the balance. Haunted by the prospect of spending his remaining days in the confines of a prison cell, he made a chilling choice to forego any further appeals.

For Coppola, the weight of his actions and the desire to shield his family from enduring additional anguish eclipsed any flicker of hope for a different fate. He braced himself, willing to become the architect of his demise.

Frank Joseph Coppola in a file picture

Frank Joseph Coppola in a file picture

And so, Coppola faced the consequences of his past transgressions on that fateful evening of August 10, 1982, within the somber confines of the Virginia State Penitentiary. Strapped to the electric chair, his hands bound by the chains of his own making, he embraced the inevitable.

At 11:27 p.m., the pronouncement of his death pierced the air, a solemn proclamation of finality.

In a haunting twist, the jury members, the arbiters of his fate, were queried again. Did they, in the aftermath of the execution, still stand unwaveringly by their decision to condemn Coppola to death? Ten jurors rose, resolute in their conviction, steadfast in their justification of the verdict they had rendered.

The echoes of their collective voice resounded within the chamber, a chilling testament to the weight of their judgment.

One of Coppola’s lawyers claimed that the execution had been botched after it had taken place, asserting that the first electric shock did not kill him. In contrast, the second produced “the smell and sizzling sound of burning flesh,” That fire was emitted from the electrodes on his head and leg, filling the death chamber with smoke.

Execution of William Duell

William Duell, a mere seventeen years old, found himself ensnared in the clutches of the justice system, accused of being an accessory to the rape of Sarah Griffin in the heart of Acton, London.

The wheels of justice turned with a relentless determination, and on that fateful day, November 24, 1740, Duell and four others stood poised at the gallows of Tyburn. The noose, a symbol of impending doom, embraced their necks, heralding the finality of their earthly existence.

But fate had a different path in mind for William Duell, for as the hangman’s knot tightened, his fragile body succumbed to the torment, and he slipped into the realm of the deceased.

Or so it seemed.

Duell’s body hung for nearly 20 minutes.

As was the custom for the time, his body was laid on the table for dissection. However, one of the staff members saw that his respiration had slowed. Duell’s breathing became increasingly rapid; he could sit up straight for two hours after being bled.

On 24 November 1740, he was hanged in Tyburn, along with four others, but survived the hanging

On 24 November 1740, Duell was hanged in Tyburn, along with four others, but survived the hanging

He was returned to Newgate Prison that evening. Duell did not remember the hanging because he was in a stupor and ill during his trial and death.

The news of this astonishing event spread like wildfire, capturing the public’s imagination. Once destined for the gallows, William Duell had become a living testament to the unpredictable nature of life and death. In the wake of this spectacle, the authorities had no choice but to revise his sentence. Penal transportation became his new fate—a life exiled to the distant shores of North America.

Embracing his newfound chance at life, Duell embarked on a journey across the Atlantic, finding solace and redemption in the bustling streets of Boston. Time passed, and as the winds of change swept across the land, he lived out his days, weaving his narrative within the tapestry of history.

The specifics of his final moments remain elusive, lost to the sands of time, but it is believed that William Duell breathed his last breath sometime in 1805, his presence fading into memory.

The Horrifying Execution of William Kemmler

In the cold, dim hours of August 6, 1890, the stage was set for a macabre spectacle—a tale of death and the unforgiving embrace of the electric chair. William Francis Kemmler, a man stained by his dark deeds, stood on the precipice of oblivion, his fate sealed by a jury of his peers.

As the first rays of morning pierced the somber sky, Kemmler awoke from fitful slumber, his body trembling with trepidation. A shroud of darkness engulfed his soul, matching the attire he hastily donned—a suit, a noose tightly wrapped around his neck, and the sterile white shirt that would soon bear witness to his final moments. The execution loomed, casting a sinister pall over the prison walls.

Amidst the eerie stillness, Kemmler’s head was stripped bare; his hair severed a symbolic stripping of identity. The hour drew closer, and at precisely 6:38 a.m., the door to the execution chamber swung open, revealing Kemmler to the assembled witnesses—a ghastly procession of onlookers, their eyes aflame with morbid curiosity.

Silence fell over the room, punctuated only by Kemmler’s voice—a chilling declaration of acceptance, his belief in a brighter fate beyond the mortal realm. In the face of impending doom, he stood composed, devoid of tears, screams, or futile resistance. Like a pawn on a wretched chessboard, he obeyed the warden’s command, rising from the chair as a hole was deftly carved into his suit, exposing his flesh to the cruel touch of electrical tendrils.

Bound to the chair, his face concealed, Kemmler’s plea for a careful execution echoed through the chamber, his words dripping with the weight of impending finality. Warden Durston bid farewell, a fleeting moment of acknowledgment, before summoning the inevitable.

With a flick of the switch, the room was enveloped in a surge of raw, unrelenting power—a torrent of electric current coursing through Kemmler’s quivering form.

Portrait of Kemmler

Portrait of Kemmler

For seventeen interminable seconds, the world witnessed the grim dance of life and death, an ill-fated pas de deux unfolding before their horrified gaze. The current ceased, the switch disengaged, and Kemmler, by all accounts, was declared deceased.

But the dance still needed to be completed.

Amidst the maddening silence, a disquieting realization took hold—the once-dead had returned to the realm of the living—witnesses recoiled in shock, their hearts seized by a gruesome tableau unfolding before their eyes.

Driven by duty, physicians approached, their hands trembling as they confirmed the unthinkable—William Kemmler still clung to the tendrils of life.

In a perverse twist of fate, the call for another surge of electricity echoed through the chamber—a plea for an end to this grotesque dance. And so, with a surge of unparalleled voltage, Kemmler’s body convulsed, blood vessels ruptured, and his flesh ignited in a ghastly display of flames that licked at his tortured form.

The air was rent with the acrid stench of burning flesh, an olfactory symphony of agony that invaded the senses and etched itself into the psyche of all who bore witness.

The spectacle persisted, an agonizing eight minutes etching themselves into the annals of history. Fueled by their morbid fascination, reporters scurried to capture this abomination’s essence. Headlines were born, splattered across the pages of competing newspapers, each striving to outdo the other in capturing the horror of Kemmler’s demise.

The New York Times, ink-stained with dread, immortalized the atrocity with bold letters that leaped from the pages: Far Worse Than Hanging. In the aftermath, the dark ruminations of George Westinghouse, the mind behind the very apparatus that orchestrated this macabre symphony, hung heavy in the air.

He lamented, “They would have done better using an axe,” a haunting testament to the depths of human cruelty.

The Execution of Pedro Luis Medina

In the somber confines of Florida State Prison, Pedro Luis Medina, a Cuban refugee tainted by the stain of murder, awaited his final reckoning. The weight of his conviction and impending execution bore down upon him, yet he clung to his plea of innocence, defiant until his last breath.

Little did he know that the course of his demise would be marred by a macabre and ghastly spectacle that would ignite a fierce debate surrounding the method of capital punishment.

As the clock ticked towards his appointed hour on that ill-fated day of March 25, 1997, Medina uttered his final words, a desperate proclamation of his innocence, his voice permeating the sterile air of the death chamber.

The pall of tension hung heavy as the executioners prepared to administer the lethal current, their hands guided by the machinery of Old Sparky. This infamous electric chair had devoured so many lives before.

But as the first surge of electricity coursed through Medina’s body, a nightmarish aberration unfolded. Flames erupted from his head, licking at the confines of the death chamber with a sinister dance. Smoke billowed forth, filling the room with an acrid stench, a testament to the horrors unfolding before their eyes. The grotesque spectacle unfolded in a macabre ballet of agony and horror, a perversion of justice.

Witnesses recoiled in horror, their senses assaulted by the grim tableau. Medina’s pastor, Reverend Glen Dickson stood in disbelief as he witnessed the inferno that engulfed his parishioner’s head. He saw the flames dance with ghoulish delight, a chilling testament to the severity of the malfunction. Patricia McCusker, an assistant superintendent, shared in the horror, her eyes widening as she beheld the nightmare unfolding.

Mug shot of Medina

Mug shot of Medina

Flames and smoke, the scent of burning flesh, and the sight of Medina’s desperate breaths mingled to create a grotesque symphony of death.

In the aftermath, a grim inquiry sought to unearth the truth behind this horrific display. An autopsy, a grim testament to the destruction wrought upon Medina’s body, revealed the damning evidence.

The current, surging through his being, had unleashed devastation upon his brain, obliterating any semblance of life in an instant. The lights had been extinguished, leaving only a charred vessel as evidence of the grisly affair.

A neurologist’s testimony lent a glimpse into the eerie movements observed after the current ceased its deadly flow. It was the last vestige of the brain stem, a fading echo of survival, writhing in its final throes even as the spark of consciousness was forever extinguished.

And so, a circuit court judge, his verdict poised in the balance of deliberation, deemed the horrors of that day as the result of “unintentional human error,” absolving the apparatus itself of any fault.

But the echoes of that horrific execution reverberated far and wide. The haunting image of flames engulfing Medina’s head symbolized the ethical debates surrounding capital punishment. It spotlighted the agonizing question of cruelty and humanity in the face of a condemned soul.

The 2022 Execution of Joe Nathan James Jr.

In the dimly lit execution chamber of the Alabama state prison, the final act of Joe Nathan James Jr.’s life unfolded. Convicted of the brutal murder of his ex-girlfriend, Faith Hall, the weight of his crimes hung heavy in the air.

The media’s gaze was fixed upon him, and the world held its breath, awaiting the administration of the lethal injection.

As the appointed hour drew near on that fateful day of July 28, 2022, the anticipation in the room was palpable. James, stoic and unresponsive, lay upon the cold, sterile gurney, his fate sealed. The victim’s daughters, bearing the burden of grief and longing for closure, had hoped for a flicker of remorse or an apology that would never come.

Yet, they found themselves confined within the suffocating prison protocols, unable to leave the chamber as planned.

The procedure commenced as scheduled, but it soon became apparent that something was amiss. James lay motionless, his eyes firmly shut, showing no signs of consciousness or awareness. His lips remained sealed when asked if he had any final words, denying the world any glimpse into his thoughts or emotions.

Reports surfaced, casting doubts on the sedation of James during the execution. Alabama Corrections Commissioner John Hamm revealed that James had not been sedated, leaving the possibility that he may have experienced the full magnitude of the procedure.

Joe Nathan James Jr.

Joe Nathan James Jr.

And amidst the darkness, a female journalist faced a judgment of her attire, deemed unfit to witness the procedure due to the length of her skirt. It was an unfortunate distraction from the moment’s gravity, leaving a sour note in an already troubled narrative.

Faith Hall’s family, though absent from the execution, released a statement expressing forgiveness towards James and hope that the state would not perpetuate the cycle of violence. Their words resonated with a profound sense of humanity and compassion, even in the face of unimaginable loss.

The Attorney General, Steve Marshall, proclaimed that justice had been served. At the same time, Governor Kay Ivey asserted that the state stood firmly with victims of domestic violence, sending a resolute message to the world. Yet, beneath the surface, questions lingered, demanding answers.

The sister of Joe Nathan James Jr., Yvette Craig, called for an investigation into the circumstances surrounding her brother’s execution. Her plea sought to unearth the truth behind the puncture wounds and bruising discovered in the private autopsy.

These marks, etched into James’ knuckles and wrists, bore witness to the fumbled attempts of the execution team to insert the IV lines. They stood as a haunting testament to the fallibility and potential cruelty of the process, raising unsettling questions about the competence and professionalism of those involved.

The Horrible Execution of John Louis Evans

The execution of John Louis Evans III is a haunting and tragic chapter in the history of capital punishment. As the first inmate to be executed by the state of Alabama after the reinstatement of the death penalty in the United States, his execution carried profound implications and shed light on the imprecisions and challenges inherent in the process.

The means of execution, an aging electric chair named “Yellow Mama,” had not been used since 1965, when a series of Supreme Court decisions imposed a moratorium on executions.

With the legal affirmation of the death penalty in Gregg v. Georgia, “Yellow Mama” was brought back into service at Holman Prison.

Mark Harris, a reporter who witnessed the execution, penned a first-person account for United Press International. Harris described the shocking events unfolding before his eyes in his chilling narrative. The prison doctor, dressed in surgical attire, signaled the presence of a heartbeat after the first jolt of electricity passed through Evans’ body.

This unexpected revelation shattered the assumption of his demise and introduced an atmosphere of horror and disbelief.

The sworn testimony of Evans’ attorney, Russell F. Canan, provided a harrowing account of the electrocution’s graphic details. Sparks and flames erupted from the electrode attached to Evans’ left leg, causing his body to convulse violently against the restraints of the electric chair.

John Louis Evans II threatened to kill the jury if they didn't give him the death penaltyJohn Louis Evans II threatened to kill the jury if they didn't give him the death penalty

John Louis Evans II threatened to kill the jury if they didn’t give him the death penalty

A burst of smoke and sparks emitted from under the hood covering his face, permeating the witness room with the nauseating scent of burning flesh and clothing. The scene unfolded horrifyingly, with two doctors confirming that Evans was still alive.

Canan, witnessing the botched execution, appealed to the prison commissioner to grant clemency, citing the cruel and unusual punishment that Evans was enduring. However, the request was denied, and the execution continued.

Two more rounds of electrical charges were administered to Evans’ body, each lasting thirty seconds, further exacerbating the smell of burning flesh and smoke. Finally, after twenty-four minutes, the doctors pronounced Evans dead.

Before his execution, Evans had participated in an After School Special titled “Dead Wrong,” where he shared his life story as a cautionary tale to young people, urging them not to follow in his footsteps and make the same mistakes that had led him to the electric chair.

Four years after Evans’ execution, his accomplice, Wayne Ritter, met the same fate and was electrocuted on August 28, 1987.

The Disturbing Execution of Ginggaew Lorsoungnern

The case of Ginggaew Lorsoungnern is a tragic and distressing episode in Thai history. She was a woman convicted of participating in a kidnapping and murder plot, ultimately leading to her execution by gunfire in 1979. Ginggaew became the second woman in Thailand to be executed by this method.

The events leading to her execution unfolded when she was dismissed from her job as a housekeeper and caregiver by Vichai and Jitra Srijareonsukying, a couple residing in Bangkok. In need of money, Ginggaew’s boyfriend, who had a criminal record, proposed a plan to kidnap the couple’s six-year-old son and demand a ransom.

Ginggaew and five other individuals, including her boyfriend, Thongmuan Grogkoggraud, Pin Peungyard, Thongsuk Puvised (Pin’s spouse), Gasem Singhara, and Suthi Sridee, conspired in this plot.

On or around October 18, 1978, Ginggaew abducted the boy from school and took him to a hideout in Nakhon Ratchasima Province. The group demanded a ransom of 200,000 baht from the boy’s family, instructing them to locate a flag between the Jantuek and Pakchong railway stations and leave a bag containing the funds.

In 1979, Ginggaew Lorsoungnern was supposed to be murdered with ten shots from a machine gun

In 1979, Ginggaew Lorsoungnern was supposed to be murdered with ten shots from a machine gun

However, due to the darkness of the night, the parents failed to find the designated flag. In a horrifying turn of events, the kidnappers stabbed the boy and buried him alive, believing it would prevent his spirit from haunting them. Authorities stated that Ginggaew made an unsuccessful attempt to stop the murder.

On January 12, 1979, Ginggaew was sentenced to death by firearm by the Prime Minister of Thailand. She was initially held at Lard Yao Prison within Klong Prem Central Prison. The following day, she was transferred to Bang Kwang Central Prison in Nonthaburi Province for execution.

After the first volley of gunfire, authorities believed Ginggaew was dead and transported her to the morgue. However, they were alerted by her screams when she regained consciousness. Due to Ginggaew’s condition, known as situs inversus, where her organs were reversed, none of the bullets struck her heart. She was again brought before the gunfire, and the second volley proved fatal.

Gasem and Pin, who were also involved in the crime, received death sentences. Thongmuan was sentenced to life imprisonment, while Suthi and Thongsuk received 20-year prison terms.

Gasem was executed on the same day as Ginggaew at Bang Kwang Prison, requiring two volleys of bullets before his death, while Pin also required two volleys.

Ginggaew Lorsoungnern’s case is a grim reminder of the devastating consequences of crime and the ultimate punishment it can bring.


Next, read about the Unbelievable Story of What Happened to Edmund Fitzgerald and then, about the Ghosts of the Hoosac Tunnel!

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Written By

Abin Tom Sebastian, also known as Mr. Morbid in the community, is an avid fan of the paranormal and the dark history of the world. He believes that sharing these stories and histories are essential for the future generations. For god forbid, we have seen that those who forget history are doomed to repeat it.

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