Me As The Condemned Inmate – Expected Thoughts, Feelings, and Emotions

I’m going to spend some time imagining – as I often have – what it would be like to face execution by various methods used, or proposed, in the United States and in some cases elsewhere.

Conciet

I’m going to start with the following assumptions, just to set the stage:

  • I am in an alternate world where the death penalty is used more commonly and for more crimes
  • I was arrested for the possession of “dangerous drugs” in a quantity considered sufficient for a mandatory sentence of death.
  • I was arrested in a jurisdiction that has at least basic rights of trial, and some double checks at least in cases of a sentence of death.
  • According to the letter of the law, and appropriate case and common law, I am guilty of the crime for which I was arrested.
  • Given the above, after hiring an attorney I’ve plead “guilty,” “nolo contrendre,” or “no contest,” and have accepted and, at least in part, desired the death sentence.
  • The general execution procedure is similar to that of the United States.  Specifically:
    • The inmate is moved proximate to the site of the private execution about 24 hours beforehand.
    • Shortly before the scheduled time, the inmate is brought into the execution chamber and restrained; or is restrained and then brought in depending on method and practicality.
    • Their sentence is read and they are given a chance to make a final statement.
    • Any final steps that would or could interfere with the final statement are then undertaken.
  • I am not leaving any family behind.
  • I am me,
    • Specifically I am still fascinated and aroused by capital punishment (as described here and here).
    • Therefore, I have similar knowledge about the various methods of execution.

General

As I face my impending execution, I will probably be suffering from fear and doubt about what will happen after I die.  While I have a Christian’s belief that I’m saved and have eternal life, that belief can be hard to access when facing death.

I will also probably have a fair amount of stress from, for lack of a better term, cabin fever.  Even in the fastest judicial system, I probably will have been in jail or prison for several months and possibly years.  As it is, I can find being cooped up at home or in a hotel room confining after a few hours in most circumstances; so I cannot fathom how bad that would be after months or years in a small confined space.

I don’t know if I’ll be one of the few who looses control of his bladder during the execution.  However, given the option, I’d probably rather have a diaper on than have it obvious I’ve lost control.

Hanging (Long/Measured Drop)

I’m going to use the scene from The Dirty Dozen as my reference for how an American hanging would be timed.  I will, however,  presume that in this case, I will be partially restrained – my hands will be cuffed or strapped behind my back – before being brought into the execution chamber (gallows); and the walk will be much shorter.

As I walk in, I will be very fearful.  I’ll probably have some familiarity with walking restrained at this point, even if it will normally be a more normal waist chain restraint in front, so that won’t be distracting or uncomfortable.  I suspect that seeing the noose will be very frightening; but also exciting.

Once positioned, my legs are strapped, and the hood and noose are in place, I’ll probably start some real panicking.  After all, at this point, its real.  Hearing the official repeat my sentence and then order that it be carried out would probably cause any acceptance I’d have to flee.  I don’t know if I could speak or not.

I’d like to think that I’d attempt to relax while not collapsing so that I’d hit the bottom as close to being a dead weight as possible.  Of course, once the drop is opened, I’d fall and the noose would break my neck, presumably causing near instantaneous (and possibly irreversible – see here) unconsciousness and then death.

Hanging (Short Drop/Suspension)

I will be partially restrained – my hands will be cuffed or strapped behind my back – before being brought into the execution chamber (gallows); and the walk will be much shorter.

As I walk in, I will be very fearful.  I’ll probably have some familiarity with walking restrained at this point, even if it will normally be a more normal waist chain restraint in front, so that won’t be distracting or uncomfortable.  I suspect that seeing the noose will be very frightening; but also exciting.

However, especially after I see the noose, I’ll probably become frightened about the pain.  That fright would probably overwhelm much of the other emotion I’d be feeling.  Once positioned and the noose (and hood, if used) are in position, I’d be at, or beyond, a point of panic.  Hearing my execution ordered would likely push me nearly to the edge of what I could handle knowing that in seconds I’d be hanging by my neck slowly strangling.

After the drop (or suspension), I’d be in growing pain as the rope constricts my neck and as I had increasing difficulty breathing.  I’d hope to pass out soon, and I’d again hope that I wouldn’t do anything to slow the process down.  But, I think that I’d at least somewhat fight for my life at that point.  All in all, I think that this would be a very horrible experience.

Guillotine

As I walk into the execution chamber and view the guillotine, I’ll probably become very scared.  Even knowing that it will be quick, there is something about having my head removed that is terrifying.  I hope that I’d be able to walk up to the bascule and be strapped in place.  Specifically, I’d be strapped the bascule, a hinged board that starts vertically, face first with the board pressing into my front.  I cannot help but wonder how being strapped in this position would interact with my paraphilia.

As the guillotine was never used in the U.S., I’ll make the guess that it would be at this point that the sentence would be read.  I don’t know if I could take my eyes off of the blade during that short period I would be standing strapped to the bascule.

Once the bascule was rotated into position so that I was laying on it face down, and pushed into place, I think I’d be either panicked, relieved, or aroused.  Given the speed of the last two steps, I doubt that any of these would last long before my head was separated from my body, and I’d fall into brief unconsciousness before dying.

Beheading

Facing a beheading by sword would probably have some similar emotions to facing the guillotine.  But, I’d have to add the fear that the job wouldn’t be done right.  I’m not sure I can say much more in this case, since I have little idea how one would be carried out that also follows U.S. tradition.

Garotte

Much of what I know about a modern execution by garotte comes from a scene from the Spanish movie Salvador.  But that film actually leaves a descent idea of how one might have been used in the U.S.

As I’d walked into the chamber, I’d be afraid both of death and of the pain.  I don’t know how I’d react to seeing the garotte itself, but it would probably be similar to any device of execution, a mix of fear and excitement.

But once seated and restrained – likely nothing more than the handcuffs the movie depicts – I think I’d start fearing the pain.  No mater how close to the ideal design of having some sort of a blade to severe the spine before strangling occurred, there would be some initial pressure against the throat, which is decidedly uncomfortable.  There would also be pain as the blade pierced the back of the neck.  I’d hope that both of those pains wouldn’t last long once the blade severed the spine causing unconsciousness.

Gas Chamber (hydrogen cyanide gas)

Based on most recent descriptions I’ve read, and opposed to most deceptions, I’d probably be scantily dressed, likely no more than boxer shorts over the diaper.  But, I won’t be cold since the whole area would need to be fairly warm, 80°F.

As I approach the chamber, I’d probably become very fearful of the pain of the next several minutes.  I am sure that no mater how completely I accepted that I was going to be executed, I’d have a terrible time getting into the chamber and sat on the seat.

Mississippi Gas Chamber

Inside the Mississippi Gas Chamber

Of all of the gas chamber chairs I’ve seen pictures of, only Mississippi’s chair (to the right) is the only one I’ve seen that might not be made of metal.  Sitting on a metal seat, even one in an 80° gas chamber, in nothing but boxer shorts would be quite uncomfortable.  Further, there is no padding on the chair.

Then, there is the fact that quickly, I’ll be unable to move anything but my fingers and feet, and possibly head (unless a head restraint was added as Mississippi did at some point).  I’d find this very distressing and distracting; yet exciting at the same time.

I’d have to sit there as either a stethoscope or EKG leads are attached to my chest.  Then, when the sentence is read.  When asked for a final statement, I don’t know if I’d be able to contain my fear at that point or not.

I also don’t know how I’d react once the door was shut.  I’d like to think that I’d start taking deep breaths – or at least listen for the sodium cyanide pellets to enter the dilute acid below and then start taking deep breaths.

But, I fear that I’d be so afraid of dying and of the pain that will precede dying, that I won’t be able to force myself to breathe in my death.  Instead, I might well hold my breath.

Either way, I’ll undoubtedly be consciousness when the hydrogen cyanide gas finally enters my body and starts binding with the cytochrome c oxidase in my cells preventing them from using oxygen.  The effect of this will, at least initially be pain in many parts of my body, as well as spasms that will jerk my against the restraints.

This pain could last for several minutes (one report says that the average is between one and three minutes), and I’ve gotten the impression that consciousness might return periodically.

Nitrogen Asphyxiation

I’m going to make two assumptions about this, so far, unused method:

  • The apparatus will be similar to what I proposed in my prior post.
  • A bed previously used for lethal injection is used for the restraint.

Shortly before being brought into the execution chamber, I’d have a mask fitting to make sure that they had a mask that would cover my nose and mouth and not leak.

As I’m brought into the chamber and see the bed, I think I’d react as with any other restraint or execution apparatus – with added fear as the execution becomes very real.  I hope that I could walk up to the bed, get upon it and lay down without too much hesitation or help.

Once on the bed, I’d be restrained, with multiple straps across my body, legs, arms and hands.  I’d find this very uncomfortable and would probably have at least some level of panic due to the restraint.

However, at this point, I’d be ready for execution.  I think I could hold it together long enough to listen to my execution being ordered and maybe make a statement.

Then, the previously fitted mask would be put on.  I suspect that straps to hold the mask on might be modified to ensure that they maintain a tight fit.  Assuming I had, as I do, experience with a CPAP mask, this in and of itself wouldn’t be too odd of an experience.

Further, this is the one method of execution where there might be no indication of when the execution really begins.  The only clue would be as I start to pass out.  I might fight, and I might try to hold my breath early on – which might hasten things once I do breathe if the nitrogen concentration had reached or nearly reached 100% by then.

Electric Chair

Tennessee Electric Chair

Tennessee Electric Chair

At some point prior to entering the chamber, I’d have had my head and at least one leg shaved.  I probably wouldn’t be given a choice about a diaper – unless I was going to be executed on a chair like Tennessee chair to the left which is designed to catch drippings (for lack of a better or at least more delicate term)

As I enter the chamber and see the chair, I’ll probably have at least some level of increased panic as I realize how real and imminent my execution is.  However, if my fascination centered around the electric chair, the feelings related to that might also be very strong.

As with other methods, I hope I’d be able to make a controlled walk to the chair and then sit.

Once strapped in, the sentence would be read fairly quickly before the final preparation.  These, however, can take a bit of time.  Further, it will leave me not only unable to move, but blind.  This would probably make any fear and panic over the restraint even worse.  I’d hope that I could try to control this by knowing that once the current starts – unless someone screwed up – that unconsciousness would follow very quickly.

Firing Squad/Shooting

There are a number of variants of how shooting executions are carried out.  These differences would have some effect on how I’d react.

I think if I was being executed in Utah’s chair, I’d feel about it similarly to the electric chair.  But, waiting, blindfolded, as a target is put on my chest would be very unnerving.  I’d also be worried about the possibility of the squad not hitting my heart, and causing an extended period before bleeding enough to loose consciousness.

I would hope that any standing firing squad situation would include something to keep me upright.  My impression is that in Indonesia, the condemned is strapped to a horizontal board that may or may not be set on a pole.  If I wasn’t restrained and kept upright, I fear I’d be tempted to lie down or avoid the bullet – even knowing it would be fruitless.

The old Thai method of being machine gunned in the back would also be similar to other methods involving being restrained – albeit maybe a bit less comfortable.  On the other hand, I’d not fear a botched shooting.

I’m less sure how I’d feel about a U.S. adaptation of Taiwan’s process. Obviously, the more ceremonial aspects would be changed.  I also suspect that it would be more likely that the restrained inmate would be brought into the chamber and they would lay on the floor face down while waiting the shot.

Without the anesthesia, I think laying on the floor waiting for that gun to be pressed into my back or neck would be almost worse than anything other than the gas chamber, just because of the combination of discomfort and intimacy.

Lethal Injection

Before entering the chamber, or even leaving the cell, my biggest fears and feelings about lethal injection would have to do with the time spent conscious and restrained, and the fact that I still am not comfortable with getting shots, having IVs started, and giving blood – the latter two most applicable.

For lethal injection, I’d very much like a diaper.  This is because, I’d try to make sure that I was as hydrated as possible by drinking as much water as I could in the hours before execution.  I’d hope that the diaper isn’t put on too long before hand, just in case I overdo the hydration and need to pee.  Unless the diaper was actually disposable underwear, removing and reattaching a diaper is very difficult (I’ve tried)

Once brought in and restrained, I think I’d have pretty much close my eyes and try, as best I could, to do what I could to help the them get the IVs started.  However, I doubt I’d be able to help as much as I’d want restrained.  I’d have to close my eyes to avoid seeing the needle go in, as looking the other way doesn’t work well when both arms are getting needles.  And, other than making fists but keeping my arms relaxed – assuming that the restraints on my hands or wrists allow this – there isn’t much I could do restrained.

I also know from experience, I will continue to feel the IV at least a bit, once it’s inserted.  This will be a constant reminder of what is going to happen.

I also fear that I’d be easier to get the IVs going than the protocol allows for, simply because I’m more healthy than many who are being executed – even given my higher rate of executions.  This could easily lead to a much longer period restrained knowing that my execution, my death, is imminent.

Obviously, once the execution started – at least if the right drugs are being used – it would be similar to surgery in that I’d be deeply under quickly, even if the death itself wouldn’t be all that pleasant without the first drug.