WHEN LIFE GENERATES DEATH (LEGALLY)
|Survival time: 8-10 minutes
This execution method was introduced in the USA in the twenties, inspired by the use of poisonous gas during the World War One and of the oven as a suicide method.
The prisoner is tied to a chair in an airtight room. A stethoscope put on his thorax is connected to headphones which are in the adjoining room, where the witnesses are sitting, so that a doctor is able to check the continuation of the execution; in the airtight room, cyanide is released and the sentenced dies by asphyxiation: cyanide forbids the action of the respiratory enzymes which transfer oxygen from blood to body cells. The state of unconsciousness can arise quickly, but the execution will last longer if the prisoner tries to protract his life by holding his breath or breathing slowly. As it happens with other execution methods, vital organs can keep on working for a short time, whether the prisoner is conscious or not.
Here is a particular case of a prisoner submitted to the gas chamber:
Jimmy Lee Gray: executed in Mississippi on 2nd September, 1983. His convulsions would have lasted eight minutes, during which he would have taken breath again eleven times, bumping repeatedly his head against a pole which was behind him. Some witnesses said that Gray didn't seem to be dead yet, when prison officials asked them to go out.