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On May 4, 1990, Jesse Tafero is executed in Florida after his electric chair malfunctions three times, causing flames to leap from his head. Tafero's death sparked a new debate on humane methods of execution.
Several states ceased use of the electric chair and adopted lethal injection as their means of capital punishment. As the 20th century came to an end, some states were having difficulty finding experienced executioners while others were unable to find technicians who could repair electric chairs. The move toward lethal injection was also problematic since there were few qualified people who knew how to construct a proper system. If done incorrectly, an injection containing a combination of a paralytic drug and a lethal dose of potassium chloride can paralyze an inmate and result in a painful death. Tafero's botched execution was far from an anomaly. In Alabama, Horace F. Dunkins' execution was prolonged 19 minutes while sitting in a broken electric chair. In July 1998, Florida inmate Allen Lee "Tiny" Davis, who weighed 344 pounds, screamed in pain during his electrocution while blood poured down his shirt. Authorities later claimed that the blood was a result of a bloody nose.
Michael Thomas Barry is the author of Murder & Mayhem 52 Crimes that Shocked Early California 1849-1949. The book can be purchased from Amazon through the following link: