Women and the Death Penalty in the United States, 1900-1998

By Kathleen A. O'Shea | Go to book overview

14
Kentucky: Electrocution

The state of Kentucky has sentenced two women to death since 1900. No women have been legally executed in Kentucky and there are no women on death row in Kentucky today.

Although the electric chair was installed in Eddyville in 1911, it wasn't until 1936 that 15,000 people crowded around the gallows in Owensboro, Kentucky, and witnessed the last public hanging.

On July 7, 1911 Jim Buckner became the first man ever executed in Kentucky's electric chair. During his execution, according to written accounts, the prison doctor, a Dr. Moss, who was in attendance, was almost electrocuted himself until someone warned him not to touch the inmate's body while the electricity was still on. Newspapers of the day say that Buckner did not die immediately and had to be given a second jolt of electricity.

Forty-five days after Buckner's execution, Oliver Locks was put in the chair and when the first volt of electricity hit him, his body response broke both the arm and leg clamps "as if they were paper." When the prison doctor checked, Locks was found to be still alive and was also given a second jolt. Both men were black.

In the 1920s and 1930s at least eighteen botched executions by electrocution were documented in Kentucky and there were three in the 1940s. In the 1950s James Robinson needed four shocks of 2,300 volts to die in six minutes. The Tarrence brothers, Roy and Leonard, each required two rounds of 2,000 volts one taking six and the other eight minutes to die. And Earl Brichman had to have 2,300 volts for two minutes before he was pronounced dead. All in all the electric chair in Kentucky never functioned very well, although 162 inmates were executed in it.

In 1984 the chair, a three-legged one made of oak, was overhauled by Fred Leuchter whose execution equipment had been noted in other states for causing

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