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Interview with Fred Leuchter - Execution Equipment Engineer
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    Administrator Aaron's Avatar
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    Nov 2015
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    Interview with Fred Leuchter - Execution Equipment Engineer

    One of my pro-death penalty contacts interviewed Leuchter, and the following is their piece on it:

    Death's Engineer: An Interview with Execution Expert Fred Leuchter

    The death penalty has always been a controversial and divisive issue. The debate over the morality, ethics, and effectiveness of capital punishment is as old as capital punishment itself.

    Recently, a death penalty case out of Tennessee has made headline news. Convicted murderer Edmund Zagorski, who was scheduled to be executed on October 11, 2018, made headlines for requesting that he be executed in Tennessee's electric chair, the first in the world to request this method of execution since 2013. Zagorski claimed that he felt that lethal injection would cause him undue suffering, and that he wanted to die by electrocution instead.

    While Zagorski's execution was eventually stayed and rescheduled, the incident did trigger another round of debate, even among death penalty supporters like myself, over whether capital punishment can be implemented in a humane way.

    To discuss this issue, I decided to talk with a man who is almost as controversial as the death penalty itself: Fred Leuchter.

    Fred Arthur Leuchter

    Fred Leuchter, a former freelance engineer, once ran a company called "Fred A. Leuchter Associates", which was the only commercial supplier and manufacturer of execution equipment in the country. It was Leuchter who designed and built the electric chair Tennessee intends to use to execute Zagorski.

    Now 75, Leuchter is no longer in business, in part due to becoming the subject of considerable controversy over his statements regarding the Holocaust. Leuchter is the author of a document which claimed that gas chambers were not used as murder weapons at Auschwitz concentration camp, a document which has been widely panned by historians and the scientific community.

    In addition, Leuchter has given speeches to the Holocaust-denying "Institute for Historical Review", which has been designated a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.

    When I first contacted Fred Leuchter, I asked that we steer clear of discussing his Holocaust controversy, and he agreed, although he firmly denied being a Holocaust denier and claimed his study was taken out of context.

    Notwithstanding his controversial statements surrounding the Holocaust, Leuchter's expertise in the field of capital punishment is undeniable, as is his engineering talent. Leuchter holds several patents for numerous gadgets, such as an electronic sextant used by the US Navy, and his execution machines were very reliable and almost never failed.

    I decided to contact Fred Leuchter in mid-October, 2018, after hearing about Tennessee's plan to use his chair for Zagorski's execution. I had heard of Fred Leuchter before, mostly because of his Holocaust controversy, but I also knew about his expertise surrounding execution apparatuses.

    I first contacted Leuchter by email, and, a few days later, I spoke with him over the phone for over an hour, discussing his engineering background and the specifics of his execution machinery. For the most part, we steered clear of his Auschwitz controversy, but he often made reference to the fact that his reputation was tarnished by "powerful Jewish organizations".

    Fred Leuchter spent much of his life intimately acquainted with the criminal justice system. Leuchter's father, Fred Leuchter Sr., worked as the electrician for the State of Massachusetts, and would transport the electric chair to different prisons for different appointments. Leuchter Jr. often accompanied his father as they went from prison-to-prison delivering the chair.

    As a result, Leuchter became well-acquainted with numerous inmates, who taught him skills such as lockpicking. Leuchter also told me the experience showed him the humanity of inmates, and that, like all humans, they deserved a dignified death if they were to be executed.

    Leuchter graduated from Boston University in 1964 with a degree in history, and later studied optics and electronics. He built a number of devices, such as a computerized sextant which was used by the US Navy, and holds several patents for electronic gadgets.

    The Jesse Tafero Execution and the Beginning of Leuchter's Business

    During my interview with Leuchter, he brought up a case in Florida that bolstered his interest in manufacturing execution equipment. A convicted murderer named Jesse Tafero was scheduled to be executed in Florida's electric chair for the murder of a Florida policeman and a Canadian constable.

    When Tafero was executed, there was a problem with the electrocution system, and, as a result, Tafero's death was horrifically botched. 12-inch flames shot out of the condemned man's head once the current was activated, and his hair caught on fire. Witnesses had to evacuate the room as noxious fumes and smoke filled the death chamber.

    The state of Florida blamed the problem on the use of an artificial sponge in the electric chair's headpiece instead of a natural sponge. They claimed the artificial sponge had not distributed the electric current broadly enough, and had ignited the fire.

    Leuchter, however, disputed this. He claimed that it wasn't the sponge in the headpiece that was the problem, but the electrodes themselves.

    The electrodes used by Florida, said Leuchter, were crudely soldered together with molten metal. When the current was turned on, Leuchter said, this solder melted, causing the electrode on Tafero's head to slip down the left side of his skull.

    This wasn't the first time an electrocution had been horribly botched. In 1983, Alabama suffered a similar botched execution when John Louis Evans III was executed in Alabama's infamous electric chair, nicknamed "Yellow Mama". It took 14 minutes and three jolts of high-voltage electricity for Evans to die, and his body suffered burns so severe that his flesh peeled off onto the chair's restraints when his corpse was removed.

    Leuchter noticed that many states used execution equipment that was decades old and crudely fashioned. Many electric chairs were built by inmates who had little knowledge of engineering, and much of the electrocution equipment was poorly designed.

    Although Leuchter supported the death penalty at the time, he believed that inmates deserved a dignified death without suffering, and he had a legitimate interest in easing their pain. Tafero's gruesome death prompted Leuchter to recommend changes to the electrocution protocols and equipment used by many states.

    First, Leuchter redesigned the electrocution helmet. Instead of having copper wires soldered onto the electrode, Leuchter's helmet didn't use solder. Instead, it used two metal washers to attach the electrode to the helmet, and was held in place by a wingnut.

    Furthermore, Leuchter had the helmet fitted with a wire mesh, which worked better to distribute the current more broadly and prevent burns. It also made the helmet easier to disassemble and clean.

    Leuchter soon established a company called "American Engineering Inc.". It was the only company that commercially offered execution equipment to states using the death penalty. He began selling his electric chair helmets for $1,000 each. Numerous states, such as Florida and South Carolina, purchased his helmets for use in executions.

    Tennessee Comes Calling: Leuchter's New Electric Chair

    In the late 1980s, the state of Tennessee contacted Fred Leuchter, asking him if he could examine their electric chair and make any recommendations as to how to improve the equipment.

    The state of Tennessee actually mailed the entire chair to Leuchter's home in Massachusetts so Leuchter could inspect it himself in his workshop.

    First, Leuchter decided to photograph the chair, as is common for engineers before taking something apart.

    When he did, however, Leuchter told me that an interesting thing happened.

    One of Leuchter's technicians, a man who had an interest in paranormal photography, had decided to see if there were any auras around the area of the chair where the electrodes would be. He proceeded to take a series of long-exposure photographs of the chair in complete darkness.

    The technician took a total of four photos. However, while the fourth photo was being taken, someone briefly turned on the lights before shutting them off again.

    When developed, three of the photos had nothing on them. However, the fourth photo of chair had an eerie image on it, almost like a ghost. The image looked almost like a ghostly man was sitting in the chair.

    Leuchter showed the image's film negative to photography experts at Kodak, who told him that the negative was not smudged or damaged in any way. Something had been photographed, they said, but they had no idea what it was.

    Aside from the almost paranormal qualities of Tennessee's chair, Leuchter decided that the equipment used by Tennessee was generations out of date and was unreliable. The chair was too small, too low to the ground, and relied on a flawed electrical power supply that could lead to the body "cooking".

    Leuchter decided to build an entirely new chair from scratch. He made the chair wider, higher, and larger so it could accommodate an inmate more easily.

    Another issue with the electric chair is that the electrical current can cause muscle spasms in the condemned inmate, which often leads to the inmate losing control of their bowels during the execution sequence, making quite a mess for anyone tasked with removing the body from the chair.

    To accommodate this, Leuchter installed a perforated metal grate on the seat of the chair to drain any bodily waste, and placed a removable "drip pan" underneath the chair.

    Another issue was the removal of the body from the electric chair. Often, the resistance from the human body during electrocution would case the body to heat up and cause the skin to literally fuse to the chair. Because of this, removing the body from the chair was quite difficult for the coroners, who would often have to peel the body off the chair, leaving behind pieces of charred flesh.

    Leuchter proposed another solution to this. A leather cushion would be placed on the back of the chair for the inmate to rest on, thus preventing any flesh from sticking to the wood. Furthermore, instead of having horizontal restraints across the person's body, the inmate would be restrained by an X-shaped belt over his chest. Pressing a button would release the entire belt, causing the inmate's corpse to slump forward for easy removal.

    While many electric chairs did not have electrodes built in, Leuchter's chair had brass electrodes built into the chair's leg restraints. The leg restraints also stretched the skin on the inmate's leg, ensuring that the electrode could be fully tightened and not slip off during the execution and cause the chair to malfunction.

    After building the new chair, Leuchter decided to go further, and he wrote an entirely new execution protocol for electrocutions.

    Leuchter's protocol called for two jolts of electricity at 2000 volts, with each jolt lasting approximately one minute. Leuchter estimated the first jolt would be sufficient enough to cause death, but the second was included as a backup to ensure cardiac arrest.

    Leuchter explained the electrocution protocol to me. The first jolt of electricity, he said, could cause cardiac arrest, but the current also causes the human body to release hormones such as acetylcholine and adrenaline, which could potentially cause the heart to start beating again. This necessitated the application of a second electrical current to cause permanent cardiac arrest.

    The first current, said Leuchter, was meant to shock the heart and knock the inmate unconscious. The voltage, estimated Leuchter, would render the inmate unconscious in about 1/240th of a second (about ten times faster than the human body can register pain).

    Then, the executioners would wait for about five seconds or so to let the acetylcholine and adrenaline dissipate before activating the second current to stop the heart for good. All in all, it would provide, in theory, a totally painless death.

    Leuchter noticed that Tennessee's power supply for the electric chair could not sustain such voltage for the time required by his protocol. To get around this, Leuchter decided to build an entirely new power supply for the electric chair.

    Leuchter also took note of how the electric chair was activated. Most states (with the exception of Georgia) had only one executioner throw a switch or push a button to activate the electrical current. Leuchter believed that this would place an undue mental burden on the executioner, so he decided to build a new, state-of-the-art control system for Tennessee's chair.

    Leuchter constructed a "Modular Electrocution System", which consisted of a black control panel where one could arm the chair with the turn of a key. To activate the current, however, Leuchter installed a two-button system. Two individuals would each press a button at the same time and slide their finger off. Only one button would initiate the automatic electrocution sequence, and none of the executioners would know which button activated the chair.

    Leuchter delivered the chair, the power supply, the protocol, and the control module to the state of Tennessee in late 1989 and early 1990. Part of his contract required him to oversee the installation of the equipment and to train and certify the executioners.

    Leuchter offered training courses in electrocution executions to the prison's warden and state executioners, teaching them the mechanics and workings of the electric chair, the power supply, and the control module. Upon completing the training course, Leuchter offered certificates designating the bearer a certified "Electrocution Technician".

    As of the time of this writing, however, Leuchter's electric chair has only been used once, by the state of Tennessee in 2007 to execute convicted murderer Daryl Holton.

    By the time Holton was executed, Leuchter's reputation had already been tarnished by his Holocaust controversy, and, to Leuchter's dismay, his protocol had already been modified heavily by a new electrician.

    I asked Leuchter if he thought the chair would work as intended if Edmund Zagorski were to die in it. Leuchter said the modifications to the chair and his protocol made it impossible for him to know for sure. He told me that, if Zagorski were to have a botched execution, it would not be his fault, and he feared being blamed for any malfunction the chair might have.

    "They did it so if a problem develops, I'd get blamed for it.", Leuchter told me.

    "I'd said to them 'Either restore it to what you had or please don't use it!'", Leuchter continued, "But the governor never responded to me."

    Lethal injection

    Following the installation of the electric chair, Fred Leuchter became popular among prison wardens among the United States. Other states consulted him to improve on their execution protocols, and others purchased his helmets for use on their own electric chairs.

    Although Leuchter never built another chair, he did sell fuses and electrodes for use in electrocutions. Leuchter also became involved in other methods of execution. He manufactured and sold gas chamber parts to states like Arizona, Wyoming, and Mississippi.

    The state of Delaware also contacted Leuchter to ask him to help reconstruct their gallows and write a new hanging protocol. Leuchter agreed, and not only did he write a new protocol, but he even built and sold a new trapdoor mechanism to Delaware for use on the gallows.

    At one point in the late 1980s, soon after Leuchter delivered his electric chair to Tennessee, the state of New Jersey, having heard about his engineering expertise in execution equipment, asked Leuchter if he could construct a lethal injection machine for them to use. At the time, Leuchter knew little about lethal injection, but he nonetheless agreed to design and construct the device.

    In a standard execution by lethal injection, three drugs are used; a sedative such as sodium thiopental to put the inmate to sleep, a paralytic such as pancuronium bromide to stop the inmate's breathing, and potassium chloride to stop the inmate's heart.

    However, the latter two drugs, pancuronium bromide, and potassium chloride, can cause excruciating pain to individuals who are not properly sedated. Because of this, obtaining a fast-acting, effective sedative is essential to every lethal injection execution, and the drugs cannot be administered all at once. The inmate must be sedated, paralyzed, and suffer cardiac arrest in that order.

    Lethal injection is, by its nature, an imperfect science. There are many ways an execution can go wrong. If the inmate is not properly sedated, he could be tortured to death. If the drugs are administered without IV line being flushed with saline, the IV tubes become filled with sludge.

    Leuchter also noted a problem with the way drugs were injected. The lethal drugs were administered manually, and this created multiple problems. During the 1988 execution of Raymond Landry in Texas, the executioner pushed the syringe down too quickly. The resulting pressure of the fluid caused the IV line to fly out of Landry's arm, spraying the deadly chemicals all over the execution chamber.

    Another botched injection occurred during the 1989 execution of Stephen McCoy. The executioner did not time the procedure correctly, and administered the paralytic before the inmate was completely sedated. This resulted in McCoy violently heaving, convulsing, groaning, and thrashing around on the gurney before he finally expired after several minutes of agony.

    Leuchter put together a proposed machine that would circumvent these problems. His "Modular Lethal Injection Machine", as he called it, consisted of two modules: a control module and a delivery module.

    Leuchter's delivery module consisted of eight 60-c syringes inside a large, wall-mounted metal box. Six syringes contained lethal injection drugs (only three were necessary for an execution but the other three were for a backup IV line in case one line failed), and two contained saline to flush clean the IV tubes after each drug was administered.

    Each of the six syringes was weighed down by a piston that rested on a cushion of air. The piston weight was calculated to deliver the drugs at a pace that the human body could handle, and that would prevent a possible line blowout.

    The injection system worked through a "push-pull" mechanism. Rather than deliver the drugs at a constant pressure, the pistons would allow for the inmate's heart beat to push the syringes back slightly, thus keeping the liquid pressure at a rate the inmate's veins could handle.

    Ruptured veins, Leuchter told me, are a common problem in lethal injections, especially with prisoners who have damaged or shrunken veins due to drug use. His machine found an ingenious way to work around it.

    The lethal injection control module was similar to Leuchter's electric chair control panel. It consisted of a metal box powered by a 12-volt battery, enabling it to run even in the event of a power outage.

    On the panel of the control module were a series of buttons and switches and nine colored lights.

    Turning on the machine would activate a red light at the top of the panel. Arming the machine would activate three red lights in the middle of the panel, indicating the machine was armed.

    Two executioners would stand on either side of the machine. On a given signal, each would depress a button on the top of the machine. Only one button would start the automatic injection sequence.

    Leuchter wanted to make sure the drugs were delivered at the right time, so that the inmate would not feel any complications. He programmed the machine to space out each injection sequence in one-minute intervals, and each injection would take approximately ten seconds to deliver.

    Four seconds after the executioners pressed their buttons, the first yellow light would activate on the control panel, indicating the first drug was being delivered. Ten seconds later, a green light underneath the yellow panel would activate, indicating the injection was complete. After one minute passed, the second yellow light would be activated, indicating the second drug was being administered, and so on.

    If the automatic system were to fail, Leuchter had constructed a series of switches on the control panel to manually deliver the execution drugs. Like the buttons, there were two sets of switches, so none of the executioners would know which one administered the drugs.

    If, for some reason, that system were also to fail, there was a manual release mechanism located on the back of the lethal injection delivery module. Each executioner would pull out a lever from behind the machine, which would release each one of the pistons.

    Leuchter sold his complete lethal injection module to the state of New Jersey for a total of $32,000, and oversaw the machine's installation at Trenton State Prison.

    After installing New Jersey's machine, Leuchter received requests from numerous other states asking him to construct lethal injection modules for their own use.

    Leuchter constructed and sold at least three more complete modules to the states of Missouri, Illinois, and Delaware, and oversaw their installation and trained the prison employees in how to work the machines.

    Missouri was the first to put Leuchter's lethal injection machine to the test, using it in 1989 for the execution of convicted murderer George "Tiny" Mercer, a biker gang leader who had raped and murdered a 22-year-old waitress. The execution went off without any problems, and Mercer died peacefully.

    Oddly, however, no state currently uses Leuchter's lethal injection machine anymore.

    New Jersey abolished the death penalty in 2007 without ever executing an inmate. Illinois abolished the death penalty in 2011, but had stopped using Leuchter's machine in 1999 after using it in at least 11 executions from 1990 to 1998.

    Delaware stopped using the machine in the early 2000s, selling their lethal injection module to a museum, and Missouri stopped using the machine in the late 1990s and switched back to using manual injections.

    I was curious as to why the states stopped using Leuchter's machine, as it was much more reliable than manual injections. Only twice did an execution using Leuchter's machine ever have a complication, and both were traces to faulty IV tubes.

    When Illinois first used Leuchter's machine for the 1990 execution of convicted murderer Charles Walker, there were numerous problems. The murderer took many minutes to die, far longer than it was supposed to take, and he likely suffered during those minutes.

    There was a second problem with Illinois' machine four years later. During the 1994 execution of notorious serial killer John Wayne Gacy, the IV lines again suffered a kink, and the execution had to be stopped so prison officials could clear the IV tubes.

    Some were quick to blame Leuchter's device for the execution. The claimed that Leuchter's machine was improperly built. Not true, says Leuchter. He told me the problem had nothing to do with his machine, but was based on human error.

    Firstly, he said, during Walker's execution, the needle was inserted pointing toward's Walker's fingers, causing the drugs to take longer to pass through the body's circulatory system. Secondly, he said, the state of Illinois used faulty IV tubes, which caused the lines to become clogged in both Walker's and Gacy's executions.

    None of these problems, said Leuchter, had anything to do with his machine. They had to do with improper IV tubes, which he did not supply. Leuchter claims that his controversial comments about the Holocaust ruined his reputation, and, as a result, states terminated their contracts with him, stopped using his machines, and stopped hiring him as a consultant.

    Leuchter says that this may have contributed to the recent spate of botched executions in the United States, from improper timing in administering the drugs to IV line blowouts to improper needle placement.

    "If I was still involved", he said, "none of these lethal injection issues would be a problem."

    Tranquilizers vs. Sedatives: Leuchter on the Issue of Botched Executions

    Recently, there has been a spate of bungled lethal injections in the United States, most notably with injections involving the controversial drug Midazolam, which many states use as a sedative in the place of sodium thiopental.

    During my interview with Leuchter, I mentioned that midazolam is being used to replace sodium thiopental as a sedative for executions.

    Leuchter told me that this is a misuse of the drug, and the use of midazolam can cause inmates to suffer a torturous death.

    Midazolam, Leuchter told me, is not a sedative but a tranquilizer, and tranquilizers are not effective enough to properly put an inmate to sleep. As a result, the inmate is much more likely to feel pain during his execution because he has not been properly sedated, and may be partially awake when the paralytic and potassium chloride are administered.

    The only use for tranquilizers in lethal injections, Leuchter told me, was for anxiety control. As a sedative for an execution, they were completely worthless at worst and ineffective at best.

    I pointed out that the states that use midazolam for executions have to do so because the European Union has blocked the export of sodium thiopental to the United States based on their opposition to the death penalty. In response, Leuchter suggested that, if states were to use a sedative, they could just use propofol, a potent sedative that is not only readily available but is sufficient in and of itself to cause respiratory death in high dosages.

    Propofol, Leuchter told me, actually works better than sodium thiopental as a sedative and has a faster onset of action. If we were to use propofol, he said, the number of botched executions would drop and inmates would die without complications. It is highly potent, very efficient, and takes effect in less than a minute.

    On this point, I had to agree. When I had my wisdom teeth removed, I was first sedated with an IV injection of propofol. Within 15 or 30 seconds of the drug being administered, I was completely unconscious.

    I asked Leuchter why states don't use propofol if it works so much better than midazolam.

    Leuchter told me he has tried to contact numerous states and tell them not to use tranquilizers in the place of sedatives, but, due to his notoriety as an alleged Holocaust denier, he says his credibility has been ruined and his voice always falls on deaf ears.

    "I'm a pariah now; I'm a persona non-grata.", he said. "If I call any of these people, they're not going to listen to me."

    "I would hope that someone like yourself can point some of these things out.", he continued. "When you write about lethal injection, tell them that they're supposed to use an anesthetic and not a tranquilizer."

    Leuchter's Change of Heart

    As my interview with Fred Leuchter came to an end, he revealed to me that, today, he has come to oppose capital punishment. This came as a surprise to me. Not only had I seen footage of Leuchter clearly stating his support of the death penalty, but this stance was at complete odds with his former profession.

    I asked Leuchter why he now opposed capital punishment, and what made him change his position.

    His answer was almost as surprising as his change of heart: The inmates.

    "I grew up in the Massachusetts system", he said. "I knew a lot of inmates. You'd be surprised at what they know. When I was five years old, they taught me how to pick locks and crack safes."

    He continued: "I grew up learning and interacting with inmates, and you find out they're people. They're not just statistics. And every time we execute somebody we diminish ourselves a little, whether we want to admit it or not."

    "That's why I became involved", he said, "because I didn't want people being tortured. I wanted them to go out the best way possible."

    He mentioned that he has come to realize that there is no flawless way that 100% guarantees an executed inmate will not suffer pain. He criticized the rhetoric from some death penalty opponents who say that the inmates "deserve" the pain.

    "That just doesn't wash with me", he said, "and I don't think it washes with you, either."

    "Well, I am still a proponent of capital punishment, but I don't like torture either.", I said.

    "Are you still a proponent of capital punishment knowing that at least 20% of the time we can't guarantee a humane execution?", Leuchter asked me.

    "Well", I laughed, "I think I might have to think about that one for a while".

    "That's what changed me", continued Leuchter. "I figured out that it was beyond my capability to guarantee it every time. And I probably know more about it than anyone else."


    My interview with Fred Leuchter was a very interesting experience, to say the least. Despite his controversial reputation as an alleged Holocaust denier, I found him to be highly educated in the workings of engineering, especially in the area of capital punishment.

    Leuchter's reputation has, for the most part, been irreparably tarnished due to his Auschwitz controversy. Leuchter told me he has been stalked and harassed by people due to his reputation as an alleged Holocaust denier, and that, one time, his home was firebombed.

    In the late 1990s, Leuchter's reputation was further damaged when the state of Massachusetts charged him with misrepresenting himself as an engineer (Leuchter allegedly had no engineering license). Leuchter pleaded guilty to the charge in exchange for two years probation, but he told me (quite bitterly) that he still denies the allegation, claiming the charge was politically motivated.

    Today, Fred Leuchter has retired and lives in Malden, Massachusetts. He is no longer in business as an engineer. He is no longer consulted by prisons to assist in executions, and has been ostracized from his profession.

    Regardless of his controversy, and regardless of whether or not he was certified as an engineer, I personally believe, after studying Leuchter's machines, consulting him, and speaking to him over the phone, that Fred Leuchter was still a talented, if imperfect, engineer who had a legitimate interest in easing the suffering of inmates facing death. His expertise in the workings of capital punishment is clear and undeniable.

    My interview with Leuchter has made me reflect heavily on my stance regarding the death penalty. He has made me consider the humanity and dignity of those inmates on death row. While I still support the death penalty, I now have a much wider understanding of not only how capital punishment works, but also the human aspect of execution.

    Leuchter is right when he says that, every time we conduct an execution, we diminish ourselves a little. Now, I personally believe that that is a necessary evil. I believe that there are some people (and I must emphasize SOME people) who are so evil and so dangerous and so morally reprehensible that they do not deserve to live. That is an opinion I have always had, and it is one I probably always will have.

    But Fred Leuchter has made me think more deeply of the consequences of capital punishment. He has shown to me that even the most vile, soulless murderers on death row still deserve a level of dignity, especially when it comes to putting them to death.

    Now, everyone can agree that murder is a reprehensible, appalling crime. But, if we are to retain capital punishment, we must make sure it distinctly differentiates from murder.

    The end result, of course, is the same: we are ending someone's life. But there is a dignified way and an undignified way to end someone's life. And, as we deal with a new spate of horrifically botched executions in states like Oklahoma, Alabama, Ohio, Florida, and Missouri, it appears we are slowly drifting towards a barbaric practice of torturing inmates to death.

    If we are to retain capital punishment, that path must change. We should listen to people like Fred Leuchter, who, despite being controversial, have undeniable expertise in ensuring, for the most part at least, that inmates die a dignified, humane death. I believe we can exact proper justice without diminishing our own humanity.

    As I was writing this piece, Fred Leuchter contacted me again by email, urging me to ask Tennessee's governor to halt the upcoming execution of Edmund Zagorski, who is scheduled to die in the electric chair on November 1st, 2018.

    "We need to approach every execution with intent to do the very best we can", he wrote to me. "That is not happening any longer anywhere."

    I told Leuchter I would ask the governor to consider his requests. Soon afterwards, I reached out to Governor Bill Haslam, asking him to consider Leuchter's concerns, but did not receive a response.

    So, as the November 1st execution date of Edmund Zagorski approaches, I am worried that Tennessee is about to torture a man to death. Now, it is possible that the electric chair will work perfectly fine. It is possible that no complications will result during Zagorski's execution.

    But, if the execution is botched, and if Zagorski ends up being tortured to death as Leuchter fears will happen, it will only serve to diminish our own humanity and drive us further down the path of barbarity. It will make us no different than the murderers we claim to abhor.

    "You can't get rich in politics unless you're a crook." - Harry Truman

  2. #2
    Senior Member CnCP Addict one_two_bomb's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2015
    Detroit MI
    "Are you still a proponent of capital punishment knowing that at least 20% of the time we can't guarantee a humane execution?", Leuchter asked me.
    Smart people can be pretty dumb sometimes. There is no such thing as a "humane" execution. Otherwise, cool article though.

  3. #3
    Moderator mostlyclassics's Avatar
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    Apr 2013
    Wilmette, IL
    None of these problems, said Leuchter, had anything to do with his machine. They had to do with improper IV tubes, which he did not supply.
    I'm amazed Leuchter didn't supply decent IV tubes to the states who used his machine. I sure would have.

    States' prison systems always go for the cheapest possible items. If an IV line blows out or otherwise fails when a non-condemned inmate is being treated for some medical problem, that's a no big deal. They just replace the tube. Those IV tubes could be made from Saran Wrap, and it wouldn't matter.

    But it goes without saying that the states that use LI just grab the same crap tubes the prison uses for medical procedures. For all I know, they may use used IV tubes. Then, if there is a failure, the antis screech and run off to the courts with their hair on fire.

    I can't believe that the best IV tubes in the world would cost very much.

  4. #4
    Senior Member CnCP Legend Mike's Avatar
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    Jun 2015
    Bucks County Pennsylvania
    Quote Originally Posted by Aaron View Post

    As my interview with Fred Leuchter came to an end, he revealed to me that, today, he has come to oppose capital punishment. This came as a surprise to me. Not only had I seen footage of Leuchter clearly stating his support of the death penalty, but this stance was at complete odds with his former profession.

    I asked Leuchter why he now opposed capital punishment, and what made him change his position.

    His answer was almost as surprising as his change of heart: The inmates.

    "I grew up in the Massachusetts system", he said. "I knew a lot of inmates. You'd be surprised at what they know. When I was five years old, they taught me how to pick locks and crack safes."

    He continued: "I grew up learning and interacting with inmates, and you find out they're people. They're not just statistics. And every time we execute somebody we diminish ourselves a little, whether we want to admit it or not."

    "That's why I became involved", he said, "because I didn't want people being tortured. I wanted them to go out the best way possible."

    Every single time a person that was involved with executions speaks out against its for the same reason.

    Farmers don't name or humanize the livestock they are going to kill.

    Coroners don't attempt to learn a corpses social life or thoughts.

    Soldiers don't have chit chat with the men they are about to kill

    Fraternization with the condemned will always lead to moral struggle.

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