PMID: 16121083Aug 27, 2005Paper

Review of autopsy findings in judicial electrocutions

The American Journal of Forensic Medicine and Pathology
Melissa Li, William Hamilton


Electrocution has been a means of execution since 1890, when it was introduced as a more humane method than hanging. Only 1 state today, Nebraska, uses it as the sole method of execution. Since the reinstatement of the death penalty in the state of Florida, 43 judicial electrocutions have taken place in the years 1983-1999. In 2000, the state of Florida passed legislation allowing lethal injection as an alternative to electrocution. Since that time, lethal injection has been used and judicial electrocution has virtually become obsolete. In this review of the 43 autopsies, the most common physical findings were an annular burn on the head due to the scalp electrode and a burn on the right calf due to the anklet, both due to electrical current flow. In 3 cases, unexpected events occurred during the electrocution. The autopsy findings in these 3 cases were similar to those found in previous electrocutions. This review presents an objective and factual description of changes due to one method of capital punishment.


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