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5 Excruciatingly Painful Botched Executions

Executions don't always go as planned

By CMPublished 2 years ago Updated 2 years ago 3 min read

Executions should take a few minutes once the process begins. Most of the 1,500 executions upheld in the U.S. since 1976 have ended successfully, giving swift justice to the victims of the crime. Sometimes things go horribly wrong during the execution, causing the inmate excruciating pain and suffering. From inmates left gasping for air to executions that caused fire to shoot out of the condemned's head, this list of botched executions may increase your faith in karma just a little bit more. #DeathPenaltySupporter #OopsOhWell

Jimmy Lee Gray


Mississippi man Jimmy Lee Gray raped and murdered a three-year-old Deressa Jean Scales in 1976, earning him a trip to the gas chamber in 1983. Gray was the first person executed in Mississippi after the state reinstated the death penalty.

On September 2, 1983, executioners strapped Jimmy Lee to a chair to carry out his sentence. At this time, the gas chamber room had a vertical iron bar located directly behind the inmate’s chair. The inmate’s chair did not have a strap or headrest to restrain the inmate’s head.

As Jimmy Lee began breathing in the toxic gasses, his head began thrashing around, hitting the iron bar several times before he finally lost consciousness. Officials said it took eight minutes for Jimmy to die after the gas had been released.

A United Press International reported who observed the execution said Jimmy moaned 11 times before he fell unconscious.

Joseph Wood

Source Murderpedia

During Joseph’s Wood 2014 execution, executioners used a combination of hydromorphone and midazolam to perform the lethal injection. This drug combination had been used only once before.

It took 15 doses of the drug and more than an hour to kill Wood. It should take only one dose and 10 minutes to perform the execution. Witnesses said that he gasped and snorted more than 600 times during the entire process. They described it as a “fish gulping for air.”

His lawyers immediately appealed for a stay of execution but the judge denied the request 30-minutes after his death.

Wood was sentenced to death for the 1989 execution of his ex-girlfriend and her dad.

Wesley Ira Purkey


Purkey was sentenced to die for the murder of a teenage boy. On his execution day, in 2020, things went as planned. However, the 68-year-old Purkey’s autopsy later revealed that he experienced a “near-drowning-like sensation” during the execution brought on by one of the drugs used to carry out the lethal injection.

Expert witness Dr. Gail Van Norman said that fluid could only fill a person’s lungs if they were still alive and strapped onto the table. Dr.Normal further said all prisoners will experience this sensation from pentobarbital.

William Williams

Executed by the state of Minnesota in 1906, William Williams killed a male friend and his mother. Many people suspect the man was his lover.

Death by hanging was Williams’s punishment. From the gallows he proclaimed his innocence, saying the execution was illegal as he fell through the trap door.

Problem was, the rope hung around his neck was too long. Williams hit the ground, sustaining significant injuries, but alive. Officials held up his body with the rope for 14 minutes until he died.

Pedro Medina

Wikipedia source

Sentenced to die for the 1982 murder of a 52-year-old Orlando woman, Medina was sent to the electric chair in 1997 to pay for his crime.

“Old Sparky,” as the Florida electric chair was called, malfunctioned, causing flames to shoot out of Medina’s head as observers watched in horror. A judge later determined that it was not a chair malfunction that caused the incident, but human error.

Execution observers said they smelled a burning smell in the room and that Medina moved even after the electrical currents were turned off. Medina’s autopsy confirmed that the first jolt of electricity killed all brain activity, so Medina likely felt nothing.

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