Letter to Richmond Times Dispatch Electric Chair

Richmond Times Dispatch

Letters to the Editor

Dear Editor:

Social Action Linking Together (SALT) is in full support of Virginia Delegate Scott Surovell in his opposition to Virginia embracing the electric chair to execute condemned prisoners.

Whether 85% of the states have abolished the electric chair, as asserted by Delegate Surovell, or 77%, as asserted by the Richmond Times Dispatch, is irrelevant. The point that should be made is that it is inhumane; it is cruel and barbaric.

Consider this account reported in a study by Professor Professor Michael L. Radelet of the 
University of Colorado:  On August 10, 1982, in Virginia, Frank J. Coppola was executed by electrocution. Although no media representatives witnessed the execution and no details were ever released by the Virginia Department of Corrections, an attorney who was present later stated that it took two 55-second jolts of electricity to kill Coppola. The second jolt produced the odor and sizzling sound of burning flesh, and Coppola's head and leg caught on fire. Smoke filled the death chamber from floor to ceiling with a smoky haze (http://www.deathpenaltyinfo.org/some-examples-post-furman-botched-executions).

This account by Radalet is #1 in 42 additional stories of botched executions that he recounts. We can certainly do better than this, unless we want to align ourselves with the cruel and barbaric.

A more critical issue for all of us is this: Do the guilty forfeit their right to life? Is execution the means of administering justice for various crimes?


John Horejsi
SALT Coordinator