A New York Times Bestseller
A shocking exploration of America’s preferred method of capital punishment.
In early 2013, Robert Gleason became the latest victim of the electric chair, a peculiarly American execution method. Shouting Póg mo thóin (“Kiss my ass” in Gaelic), he grinned as electricity shot through his system. When the current was switched off, his body slumped against the leather restraints, and Gleeson, who had strangled two fellow inmates to ensure his execution was not postponed, was dead. The execution had gone flawlesslynot a guaranteed result with the electric chair, which has gone horrifically wrong on many occasions.
Old Sparky covers the history of capital punishment in America and the “current wars” between Edison and Westinghouse that led to the development of the electric chair. It examines how the electric chair became the most popular method of execution in America before being superseded by lethal injection. Famous executions are explored, alongside quirky last meals and poignant last words.
The death penalty remains a hot topic of debate in America, and Old Sparky does not shy away from that controversy. Executions have gone spectacularly wrong, with convicts being set alight or needing up to five jolts of electricity before dying. There have been terrible miscarriages of justice, and the death penalty has not been applied even-handedly. Historically, African Americans, the mentally challenged, and poor defendants have been likely to get the chair, an anomaly which led the Supreme Court to briefly suspend the death penalty. Since the resumption of capital punishment in 1976, Texas alone has executed more than five hundred prisoners, and death row is full.
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|Product dimensions:||6.20(w) x 9.00(h) x 1.10(d)|
About the Author
Anthony Galvin is a highly experienced crime journalist. His account of the Limerick (Ireland) drug war, Family Feud: Gangland Limerick Exposed, was Ireland’s top selling non-fiction book of 2004, and the most shoplifted book in Irish publishing history. He is also the author The Great Polar Fraud as well as a dozen other books on a variety of subjects, many in the true crime genre. He spent a decade working as a crime reporter for a daily newspaper and now writes full-time. He lives in southern Ireland.
Table of Contents
1 A History of the Death Penalty 1
2 Capital Punishment in the USA 5
3 The Electrical Death Commission 15
4 The War of the Currents 43
5 The Development of the Electric Chair 53
6 William Kemmler, the Poor Peddler 57
7 The Spread of the Chair 67
8 A Cabinet of Curiosities-Six Notable and Unusual Executions 75
9 Last Meals 105
10 A Moratorium on Executions 113
11 Supreme Court Changes Its Mind-Executions are Back On 121
12 Back with a Bang 131
13 Top Ten-The Most Notorious Victims of Old Sparky 135
14 Refining the Death Penalty 201
15 The Rise of Lethal Injection 215
16 The Problem of Innocence 225
17 Innocence is No Defense-Herrera v. Collins 229
18 Into the Future 237
Selected Bibliography 249
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Really. Very enjoyable, brief history of capital punishment.
While I enjoyed learning some history, this was written in a very dry manner. I had to skip a few pages to keep my interest.
Portrays some details I'd rather not know.