Sunday, September 15, 2013

Sunday's Obituary/Execution of Edward Sexton

     This isn't really an obituary, but a description of a particularly gruesome execution. Edward Sexton was the kind of guy you didn't want to cross, the convicted murderer of a cousin of mine, Thomas Mahaney.  For details of the crime and pictures, click here.

Auburn, NY Semiweekly Journal, April 19, 1907:     
    Unassisted Sexton walked slowly in. There was just a slight falter in his step and his face was deadly pale. He bore up bravely, however. He held a crucifix in his hands before him and his lips were moving in prayer as he entered and walked toward the chair. Rev. J. J. Hickey, rector of the Holy Family Catholic church, was at his right side, while on the other side was Rev. Edward J. Dwyer. Father Hickey was reading the litany for the dying, the responses being given by Father Dwyer and the condemned man.

Dr. Gerin
     As he moved forward, Sexton raised his eyes and with a sweeping glance, took in the group of witnesses. Then he stepped onto the platform.  Kissing the crucifix which he immediately surrendered to Father Hickey, he sat in the chair, and quietly settled his head back against the rest. State Electrician Davis, [a nicer title than State Executioner Davis, I suppose],  quickly adjusted the electrodes to the left leg and head. Dr. Gerin standing beside Warden Benham watched the man's breathing and as the air left the lungs he nodded his head and the switch was turned. Seventeen hundred and forty volts of electricity at three amperes were hurled into the body in the chair.

     There was the well known convulsive movement, the body standing rigidly against the straps, and the hands clutching in a death grip, the arms of the chair, to which they were fastened. The current was immediately reduced to 200 volts, remaining so for thirty seconds and then it was again increased to the full voltage of 1,740, remaining at that voltage for another thirty seconds.  Electrician Davis stepped to the right side of the body and felt for the palpations in the neck, and at the same time Dr Gerin applied the stethoscope. There was a heart flutter and he nodded to Mr. Davis. The latter immediately stepped to the switch and at 6:07 the second shock was given.

     Another test was made by Mr. Davis who felt for pulsations on the right side of the neck while Dr. Gerin again applied his stethoscope. There was still a flutter and again the death dealing current was turned on. There was still a flutter that Dr. Gerin did not like and at 6:09 the fourth contact was given. Dr. Gerin called Dr Purdy of Auburn and Dr. Towerton of Lyons and they with Dr. Gerin and Mr. Davis again examined for heart action. They also looked at the eyes, moving back the head covering to do so.  Dr. Purdy moved the scapular hanging about the man's neck in order to get the stethoscope in the proper position.  There was still the slightest semblance of heart action and at 6:12 the fifth and last contact was given.  This time there was not the slightest sign of any heart action and at 6:14 Warden Benham turned to the witnesses and said,"Gentlemen, the man is dead."

   I wonder how often this sort of prolonged execution occurred?  Evidently not very.  In the same article, Electrician Davis explained to the reporter, "Sexton had the most resistance of any man ever put to death in the electric chair and that he was without a doubt the hardest subject in the last ten years. A man of his build, slight with a small amount of flesh and not much blood, was a hard man to kill, while a full blooded, well nourished body showed a much less resisting power."  



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