Five execution techniques are legal in the United States of America: injection, electrocution, gas, firing squad and hanging.
Before 1890, hanging was the main method of execution. The inmate would stand over a trap door while a noose was placed around his/her neck. The trap door would be opened and the prisoner would fall. In some cases, prisoners have been decapitated from the fall. According to the Espy file, Daniel Frank was hanged in 1623 just because he stole cattle in the Jamestown colony.
This method was first adopted in Oklahoma in 1977 and it quickly became the method of choice in all the states that still carry out executions. Medical examiner Jay Chapman proposed this method arguing that is the type of execution causing the least pain. In December 1982, Charles Brooks became the first person executed by lethal injection in Texas.
This method involves strapping criminals to a gurney, their arms are swabbed with alcohol and needles are inserted into their veins. Through said needles drugs are pumped in. Two intravenous cannulas are used, one in each arm. This technique is considered to be the most humane because the person is supposed to be sedated before death.
In some states, lethal injections are combined with the complementary use of a number of drugs. This idea is to cause unconsciousness first, then paralysis of the respiratory muscles, and ultimately cardiac arrest. The drugs used are: sodium thiopental or pentobarbital, pancuronium bromide, potassium chloride.
This execution method was first implemented in 1881 in Buffalo, New York. It was developed throughout the 1880s as a less painful alternative to hanging. The inventor was a dentist named Alfred P. Southwick. This method involves strapping the inmate into a chair and placing electrodes on his head and legs. The voltage, the number of jolts and the length of time applied can vary according to the State, but generally, executioners give more than one jolt of electricity to make sure that the criminal is dead. In 1890 William Kemmler was the first inmate in the world to be executed with this method. He had been found guilty of murdering his wife Matilda Ziegler two years before. He died within 17 seconds of being strapped into the chair.
In the mid-20th century, the state of Nevada implemented death punishment by asphyxiation. This method involved pumping poisonous gas into gas chambers. This technique was also believed to be a more humane way of executing criminals. Ten states followed Nevada in using this method.
On February 8, 1924, Gee Jon became the first inmate to be executed with this method. During the 21st century, it was available only in California and Missouri where condemned criminals were allowed to choose between lethal injection and lethal gas. With this method criminals are fully awake and conscious as they suffocate.
In this method, several shooters are given real bullets but one or more are given empty guns. The executioners are a five-person military squad with a team leader and at least one alternate. All of them must be certified officers. All officers are instructed to fire simultaneously, thus preventing both disruption of the process by a single executer and identification of the officer who fired the lethal shot.
In 1913, Andriza Mircovich became the first inmate in Nevada to be executed by shooting. This execution technique has been used recently in Utah, in 2010 on a criminal named Gardner. Gardner stated that he chose this method of execution because of his Mormon background and said:
I lived by the gun, I murdered by the gun, so I will die by the gun.