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Report No. 187

(e) Hanging and The Garotte

Hanging was a very common method adopted for execution among the various methods available. The prisoner could simply be hanged with a noose, which could lead to death by fracturing the neck. However, if torture was also intended, there could be methods other than hanging with a noose.

In medieval times, if torture was intended, a person would be drawn and quartered before being hanged. For extremely serious crimes such as high treason, hanging alone was not considered enough. Therefore, a prisoner would be carved into pieces while still alive before being hanged. The Garotte was also a popular method of torture, and was similar to hanging. A mechanical device such as a rack or a gag would be tightened around the person's neck, causing slow strangulation, stretching, and obstruction of blood vessels. A device could also be placed in a prisoner's mouth and kept in place by tying and locking a chain around his or her neck.

Hanging is one of the oldest methods of execution and today it is used in some countries as a form of execution. Delaware, New Hampshire and Washington authorize 13hanging as a form of execution; depending on the convict's sentencing date he or she may be allowed to choose between hanging or lethal injection. Since 1976, three prisoners have been hanged in the United States. Prior to the execution the prisoner must be weighed. The "drop" must be based on the prisoner's weight, to deliver 1260 foot-pounds of force to the neck. The prisoner's weight in pounds is divided into 1260 to arrive at the drop in feet.

The noose is then placed around the convict's neck, behind his or her left ear, which will cause the neck to snap. The trap door then opens, and the convict drops. If properly done, death is caused by dislocation of the third and fourth cervical vertebrae, or by asphyxiation. This lengthy measuring process is to assure almost instant death and a minimum of bruising. If careful measuring and planning is not done, strangulation, obstructed blood flow, or beheading often result. The death by hanging however according to most of the medico-jurisprudential writers is result of asphyxia or strangulation and fracture of the neck is an exception (both in judicial as well as suicidal hanging).



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