Are Last-Minute Stays of Execution a Form of Torture?

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The practice of “mock execution”, where prisoners are led to believe they are going to be killed by their captors, only to be spared at the last minute, is widely recognized as a form of torture.  So when a scheduled execution is stayed at the last minute, does that constitute torture?

Last week in Iran, an unnamed man was pardoned by the victim’s family just moments after his hanging began.  He was cut down and rushed to the hospital and ultimately saved.  Amnesty International has issued a statement pointing out that in other circumstances:

“Any person subjected to similar treatment — for example, in a “mock-execution” — would be seen to have been subjected to torture, which is expressly and totally prohibited under international human rights law.”

Such last minute stays are not unknown here in the U.S.  In Georgia, Troy Davis came within an hour and a half of execution in September, and last year Earl Wesley Berry came within 18 minutes of being killed by the state of Mississippi.  Were these men tortured?

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20 thoughts on “Are Last-Minute Stays of Execution a Form of Torture?

  1. This is such a miracle in Iran! Just when the guy's number was up and he was being strangled on the gallows, his victim's family quickly ran out to pardon him, and the executioner soon brought him down, unconscious and close to death. Good thing the executioner performed rescue breathing on the poor guy, possibly mouth-to-mouth resuscitation when the hospital staff arrived to help him. He is lucky to have survived the execution. He reminds me of 17th to 18th century England, when people like Ann Greene and John "Half-Hanged" Smith were hanged, often resulting in unconsciousness rather than death, and when they were taken down, they were revived and would live for many years. I know a lot of history since high school and the Internet.

  2. This is such a miracle in Iran! Just when the guy’s number was up and he was being strangled on the gallows, his victim’s family quickly ran out to pardon him, and the executioner soon brought him down, unconscious and close to death. Good thing the executioner performed rescue breathing on the poor guy, possibly mouth-to-mouth resuscitation when the hospital staff arrived to help him. He is lucky to have survived the execution. He reminds me of 17th to 18th century England, when people like Ann Greene and John “Half-Hanged” Smith were hanged, often resulting in unconsciousness rather than death, and when they were taken down, they were revived and would live for many years. I know a lot of history since high school and the Internet.

  3. Oh, and I just found out. The "unnamed man" that this blog speaks of might have been the juvenile offender in one of our Success Stories, Reza Alinejad.

  4. Oh, and I just found out. The “unnamed man” that this blog speaks of might have been the juvenile offender in one of our Success Stories, Reza Alinejad.

  5. Thanks Debbie,

    The "unnamed man" is a different person than Reza Alinejad, who, as you point out, was also recently pardoned by the victim's family and spared execution …

  6. Thanks Debbie,

    The “unnamed man” is a different person than Reza Alinejad, who, as you point out, was also recently pardoned by the victim’s family and spared execution …

  7. How do you think the current recession will affect the travel business? Maybe people still want to travel – just cheaper?

  8. How do you think the current recession will affect the travel business? Maybe people still want to travel – just cheaper?

  9. God dag! Kan jag ladda ner en bild fran din blogg. Av sak med hanvisning till din webbplats!

  10. God dag! Kan jag ladda ner en bild fran din blogg. Av sak med hanvisning till din webbplats!

  11. This is a interesting blog. I've always been a fan of this kind of thinking. I'm hoping that this sparks a revival of this style of thinking along the same lines.

  12. This is a interesting blog. I’ve always been a fan of this kind of thinking. I’m hoping that this sparks a revival of this style of thinking along the same lines.

  13. My mother went through a mock execution in Austria about 1938 after Anschluß. It was the less extreme form, prisoners were made to exercise in the yard where executions were held instead of the normal exercise yard. Though they did not go through any execution procedure this was taken as a hint that they would be executed. Up till today I thought my mother had been through something similar to a mock execution but less extreme. Today I learnt from the website below that this also falls under the definition of a mock execution.
    http://science.howstuffworks.com/five-forms-of-to

    When my mother told me about this I was about 15 and she said she did not know if this was deliberate or if the normal exercise yard was simply inconvenient. On reflection I now think if the prison warders did this more than once they knew how prisoners reacted. My mother told me she was so frightened she wasn’t sure if she could hold a pen steady to write and she was normally a strong person. This affected my mother throughout her life and was passed on to me, I’ve had bad dreams where I thought I would be executed or was being executed though nothing remotely like that ever happened to me. Fortunately I haven’t had these dreams for over ten years.

    Certainly prisoners who spend any time in a condemned cell go through worse than my mother did.

    Why was my mother in prison? She was married to a Jew in Nazi Germany, she had done nothing that would be considered criminal in any reasonable country.

  14. Last minute pardons are undoubtedly as stressful as mock executions. None the less if last minute pardons are treated the same as mock executions the United States will be less inclined to pardon people and more will be executed.

  15. My mother went through a mock execution in Austria about 1938 after Anschluß. It was the less extreme form, prisoners were made to exercise in the yard where executions were held instead of the normal exercise yard. Though they did not go through any execution procedure this was taken as a hint that they would be executed. Up till today I thought my mother had been through something similar to a mock execution but less extreme. Today I learnt from the website below that this also falls under the definition of a mock execution.
    http://science.howstuffworks.com/five-forms-of-to

    When my mother told me about this I was about 15 and she said she did not know if this was deliberate or if the normal exercise yard was simply inconvenient. On reflection I now think if the prison warders did this more than once they knew how prisoners reacted. My mother told me she was so frightened she wasn’t sure if she could hold a pen steady to write and she was normally a strong person. This affected my mother throughout her life and was passed on to me, I’ve had bad dreams where I thought I would be executed or was being executed though nothing remotely like that ever happened to me. Fortunately I haven’t had these dreams for over ten years.

    Certainly prisoners who spend any time in a condemned cell go through worse than my mother did.

    Why was my mother in prison? She was married to a Jew in Nazi Germany, she had done nothing that would be considered criminal in any reasonable country.

  16. My mother went through a mock execution in Austria about 1938 after Anschluß. It was the less extreme form, prisoners were made to exercise in the yard where executions were held instead of the normal exercise yard. Though they did not go through any execution procedure this was taken as a hint that they would be executed. Up till today I thought my mother had been through something similar to a mock execution but less extreme. Today I learnt from the website below that this also falls under the definition of a mock execution.
    http://science.howstuffworks.com/five-forms-of-to

    When my mother told me about this I was about 15 and she said she did not know if this was deliberate or if the normal exercise yard was simply inconvenient. On reflection I now think if the prison warders did this more than once they knew how prisoners reacted. My mother told me she was so frightened she wasn’t sure if she could hold a pen steady to write and she was normally a strong person. This affected my mother throughout her life and was passed on to me, I’ve had bad dreams where I thought I would be executed or was being executed though nothing remotely like that ever happened to me. Fortunately I haven’t had these dreams for over ten years.

    Certainly prisoners who spend any time in a condemned cell go through worse than my mother did.

    Why was my mother in prison? She was married to a Jew in Nazi Germany, she had done nothing that would be considered criminal in any reasonable country.

  17. Last minute pardons are undoubtedly as stressful as mock executions. None the less if last minute pardons are treated the same as mock executions the United States will be less inclined to pardon people and more will be executed.

  18. My mother went through a mock execution in Austria about 1938 after Anschluß. It was the less extreme form, prisoners were made to exercise in the yard where executions were held instead of the normal exercise yard. Though they did not go through any execution procedure this was taken as a hint that they would be executed. Up till today I thought my mother had been through something similar to a mock execution but less extreme. Today I learnt from the website below that this also falls under the definition of a mock execution.

    http://science.howstuffworks.com/five-forms-of-torture.htm/printable

    When my mother told me about this I was about 15 and she said she did not know if this was deliberate or if the normal exercise yard was simply inconvenient. On reflection I now think if the prison warders did this more than once they knew how prisoners reacted. My mother told me she was so frightened she wasn’t sure if she could hold a pen steady to write and she was normally a strong person. This affected my mother throughout her life and was passed on to me, I’ve had bad dreams where I thought I would be executed or was being executed though nothing remotely like that ever happened to me. Fortunately I haven’t had these dreams for over ten years.

    Certainly prisoners who spend any time in a condemned cell go through worse than my mother did.

    Why was my mother in prison? She was married to a Jew in Nazi Germany, she had done nothing that would be considered criminal in any reasonable country.