Death by needle is supposed to be a quiet affair. The victim slips into sleep, then dies with barely a murmur. Unless they don't.
Bennie Demps's execution was a literal bloodbath. No suitable vein could be found, so wardens began cutting him to find one. Three large bore marks were etched into his groin and legs, and he was 'bleeding profusely' from them. There were lesser scratches elsewhere.
When the curtain was finally raised to display him, a white sheet had been draped over him to cover up the injuries. Bennie screamed at witnesses, "They butchered me back there. This is not an execution, it is murder." Sutures were now in place to stem the flow of blood.
But they had got the catheters into his arms now and Bennie died on June 7th 2000, in Texas, USA.
Raymond Landry Sr. was a muscular man. One warden described him as having arms like cartoon character Popeye. Finding a vein was not a problem. Keeping it in was very much one.
Two minutes after the catheter was inserted and the drugs started flowing, it started leaking. For one moment, the deadly cocktail was dribbling down Raymond's arm, but then the pressure became too much.
The whole syringe came loose and the tube shot up into the air. The liquid drugs showered over everyone present and drenched the window, behind which witnesses watched in horror.
Wardens rushed to stop the flow and a curtain was drawn back to shield onlookers from the scene on the gurney now. However, they could still hear everything.
For over 14 minutes there was movement with doors opening and closing. They overheard Raymond groaning loudly, then silence. When the curtain was drawn back, he was already dead, staring motionless up at the ceiling.
This same scenario occurred again at the execution of Joseph Cannon, in Texas, USA, on April 23rd, 1989. His vein collapsed as the drugs rushed through the tube and the catheter just popped out.
An incredulous Joseph must have thought that he was saved. He looked at it and gasped at witnesses, "It's come undone!" Then his head fell back onto the gurney and he closed his eyes in relief.
Prison wardens merely closed the curtains, so that witnesses could no longer see. But they heard Joseph start to cry. He was visibly weeping, when the curtains parted again fifteen minutes later. The execution started again and this time it killed him.
Incidentally, Joseph had been on Death Row for twenty-one years for a murder committed when he was just seventeen years old. He was also schizophrenic. Both his mental state and the fact that he was a juvenile at the time of receiving his death penalty rendered his case extremely controversial.
In 1989, Texan prison officials and execution witnesses were just not prepared for what was about to happen to Stephen McCoy. Unknown to all present, including the victim, he was allergic to Pentothol.
As soon as the drugs hit Stephen's system, it was obvious that his reaction was not textbook. His chest starting heaving and he gasped for breath. Next he began choking, before a fully fledged seizure threatened to tear the straps from his limbs. His back arched and he was obviously asphyxiating.
The scene was so violent that one of the male witnesses fainted outright, collapsing onto the lady beside him. Everyone watching had turned pale and Stephen's lawyer honestly believed that a chain reaction of fainting would begin. But then Stephen died in front of their eyes.
It had not been lethal injection per se that had killed him, but his allergic reaction to it. The Texas Attorney General Jim Mattox opined that the dosage in the tubes may have been too strong.
On March 10th, 1992, something very similar occurred in Oklahoma during the execution of Robyn Lee Parks. Spasms began in his abdomen and assaulted his neck and jaw too. He started choking, gasping out for breath.
It took eleven minutes for Robyn to die, in an execution which a witness called 'scary and ugly'.
Shortly afterwards, it happened yet again in Texas. Justin Lee May displayed all of the now classic signs of allergic reaction. He started coughing raucously, as his body went into spasm. His mouth wide in a gasping scream, Justin's back arched so violently that all of the straps were strained to the limit of their endurance.
Then his body froze and he slumped back onto the gurney. Horrified witnesses still heard groans, but Justin was now paralyzed. His eyes and mouth remained fixed open until the very end.
On May 3rd 1995, in Missouri, USA, Emmitt Foster's death by lethal injection did not go well. The drugs had been in his system for seven minutes. He should have been comatosed by now, but he was wide awake and gasping for air. He should have also been paralyzed, but his body was wracked by convulsions. He should have been dead, but he patently was not.
The curtains were drawn to save the witnesses from any more distress, but they could still hear Emmitt's desperate struggles on the gurney.
The Washington County Coroner William "Mal" Gum was waiting in another room ready to receive the corpse. As the nearest medical man, he was requested to go into the death chamber and give his expert opinion on what could possibly be done to end Emmitt's suffering.
William agreed to go in and he spotted the problem immediately. The straps on the gurney were so tight that they were cutting off the big man's circulation. The drugs were all trapped behind them, so couldn't reach either Emmitt's brain nor heart. This had now been on-going for thirty minutes.
The wardens loosened the straps and Emmitt quickly died shortly afterwards.
Convulsions were very much in evidence for the execution of Scott Carpenter, in Oklahoma, USA, on May 8th 1997. At first, there were just groans, then his stomach and chest began 'pulsing'. His complexion turned yellowish grey, before the first convulsion began. It was very violent; and it was the first of eighteen such seizures.
It took eleven minutes for Scott to die. He did so in agony, with his face now turned a vicious purple and his jaw clenched. Finally the convulsions became less frenzied. There were eight mild spasms, until he died with a final gasp.