Tuesday, 2 September 2014

The Execution of Selina Gilmore

Selina Gilmore is one of the numerous obscure female executions in the USA, but she was also an example of the chair not being quite as effective they thought at the time.  Selina had been drinking heavily when she lurched into a restaurant in Montgomery, Alabama.  Whilst eating, she gave much static to the waiter, who eventually asked her to leave.  Surprisingly, giving her condition, she did.  But not for long.  She quickly returned, brandishing a shotgun and blasted the waiter to death.  She was quickly arrested, convicted and sentenced to death in the electric chair.

    She went to the chair on January 24th 1930.  A witness account stated that she could be heard singing a hymn, then a door opened and Selina entered the death chamber.  She had a towel wrapped around her head, but walked firmly and strongly to the chair.  She did not need putting in it.  She sat down unaided.  As the guards strapped her firmly to the chair, a guard removed the towel from her head, revealing a shaven head.  The Warden asked her if she had any final words.  Selina blamed her fate on hard liquor.  Finally, her face was covered, the Warden stepped back and the executioner threw the switch.  Smoke came from the top of her head.  Then the current was stopped.  A doctor stepped forward to pronounce death but received a horrifying shock.  She moved her head and her chest was heaving.  He stepped away and the Warden signalled for the current to be switched back on.   Again, smoke came from her body.  The death chamber was small, so the smell of burning flesh filled the room, causing one man to run out.  This time Selina was pronounced dead.  How many times this has happened is probably unknown, but it did happen when the chair was first used in 1890.  The unlucky recipient was William Kemmler, who was still alive after the first surge of electricity.  The switch was thrown again and left running for four minutes.  His body became so hot it had to be left for hours to cool down before anybody could touch it.  Grim.  Very grim.