Daily Double: Throwback Executions

This blog traffics in the the human forces that drive men and women to the scaffold: whether the implacable distant hand of History, the fickle chance of Fate, or the vulgar personal desires we have in such ample supply.

But the scaffold gazes also into thee … and sometimes, the dead stretch out to touch the living in unexpected ways.

By coincidence, Jan. 25 and 26 of 1996 saw rare uses of two anachronistic methods of execution in the United States — holdovers from executions in the Republic’s youth, before science started devising less personal, more mechanical ways to kill. In fact, these executions on consecutive days in 1996 are as of this writing the last time that either hanging or the firing squad has been used in this country.

That strange spectacles drew international news coverage, which seems to have led in turn to the accidental suicide of an Italian youth in the town of Noceto.

A 12-year-old boy hanged himself after … asking his parents “if people suffer at the gallows” … after [the family] watched one of the evening news programs, which have prominently featured the Utah firing squad and an execution by hanging in Delaware.

This blog has no answer for the boy “D.M.,” any more than it has for our usual clientele. It is even likely that one or both of the two we note here whose dates with death were scheduled will turn out not to keep their current distinctions of being the last men judicially hanged and shot in the U.S.

But then, all life is contingent and ephemeral. This theme, too, is part of the traffic of Executed Today.

On this day..