JF Ptak Science Books Post 2641
I came upon a reference to hanging an unconscious man sentenced to death in a roller-coaster presentation of a pamphlet called Legalized Murder, "Thou shalt Not Kill"1 (or thereabouts). It is the work of Dr. C.T. Riley (of New Matamoras, Ohio), and the "thereabouts" title is on the front cover of the pamphlet, and there is no title page per se, so the title may this or something else (like walking into someone else's conversation mid-way and needing to title it). It is, well, a highly individualized work, very vehemently against the death penalty, citing scripture and medicine and law and just about anything that Dr. Riley could get his hands on, while on occasion slipping in an advertisement for his medical practice and Gall Stone Cure. He is very passionate, and though his arguments seem very disjointed to me, when approached on the paragraph level he can make a very convincing argument.
What was remarkable to me in this pamphlet was the cover illustration, which shows a hangman about to fix a noose around the neck of an unconscious man tied to a chair and placed on the scaffold's trap door. The livid caption identifies the execution of "Church of Chicago" but so far as I can tell the subject is not again mentioned in the pamphlet. A little research reveals that this was a Mr. Harvey Church, who murdered two men to steal a $1500 Packard, and who was sentenced to death for his crime in 1922. It turns out that Church was a "dementia praecox catatonia", and forty days before his execution, he entered a catatonic state.
There is a remarkable report by an unnamed physician published in the Journal of the American Judicature Society, to Promote the Efficient Administration of Justice, vol 7/2, August 1923, documenting the condition of Church "in the death chamber". He of course was completely unresponsive, impervious in reaction to pain; the doctor reported clenched fingers and toes that were so cramped together that the doctor could not move them using all of his strength; nor could he part Church's lips, except after exertion, and them only revealing the top teeth. Here is most of what the doctor reported:
This is the state in which Church was sent to the gallows.
This case was probably enough to force a discourse on the issue of capital punishment. I knew that there was extreme treatment like this of people with similar disorders--epileptics for example were treated far more harshly than the general population--and in general pleas were made for sterilization of people with a wide range of disorders as well as the establishment of "colonies" for the rest of that population. Hanging the unconscious (if that is what Mr. Church was) was something I had never heard of before.
1. C.T. Riley, Legalized Murder, "Thou shalt Not Kill, printed by the Baptist Banner, Parkersburg, West Virginia, 1930 (third edition), 69pp.