Shot at dawn! Execution by shooting & the firing squad
countries, up until the 20th century, shooting was reserved for military
personnel with civilians being executed by other methods, mostly hanging. For some
reason, shooting was considered a more honourable death for soldiers than
hanging. From the military perspective it had obvious advantages - the
necessary personnel and equipment for a firing squad were always readily
Shooting became the standard form of execution in most Communist countries during the 20th century, and they are still the main users, even where they have abandoned Communism. The former Russian states have now all but abolished the death penalty although shooting executions were common up to the early 90's, mostly by a single pistol shot to the back of the head or neck.
Shooting executions seem to be declining rapidly in the 21st century as the main user,
Countries using shooting in the 21st century. Click here for a picture of a modern firing squad execution in
Sixty nine countries had shooting as a lawful method of execution up to 2000, either exclusively or for some classes of crime or criminal (e.g. military personnel are shot whist civilians are hanged as in
2012 saw at least 22 executions
by shooting in six countries, although there were almost certainly more
unreported ones in
confirmed executions by shooting were carried out in the
were 58 confirmed executions by shooting in ten countries during 2010.
confirmed executions by shooting were reported in 2009. There will have been
During 2008 executions by shooting were
carried out in
executions by shooting were recorded in 2007,
with 15 in
In 2006 just twenty confirmed executions
by shooting were recorded. There were three in Bahrain on the 11th of December
2006, the first executions here since 1996. Jasmine Anwar Hussain was reported to
have taken 10 minutes to bleed to death after she and her accomplice were
executed in Bahrain’s Jaw prison. They
were each tied to a chair and either blindfolded or hooded before being shot
through the chest by a six man firing squad.
Three men were executed in
China has the death penalty for 68 crimes including murder, drug trafficking, rape, re-selling VAT receipts, pimping, habitual theft, stealing or dealing in national treasures or cultural relics, publishing pornography, selling counterfeit money, economic offences such as graft, speculation and profiteering and even killing a panda.
During the "Strike hard" campaign against crime in
Executions were often carried out immediately after a public sentencing rally and the criminal's family is made to pay for the bullet.
The prisoner's arms are shackled behind them and they are made to kneel down before receiving a single bullet fired at close range into the back of the head or neck by a soldier or policeman or by a bullet fired into the heart from behind using an automatic rifle. (Click here for photo)
Chinese laws do not specifically state the site of execution grounds and shootings are carried out at military target ranges and along river banks and on remote hill sides, the prisoners being transported in open lorries from the sports stadiums where they were sentenced.
Condemned criminals are not executed inside prisons because it is regarded as inhumane for other inmates to hear the sound of gunfire.
In a typical mass public execution in December 1995, 13 men and women convicted of murder and highway robbery were shot after the Court dismissed their appeals. Chinese television showed the nine men and four women being paraded at a sports stadium in front of a crowd of more than 10,000 before being taken to the execution ground on a nearby hillside.
Frequently the kidneys, hearts and corneas are removed from the dead prisoners and used in transplants at local hospitals. "Execution is one of the indispensable means of education,"
In the years following the 1979 revolution,
Nigeria uses both hanging and shooting and on Saturday, July 22nd, 1995, executed 43 convicted armed robbers at the Kirikiri maximum security prison in Lagos before a hushed crowd of around a 1,000 people.
It was the largest number of executions in one day in Nigeria for decades and was intended to crack down on a recent upsurge in violent crime.
The prisoners, some of whom had been on death row for as long as 16 years, were tied to stakes at the Kirikiri shooting range before a 12 man firing squad of soldiers marched in from behind the prison walls and opened fire. The soldiers dressed in camouflage and with black shoe polish on the faces used semi-automatic weapons to execute the convicts in three groups of 12 and one of 7.
The executions began at and ended at Three doctors, one a woman, certified the deaths, and an Irish Roman Catholic priest and a Moslem Imam witnessed them.
Armed robbers are frequently sentenced to be shot and at one time in the northern state of Kaduna, the Military Governor thought that shooting gave the prisoner too quick a death and decided that their agony should be prolonged by ordering the firing squad to aim at the feet and legs and then progressively higher up with each volley until the prisoner died.
All those sentenced to death there were held at Bang Kwang maximum security prison, about 20 miles outside Bangkok. The virtually soundproof execution chamber, known as the "Place to Relieve Suffering," contained two wooden crosses and two stand mounted Heckler & Koch 9mm machine guns.
Prisoners were confined in heavy leg irons from the time of sentence to the time of execution, which could be anything from a few weeks to a few years and were told of their fate only hours before they were shot.
On the day of execution, the prisoner was taken from their cell, photographed and fingerprinted. They were then taken to the execution chamber and handcuffed to a cross like wooden frame with their back to the machine gun, four meters behind them. A white cloth blindfold is applied and the hands tied with a sacred Buddhist cord. Flowers are hung from the prisoner’s hands as an offering to Buddha and a canvas screen is pulled between the condemned and the gun. A target is fixed onto the screen level with the prisoner’s heart and the gun aimed at the centre of the target. The executioner takes up his position, watching another member of the execution team who raises a red flag, and on the signal from the prison governor, the flag is dropped and the executioner fires a fully automatic burst of 15 rounds into the victim’s heart. Fourteen men and one woman faced this death during 1999. Only one execution was recorded in 2000. There were at least six in 2001 and another six in 2002 and four in 2003. Click here for a photo of Thai execution.
Five men were shot on
Executions are carried out by a firing squad comprised of seven policemen. Six of the men fire rifles while the captain fires a final shot to the head from a handgun if required. The prisoners are blindfolded and tied to stakes at execution grounds in the suburbs of Vietnamese cities. Relatives of the condemned are not informed of the execution beforehand, but are asked to collect the prisoners belongings two or three days afterwards. There are 29 capital crimes recognised in Vietnamese law, although drug trafficking accounts for the majority of executions there. Nine people were put to death in 2009 and just three in 2008. The Vietnamese legislature voted on
The American state of
Utah is the only state to have used the firing squad in recent times. Only
He was tied to a chair and had a white target pinned over his heart. After the death warrant had been read to him, he was asked if there was anything he wanted to say and uttered the famous line, "Let’s do it." His execution renewed the capital punishment process in
years later, John Taylor became the second person to suffer the same fate.
As the volley hit him Taylor's hands squeezed up, went down, and came up and squeezed again. His chest was covered with blood." The prison doctor came in, cut holes in the hood and examined Taylor's pupils to verify he was dead. "The image I have when I close my eyes is of his chest heaving upward after he was shot," said witness Kevin Dale Stanfield.
" John Albert Taylor was pronounced dead at 12:07," said Ray Wahl, director of field operations at the Utah State Prison. "It went like clockwork, just like we rehearsed," prison warden Hank Galetka told reporters. "There was no hesitation at all," "
Post 1988, all
Almost all executions in Yemen are for murder and are carried out in public, normally attended by relatives of the victim.
One of the most notable executions was carried out on the 20th of June 2001 when Sudanese mortuary assistant, Mohammad Adam Omar, nicknamed "the Sana'a Ripper," was shot in front of a crowd of 50,000 for the rape and murder of two university students. He was brought into the execution ground (a sports stadium) with his hands cuffed behind his back and was ordered to lie face down. His executioner fired 3 shots into his heart with an AK-47 assault rifle and as Omar was still moving, fired a fourth shot from close range into his head. Seven shooting executions were recorded in 2009.
The firing squad in
As mentioned earlier, the firing squad has always been the preferred method of military execution, no British civilian having ever been shot. (Click here for a photo of a typical firing squad execution.)
It is not known when shooting was first used as a method of execution in
During World War I, at least 306 soldiers were shot for desertion, cowardice and other offences. Many of these were young recruits who were probably suffering from shell shock. There has been a long campaign to get posthumous pardons for them which came to fruition in 2006 when the Government decided to pardon all of them. A monument to them in the form of an Arboretum containing a statue of an unnamed soldier facing the firing squad has been created at Alrewas in Staffordshire. 2006. Desertion ceased to carry the death penalty after 1930.
Foreigners convicted of spying in World War I were normally sentenced to die by firing squad, the executions taking place on the rifle range in the
Two American soldiers were executed by firing squad at Shepton Mallet prison during World War II. They were 20 year old Alex Miranda, who shot his sergeant, for which he was in turn shot on the 30th of May 1944 and Benjamin Pyegate, who had stabbed a fellow soldier to death for which he was executed on the 28th of November 1944. Soldiers convicted of murder (or rape in the case of U.S. soldiers) were hanged either in British civilian prisons or at the U.S. Military prison at Shepton Mallet. For more on British firing squad executions visit http://www.stephen-stratford.co.uk/
Shooting can be carried out by a single executioner who fires from a short range at the back of the head or neck, as is the case in China and the USSR (before abolition). The intention of shooting at short range is to destroy the vital centres of the medulla (lower brain stem), as happens when a captive bolt is used for slaughtering cattle. This method typically results in instant unconsciousness due to concussion caused by the fracturing of the scull and destruction of the brain tissue.
The traditional firing squad is made up of three to six shooters per prisoner who stand or kneel opposite the condemned who is usually tied to a stake or a chair. Normally the shooters aim at the chest, since this is easier to hit than the head. A firing squad aiming at the head produces the same type of wounds as those produced by a single bullet, but bullets fired at the chest rupture the heart, large blood vessels and lungs so that the condemned person dies of haemorrhage and shock. It is not unusual for the officer in charge of the firing squad to have to give the prisoner a "coup de grace" - a pistol shot to the head to finish them off if the initial volley has failed to kill them.
produces a cavity which has a volume many times that of the bullet. Cavitation is probably due to the heat dissipated when the
impact of the bullet boils the water and volatile fats in the tissue which it
strikes. According to Dr. Le Garde, in his book
"Gunshot Injuries," it is proved both in theory and by
experimentation, that cavitation is caused by the
transfer of the momentum from the fast moving bullet to the tissue which is
mostly comprised of incompressible liquid.
Persons hit by bullets have been reported to feel as if they have been punched - pain comes later if the victim survives long enough to feel it. One of our readers has kindly shared his first hand experience of being shot (in the arm) as follows “Upon the bullet penetrating my flesh there was an immediate and intense pain that may best be described as having a large gauge, extremely hot wire piercing my arm. The sensation was so strong that I cried out in pain and leaped rather high in the air while grasping the wound before my friend had even realized what had happened.” In his view “any person being executed by firing squad that has been shot in the heart would experience intense and overwhelming pain before being rendered unconscious from cerebral hypoxia.”
The British Royal Commission on Capital Punishment (1953) considered shooting as an alternative to hanging, but rejected it on the grounds that "it does not possess even the first requisite of an efficient method, the certainty of causing immediate death." Those giving evidence to the Commission frequently emphasised their belief that execution should be rapid, clean and dignified.
When all goes well, shooting can provide a quick death but there are many recorded instances of it failing to kill the condemned person immediately. There are also instances of people surviving their execution. It would seem that one of the problems of the firing squad is that it is, typically, composed of volunteers rather than professional executioners and it is a task that many people would not find easy to perform when the time comes to actually squeeze the trigger. Shooting is always a gruesome and bloody death.