Sunday, 24 May 2015

The Executioners

There would be no doubt in my mind that if the death penalty was reintroduced in the UK, there would be a deluge of applications for the job.  I have voiced this opinion to various people and a general view was that most would be applying for no other reason than for the power and the public knowledge that they are the executioner.  The household name in the UK was that of Albert Pierrepoint, following in the footsteps of his father and uncle, Henry & Tom.  The other family of hangmen were the Billingtons.  James Billington was assisted on numerous occasions by his sons, William, John & Tom.  James Billington then passed away and his sons carried on as assistants and even as the "Number One."  But in the United States, their executioners are not so well known.  The best known hangman was Philip Hanna, thought of as their equivalent to Albert Pierrepoint.  The best known "Electrocutioner" was Robert Elliott, who dispatched over 500 condemned people.  But what effect did it have on them?

    One man who spoke out about his role was that of Dr Allen Ault, who was the Prisons Commissioner for the State of Georgia.  It was he who threw the switch that electrocuted prisoners in the chair.  It became a job he did not like, and it was not a job he applied for.  Dr Ault had fought in the Korean War in the early 1950`s, had qualified as a Psychologist, and joined the prison service in a hope to rehabilitate the prisoners.  Over the years he achieved outstanding results, which did not go unnoticed by the authorities.  He was promoted to Prisons Commissioner, but it also entailed throwing the switch for the chair.  He executed five men but it became too much for him and in 1995, he resigned his post and left the Prison Service.  He now holds the position of Dean at the College of Justice & Safety at the Eastern Kentucky University.  Dr Ault was honest enough to admit the pressures of being the man who ended a life, was simply too much for him.  It is known that even guards can throw the switch.  It was said to have been a woman who threw the switch on Ted Bundy.  The ultimate female revenge?