Cheat-Seeking Missles

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Doing Hangings Right

Barzan Ibrahim could have used John Ellis' help because it turns out that hanging, if done right, is a science -- one that Ellis was particularly gifted at.

I'm enjoying a book based on a notorious crime, in which a certain man is hanged properly. (The book shall remain unnamed in deference to others who may be reading it and who do not yet know the fate of the main character)

This proper hanging involved no jeering., and certainly no heads rolling. The description, which I read last night, is quite interesting in light of last week's sloppy and unprofessional hanging of Saddam's rope-worthy half brother who appears, in death, to be suffering from a certain detached feeling.

Here's the passage:
Prison authorities filled out the required execution form, which they gave to the executioner, John Ellis, a village hairdresser who moonlighted as a hangman. Ellis took careful note of ****'s weight, then consulted the "Table of Drops" to determine how far ****'s body should fall to ensure a death that was instant but not gory. Ellis was known to be an efficient hangman, though with a tendency to add a few more inches to the drop than strictly necessary.

Ellis saw that **** weighted 142 pounds. Next he checked the entry under "Character of prisoner's neck" and found that ****'s neck was quite normal. Ellis saw too that his build was "proportional" and that he was only five feet, four inches tall. He set the length of drop at seven feet, nine inches. ...

At precisely nine A.M. Ellis released the floorboard, and an instant later, ****'s neck broke, quite cleanly, at the third cervical vertebra. Happily for all present, his head remained attached.
Which raises a question: Are Arabs simply incapable of good science? They certainly have enough experience at hanging and other forms of killing people; have they not come to address this work in a scientific manner, seeking to achieve calculatable and certain results from each endeavor? It appears not, since Ibrahim's gallow dance had the look of a shoddy, slapped together affair.

Or, more interestingly, the Arabs are quite capable of good science, thank you, and they consulted the Table of Drops and the character of Ibrahim's neck and his body weight, and set the rope just so, achieving the calculatable and certain result they desired?

(For those of you who want to know the book the quoted passage came from, click here.)

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