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William Kemmler - Excerpt From "far Worse Than Hanging"

law execution death repeal

Auburn, N.Y., Aug. 6.—A sacrifice to the whims and theories of the coterie of cranks and politicians who induced the Legislature of this State to pass a law supplanting hanging by electrical execution as offered today in the person of William Kemmler, the Buffalo murderer. He died this morning under the most revolting circumstances, and with his death there was placed to the discredit of the State of New York an execution that was a disgrace to civilization.

Probably no convicted murderer of modern times has been made to suffer as Kemmler suffered. Unfortunate enough to be the first man convicted after the passage of the new execution law, his life has been used as the bone of contention between the alleged humanitarians who supported the law, on one side, and the electric-light interests, who hated to see the commodity in which they deal reduced to such a use as taking a life. For fifteen months they have been fighting as to whether he should be killed or not, and the question has been dragged through every court. He has been sentenced and resentenced to death, only to be dragged back from the abyss by some intricacy of the law.

The uncertainty in which he has so long lived would have driven any ordinary man insane. That suffering has culminated in a death so fearful that people throughout the country will read of it with horror and disgust.

The execution cannot merely be characterized as unsuccessful. It was so terrible that the word fails to convey the idea. It was, as those who advocated it desired that it should be, attended by men eminent in science and in medicine, and they almost unanimously say that this single experiment warrants the prompt repeal of the law. The opinion is further expressed that the public will demand its repeal, and that it is the first and last electrical execution that this State will ever witness. As might have been expected, such of the so-called humanitarians as witnessed Kemmler's fearful death still insist that their hobby will be a success "under proper conditions." The publication of the scenes that were enacted in the death room will probably prevent them from ever having another opportunity to prove their assertion.

Fortunately there was no difficulty in getting the full details of the affair, despite the fact that the advocates of the law attempted to do their work concealed from the eyes of the public.

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