The Last Gasp
The Last Gasp
The last gasp of the American gas chamber came in 1999 in Florence, Arizona. Ironically, and fittingly some might think, the case involved the United States and Germany. Two brothers, Walter and Karl LaGrand, were German nationals who were both sentenced for stabbing to death a bank manager during a botched robbery. After the case went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, which denied review, the LaGrands filed petitions for writs of habeas corpus. Arizona law gave the condemned the right to choose between lethal injection or lethal gas as their method of execution. Both brothers chose gas in the hope that the courts would find the method unconstitutional. When this tactic failed, Karl accepted a last-minute offer of a lethal injection, and he was executed on February 24, 1999. Walter, however, said he would prefer lethal gas as a means of protesting the death penalty. Walter LaGrand turned out to be the last person to be executed by lethal gas in the twentieth century. The lethal chamber had taken its final victim.
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