Kenton Commonwealth Attorney Endorses Harsher Method of Execution

Editorial by LawReader Senior Editor Stan Billingsley    Sept. 28, 2007.


The Ky. Supreme Court of Kentucky has written:  “A prosecutor has the responsibility of a minister of justice and not simply that of an advocate.â€? – - Official Commentary to SCR 3.130(3.8) Supreme Court 1989:â€?

When being questioned this week by the Kentucky Post as to his opinion about the appeal from Kentucky taken up by the U.S. Supreme Court on the constitutionality of the execution procedure of death by injection, Rob Sanders opined “death by injection is too humane.�  We wonder how much pain he suggests should be inflicted on the condemned?


Mr. Sanders is entitled to express his opinion freely. Indeed, the death penalty is the law of the land.  But saying that, I don’t know many elected officials that express real joy when the death penalty is applied.  I don’t know of many  who advocate that the state should find new ways to make executions by the government even more painful than they already are.  Perhaps we should revert to the old English method of execution called Drawing and Quartering*. 


LawReader has detailed 39 instances of claimed prosecutorial misconduct in trials which were appealed since January of this year. There are over 390 such claims since 1997 which have been raised on appeal, and obviously many more which were never appealed.


In only one case this year has our states appellate courts granted relief to a defendant as a result of a  prosecutors improper conduct.  See: LAWREADER STUDY SHOWS: PROSECUTORIAL MISCONDUCT: EVEN WHEN IT OCCURS THERE MAY BE NO RELIEF, AND FEW CONSEQUENCES



* Details of the punishment – Drawing & Quartering

Until 1814, the full punishment for the crime was to be hanged, drawn and quartered in that the condemned prisoner would be:

  1. Dragged on a hurdle (a wooden frame) to the place of execution. (This is one possible meaning of drawn.)
  2. Hanged by the neck for a short time or until almost dead. (hanged).
  3. Disembowelled and emasculated, and the genitalia and entrails burned before the condemned’s eyes (This is another meaning of drawn. It is often used in cookbooks to denote the disembowelment of chicken or rabbit carcasses before cooking).[2]
  4. Beheaded and the body divided into four parts (quartered).

Typically, the resulting five parts (i.e. the four quarters of the body and the head) were gibbeted (put on public display) in different parts of the city, town, or, in famous cases, country, to deter would-be traitors who hadn’t seen the execution. Gibbeting was abolished in England in 1843. After 1814 the convict would be hanged until dead and the mutilation would be performed after death. Drawing and quartering was abolished in 1870.
There is confusion among modern historians about whether “drawing” referred to the dragging to the place of execution or the disembowelling, but since two different words are used in the official documents detailing the trial of William Wallace (“detrahatur” for drawing as a method of transport, and “devaletur” for disembowelment), there is no doubt that the subjects of the punishment were disembowelled.[3]
The condemned man would usually be sentenced to the short drop method of hanging, so that the neck would not break. The man was usually dragged alive to the quartering table, although in some cases men were brought to the table dead or unconscious. A splash of water was usually employed to wake the man up if unconscious, then he was laid down on the table. A large cut was made in the gut after removing the genitalia, and the intestines would be spooled out on a device that resembled a dough roller. Each piece of organ would be burnt before the sufferer’s eyes, and when he was completely disembowelled, his head would be cut off. The body would then be cut into four pieces, and the king would decide where they were to be displayed. Usually the head was sent to the Tower of London and, as in the case of William Wallace, the other four pieces were sent to different parts of the country.
Judges delivering sentence at the Old Bailey also seemed to have had some confusion over the term “drawn”, and some sentences are summarised as “Drawn, Hanged and Quartered”. Nevertheless, the sentence was often recorded quite explicitly. For example, the record of the trial of Thomas Wallcot, John Rouse, William Hone and William Blake for offences against the king, on 12 July 1683 concludes as follows:
“Then Sentence was passed, as followeth, viz. That they should return to the place from whence they came, from thence be drawn to the Common place of Execution upon Hurdles, and there to be Hanged by the Necks, then cut down alive, their Privy-Members cut off, and Bowels taken out to be burnt before their Faces, their Heads to be severed from their Bodies, and their Bodies divided into four parts, to be disposed of as the King should think fit.”[4]

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