5 Convicted Criminals Who Cheated Death
Being executed is a horrible way to die. However, it is the way we have been getting rid of criminals for centuries. Once in a rare while, these executions go wrong and the convicted criminal gets to walk away free. Is it an act of God or did someone screw up? That can be for you to decide with these following five cases of criminals who cheated death.
In 1946 one of the strangest capital punishment cases in American history occurred. It involved a black 17-year old Louisiana male, named Willie Francis. He was accused of killing a white pharmacist by the name of Andrew Thomas who had allegedly sexually abused him. On May 3, 1946, Francis was given last rites and strapped into the chair. When the switch was thrown, his body tensed and convulsed and the 300-pound chair began to rock and slide on the wooden floor. But something was wrong. "I am not dying!" he screamed. Finally the current was shut down. Francis was unstrapped from the chair and led back to a cell. It was determined that six months before Francis's execution date, a drunken guard and inmate had improperly wired the electric chair, causing it to malfunction. The case went all the way to the Supreme Court who ruled that he should be sent back to the electric chair for a second time. Again, Francis went to the electric chair on May 9, 1947, where he died.
This is a case when religion and the law overlap. Maggie Dickson was a Scottish woman who lived in the 1700s. She became pregnant with her bosses’ child and had the baby prematurely. Because she didn’t want to go through public humiliation from the townspeople and her church, she decided to toss the dead child into the river and be done with it. Of course, she got caught and was condemned to death. They hung her on September 2, 1724 in front of many people. As her family was taking her back to their home for burial, they heard a knocking on the casket. As it turned out, she was still alive after the ordeal. A local gardener cut her to see if she actually bled and the doctor in the area determined she wasn’t some undead vampire (it was 1724 and people still believed in these things). According to Scottish law at the time, surviving an execution was an act of Divine Intervention and since she already had a death certificate, she was let go. Maggie Dickson lived for another 40 years and had more children.
In 1997, Iranian Zoleykhah Kadkhoda was sentenced to death by stoning for having an extra-marital affair. As all of us are all well-versed in Sharia Law, we know that everything is a death sentence (this is sarcasm...). Kadkhoda was buried up to her waist and the execution began as she started getting pelted by rocks. Suddenly, the villagers started shouting for the executioners to stop and they did. Unfortunately, it was determined that it was too late and Kadkhoda was already dead. They took her to the morgue and as they were preparing her, she was found to be breathing. An appeal for amnesty was submitted to the courts and in November, 1997, the Iranian government claimed that her death penalty had been lifted and that she was released.
Revolutions are never any fun, but for those who get captured because of treason, it can be much worse. This is the case of Wenseslao Moguel, a Mexican revolutionary who was captured in 1915 fighting alongside Emiliano Zapata. He was sentenced to death by firing squad. Eight men lined up and shot Moguel from fifteen feet and then he was given a coup de grâce at close range with a revolver. Since this is an article about people who have survived execution, it probably isn’t a surprise that Moguel walked away (ok, was carried away) from this and survived for many more years. From the image above, you can see that he didn’t walk away looking pretty. This picture was taken in 1937 with Robert L. Ripley of Ripley’s Believe It Or Not fame. He’s pointing to where the bullet went through his head. Ouch!
The most recent occurrence of a person surviving an execution occurred in Ohio in 2009. Romell Broom was sentenced to death by lethal injection for the 1984 rape and slaying of 14-year old Tryna Middleton in Cleveland. On the day of his execution, he was strapped into the chair and the drugs were set to be administered - but the executioners couldn’t find a vein! The stuck Broom eighteen times trying to give him the lethal cocktail, but it was no use. Finally, they stopped and his attorneys came in stating that Broom was being tortured and that trying to kill him at a later date would be in violation of his rights. The death sentenced was moved to life in prison where he remains today.