November 8, 2002
Jolt of History
Professor of Sociology Richard Moran's new study of the development
of the electric chair is winning rave reviews. Among the newspapers
touting The Executioner's Current: Thomas Edison, George Westinghouse,
and the Invention of the Electric Chair in recent weeks are
the Los Angeles Times and the Chicago Sun-Times.
Writing on October 25 in the LA Times, reviewer Anthony Day noted,
"About 4,300 convicted criminals were killed by electrocution
in the United States in the twentieth century, according to Moran.
He thinks it likely no more will be, now that lethal injection
is more generally accepted." Further, as Day observes, Moran
feels that no means of execution can ever be deemed humane and
that the move from the electric chair to lethal injection is a
futile effort by society to put execution "further and further
away from our sight as we console ourselves that it is somehow
not painful, not violent, when really it always is." Writing
in the Sun-Times, Garry Lindenberg also praises Moran's book,
ending his review with this advice to prospective readers: "Executioner's
Current is a macabre jolt of history. Sit in a comfortable chair
when reading it." Interestingly, only Nebraska still retains
the chair as its method of execution. That state will consider
moving to lethal injection this month.