Holton executed swiftly, as intended: medical examiner

Thursday, September 13, 2007 at 2:25am

The execution of Daryl Holton, which was carried out at 1:16 a.m. Wednesday, was “unremarkable” in that it killed Holton swiftly and efficiently, and likely without causing Holton any pain or suffering, according to the state medical examiner who performed Holton’s autopsy.

Dr. Bruce Levy, the chief state medical examiner, performed a 90-minute autopsy on Holton just hours after Tennessee Department of Correction officials pronounced Holton dead at 1:25 a.m. Wednesday.

Holton opted to be executed by way of the state’s electric chair, and became the first person to be put to death by electrocution in Tennessee since 1960. The chair used to kill Holton had never before been used outside of its regular voltage tests.

But despite worries from many, including the chair’s builder, Fred A. Leuchter Jr., that the device would not work properly or, even if it did, would fail to execute someone humanely, Holton appears to have felt little to no pain and appears to have been the recipient of enough electricity to kill him during the first surge of 1,750 volts of electricity, both Levy and media witnesses to the execution said on Wednesday.

“In Mr. Holton’s case, the electrocution process appears to have occurred correctly,” Levy said. “The electrocution itself — how the process went, the time frame of it, as well as the autopsy — showed nothing unremarkable in any way.”

Final autopsy reports — including the results of blood tests — are still a few weeks away, Levy said.

But on Wednesday morning Levy was able to determine that the cause of Holton’s death was high-voltage electrocution, defined by the medical examiner’s office as greater than 1,000 volts. The electric current caused Holton to undergo cardiac arrest, Levy said

“In this case it actually stopped his heart,” he said.

Levy said Holton sustained first- to- second-degree burns on his head and his ankles, which served as the contact points for the current.

“That was not an unexpected finding,” Levy said. “The burn marks around his head and his legs were very similar to a severe sunburn.”

The burns were caused by the generating of heat produced by the electricity, Levy said, adding that the burns would have emerged toward the end of the electrocution cycle.

A number of media witnesses who observed Holton’s execution said that Holton appeared sleepy and sedated while being strapped into the chair.

Corrections Department spokeswoman Dorinda Carter said Holton was not medically sedated in any way. She said he had been hyperventilating prior to being placed in the chair and was given a few minutes to catch his breath.

Levy said the symptoms described by the witnesses — including a bobbing head, yawning, droopy eyelids and slurred speech — could be shown by a person who had just hyperventilated.

“Hyperventilation is a possible explanation for what people observed,” he said. “If you try to hyperventilate yourself, you might not be able to do it to the extent he did, but you can feel yourself getting a little bit lightheaded as a result of it.”

Still, Levy’s office will be conducting blood tests to be sure he was not under the influence of any drugs or medication. And Levy said an instant analysis of Holton’s urine showed no signs of any type of sedative agent or other drug.

“All the blood tests are pending, but I did perform a rapid screen on his urine here this morning and that was negative. And that looks for eight different classes of drugs, which includes a lot of the major sedatives,” Levy said. “The negative urine test is reassuring, but we’re going to wait until we get the formal blood test results before have any final say on that.”

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By: revo-lou on 12/31/69 at 7:00

Sounds like we are ready to fire it up and line ‘em up. I bet there are a lot of people, other than the inmates, who will hate to see this story. You know some people just get upset when things that they don’t want to work, work just as intended.

By: serr8d on 12/31/69 at 7:00

Nothing wrong with Old Sparky...

By: skeptic1 on 12/31/69 at 7:00

For anyone who thinks this article is too graphic, consider how far we have come. We are all very sensitive. We don't do public hangings or beheadings like some countries. We treated this man very humanely considering the manner in which he executed his young children. It is a pity in this case that drawing and quartering has fallen out of favor.

By: revo-lou on 12/31/69 at 7:00

No doubt, Holton got off EASY!!!!!!!

By: MJB on 12/31/69 at 7:00

Bruce Levy says that our electrocuting Daryl Holton “likely” didn’t cause him any pain. Thus, Levy is not sure. (We do know that we burned him, to the first-degree, on his head & ankles in the process of pointlessly killing him. The burns may have been painful.) Of course, that’s what Holton said about killing his children, that he did it w/out causing them any pain or suffering. Again, by killing Holton, we become Holton. The blood that was on his hands is now on ours.

By: gobucs on 12/31/69 at 7:00

They should have shot him execution style like he did his kids. What ever happened to an eye for an eye? If you kill then you should be killed the exact same way.

By: gdiafante on 12/31/69 at 7:00

MJB says, “The burns may have been painful.”Actually MJB, if you read the story, he appears to have died from cardiac arrest during the first surge of electricity. The burns were caused by the heat generated from the electricity and “would have emerged toward the end of the electrocution cycle”.Therefore, he would have either already been dead or unconscious when the burns occurred. Nice try though.

By: revo-lou on 12/31/69 at 7:00

It is inconceivable to me that anyone can have any pang of sympathy for Holton. He was a POS and didn’t deserve to live. And that is the best thing that can be said about the situation, that he is now dead. May the memory of the children live on without him tainting it anymore than he already has.

By: MJB on 12/31/69 at 7:00

Right, Gobucs, and we should rape rapists & steal from robbers & batter batterers & do what to drug-dealers? Your method was stupid 2000 years ago, and it still is.The story, Diafante, speculated that Daryl Holton was probably dead by the time of the burns. That’s the reason that I wrote that they may have been painful. Nice try, yourself. I’m glad that you agree with the larger point that we have no business killing him, as Lou demonstrates w/ his continued impotent contention that some people “deserve to live”. You are lucky, Lou, that no one takes you seriously. The F.B.I. would arrest you in a blink for that contention, since you could easily decide that George Bush didn’t deserve to live, and you would then claim the right to kill him.

By: gdiafante on 12/31/69 at 7:00

"I'm glad that you agree with the larger point that we have no business killing him..."Um...no, I never actually stated whether I agree or disagree. Nice S T R E T C H

By: MJB on 12/31/69 at 7:00

No stretch, Diafante. You disagreed about the burns. By the same token, if you had disagreed w/ me about the immorality of our killing Daryl Holton, then you would've said something.

By: gdiafante on 12/31/69 at 7:00

I see, so because I didn’t respond to that aspect I must be agreeing with you. How simplistic…and incorrect.

By: Dragon on 12/31/69 at 7:00

Actually, I would hope that the electrical current through the brain would have negated any "pain" that might have been caused to the body. Merely stopping the heart does not cause immediate death.I can understand why the preferred method of execution is by lethal injection. If I were being killed, I would prefer to be unconscious.

By: gobucs on 12/31/69 at 7:00

MJB..you must have voted for Dean being that your this liberal. Yes, the rapist should be raped and then killed. Then the thievs should have things stolen from them their hands choped off. Maybe one of your loved ones gets killed and you'll change your mind if its not stuck to far on liberal thinking. Batters should have their butts kicked. Go look at how many batters will ever fight a man. None of them becazuse they beat on on women. I would have shot him if they would've let me. Atleast four times if not more. Horton WAS a piece of crap and didn't get the punishment he deserved. Now my tax dollars can go to something more important than him.

By: Blanketnazi2 on 12/31/69 at 7:00

MJB, these guys only believe in the Old Testament. So I guess WWJD doesn't apply. LOL! Capital punishment is nuts.

By: sekhem20 on 12/31/69 at 7:00

This man shot four innocent children execution style, why is no one arguing about the suffering they went through after being shot by their father/step father. Holton chose the chair as his method of execution so he knew exactly what he was in for. Why are the burns on his head and legs that compare to a severe sunburn such an issue. He knew it was going to possibly be a painful way to go but chose it anyway.

By: gobucs on 12/31/69 at 7:00

Blanketnazi2....Jesus wouldn't have killed 4 kids execution style. This is the most liberal city in America. I should move to Texas were crime is punished. Our juveniles are the way they are because you liberal people have no back bone to discipline your snoty nosed kids that turn out to be THUGS because they don't know that your actions ahve consequences.

By: revo-lou on 12/31/69 at 7:00

MJB – You live in a very scary world. I really don’t even know how you get out of bed and face the day. Thinking that someone didn’t deserve to live, and acting on those thoughts are two different things and why those that do act on them are dealt with the way Holton was. If you apply your twisted logic to every argument, you are the one who is going to look delirious and kept tabs on by the Feds. Just to rest you weak conscious, it is only against the law to ACT on your thoughts, if they are of the kind you put forth. Fortunately, for you, even the FBI knows this.Since you are so fond of stretching points from one subject to another, you are a killer, a child killer no less, because you support Holton. Therefore you are just like him. Act on that, and you will be dealt with just like him. And that is not my law but THE LAW.

By: serr8d on 12/31/69 at 7:00

Watkins School of Art.Hmmmph.

By: MJB on 12/31/69 at 7:00

Bucs, please read www.mvfr.org. I agree, Blanket, and the bloodshed of the Hebrew Scriptures is not their best part. Sekhem, killing Daryl Holton did nothing for his long dead children. We simply took for ourselves the same position that Holton took for himself ten years ago. Killing is wrong, whether done by Holton or by you & me. Lou, I don’t support Holton. You do, since you believe that people you don’t approve of should be killed. I speak against Holton, because I do not want to do to him what he did to his children. I realize that you don’t act on any of your thoughts. You pay others to kill for you. It’s pathetic, but you do have company on this site: Gobucs, Serr0d, Sekhem. I’m glad that the populace is moving the other way. More people have seen the cruel pointlessness of killing. I hope that you will see it soon, too.

By: revo-lou on 12/31/69 at 7:00

MJB – you must get dizzy as hell from doing all that spinning!!

By: gobucs on 12/31/69 at 7:00

mjb....Get off the trees!!!!!!!

By: MJB on 12/31/69 at 7:00

Good night, Lou & Bucs. It's apparent, from your remarks (& Serr0d's non-sequitur), that you are all over-tired. Tomorrow, we can continue working toward rehabilitation, reconciliation, tolerance, peace, better education, & an even playing field for all.