December 7

This Day in History

General Interest

Dec 7, 1982:

First execution by lethal injection

The first execution by lethal injection takes place at the state penitentiary in Huntsville, Texas. Charles Brooks, Jr., convicted of murdering an auto mechanic, received an intravenous injection of sodium pentathol, the barbiturate that is known as a "truth serum" when administered in lesser doses.

Texas, the national leader in executions, adopted the lethal injection procedure as a more humane method of carrying out its death sentences, as opposed to the standard techniques of death by gas, electrocution, or hanging. During the next decade, 32 states, the federal government, and the U.S. military all took up the lethal injection method.

After several years of practical development, execution authorities adopted a lethal injection procedure in which three separate drugs are injected successively into the convict's bloodstream. The first drug, sodium thiopental, a barbiturate, renders the prisoner unconscious, the next, pancuronium bromide, a muscle relaxant, paralyses the diaphragm and lungs, and the third, potassium chloride, causes cardiac arrest and ensures the prisoner's death.

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