5 Most Terrifying Botched Executions In Modern History

Since 1976 there have been 1,421 executions across 31 states in the US. While many critics of the death penalty point to the high cost, limited deterrence rate, and moral issues with capital punishment, many supporters vehemently defend executing dangerous offenders.

While the Eighth Amendment prohibits cruel and unusual punishment, botched executions are more common than many of us would like to think. From faulty electric chairs to defective catheters, dozens of death row inmates have suffered through their final moments. Many consider lethal injection the most humane way to end an inmate’s life, but the procedure has the highest rate of error (7.1%) as compared to firing squads (0%), the electric chair (1.9%), hanging (3.1%) and the gas chamber (5.4%). No wonder many are calling for the return of firing squads!

Below are five of the most chilling examples of bungled executions, which prompted many to call executions “cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment” and left just as many people cheering.

Stephen Morin mugshot Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Stephen Morin mugshot Photo: Wikimedia Commons

1) Stephen Morin’s Shot Veins Make For A Lengthy Execution 

Considered a true American psycho, this serial killer earned the nickname “The Chameleon” after police discovered he had multiple aliases. The brutal mass murderer went by the name Ray Constantine, David, Robert Generoso and probably more as he killed women across at least 9 states. Adding to his instability, a severe drug addiction fueled Morin’s lust for violence. Eventually Morin was convicted for the murder of three young women and accused of killing two others, although many experts believe he could have killed at least 30 more people.

Given his violent nature, there was little sympathy for Morin when he received the death penalty. Morin was actually sentenced to die in two separate states, but the 1985 execution occurred in Texas. The means of execution was lethal injection, but Morin’s intravenous drug use made for a messy end.

Prison spokesperson Phil Guthri confirmed “the guy’s veins are shot” after it took over 40 minutes to find an appropriate vein and even then it was 11 more minutes before Morin was pronounced dead. Morin, who found Jesus in his final months, proclaimed “Lord Jesus, I commit my soul to you” as the deadly solution flowed through his veins. Following the toughest execution” on record for the prison, the Texas Department of Corrections reviewed the procedure for administering drugs when the condemned person has a history of drug abuse.

Brian Steckel while on trial Photo: Associated Press

Brian Steckel while on trial Photo: Associated Press

2) Brian Steckel’s Burning End 

Many consider Brian Steckel a true monster. Steckel strangled, raped and sexually abused 29-year-old Sandra Long Lee with a screwdriver, then proceeded to set her on fire before she died of smoke inhalation and severe burns. It’s no surprise that Steckel was given the death penalty, especially when you consider that he sent taunting letters to the victim’s mother while he was on trial.

Much like the death of his victim, Steckel experienced a long and inhuman end. The machine used to administer the lethal injection malfunctioned while Steckel remained conscious and lucid. The IV became blocked and the secondary sedative source did not release, leaving Steckel conscious as the deadly chemicals entered his body. When the heart-stopping potassium chloride set in, Steckel felt like his veins had been set on fire. Although executions are meant to be swift and painless, Steckel’s “burning” demise didn’t seem to spark much outrage.

Clayton Lockett mugshot Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Clayton Lockett mugshot Photo: Wikimedia Commons

3) Clayton Lockett’s Botched Execution Stirs Controversy 

The 2014 botched execution of Clayton Lockett invigorated the national discussion about capital punishment. 38-year-old Lockett was convicted of murder, rape, forcible sodomy, kidnapping, assault and battery. Perhaps the most gruesome crime he committed was when he beat and shot a 19-year-old friend of one of his victims — a woman who had witnessed his crimes. When the witness, Stephanie Neiman, asserted that she still intended to go to the police, Lockett and an accomplice buried the teenager alive.

The day of Lockett’s execution was fraught with issues. Before the team of officers came to take him to be executed, Lockett made a noose out of sheets, cut his arm with a razor blade and ingested pills that he had been hiding. Officers tased and dragged Lockett out from his cell when he refused to leave.

The true horror happened when the lethal drugs, which had not been previous tested in the US, were administered. Lockett writhed, groaned, convulsed and spoke during the execution. The procedure took 43 minutes and Lockett even attempted to rise from the table after he was deemed unconscious. Lockett remains an example of pure evil, but his execution raised questions about the legality of using such questionable drugs. Note that at least one state bans veterinarians from using the three-drug formula used on Lockett.

4) John Evans Meets “Yellow Mama”

While on parole from an Indiana prison, John Evans and another convict, Wayne Ritter, went on a two-month-long crime spree. The duo committed 30 armed robberies, nine kidnappings and two extortion schemes across seven states. The criminal pair took deadly action on January 5, 1977, when they robbed and killed a pawn shop owner, Edward Nassar. To add to the terrifying crime, the shop owner’s daughters were in the store when their father was shot in the back.

Like the rest of the offenders on our list, Evans showed little remorse for his acts and even admitted that he would kill again if given the chance. After only 15 minutes of deliberations, the jury convicted Evans of the capital offense charge. The execution that followed was imprecise and is often named as a reason to end state executions.

Evans was put to death in an electric chair, nicknamed “Yellow Mama,” that was constructed by an inmate in 1927. The botched execution was carried out in 1983, although “Yellow Mama” had not been in use since 1965. The chair passed 1,900 volts of electricity through Evans’ body for 30 seconds when sparks began to fly from the chair and Evans caught on fire. The witnesses saw Evans clutch his fists, smoke pour out from under the hood covering his face and his body slam against the chair. The room quickly smelled like burning flesh and two doctors determined that Evans was still alive. A third charge of electricity was needed to kill Evans after a request for clemency on the grounds of cruel and unusual punishment was denied. It doesn’t get much more botched than that.

Lethal Injection Room Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Lethal Injection Room Photo: Wikimedia Commons

5) Stephen McCoy’s Allergic Reaction Surprises Executioners 

Stephen McCoy was convicted of killing Cynthia Johnson while she was driving home from a New Year’s Eve party in 1981. The 18-year-old victim was abducted on the freeway after her car broke down. McCoy and two other men, James Paster and Gary LeBlanc, acted together with McCoy, raping Johnson and then strangled her with an electric cord. The prosecutor, George Lambright, summed up his view on McCoy:

”The death penalty was made for people like Stephen Albert McCoy to protect society from people like him and from people like James Paster. It was the cold-bloodedness of the acts.”

To the shock of state officials, McCoy had a particularly violent reaction to the chemicals used in his lethal injection. After the drugs were administered, McCoy began to chock and seize. Following the messy affair, two executioners acknowledged that McCoy “seemed to have a somewhat stronger reaction,” and noted that “the drugs might have been administered in a heavier dose and more rapidly.”

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  • LuvMyBrownSkin💋

    Too bad.

  • Atsukoh15

    Who cares? They all deserved it they were scum

    • prettysureitsinfected


  • Jeanette Noble

    I think all executions should be like these.

    • Atsukoh15

      Not the ones in china for drugs tho but murder yes

  • Amy Smith Rupert

    Karma folks.. Karma.

  • dawgg2

    I did not feel nothing.

  • Vinnie Romero

    I am playing a tiny violin for those guys, pieces of garbage

  • Aaren Dysted

    I don’t think they should be given a fast painless death. According to the crimes, they should be left awake, and fully lucid. Afterall these people did not care about the pain they caused and the carnage they left in their wake…..errors, in these cases, airn’t “ooppses” to me. As a matter of fact, more ” errors” should occur for those sentanced to death.

    • Jed

      Did anyone ever tell you not to lower yourself to their level? The reason that these people are sentenced the way they are is due to the nature of their crimes, a nature that is inhuman and lacking in any moral, ethical, or sympathetic principles. To torture such criminals in accordance with their crime is to effectively become just as animalistic as they are themselves.

      • Anadolu Kartali

        A typical MORONIC attitude. I wonder if your loved one is subjected to the horrendous crime and suffered unspeakable pain, then would you be still feel the same as you are blabbering??. Bible is an excuse to hide behind. the equation is simple..if you take a life then you pay it back with your own life. no buts no ifs, no moronic crap.does Jesus say to love the devil??

        • RyanRaulDuke

          Funny how you open with ‘typical moronic attitude’ then proceed to post something that obscenely stupid.

        • Joe American

          pay the douchewaffle no mind.

      • Ashley Spiers

        If your loved one was the victim I bet you would be singing a different tune. Idiot.

  • disqus_CtIJ06wJqh

    “chock” and seize…

  • Sway

    Good times

  • Gregory Simmons

    They slowly killed their victims, buried them alive, tortured them, and we are suppose to care about the occassional botched killing. I think not. Officers should hav ea backup plan like ability to just shoot the person. There is a 0% mistake rate with that method for a reason.

  • kmathrn

    They didn’t care about their victims suffering, so why should we? Boo hoo

  • Paula Winters Leslie

    I believe in forgiveness BUT I think they all got what they deserved. Did they show their victims any mercy? Did they decide not to kill them at the last minute or call for help to save them – NO! They got what they deserved.

    • Then you don’t believe in forgiveness. Um, hello?

  • Nicki Crone

    Of all the amendments need revising, “Cruel and Unusual Punishment” is a bleeding heart bunch of crap. What these monsters did to the victims was Cruel and Inhumane to say the least. Let the death penalty expirements commence. These monsters brought it upon themselves. Firing Squad Is Effective and Cheapest Way To Go !!!!!

    • Debbie Keen

      I agree and let them aim for the feet so they feel all those bullets before the kill shot!

      • Anadolu Kartali

        To the guts..it takes a long time to die

  • kevin

    These people are the worst of the worst and why are we even talking about it. As long as they are dead after execution who cares what the feel. Firing squad or Guillotine. Although I prefer the gas chamber and old sparky…. Just give heavier dose of gas or electricity. who cares, they are monsters…..

  • Zed Mezcalhead

    They can’t just do all that crazy stuff to people and just leave the world peacefully. They should be made to suffer. It might even be penance, going out violently like how they made their victims.

  • Cristen Cook

    The purpose of cruel & unusual punishment laws was to protect our basic humanity, since without it we’re no different from those we “punish”. There are too many variables to say who does/doesn’t deserve the death penalty & even one wrongful execution is too many. Would all these comments be the same for Cameron Todd Williams or Johnny Garrett? They were executed in just the last 25y only to find out “oops, they were telling the truth, they didn’t do it”. Or maybe the execution of a 14y boy for a rape he didn’t commit is enough to make anyone reconsider how awesome the death penalty is?? No one on earth is in the position to say a person should die, I sure don’t want that on my conscience.

    • Anadolu Kartali

      So, the the criminals even they are proven beyond the doubt, should not be executed?? they should be allowed to live and after a few years to be paroled and to do it again…? so your conscience is clear??

      • Michele Lea

        Life WITHOUT parole is the punishment. Never to see the outside world again if they admit guilt and plea down from the death penalty. They never get out “in a few years” unless it wasn’t a capital murder case to begin with. Yes, my conscience is completely clear.

  • msxmargo .

    It really doesn’t matter how they die as long ad they do! If people think it’s cruel then don’t watch it

  • Hard Little Machine

    They should have burned alive

  • Mandy

    In Melbourne Australia in 1921 an innocent man, Colin Campbell Ross, was convicted of rapeing and killing a 12 year old girl. He was sentenced to death by hanging. Authorities trialed a 4 stranded rope rather than the traditional 3 stranded rope. The rope didn’t slide though the noose and it caused Ross to die slowly, convlusing and gasping as he suffocated. Most people are hanged in a way that breaks the spinal cord, Ross’s spinal cord was only fractured. The authorities where so disturbed by his injuries from the hanging that they declared that the 4 stranded rope was never to be used in hangings again.
    What makes this botched execution so horrible is not only the suffering of Ross but also the fact that he was innocent. Ross was working at the time the child was killed but police ignored all the witnesses.

    • Anadolu Kartali

      Instead of belly aching to stop the death penalty, the ADP morons should campaign for a more fail safe methods of investigations and more scrunity of the Police/Investigators, and of coursr the money Vultures (Lawyers), But Morons do not have the brain to think.

    • Michele Lea

      A fracture and a break are the exact same thing. What kills a person during a proper hanging is their spinal cords are severed, not fractured or broken as in bones like the vertebrae. You cannot “break” a spinal cord. Do some research.

  • hungirl

    So, are we suppose to feel bad for them? I’m sure their victims suffered more!

  • Hi Wayne

    These all sound like very successful executions. Cruel & Unusual should be part of the process


    why not just hang them

  • Floyd Blevins

    The right-wing hammerheads on here no doubt would feel the same if the “guest of honor” was their son, daughter, brother or sister.
    Personally, I believe that every execution should be prefaced by one of you nutjobs getting to test out the equipment first.

  • Steven Hair

    Shoot them out of a human canon straight into a brick wall, Allow spectators to place bets on the size of the stain it leaves…

  • loon

    remember: two wrongs don’t make a right. nobody is arguing that these people aren’t scum but what happens when we’re a society that partakes in such cruel punishment as their crimes? even though the death penalty is far too expensive & ineffective as a deterrent to actually be useful, using it as a torture device is a whole ethical layer below doing it in the first place. it should be about removing the person from society – never torture. it’s easy to get emotional considering what some of these guys have done but it’s ethically wrong no matter how you look at it to torture somebody to death.

  • Rob Hill

    While I agree with the death penalty for the worst of crimes, I think if you are to administer this penalty, it must be swift and painless. I know some say they deserve to die painfully but that makes you no better than the person to be executed. The condemned strapped in a chair. 2 firearms place at the base of the skull and heart. Fired simultaneously. One bullet destroys the spinal cord and Cerebellum and the other destroys the heart. Quick and instant. Job done.

  • dgolvach

    I like the Evans story the best. I hope they go back to using yellow mama.

  • Ultraworld

    Sounds like successful executions to me.